"Howdy Mars Hill Church, pastor Sutton Turner here and I’m in Ethiopia, and I just want to thank Jesus for continuing to use Mars Hill Church to make disciples and plant churches. Mars Hill Global is the arm of Mars Hill Church that makes disciples and plant churches all over the world. We not only do church planting, but we help better equip church planters."
From a Mars Hill Global Video that now appears to be 'private'
Mars Hill Church is making headlines again — this time because of its Global Fund. Several years ago Sutton Turner (who has just resigned from the church) made the following declaration in a video (in addition to the above quote):
So whether you’re a member of one of our Mars Hill Church locations in the United States or you’re one of 100,000 podcasters every single week, we encourage you to pray about giving above and beyond your tithe to Mars Hill Global. Thank you and let’s see more materials translated, more pastors sent out, more churches planted, and more people saved by Jesus Christ.
A headline in The Stranger says it all — Internal Memo About Mars Hill's "Global Fund" Shows the Church Intended to Use Some of the Money to "Deflect Criticism" and Quietly Keep the Rest.
The article begins as follows:
One of the controversies swirling around Mars Hill this summer has been the so-called "Global Fund" that didn't go so global. From a story The Stranger ran about Mars Hill back in August:
"In a July 2014 letter, Mars Hill admitted that millions of dollars donated to its Global Fund, which appeared to be bound for projects in Ethiopia and India, actually went into Mars Hill’s general fund, which raised questions about how much of the general fund goes towards Driscoll’s salary. Driscoll’s handlers have declined to answer questions about the scandal, but journalist Warren Throckmorton, who follows Mars Hill closely, reported that unnamed church insiders estimate less than 5 percent of the Global Fund actually made it overseas."
Warren Throckmorton continues to shine the spotlight on Mars Hill. In his post Mars Hill Global Fund: Help the Helpless or Use the Helpless, he published an internal Mars Hill memo that appears to indicate that the bulk of the funds raised was not used to 'help the helpless'. Throckmorton concludes:
As we now know, most Global Fund money went to support Mars Hill expansion — which was the plan all along — without any plans to tell donors how their funds were being spent.
I contend that Mars Hill Church owes the public an explanation and Ethiopian and Indian church planters a lot of money.
The following day Throckmorton wrote about a significant name change — Mars Hill Global Fund Becomes Mars Hill Go. The announcement was made on the Mars Hill website. Here is a screen shot.
What is incredible about this change is that Mars Hill wants financial contributions to the Go fund to be unrestricted. Take a look at this question and answer on the Mars Hill website that Throckmorton includes in his post …
Can I designate my current gifts towards international mission efforts?
To better support Jesus’ mission and to allow us to effectively and efficiently steward the resources that God has provided us, we encourage all donors to send in their gifts unrestricted so that we can apply them where they are needed most. We believe scripture clearly calls us to be on Jesus’ mission, whether here in the U.S. or in other countries.
As such, every donation is a contribution towards our efforts to carry out His mission, here in the US as well as India, Ethiopia, and around the world. Your support means more people are saved by Jesus Christ, more people are growing as disciples of Jesus, and more churches are being planted, no matter the location. If you’d still like information on sponsoring specific needs and projects, please contact email@example.com.
In the wake of these changes, there is Still No Financial Transparency according to Throckmorton. He concludes:
The church knows what they spent on missions but they won’t release the numbers. The memo posted yesterday indicated that the plan was to fund “highly visible” mission projects costing about $120,000 per year. Given what the church claims to have done, I estimate they may have spent a little more than that. However, why not tell the church and the “Global family” how much they spent and where they spent it? The leaders revised the FAQ page today, but again failed to include the figures which would address how they handled the donations. Why not be transparent?
Will those both inside and outside Mars Hill Church continue to give money to the revamped Global fund now called Mars Hill Go? Surely there are more transparent missions organizations that will readily disclose their financial information and rightly so!
Lydia's Corner: Genesis 1:1-2:2 Matthew 1:1-2:12 Psalm 1:1-6 Proverbs 1:1-6
Wow, someone’s making a killing. This is a fantastic scam by Mars Hill.
Waiting for MHC leaders to winsomely request that all future donations be made unrestricted, since it’s easier to shuffle monies about that way.
Don’t worry, folks, you still get a tax writeoff.
Oh that’s appalling reading… that memo is vile. Money has made these guys its servant.
Segue, diversion, off-topic or whatever it is I usually do – @william g and @numo, link for you on Christians in Iraq: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/encounter/no-justice2c-no-peace-e28093-isis-out-of-the-middle-east/5775882
Could there be a clearer way to signal that they have learned nothing and will continue the status quo?
@ Albuquerque Blue:
Remember, it’s ‘all about Jesus…’ 😉
@ Steve Scott:
The paid big boys still will not release their salaries. Can you imagine why? Here's my suspicion. The network is losing money hand over fist. They are canning people left and right. What do you think the odds are that the *leadership* are still living in their gorgeous homes, eating at fancy steak houses, etc.?
Secondly, those poor, poor churches in the Northwest. They cannot function without the best audio visual equipment on the market along with other perks. Can you imagine how far Mars HiIl would get if the rich hipsters had to worship in huts with dirt floors? Money, lots of it, is vile to leading the Northwest to Christ.
ChEKA becomes OGPU becomes NKVD becomes KGB, but the mass graves in the GULAGs still fill up without interruption.
Latest sermon on the Mark’s Hill franchise Telescreens:
I was beginning to think that the hipster craze had left the northwest until I recently took a flight from Houston to Portland. When I came to the gate, I found two men with beards, small caps, skinny jeans, tight short sleeved plaid shirts, Mac computers, and iPhones (one with a case that looked like a cassette tape). I asked my son, “Does it surprise you that they’re going to Portland?” We need the hipster movement to continue – they spend a lot of money!
I should have stayed in religion….I could be rich……and on a fast train to hades…..
Warren Throckmorton’s latest post reveals (no surprise to me) that the “accountability/investigation” committee (which Driscoll has been packing with safe insiders as leaders have been resigning) is only investigating some of the charges former elders have leveled. Even some of the ones that they said were going to be investigated and “taken seriously” aren’t being investigated.
