Should Members Keep Giving Money to a Church That Refuses to Disclose the Pastor’s Salary?

"We're all working together; that's the secret." Sam Walton link


Secret Smiley

Today I became involved in a discussion on Twitter that raised a question. Should members of a church know the salary and benefits of their pastor(s)?

Three anecdotal experiences on pastors and their salaries

1. A former church:

Except for *Deplorable William,* most folks seemed to believe that the membership should know the salary and benefit package of the pastor. This raised another question. Why do many churches not make it easy for to learn the pastors' salaries? In one of my former churches, one member asked to see the salaries of the pastors. The administrative assistant seemed annoyed and called an elder. The elder met with the member and asked "Why?" The member answered that he was giving money to the church and wanted to see how it was being used.

Reluctantly, the elder led the member into a locked room. The member was force to leave his phone and all writing utensils outside the room. With a stern expression, the elder presented the member with the documents and sat there until the member was done. Once again, why? What are they afraid of?

2. An email from a reader about an interview with a candidate for a worship pastor position.

A growing Baptist church in the Midwest was looking for a person with experience in leading worship. One young applicant (mid 20s) had some experience with a large church in Texas. The description of the church sounded similar to Ed Young JR's Fellowship Church. The young man, exhibiting a rather arrogant, "I know it all" attitude, then said he would not consider the position for anything less than in the low $100,000 range before benefits! He was politely escorted out the door.

3. A comment on Reddit about a pastor's large salary.

Throwaway account here. I recently started to try and live a Christian life once more after being agnostic for the last few years. I've been going to a mid-sized Presbyterian church in a decent part of town(somewhat close to me) and I've been tithing regularly, really trying to be part of the community and support the church and their services and charity work. I just found out the pastor makes over $360,000 per year and I'm really struggling with this. 

The long to short of it is that I started looking for service opportunities with the church and noticed that despite being a good size church, they don't have any service opportunities other than a small "Living Water" group that goes once a year. We have no other charity opportunities or even someone in the church that would set this up. My friend who is on the committee that votes on where the money is going(not sure what the official name is) told me that I could organize service opportunities if I so chose. The conversation went something like this:

Me: "Hey, what are the upcoming service or charity opportunities?"

Him: "Well….we don't really have someone that does that but you are welcome to set something up and I'll email the church members to gauge interest."

Me: "Uh, well then where is my money going? I thought it was going to service?"

Him: "Well we just voted to give the pastor a slight raise, bringing his salary to $360,000 but please keep that between us. There's not really room in the budget to bring on a full-time service organizer"

This threw me for a loop, he got defensive, and I got into an argument with my friend as he claimed that we needed to keep the salary high to attract and keep good pastors(one of our pastors recently left). The church is in a nice area and he also claimed that they decided to pastor needed to make enough so he can afford a house close to the church. Apparently the other administrators and higher ups in the church make over six figures as well according to him.

Obviously I'm heartbroken at where my money is going, with my understanding that most of my donations would go to helping those less fortunate. The other members of the church are unaware of his salary and I was asked to keep the salary disclosure secret from everyone else. The other members seem to be unaware of how much the pastor makes and just assumes the church is handling the money as it sees fit.

Has anyone else seen this and struggled with this? Is it right for a pastor to make so much money? I understand that this may be the "free market" at work but the members have no idea about the allocation of their tithes. What is your views on this? I'm just so disheartened I'm thinking that my foray back into Christianity was a mistake. I understand that pastors need to make a living but this seems…excessive, especially when we have such a weak service division. 

Sorry if this seems long-winded and scattered, just trying to get my thoughts out there. I'm not saying that pastors should live with vows of poverty but that is a hell of a salary!

Why are churches not transparent with the salaries of pastors?

In 2014, Forbes magazine posted Court Rules Churches Can Continue To Conceal Financial Information

Most charities are subject to some level of transparency, but not churches.  That leaves it up to the members to demand transparency.  If you meet resistance from the leadership, maybe you might consider that rather than a sheep who is being fed, you are one that is being shorn.

L Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology made the following comment, was quoted in the Forbes article:

L Ron Hubbard is reputed to have remarked to fellow author Theodore Sturgeon " Y'know, we're all wasting our time writing this hack science fiction,  You wanta make real money, you gotta start a religion ".  It would get even better.  The thirty year war that his religion, Scientology, waged with the IRS ended in 1993 with Scientology organizations being recognized as churches.

Churches are exempt from filing Form 990 which is required of non profit organization. These forms give information on the salaries of the leaders of such groups. You can read about this in Court Rules Churches Can Continue To Conceal Financial Information

This lack of transparency encourages the wrong people to enter the ministry.

From the 2014 Forbes article:

The strongest voice I have noted for church financial transparency is that of Reverend Frank Benson Jones.  In his book Stop The Prosperity Preachers he argues that lack of transparency is one of the things that draws the wrong type of people into ministry.  He believes that if the profits were removed, only prophets would remain.

Non-disclosure agreements in churches are red flags.

I have heard of some churches that require the members of the staff to sign non-disclosure agreements, and that is a sure sign the church is doing something wrong. Requiring churches and religious organizations to file an IRS form 990 would in no way impede the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion, but it would help to expose those greedy preachers who are using the constitution to conceal their improper accumulation of wealth at the expense of American citizens.

Reverend Jones finds prosperity preachers forming something of a mutual admiration society to keep their con going.

Any evangelist who preached to a congregation that the pastor should obey 2 Corinthians 8:20-21 by giving full financial disclosure to the congregation would not be invited back to that church and would probably be put on the undesirable list by other prosperity preachers who heard of the evangelist’s message. Any evangelist who is known for failing to support a pastor’s right to maintain the confidentiality of a church’s finances would be committing economic suicide and would eventually not be welcomed by the prosperity preachers who could afford to give such an evangelist the largest offerings.

Why should we know the salaries of Congress but not our pastors? 

I find it strange and appalling that the salary of the president of the United States is made public; the salaries of the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives are made public; the salaries of every state governor are made public; but the salaries of pastors and church employees are kept confidential and top secret.

