NCFIC, Vision Forum, and the Bottom Line

"Vision Forum has got it right! A lot of “modern” churches have got it wrong. God makes it quite clear how things are supposed to operate and when all parties are in submission to Him it is a wonderful thing. We must stand apart from the world. Vision Forum equips us with the resources and encouragement to do that. As hard as it is to be mocked by the world and labeled wrongly, I stand by the hope of hearing, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.' "

Cyndi L

Taken by Deb

Family Integrated Church seems to be all the buzz in certain Christian circles these days.  How many of our TWW readers know the origin of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches (discussed in yesterday's post), and how long has this organization existed?  Here is an excerpt from a blog post written by Scott Brown's colleague, Doug Phillips, who answers these questions.

The Ten Year Anniversary of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches (link)

"September 11, 2011, marked the 10th anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history. But it also marked the ten year anniversary of the founding of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches. The very day the Twin Towers fell, our founding meeting took place in San Antonio, Texas.

I had called on leading pastors and laymen to gather here to discuss the crisis of church and family, and to seek biblical solutions. Many came. They travelled from the East Coast and the West Coast at great personal expense, just to pray and talk and seek the wisdom of the Lord.

In those days it was not uncommon for Christian parents (especially home educators) to receive significant persecution for simply wanting to have their children in the meeting of the church and declining kiddie church. There were charges of disloyalty and extremism against home educators for refusing to place their children in church schools and youth groups. Many church leaders were unable and unwilling to defend the modern youth-centered, family-dividing practices from the Bible, but entirely willing to condemn those who raised biblical concerns about the practices. On the other hand, some families grew so frustrated that they responded in error, sometimes even giving up on the local church altogether. These “lone rangers” wrongly isolated themselves from lawful church authority and became church renegades. Others responded to persecution with divisive and inappropriate attitudes directed at church leadership.

Several years ago Vision Forum Ministries spun off the NCFIC as an independent organization under the leadership of Scott Brown…"

NCFIC, like Vision Forum, has internships for homeschoolers.  According to the information for interns, NCFIC became independent just two years ago.  Take a look.

Internship Expanded Explanation 2011

"It has been 10 years since the NCFIC was founded on September 11, 2001. For the first eight years we were a part of Vision Forum Ministries, and two years ago the NCFIC was launched as an independent organization. Since then, we have significantly expanded our online presence with articles, audio messages, and videos. We have hosted national conferences on crucial biblical doctrines, traveled across the country encouraging and exhorting family-integrated churches, published multiple books on pressing issues of the day, and completed a groundbreaking film on age-segregated youth ministry."

How long has Scott Brown been the director of NCFIC?  Doug's blog confirms he was named in 2004. (link)  Brown also serves on the Board for Vision Forum Ministries, along with a couple other men. (link)  Interestingly, the same men on the VF Board also serve on the NCFIC Board. (link)

What is REALLY going on here?  Why all these close ties between the same few men?

As I mentioned in the Homeschooling Hijackers post, I heard Doug Phillips speak at the North Carolina Home Educators Convention in 1998 — the same year he launched Vision Forum (VF).  Not long after that annual homeschooling conference, I began receiving a catalog from a business called Vision Forum.  Wait a minute…  Is Vision Forum a ministry or a business?   The answer is BOTH.  Even after I stopped homeschooling, I continued to receive VF catalogs offering books, CDs, DVDs, gender specific toys, etc.  I think they finally took me off their mailing list last year after my youngest graduated from high school.   Here is the link to Doug Phillips' business: Vision Forum, Inc.

As you can see, I have been familiar with VF (the business) since its inception.  Because I stopped homeschooling in 1999, I had no idea what was happening in the world of homeschooling.  When Dee and I began researching Christian issues and trends for our blog, Vision Forum came back on the radar screen.  I have spent countless hours researching Phillips and his business/ministry, and I shared some of the information in earlier blog posts.  Now that I have new information about NCFIC, which was founded by Vision Forum, I am beginning to speculate about what is really going on here.

NCFIC claims to be a network of 800 Family Integrated Churches.  As Cyndi L (a VF proponent) confirmed: Vision Forum equips us with the resources and encouragement to do that."  My guess is that Cyndi represents the sentiments of many homeschooling families in these churches affiliated with NCFIC.  All of these families need resources in order to educate their children the RIGHT WAY.   After all, so many of these homeschooling families idolize Doug Phillips and Scott Brown and look to them as spiritual leaders.

What if these 800 churches in the NCFIC network also function as profit centers for the Vision Forum business?  Cha ching!!!  That, dear readers, is what I believe to be the BOTTOM LINE

Perhaps NCFIC was spun off Vision Forum to give the perception that it is independent of Phillips' business and ministry.  As the two boards demonstrate, the same people are in charge, so there is no true independence.  These two organizations are intentionally intertwined.

I would imagine that there is considerable peer pressure among the NCFIC homeschooling families to demonstrate loyalty to Vision Forum.  Maybe the girls all read the same Elsie Dinsmore books and play with the same VF dolls, while the boys all play with the same patriarchal paraphernalia.  Please be sure to check out the catalogs to see what I mean. 