My guess is that finances (especially how much executive elders like Driscoll are paid) and governance (the bylaws revisions that moved power from the full board of elders to just a small group including Driscoll) are the two things that are never going to be “on the table”. Mars Hill Go is an attempt to forestall real financial transparency by saying, “Oops, we used the wrong word”.
Wenatchee the Hatchet (another blogger who’s been tirelessly researching the Mars Hill situation) has been saying consistently that the only power the remaining attenders have is to stop giving until financial transparency is provided. Declining attendance and giving appears to be the only thing that worries the core leadership enough to motivate them to do anything.
I believe the diversion of funds from Mars Hill Global (now Go) into the the church’s general fund was quite deliberate. MH Global/Go appears to have been conceived as a way to bring more funds in at a time when monies coming in via standard tithes and offerings were becoming tight. I don’t know if it was Sutton Turner’s idea but it does appear to have started about the time he took over as “King/COO” of the MH enterprise.
It is my gut feeling that MH enterprises would have been in financial trouble a lot earlier than 2014, say 2012 or 2011, without the introduction of MH Global/Go. That money was siphoned off to keep the enterprise going. We know it was not sent to Ethiopia or anywhere it was promised. Driscoll, Turner, Bruskas and anyone else who knew LIED.
I suspect at this moment in time that the powers that be at MH enterprises are hoping none of the donors to the Global fund turn them in to the IRS for diversion of funds or complain to a local TV station which is requesting people to contact them. I am hoping that someone or someones step forward and tell what their intentions were and how they feel now that they know their money was sucked up into the MH enterprises’ black hole.
I am wondering about that core group of high level donor$ known as the Lucas group, or something like that, that give $20,000/year or higher. The ones the EEs go to when they really need mucho moolah. I wonder if Throckmorton has any sources within that elite group of givers; I bet the average joes in the pews aren’t the only ones reconsidering their giving to Mars Hill Enterprises (TM).
@ mirele: People who give money to Mars Hill now do so fully realizing that things are not right. I also believe that they could be in trouble if they promised funds to be used in one fashion and used them for something entirely different. However, I think that Mars Hill probably has some good lawyers whom they pay very well because they are so good at "finding money."
My guess is that the language was vetted by legal.However, I can always hope… Here is my piece of advice… Stop giving money to the local church UNLESS they are totally transparent with the utilization of funds.
Also, remember that elders do not necessarily mean everything is being vetted.
I thought I read somewhere that there is one guy who is giving the bulk of the funds in that group. Do you know if I am correct?
Perhaps my favorite part is where they said in some internal memo that was published online that their motive for giving any money away was to “deflect criticism,” with the intent of pocketing the rest.
There’s nothing like telling church people you are collecting a million trillion dollars in the name of helping third world nations (out of love, compassion), donating only about five bucks to that cause, and keeping the rest all for you.
About the name change from “Global” to “Go.”
Maybe it’s to convey you watching your money Go from your wallet to Mark Driscoll’s bank account. He needs a new car or a bigger house.
I never heard if it was resolved or not, but months ago, Mars Hill was hitting members up for donations to put on a big “Jesus Festival” in their area, but the festival was never put on, and I guess the church kept that money (and IIRC, it was a ton of money)?
Ben D. said,
I believe you are referring to Jon Phelps. I don’t know if he is funding MH, but apparently he has been a substantial donor IIRC from Throckmorton or Wenatchee.
Marks Hill Driscoll, Will You Please Go Now!
This is a real issue. It’s called misappropriation of funds. Garth Brooks sued a hospital over misappropriation of a $500,000 gift that was supposed to be used for women’s health services and was not. He got the $500K back plus an award of $500K.
It’s also why some churches have started putting disclaimers on their offering receipts. You may be sticking $20 into the missionary fund every week, but the disclaimer means the money can be slushed together any way the church feels like it. That’s just wrong, but that’s what happens.
Reminds me of the fake charity, “The Human Fund,” George Costanza set up in one Seinfeld episode. At least George was honest about how all the money was coming to him.
You must keep your eyes on these gospelly churches. Beacons of honesty and integrity they are not. Some of you may remember how Sovereign Grace Ministries, under the leadership of the humblest man on the planet, got called out on a special fund the “family of churches” had set up to provide hurricane disaster relief for Haiti. They collected a significant amount of money but only a fraction of it was actually disbursed to those in Haiti. I don’t recall all the details, but irate members of “the happiest place on earth” persistently demanded their dear leaders account for the money. Two years after the storm they still had not distributed a large amount of the cash. Here is the PR piece put out by SGM leadership.
The bottom line with these gospelly coalition boys is they are all in it for the money. They continually are looking for ways to separate the faithful from their hard earned dollars, most of it goes to feather their nests.
Great comment! I remember that well. I did think of SGM when I read that some were being critical of Mars Hill because of a lack of 'global missions'. SGM was similarly criticized before they started doing church plants outside the US.
Mars Hill attempted to use this fund to quell the critics, and it backfired on them BIG TIME.
There is also a relatively new movie called “Believe Me” that takes charities like that, emotional manipulation into giving and much of the Christian sub-culture to task.
A fairly predictable plot, but lots of poignant moments.
It has really caused me to examine where (and why) I give thoroughly, with a greater responsibility that ever before.
This is all so disheartening. Such terrible decisions being made, and Our Great Father has nothing to do with it, and His Name among non-believers is meaning less and less.
Because it’s being shown to mean little to the most public faces of “Christianity”.
How much I have to repent for, myself, is a lot, so I am not saying this judgmentally. But this is so bad (to state the obvious). How can we fix it? How can their hearts be changed? how important that we are straightforward, forthright- if He is loved, His kingdom is loved…how did they get here?
I’m not an attorney, but I do know that when a church maintains separate funds for missions, benevolence, church planting, and the like, those funds are treated like trusts under the law. Elders cannot legally redirect the funds to other uses unless they get permission from the donors to do so. The money must be returned if the donors do not want their donations to be redirected. It looks like MHC may have redirected the funds without asking for permission from the donors.
