Recent Focus Of The Church – Profit Making?
“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 all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 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 NIV)
Have you ever wondered how some pastors start a church and then become wealthy living in flash houses and driving luxury cars? Like Judas reaching into the money bag, the sad reality is that some pastors steal from God’s people; extracting money from their congregation to fund their lifestyles. It’s big business. Some of them laugh at us like con-men laughing at their marks.
This pattern is practiced by some Christian leaders in their churches. The dream is the prosperity gospel. Their captive market is their congregation. Some of the products are books, tapes, DVDs, conferences, t-shirts, and most ominously spiritual rewards and the prevention of spiritual punishments.
These leaders use their faked “success” to promote a distorted gospel which basically says: “tow the line obeying the leaders buying whatever we tell you to buy, and donate money whenever we tell you to donate, and then God will pour riches into your life.”
A clue that you are caught up in 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.” 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 from leaving by making them sign contracts or “covenants”, like a mobile phone company locking you into a two-year agreement term.
The first product is the leader’s book (often ghostwritten and fraudulently claimed to be authored by the leader). Let’s be honest, many of these books are below par. They are padded with motivational sayings and anecdotal stories of how the leader obeyed God’s calling so God hosed him down with wealth. The theological content is basically non-existent. These books would tank on Amazon or in a real bookstore, but hyped to their captive market, they sell like hot cakes.
Next comes the ever popular DVD. Most are videos of the leader preaching in his church on a certain topic. Is it ethical for a leader who has been paid by his church to prepare and deliver a sermon, to take that performance and sell it back to his own church members for profit? I’m not talking 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.
And like the books, most of these DVD’s are awful, not worth the money paid. Minimal content with gallons of fluff. In the worst money hungry churches, you’re expected to buy these books and DVDs, and it is noticed if you don’t.
There are church conferences too. Other church members look at you strangely if you are thinking about not going. What, you can’t afford the huge entry fee? What’s wrong with you? Don’t you love God? Don’t you want to go to Heaven? Don’t you want to be successful and wealthy?
The speaker is completely amazing. He’s built a church up from nothing to one with thousands of people. She’s the most Godly woman in the universe who is the best wife ever, with the best kids and the best liifestyle. He’s from overseas. Wow. It’s going to be mega massive triply awesomely awesome!
The spiritual reward for going is implied to be life changing. The conference fee is nothing, compared to the fire-fighting-bomber worth of blessings and wealth God will dump on your head from upon high.
And Jesus had conferences too, don’t forget, like the Sermon on the Mount, where He charged, oh, he didn’t charge anything for that spiritual teaching. In fact it was free, wasn’t it? Hmmm. I’m not against church conferences. I’m against overly expensive hyped church conferences that deliver hardly any lasting value to their attendees.
Why are they so expensive? Where does all that money go to? De-program yourself from the idea that conferences are spiritual hot-points you just have to be at. Be led by the Holy Spirit to conferences, not pulled by the fear of losing your church friends and God’s blessings.
“For as I have told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthy things”. (Phillipians 3 : 18-19 NIV)
There is nothing wrong with a speaker’s flight and accommodation being paid for, along with the speaker receiving a fair payment for his time. But, some speaker’s egos are so ripe that they demand 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 inviting church’s expense).
Their fees can be enough to buy a family car, and then they have the audacity to expect a special “love offering” to be made for them. The sales of their books and DVD’s are carefully planned, and the hosting pastors are expected to hype their products. Of course, the hosting pastor will then get the same treatment later at the visiting speaker’s church. It is quid pro quo.
These speakers are like sharks in a feeding frenzy, seeking to boost their profit margins with the over inflated prices of their products. Their speaking fees and perks are why these church conferences cost so much, and can sometimes even run at a, ahem, cough, “loss”.
As if selling books and DVDs aren’t enough, some pastors go as far as selling salt, oil, water, sand, cane, etc. These things are expected to drive away evil spirits from your homes. And oh, it’s one person for each. Two people can’t share one. So assuming your family members are 7, you have to buy 7. Well, if you want to drive away evil spirits from our home, why not tell us to go to the market, buy those items and bring them for you to pray for us? Why do you go and buy them at cheaper prices, yet sell back to us at exorbitant prices?
Members in the church who show loyalty to their pastors’ businesses are rewarded, often with an elevated standing in the church. Members who refuse to show loyalty to their pastor’s businesses are frowned upon.
Money focused churches tend to be run on cultic patterns. For example, dividing the church into exclusive rings: the all-powerful pastor perched at the center, the inner-ring of sycophants around him 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.
To get more favor, the inner-ringers will employ many favor-currying measures to squeeze the outer-ringers for money to buy things for the pastor. In the extreme money focused churches, people will be watched to see if they put anything and how much they put in the offering container. Assuming that day, you don’t have money to go for offertory, everybody sitting close to you make stupid faces at you. Why don’t they rather give you offering, so you can join the offertory?
“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 NIV)
Some pastors fight to own the most impressive church to top their rival pastors – their egos demand that they are the king of the heap. These cultic churches ultimately exist to serve their pastor’s insecure egos, and their congregation suffer under their madness.
This is a dysfunctional ethos; entirely alien to that of Jesus’s teachings. Some say that if they are preaching the “prosperity gospel”, then they have to appear prosperous to “walk their talk”. But of course, that is a deception. They are using God’s money to misrepresent how wealthy they are, to help prove their false teaching works. Despicable.
What is worse, many of these churches make their 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.
Using the connection they claim to have with God, they threaten you with spiritual curses if you disobey them, and promise spiritual blessings if you comply. They seek to dominate your life; often implying that they have a say in where you work, where you fellowship, who you marry, and of course, when, where, and how much you should give.
This is a false spiritual authority not supported by the Scripture. In these pastors’ prosperity teachings, obeying the pastor and giving money are the two pillars necessary for a successful Christian life.
It is unbelievable what some pastors expect from the Body of Christ. I would not like to be in their shoes when they finally meet our Lord, or for that matter anywhere within the blast radius. Neither should you.
There are members of that church who don’t have money to go to school. There are people who lack jobs. In that same church, there are rich people. Yet, they don’t offer financial support or job opportunities for members of the church. They only care for themselves and the pastor.
There! If nobody wants to talk about it, I will. It is my prayer that this piece will set you free from this kind of spiritual bondage. I hope now you will be able to spot this counterfeit Christian life, and be able to transit into a closer walk with Jesus; a walk built on love, trust and grace, not fear.
A great majority of pastors do not earn much money even though they work hard at their jobs. Most pastors would find these techniques repugnant. Please, do not make the mistake of tarring the many good pastors with the brush reserved for the spiritually corrupt few.