The great majority of Christian pastors earn very little money even though they work very hard. If Saint Homobonus were still alive, he would surely be disgusted by the behavior of some of these deceptive leaders.
Like Judas reaching into the money bag, the sad reality is that there are pastors who steal from God‘s people. As Christians we hate to face this truth, but I believe it is our duty to protect our less aware brothers and sisters – keeping them from these thieves.
Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. – 2 Corinthians 2:17
Religion is big business. You may already suspect some of these wolf’s in sheep’s clothing but do not be fooled by these popular pastors that have gone mainstream and appear to be honest and forthcoming simply because they tell you about their skeletons before you can discover them yourselves. They gain your trust by telling you about their sinful past and how they can relate to your own sins.
The Multilevel Marketing Pattern
When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove them from the temple area. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” – John 2:13-16
We’ve all been approached at some time by a friend who is trying to make money using multilevel marketing. It is a simple concept. They are selling, candles, purses, makeup or nutritional products. They want to recruit you and others under them and show you how to recruit others under you, so that you can recruit others under you doing the same and taking a cut from their sales. And then as long as the process continues, you can be rich enough to donate to your favorite charities.
That is the dream. The proof the dream works is embodied in the wealth of the dream’s leaders. Do you see how rich our leaders are? They made all their money by following the dream, proving that you can too. Except, that it’s a lie.
These leaders did not become wealthy by following the dream, instead they became wealthy by building up a group of people who believe passionately in the dream, and then selling dream-promoting wares to this captive audience. They did not become rich by selling candles; they became rich by hyping dream-promoting books, tapes, DVDs, and conferences to their own private market of believers.
This same pattern is practiced by some Christian leaders and their churches. The dream is the prosperity gospel. Their captive market is their congregation. The products are, well you guessed it: books, tapes, DVDs, and conferences, and t-shirts, and most ominously spiritual rewards and the prevention of spiritual punishments.
They lead by example to promote their twisted version of the gospel. They tell you what God has done for them so that they can help others and then they tell you what God would want you to do so that you can help others too. They tell you what to buy and when to donate money and God will provide for you too! They tell us that they became successful by following God, but in reality they became rich by sucking money out of those caught up in the excitement of a distorted Gospel that seems to make sense.
Let’s discuss how these spiritual vampires are able to take money that ought to have stayed with God’s people or gone to legitimate good works.
Tip: A clue that you are attending one of these churches is if you hear things like, “This is your spiritual home, you can’t go to another church. You must be loyal. Listen to your Pastor’s heart. ” They are very jealous about protecting their market, and do not want to lose one of their paying customers to another church. Some even try to prevent their patrons leaving by making them sign contracts or “covenants”, like a mobile phone company locking you into a two-year term. But the Bible does not teach that Christians are bound to their local church organization, this idea is foreign to Scripture.
The first product is the leader’s book (often ghostwritten and fraudulently claimed to be authored by the leader). Like bad business books they have one good idea and then are packed with antidotes and motivational sayings of how God lead him to where he is now and provided him with unimaginable wealth. The theological content is basically non-existent. These books would normally not even do well on Amazon however when promoted to a captive audience, they sell like hot cakes.
Only buy the book if it has good reviews and/or a friend recommends it along with your actual interest in it as with any book. Do NOT buy this book just because your pastor has endorsed it and the rest of the congregation is making you feel pressured to buy it. Be leery of conferences and seminars. They are designed to pressure you into buying. Wait til the hype wears off, then see if you still want to buy it.
Next comes the DVD. Usually this entails the Pastor preaching to his congregation over a certain topic. Let me ask you a question, is it ethical for a leader who has been paid by his church to prepare and deliver a sermon, to then take that performance and sell it back to his own church members for a healthy profit? I’m not talking here about paying for reproduction costs or the money going into church funds. I’m talking about DVDs being sold at the same cost as a movie DVD and the profit going into the leader’s own pocket.
Still these DVDs are hyped up and sold by the stacks. And even though, you are not required to buy them, you will certainly feel the pressure if you dont.
The marketing for conferences start months ahead. Promotional advertisements on websites and promotional commercials during service to get you excited about the event. And since everyone is excited about it, they cannot understand why anyone would not want to go. What do you mean you cannot afford the cost? Do you not love God? Don’t you want to be a part of the blessed, successful and wealthy?
