Be faithful in how you live and how you give, the television preachers said, and God will shower you with material riches. And so the 53-year-old accountant from the Tampa, Fla., area pledged $500 a year to Joyce Meyer, the evangelist.
She wrote checks to flamboyant faith healer Benny Hinn and a local preacher, Paula White.
Only the blessings didn't come. Fleenor ended up borrowing money from friends and payday loan companies just to buy groceries. At first she believed the explanation given on television: Her faith wasn't strong enough.
"I wanted to believe God wanted to do something great with me like he was doing with them," she said. "I'm angry and bitter about it. Right now, I don't watch anyone on TV hardly."
The prosperity gospel continues to draw crowds, particularly lower- and middle-income people who, critics say, have the greatest motivation and the most to lose. The prosperity message is spreading to black churches, attracting elderly people with disposable incomes, and reaching huge churches in Africa and other developing parts of the world.
Some ministers hold up their own wealth as evidence that the teaching works. Atlanta-area pastor Creflo Dollar, who is fighting Grassley's inquiry, owns a Rolls Royce and multimillion-dollar homes and travels in a church-owned Learjet.