Profiting from the Priesthood – White, Young, Brunson, Graham…

I am mad, really mad! There used to be sacrifice involved when serving in Christian organizations. Sometimes, far too much sacrifice. However, that is changing – BIG TIME!


Recently, my teenage son asked me what sort of career he could pursue that would "guarantee" him a salary of $100,000/year. Guess what thought immediately ran through my mind? I almost advised him to get into the Christian non-profit game.


I know that I am about to cut a broad swath with my following accusation, so I want to acknowledge that there are many missionaries and pastors who sacrifice financially to serve the Lord. Also, I once stood up in a congregational meeting to urge a higher salary for my pastors. However, my pastors actually posted their salaries, unashamedly, for the congregation to see.


Let's look at some recent financials of some big boys.


Franklin Graham – He received $1.2 million from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse in one year's time. Since the public scrutiny, he took a "major" cut and now makes "only" $600,000/year. The BGEA also pays his father a salary of @$700,000/year even though Billy Graham is no longer able to actively engage in evangelism. This money reportedly is in addition to Billy Graham's retirement plan.


Ed Young Jr. of Fellowship Church – Young lives in a 10,000 square foot lake-front house (he claims it is only around 7,000 square feet of heated space, truly slumming). He has a private jet (leased) and, reportedly, a million dollar condo in Miami. His salary is purportedly around a million dollars which he denies. However, he won't say how much he earns. Some theorize that it is around $750,000 with a $250,000/year "parsonage" allowance. WOWZAA!!!


Mac Brunson of First Baptist Church Jacksonville –   He was given property inside a  tony, gated community and built a large house. The entire package is allegedly worth around $750,000. He reportedly receives a salary of around $400,000, his wife allegedly gets $100,000 and was able to complete a brand new office complex which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for him, his wife (who is purportedly on the payroll) and his dog who reportedly does not receive a salary at this time.


Now let's take a look at a couple of salaries of our sacrificing Georgia Baptist Convention leaders.  The numbers are taken from the following link. These numbers must be made public because the GBC styles itself as a not for profit organization.

2010 Georgia Baptist Convention Budget

CEO- Robert White-  His salary and benefits total $560, 300.  Interestingly, his assistant executive director makes a paltry $327,000.


TWW received this following comment:

A Baptist in Georgia says:

Thu, Jun 10 at 10:44 pm 

"That’s not White’s compensation package. No one’s salaries are made public. That is the line item that the CEO uses for administration, including the Exec. Comm. meetings and Administration Comm. meetings."


Odd – by studying the budget, one sees the following line items:

General Promotion: $1,189,600

Executive Committee Expenses – $146,300

Research Services- $281,400


Even odder, the line item for Prayer and Spiritual Awakening is a big fat 0. I guess this means that the GBC hasn't a prayer!!!!!!


So, to a "Georgia Baptist" I address the following questions.

1. Why doesn't the GBC publish "salaries?"  Is it uncomfortable showing how the GBC leaders use the little guy's tithe to live the fat life?????

2. You are wrong about the Executive Committee expenses. They have their own line item.

3. Your two blog queens hold MBAs and know how to read a simple expense report. If you think the 2010 budget is not clearly reflecting the expenses, why not? Who is screwing up?


Here is the bottom line. All of the above individuals are making far too much money. I can't wait for someone to say that this is justifiable. What is too much?  In 1964, United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said: "I can't define pornography, but I know it when I see it."  Well, I can't give an exact number for what constitutes excessive compensation, but I know it when I see it…


All of these individuals should be ashamed of themselves! We expect  the inevitable, ho-hum retort which goes something like  this, "If that's what their congregants want to pay them, then so what? It's their right." It may be their right, but is it right?


Pastors are often made in the image of their followers. Brunson hangs out with the rich and famous of FBC Jacksonville. Many of them live a wealthy lifestyle. It's a nice cozy world. Why would they want a pastor who lives a simple life? it might make them feel a bit uncomfortable. It's easier to justify a rich lifestyle when the pastor lives just like they do. It's well…… comfortable and nice. None of this nonsense about selling your stuff and giving to the poor to worry about.


I want to commend David Platt, pastor of The Church of Brook Hills, which is located in a very nice area of Birmingham, Alabama. He and his wife sold their house and relocated to live amongst the poor in Birmingham. Platt and his wife are  also in the process of an international adoption of a couple of children. Finally, David Platt is constantly calling attention to the persecuted church throughout the world. My guess is that a large percentage of the congregation at FBC Jax would bolt if their pastor did such a thing. The other half would faint dead away from the shock.


