"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter." -George Washington link
The above picture is the reason that I am writing this post. I have reason to believe that there are plenty more pastors like the ones featured who have used their ministry to fulfill their desires for wealth and control. Then there are some who just focus on control. Wealth and power are two issues that haunt today's churches.This blog has featured story after story of people hurt by churches which play Russian Roulette with power and money.
I recognize that there are wonderful churches and pastors which do not misuse either money or power. Those are not the churches to which I am referring.
Does the local church really hold the keys?
Last week, I wrote Jonathan Leeman/Mark Dever: The Keys Are the Key to Understanding Their Words. Please go to the post to read the context but here are the points they made.
….The church, meaning a local church, holds the keys to excommunication, remove someone from membership, receive people into membership, pick pastors and adopt a statement of faith.
…Then we learn that another key to the kingdom is teaching and oversight (another loaded term) which is found in the elders.
…The church gets to decide who is a true confessor of the faith and who is a "citizen of the kingdom of heaven."
…Baptism and the Lord's Supper are the means by which the church controls the membership. If they say you are not in, you cannot be baptized or take the Lord's Supper.
…9Marks in a post called Regulative Jazz says that the local church gets to decide what the gospel is and who is a gospel citizen.
But, they said something else that is most interesting.
But finally the keys belong to the entire congregation. No text in the New Testament explicitly links the oversight of the elders with the keys of the kingdom in the manner that Matthew 18 so clearly links the keys with the whole assembly. Elder authority is real, but it is a different kind of authority than congregational authority.
I agree with them but not in the manner that they expect.
You, nonleader sheep, hold the keys to their money and their power and it is time to exercise those keys.
Think about it. What would a church leadership do if the sheep stopped giving them money and stopped attending their churches? It is time that the sheep realize that they have been conned into thinking that they are dependent on the pastors. In fact, it is the other way around. The pastors are dependent on the cooperation of the sheep.
One year ago, I wrote a post Steven Furtick Proves That It Is Time to Stop Giving to the Local Church. In this post, I suggested that it is time for church members to stop giving to their church if certain criteria are present. At the end of this post, I have reprinted most of that post. This time, remove Furtick's name and substitute Driscoll's or you favorite megapastor's name. See if the shoe fits.
That post generated a fair amount of angry emails from pastors and wannabes, appalled that I would suggest that people stop giving to their church. I have thought long and hard about those responses and have come to the conclusion that the reason they are so upset is because I have found their Achilles Heel. The church needs the sheep in order to function. Authoritarian pastors have nothing if the sheep do not kowtow to their pronouncements. That is why they spend so much time conning the sheep into thinking that they need controlling church leadership. They don't want you to know that they need you/us as much or more than you/we need them.
Folks, it is a two way street and its time to call their bluff. If the people sitting in the pews at Mars Hill just stopped giving one day, the church would have crashed and perhaps the next time around Driscoll might have been sweeter to the sheep. The only way to deal with a controlling bully is to call his bluff. You can take your money and go home.
Your rights in church membership
1. You have the right to ask your church, of which you are a member, how much your pastor is making: salary, benefits, perks, time off, etc. Corollary-find out the expected number of hours per week your pastor works and his amount of vacation and conference time.
You will learn much by their response. Do not feel uncomfortable asking this question. Heck, we know how much we pay the President of the United States. Why shouldn't we know how much we pay our pastors? If they do not calmly provide you with the number, you have a problem. This is an indication that there are other issues with control at the church. Why should you give your hard earned money to a church that will not tell you exactly how much they are spending on their pastors?
Do you know what the average salary is in your congregation? Where do your pastors fit into that paradigm? Are they living better than most people in your congregation? If they are, why? Also, go see where you pastor lives. Does he live in an expensive house? Does he fly first class on your dime? What kind of cars does he drive? Does he get a clothing allowance? Does he spend lots of money on his clothes? Does he call attention to his boots or his jacket so that you know how expensive they are?