And each speaker is awe-inspiring. They all have amazing stories of starting out with nothing and building a church that brings in thousands of people.
The conference fee is such a small amount compared to the spiritual reward. It will be life changing, with an insurmountable worth of blessings and wealth that God will bestow you with.
Of course, Jesus had conferences too, don’t forget, like the Sermon on the Mount. I do not recall him charging for that. In fact it was free wasn’t it?
There is nothing wrong with conferences. But when they are overly hyped and overly expensive with very little lasting value, it seems to me there is something wrong. Why are they so expensive? Where does the money go?’
Couldnt I just stay home, or rent a hotel room and read my Bible with a few Christian friends. Do I really need to spend all that money to get closer to God? Will I lose God’s blessings if I don’t go to the conference?
The Christian Speaking Circuit
If one has a large enough congregation and are willing to let others come and sell there, then your fellow pastors will allow you to come and sell in their congregations too. The bigger your congregation, the larger the congregations that will open up their doors to you.
This is known as a Christian speaking circuit. The newbies, practice hard and seek out circuit patrons to gain significant financial rewards. There are four ways to gain revenue: from sales of products,” love offers” taken for the speaker, from various perks, and from formal speaking payments.
Of course not ALL speakers are on the circuit, the difference is in the amount of money their visit extracts. There is nothing wrong with a speaker’s flights and accommodation being paid for, along with the speaker receiving a fair payment for his time. But what amount is fair? And what about the perks that some receive? Isn’t anything extra a waste of the Lord’s money?
Some speaker’s now require business or first class flights, expensive chauffeured cars, five-star hotel accommodation, gourmet dining, and the right to bring a small entourage along with them (at the church’s expense). Their fees can be enough to buy a family car, and they still have no problem accepting a “love offering”. The sales of their books and DVD’s are carefully planned, and the hosting pastors are willing to hype their products too.
Of course the hosting pastor will then expect to get the same treatment at the visiting speaker’s church. If the visiting speaker does not have a church, then the hosting pastor usually receives a cut from the speaker’s product sales.
So Sunday service speaking engagements are most important, to glamorize and hype up conferences. Only the true circuit speakers get to star at these engagements. They are almost like sharks at these conferences, who seek to boost profits by selling products that have over inflated prices. This would explain why conferences cost so much, because it is needed to cover their fees and perks.
Is this what one should expect from the Body of Christ? Is this really acceptable to God?
If you are considering going to one of these conferences you should demand transparent accounting to the whole church of all costs of visiting speakers and for that matter transparency about any income your pastor is earning while speaking at other churches and conferences. Most honest pastors will not have a problem with this. But it is interesting to note that Churches that do not have members or require a membership are NOT legally required to open their financial records to their congregation.
Feeding Off the Flock
Another way pastors make money is to set up a business, and then get their congregation to patronize their business.
Businesses such as: bookshops, counseling, gyms, production firms, computer consulting, cinemas, business coaching services, supermarkets, building firms, music festivals, music studios, real-estate firms, and many more. The bookshop is the most common, often located inside the church itself.
“Members” in the church who support these businesses are rewarded with increased standing in the church over “members” who do not use their business.
If you are interested in frequenting these places, ask questions about who owns them! Also ask what percentage of customers come from the church. This will tell you how many outsiders actually see this place a trustworthy business.
Honor Your Pastor
The control Pastors have over their congregation is very cult like. And do not be confused with the cults that you have heard about on television. A Cult does not have to go to that extreme to be considered a cult, but they a cult does have to go to extremes to be news worthy and draw big ratings for a network.
If a church is focused on money, there will be cult like patterns involved. One of these cultic patterns is the division of the church into exclusive rings: the all-powerful pastor at the center, the inner-ring consisting of the pastor’s lieutenants and the church’s privileged class (the rich, the famous and the very pretty), and the outer-ring of the ordinary folk who would love to be in the inner-ring, but are not.
The inner-ring is also involved in making money because they often try to “honor their pastor”, so that they will be looked upon more favorably. The way in which they do this is: someone in the inner-ring will figure out what the pastor would like, say for his birthday. Then the inner-ringers will squeeze the outer-ringers for the money to buy this item.