If all these VF items are a little pricey (which they are), homeschooling families can become Affiliates and make extra cash by encouraging others to buy VF products.  One of the frequently asked questions is:  What is my commission percentage?  Here is the answer:

"When you first establish your affiliate account, you will earn an 8% commission on all your affiliate sales. Once your commission history totals $1,500 received, you will begin earning a 10% commission on all your affiliate sales. At $3,000 commission received, your commission rate will jump to 12% on all your affiliate sales, and once you reach $4,500 commission received, your per-sale affiliate commission will be locked in at 13%. The more sales you generate, the greater percentage return you earn!"

What is wrong with this picture?  I wonder who the VF affiliates are in the 800 NCFIC churches? 

In all honesty, I wouldn't have a problem with any of this if Doug Phillips, Scott Brown, and their ilk just kept to themselves and stopped trying to stir up strife in the larger body of Christ.  Unfortunately, that's not how they operate.  They profess to have all the right answers and want to teach the rest of us, which they attempted to do in a new video release called "Divided".  I have watched this video, and controversial doesn't even begin to describe it.  Now I better understand Cyndi's words, as quoted above:  "Vision Forum has got it right! A lot of “modern” churches have got it wrong."

Because NCFIC (part of Vision Forum until two years ago) was "disinvited" from the D6 Conference over its controversial video "Divided", many more people are going to be scrutinizing these organizations.  Stay tuned because next week we will take a closer look at "Divided", which we believe is appropriately named because VF and NCFIC are the ones DIVIDING the body of Christ, not those whom they criticize in the video.


Lydia's Corner:  1 Chronicles 9:1-10:14     Acts 27:21-44    Psalm 8:1-9     Proverbs 18:23-24


NCFIC, Vision Forum, and the Bottom Line — 85 Comments

  1. The decision to have the Sunday School occur at the same time as a worship service means that adults are rarely in the more education-oriented Sunday School class. Every church where we have been members has had Sunday School, then worship, with adults in small, discussion-oriented classes (based on priesthood of all believers). During worship, children too small to be well behaved (under 4 or 5 years of age) are in nursery or extended session. Then the rest of most families sit together in worship, except possible the high schoolers, who tend to sit in the front few pews together.

    So parents and school-age children typically sit together. What’s the big deal that makes it necessary to do away with the best educational part of the church program. Is it a fear that people will learn something outside the tutelage of the pastor?

  2. Thanks Guy for your late night tinkering to get the comments section working properly. You’re a blessing!

  3. I have such mixed emotions about this.

    I strongly support the right of families to raise their children as they see fit, and that includes edcuating them as they see fit. I would fight like crazy to help any family home school their kids, if that is what they want to do.

    And I can see some advantages to home schooling. We did not choose it for our children. They thank us regularly for that.

    The thing that makes me uncomfortable with home schooling is the cultural weirdness that can go with it. Again, I realize all people are not into the same culture, so that’s o.k. But there is a vibe that makes me uncomfortable.

    And, of course, any effort to say that everyone must homeschool really bothers me.

    Now this post introduces another element – the profit motive. I am all in favor of that. That’s one of the central elements of a free society and a free people. A country can’t be free without strong property rights.

    But things should be open and up front. A hidden commission would be wrong. And I think that using a multilevel type marketing approach can be corrosive of personal relationships.

    Finally, why do the boys have all this military and camping stuff, but not so much sports stuff, engineering stuff, mathematics, chemistry, science, construction (building)?

    It’s all military oriented?

  4. We have several homeschool co-ops here and I know quite a few people in them. Most are very concerned about what they call the patriarchal homeschool fringe groups and being painted with that broad brush.

    Many people homeschool here because we still have busing and they do not want their kid on a bus for 2 hours every morning just getting to school and they cannot afford private school. And there is no school “community” or “spirit” because of the busing issue. Most kids are way across town from their community to attend school. Anyway, private schools are packed because of the busing issue.

    One homeschool co=op actually turned into a private school which is now a classical Latin school.

  5. Anonymous

    I am with you. I support the freedom for parents to educate as they see fit. There are pros and cons to every system and, unfortunately, some people, who sign onto certain systems, believe they have the corner on the “best way” to educate. By this they mean “the godliest way.” Then it starts getting weird. In my own area, there is a church that is sold into a particular Christian school. That is touted as the “right” way to do it. Parents whose kids do not go there are ostracized and the parents are not part of the inner club.

    As far as the military stuff, remember this group is patriarchal. There is a major push to making the guys appear manly yet often times, they come off as guys trying just a bit too hard.

    As for MLM, after losing two friends into this nonsense, I have made a concerted effort never to “use” people when I am in a relationship with them that involves the faith. As a friend once said to me, in reference to a mutual Bible study friend who got involved in Amway “She never calls me without trying to get me involved in her business.” Somehow, I don’t think Paul pushed tents to the various churches when he was on his missionary journeys.

  6. Lin
    I love it when folks get together and do things like start a school. That is the heart of freedom.

  7. Anonymous,

    I absolutely believe in homeschooling, after all, I did it for four years. I am all for freedom of choice.

    You bring up a fascinating point about sports not being emphasized. Here is a listing of toys, etc. in the Vision Forum All-American Boy’s Adventure Catalog:

    Adventure Tools & Toys (930)

    – Bows, Arrows, Knives (18)
    – Classic Toys (44)
    – Detective (31)
    – Guns (19)
    – How-to (62)
    – Kits (84)
    – Living History (50)
    – Military Building Bricks (14)
    – Military Gear (36)
    – Outdoor Adventure (65)
    – Science & Technology (61)
    – Survival (54)
    – Swords (18)
    – Western Gear (35)

    Usually sports are an important part of a boy’s childhood. Interesting…

  8. RE: Deb on Sat, Sep 24 2011 at 03:27 pm:

    You’re right, I’ve seen a bent towards militarism with these folks too. The cult of the warrior is as old as the Roman historian Tacitus, and it’s just been re-packaged by Vision Forum to wear a “Biblical” veneer so that it’s more palatable and marketable.

