26 January, 2007

This Is Just Insane

I just finished reading an article from Ministry Today Magazine online that is one of the most insane things I have read about in the ministry in some time. It is one of those things that just angers me to the core. This is just wrong in the first place, and when the word of this gets out it is going to hurt the Body of Christ once again. No, it is not another minister coming out of the closet or being exposed. It is an abuse of money collected for "ministry." This will especially hurt in smaller churches, such as where I pastor, because many people are looking for excuses not to give in the offering... and stuff like this fuels their arguement.

Rather than tell you about it, I will copy and post it here.
Again, this is from Ministry Today Magazine online. You can find it for yourself here.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Play Money

I read a story recently about a group of church leaders who took up an offering among their respective ministries and brought in more than $2 million. I was surprised to discover, however, that the money wasn't raised for hurricane relief, AIDS orphans or training for pastors in the developing world. No, the leaders gave it to a friend: a prominent televangelist on his 70th birthday. Huh?

Now, I must confess: I've been the recipient of a few "Pentecostal handshakes" in which someone surreptitiously passed me a $20 bill and encouraged me to take my wife to a nice restaurant or fill the tank with gas. (Yes, that was in the '90s.) But this level of extravagance smacks of the corporate arrogance that brought companies like Enron and WorldCom to their knees, a self-serving ethic that assumes that an organization exists for the betterment of its leaders, not for the fulfillment of its mission or the service of its constituents.

I've heard too many stories of fat-cat preachers throwing money around like ten-year-olds at a game of Monopoly. They'll give each other Rolexes and BMWs, all the while encouraging their congregations that, when they step into "divine prosperity," they too can exercise this level of "generosity." Generosity! Since when is generosity defined as one rich person collecting money from a bunch of average income earners and then giving it to another rich person? Wall Street has a term for this so-called generosity: corporate incest. Capitol Hill has one too: graft.

Call me idealistic, but I expect better of the Body of Christ. I expect leaders to allocate every penny as though eternal souls depended on it, to model stewardship by accumulating as little as necessary and redirecting the blessings they receive to the areas of greatest need. From a biblical perspective, generosity is exemplified by those who gave out of need to meet an even greater need. Consider the impoverished Philippians, who gave Paul money for the starving Jews. Consider the widow who gave her last penny--or the one who gave her last meal.

Yet some of us have been taught that a birthday gift to a millionaire evangelist is equivalent to buying the freedom of a slave in Sudan. "It's all planting a seed in the kingdom," we're assured. Sorry, but I'll let that offering plate pass me by untouched. Some would argue that recipients of such gifts are usually very generous people. "They'll just turn around and sow it back into the kingdom," they contend. Maybe, but what does this look like to a world that observes the church through a lens smudged by corporate scandals and political corruption?

While most of us will never be wealthy enough to pass multimillion-dollar checks to each other in appreciation for the heroic sacrifices we've made for the cause of the gospel, this story serves as a sobering reminder of our dark tendency to turn in upon ourselves and justify all manner of self-indulgence, to slap each other on the back and congratulate each other on our successes while the world looks on in disgust. Maybe someday, if the gospel has saturated every corner of the world and nobody's going to bed hungry, we can justify this level of triviality. Until then, there's work to be done. And it's not our money anyway, is it?

Matt Green, editor
Ministry Today


Darrell said...

Hmmm... leaving a comment to myself... this is weird... but here goes.

After time to calm down and think on this, here is my response to Ministry Today's site:

OK, one thing this article does not spell out. When these offererings were raised, were the people specifically told that this would be a birthday gift for this man? If that is the case, while I still don't like it... I have to recant and say that there is no "abuse" here. Still, the question must be asked, "Is this appropriate?" This will become an issue in the media, if it gets picked up by them. But more importantly, we are talking about a man who already is very wealthy, and doesn't it seem to be a shame when their are so many desperate needs out there?
There are times we need to guard ourselves from the appearance of evil, and in my opinion, this is one of those times.

Sean McKee said...

One of the many reasons Isalm considers us (USA) the great satan.