Using this method pastors have been “given”: diamond rings for their wives, cash gifts, jet skis, luxury cruises, motorbikes, cars, holidays, boats, and other expensive luxury items.
These pastors have plausible deniability by having their inner-ring lieutenants do the work. Of course they could refuse the gift when it is presented, and make it clear that they don’t want the Lord’s money spent on such things but how many do? It’s not that it is a bad thing to give a gift, like flowers or something simple and non expensive but how often is this done? And when you have a congregation of 20,000 people, if you can get just 5% to donate $5, then you have $1000 to shop with. Is that too much? Why shouldn’t a man of God get what he wants?
High Pressure Offerings
One of the church’s inner-ring will take the Sunday offering, which can turn into a mini-sermon. They are competing against each other’s past high scores.The more money they bring in, the better their status is within the ring.
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9:7
If you ever feel pressured to give, that is when you should NOT give even a penny. Not out of rebellion or greed, but to see how you are looked upon. You should only give from your heart and when you are able, NOT because you are worried what God will think of you, if you don’t.
Cathedral Building Wars
Like the middle ages where cities and countries vied against each other to build the most impressive cathedral, the pastors of these money focused churches fight to own the most impressive church to top their rival pastors.
The most impressive churches require the most magnificent buildings, the most professional entertainment in their services, the best church programs, and the best conferences, the best websites, the best radio and TV programs, and the most members. All this costs a lot of money.
And just like the middle ages these self anointed kings seek to tax their subjects to fund all of these things. None of this goes along with the teachings of Jesus.
Surely we are accountable to God to how we spend our money. Do you really think the best way to spend money that is raised is on Restaurants, bookstores and other socializing buildings? Could you not do without such luxuries if it means the money instead goes to help orphans, the poor or some other well deserving needy cause?
Siphoning Cash into Property
Is it ethical for the pastor (or his company or trust) to own property that the church is paying for?
Another variation is the church trust being controlled by the pastor and his family, so they control both the church’s cash and property.
Some pastors are very clever in how they hide the money trail. Ultimately if church money is paying for an asset the pastor owns, outside of his wages, then there is something wrong. Check who owns your church’s property. If it is a trust or company then find out who owns and controls that entity. Then look at what your pastor owns directly or indirectly, and who is paying for those assets. Stop giving to that church until any unethical dealings like these are stopped and the money repaid.
The Bible teaches that the spiritual worker deserves to be paid:
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” – 1 Timothy 5:17-18
It is my opinion that Paul the Apostle, probably meant fair wages, not excessive and that Paul would have agreed with what Peter the Apostle wrote:
To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. – 1 Peter 5:1-3
No honest pastor would have a problem with his congregation knowing how much their church pays him, or at least what range his wage fell in, like say “between $50,000 and $60,000”. This is normal. Openness regarding the pastor’s wages has been a practice of the Christian church for hundreds of years, and continues today. Only those pastors who have an excessive wage would be reluctant to let the amount become public knowledge.
If a pastor dodges questions about his wages or if his wage is being compared to that of a CEO then be very suspicious. First because a CEO’s wage is usually massive and second, a pastor is not a CEO. A CEO runs a monetary for-profit organization, a pastor serves the people of God – not the same thing. Also, if they were like a CEO then that would make you like a shareholder and shareholders have full rights to accounts including their CEO’s earnings.
Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. – 2 Corinthians 4:2
Many of these churches make their inner ring members complicit in this deception. Members are instructed to wear expensive clothes and groom themselves in the manner expected of the rich. They are encouraged to buy (or lease) the most impressive car they can afford. Members are required to appear happy and successful. The excuse given is that the appearance of success breeds success, but this is nonsense, more likely it breeds significant debt. The real reason the leaders want their church members to appear successful is to trick others into thinking that the prosperity dream that they preach really works.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. – 1 Timothy 6:3-10
A church isn’t a family business; it is a family, but it’s not a business.
Are the pastor’s relatives high up in the church? If the pastor’s relatives seem to have higher positions in the church, then that is nepotism. A good church will choose only the very best people for the job.
Fabricated Tithing Doctrine
Tithing, or at least their own version of tithing, is their one true love.
Here are some bullet point facts about tithing:
- The New Testament Church did not tithe.
- The New Testament does not teach tithing for Christians.
