"All I ask is the chance to prove that money can't make me happy."
Spike Milligan link
The Pseudoepigraph of 2 Acts: The Real Story of Thomas
Paul was able to give up the tent making business prior to his journey to Rome. He apparently impressed a fair number of well to do followers who decided that Paul needed to show just how "relevant" he was. They didn't want some shabby tent maker hurting their hipster image when he stood before the powers that be. They bought him several tunics from Rock and Roman Republic and awesome Luccheseus sandals. He got a tattoo on his forearm saying "My boys at The Jerusalem Coalition brought it."
Before Paul traveled to Rome in his refurbished Cleopatra barge, (one must make an appearance you know), he noticed the contributions had taken a 3.239% decline. How would he fund the dinner for the big boys in Rome? He discovered that people were sending money to Thomas, who compared to Paul, was just a dude wearing pajamas and witnessing from his mother's insula. Tacky, totally tacky.
He had his boys pick up Thomas. As Thomas appeared before Paul (who had just tip dyed his hair), Paul showed him a letter that he was going to send to all the churches. He told all the "gospel" believing churches to stop giving money to the little guys. The church must be united, with a large, discretionary fund and it all must be under the authority of the local church which was, of course, overseen by Paul.
He told Thomas that God had instituted a non-compete clause for all people in Paul's district. After all, Paul did write most of the New Testament and he had received a vision. (In the words of Marcus, he saw things….) That non-compete included the area surrounding the sunny Mediterranean. He gave Thomas three choices: head up to the Germanic pagan hordes in the far north, go to India or be placed under church discipline for his little "doubting" episode. Thomas knew he was doomed. He hated cold weather and had heard rumors that the Germanic tribes sometimes attacked in the nude which totally freaked him out. So, off he went to India where he developed a life long passion for curry.
TWW was contacted by Reid Shuping who told us a fascinating story about his tenure in a large Presbyterian church in western Tennessee. This church sounds like a typical mega-church with senior leadership receiving large salaries easily entering into the 6-figure range. Reid decided to leave the church to form a not-for-profit mission group which would reach people in underserved areas of the world.
However, the senior leadership was not impressed with his goal. Why? Could it be that money would be diverted from "God's work" (pastors' salaries, benefits and Bose speakers?) It does appear to TWW that, as big money takes over the church, protecting the income becomes very, very important. For example, it is not uncommon for church to build expensive buildings for the "work of God". See this story of FBC Dallas which built a $130 million addition.
Big salaries, big benefits and expensive buildings, along with high tech everything, comes at a cost. Money must keep rolling in the door, and that involves more and more time being devoted to money management. This is not a church. It is big business, never doubt it. So it is no wonder that "protect the bucks" becomes Commandment Numero Uno. This can be clearly seen in the "non-compete covenant". (So gospel sounding…)
I Googled the issue and noticed that church attorneys are getting into the game. Here is an article from Church Executive. Please note that churches seem to like the word "covenant". Do not be fooled. TWW has been warning you about this all along. Always remember that a covenant is treated like a legal contract. From the post Covenants not to compete: Spread the Gospel, just do it somewhere else:
… the modern church organization is also essentially a small business. It usually provides services in the form of religious worship and instruction as well as products such as books or audio/visual materials. It has a full-time staff of employees who spend the typical work week planning for ways to make their church more effective in delivering its message and content.
It may have staff as well as hired contractors who help the church develop new marketing and branding strategies, new musical and worship concepts, new technological advances, new donor development programs, and countless other innovations. Most importantly, the church will learn through trial and error what works in its community and what does not. Based upon the substantial hard work and unique knowledge of the church, is it fair to allow a former employee to leave your church with the benefit of that knowledge and set up a “competing” church across the street?
Many pastors believe it is not fair to allow that kind of competition. They have adopted the secular business practice of asking new employees to enter into a “covenant not to compete” or non-compete agreement.
…Most states will enforce covenants not to compete if they are (a) reasonable as to limitations on location, (b) reasonable as to time, and (c) are shown to be necessary to protect unique business interests.