    Those who glorify war the most are always those who have never seen prisoners dying of scurvy.

    They are those who have never felt the tears of a napalmed village, the rice harvest destroyed and the livestock reduced to charred lumps. They have never heard the wailing of the old toothless mama-san who’s just seen her grand kids turned into hamburger from shrapnel.

    Repent Vision Forum! Repent! Have them little boys lay them swords and sheilds down & study war no more!

  9. I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.
    -John Adams

    Again, let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater because a few nuts take it to extremes.

  10. Yes, Lin. I am NOT saying that it’s wrong to expose boys to these things. Actually, I think it’s wrong to not expose them.

    But there are lots of other pursuits that boys might get into, and there seems to be an emphasis on the military side, just from the little bit I looked at today.

  11. Muff… are you a vet? (Looks like it to me, from your last post.)

    Much respect – and I’m in complete agreement.

  12. Deb,

    My take on the sports issue, as a fourteen year home school veteran, is that community league sports, private school leagues and even church leagues will all allow your family to make friendships OUTSIDE of approved patriarchal family cult control. Therefore they are sinful.

    I kid you not.

  13. Lin & Anonymous,

    There is a vast gulf of distance twixt the glorification of war and its inevitability. Vision Forum by all accounts would appear to revel in the former, which is why I made reference to the old song “Down By the Riverside”.

  14. shadowspring,

    Based on what I am learning about this exclusive patriarchal crowd, your comment doesn’t surprise me.

  15. Look up at the list of things offered in the boys’ section of the vision forum catalogue.

    Notice the boys section is the Adventure catalogue while the girls section is called Beautiful Girlhood or some sort of nonsense.

    The boys get to have adventures while the girls are objectified.

    Why do the boys get the science and technology?

    There is little to no learning offered in the girls catalogue.

    I guess it doesn’t matter what is going on between your ears as long as you’re beautiful and submissive.

  16. ‘There is a vast gulf of distance twixt the glorification of war and its inevitability”

    Muff, My quote was based upon it’s inevitability.

    I was thinking there are descendents of Jews who are glad someone here in the US studied war at some point. There are descendents of Nazi’s who are not glad their ancestors studied war. I fear the VF people are more like the latter. They glory in it.

    One of my favorite books is Band of Brothers. The guys I admire the most are those who hate war yet do what has to be done.

  17. Now we REALLY know what caused God to get angry and cause 9/11; I’m surprised Pat Robertson and his buddies missed it…

  18. The problem I have with FIC churches is that they were born in the home school community and promote home schooling. Trust me, not enough time with family or parents is NOT a problem in a home school situation!

    They spout all these statistics about how little time the modern family spends together, but that’s not ever relevant in the communities that are pitching and practicing FIC. True statistics about their parishioners would point to a great preponderance of the children’s time spent with family, and very little (in some cases none) time spent with anyone else outside of the presence of a parent or older sibling.

    Victorians sent chaperones out with youngcouples; FIC home school families send chaperones with all of their children in all social settings. It is a complete domination of parent/family over the individual.

    The way I see it, they are so mistrustful of their children, and even their fellow parishioners, that they dare not let them out of their sight even for a moment. No one is to be trusted to share the faith accurately except mom and dad. Even pastor is being listened to by parents so that they will know exactly what little Johnny has been exposed to.

    It may be that in such a judgmental, cloistered group, they fear what weaknesses of the family might be brought to light in a Sunday school conversation. People my age remember the show, “Kids Say the Darndest Things”. Parents in my neighborhood today laugh over such things because we all know that our child (and our neighbors child) has said something that either exposes our weakness or could be misconstrued in an unflattering light. We give each other the benefit of the doubt and still smile and wave and let our kids play together.

    In such an earnest religious environment, where every word, habit and action is IMPORTANT and building a LEGACY for future generations, it makes sense to keep your children away from judgmental eyes. Then again, it also further solidifies a parents complete control over their children, something that is touted as a praiseworthy virtue in the guise of “sheltering” or “protecting” your child’s tender heart. Maybe it serves both purposes.

    As it is, these families drawn to FIC ministries are the very families that should be putting their children in Sunday school, and signing them up for community league sports. If your child can be led astray by a mere one to five hours a week outside of your presence, then you have a serious problem with your FAMILY RELATIONSHIP DYNAMICS.

    Most families have nothing to worry about. The parents are creating a warm, loving environment at home where their children are happy and secure. The children learn to enjoy the company of others, get other adults to look up to who most likely support a lot of the same values you do, and if they run into problems, have a good relationship with their parents to help them deal with it.

    But insecure families, who feel constantly under siege from “the world” because of the insular preaching they are under, who are afraid of being judged wanting by their own fellow congregants, and/or who need to feel in absolute control of their progeny to feed their own egos, those are the families targeted by FIC and the ones who will be most harmed by attending one.

  19. numo,

    Yes I am a vet (Vietnam Era). It seems like that was a thousand years ago. Have you ever seen the movie “Cold Mountain” (Kidman & Law)? In addition to being a moving love story, it’s also a good anti-war flick.