Actually funds may be redirected without permission in an emergency, e.g., the church burns down or someone absconds with the general fund.
The updated (10/2/14) Mars Hill Global/Go FAQs do (finally) make the admission that funds go to the U.S., not just India, Ethiopia, etc However, as usual, neither the proportion nor dollar amount of funds that go to each geographic area is given. Apparently, all these donations go into the something called General Fund Global/Go, unless donors request otherwise, which is discouraged in order to permit the “greatest needs” to be met first. (I’ll just bet!) Furthermore, the “Go” part may just be some kind of global community — the explanation is so vague that it’s hard to tell.
I checked the 10/2 updated FAQs again and discovered that I got some terms confused in my previous post, though the lack of transparency issue remains. Donations go to the General Fund (Local and Global), Global is thec”online Mars Hill family” not attending a local Mars Hill Church, and Go supports church planting everywhere, including the U.S.
Reminds me of Joel Grey and Liza Minelli
I don’t know if you read Herescope. There has been an interesting series in the origins of the corporate thinking of mega-churches, focusing on Mars Hill.
I’ve had several ‘aha’ moments. Enjoy.
We also had a recession a few years back (some would argue we are still in one) that sliced things quite a bit thinner. That smarts on a church budget backed by tithing.
Taking money from people to use for mission abroad but intending to use to keep MH afloat. A couple in Acts did something similar and look how that turned out
Irish lass wrote:
Hi Irish-lass! Would you mind explaining who you’re referring to here?
I think Daisy has the right of it here!!
@ Albuquerque Blue:
With apologies for stealing Irish Lass’s thunder, that would be the following excerpt from the New Testament book of Acts:
The context was that many in the church who owned assets were selling them and giving the money to the apostles (laying it at their feet being a symbolic gesture of unconditionally placing it at their disposal; I believe this is common to many cultures then and since). Specifically, this money was for the poor and needy within the church.
Shortly after this, the apostles realised that the job of administering this money properly was too time-consuming – perhaps it was simply that organisation was none of their strong points – so they asked the church at large to appoint seven suitably trustworthy men. These days, I believe –
though cannot prove with absolute mathematical rigour – that “men” would have been “people” and the group would probably have been mixed-gender. At any rate, it is noteworthy that they did not hand-pick seven cronies but asked the whole church to do the choosing.
@ Irish lass:
And, by the way, that is a very sobering observation.
How would they know if they were used properly or not? I saw this very thing happen a lot in Mega churches that are elder led or by a board. People never see budgets and don’t even ask most of the time. People really do just trust.
Bene D wrote:
Skimmed the article. Here’s what stood out to me initially:
Like every Dictator with a Vision from Citizen Robespierre to Comrade Pol Pot?
Christ as Dr Mengele making the Selections at a cosmic Auschwitz, and we’re the ones coming off the Angel of Death’s cattle cars.
An implication reinforced if you’ve ever been under Hellfire-and-Damnation preaching. Or lip-smacking gloating End Time Prophecy preaching (“Don’t be Left Behind!”). Or “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” Truly Reformed (with The Predestined Elect an ever-shrinking percentage).
“RULERS OF TOMORROW!!! MASTER RACE!!!”
— Ralph Bakshi, Wizards
I believe I have heard figures bandied about that only about 6% will not be used to buy premium coffee and Bose speakers for @Seattle. Is that true?
@ Albuquerque Blue:
Argghhh! You would have to ask about the story in the New Testament that is, for me, the very, very hardest to understand.
Why? Because killing people on the spot for lying/cheating, etc., only happened this one time. I am willing to entertain ideas from others out there.
@ Nick Bulbeck:
Thank you Nick, that’s what I was thinking Irish-lass was referring to but wanted to make sure.
That is one of the more tricksy ones, I can imagine. Though it had to have been a decent way to motivate people to keep up their tithes or support for the church. Especially in the early days when communication with other Christian groups was much more rare. Perhaps its like one of those pastor stories that are delivered from the pulpit to motivate or punch up a sermon, regardless if it happened or not. This one just stayed in the canon?
One thing that baffles me, seriously: how does driscoll avoid criminal charges???? collecting millions of dollars under false pretences??? Take away the ‘man of God’ racket and he’d be in handcuffs. Bernie Madoff said, give me your money, i’ll give you 18 per cent per year profits forever, and he gets 100’s of years in prison. driscoll said, give me your money, i’ll…spend it in…Ethiopia…yeah….
@ Bene D:
Fascinating article! I’m reminded of Screwtape’s business model of hell. It occurs to me that, just like the “bodies behind the bus”, other major Driscoll “mistakes” were not originally his idea. The plagiarism appears to have been committed primarily, not by Driscoll himself, but by outside researchers and nameless staffers doing the *writing* on his behalf. Likewise, the diabolical *vision* statement for Mars Hill Global was penned by some nameless staffer. Of course, Driscoll seems to have followed it to the letter!
@ will f:
What prosecutor is going to want to take a church, especially a big one with lots of high end donors, to court? That’s political suicide, this isn’t some weird LDS offshoot cult, this is a mainstream church with voters and political oomph. You’re very right, this is just as bad as what Madoff did.
Sorry did not mean to rattle anyone. Just that what happened at MH brought this to mind. Though it only happened the once I think it shows how seriously God took what happened. There were lots of things happening while the early church was being established and have not been repeated at least not to my knowledge!!
@ will f:
It is trickier in a church situation. People voluntarily gave and never asked to see budgets or any have any monetary accountability. A church is not the same type of non profit as a charity or para church ministry. It is a different game and people need to understand that before they support them. If they won’t let you see a detailed budget, don’t join.
Bene D wrote:
“From Good to Great” was required reading in the mega church staffer world. It is basically the same system Jesus was speaking of when He said, don’t lord it over like the Gentiles do.