Here is a message to those "leaders" who are profiting from the Christian nonprofits. Do you really think that you are being a role model with your lifestyle? Or do you believe that you are just doing a job and don't give a hoot what anyone thinks? Brunson told his congregation that they are "lucky" to have him since he could be earning lots more money in the private sector. I am sure his humble witness is felt all over the Sunshine State. Blechhhh!


Shame on all of you!


And to remind everyone who it is we serve, I have provided a link to an advertisement appearing on billboards in Great Britain. A Christian group is reminding people what Christmas is all about a little early. The secularist are gnashing their teeth, calling this an underhanded way to protest abortion. I promise you, it is worth your while to view it.


Profiting from the Priesthood – White, Young, Brunson, Graham… — 24 Comments

  1. Great series ladies. You may not hear a lot from the boys at the SBC or GBC, but believe me; they are hearing your messages loud and clear. My question – Are they going to turn from their sin and possibly criminal activity and get right? I am not holding my breath, but I am withholding my funds. Money talks.

  2. Doug

    I am not sure the SBC/GBC good old boys will change. They have justified their salaries for so long that I am not sure they can even see what they are doing. They are used to justifying their lifestyles and hiding behind a “personality cult” which is alive and well in the USA.

    What has changed is the availability of information. I had the opportunity to see, up close and personal, the shock of some pastors who could not believe that people would actually call them to account. They were used to spin and sound bites that they controlled from the pulpit. They then added “fractured Scriptures” to try to control the flock. Legitimate expressed concerns became “gossip.” Several people expressing concerns became “violation of Matthew 18.”

    So, lies became public knowledge. People on the IMB who pull knives became public knowledge. And slowly some people in the church are waking up to this nonsense.

    The sheeple types bought the control. The “wise as serpents” did not. Blogging is now open to the priesthood of the believers who see through the nonsense that has invaded the church. And I predict there will be no turning back, no matter how hard the “Churchianty Elite” kick and scream.

    Here is my hope. Our children are wiser and understand the new mediums of communication. I have made sure mine understand that even “pastors” and “elders/deacons”can be corrupt and caught up in self-centered sin. These pastors will have to change or get used to being called on the carpet. Accountability is now in the hands of the average believer, something I think Jesus orchestrated.

    The elite wonder why kids are leaving the faith. They are now instituting the Great Commission Resurgence but state that the meetings will be kept secret for 15 years. Can you imagine Jesus keeping the Great Commission secret for 15 years. “Go ye therefore into all the earth but don’t tell anybody at all about it.” My cohort will be writing about this. Do they not understand that young people question this nonsense?

    My oldest daughter (23 years old) was recently told, by a church, she could not start a Bible study without a man to co-lead with her. There was no man interested so, according to this church, there could be no Bible study. This church would rather have no Bible study that a Bible study led by a woman. So, she started the Bible study anyway outside the auspices of her church. It is ongoing. She utilized the internet to get the information out.

    So, TWW will continue, along with many other blogs, to get the information out. This medium allows for exchange of information from all over the world. This blog is getting comments from Brazil and England and is being read in Russia and Taiwan. And ours is a small blog. Can you imagine the numbers of people all over the world that read Wade Burleson, Tom Rich, SGM Survivors, Internet Monk (which is now being run by Michael’s friends) and others?

    These blogs broke the Caner story and despite the protestations of the elite, Caner will be held accountable. Just 5 years ago, it would have been covered up by an increasingly corrupt elite.

    So, there is hope. And, by the way, I have made two friends that I would never have met without the blog-Doug and Doug! May God bless you both!

  3. Recently heard first hand that EY “could take a larger salary” than he does, but he chooses not to. I find that quite comical. I don’t know how his church can sustain his current salary with the way the numbers are drastically falling.

  4. Well, I can’t give an exact number for what constitutes excessive compensation, but I know it when I see it…

    I’m not sure that I would consider anyone’s compensation excessive if they were working for a for-profit enterprise — I’m all for letting the free-market determine that. Even though I think it is a little insane how much professional athletes can make for simply playing games. But still, if people are willing to pay the ticket prices knowing what the players make (or if people are willing to buy from a company knowing how much its CEO makes), that’s how the system works, and no other system exists that promotes individual liberty like capitalism.

    But when it comes to non-profits, particularly churches, one can’t help but question the practice of such high salaries for those who are supposedly dedicating their lives to the service of others. Still, I might even be willing to chalk that up to letting the market set the value of the services of church leaders — except that they do all they can to keep their exact compensation figures secret. Could it be that they do so because they fear that, if people knew just how much they make, the free-market system would kick in, and people would vote with their wallets and presence to support other ministries?

    I’d love to see more dedicated servants of God and His people who would be willing to follow Paul’s example and work to support themselves in order to be able to minister to others freely.