    And Lin, thanks. I am no pacifist and will agree that there are wars of necessity. What I will not agree to is that America’s far flung military adventures after WWII were necessary.

    Dwight Eisenhower was one of the finest warriors this country has ever produced and he warned if this very thing in his farewell address to the nation in 1961. We didn’t listen.

  20. Muff – yes, I’ve seen it. Not my favorite movie, though parts were very good.

    Agreed on our continuous wars… I was born during the Korean war and really, things haven’t stopped since. (If you count all the covert stuff, which I do.)

  21. shadowspring,

    What an excellent commentary! I will likely preserve it in tomorrow’s post.

    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on FICs.

  22. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned in this subject – I asked a homeschooling friend once if she had heard about patriarchy and FIC. She said from her experience that it’s very hard if a kid would need help or outside intervention, for example, if some kind of abuse is going on. They are constantly surrounded by family – who can they go to?

  23. Shadowspring, your observations within FIC circles are correct and sad. What has occurred is that Doug Phillips, Scott Brown and Geoffrey Botkin are marketing and milking the home school movement for all its worth. Keep in mind that home schooling per se is not the problem. It’s important not to paint the entire home school movement with a broad stroke simply because a few nut jobs see home school families as a business opportunity. Most home school parents are intelligent Christians following the Lord while teaching their children to interact with others in positive ways.

    Some history behind the FIC dynasty is of interest. If anyone else here has more detail, feel free to contribute. Scott Brown’s wife Deborah grew up in a missionary family. Later in life her father left the mission field to go into business ventures. He was very successful and became a millionaire. When Scott married Deborah he learned the business angles from her father, and he also became a millionaire with his own business enterprise. Many in Deborah’s family, including her own parents, moved to NC from CA years ago. In the town of Wake Forest, you will find Scott’s interest in classic cars evident along with his churchianity in the windows of an occasional storefront. His church currently meets in an old shopping center strip and space is rented in a dance hall named Tuxedo Junction.

    At some point along the way Doug Phillips discovered Scott Brown. Doug is a brilliant businessman in his own right. For many years he has packaged very costly educational trips to historic landmarks for home school families. In making these outings very expensive, Doug draws mostly wealthier home school families from whom he can draw further resources. In fact, in Scott’s very small church, most families are wealthy people. Many of the heads of families met Scott at some FIC conference in another state, and several left their businesses to move their families to Wake Forest so they could attend Scott’s church. I believe that many of these home school fathers feel mentored by Scott and in some cases their own egos get caught up in the idea that perhaps they can become an important part of Scott’s church at some point.

    One head of household left his home state to move his family here and attend Scott’s church. He kept his business running from afar, but when the economy took a downturn this man’s business floundered. His finances suffered greatly and at this point his family was of less use to Scott. They felt ostracized. Eventually, the family left Scott’s church and eventually moved back to their home state.

    Occasionally, Scott has taken a disadvantaged family under his arm. It is hard to say whether this is for show or because he truly cares, God only knows. But I am aware of at least one situation where he has abandoned one such family.

    What is disturbing is that Scott takes tithes from people in his church even though he himself is independently wealthy. Years ago he was planning to build a nice home on a vast acreage, but his own business took a turn downhill. His church business grew in importance as a financial venue at that point. He never realized his dream of building a distinctive home on his property, but instead he and his wife remodeled a large horse barn into a beautiful dwelling that is the talk of all who visit.

    When Scott’s oldest daughter married a young man steeped in the Doug Phillips’ machine, her groom arrived on the wedding scene held at Scott’s property in a helicopter to take his bride away. Since the family came here from California perhaps it is no surprise that all they do has an element of Hollywood splash associated with it. When marrying off their daughters these men look for younger men who submit to them in the patriarchal system they’ve erected.

    If I did not see home school families being hurt by these greedy enterprises, I would say nothing. But the rigid legalism and cultic nature of these groups compels me to speak out. Dee, I suspect they are into a form of Dominion Theology which in itself could use a separate thread.

  24. Ted,

    What you have shared is definitely eye-opening regarding Scott Brown and Doug Phillips. I am praying that this information will help others assess whether they should be following these men.

    As a former homeschooler, I absolutely concur that there are wonderful homeschooling families out there. It is disheartening to me that opportunists like Phillips and Brown would attempt to seduce them into their patriarchal lifestyle for financial gain and dominionist influence.

  25. Anonymous

    This crowd is a bit kooky I saw a picture of a group of them in the Amazon, dressed, I kid you not, in exact replicas of Harrison Ford and Indiana Jones. I think they play dress up and think it makes them look like real men. It is rather silly.

  26. Dee – I thought you meant that some people at Free Jinger were dressing up like that for the camera to make fun of these guys!

    I should have known better…

  27. If you go swimming at Scott Brown’s lake, the men and boys have to wear shirts to be modest.

    Are those jaws I hear dropping?

  28. DB

    I love to travel and enjoy adventure. My raft was rushed by a grizzly in the Gate of the Arctic National Park in Alaska. I love adventure as much as the next guy (although I did scream louder than my husband).

  29. Alright, you think I’m kidding.

    Nope, not kiddin’!

    Quote: “So, if you are swimming here in my domain, here are some suggestions. Women, should wear a shirt and shorts over their bathing suits. There should be an effort to cover the details. For men, I ask for shirts or some kind of upper body covering. And, obviously, no speedos!”

