HALLANDALE BEACH — To a chorus of "Amens" and "Thank You, Jesus," the Rev. Daniel S. Mundell tells followers God will free them of debt, even make them millionaires.
Then comes the sales pitch: Back up your faith with donations. Give, even if it's your last $100. Write a check. Pay by credit card.
Preaching mostly to a low-income following, he has raised millions of dollars through services and crusades in South Florida and across the country.
Former followers say the only one who seemed to attain wealth was the preacher.
Before starting New Generation Ministries in 1991, Mundell had filed for bankruptcy protection and lost a home in a foreclosure. By 2005, he was living in a $1.8-million estate in Safety Harbor in Pinellas County with basketball and tennis courts and a putting green.
The ministry paid the preacher $206,000 in 2005 and once provided him a Mercedes-Benz, a Jaguar and a Corvette, according to court records.
Mundell, 55, declined to be interviewed, citing "pending litigation." His wife of 20 years and former co-pastor, Kimberly, filed for divorce in October.
"I'm not going to deny that it was lucrative," Kimberly Mundell told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
For 10 years, Mundell preached in the Fort Lauderdale area at the Solid Rock Family Worship Center under the umbrella of New Generation. He raised money for a new church but then left the congregation in 2004. The church was never built.
Mundell traveled the country on crusades, soliciting donations for overseas mission trips he never took and making predictions to followers that they said never happened.
Mundell is now back in South Florida, preaching at Good Shepherd Ministries in a strip mall in Hallandale Beach and rebuilding his ministry after filing for bankruptcy protection a second time last June. He hosts a weekday radio program broadcast in South Florida on WEXY (1520 AM) and several other cities.
"Do you need a miracle? Do you need someone to talk to?" Mundell asked in a Feb. 6 broadcast. "Well, you can have that happen today, right over the telephone. As you're getting ready to dial the toll-free number that I'm going to give you, your life's getting ready to change."
At its peak in the late 1990s, New Generation took in about $3-million a year, Mundell testified in a July bankruptcy court hearing. Along with his Solid Rock congregation, he preached on the radio and TV through paid programming in multiple cities.
Mundell's message of "abundant living" helped the white preacher attract worshippers, most of them low- and middle-income blacks.
"He felt like he was called to help the rejected, the downtrodden, the forsaken," said Kimberly Mundell, who is black.
Mundell is part of an unregulated network of traveling evangelists who say they can heal the sick, perform miracles and make the poor rich.
They hold crusades in mostly poor neighborhoods, stay until the money stops coming in and split the proceeds 50/50 with the home church, said Kimberly Mundell, who traveled the revival circuit with her husband.
In April, Mundell hosted Apostle J.G. Rice of Columbia, S.C., for a "Flame of Fire" crusade at Good Shepherd. Rice blessed attendees with "miracle oil" and at one service encouraged them to give $300 each in collection envelopes that included options to pay by credit or debit card.
Last year, Mundell teamed with the Rev. W.V. Grant of Dallas. Grant spent more than a year in federal prison after a 1996 conviction for failing to report $375,000 in taxable income in the purchase of two homes, including his $1-million residence. Grant's "miracle revival" at Good Shepherd lasted more than six months.
"Fifteen thousand souls have been saved. Scores have come out of wheelchairs, off the crutches, canes and out of their braces," Grant wrote in an October letter to prospective attendees.
"My short leg grew out 3 inches!" said the caption over one man's photo. "I no longer have epilepsy!" said another.
Grant could not be reached despite messages left at his Dallas church.
Phillip Umphres, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Dallas who prosecuted Grant, described the traveling evangelists as a small community.
"There's a whole little subculture and they know each other," he said. "They'll borrow each other's written materials if they're successful."
'We hit big'
Born in Southern California, Mundell describes in sermons a childhood of poverty. Raised by his Pentecostal grandparents, Mundell says he was saved at 4 and began preaching the Gospel at 8.
"I didn't come from no family with a silver spoon," Mundell said in a Feb. 25 broadcast. "My daddy was a prisoner in San Quentin (Calif.) Prison. The whole time I was growing up we had to go visit him there."
California archive records show Mundell's now-deceased father spent less than four months at San Quentin. He first entered prison in 1961, just before Mundell turned 9, for writing a bad check and returned twice for parole violations, serving a total of less than four years, according to the records.
Preaching financial prosperity, Mundell tells followers that above all God wants them rich. "God made me debt-free and blessed me with multi-million-dollar wealth," he said in a sermon dated Nov. 10, 2006, on his Web site.
By then, Mundell had stopped making mortgage payments on his Safety Harbor home, which he lost in foreclosure in January. In his bankruptcy petition last year, he listed debts of $1.5-million on the home, credit card bills including $10,385 to Saks Fifth Avenue, and $28,041 in unpaid child support for a daughter from a previous marriage.
"We believed and taught that there was nothing wrong with being prosperous, so the lifestyle fit what he was teaching, preaching, except we weren't debt-free," said Kimberly Mundell, who was not a party in the bankruptcy filing. "We were in debt trying to live the lifestyle."
The ministry's success soared after Mundell settled in Fort Lauderdale in 1994 and started Solid Rock.
"We hit big," Kimberly Mundell said.
Within three months of his first service in a Lauderdale Lakes office park, Mundell was drawing crowds exceeding 800 worshippers.