Reid's Story In His Words
(The bold headers are inserted by editor)
It's been a little more than two years since I decided to walk away from my position as Stewardship Director at X Church in Tennessee. My three year journey through the ins and outs of the church brought me to the innermost relationship circles of the church – an opportunity I believed was one of pure privilege when I took the position. I proudly defended the leadership, assured the donors that their dollars were going to a great organization and worked countless hours all aimed at increasing the volume of dollars to increase the revenue river.
Aggressive fund raising within X Church leads to dissatisfaction
Halfway through my three years at the church, however, I began to feel differently about my position and the tasks I was beginning to be asked to complete by senior leadership. As best as I could tell from many conversations with the "money guys" from other mega churches in our country, we were by comparison extremely more aggressive in our methods for raising money from our audience.
There is much to be said for what I believe to be extremely ungodly methods for raising money that churches are now racing to embrace behind the scenes. As for my personal experience, it is sufficient to say that my conscience could simply not bear to continue on with these soulless methods for raising dollars – much less the purposes for which the funds are being raised. I myself even tasted these financial perks after receiving a bonus that was nearly 15% of my salary with less than a year of work under my belt. I was guilty of the things I did not approve of and found that I was in a situation that I desperately wanted to escape. I still deeply loved the people I worked with, and I worked hard to do my job with as clear of a conscience as possible. However, with each passing month, I felt more and more like I was aiding and abetting the explosive financial gains of individuals and not the needs of those the Bible clearly puts the Church in charge of meeting (i.e. the poor & needy).
A decision to start a non-profit mission group
With no experience to speak of in starting an organization, I began to privately, out of lack of desire to continue working at X Church, stumble my way into founding a non-profit. I had no idea what that decision would mean for me and my family when it came time to say goodbye to X Church.
Fast forward to December 2011. (ed. 2/27/14) I don't recall the exact date, but I received an email with a list of 10-15 year-end fundraising initiatives from a senior leader at the church. As I read through the list, I came across one that dropped my heart to the pit of my stomach and left me with an overwhelming realization that I was done. I could not and WOULD NOT do this anymore. The dishonesty of calculating fundraising initiatives to prey upon individuals that had reduced their giving to the church (many giving less for valid reasons) was the last straw. In less than a few hours I arrived at home and, walking into the kitchen, I met my wife and spilled the beans. "I can't do this any more." "What do you mean?", she asked. "I'm done." She replied, "So what are you going to do?" I responded, "I'm going in on Sunday and resigning."
Church discipline and a retroactive non-compete
Two days later, after consulting with many friends and family over the weekend, I arrived at the office sharply at 7:30 am and requested to meet with one of the senior leaders. I offered my resignation. What happened next was beyond any of my wildest expectations and exploded me onto the scene of "church discipline".
Upon disclosing my desire and intent to move in the direction of launching a non-profit, I instantly entered into two days of accusation, interrogation and intimidation by senior leaders. Before I knew it, I was drowning in accusations from senior leaders of moral failure and being pressured into signing a non-compete.
In these conversations I wept, gave 100% disclosure of everyone I had spoken with (less than 10 in number, 2 of whom I explicitly asked for prayer support alone) and agreed to send an email to the "top donors" of the church telling them I was leaving X Church.
Leaders insist on an email to top donors, saying Reid would refuse donations from them.
That afternoon I sat down at my computer and crafted an email. I don't remember the exact content of the email as much as I remember sending a copy of it to a senior leader who printed my letter off and hand wrote additional verbiage that I was asked to add into the letter. This extra verbiage transformed the letter from a goodbye letter into a public record stating that I would not take any donations from any of the top donors on the email distribution list I would be emailing. I took the letter, folded it in half, packed it into my brief case and headed off to a dentist appointment with the agreement to the senior leaders involved that I would send the email out first thing the following morning.