The entire philosophy behind the “Leadership Network” group is the opposite of what Jesus Christ taught about leading. It seems that Christian leaders decided to incorporate the business world’s ideas of leadership and apply them to the church. IMNSHO – it was one BAD idea that is now reaping serious consequences.
I know I brought the Leadership Network up on another thread, but people seemed to comment more about the author of the article rather than on the concepts the author was bringing to the forefront. I happen to agree with with the author regarding his/her observations about the Leadership Network and what they were teaching to pastors.
I’m confused – why even have a designated fund called GO if they request donations be labeled unrestricted? Why not just not just have one general fund?
@ M. Joy:
From a memo I saw on Warren Throckmorton’s site, I think the thought was that Mars Hill goals were being hampered by being perceived as having no missions component. The global fund allowed them good will as well as being another revenue stream. It’s a smart move for a corporation to take advantage of good will and opens up new ways of generating revenue.
Dee, I think Ananias and Sapphira were feeling guilty for hiding the true value of their property from the church. All the others who sold property were sharing the entire amount with the believers and these two wanted to keep some for themselves but didn’t want anyone to know. The stress of trying to act cool coupled with the fright on being found out, proved so overwhelming that they each had a heart attack and died on the spot. Similar to Nabal in the Old Testament who was so angry on finding out how Abigail had saved his skin that he had an apoplexy (stroke) and died a few days later.
As far as malfeasance and misappropriation goes, it seems to me that this is not a litigation matter but one for the IRS. In fact, there is an IRS form where you can report fraud by 501C3 organizations. Has anyone looked for the MH public tax return on Guidestar? It would reveal what they are paying in salaries and all sorts of info.
Link to the memo I was referring to. Comment triggered moderation so this link may appear before it does.
M. Joy wrote:
Because that would not be as compelling to people concerned about funding missions overseas and not so much about funding flat screens and gated neighborhoods. IOW the guys at MHC are trying to have it both ways which happens coincidentally to benefit them, as long as the funds are unrestricted.
@ Bunsen Honeydew:
churches aren’t required to file a 990 and I don’t believe MHC ever has.
Wow. That’s interesting and surprising. Well, no wonder shenanigans go on when you don’t have to report anything.
@ M. Joy:
It appears they are trying to get the gazillion people who watch Mark Driscoll sermons, etc. to bankroll the church, and this is a clever way to do it.
More accurately it was only recorded once. Could have happened multiple times and might still be.
How can people be so dumb as to give ‘unrestrictedly’ not knowing where their money is going? And being told they have no right to know – the elders will decide for them?
In our church we have separate funds for building, missions, youth, college, church etc so you can decide where to give.
Mars Hill is treating its members with zero respect – it views them solely in fiscal terms.
Does anyone know if non-profits affiliated with a church are required to file the 990?
One of the eternal questions, and one I have asked about myself. More than once.
The church that I attend meet 4 times a year for a business meeting. Each time we are given a detailed report of all finances which is printed out. We are also encouraged to ask any questions we may have regarding the report. Any big spends must be voted on by the church members
Speaking of some churches doing some things better than others: I just picked up young Mulan the warrior knock off grand-daughter from a Moravian church in a “difficult” part of town where her new Episcopal church youth group was cooking stuff to feed the homeless, part of a multi-church approach to this problem. This is sooooo much better than what was going on at SBC mega that they left.
Irish lass wrote:
This is probably going to rub people the wrong way, but let me say it. I’m of the opinion that the story of Ananias and Sapphira is a first century urban legend or faith-promoting rumor. Or, to put it a different way, it’s a myth, designed to prove a particular point. That point (at least top me) is that if you’re going all in for God, you’d better really be all in, and not holding anything back.
I could say more, but I’ll just leave it at that.
Bunsen Honeydew wrote:
MHC is a church and is not required to file a 990.
This, IMHO, is one thing that needs to be reformed *yesterday*. I know a few people who would like to see the finances of a religious organization dominant here in the Intermountain West, to find out how it was able to finance a $3 to $5 *billion* dollar upscale shopping mall and housing complex. This same religious organization also owns three percent of the state of Florida. A 990 would be a good start; they’d have to list the payments being received by their “unpaid” highest clergy (apostles).
Ah, mirele, we just pick and choose, pick and choose. I think this Scripture is literal truth, I think that Scripture is ‘myth’. Hey, my opinion is as good as anyone’s. Where does it end?
I could say more, but I’ll just leave it at that.
You’ve gotta be referring to the Mormons.
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
Why yes, I am. Was it the description of City Creek mall that was the tip off? 🙂
I do not think it happened multiple times and that is why the story is so controversial. If God was routinely striking people dead for lying, we would have heard about it. Considering what this blog is interested in, we should have seen this happening in a few of our regulars… This story was emphasized to make a point. It was different and out of the ordinary. It almost appears contradictory to the NT narrative and I have yet to see an explanation for it that truly satisfies me. I am being truthful when I say that I do not feel comfortable with all of the explanation that I have read.
Just think of all the job openings for pastors this would create!
“I have never conspired to protect a child predator, and I also deny all the claims made against me in the civil suit.”
No, the “Intermountain West” which has been Mormon Country since Brigham Young founded Salt Lake City and modern Utah. And the one about unpaid highest clergy being titled Apostles. That is uniquely Mormon, who structure their General and Regional Authorities with an inner Council of Twelve (Apostles) and an outer Council of Seventy.
You know I have been a christian for 33 years now, started ministry about six months after becoming a Christian. I always self funded, took extra jobs did with out etc. The ministry I do is not big but it touches lives and I think I made the right choice for me.
PS I think if I wanted to expand it I may wish to seek revenue to support it but I would self file a 1099 form or something similar even if I did not have to though I think non church religious non profits have to file 1099’s.
The ministry I am involved in is basically providing technology for local people with developmental disabilities that need access to resources to purchase the tech they need. I also write apps and applications for some folks. I also make simple tech devices such as buzzer boxes and adaptive switches for environmental units, augmentative communication devices and leisure / cause and effect devices.
