Prosperity Preacher, Reverend Ike, Dies at 74

Shantella Y. Sherman | 8/5/2009, 6:09 p.m.

The man who made prayer cloths and a financial interpretation of the Bible a staple of Christian faith, Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II, died Tue., July 28 in Los Angeles, Calif. Eikerenkoetter died from complications resulting from a stroke in 2007. Known for his garish clothing and jewelry, Eikerenkoetter is remembered for his witty remarks, €The Bible says Jesus rode on a borrowed ass. But, I would rather ride in a Rolls Royce than to ride somebody's ass!€

While Eikerenkoetter preached a message of material prosperity to his majority middle-class and low-income African American flock, his beginning in Ridgeland, S.C. were humble.

Eikerenkoetter was born on June 1, 1935 to a Dutch-Indonesian father, who was a Baptist minister, and a Black school teacher. He got the €calling€ to preach around age nine. Eikerenkoetter said that he felt the traditional Christian ministries were too constricting and instilled poverty among its members by supporting messages of piety.

At 14, he became the assistant pastor of his father€s church, Bible Way Baptist in Ridgeland, and by 21 had earned a bachelor€s degree in theology from the American Bible College in Chicago, Ill.

After two years in the Air Force, Eikerenkoetter started a ministry at the old Sunset movie house on Harlem€s 125th Street. He built a congregation based on faith-healing, coupled with positive self-imaging. Eikerenkoetter often bragged to his televised ministry that he owned 16 mink lined Rolls Royces, wore $1,000 suits and sported diamond rings on both of his hands.

In the early 1970s, Eikerenkoetter€s ministry was among the first televangelists shows in the world. He reached millions of households each week. Eikerenkoetter reportedly owned lavish mansions on both the East and West Coasts and estimated his yearly income to range between $6-and-15 million a year primarily from donations mailed to the television ministry. At the height of his success, Eikerenkoetter admonished the faithful that he only accepted cash offerings and did not €appreciate the sound of loose change in the offering plate.€

As mainstream preachers, social advocates and the Black intelligentsia rallied against him, Eikerenkoetter€s magnetism increased. Even in death, the controversial preacher is viewed as much a huckster as a saint.
District residents viewed the enigmatic minister through various prisms.

Delores Matthews, 57, of Southwest said that watching the charismatic preacher on his own television show inspired people to support him.

€You have to understand that back in the day you didn€t just have Black people on television unless they were servants. They would be on television looking bad and poor. Then, here comes Rev. Ike with these fine red suits, diamonds, his hair slicked down and talking about not having money is the root of all evil€ we supported him because we didn€t want him to fail,€ Matthews said.

In addition to watching his program, Matthews said that her mother and aunt routinely purchased prayer cloths, pieces of red cloth Eikerenkoetter claimed to have blessed, along with winking coins and other items from his ministry.
Charles Hotchner, 63, of Northeast said his family members also purchased prayer cloths and €mystical€ items from Rev. Ike€s ministries and tuned into his show weekly, although, the family remained leery.

€Part of Rev. Ike€s hustle was to convince poor people that they could get rich if they were as faithful to themselves as they were to God. That meant using him as a go-between and taking their money,€ Hotchner said. €At the same time, his messages of self-love and thinking outside of the box did help a lot of people break that slave mentality.€

Eikerenkoetter€s son, Bishop Xavier Frederick Eikerenkoetter III, released a statement shortly after his father€s death that detailed his father€s wishes that he €carry on his vision as the leader of Rev. Ike Ministries.€

Eikerenkoetter is survived by his wife, Eula May Dent and his son, Xavier. No funeral or memorial services have been scheduled.