    I can understand the bikini ban, but girls can’t even wear a modest one-piece swimsuit.

    And boys wearing shirts? I’ve never thought of a boy’s chest being a temptation to the eyes before. It seems ridiculous to me.

  30. Ted

    I have been laughing and laughing over this quote. We are thinking about using it on Wednesday for a quote at the top of the page. So, can these people be on swim teams-speedos required and definitely no shirts? And not for a major sarcastic moment-why would he think i would be interested in staring at his chest? Good night, these guys are weird!!!!

  31. Hah! Well Dee, here’s what it sounds like to me. Men and boys can basically go bottomless as long as they avoid a speedo. Shirts are required, but I don’t see anything about bottoms being necessary.

    Let me know if you find any pictures taken from behind trees at Scott’s place…. LOLOL

    I guess this means if you’re a patriarch, you’re a heart throb tempting the women.

  32. Ted

    I wonder why he spends time thinking about this? When was the last time you heard any guy mentioning the “nakedness” of another guy’s chest? Look at Muslim countries that force women to cover up. The religious police will become incensed at a woman bearing her ankle. Just how far must we go to be modest .and who gets to make the decisions.

  33. “I wonder why he spends time thinking about this?”

    I dunno. Maybe he doesn’t have any hair on his own chest?

    I’m clueless.

  34. The main raison d’etat of TWW is to help free one human being at a time from bondage to these types of cults and cult leaders.

    Keep up the good work Dee & Deb! Keep helping to set those captives free.

  35. Lin

    This is getting scarier by the minute. BTW, just learned that, according to these fruitcakes, Calvin only allowed for 6 week engagements.

  36. Shadowspring:

    “who are afraid of being judged wanting by their own fellow congregants, and/or who need to feel in absolute control of their progeny to feed their own egos”

    That is so insightful! I’ve always wondered why in all the reams of child-raising materials, this is rarely discussed – the problem of pressuring kids for ego reasons, or fear of what others think. I think this problem can be much worse in churches. Many people outside much more readily recognize that some kids are much more difficult than others, and aren’t so quick to blame parents. When i made bad decisions in my early twenties or late teens, my own parents didn’t try to fix me, let alone blame themselves. They just thought i was stupid because of my age! LOL.

  37. Dee! Ah mon Dieu?!!! C’est vrai?! Calvin apparently couldn’t control himself and thought nobody else could either, huh? Is that what they think?

    Arce– like Coup d’etat? Like what these guys might be doing in a few years? LOL!

  38. Pingback: What Are Family Integrated Churches?/ NCFIC, Vision Forum, and the Bottom Line ~ The Wartburg Watch « The Reformed Traveler

  39. Ted:

    Interesting comment about swimming at Scott Brown’s lake.

    Anyone who would make a rule like that is simply revealing how he cannot handle seeing others in swim suits because of his own mind and heart. And he probably has a less than flattering physique.

    I swim 4 times a week in a speedo (Not bikini) with my triathlete swim group. The women wear tight one piece suits or sometimes 2 piece triathlete gear. No one is thinking about the things that Scott Brown is apparently thinking about.

    I grew up on a swim team. My sister is still a swim coach. She recently said that none of the kids in her team or their parents show any issues related to this.

    The thing is that you become obsessed about the things that you struggle with. People who swim all the time with others in competitive or semi-competitive settings are not obsessed with looking at people in swim suits. People who don’t may be.

    I bet – and I am just betting that Scott Brown has a rule about women seeing male OB/GYNs.

    Am I right?

  40. I some Muslim countries, the women are completely covered in Burkas (sp?)

    I guess those countries got that lust thing settled, huh?

  41. Eagle,

    Couldn’t disagree with you more regarding the prosperity gospel. For the record I am diametrically opposed to the prosperity gospel movement. Thanking the Lord for good things (i.e., getting a promotion, becoming engaged, or the expansion of your church) does not equal prosperity gospel. Believing that the scripture teaches that the Lord will give you what you ask for if you just pray and that if you don’t get it then you are not praying with enough faith is prosperity gospel. The trick, however, is to be thankful in everything: even if you get fired, get dumped, or Sunday attendance at your church is down.

  42. Actually that is a little overly simplified. But,since it is off topic, I’ll leave it at that.

  43. Sorry, the more I re-read my post the less I like it. So, third times a charm.

    Prosperity gospel is more along the lines that Scripture (a few well worn proof texts) say that God wants me to be healthy and wealthy (inser “blessed” or “blessing” as needed) and that I can be healthy and wealthy if I just pray with the right amount of faith and using the right combination of words.

    Again, that is overly simplified, but a little better.

  44. “and I am just betting that Scott Brown has a rule about women seeing male OB/GYN”

    You are correct but not all the way. They actually do not want them having any exam at all….until married. Can you guess why?

    And yes, there are horror stories from this being kept from them. It is really bad for the young women with no prospects for marriage still living at home.

  45. Eagle
    That is insightful. Many Christians are still hooked on the Old Testament. If things go well, I must be doing good because God is rewarding me. If things are going poorly, I did something bad. One only needs to read Hebrews 11 to discover that bad things happen to really awesome Christians.

  46. Anonymous

    I remember my kids participating in swim meets. I cannot remember once thinking about how exposed the kids were. As a nurse, I have seen people in all sorts of undress. I can assure that all I thought about was doing what needed to be done as quickly as possible to save my patient any discomfort or embarrassment. I personally think something is wrong with Brown and some of the men he hangs around with.