I am branching out into bidding on ebay for cheep ipads even the old ones because there is a great deal of communication programs that are free or very low cost to help people communicate. I do the same with out of date iphones and chrome based devices and kindle android. Its amazing what one can do with tablets that are out of date for say business needs or higher end applications.
I tend to use filemaker because it is easy to deploy some apps such as an app that lets you set up a shopping list, recipes, schedule with audio reminders for like taking meds etc. Have to be careful due to possible litigation so I have had to pay to talk to an attorney about it and that is extremely expensive so I can understand why folks need to ask for funds and there is no shame what so ever in that, even getting a salary is totally reasonable provided it is upfront. Even a good salary like even 70K plus is not unreasonable, that is less than the median income in the bay area. I make about 40K a year and I am almost at the poverty level in my area believe it or not. The medium income in my area is over 100K and rents run over 11K per month at the higher end, usually 2000+ for a one bedroom.
So I can see why a person needs a good pay check for serving in this geographical area. Sorry I digress. I am able to program in C++, Pearl, Cobol, fortran, basic, several other scripting languages. I am not an expert but proficient. I add this because this ministry really is exciting to me, when you see a person who has never spoken in the past communicate in a meaningful manor it truly is exciting. Using visual aids and text to speech I have been able to give people the chance to “read” / study the bible on their own under their own power. What jazzed me up is one of my student’s computer died on him and he had no money to buy a new one so I stuck an old machine I had in a backpack and sent it home. It took a while to get his augmentative devices coordinated but he is able to get back on the internet which is his one outlet to the world. I was able to do that for over 100 folks over the last few years.
The other side of this ministry is far more time consuming it is advocating for services, I can spend up to 100+ hours a month going to meetings, writing letters, visiting local, state, and fed gov agencies in various rolls. That takes a great deal of time and a very think skin. If I did go into this full time this would mean I would have to solicit some type of support. I bring this up is that I am now able to retire with a minimal retirement but I really am feeling called to go this way. I need to get over my anger and martyr syndrome and bury the past and I need better leadership skills. Well I just wanted to share I think ministry for Jesus is an honor and I believe 90%+ of ministries and folks involved in ministry are on the level and do great work. I think it would be an honor to join them. I am trying to dump the chip on my shoulder and get back in the fight.
Brian have you by chance looked into crowdfunding or freecycle for free or donated parts? Also, if you do have apps and software written for such stuff, I would say definitely look into getting it open sourced and shared if you’re up for it. I used to work at a rehabilitation hospital, and i could definitely see those sort of tools being used with stroke victims and others with disabilities.
About Ananias and Sapphira, lying, and dropping dead. I think for me I want to go as far toward explanation as scripture goes, and just leave it there.
First of all, the author states int the first few sentences of Book 1 of his alleged/ presumed trilogy that he was reporting what he had heard passed down from eyewitnesses, not what he himself actually was an eyewitness to. This, IMO, explains some of the discrepancies between Luke’s gospel and Mark and Matthew and also explains some of the discrepancies between what Luke says about Paul and what Paul says about himself. “Telling the story differently” is a thing that one notices about Luke/ Acts.
So, we have oral tradition, a disclaimer by the author, and the choice at some point to include this story in the writings.
Which brings me to the second thing we do know. Somebody included this story in the writings. Why? There had to be lots and lots of stories. At least one gospel noted that there was more to be said about Jesus than was being written down, for example. Why this story?
For one thing, they apparently believed the story as written, and thought other people would also believe it. Was it a place and time when people would believe that this happened? Apparently so. But even if it is believable (while having come down through oral tradition) why write it down by somebody who stated in Book 1 that he was being diligent in looking for what to write down.
The story itself says that it is about lying, not to people only but also to the Holy Spirit. So, in looking at scripture it is said that Jesus called himself The Truth, and we are told that Satan is a liar from the beginning and the father of lies. The Eden story is about deception. Eve and her daughters have been vilified for thousands of years as being gullible and easily deceived. There is a wealth of reason to think that lying and deception are hugely wrong and dangerous and anti (against/ contrary to ) to who Jesus declared himself to be. And here Peter says, “you have lied…to the Holy Spirit.”
For me, the meaning / message of the passage is pretty obvious. Jesus, Holy Spirit, Peter and the author of Acts believed that Truth is vitally important, even on a level of a descriptor of God himself, and lying to God is at least potentially fatal (and it is in my opinion spiritually fatal); and they put the story out there in that framework.
Did It literally and historically happen? I am inclined to think it did. After all, we believe the resurrection for which we have no parallel, why not believe dropping dead which we basically see frequently for a lot of reasons. But it only happened once as far as is recorded. Which would that “once” be: the resurrection or the dropping dead of A and P. How many times does a thing have to happen to get a point across? Once-ness does not make it more or less apt to be true or not true. Was it a co-incidence, like some contagious viral myocarditis? Who knows? Does it matter? Not to me. The story makes sense any way I look at it, even if it turns out to be legend rather than history.
Here’s an interesting article in today’s NY Times:
“By some estimates, 1 percent of the male population continues, long after puberty, to find themselves attracted to prepubescent children. These people are living with pedophilia, a sexual attraction to prepubescents that often constitutes a mental illness. Unfortunately, our laws are failing them and, consequently, ignoring opportunities to prevent child abuse.”
Yes, our legal system is failing… the pedophiles? Aye yi yi.
How do they know this? If you were sexually attracted to something or somebody you should not be, would you be going around admitting it? If they say 1% I would say it is a certainty that it is more than that, if one includes those who do not act on that impulse (and keep it their secret).
Thank you for making me laugh on a cool Monday morning.
I wish more people would consider doing ministries which are “not big.” I think big is what gets us into trouble.
That is an interesting article. Perhaps they are trying to imply that pedophilia is some sort of medical/genetic issue that can cured with a pill if only we could find one?
I believe that pedophilia will be found to be caused by childhood emotional trauma. Yes, the laws fail them. It is the law enforcers who do not enforce child abuse statutes along with a bunch of people who turn a blind eye to the abuse they see around them.
But how in the world do we seek out and find abusive parents/ relatives/acquaintances who cause this never ending cycle to persist?