The large salaries of pastors and leaders of Christian non-profits are embarrassing.

The Deseret News wrote Why Franklin Graham’s salary raises eyebrows among Christian nonprofits.

Franklin Graham’s annual compensation of $880,000, revealed in a Charlotte Observer story, has some worrying that too many top Christian nonprofit leaders as well as pastors are seeing themselves as CEOs instead of as God’s servants.

…CEOs at the top 50 U.S. charities, including Samaritan’s Purse, earn in the $350,000 to $450,000 range, which makes Graham’s $622,000 salary from his aid organization alone about 40 percent to 50 percent higher than average, according to a Forbes story. He receives the rest of his $258,000 compensation as CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

A spokesman for Franklin Graham said his compensation was determined by independent commissions that compared similar organizations’ top salaries. Graham was not available to answer questions.

…In a 2011 comparison of megachurch pastors’ salaries, two senior pastors made $1 million and $1.1 million. Others were a fourth to less than half of that.

Among the exceptions: Southern Baptist the Rev. Ed Young, senior pastor at Fellowship Church in Grapevine, Texas, pulled in well over $1 million, according to a 2012 Dallas television news report. And in 2013, his last year as pastor at Seattle’s Mars Hill Church, the Rev. Mark Driscoll was drawing a $607,000 package, with a $150,000 raise promised.

Taxpayers are subsidizing these salaries.

Do you know what the federal nondistribution constraint is? 

“It’s a moral issue particularly for a man of faith,” Pablo Eisenberg, a senior fellow at the Georgetown University Center for Public & Nonprofit Leadership, told the Observer. “And also you have to remember that (compensation is) partly paid for by the taxpayer. In a sense, we the taxpayers are subsidizing Frank Graham’s salary and his relatives who are paid.”

Nonprofits are governed by the federal nondistribution constraint, which specifies that in return for tax-exempt status, they will use donations for the good of clients and not distribute excessive amounts to those who oversee the organization, Dixon said.

“I don’t have a problem with people like Franklin making so much money as long as the janitor is making $60,000 to $80,000, a good living wage,” she said.

How is it done in the UK?

One of our readers sent me this comment a few minutes ago. I doubt Ed Young JR or Steven Furtick would set up shop  in the UK?

In the UK, virtually all churches are “charities”, giving the churches and also some of their donors tax benefits. As charities, the churches require to file annual accounts, which are accessible to the public online at the Government charities website. As I understand it, churches which are charities require to disclose in their accounts individuals who receive more than £60,000 per year from the church-this is disclosed by numbers of individuals rather than names or job titles, and it is disclosed against increasing increments of £10,000.

If one assumes that the senior pastor is the highest earner in the church, then the senior pastor’s salary can be identified to the nearest £10,000 increment, provided the senior pastor is paid above £60,000. Some churches which are charities actually include their annual accounts on their church websites and/or identify those receiving £60,000 or more by name or job title.

An experiment for you to carry out in your church.

in 2010, Stuff Christian Culture Like posted Concealing the Pastor's Salary.

Here is a fun experiment you can try with any church of your choosing. Ask to see their yearly financial report. They will either ignore you or provide you with a Word document. If you receive a document it might have one big number covering all salaries and you have no way of knowing what each staff member is paid, let alone their patriarch. Now here is where it gets interesting. If you inquire further, there's an excellent chance they will bristle and then shame you for asking. Stand strong

Do not fall for the old "The pastor is accountable to a board of trustees " shtick.

If a church has a tight reign on their spending disclosure, they often claim that their church financial records are accountable to a board of trustees. If you press further, you will likely find that said trustees live out of state and also pastor their own megachurches. What was that? My spidey sense is tingling! Or maybe it was just my imagination. No wait…now the lead pastor is getting into his Escalade and heading home to his gated community. Yeah. That was my spidey sense, all right.

Do you want to see how this works? TWW posted Elevation Church: Bamboozled by Steven Furtick’s Ridiculous Compensation Committee? Here is an excerpt.

Furtick, along with his buddy, the erstwhile "Chunks," refuse to tell you, their church contributors, including the leadership, how much money Furtick (and probably "Chunks" as well) is paid by Elevation. Furtick claims to be overseen by an "appointed" group of mega church pals to set his salary and benefits. I guess only those who labor daily in the fruitful vineyards are capable of understanding the intricacies of pastor wealth acquisition and how it is tied to the gospel.

One would assume that Furtick would go to great lengths to have some folks on the committee who are not "raking it in." That does not seem to be the case.

…So who are these guys?

Ed Young Jr: Fellowship Church, Dallas/Grapevine, TX
Perry Noble: NewSpring Church, Anderson, SC
Stovall Weems : Celebration Church, Jacksonville, FL
Kevin Gerald : Champions Center, Seattle, WA
Jack Graham Prestonwood Baptist, Dallas/Plano,TX

My thoughts on the matter

Until I was a member of Ed Young JR's church, I never questioned the salaries of pastors. I watched the lifestyle Ed and his wife were living and became suspicious. Of course, I couldn't find out his salary. I quit shortly thereafter.

Another former pastor had lots of vacation time, spoke at lots of conferences, and always flew on the church's dime to *encourage* the missionaries all over the world. At that church I learned he was making $150,000/yr but he got other income from his outside conferences, book deals, and free trips all around the world. I wonder if writing books and going to conferences was on the church's time. I believe some pastors, including this one, double and triple dip. I quit that church as well.

There is one well known pastor here in the Triangle who lives in a $600,000 home, gets toted around in private jets, speaks all over the place for good money and also published books. I do not go to his church but I know that members cannot access his salary.

I believe that members who give money to a church have a right to know what the pastor makes. Why should I give money to people I do not know if they will not tell me how it is spent. A corollary: Why should I sign a membership covenant to be under the *authority* not someone I do not know.

Some churches ask a lot of people. Be submissive to us, give money to us and do what we say or we will discipline you. On the other hand, there are churches in which the pastors lead humble, live in modest homes and drive second hand cars. In those circumstances, I do not bother to check their salaries although I could.

