Friday, July 18, 2008

I am not fond of a church 501(c)(3) status. The money changers love it.

I realize that the government is supposed to be a servant of the Lord. The Church is supposed to be the of the Lord, as well. There are issues I see with churches having a tax exempt status. There has been a lot of abuse with that status in the name of freedom of religion. There are tax breaks for ministers that most people do not get. I had some web sites bookmarked for years. One of them dealt with churches and 501(c)(3) status. Unfortunately, that URL no longer is valid, or I would link you there.

There are a lot of churches who do finances correctly. They are prudent with their money and respect how it is spent. Other ministries become the personal wealth machine of hucksters. That is one major reason why I left the Word of Faith Movement (WOF) in the mid 1990's. I have no problem with apostolic authority, but I do have a problem with stacking the deck of a ministry's board of directors with family and/or "yes men". It is the unfortunate consequence of tax exempt status that a not for profit corporation has to have a board. I have seen some churches with only family on the board.

It is sad to see that people make money off the fears of others. WOF preachers scare parishioners into tithing and giving to "the man of God" so that they will themselves be blessed. Of course those tithes and offerings can go to no other ministers much less fellow believers or God will be angry at them and curse them. I sat through a lot of sermons to that end, as well as read plenty of books teaching those heresies. Yes, I believe that God honors your giving and blesses you for it. I do not, however, believe that people are going to be cursed by God if they do not give 10% of their income to their local congregation. I live under a new covenant, established upon better promises. Nonetheless, these WOF preachers will pull all sorts of cursings out of the Old Testament to back their claims. The most popular is the old Malachi 3:10. However, you never hear those preachers share the intended recipients of the message. I am not a Jew, I never was a Jew, and never was under the Law.

The sad truth is that people who often can not pay their own bills ignorantly pour money into the pockets of such charlatans, believing that God will honor their faithfulness and owes them more money in return, as if there is a formula or equation in Heaven to follow. I have seen poor people give money when they could not afford groceries of to pay the electricity bill with the expectation that God will bless them mightily. Years later, they are still poor. Do not get me wrong. I do believe that God does honor giving. He is not obligated, however, to honor a covenant that is not yours to begin with or giving in fear of his wrath.

Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Jesse Duplantis, Jerry Savelle, Benny Hinn, Robert Tilton, Marilyn Hickey, Oral Roberts, Frederick Price, John Avanzini, Morris Cerullo, E.W. Kenyon, and a host of others preach the "name it and claim it" gospel; the "blab it and grab it" theology, or the health and wealth gospel. Pick your term, I don't care. You see many of these same people and their ilk on television regularly. I have personally met some of them, been in their services, read their books, etc. Had I compromised, I would probably be a millionaire raking in millions of dollars every year and have a world wide TV ministry. God would not let me do so, and for that I am grateful. Thank you, Lord, for your grace and your mercy.

Side note: I am reminded of a joke.
A Christian Scientist and a WOF preacher both died and ended up in Hell. They both looked around at their surroundings and figured out their location. The Christian Scientist started confessing, "There is no such thing as Hell. There is no such thing as Hell. There is no such thing as Hell." The WOF preacher started confessing, "I'm in Heaven. I'm in Heaven. I'm in Heaven."
Those who understand the theologies involved will enjoy that one.

For some time now, the US Congress, having solved all other major issues in the country, have decided to start auditing and questioning televangelists and their ministry finances. I realize as well as anyone that there is a serious First Amendment consideration here. However, keep in mind that we are talking about a 501(c)(3) corporation here, not just a ministry. There is supposed to be some degree of accountability. Rest assured that if there is no accountability now, there will be in the future, and that will be to the supreme judge.

I believe it to be wrong that the IRS can threaten to take away the tax exempt status for a preacher that makes political statements in the pulpit. There is a righteous standard that a minister is supposed to uphold. Those standards transcends into politics. If the government is ordained of God, then we have a responsibility to ensure that the proper ethics are employed in selecting leaders who will exemplify God's character and nature. Not only that, but there is an abridgment of First Amendment freedom of speech when preachers are disallowed to preach righteousness to their congregations and encourage them to vote according to their ethics that are based upon their faith.

When people abuse their authority, then they must face the minister of God, as enumerated in Romans 13. When a church or para-church organization abrogates their responsibilities and fails to pay their employees, they have legal issues, not just church issues. When a charter is handed out by the state, the state can regulate and hold you accountable. For instance, a pastor I know was purchasing a radio station and failed to live up to his end of the purchase agreement. He owed several employees, myself included, thousands of dollars in back wages. One man was owed ten fold of what I was owed. That pastor insisted that nobody could sue him. Well, it is not exactly easy to go before a church when he runs that church body. I sued a corporation. Had that same pastor not committed perjury by lying his butt off in court about his involvement and stake in the operations of that radio station, he would have lost that lawsuit. He had to resort to dishonesty to win. That is sad. Here some of us employees had to move out of our housing because we were not getting paid, some had not even enough gas money to show up for work or get home, and others ran up debt to help keep the radio station going. Promises were made but not kept, and we all suffered. Sin affects other people.