  5. All,
    I recently read something that I think applies to many of the issues raised on this blog and others. It was written by a man named Charles Elliott Newbold, Jr., who is attempting to explain the difference between being a people genuinely devoted to God and being dedicated to preserving and promoting the institutional church system. He figuratively refers to the former as “Zion” and to the latter as “Babylon”. Here is a quote:

    Zion refers to the true body of Christ, the bride, the ekklesia; Babylon refers to the false church system of men’s traditions and religions. (Ekklesia is the Greek word in the New Testament which has been mis-translated “church” in most English versions, but it literally means “called-out-ones”.)

    Zion is a people–the people of God; Babylon is a Thing–church institutions and systems.

    Zion is a living organism; Babylon is characterized by organizations, institutions, and systems.

    Zion consists of people who have been born into it; Babylon consists of people who have joined it or been voted into it.

    Zion is a people who are called by the name of Jesus; Babylon is a people who are called by many different names that represent divisions within this Babylonian church system: Baptist, Catholic, Charismatic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, and all the rest.

    Zion is Jesus-centered; Babylon is self-centered.

    Zion is living by the Spirit; Babylon is living after the flesh.

    Zion is heavenly; Babylon is earthly.

    Zion is grace; Babylon is law.

    Zion is life; Babylon is death.

    Zion is being; Babylon is doing.

    Zion is rest; Babylon is works.

    Zion is light; Babylon is darkness.

    Zion is humility; Babylon is full of pride, arrogance, and haughtiness.

    Zion is liberty in Christ; Babylon is bondage to the flesh.

    Zion is the Kingdom of God; Babylon is the kingdoms of men.

    Zion has Jesus Christ as her head; Babylon has elected or appointed men as their heads.

    Zion is a Spirit-led people; Babylon is led by rules and regulations of man’s own making.

    Zion is Spirit-sensitive; Babylon is man-pleasing.

    Zion is obedience to the Holy Spirit; Babylon is busy church work.

    Zion accomplishes things in Holy Spirit power (Zech. 4:6); Babylon tries to accomplish things in self-strength.

    Zion has its authority in the Word of God; Babylon places its authority in man-made doctrines.

    Zion is one body in Christ Jesus as Lord; Babylon is sectarian and divisive, consisting of many divisions of people.

    Zion worships in spirit and in truth; Babylon programs praise.

    Zion preaches Christ and Him crucified; Babylon proclaims denominations, doctrines, heritage, traditions, creeds, personal views and opinions.

    Zion is the priesthood of all believers; Babylon is the clergy system. The clergy are those who want to make a difference between themselves and others.

    Zion answers to God as the highest authority; Babylon answers to men and their institutions as the authority.

    Zion calls forth revelation; Babylon depends upon imagination.

    Zion conforms people into the image of Jesus; Babylon conforms people into its own image.

    Zion decreases that Christ may increase; Babylon increases itself in power, position, riches, and domination.

    Zion counts the cost; Babylon counts the money.

    Zion lays down its life; Babylon preserves and protects itself.

    Zion waits upon God to raise up what God wants in His timing; Babylon schemes, organizes, and promotes to execute its own plan in its own way and time.

    Zion seeks the Lord with a whole heart to be possessed by Him; Babylon goes after things and people to possess them.

    Zion is the city of God; Babylon seeks to build a city, a tower, and a name for itself. Gen. 11:4.

    Zion longs to be gathered into Jesus; Babylon passionately seeks to gather people unto itself.

  6. Junk, that list is incredible. The author nails the differences. Thanks so much for sharing that.

  7. “I’d love to see more dedicated servants of God and His people who would be willing to follow Paul’s example and work to support themselves in order to be able to minister to others freely”

    Absolutely. I have a friend who does this. One thing he made clear is that he considers himself also a “minister” at work, too. Not just at the church. Actually, all who are saved ARE ministers, too.

    If we took paid professional Christian out of the equation, it would look very different, wouldn’t it?

  8. Lydia said:
    “I’d love to see more dedicated servants of God and His people who would be willing to follow Paul’s example and work to support themselves in order to be able to minister to others freely”

    TWW is a not-for-profit blog.

    Dee and I make a BIG FAT ZERO from our efforts.

    Yes, this is our ministry, and we joyfully do it for free…

  9. I have no problem with pastors being full time pastors; before I started going to the church plant I go to now, I went to a church with 400 members. A medium sized church like that really needs the pastor to be full time; and a truly large church needs more than one full time pastor.

    What makes the difference, IMO, is if the pastor’s salary is known to the people paying it, and is within what’s reasonable for the size of the congregation and how many duties the pastor has.