Forgive me for sounding pessimistic. It is Monday morning, after all. We must fight child abuse wherever if is found. By arresting abusers at least we draw attention to the problem and lock up a few abusers. This is why I become so angry when churches cover up abuse. They are only hurting the children who will be abused next and therefore harming the next generation if those children grow up to be abusers.
Thank you for adding your thoughts to this matter. So far, the story remains because the earliest manuscripts record it, unlike the woman caught in adultery. I kind of wish it was the other way around. At least the woman caught in adultery jives with the rest of the New Testament.
If it had happened a few more times, then it would have been easier for me to understand it since it would be setting up a precedent. But it would be a precedent that would seem to fly in the face of the rest of the NT.
I am absolutely sure that people lie to the Holy Spirit/God on a regular basis, just like Christians abuse, cheat and steal. I am not saying that they do not go on to repent. I am saying that they do something horribly wrong and somehow avoid dealing with it for prolonged periods of time.
For example, RW Glenn was reportedly carrying on an affair for 3 years. During that time, I bet he lied to himself and the Holy Spirit. Todd adds the following to the discussion:
However, the story itself seems bring an OT solution into the NT. TW wrote:
Let me add to this that we know Grant Layman concealed the fact that he knew Morales abused kids since he admitted it under oath. Given the A+S story, he should have been struck dead a long time ago.
I know a well off family that has allowed a rumor to persist (and may have started the rumor themselves) that they gave a large sum of money to build a well known Christian parachurch ministry. They didn’t. It was another family who did and I found out about it inadvertently. They continue to live…
Abusing kids is far worse than holding back some money from God although some megachurch millionaire pastors might disagree. Why was holding back money and pretending they gave worse than covering up child sex abuse? I am sure those who cover it up lie to the Holy Spirit frequently.
I still believe the Bible but this is one incident with which I struggle. When Eagle was asking me all sorts of questions about the Bible, I told him that he would always have doubts. It is normal.
I went to a talk given by the newly created Center for Scholarship and Christianity on Friday with Deb. The Chair of the Dept of Physics and Astronomy at UNC discussed his faith after having us attend the Planetarium show at Morehead Planetarium. Dr Clemens is a deeply committed Christian.
One of the best questions of the night came from a student. “Do you ever have doubts?” He smiled and said (roughly) “I try on atheism every morning and discard it promptly.”
When I get to heaven, I think the A+S incident will be one of my questions.
Next So Much More is up:
Don’t we all, if we have any sense. I love that answer.
Christians are failing this group too. I was on another blog and I think we were discussing Christian mistrust of secular psychologists and psychiatrists when someone claimed that a group of psychotherapists were trying to normalize pedophilia. The group is called B4U Act and I looked into the issue. It apparently got some negative attention from right wing and Christian commentators.
As these therapists point out, studies of pedophiles are exclusively of convicted criminals. They have reason to lie and they do. However, there are people who are sexually attracted to children, horrified by their feelings, never act on them, and seek help. Therapists don’t know what to do to help them because there is just no research about how they got this way or what kind of treatment could work on people who desperately want to be different.
To do research, they need study large numbers of people to see whT they have in common. That is hard to do because of the stigma. The group argues that we should not stigmatize people for feelings that they do not want, do not act on and come for help to change. Or want to. Can you imagine the complications for someone seeking to have their health insurance cover them or their teenager for this diagnosis?
Also, there is a lot of hysteria about psychotherapists calling pedophilia a sexual orientation which is ridiculous since that is the definition of pedophilia, sexual attraction to children.
So we have a group of psychotherapists who want us to know that they have frightened young people coming for help and who are behaving properly, who want to do research on the causes and effective treatments for pedophilia, and want to remove barriers so that people can be part of the research effort and get treatment. I think that is admirable and I support their efforts. I see no reason to demonize the psychotherapists.
I suspect that the research will show that pedophiles are wired differently either from genetics or something that happened in utero. I do think that those who are attracted to young teens have probably stopped their own psychological development at that age themselves and can be treated. But again, we know little about those that don’t act on their orientation.
Just to complicate things, there are sexual predators of children and teens who are not preferentially attracted to those age groups but molest them as a crime of power and opportunity. But those people don’t want help; they are evil.
As Christians we ought to be supporting research and treatment into any psychiatric disorder. Scripture is not sufficient to treat them any more than it is for treating cancer.
Albuquerque Blue wrote:
Maybe also KickStarter,
A few comments from their about page:
We’re a home for everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of projects, big and small, that are brought to life through the direct support of people like you.
Anyone can launch a project on Kickstarter as long as it meets our guidelines.
Project creators set a funding goal and deadline. If people like a project, they can pledge money to make it happen. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing — projects must reach their funding goals to receive any money.
Though I’m on the scale of somewhere between agnostic and Christian, one of my objections or issues with the faith really isn’t with the Bible.
I spent many years reading about the Bible. I think the Bible is rock solid.
One thing I can say is that the Bible can never win with hyper-skeptics. They will fault it over reasons that contradict.
In this situation, they may be apt to dismiss a particular Bible story or the entire Bible itself because an incident reported happened only once, or was only recorded once, but, if an incident is recorded more than once (such as the hanging of Judas in the Gospels), then the skeptics will say the whole thing was a collusion.
So, they say the entire thing was cooked up behind closed doors by shady men in black, so you should disregard the entire work. The Bible is constantly placed in unfair, no-win scenarios by people who already dislike it or who don’t want to believe it.
Extreme skeptics will judge the Bible by different, stricter criteria than they do non-Christian works from ancient history, so there is most definitely a big bias going on.
Speaking of which. I’ve seen several reports that the many pedophiles are married men (men who are married to women), that there is a larger percentage of them among married men than single ones. Some of these married guys have children of their own with their wives.
One reason unmarried men do not get hired or permitted to be teachers, preachers, or leaders in evangelical or Baptist churches is that the majority of church people, who tend to be married, harbor this notion that single men are more apt to prey on kids.