  47. Citation Squirrel

    I think there is an element of truth in what Eagle says. Let me put it this way. Why is it that many pastors seem to get calls to positions in which they make more money? Why don’t they get calls to positions in which they make less? Do all promotions mean that God is blessing you? Could it be that some promotions or even some raises are not the good that they seem to us?

  48. Lin
    I did not know they did not want women to get exams until they get married. How absolutely stupid and barbaric! Young women can have a myriad of issues that have nothing to do with being sexually active. These people are just plain weird.

  49. Dee,

    I don’t think its fair to single out pastors. When you look for a new job don’t you naturally look for something that makes a little more money? Is that wrong? No. Is it the best thing for us? Maybe not. Is it wrong for a pastor to want to make more money to provide for his children? No. (I know your talking about those multi-million dollar pastors) We need to stop with the “Lord you keep him humble and we’ll keep him poor” attitude in churches.

    I would agree that a promotion or a raise might not be the best thing for us. I lost my job four years ago and looking back it was the best thing that God could have done.

    But, praising God or thanking Him for the good things that happen is not prosperity gospel.

  50. Eagle,

    I think I agree with your last statements. We can’t be disappointed with God. He is God and we are not. At the same time He is big enough to handle our questions and our frustrations.

    I think you hit on the answer in your last sentence. Maybe it was the “Christian” company that you kept.

  51. Eagle

    There are many Christians who reject God as the giant dispenser of happiness. The true saints of Scripture endured terrible hardships and questioned God yet continued to persevere. Look at the list of saints in Hebrews 11. How many of us would sign up for their lives. All of the Apostles, with the exception of John, appear to have died as martyrs. Look at Paul’s life. For all of his devotion to the faith, he endured prisons, shipwrecks, beatings and then death at the hands of the Romans.

    Then there were the persecutions of the early church. Christians were tarred and used as torches in Nero’s garden parties. Christians were ripped to shreds in the arenas. But, in the midst of the lion attacks, the Christians would sing praises to God. These songs and their demeanor in the arena caused many of the Roman spectators to begin to look at this faith that stood joyful in the midst of adversity.

    That, Eagle, is the true faith. Not the Joel Osteen “best life now” scenario.

  52. Citation

    I just heard a sermon about how pastors are called out of the midst to lead the people. He described it as a divine appointment. I have some issues with this but that is not the point of my comment. I believe that, if this was a true calling, God would take someone like Ed Young Jr and call him to live in poverty in Brazil. But, these guys go from “glory to glory” as defined by making bank. I disagree. I think truly called pastors would often be sent to minister in poverty to the least of these. Making more money as a sign of God’s favor is an American cultural value, not a Christian value.

  53. Citation

    i would urge you to read Phillip Yancey’s book called Disappointment With God. It was voted one of the best book the decade (90s)by the readers of Christianity Today. I read that book 6 weeks before my 3 year old daughter was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Yes, we can be disappointed. It is human but God is still present in that pain.

  54. Eagle

    God’s Bible tells story after story of pain and suffering. Yet today’s Christians focus on health and well being. True understanding of the meaning of this life and the life to come is found in how we experience and view this life. So many opt for the pretense of perfection and inside are feeling let down. It is in our pain and imperfection that God is seen.

  55. Eagle,

    Please forgive my poor writing last night. I obviously was not doing a good job of communicating my thoughts. I probably should have quit while I was ahead. Hopefully I’ll do better today.

    We can be frustrated and disappointed with God. Sometimes things don’t make sense. There is nothing wrong with that. But, if back up and look at a larger picture (a more long term or eternal picture), that may ease our disappointment. God is up to something that is bigger than all of us. While bad things will happen, we have to realize that we don’t see things from the same perspective as God. I think what I was getting at last night was can we be disappointed with God’s long-term eternal plan. That I’m not so sure about.

    During hard times, we like to trot out Job and say “see he was right to complain, because he didn’t deserve the bad things that happened to him.” But, do we remember God’s words to Job.

    BTW, this is somewhat therapeutic today, as I just found out that one of my co-workers died of cancer last night.

  56. Dee,

    There are obscenely over compensated pastors, no doubt about it. And it is definitely a calling. My Dad didn’t become a pastor to get rich. He did it because he was called to do it.

    Along these lines, if you look at the problem of the lack of pastors in small rural churches, I think part of the problem is that you have these young kids coming out of seminary and they want a big church right away. I think if they weren’t in it for the big church, but rather for the glory of God, we wouldn’t see such a lack of pastors in some of the most needy areas.

  57. Dee,

    As I mentioned, I think I misspoke or at didn’t say it well. While I haven’t read it, I think my wife has and had good things to say about it. There are two other good books for dealing with loss. I believe the titles are “The Loss of a Mother” and “The Loss of a Father.” I don’t remember the author right now. Both are very good.

  58. Citation
    Here is another question. Why are the rural churches lacking pastors? is God not calling them there? Does God dislike rural churches? Does God think that rural churches should only get the dregs? I think some guys are not listening to the calling because it is far more fun to run with the likes of Ed Young Jr .

  59. Speaking of rural churches… there are a ton of them where I live, yet very few have more than a handful of members, most of them elderly.

    That’s partly because a lot of the younger folks have decamped to our local version of a mega-church.