Did you know that Robert Morris, in yesterday's video, expressed amazement that Driscoll preached 43 weeks per year. That's right, Driscoll, who brags he can write a sermon in 2 hours, is considered a workaholic for doing his job! How many weeks a year do you get off? How many sabbaticals do you get in your job? How many conferences do you get paid to speak at? Do you get to write books at work and keep the money from those books?
Folks, get answers to your questions.
2. You have the right to leave the church if you disagree with their theology, discipline or attitude.
In the Mars Hill situation, I read a comment by one person who said they had to be released in order to leave correctly. No, you do not! It is an abusive mechanism to prevent the church's loss of control over the life of a member. God has given you a brain and heart along with His Spirit. Make use of them.
You also have the right to leave without them having some sort of meeting to determine whether or not you are "under discipline." We have posted a letter that you can send to a church to stop them from discussing you in public. We recently received a letter from a woman who used the letter in a church with which our readers are familiar. She said it worked and they backed off! Here is a link to that post called Abusive Church Discipline: How to Recognize It and Escape
3. You have the right to be treated respectfully by your church leadership.
You are not an ATM machine, sitting quietly and spitting out money for their latest and greatest building campaign. If the church does not recognize your talents or show you concern, find one that does. The church you are in does not deserve you. Recently, a friend's daughter received a phone call from a megachurch that she left two years ago. They didn't know she was gone and wanted to know when she was going to give them money. She wasn't important to them except as an ATM machine. Do not give money to such a church! They do not deserve you.
4. You have the right to be a member of a church in which the pastor knows your name.
Recently, we had a comment written by a man who had been in his church for 3 years and had never met his pastor. I think his pastor likes it that way. He is a talking head and money maker, not a pastor. Do you want Bono or a pastor?
5. You have the right to know exactly how you money is being used and if you money is being used wisely.
You do not have to give your money to a church which hires public relation firms to boost your pastor's image. Also, in any fundraising effort, find out how much the church is paying their fundraising consultants. You do know they are going to use such companies to get you to fork over more dough, right? Find out the ratio of pastors' compensation to money being given to help the poor. Does your church spend more money on sound systems than they do on missions? If so, do you agree with them?
6. You have the right not to be manipulated.
I know of one church in which the pastor, showing people in third world countries, asked the congregation to give up moving to more expensive homes and give the money to missions. Meanwhile, that pastor got a secret raise and moved to a bigger, more expensive house during the campaign. In that church, the congregation is not allowed to know how much the pastors make.
7. You have the right to give your money to any Christian organization that you please.
They say you must give your money to the local church and the excess to wherever you like. However, look at Mars Hill. The donated money went to fancy sound systems, extravagant salaries and church credit card charges to nice restaurants. You do not have to give money to that. Instead, find a missionary, a homeless shelter, or whatever. Make sure you know the money is actually going to help someone as opposed to buying a new oriental rug for the mansion. My guess is that God would be quite pleased that you gave the money elsewhere.
8. You have the right not to trust your leadership until they have earned that trust due to complete transparency and loving behavior.
Never forget that your leadership can be just as sinful as the next guy. Do not be surprised when they demonstrate that through their actions.
9. You have the right to ask questions and to get kind and thoughtful responses from church leadership.
All questions should be on the table and there should never be retribution when you raise any sort of issue. Transparency is the key. Patience with people who have questions reveal the heart of the church leadership. If they are too busy to answer questions, your money and service should be given elsewhere.
Find some real friends
I have heard of a number of people who put up with ill-tempered, money obsessed church leadership because they don't want to lose their friends. If friends will cease interacting with you if you leave a church, they are not your friends. Period. It is time to face facts that you were part of a group that only acted nice to you because they needed your money to build things and your presence to bolster their own egos.
When I left a church, I did lose some friends. However, I kept some other friends. We all ended up a different churches but we continued our Bible study and have been together for 12 years now. These are real friends and I am blessed to have them in my life.