If you are in a church in which you suspect the pastor is living large at your expense and you cannot find out his salary, get out of that church or stop giving. Give your money to nonprofits which must disclose the salaries of the leaders. 

Church members should say that they won't give until they know the salaries of the leaders.

So what say you?


Comments

Should Members Keep Giving Money to a Church That Refuses to Disclose the Pastor’s Salary? — 275 Comments

  1. Because non-profits must make their financial information public but churches don’t, you’re starting to see some “religious” non-profits fold their operations into a church so they no longer need to make their financial information public.

    Here’s my rule for any church looking for a pastor – offer a decent salary that allows them to make a living in the local area, but don’t offer high salaries thinking you’ll attract better candidates – it doesn’t work like that, sadly. By offering a decent salary you’ve got a fighting chance of attracting a number of applicants who are more interested in the work itself and actually ministering to people. Offer really high salaries and you’ll attract greedy narcissists like buzzards to a gut wagon, as my grandfather used to say.

  2. In our church, the whole congregation decides on the budget, including pastor’s salary. I would never go to any church that did it any way.

  3. And if you’re asked to donate money, you, as the donor, have every right to know where that money is going. If they won’t tell you, it’s pretty much a guarantee that one or more people are using that organization as their own personal piggy bank.

    The last church I attended before I moved printed their monthly financials on the back page of the bulletin.

  4. Another EXCELLENT POST!! Great questions raised.

    Court rules it is legal to not disclose – however, it is also legal to walk away. Yes. If you are contributing, why should you not know?

    The post asks: Why are churches not transparent with salaries? – Good reason to STAY AWAY – as the post warns – It is a big red flag. Why would ANYONE even attend a church where the money is not transparent? Good grief, even civil servants, such as police and teachers, have salaries posted publicly.

    Finally, there are organizations for financial accountability that evaluate non-profits. When we found out our local church was rated poorly, (online research), we left.

  5. In my own life, I have been pondering how to apply the words of Jesus about money:

    “ ‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.’ ”
    ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6:24‬ ‭NIV‬‬
    http://bible.com/111/mat.6.24

    I wonder how much overly paid Christian leaders of churches or charities think about this verse.

  6. Membership contracts have taken into account those of you who sinfully crave answers, don’t receive them and decide to withhold your money.

    This from the membership contract of my former church in Dubai:

    “We will contribute cheerfully, generously and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the Gospel through all nations. (Matt 28:19; Luke 12:33; 2 Cor 9:7)”

  7. *shameless plug here* Everyone be sure to click on that “Court Rules Churches Can Continue To Conceal Financial Information” link in the article. The writer is my friend Peter J. Reilly, who is a CPA in Massachusetts and regularly writes on various tax issues for Forbes, such as the church tax issues and things like “hobby losses.” 🙂

  8. JeffT wrote:

    Because non-profits must make their financial information public but churches don’t, you’re starting to see some “religious” non-profits fold their operations into a church so they no longer need to make their financial information public.

    Because of the embarrassment of the salary Franklin Graham was pulling down from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, BGEA moved to change its status to a church. And the IRS approved it. We’ll never know how many millions Franklin is taking now.

    http://religionnews.com/2016/09/29/irs-changes-status-of-billy-grahams-ministry/

    According to its most recent IRS disclosures, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association took in almost $107 million in 2015. Samaritan’s Purse recorded an income of $593 million for that year. Franklin Graham was compensated a total of more than $1 million between both groups.

    You shouldn’t give money to BGEA *or* Samaritan’s Purse. *scowl*

  9. We used the annual Compensation Handbook for Church Staff publication to establish salaries. This publication gives ranges for various positions in churches of varying sizes and situations. It is quite helpful.

  10. Interesting post about an age-old issue.

    If that Redditor said large Presbyterian church instead of medium, I would’ve bet he went my previous church.

    I don’t know if I would demand salary information as soon as I walk into a church, but it’s a matter of discernment. My question is if ministers understand the financial constraints of the members they are supposed to minister to. If not, forget about “submitting to authority”. Just a few days I saw @ChortlesWeakly and company scoffing at pastors telling people to hire childcare and go on dates every week, as if everyone can afford that!

    Another reason is, I think if a church had something to hide, they’ll still hide it. Now in Texas, anyone can look up property values by owner on county collector assessor district websites. For my favorite church in Dallas, Watermark Community Church, the head pastor lives in a University Park (Park Cities = elite neighborhood in Dallas) home valued at $1.4 million. I’ve seen it happen more than once on forums, where someone asks why a pastor needs a $1.4 million house in a neighborhood better than the one his church is in, and his followers very emotionally point out that a Watermark member gave him that house. Because you can just give someone a $1.4 million asset right?

  11. I am on the congregationally elected board of my church. We set the staff’s salary. We publish the budget including salaries once a year when the congregation votes to approve the the budget. All board meetings are open, except sensitive personal matters, which do not include budget meetings. Anyone can talk and listen to what is going on.
    I have been in churches where this was all a big secret. I cannot do that anymore. Dee is 100% right that if spending is not transparent, stop giving and or leave.
    My question is whether churches with transparency in their spending tend to be better attended than those that are secretive? My feeling is that the secretive churches emphasize attendance and growth more because the leadership sees that directly as ca$h in their pockets. My experience is that churches that exhibit growth and are flashy about it attract more wealthy givers who want to be associated with that sort of “success”. Other people with more modest means attend as “wannabees”. My own church has modest attendance numbers and does not push growth through prosperity gospel or bandwagoning onto this week’s popular Christian cause. While their are some wealthy folks in the church they live modestly and give extravagantly. Our new attendees tend to be the folks that are disillusioned by the previous type. Sorry if I come across as cynical, but I have been around the block a few times.

  12. This is bullcrap. In my church denomination, the budget (including pastor’s salary package) is always dissected line item by line item at the annual congregational meeting and then voted on by all the members. And guess what… Our pastors are not getting rich off the sheeple. I had no idea this nearly criminal secrecy was the norm in churches.