By the next morning I had decided I would not agree to sending the email. I was told by the self-acclaimed-corporate-guru-senior church-leader how foolish I was for my decision, and the animosity I heard in that voice revealed to me the true nature of the situation and how I was being viewed by senior leadership.
He refuses and data is wiped from his IPad
Moments later another senior leader arrived to work. The two leaders began to meet in private about my refusal to send out the email. My presence was requested in an office, and I was left alone to wait for whatever was going to happen next. I do not know everything that happened in the 10-20 minutes as I waited for the meeting to begin, but the two things that did happen were the removal of the printed email with the handwritten notes of the senior leader from my personal briefcase and the remote wiping of all data from my personal iPad.
Threats about bad recommendations unless he did what he was told
The door finally opened, and two senior leaders entered. I was instructed that a non-compete would be drafted that would bind me legally to never being able to receive a donation to the non-profit I was forming from any persons who had ever gone to X Church. I explained that I would not sign the agreement. When asked why, I replied that there was a specific person who had begun coming to X Church at my personal invitation that would not be able to give to my organization if I signed the agreement. I received the response "that's fair". At this point I was told that the agreement could "just be for 7 years" because by that time "no one would remember who I was". I was then, in every sense of the word, threatened that if I would not sign the documents I would be treated in the same capacity as a former employee who was regularly given bad reviews by one of the senior leaders whenever that senior leader was called as a job reference. If I signed the agreement, I was told, "everything will be good" and there would not be any bad blood.
For me personally, I was overwhelmed. Here I was, an almost 9-year member of the church and caught in a surreal interaction with senior leaders that I kept thinking would turn out to be a bad dream that I would abruptly awake from.
However, it was at the point of being threatened that I realized there was no reconciliation or respect that was going to be had from these senior leaders. From this moment forward, I would come to realize they were going for the jugular vein of my obedience to Jesus.
I paused. It was time to say goodbye. I told the senior leaders of my gratefulness for the opportunity to work at the church, that our family would continue to attend and financially support the work of the church, and I then closed by telling one of the senior leaders in tears that I loved him. The response was brief. "I love you, too, Reid", followed by an instruction to the other senior leader to walk me out. To this date I couldn't tell you if I was fired or if I resigned.
Clears out desk under the watchful eye of leaders
On December 23, 2011, under the watchful eye of that senior leader, I packed my office up in boxes while being followed around step by step and move by move to ensure I was not taking anything that belonged to the church. I handed over my keys to the senior leader and was then escorted to Human Resources where I completed whatever standard forms they needed to formalize my departure. I packed my car and drove away sobbing and yet strangely free from the weight that had been over my heart for that last 1 and 1/2 years.
In closing, I'd like to point out and remind anyone who reads this that in my final meeting with the senior leaders how I expressed my intention to continue participating in the life of the church. Before God I believe this is the purest proof of my innocence and naïveté. These were not the words of a person that was aiming to siphon donor dollars from X Church. Also, FYI, my family never went back to X Church for worship.
More on the non-compete covenant
This is the story of how I believe the non-compete entered into the life of X Church on account of me. Before I left I was told that my replacement would be required to sign a non-compete. Sadly, since leaving X Church, I have learned more about the aggressive use of non-competes by churches to limit the church's exposure to financial losses when key staff or volunteers decide to make a break from the church.
His mission goes on
Although I have spent the last two years fighting the frustration of being thrown under the bus by senior leaders of a megachurch, I would never change a thing (except perhaps to be a little more bold in calling out the obvious need for accountability for those who were at the top of X Church). My life has gone on. I have an awesome family by my side. I have new work that I love. I have a non-profit that is fully supporting 10 national missionaries in developing countries. Most especially, I have the freedom to share my story because I did not sign a non-compete or any other documents that would have enslaved me to the secrets that haunt church staff who serve under false teachers and ego-driven visionaries. Sacrifice is the calling of those who follow Christ, and I am grateful I experienced this first-hand through my experience at X Church.
Lydia's Corner: Jeremiah 28:1-29:32 1 Timothy 1:1-20 Psalm 86:1-17 Proverbs 25:17