Give up the delusion that if you just present a Biblical argument, they will see the error of their ways and change.
If they wanted your input, they would have been open about their finances and answered your questions kindly. Do not waste a lot time in a church trying to convince them to change their ways. They won't and they will blame you for being divisive and bitter. In many instances, all you will get is abused. Your role in such church is to be an ATM, nothing more.
Sheep, exercise your keys!
It is time for the sheep to rebel and to exercise their keys of authority. Money speaks. So does your presence. Use it and do not let money driven, authority junkies control your life and your faith. Your time on this earth is short. Use it wisely. Find a church or a parachurch group in which you can serve joyfully and be at peace. It should be a place in which people know your name and are glad to see you.
Here is the post from last year.
Are you, church contributor, vaguely discontented by what your money actually supports? Do you ever wonder if your money supports anything of eternal value? If you are a member of a church with a well paid pastor, and you see any of the following, maybe you should consider giving your money elsewhere.
But shouldn't you stop attending such a church? Well, that's what I would do. However, some people have lifelong friends within a given entity. Others have a family member who really wants to keep going. Some may just like the coffee. This post is for those of you who want to stay. I am also going to assume that you give some money to the church. If you don't, good for you.
Recently, I read a story on SGM Survivors in which a family ate oatmeal for dinner in order to scrape together money to give to an SGM building campaign. This reportedly happened while SGM employees were reportedly traveling to conferences, sending their kids to private Christian schools, living in nice homes, etc. SGM was begging for money to build and grow and were telling other people to sacrifice.
I remember an article in the PDI magazine that focused on a large family who ate oatmeal every night so that they could give to PDI. They were praised for this wonderful sacrifice beyond their tithe.
I say enough of this nonsense.
Stop giving if you cannot find out your pastor's salary and compensation package.
From the Charlotte Observer we learn
(Chunks) Corbett would not divulge Furtick’s salary,
If you give money to the church, you have the right to know exactly how your money is being used. For example, we have reported on pastors who make $700,000 a year and also gets a parsonage allowance. Parsonage allowances are tax deductible which also should be figured into the total compensation package. One needs to also look at FICA, sabbaticals, conference and travel fees, etc.in order to fully understand how much money is involved. If they will not tell you, why would you give them money? Also, ask yourself, given all that you know from reading this blog, why should you "trust" them to handle all this money appropriately?
Stop giving if the church hires outside "well to do" pastors to be on a compensation committee in which the proceedings are kept secret. Also, ask if any of those people on the committee are ever given perks like paid speaking engagements, etc.
(Furtick's undisclosed salary) which is set not by a group of lay members of the church, but by a board of five out-of-town pastors. Furtick is also on the board, but doesn't’t vote on his salary, Corbett said. These out-of-town board members are friends and mentors to Furtick and, like him, lead growing megachurches. They include Perry Noble of NewSpring Church in Anderson, S.C., and Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist in Plano, Texas.
Can you really trust other mega church pastors, who all live well, to actually police their buddy's income? Take a look their names and try to find out how well they live. I bet that they keep their income a big, fat secret, as well. Also, besides being on a committee, see if they ask each other to speak at each other's conferences and are paid for doing so. If so, could you see how can I get involved in this cash cow? I have heard of another church which has a retention fund in order to keep the pastor when he starts threatening to go elsewhere. Such Godly behavior demands rewards.
Stop giving if the church also has to hire an attorney to do a compensation study.
This board bases Furtick’s salary, Corbett said, on a “compensation study formulated by an attorney’s office” that’s not tied to the church.
Why in the world are your precious donations going to attorneys to figure out how much to pay your pastor? You can be sure that it will not be the median of the congregation. They want more, a whole lot more. Then ask, why do they need an attorney? Attorney's are always involved in limiting liability. So, think of it this way, your donations this year may have paid for a well off attorney to up the compensation for your very wealthy pastor. What a way to give to back to God!