  13. @ Muslin, fka Dee Holmes:
    I can get really cynical about Franklin Graham.
    The Samaritan’s Purse- Operation Christmas Child is nearly a complete waste of resources. How can it make any sense to package shoe boxes full of trinkets and gospel tracts into shipping containers and AIR FREIGHT them to Africa? If you really want to bless children in the name of Jesus, then operate a school, dig a water well or provide medical attention to mothers and babies. Operation Christmas Child is a public relations gimmick. It makes givers feel warm and fuzzy about Samaritan’s Purse and not ask any questions about Franklin’s salary or political machinations.
    Somebody prove me wrong!

  14. Loren Haas wrote:

    I can get really cynical about Franklin Graham.
    The Samaritan’s Purse- Operation Christmas Child is nearly a complete waste of resources. How can it make any sense to package shoe boxes full of trinkets and gospel tracts into shipping containers and AIR FREIGHT them to Africa? If you really want to bless children in the name of Jesus, then operate a school, dig a water well or provide medical attention to mothers and babies. Operation Christmas Child is a public relations gimmick. It makes givers feel warm and fuzzy about Samaritan’s Purse and not ask any questions about Franklin’s salary or political machinations.
    Somebody prove me wrong!

    I agree–and seriously, if you pitch a well, supporting a school or a medical clinic just right, people will contribute. I mean, wouldn’t it give you a warm fuzzy just to think that your money is going to pay for a school and teachers in another country where education is a leg up to a better life? It does ME.

  15. A question for anybody in the know:

    Is there a move afoot on the part of our lawmakers to change the non-profit regulations so that these guys must abide by the same transparency rules (no exemptions) non-religious 501-c3(s) must abide by?
    If not, there needs to be one.

  16. PewSitter wrote:

    This is bullcrap. In my church denomination, the budget (including pastor’s salary package) is always dissected line item by line item at the annual congregational meeting and then voted on by all the members.

    That’s how it is in the churches in my area. I have been a member of 3 different churches (small, Baptist, congregation). All of those churches present line item income and expenditures down to the penny at every monthly business meeting…… tithes, Lottie Moon, special love offerings, association expenses, pastor’s salary and insurance, cleaning expenses, fellowship meal expenses, financial gifts to people in need, etc.
    I can’t wrap my head around how so many people are so willing to turn a blind eye, and how may so-called MoG think it’s nobody’s business what they do with money that is given in God’s name. But, then I live in a rural area. We’re about twenty years behind on everything. I guess we just don’t know how up-town it is to swindle pew potatoes. Uhm, we’re nosy, too. Yanking the church treasurer’s statement would never fly.
    I can’t understand how people attend rip off organizations that call themselves churches.

  17. We used to be employed at Samaritan’s Purse for over 13 years. SP has always applied to be considered a church/collection of churches like BGEA did and it is all about hiding how much money Franklin Graham pulls down each year. Last year combined salaries between SP and BGEA for Franklin totalled over $1.2 million. The janitors are NOT being paid handsomely, btw. Just Franklin and his cadre of VPs. There is so much wrong there.

    We can’t figure out why all the donors of BGEA aren’t clamoring for answers. BGEA is NOT a church or even a collection of churches. It’s simply not true.

  18. JYJames wrote:

    Good grief, even civil servants, such as police and teachers, have salaries posted publicly.

    That’s what I was thinking. Every public employee from the police department, to the schools, and public colleges in my state (California) salary can be found online. Even the salaries of those working in public hospitals is found online.

  19. Loren Haas wrote:

    @ Muslin, fka Dee Holmes:
    I can get really cynical about Franklin Graham.
    The Samaritan’s Purse- Operation Christmas Child is nearly a complete waste of resources. How can it make any sense to package shoe boxes full of trinkets and gospel tracts into shipping containers and AIR FREIGHT them to Africa? If you really want to bless children in the name of Jesus, then operate a school, dig a water well or provide medical attention to mothers and babies. Operation Christmas Child is a public relations gimmick. It makes givers feel warm and fuzzy about Samaritan’s Purse and not ask any questions about Franklin’s salary or political machinations.
    Somebody prove me wrong!

    I stopped packing boxes for Samaritan’s Purse when I figured this out. I agree with you.
    And there are direct needs in my community: help the elderly, help homeless college students, etc.

    We have needs right here in The Wartburg Watch community. I asked myself why I was giving to these non-profits that had hundreds of millions of dollars, in some cases billions of dollars. That’s not how I choose to give any more.

    I won’t even give to the Red Cross after they kept the money that so money of us donated to Haiti and never helped the people rebuild there after the devastation. No water wells, homes, schools, hospitals. Not what we were promised as donors.

  20. “Should Members Keep Giving Money to a Church That Refuses to Disclose the Pastor’s Salary?”

    no

    Excuses for not being ‘transparent’ are a pitiful substitute for honest fair dealing with the people of the Church.

    What kind of ‘pastor’ wants to keep his salary a secret?
    Certainly keeping that kind of secret would be done for no good reason, and it would be a sin to encourage the pastor to keep secret his salary for a bad reason, wouldn’t it? Common sense.

    Plus it is a mark of respect for the pastor to be open with the members of his congregation. Keeping secrets implies he doesn’t trust them, or thinks that they, who pay his salary, have no right to know how much out of the plate he is taking …..

    ain’t no GOOD reasons for secrecy …. and plenty of bad ones

  21. Absolutely yes!
    And those benefits such as health, retirement, house payments etc etc etc can and to often are hidden in so many various places.
    I would also say this is true for your local school district where the Supts. salary and benefits are well hidden and not clear in the generalized budget that is presented to the board (which doesn’t get presented to the public).

  22. I’ve never been involved in a church where the pastor’s salary and other compensation was not disclosed. Color me surprised…again.

    I’m not willing to say what the salary should be as a stated number. $100,000 won’t go very far in my very large city where the median house price is $750,000 and there are hardly any for sale even at that price. But that would be an enormous amount of money in the town I am from—-median house price $125,000.

    Pastors shouldn’t be kept in penury, but neither should it be a gravy-train job.

    Maybe if we ALL tried living a little more simply like Christ did, instead of either expecting the pastor to do it on our behalf or exempting the pastor from doing so, everything would make a lot more sense.