The week.com says, “about 44 percent of convicted pedophiles either are or have been married” (from “Pedophilia: A guide to the disorder” by The Week staff, Nov 2011)
From a case study of an adult molester:
“First of all, he’s married, just like 77 percent of the more than 4000 child sexual abusers in the Child Molestation Prevention Study.” (from Child Molestation Research and Prevention Institute site)
Other material I’ve read said that while they are fantasizing or actually molesting children, pedos are also attracted to adults and have sexual relations with adults at the same time.
A pedophile can be a married guy having regular sexual activity with his wife while he is also preying on children.
I had several pages about this topic open in my browser, on different tabs, and one of them was explaining the psychology of these guys, and it addressed this thing you’re asking.
I can’t remember exactly which page it was. It may have either been this one, from the Daily Beast,
“What Science Reveals About Pedophilia”
Or this one,
“Pedophilia: A guide to the disorder”
Both those pages do discuss various motives of pedophiles.
One of the pages I read some some of these guys are emotionally stuck in childhood themselves and view themselves as being on the same level age wise or emotionally as the child they are grooming.
If I ever find any information on that particular story, I can pass it along to you. I did hear one preacher say he doesn’t believe Ananias and Sapphira were believers in the first place.
One thing I did find so far is this page, which takes a middle stance:
The Ananias and Sapphira story can be a little jarring, since it’s in the New Testament, and the NT appears to stress grace and forgivness more so than the OT, so one wonders why they were punished so harshly, and over lying about finances.
But even the NT is not all rainbows and kittens all the time. In the Gospels, it has Jesus mentioning a place in the afterlife of weeping and gnashing of teeth, where the worm never dies, and Revelation says Jesus returns to earth one day and slays a bunch of armies on earth (that sounds literal and futuristic to me, not allegorical or past).
I actually, to a point, am comforted by stories like that, like about Ananias and Sapphira, because it shows God holding people accountable for sins.
I don’t have a big problem with the concept of hell, either, and am puzzled by people who get upset over it.
You have people who do sick things like molest children, terrorists selling girls into sexual slavery overseas, or people beating up senior citizens, etc, who never repent or apologize for that stuff in this lifetime, and if there’s an afterlife, I think it’s justice that they have to pay for it.
I don’t think a God who just waves all wrong-doing away and lets unrepentant people get totally off the hook for their evil, is truly loving or just.
If our court systems and police officers just let store robbers and serial killers off the hook and didn’t toss them in jail or on death row for what they did, people would be upset by the lack of justice – but they want a God who looks the other way? Why do most people tend to want earthly justice but not heavenly justice?
Or, even on ethical lapses we would consider minor, like Mark Driscoll not crediting his book sources, aren’t most of you glad Janet Mefferd held him accountable for that, and that Throckmorton began blogging on Driscoll’s church in the aftermath?
If people don’t get held accountable for wrong doing, often times (unless they suddenly develop a conscience or a sense of remorse on their own) they keep on being dishonest and exploiting and hurting people.
Notice that for Mars Hill church, the only thing that moved them to act was (1) all the unflattering media exposure, and that that people started bailing on them and stopped giving them money.
It appears to me that Mars Hill were not moved to act and clean themselves up based on (2) a true sense of guilt, sorrow, or shame.
Sometimes some people are motivated to behave based on the stick, not the carrot.
So why didn’t God decide to take care of the child abusers, rapists, etc. in the NT. Why focus on one incident regarding lying about money? Why didn’t this happen again? Also, Revelation and hell are not for the here and now.
In other paedophile news, I rewatched this Louis Theroux documentary recently, “A place for paedophiles”, on the Coalinga Mental Hospital in California. http://louistheroux.com/a-place-for-paedophiles/ For some reason I find Theroux really grating, but he raises some really important questions on just what society’s response should be – ? treatment, ? monitoring, ? type of accommodation for those convicted, etc. There are some very thought provoking interviews with staff and ‘inpatients’.
That is mentioned in the Daily Beast article (“What Science Reveals About Pedophilia”):
“As Judith Herman, a psychologist who works with abused children at the Victims of Violence clinic in Boston told The Daily Beast in an e-mail: “Truthfully, I don’t think the psychiatric profession has much of a clue about pedophiles. Most studies are based on…the 5 percent who get caught—a very unrepresentative group.” In other words, most pedophilia research subjects are outliers.”
I posted links to a new study on this blog a few months ago about brain scans of pedophiles. Here’s a page about it:
“Study Finds Pedophiles’ Brains Wired to Find Children Attractive”
Off the top of my head, are there specific incidents of rape and child abuse mentioned in the NT? (I don’t recall any being mentioned. Maybe there are, and I’ve just forgotten.)
In the OT, some of the entire groups of people God instructed the ancient Israelites to wipe out were people who, IIRC, were doing things like sacrificing live infants in fire to their deities.
Today’s child abusers and rapists may not get struck dead immediately for their wrong-doing, but the Bible says they will go to Hell (assuming they never repent, turn to Christ), so they end up paying in the long run.
In the meantime, I take it that you are God’s eyes and God’s hands, and he expects you (that is, Christians in general, not just you in particular) to seek justice on behalf of the wronged.
Similar topic (to me anyhow):
I’m puzzled why some people get instant answers to prayers but others don’t.
A lot of Christian television shows will put on interviews with Christians who had cancer (or whatever problem), said they prayed about it, and within ten minutes to a few days later, they say God totally healed them. That’s great and everything, but.
Yet, I’ve personally known many people (including someone in my family) who prayed for healing and died.
I don’t understand why some Christians get answered prayers, the way they want, and very quickly, while others don’t get answers for decades, or not at all, or not in the way they hoped.
I tend to view it like this also. Luke’s language is “he fell down and died” and “she fell down at his feet and died”– A & S being the ones taking the action. He doesn’t say God or an angel stuck them down. Also noteworthy– Peter didn’t have them burned at the stake, drowned, or even church-disciplined and shunned! He did, of course prophesy that that the young men would carry out the respectful, submissive wife as they had her her husband!