Stop giving if your well paid pastor lives better than most of the congregation
Drive by his house. See what kind of car he drives. See what kind of vacation he takes. Think about it.
Stop giving if your pastor won't answer the question of how much he makes while acting like a wuss by sending his "good ol' boy" friend to speak for him.
Corollary: Be suspicious of any spokesman who tries to sound like a good old boy who drives pickups (For example, they have names like Chunks or Bubba.) They are not good old boys; they just play one at church.
(Chunks) Corbett said
Stop giving when your pastor says, in a sermon, that the church is being made to look bad when it is he who is looking bad.
You may view such a cowardly act on the infamous video. You, the hard-working contributor, are supposed to take the hit for your pastor's poor judgment? He should take it on the chin like a "real man." Instead, he is hiding behind his congregation and his wife, Holly. He gets the glory for his books and fame. Holly gets tacked on when he is in trouble.
Stop giving when your money goes to more buildings, expensive equipment and well-off pastors.
Look at the church budget. Add up the salaries and administration and building debt. Look at the top of the line audiovisual system. Look at the glossy presentation materials and expensive, personalized videos. Now ask yourself a question. Do you really think your money is making a "difference" for the kingdom when you compare it to example of Jesus and His apostles?
Stop giving if your pastor, who is well paid, claims he owns intellectual rights to his sermons.
Your pastor presumably develops his sermons during his expected work week. Would Proctor and Gamble give away the rights to a new dish detergent to a researcher who was hired to do just that?
Stop giving if your well paid pastor complains he works more than 40 hours a week.
How many hours should your pastor work? Well, I have read of some pastors who make $500,000 a year, plus benefits, complaining that they have to work more than 40 hours a week. They need "family time." Most people in the real world who make that kind of money usually work far longer than 40 hours and don't whine about it.
Stop giving money if your well paid pastor writes books on church time and then gets all of the proceeds.
See my comments on intellectual rights above. Also, if he asks you to purchase his book in order to be an intern at the church, ask who gets the profits. (Thanks to a new commenter.) Ask to see it spelled out in writing.
Stop giving if your well paid pastor is double and triple dipping.
Here is how this plays out. The pastor gets a certain amount of conference time a year for which the church pays room, board and fees. In fact, Kevin DeYoung says that this is what you should do to really show you care for your pastor link.
So, your pastor could speak at the conference and be paid by the sponsors as well as being given room, board and the conference fees. He could also get to sell his book, developed on church time, and then keep those proceeds. He could even encourage his church to use the book in Sunday school classes and small groups which means more book sales.
True story: My friend walked into a room in his former church and found copies of the pastor's books stacked ceiling to ground. I wonder. Did the church purchase those books, hoping to sell them? Perhaps someone's hard earned tithe money went to furthering the kingdom by purchasing stacks of books to hold up the ceiling? Ask questions, folks, ask questions.
Does the Bible say you must give to the local church?
All authoritarian pastors tell us that we must give to support their vision and enterprise. Many of them also demand a tithe which they define as 10% gross. But, if you look carefully at Scripture, this is not said anywhere in the New Testament. And the actual percentage of the tithe in the Old Testament was greater than 10% but that is a subject for another day.
I would urge all of you to stop giving to rich churches and pastors or abusive churches and pastors. Do you think they even give a hoot about your sacrifice? Instead, look around you and find Christian ministries that are housed in old buildings, sacrificially serving the poor, the let down, the homeless, and the disenfranchised.
How about an African American church that helps poor kids after school or feeds people under the bridge? How about rescue missions that reach out to the unloved? There are ministries that look after persecuted people groups or victims of human trafficking. I bet each of you know quite a few. I know such ministries would be thrilled with your donation and you might feel like your have done something worthwhile and eternal. Your money would actually do more good with these groups than the purchase of one more Bose speaker for Sunday morning.
Lydia's Corner: Genesis 3:1-4:26 Matthew 2:13-3:6 Psalm 2:1-12 Proverbs 1:7-9