  23. My husband receives a salary based on an average recommended of all the other churches in the denomination about that size. And while we are not in the poor house, it did cost us $52k to go through seminary. And I do want to point out that on average, pastors make way less than other professionals that are required to have a master’s degree.

    Non disclosure of salaries boggles my mind, although most of the stuff these churches do is so far outside my experience, I am constantly amazed…

  24. PaJo wrote:

    Pastors shouldn’t be kept in penury, but neither should it be a gravy-train job.

    I once read that a pastor should receive a salary similar to the average member of their congregation. If it’s more, then the pastor is exploiting the congregation, and if it’s less, then the congregation is exploiting the pastor.

    I don’t have much experience in this area, but that seems to be a sensible approach.

  25. @ drstevej:

    “We used the annual Compensation Handbook for Church Staff publication to establish salaries. This publication gives ranges for various positions in churches of varying sizes and situations. It is quite helpful.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Why should the size of the church have any bearing on salaries?

    Who writes the handbook?

  26. Stan wrote:

    I’ve seen it happen more than once on forums, where someone asks why a pastor needs a $1.4 million house in a neighborhood better than the one his church is in, and his followers very emotionally point out that a Watermark member gave him that house. Because you can just give someone a $1.4 million asset right?

    Indeed they did.

    I wonder if anyone asks why there are so many homeless sleeping outdoors they would similarly point out that no Watermark members contributed to homeless shelters?

  27. Ian wrote:

    PaJo wrote:
    Pastors shouldn’t be kept in penury, but neither should it be a gravy-train job.
    I once read that a pastor should receive a salary similar to the average member of their congregation. If it’s more, then the pastor is exploiting the congregation, and if it’s less, then the congregation is exploiting the pastor.
    I don’t have much experience in this area, but that seems to be a sensible approach.

    But it’s common for “church plants” (new churches) to intentionally rent space in the highest priced neighborhoods. That skews the “salary”.

    They aren’t planting churches in poorer neighborhoods where I live (Silicon Valley, California). And that’s quite intentional.

  28. i think money compromises the mission of a church, its raison d’etre.

    if money were removed from the church equation (no paid staff, all volunteers, time/treasure/talent is all directed outward — nothing stays in-house), the integrity of it would jazz me like crazy!

    now, it’s possible another currency might come into play, like the currency of power — and that would suck. but knowing the non-profit is no longer a profit center enriching itself would be more than enough for me to heartily participate.

    i have to think there are many who feel this way.

  29. Hello, one and all. I am a pastor between calls, so I have had some extra time on my hands the past few months. I have read this blog and a couple of others which catalog abuses in the church in the United States. Frankly, it’s appalling and depressing! I went had 5 years of college, pre-seminary (Double Major– Religion and Bible) and then 4 years of seminary at a VERY rigorous institution. I NEVER had an expectation that I would be well off financially. In fact, ministers are supposed to be free from the love of money! See 1 & 2 Timothy. We pursue ordained ministry because we– ostensibly!!– believe that God has called us to serve His church, not to make a buck. I do not see how materialistic pastors can claim to be “free from the love of money.”

    In my last church, I made 54,000 a year. That was to cover EVERYTHING– salary, retirement, expenses, health insurance, EVERYTHING– except housing. The church provided me with a parsonage, an older, rustic home which was built in 1937. It wasn’t fancy, but it got the job done. It had four bedrooms and plenty of room. The church I served prior to that one I believe I made around 65,000. Again, that included EVERYTHING. There was no parsonage, so I had a housing allowance. The church was in a capital city, and the people made better money, but the pay was only a little more. That was in 2006.

    Anyway, I serve in a denomination that tends to pay its ministers more than the average pastor. Many, many ministers serve small churches in denominations whose constituency is historically poorer than typical Americans. Some are barely making it. So, to read of these exorbitant salaries is disturbing. I am very, very disillusioned with much of what passes for Christianity in the US. “Churchianity” is a better word for it.

    Just know that in spite of all the corruption and tom-foolery, there are some pastors who take God’s word seriously and aren’t in it for the buck. $600,000? $800,000? $1,000,000? Franklin Graham? Steven Furtick? Ed Young? Mark Driscoll? Good grief.

    Well, it’s 3:30 AM and I have to turn in. Keep the faith.

    Pastor T.

  30. Here’s a rather unrepresentative example from the UK. Click on this link:

    http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Showcharity/RegisterOfCharities/FinancialHistory.aspx?RegisteredCharityNumber=1120355&SubsidiaryNumber=0

    It will bring up the accounts filings for Hillsong UK.

    You can look at the actual accounts by clicking “view” in the right hand column. Choose the most recent accounts, for the year ending Dec 2015.

    At the bottom of page 19 of the PDF, you can see the salary breakdown. One person has a salary in the range GBP 140K – 150K. That’s undoubtedly Gary Clarke, lead pastor. Another person is paid 130K to 140K. That’s probably his wife Cathy, who is also a lead pastor. These are huge salaries in the UK and will give the couple a standard of living most people can only dream of.

    By way of comparison, I checked the accounts for three Baptist churches: one in central London, and two in wealthy commuter towns around 25 miles away. The latter two are large and influential. None of the three churches paid anyone more than GBP 60K. The central London church disclosed the salaries of their three pastors, two at GBP 33K and one at GBP 22K. One of the other churches paid their senior pastor GBP 51K, the other didn’t disclose their pastor’s salary but it would be less than GBP 60K. (All pastors received pension contributions in addition to their salaries). £51K is probably at the top end for a UK Baptist pastor, but the church is one of the biggest Baptist churches in the country, in a particularly well-off neighbourhood.

    Incidentally, our prime minister gets GBP 142K, and I believe the Archbishop of Canterbury, the most senior figure in the Church of England, with huge responsibilities, gets around GBP 75K.

  31. Ian wrote:

    I once read that a pastor should receive a salary similar to the average member of their congregation. If it’s more, then the pastor is exploiting the congregation, and if it’s less, then the congregation is exploiting the pastor.
    I don’t have much experience in this area, but that seems to be a sensible approach.

    This is what I’ve come to as well. I’d be okay with a little higher than the average member. I think a lot of pastors would suddenly find other jobs.