Contrast with Herod’s death, “And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.” One less-than-clear aspect of this is that the reason Luke gives is not glorifying God (might we not all be worm-fodder?) rather than murdering James and attempting to exterminate Peter. And no speculation as to why an angel rescued Peter and not James. Much we don’t know!
This incident was dramatic, but I do see other instances in the NT in which there is a presumed link between bad behavior and sickness and even death.
For example, when they asked Jesus, “who sinned, this man or..” there was the presumption that his physical condition was caused by sin. In 1 Cor 11: 28-30 Paul links sickness and even death as due to bad behavior at holy communion. In this respect he does seem to be thinking that at least some judgment is for the here and now. This incident of A & P in more dramatic in the telling, but it is consistent with what seems to be how people thought in that day.
As to why God would choose to react one way to one thing and not react the same way to something else, or fail to react the same way to the same thing every time it happened, I think we have the answer to that, though it may be difficult to live with. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55L 8-9 NKJV
The problem of evil, like the problem of suffering has not been adequately explained to us by God. And when people end up agnostics over these things, well I can see why they do.
Caveat emptor 😉
Christians need to take Jesus seriously when He said, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” We are to keep ourselves blameless and above reproach, but we ought not be so naïve as to think that everyone who wants our money is doing the same. Churches are run by sinners. Mistakes will be made for which grace and forgiveness are the appropriate and necessary response. However, willful deceit, misappropriation, embezzlement or theft ought not be overlooked or tolerated. Regardless of its polity, if your church doesn’t let you see its books, doesn’t have annual business meetings and present annual reports, or doesn’t allow access to its reviewed financials and audits, find a new church.
We don’t have a lot of information in the actual text, so I don’t see how we can avoid speculation. We don’t know if they died of terror or if God struck them. It seems that they were guilty of hypocrisy, from our perspective, but from the perspective of the honor/shame culture of the time, they also stole honor from Barnabas by pretending to do what he had done.
Maybe it was to reinforce apostolic authority, since Peter obviously had insight from the Holy Spirit. I’m not convinced that everything recorded about any particular incident lshould be considered normative or expect the same result every time.
Maybe it is remind us that God is not mocked and reserves the right to act, though he may choose to show mercy for his own reasons which we will never know.
In light of this Ebola tragedy unfolding in Africa, I find myself wondering why I was born in America in a privileged family while others who are no more sinful are born in Liberia. Sort of an inverse of the Tower of Siloam. It makes me thankful, but it doesn’t answer questions which may be unanswerable.
Thanks for bringing it up to consider.
These are some wise words, Nancy. We can see how difficult issues cause doubts for people, and we need to understand that instead of just writing them off. There are difficult questions, whether one is a theist, atheist, or agnostic.
And next it’ll be “Mark’s Hill a Go-Go”.
@ Headless Unicorn Guy:
I just tweeted this, giving you full credit!
This, for me, if probably the hardest question on the NT. It keeps me reading!
Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:
Oh, I don’t know. How would go go boots work with his rolled jeans? I don’t think white lipstick would work with the William Wallace look, either. The black eyeliner wings, perhaps.
Okay – I know I’m really late to the game on the Ananias & Sapphira topic, but I thought I’d add my two cents…
This story has always stood out to me, so I have thought about it a lot. None of the various explanations I got growing up really worked for me because if that was what was going on, people should be dropping like flies.
It does bear some similarities to the the story of Simon the Magician in Acts 8. In this instance, Simon (a magician who used his skills at magic to convince people he was from god) saw the apostles (Peter and Phillip, at least) laying hands on people and those people receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. Simon came to Peter and offered a bag of gold if Peter would teach him this power so that he could do it, too. Peter cursed him and him money and told him to repent. Unlike A & S, Simon immediately repented and begged Peter to pray for him…..
Now, to the story of Ananias and Sapphira. I think the first helpful thing to do is get rid of the chapter break between Acts 4 & Acts 5. At the end of Acts 4, it talks specifically about Barnabas selling his land and giving the money to the apostles. Now, Barnabas was highly regarded by the apostles – so much so that later, after Paul’s conversion, it is Barnabas who gets him and brings him before the apostles and convinces them that he really is a believe and no longer an enemy.
I think (opinion only) that Ananias & Sapphira were trying to fool the Holy Spirit into giving them the same status as Barnabas by appearing to do the same thing. In the story, Peter makes it plain that they weren’t lying to him, but lying to the Holy Spirit – to God. My take is that they were somehow trying to deceive God into giving them a name within the church in exchange for money – but they added to this by lying about the amount of money they had to give….I think they bottom line is that they were trying to trick God.
Now, as Nick said, this is [still] a sobering story. And I think there are a lot of so-called pastors/ministers who are walking on dangerous ground. But I think it more than just a simple case of lying to men about how much you have given to the church (not to say that this is not a bad enough thing all by itself).
Jeannette, that makes more sense to me.
Irish lass wrote:
I remember that story, too.
M. Joy wrote:
Probably because they are pretty sure they’ll get more $$$$$$ this way.
That makes sense to me!!
Actually, it may have been less guilt than fear of being found out, but in any case, ,stress-induced strokes & heart attacks are very real….and get us away from the “creep” factor.
Wow, what a great idea!!
We have a local charity that provides clothes/food/furniture to the needy who “fall thru the cracks”. It began as just one woman who realized how many folks need things that “official channels” don’t recognize. These ministries that start with one person, or a small group, are so awesome, because they come from folks like you who see a need & act to fill it. God bless you!!
Yes, that’s true, & its part of what makes the whole issue in need of mental health pros; pastors & other Christians are too quick to assume [cough, cough, Ahem!!] that married folks are can be “fixed”, or that the kids are making it up/
Dave A A wrote:
Or they may have swallowed poison, because they didn’t want to have to face the others.
It sounds way goofy to me, but its astonishing the lengths folks sometimes go to in an effort to “keep their names out of the papers”.
Let’s not forget that a woman can be a predator, too. It wasn’t that long ago, TWW reported on a female school teacher who was a predator with a clip of her pastor giving her a huge hug!
Driscoll just resigned.
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