Travis Cross, a 43-year-old unemployed hairdresser, was among the 200 or so people, most of them black and sharply dressed, filling the pews of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Norfolk, Va., late last month. They had come to see visiting preacher Dr. Leroy Thompson — “the man of God, himself,” Cross called him — hold his “Money Cometh to You” conference, which promises that the Lord can solve even the worst financial problems. It was a message the congregation desperately wanted to hear; some of the bordering neighborhoods have unemployment rates over 15 percent.
“The blessing,” Thompson said, “is threefold: I’m saved, and I’m going to heaven. I got health in my body because I believe in healing. And I got money in my pocket because I believe in wealth.”
The calls for him to Preach! Preach! came from the assembly.
“My house is paid for,” Thompson continued. “And it’s over 20,000 square feet! Fireplace after fireplace after fireplace. I got so many fireplaces in my house, you’ll be walking through and call the fire truck!” The room exploded in laughter and praise.
“Matthew says, ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his’ . . . what?” he asked.
“And all these things shall be added to you.”
“Subtracted from you?”
“Add! Add! Add!” he thundered.
Thompson’s Master Vision Bearers and Ministerial Association, who often travel with him and take their place in the front pews, stood up during emotional moments to add their descants of praise. Mount Pleasant’s own stood up with them, matching, then exceeding, their intensity. The Bearers pulled bills and checks out of their wallets and placed them on Thompson’s lectern. The local members rushed to outdo them again.
Travis Cross shifted his weight from one heel to the other as he listened to Thompson. It had been a bad year for him. “People know me, high and low,” Cross said. The mayor, the judge, his ex-girlfriend — just about everyone in nearby Portsmouth knew he used to make six figures and that he owned his first building debt-free. And now they know that last fall he was evicted from his High Street shop and that the problem began when he bought a second building next door, where he was planning to open a Christian T-shirt company and a billiard hall. The building needed repairs, and he sank deeper and deeper into debt, and then in October 2010, the bank foreclosed on all of it — more than $400,000 in total. He moved his wife and two daughters into a client’s house, and his wife’s paycheck for teaching was garnisheed for his debts. “The Enemy tried to trick me and make me feel ashamed,” he said.
In his troubles, Cross received a vision: “The Lord told me to start doing these things with barbershop trailers.” He plans to open his first next month. He believes his old buildings will continue to sit unsold as a lesson to him. “I did it the world’s way,” he said, “but now I’m going to get them back and more.”
Which is how he found himself seated toward the back of the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. Shuffling behind the lectern, Thompson explained to cheers that “no Christian should live in a ghetto.” He testified that God gave him an abundant life, including a Falcon 900B airplane to deliver this message, as well as air conditioning so strong that he can wear a mink coat in the Louisiana summer.
He recounted Christ’s parable from Matthew 25, in which the unprofitable servant’s money is given to the profitable one. And he leveled with the congregation. “A lot of the money I have has been taken from other people,” he said. “I didn’t take it. The Lord took it. He gave it to me.
“Could it be that someone else has your money?” Nearly a third of the congregation began jumping.
Cross had been waiting for this moment. Thompson announced the Holy Spirit’s anointing and led the church in three “pulls” that would bring them wealth. The entire congregation, Cross included, leaned forward and thrust out their open right hands, then pulled them back to their sides in a closed fist, shouting: “Money! Cometh to me now!”
Cross came to church with $60 in cash and left with none of it. “All I had,” he said. He put bills on the lectern throughout the service, and at the end he put the last in an envelope for Thompson’s ministries. He described the moment he let the envelope go as “an explosion,” when all the guilt and shame he had been carrying melted away. He vowed to learn from Thompson, to stay debt-free, to “owe no man nothing but love.”