    I lived in Alpharetta, GA for 26 years until recently. Home of North Point, but there were several other megachurches. Very affluent area, and lots of Christians to begin with, many who have church-hopping down to an art. You know, every one of North Point’s satellites are in the most affluent areas of Georgia? North Point might be short on some of these big scandals, but they aren’t rushing into the needy places. Nope, they plant churches in area like Buckhead with the million dollar apartments or up at Browns Bridge where all the million dollar lake homes are.

    This trend of high pastoral salaries has led to church planting only in rich areas. And I agree with elastigirl that if churches were planted that were entirely volunteer, we’d probably see them go into much different places.

  32. ishy, North Point’s pastor lives in Milton in a home now assessed at over $1.5 million. And like most of these mega pastors, you have to know what name or LLC they purchase the home so as not to have that information public. Therefore when reviewing local tax real estate records, linking the home and name can be a challenge. Many people were not happy with Stanley back in the late 90’s when he left his father’s church to set up North Point. It was a 2 year ordeal to get the church up and running and the famous quote was in terms of selecting a church location: “Build it and they will come”. During the early days of those 2 yrs when North Point was a congregation meeting 2x’s a month at Cobb Galleria, Stanley had 4 staff people. He initially had a staff budget of $20,000 monthly which they exceeded in donations/tithes whatever you want to call it. This was not exceedingly enriching but Stanley was pushing books via his dad which was supplementing his salary allowing him to live at that time in a home in Dunwoody that few and any can afford. The interesting thing is many of his buddies that are linked to North Point via non profits do in fact file 990’s. These are guys that would be unable to work jobs because their only skills is “mouth” not “hands”. On the 990’s, you find salaries that average between $160,000-$600,000, and let us not forget they receive allowances such as car, travel, house, health, etc. This is big big business. Not ministry. Look at what Luther did when he could not withhold his outrage at the indulgences of the Catholic church. It is absolutely frightening that we have a church structure that we as congregants willingly support via our managing what the Lord has blessed us with, our finances. I live in a poor community. There is a local church, been around for almost 100 years. Has a staff person that makes $75,000 + benefits (average family income in our area is $28,000). So…this staff person has reached full retirement age, been at church for over 30 years. Serves in a capacity that is rarely needed and draws that annual payout. Now…if that man was a true servant, why does he burden the church when he could retire, get both his 30 yr retirement along with his government social security, and just serve people. His wife has a substantial retirement from the local school system. They are not servants. They continue to enrich themselves because they cannot pull away from living the lives they want, not the lives God intended for them. Great post ladies.

  33. ishy wrote:

    I lived in Alpharetta, GA for 26 years until recently. Home of North Point, but there were several other megachurches. Very affluent area, and lots of Christians to begin with, many who have church-hopping down to an art. You know, every one of North Point’s satellites are in the most affluent areas of Georgia? North Point might be short on some of these big scandals, but they aren’t rushing into the needy places. Nope, they plant churches in area like Buckhead with the million dollar apartments or up at Browns Bridge where all the million dollar lake homes are.

    This is why I’ve concluded that church planting frequently has more to do with empire building and the self-interests of pastors than spreading the gospel.

    Whilst pastoral salaries are generally not high in the UK, there is some evidence of a similar trend. Church planting seems most popular in the wealthy south-east – London and the surrounding counties – which are already well-served by evangelical churches. There’s a lot less interest in taking the gospel to our equivalent of the US rustbelt – northern towns with lots of poverty and unemployment.

  34. prodinov wrote:

    This is big big business. Not ministry. Look at what Luther did when he could not withhold his outrage at the indulgences of the Catholic church.

    I couldn’t agree more. Wealth corrupts.

    There is a local church, been around for almost 100 years. Has a staff person that makes $75,000 + benefits (average family income in our area is $28,000). So…this staff person has reached full retirement age, been at church for over 30 years. Serves in a capacity that is rarely needed and draws that annual payout. Now…if that man was a true servant, why does he burden the church when he could retire

    Why doesn’t the church require this person to retire? What organisation employs someone without setting a retirement age? They could also make them redundant.

  35. Loren Haas wrote:

    My experience is that churches that exhibit growth and are flashy about it attract more wealthy givers who want to be associated with that sort of “success”.

    Entertainment. Lights, sound, action, media, coffee shop.

  36. Here is the episcopal church compensation guide, 2015 report.

    https://www.cpg.org/linkservid/52804A0F-D7BE-3E5F-DFC951500B70F3C2/showMeta/0/?label=2015%20Church%20Compensation%20Report

    About Franklin Graham, like father like son. There was a public ‘discussion’ about how much money Billy made back in the day and Billy defended his right to secrecy about any monies that he made from book sales and such. IIRC there was much opinion about this at the time. I don’t remember or perhaps never knew the details, only that Billy thought his financial position was his to know.

  37. prodinov wrote:

    It was a 2 year ordeal to get the church up and running and the famous quote was in terms of selecting a church location: “Build it and they will come”. During the early days of those 2 yrs when North Point was a congregation meeting 2x’s a month at Cobb Galleria, Stanley had 4 staff people. He initially had a staff budget of $20,000 monthly which they exceeded in donations/tithes whatever you want to call it. This was not exceedingly enriching but Stanley was pushing books via his dad which was supplementing his salary allowing him to live at that time in a home in Dunwoody that few and any can afford. The interesting thing is many of his buddies that are linked to North Point via non profits do in fact file 990’s. These are guys that would be unable to work jobs because their only skills is “mouth” not “hands”. On the 990’s, you find salaries that average between $160,000-$600,000, and let us not forget they receive allowances such as car, travel, house, health, etc. This is big big business. Not ministry.

    I wish I could say that was unusual in north metro Atlanta, but First Redeemer did the same thing via Rehobeth Baptist, and there’s probably others I’m just not thinking of at the moment. Then there’s Perimeter, which had a good model of small churches reaching individual communities, and once they saw what North Point was doing, they merged them all into a mega. Some of their small churches were nowhere near where Perimeter is now, and they just dumped those people or told them to drive two hours to go to the mega.