I weep for my brethren who are still mired in WOF theology. There were people that I loved dearly that were and may still be stuck in the preaching of manna and false hope for healing. I believe in healing. I have personally laid hands on the sick and injured and watched them be healed before my very eyes. The problem with WOF teaching is that they proclaim that if you are not healed, it is their own fault for not having sufficient faith to be healed. What a crock of BS. If someone calls for an elder of the church and asks for prayer and laying on of hands to be healed, then according to James chapter 5, the prayer of faith is the burden of the elder, not the one who is sick. That is the great heresy. Blaming someone else for your inaccurate theology to the detriment and possible destruction of the afflicted just pisses me off royally.

I have seen this many times. One such instance stands out in my mind in that a church held a healing service. There were ads on the radio asking for anyone who is sick to attend this special anointed healing service. I should know, I made the ads. After a message delivered about having faith to be healed, one person came up in a wheelchair asking for God's healing touch. After struggling to her feet and the pastor laying hands on the woman, she was none the better. The pastor actually chided the woman for not having sufficient faith to be healed. As I recall, he told her to go study about having faith sufficient for her healing. I was disgusted, but I could not vent my frustrations at the time.

That same pastor taught more than once that if you did not tithe, that you were a "God robber" according to Malachi 3:10 and that as a thief, you would go to Hell. Funny, that same verse talks about extortioners. Obtaining money from people under a false or even real threat of punishment or retribution is extorting from people.
Main Entry: ex·tort
: to obtain from a person by force, intimidation, or undue or illegal power : wring; also
: to gain especially by ingenuity or compelling argument
It is not hard for me to equate WOF teachers with the money changers in the temple during Jesus' time. They twisted the law, extorted money, and made profit from the people of God. It is ironic that Jesus said, "make not my Father's house an house of merchandise" and yet when you go to many churches, there are book stores, tapes, CDs, videos, and books for sale of the preacher, singing group, or guest evangelist for sale. I have seen one particular preacher hock his books for some fifteen or twenty minutes. I have been in services where a so called prophet claimed to have a word from God as to how much money people should give that night. Another night, the special word from God was to take out your largest denomination bill and give it in the offering and you would get a 1000 fold increase by the end of the week. Another night he said that the Lord showed him that someone in the audience was keeping a $100 bill tucked away in his wallet in case a special need or occasion came up and that God instructed for him to give it in the offering. I saw this guy several times and it was amazing that in two totally different services in two different locations, God amazingly gave the exact same words of knowledge about money squirreled away in wallets and giving the largest size bill. Because I did not tolerate that crap or want any part of it, I was removed as a deacon in one church.

Not surprisingly, those who deal loosely with the truth or are downright deceived about the truth about money have a real motivation to keep these things private. Jim Bakker can attest to that. Somewhere here at the house, I have a recording of his first message after he got out of prison. I have his book, I Was Wrong on my book shelf. One by one, dirty ministers are being exposed. I wrote about one earlier this week.

Kenneth Copeland is refusing to let Congress see his ministry finances, hiding behind the First Amendment. He has some validity to his claim there, however I firmly believe that if the government is the one chartering a non-profit organization then they have the right to inspect to ensure that it is indeed non-profit. There is more than accountability to God, there is accountability in this world. Since Copeland elected to use the world's system to obtain tax exemption, he is bound to be accountable to that same system. Hiding behind the pretense of ministry and freedom of religion is might shady and casts a dubious light upon him, not that there was not one already.

The Bible has a stern warning about people who teach about greed and wealth. They usually covet it themselves. Convincing others that they will be wealthy by giving to your own ministry is self serving and as I pointed out earlier, extortion.

Here is one parting thought about those who extort money from the flock. I call it fleecing the sheep.
1Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into [this] world, [and it is] certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and [into] many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

3 comments:

russkellyphd said...

The extortioners in Malachi were the priests themselves per 1:6 and 2:1. God threatened to throw dung in their faces. Priests also stole the tithe in Neh 13:5-10.

Tithing itself is totally wrong for the Church. See www.shouldthechurchteachtithing.com for over 150 articles.

troylaplante said...

You are absolutely correct in your assessment. It is no different in our day. I am 100% in agreement on your stance on tithing. I have written extensively on this in times past. For anyone who would like an excellent book on the subject of tithing versus New Testament giving; law versus grace, I highly recommend Beyond Tithes and Offerings Thanks for the link you supplied. I will check it out.

ROEBUCK said...

...and here I thought the lunatics had only taken over rock'n'roll!
Guess I can throw away my copy of "I Started Livin' When I Started Givin' "
Lennon had most evangelicals (and I ARE one) nailed when he said, "I don't have a problem with Jesus, or Christ or whatever it is, but it's the people who claim to follow him that bug me!"
Our stupidity can be a stumbling block to the lost. It's a shame