  60. CitationSquirrel,

    I agree with you about the rural churches. When seminary students see the razzle dazzle at the conferences they attend and hear from the megapastors they idolize, it would probably be a real letdown to pastor a tiny rural church. That’s why I believe all this hype is harmful to the cause of Christ. From my research, most churches are relatively small.

  61. There was a pastor of a small church in a rural community where a friend of mine was in a nursing home. Every time I visited her, I saw this pastor visiting with these elderly people. Now THAT’S a real Christian minister. I had the greatest respect for him.

    Okay, I have a question. In smaller churches you may have one pastor and some laymen who are elders or deacons helping. In larger churches you can have scores of people on staff, all there to man the mother ship and keep the business running with programs and administration. The pastor gives a sermon once a week and maybe does a Bible study mid-week.

    What do most of these pastors do every day of their 40 hour work week? I don’t see many of them visiting parishioners any more. Someone else on staff does that. The pastors may do an occasional wedding or funeral. I do hear some pastors mention their golf game on occasion, so I’m a little suspicious. I don’t have money for a country club membership, but my pastor does. Hmmmmm…..

    James Dobson had a publication years ago catering to pastors. He told people it’s really important to honor their pastors because they are so stressed out. I don’t get it. What is stressing these men out so much? How do they spend their 40 hour work week? Does anyone know?

    In many ways I think church members contribute greatly to the problem with celebrity pastors today. People schmooze pastors like they’re mini-Popes. Too many people talk their pastor up a lot more than they share about Christ. And what happens is these men, being human, begin thinking more highly of themselves and their abilities than they ought to.

  62. Most pastors do a lot more than people give them credit for. If there is no staff, they do everything. If there is a staff, there is still a lot to do including overseeing the staff. As for “only” preaching a sermon, I would recommend volunteering to do pulpit fill sometime in order to discover the amount of effort that goes into preparing and delivering a sermon. As to what is stressing out pastors, if there is ever any disagreements within a church, who is the biggest target (whether they deserve it or not)? Its the pastor. Disputes within the church whether big or small can be very stressful.

  63. I have a friend who once served as a kind of associate pastor. It only took a few hours for him to put together a sermon. Keep in mind that canned pre-prepared sermons are even sold in some Christian bookstores.

    I have nothing against pastors with integrity. The one I knew who visited the elderly in nursing homes is a case in point. I also know others who have integrity and work hard.

    But I’m asking an honest question that no one has ever been able to answer for me. Paul was a tentmaker and he still managed to speak to the church, along with write many epistles. I know he was single, so that may have helped since he did not have family responsibilities, but still I don’t see how most pastors stay busy 40 hours a week especially when so few visit their parishioners any more.

    And I see more pastors being buttered up by their parishioners than not. I know a pastor’s wife who tells me how her family is always being given free tickets to sporting events and concerts, along with free suits for her husband, and so on. I know of one church that gave their pastor a car.

    And another church pastor recently received cash in the amount of $25,000 to celebrate the church’s anniversary. The associate pastor asked the church a month ago to write the pastor letters of appreciation which is good. But then he also asked the congregation to send the pastor money. On the anniversary day this associate pastor said the pastor had received three letters that were wonderful enough to read to the congregation.

    Do you think they read a letter from a widow in the congregation? No. Do you think they read a letter from an unemployed church member? No.

    They read a letter from the pastor’s grade school teacher whom they had notified of the anniversary; another letter from the town mayor; and a third letter from the governor of the state. Then the associate pastor presented the pastor with a check representing the gift of money from the congregation. You want to know how much it was? Guess. A thousand dollars? Nope. Five thousand? No.

    This pastor received a whopping $25,000.

    Now I ask you where is the honor of Christ in all of this?

    In a time when a lot of congregants are out of work or hurting financially, this congregation gave this pastor $25,000. He thanked them, but did not say the money would go to Gospel missions or anything. In fact, he just got back from a European trip, so maybe he’ll pay off a few credit cards. I’m just guessing. I think the pastor would have shown a lot more integrity showing appreciation, but then telling the congregation the money would go to some mission to further the Gospel.

    The politics in many churches are a concern. My guess is that Christ would throw the money changers out.

  64. Thank you Ted. Sometimes I feel like I’m crazy and am seeing imaginary things that no one else can see.

    I do think that there are hard-working pastors out there. I also think that there are a lot of pastors that do not have an idea of what it is like to put in 40-50 hours week in and week out. And I agree with you Ted. I don’t think the golfing counts as work. I don’t care if they are “connecting” with people.

  65. I used to attend a church that grew into a mega-church. During the building phase, the congregation was asked to pay for a field for the kids to play on. $50,000 was coughed up and a nice field was put in. The first week it was available to use, the pastors all went out to play soccer. One of them broke a leg. A couple of weeks later, another broke an arm. 2 years later, the field was turned into parking lot. Sheesh. What a waste of money, time and bone.

  66. Whoops, I think I lost a comment. My first comment was thanking Ted for saying what I have been thinking for many years.

    Well, I guess I said it a few times, but never got a response from anyone. Most people seem to think pastors all work hard, all week long sacrificing, sacrificing, sacrificing.

    I do know good pastors that do work. I also have been associated with several that sure don’t seem to be working very hard, no matter how often they say they are.