    Not only that, but heaven help you should you say a bad word about any of these churches in the area, but especially about North Point. People talk about North Point like it can’t do no wrong, and talk about megachurches like they’re doing amazing things for God, when really they’re just insular country clubs. As a single, when I visited churches they told me to just go to North Point, because they were “focused on families”. But North Point actually took the same focus and dumped their singles’ ministries, probably because they weren’t “profitable”.

  38. ishy wrote:

    probably because they weren’t “profitable”.

    I think that is precisely it. I read an article one time about how churches had to limit their percentage of single moms because they had little to contribute and because they were a drain on the church resources. So obviously churches are watching their demographics and going for what is profitable.

    I watched a church here (SBC mega) deliberately shift emphasis to married with kids and preferably SAHM families. I noticed that this not only shifted the demographic to a higher economic range (not every family has the resources to have a SAHM) but also gave the church free labor from the SAHMs and also a pool of kids to draw from for the school, not to forget to mention increased status in the community. And it worked, they got all that including more staff and more campuses and the ability to hire Mohler approved pastors. And they do mega theatrical productions at Christmas and Easter, and, and, and. Single moms and their children really cannot make that happen for a church.

    Like HUG said that Jesus said: they have their reward.

  39. Haven’t read all the comments yet, but I saw this exchange on twitter.

    How ridiculous! My church (before I had even joined) listed the salaries for each pastor, broken down even to percent for housing, and called for a vote. This is even a church that runs by session, but we vote on elders and deacons and apparently on this.

    Growing up baptist, I don’t think any of the details were secret either, although I was too young to go to business meetings. My dad certainly had all the details.

    So the idea that this stuff should be secret is nonsense.

  40. One fact I don’t see pointed out here about pastors’ salaries is that in the US they have tax breaks that most don’t have. These tax breaks allow their income to go farther than the average person.

    The big one is housing allowance. As I understand this, they can take their housing allowance tax-free such as to pay for any housing expenses including mortgage, repair etc. At the same time, they can use the interest deduction that most use for their home mortgage.

    Thus a salary that appears average compared to regular members is actually higher than average as a result of this tax break. Just something to keep in mind when comparing salaries.

    Also, if there is an expense/book allowance that is something most of us don’t have and is tax-free.

    Maybe the salaries shouldn’t be openly published but any member should at least be able to view what these salaries are.

  41. Todd Wilhelm wrote:

    This from the membership contract of my former church in Dubai:

    “We will contribute cheerfully, generously and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the Gospel through all nations. (Matt 28:19; Luke 12:33; 2 Cor 9:7)”

    BUZZWORD BINGO!
    BONUS FOR THE VERSE ZIP CODES!

  42. elastigirl wrote:

    Why should the size of the church have any bearing on salaries?

    Practically, I’m sure most tiny congregations cannot afford to pay high salaries, or maybe even a salary (maybe all they can afford is a stipend in many cases). So I get that. But it doesn’t also seem there should be a sliding scale that translates 20k people into 1mil salary.

  43. @ Todd Wilhelm:

    Watermark has its outreach, they run a health clinic, and I know they support some other things. But it’s all a black hole, and who knows how much of the pie that stuff is.

    Hey check this out, and I just found this for the first time. The Village Church, to their credit, posts their finances publically. Now someone help me out with this, because my eyeballs aren’t that great. Of their $21 MILLION budget, $17.5 MILLION stays inside the doors for salary and overhead?

    http://www.thevillagechurch.net/annual-report-2016/#giving-generosity

  44. This issue came up on Facebook the other day, and I did a quick check. In the US, the average salary of a pastor is $28,000/yr. Now surely that number is affected by the large number of pastors of very small churches who are bivocational, or work for free. In fact, the last time I checked, about 2/3 of the churches in the US had 75 members or less.

    I agree that salaries of a 501c3 should be a matter of open record. But as we expose information like this, we can give the impression that most or all pastors are megachurch millionaires, and that doesn’t seem to be the case.

  45. I have a huge pet peeve with concealed salaries as well as distinct benefits packages (medical, dental, retirement, travel expenses, pastor’s expenses), as was the case at my former church, Cornerstone Community Church of Atascadero, California.

    I have an even bigger problem with the denial of the existence of dual and exploitative relationships. Given the professional and confidential nature of the pastor-congregant (or even elder-congregant) relationship, the existence of “pastor appreciation day”, “pastor’s wife appreciation day”, should be forbidden by law. The practice or expectation of acceptance of gifts and services, especially volunteered professional services or discounted services by congregants should be forbidden by law and their acceptance punishable by the loss of one’s professional license. I was called upon numerous times to “volunteer” my medical services to all members of the pastor’s family (whose medical package my tithe also funded, when I paid out of pocket for my own coverage), and I am aware of “donated” labor to complete luxury additions on the pastor’s home as well as for friends of the church leadership. I’m not sure how “Pastor” has found this financially and ethically protected niche.

  46. okrapod wrote:

    Billy defended his right to secrecy about any monies that he made from book sales and such.

    I think I’ve said this before and I may make exception (*books written while being paid full time on church staff and written on church time, etc), but I don’t so much mind royalties from books. Provided everything is above board, written on your own time, not purchased by your organization as a sneaky way of funneling money to yourself. Church salaries are different. Non profit salaries are different. I have no idea what happened to billy graham crusade money, mostly because I’ve never looked, but all that should absolutely be transparent.

  47. ishy wrote:

    Some of their small churches were nowhere near where Perimeter is now, and they just dumped those people or told them to drive two hours to go to the mega.

    Wow!

    BTW, Northpoint is a car dealership here. So that amuses me. I had the whole concept of franchised churches.

  48. Steve240 wrote:

    As I understand this, they can take their housing allowance tax-free such as to pay for any housing expenses including mortgage, repair etc.

    Yes. As I mentioned, my church told us the percentage of salary devoted to housing. That’s the first time I remember hearing about that. I think it’s supposed to replace the parsonage.