- Their favorite Malachi verses cannot be used for Christians since Christians are not under the law of Moses.
- Abraham’s one off tithe of his war booty did not set up a precedent for Christians to regularly tithe their income.
- The version of tithing they teach cannot be found in Scripture (see below).
- The “Storehouse” in Malachi cannot be equated to your local church organization.
- There are plenty of rich (money wise) Christians who do not tithe. This would be impossible if their version of tithing was true.
- The New Testament teaching is that you decide how much to give, and there are no rules about where it goes. You cannot be compelled to give.
Here is a false tithing doctrine stated in a nutshell:
“Christians must give up to 10% of their gross income only to their church organization. If they do, then God will bless them for any offerings they make to the church organization beyond this ten percent. But if they do not give ten percent gross, then they are stealing from God and God will curse them.”
There are variations of this teaching, and sometimes it is called a “principle”, but the above definition contains the core essence of this doctrine.
It is vital to grasp that tithing is not for Christians. Tithing was part of the old law (of Moses) which was fulfilled (completed) by Jesus. Christians are no longer under the law of Moses. If a church uses Moses in any form to base its teachings off of, then there is something wrong.
But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code. – Romans 7:6
know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. – Galatians 2:16
All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” – Galatians 3:10
New wine should not be put into old wine skins, nor should new unshrunk cloth be used to patch an old garment; if you think you need to obey the law of tithing then you need to obey the whole law (or you will be cursed, Galatians 3:10).
What is more, this tithing doctrine they teach isn’t found in either the New or Old Testament. Cultwatch has a special website TithingDebate.com dedicated to setting Christians free from this fake doctrine. There are free books to download and articles to read. Make sure you read the article “Should you give?
If you are struggling to feed your family or buy them clothes, remember, your duty is to your family first. If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. – 1 Timothy 5:8
Churches that push the tithing doctrine will often try to enforce tithing via written agreements (called covenants), and also by monitoring what people give (so they can compel them to give more if they are not meeting the ten percent target).
First, this is illegitimate, because they contain false doctrine (like tithing) and set up the pastors as a false authority over you. God would not support a covenant that contains falsehoods, therefore God does not support the covenant you were pressured to sign, so you are free from this burden. It is as if you never signed it. Second, the Bible implies that our giving is best done in secret so that only we and God know what we gave. Don’t go to a church where they monitor what you give. (note: some churches voluntarily let you record what you have given via a numbered envelope system for tax purposes. Done correctly, no one in the church will know what you gave. There is nothing wrong with this kind of recording.)
One should protest a false doctrine by refusing to fund the system that promotes that false doctrine.
The Carrot and the Stick
Pastors that are money hungry, are often power-hungry too. They want to be pastor and master. They commit the sin of the Pharisees and appoint themselves as middle men between God and you.
Pastors will claim to have a direct connection with God and then threaten with spiritual curses if you disobey. They dangle the carrot of blessings to get you to comply. And they imply that they have say in where you work, where you fellowship, who you mary and of course, how much you give.
This is a false spiritual authority not supported by Scripture.
In these pastor’s prosperity teaching, obeying the pastor and giving money are the two pillars necessary for a successful Christian life.
These men want to dominate you, they want to be seen as the big man, and some desire adoration. This is the opposite of true Christian leadership:
Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. – Luke 22:24-27
I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm. – 2 Corinthians 1:23-24
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. – Mark 10:42-44
Don’t be afraid of these men. Ignore their bluster. Grow a backbone and stand up to them. And if you give, then give to honor God and not out of fear of punishment or greed for financial gain. Memorize this verse: Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Corinthians 9:7
I am sure that most people who attend these money focused type of churches would be shocked if they could see the real attitude of their pastors.
I hope that this article will set you free from this kind of spiritual bondage. I am not against studying the Bible and practicing your own beliefs as long as it does not interfere with anyone elses well-being, of course. I just cannot watch good people being lead astray in the name of God in order to carry out the will of a wealth seeking pastor.
- Top 15 Ways Pastors Get Rich (tallskinnykiwi.typepad.com)
- Pastor Rick: Austerity For Thee But Not For Me (crooksandliars.com)
- “Follow Me as I Follow Cash – Oops, I mean Christ” (bizsetup.wordpress.com)