  67. A well written and well delivered sermon typically takes between 30 minutes to an hour of preparation time for each minute of sermon. That is why a lot of pastors preach shorter rather than longer. And the shorter the sermon, the longer the prep time per minute. It involves digging deeper into the passage that has come by inspiration to the preacher, deciding on a theme and approach, outlining, writing, praying over it, rewriting or in depth editing, reading aloud several times, revising, etc. As a former speech writer for a U.S. Senator (R) and a candidate for governor (D), the total prep time for a speech is similar, but the deliverer puts in usually a bit less than half and the speech writer a bit more than half.

    Most small church pastors end up spending some night-time hours.

    BTW, my standard for a pastors time commitment is like this: Take the time the dedicated SS teacher, deacon, committee member in the church spends prepping, meeting, and attending — that is the basic commitment of every Christian! That is about 10-15 hours per week (2.5 Sunday am, 2.0 Sunday pm, 2.0 Wed pm, plus a meeting plus prep time plus small group meeting). Add a standard work week (40 hours). But a pastor is salaried, so perhaps a few hours per week more. That becomes the time the pastor should spend serving the church. And his personal bible reading and prayer time should be outside of that!

    It is not the glamorous job people may think. And calls can come anytime of day or night for a trip to the hospital to be with the family of an accident victim.

  68. And for every horror story about pastors who don’t seem to do any work, I can tell you a story about a person who works hard and gets treated like dirt by his congregation.

    What about the pastor of a moderate sized church with lay leadership? Since its lay leadership, when do they have their meetings? During the evening when everyone else is home with their family. What about the pastor who bought a “new” (end of model year) car and never got a raise for the remainder of his years? What about the pastor who would never get paid by the church treasurer unless he drove out to the treasurer’s house to ask (insert beg) for his check? What about those pastors that live in church provided housing? Sure they don’t have to pay a mortgage, but would you live in some of those houses? What happens when those pastors get let go and the are forced to move out of their house? Part of my benefit package includes a retirement plan. Does your pastor have a retirement plan? How many don’t?

    Yes some pastors are poster children for overly pampered, overly compensated pastors. But a large majority of the pastors in this country do not fit into that category.

  69. Dana, your words encourage me too because I do not often find people who see what I see either.

    Quote: “And calls can come anytime of day or night for a trip to the hospital to be with the family of an accident victim.”

    Arce, yes I know there are pastors who do that sort of thing. Unfortunately, most I’ve known delegate visiting to deacons or others in the church. As an example, I have a relative who was involved in a very serious life threatening accident. Two deacons came to the hospital to be there for his wife, but that was it and the pastor never even called or asked how the woman’s husband was doing.

    I wish I could find more pastors with hearts of real service. From my own experience, they are few and far between. What I see more often than not is pastor worship and too much focus on building buildings.

    You visit a church and find people telling you how great their church and pastor are, rather than about how important Christ is in our lives. That is a concern, if you ask me. I know exceptions exist, but I’m talking about what I’m personally seeing in the majority of cases. I think this is important to pray and talk about in the hope that increased awareness will pressure more pastors off the golf course and next to the bedsides of people in pain.

  70. Ted
    Most people rank their pastor as to their star quality. His role is to entertain them. Many of today’s church goers have no idea about the function of the church or the role of pastors. So, they judge the church like they are doing Neilson ratings. The kindly church pastor who cared for the well-being of those in his church is not even on their radar. I got a note from an elder at one of these star pastor type of church. This pastor flies in for sermons and then hits the road again, speaking to conferences and “mentoring” pastors around the country.
    This elder said that they didn’t hire him to be a regular pastor. They wanted him to be a draw to people to attend church. So, I said that they need to change his name from pastor to Christian speaker because that was what they had.

  71. Citation
    I agree with you that many pastors are underpaid and under appreciated. However, the tide is changing. If your church approaches 1000 members, the pastors salaries go up. Many pastors in these churches are receiving salaries in the mid $100,00s along with parsonage allocations, travel and conference budgets, free rides to visit missionaries and shows of appreciation from the congregation for the anniversaries as well as regular sabbaticals. It is a nice gig if you can get it.

    I received a note from a man at a church that was looking for a minister of music. Well, they got an application from a man who had served under Ed Young Jr. who had little experience. he demanded a 6 figure salary to begin with all sorts of perks and was apparently surprised when he was told to get lost.

  72. Dana

    I know of a pastor in one church who supplements his income by giving golf lessons during the week. He is often spotted on the golf course. Maybe he is ministering through golf????Some other pastors spend hours meeting people for lunch.

    Others, which i think is even worse, develop books on church time, and then go out and push them within their church and others-receiving all the profits. So, they get paid to run the church, they get money for their books, etc written on church time, and they get paid to speak at church conferences at the same time they get paid as pastors for attending the conferences. Deb and i have worked out scenarios in which these guys are tripe and even quadruple dipping.

  73. Ted

    Take a look at Mac Brunson down at FBC Jax. he received a land gift and now lives in a house in a gated community rumored to be worth $750,000. My son recently asked me how he could be guaranteed a salary of $100,000 year. I told him, tongue in cheek, that he is a personable young man who is well liked. He should go to seminary and fashion himself after the Mac Brunson’s of the world and make a very comfortable living. He laughed and is in prepharmacy at this point.

    You are pounding our drum. Paul was a tentmaker, epistle writer, missionary, apostle, spent time in prison and did not live high on the hog. Yet, in today’s churches, he would be looked at as a loser since he hadn’t parlayed his position into wealth ala Ed Young Jr and others. Those guys would look at Paul as a loser.