    In the 400 member church I used to belong to, the pastor and the church administrator were the only full time staff, and the pastor made $60,000 a year. I always felt that was reasonable considering the size of the church and how much he had to do.

  10. Hey Ladies, I’m on your side. I hope your blog posts can instigate positive change within the GBC. I simply wanted to correct the statement that mentioned White’s salary so that you would have your facts straight. There are 2 Assistant Executive Directors, Williams and Boswell. Why publish one Asst. Exec and not the other? If they were going to publish salaries, why not publish every employee within the GBC?

    You are correct in pointing out the Exec. Comm. line item. I did not look at the whole budget before commenting. The Administration Committee meets every month. There expenses to and from the meetings are remibursed. They also have a discretionary fund from which they can draw to fund special projects. My guess is, is that the $560,000 line item is used for the above purposes I mentioned.

    I wish salaries were published. But I can assure you they wouldn’t publish White’s and one of the Asst. Exec.’s salary and no one else’s. I know how they operate.

  11. “I have no problem with pastors being full time pastors; before I started going to the church plant I go to now, I went to a church with 400 members. A medium sized church like that really needs the pastor to be full time; and a truly large church needs more than one full time pastor.”

    I’ve come to the conclusion that a church with over 1000 people in regular attendance needs to split. Larger than 1000 and there are two many problems. One being a pastor who will usually be making way above the median incomes of the families. And that by itself can create all kinds of issues. Another issue is an attitude of “where’s the staff” when things need to be done. And the lack of knowing each other. And there’s more. Large churches create problems just by being large.

  12. All salaries should be available to all people who give or are connected to the nonprofits like these.

    I do not support large salaries for employees of Christian nonprofits. It’s not like this is the International Olympic Committee or the United Way or something.

    Leaders who take large salaries have no idea how much situations like the above affect their leadership. People eventually vote with the feet and their check books.

  13. Thanks for your comment, and I agree with you. Large churches have a hard time carrying out the Great Commissions for a number of reasons… That might be a good topic to discuss here soon.

  14. If you really want to know what the salaries are and you are bold enough to pursue it, Georgia law allows members of non-profits to request to see the accounting records of the organizations. It has to be for a reasonable purpose and the request usually has to be in writing, but you can see the records. Records have been interpreted to mean more than just the financial statements they want you to see. It might also include the records behind the numbers summarized on the financials.

    That is why members of Two Rivers Baptist Church, in Nashville, TN won their case in Tennessee to even inspect the credit card statements of the credit cards Jerry Sutton, their former pastor, used. I’m pretty confident that you could get the payroll records if you wanted them.

  15. You make some excellent points. Size allows a pastor to hide. It gives him an excuse for not getting to know his flock. Some of them have no interest in being pastors. They just want to be jet setting public speakers who make good money. The church is merely a platform to launch their real careers.

  16. Elisabeth
    I think most people would agree with you. The real problem is when the church is used merely as a platform to launch a pastor’s speaking career. Smaller churches are one answer to an increasingly elite pastor mutual “bless me ” club. Did you know Ed YOung Jr says he needs his jet to fly around and help other pastors? What a pile of baloney. He should be spending time driving around to his congregation’s homes and getting to know them-the ones he is really supposed to be serving.

  17. Let’s see, who would be first out the door?-Ed young Jr., Brunson, Gaines, Patterson, and on and on.

  18. Junkster
    I was out of town and somehow missed this absolutely wonderful post. If you don’t mind, I would like to feature it as post in the near future. Let me know.

  19. Junkster

    What a fascinating comment. I might like to use this argument in an upcoming post. I, too, am a free marketeer. Corporations answer to their investors who get their by purchasing shares in the company. The CEO’s salary package is made known in this environment. I used to think that the elders were the ones who weld the pastor accountable. That is, until I saw what a crock that was in my last church. The elders merely helped the pastor keep things “quiet.” Excellent thinking. What system would work, in your opinion? My current church is smaller and the pastors are held to a high degree of accountability. Any member is allowed to speak out at meetings and many take the opportunity to express both approval and disapproval. And it seems to work.

  20. PS

    Poor Ed. He’s slumming in that fancy house.His sidekick, Denny Brewer, is also living the high life. I used to know them.

  21. Elisabeth
    I think most people would agree with you. The real problem is when the church is used merely as a platform to launch a pastor’s speaking career. Smaller churches are one answer to an increasingly elite pastor mutual “bless me ” club. Did you know Ed YOung Jr says he needs his jet to fly around and help other pastors? What a pile of baloney. He should be spending time driving around to his congregation’s homes and getting to know them-the ones he is really supposed to be serving.