  49. The SGM church we attended in Maryland (a CLC plant) would annually release the church budget, but the total compensation was just a single line item. We had bout 250 adult members, yet had 4 full time pastors and 3 full time “admins.” Salaries accounted for 70% of the entire budget, with only crumbs going to anything resembling local outreach, church programs, etc. We did of course make our annual dispersement to the SGM mothership. To think that the only thing we were accomplishing in our tithing for 8 years was simply supporting the pastors and their families (as well as SGM at large) left a pretty bad taste in our mouths.

    Don’t get me wrong, they were (seemingly) great people and all, but…it’s just not what we signed up for…

  50. Stan wrote:

    @ Todd Wilhelm:
    Watermark has its outreach, they run a health clinic, and I know they support some other things. But it’s all a black hole, and who knows how much of the pie that stuff is.
    Hey check this out, and I just found this for the first time. The Village Church, to their credit, posts their finances publically. Now someone help me out with this, because my eyeballs aren’t that great. Of their $21 MILLION budget, $17.5 MILLION stays inside the doors for salary and overhead?
    http://www.thevillagechurch.net/annual-report-2016/#giving-generosity

    I would say this is probably true for most churches. ALL the money to hey receive is tax free, but very little of it goes outside the church walls towards charity. This is why I believe churches should lose their 501c classification, or there should be some serious reporting guidelines, including how much money can be kept inside the walls. Most churches clearly do not do much charity work.

  51. okrapod wrote:

    I don’t remember or perhaps never knew the details, only that Billy thought his financial position was his to know.

    His organization would not get my money with that attitude. I cannot support the son either . . .

  52. Dear Mr. Dever,

    It is my understanding that 9Marks is not required to file Form 990 with the IRS. Under what exemption is the organization relying?

    I assume that 9marks does not qualify as a church or a unit of a church. So, it is an integrated auxiliary of a church, correct? Does that mean that it receives more than 50% of its support from CHBC?

  53. @ Relieved to be out of the Bubble:

    People want to believe that they are giving to a good cause. I refuse to give to Samaritans Purse because of Franklin Graham. People look to him like he is a prophet or something. Did he ever even pastor a church? I don’t get it either.

  54. I’m a pastor. I’m all for transparency. And this seems to be a very fair, worthwhile critique of megachurches.

    But as one who makes less than $50,000, with a church budget of $750,000+, I can also speak from experience and tell you that there are people out there who will use salary information (especially if it is deemed to be slightly above ‘modest’ in the individual’s eyes) to shame, manipulate, and power-play. It can create an unhealthy culture in the church in which members will begin to nitpick each and every spending purchase by the pastor. Can we attend to this side of the conversation as well?

    Can we attend to the other side

  55. Christiane wrote:

    Bridget wrote:
    Most churches clearly do not do much charity work.
    there are exceptions

    I didn’t say there were none. But I would want to see what is taken in, including salaries, gold, silver, paintings, buildings, gifts, etc., etc., compared to what is expended on charity. 🙂

  56. Relieved to be out of the Bubble wrote:

    Last year combined salaries between SP and BGEA for Franklin totalled over $1.2 million. The janitors are NOT being paid handsomely, btw. Just Franklin and his cadre of VPs.

    That explains why Franklin was so God’s Fanboy over Trump The Anointed.

    “ONE OF US!
    ONE OF US!
    GOOBLE! GOBBLE! ONE OF US!”
    — Todd Browning, Freaks

  57. Bridget wrote:

    I refuse to give to Samaritans Purse because of Franklin Graham. People look to him like he is a prophet or something.

    More than a prophet, actually.

    “THE VOICE OF A GOD, NOT OF A MAN!
    THE VOICE OF A GOD, NOT OF A MAN!”

  58. ishy wrote:

    Not only that, but heaven help you should you say a bad word about any of these churches in the area, but especially about North Point. People talk about North Point like it can’t do no wrong, and talk about megachurches like they’re doing amazing things for God, when really they’re just insular country clubs. As a single, when I visited churches they told me to just go to North Point, because they were “focused on families”. But North Point actually took the same focus and dumped their singles’ ministries, probably because they weren’t “profitable”.

    Somehow, this blast from the past seems appropriate:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fok6thZcCW8
    (Had to use the search string “mike oldfield north point” to find the song. “North point” alone gives you dozens of pages of megachurch propaganda.)

  59. JYJames wrote:

    Loren Haas wrote:
    My experience is that churches that exhibit growth and are flashy about it attract more wealthy givers who want to be associated with that sort of “success”.

    Entertainment. Lights, sound, action, media, coffee shop.

    Cage fight clubs. Pole Dancers. Zip lines. Pro wrestling…

  60. Velour wrote:

    We have needs right here in The Wartburg Watch community. I asked myself why I was giving to these non-profits that had hundreds of millions of dollars, in some cases billions of dollars. That’s not how I choose to give any more.

    Here in the TWW Community, you have a connection other than tax deductions at year-end.

  61. Stan wrote:

    I’ve seen it happen more than once on forums, where someone asks why a pastor needs a $1.4 million house in a neighborhood better than the one his church is in, and his followers very emotionally point out that a Watermark member gave him that house. Because you can just give someone a $1.4 million asset right?

    Anyone remember “The Bishop of Bling” in Germany?
    Guy got removed from office by Pope Francis for it.

  62. @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    “But earlier this year it emerged that the German Bishop had been given an impressive-sounding job in Rome as “delegate for catechesis” at the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation.

    And according to a report this weekend in a local paper, The Italian Insider, Bishop Tebartz-van Elst is enjoying suitably luxurious accommodation to go with his new job – a 200sq m penthouse close to Rome’s most famous and celebrated central square, Piazza Navona.”

    https://www.google.com/amp/www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/franz-peter-tebartz-van-elst-germanys-bishop-of-bling-in-new-scandal-over-penthouse-flat-in-rome-10499076.html%3Famp?client=ms-android-sprint-mvno-us

  63. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Anyone remember “The Bishop of Bling” in Germany?
    Guy got removed from office by Pope Francis for it.

    Yep. It was quite a scandal in Germany. The good bishop was spending more on a private flight to another country to deliver charity than he was donating to the country. He was ‘out-of-control bling’. No doubt Francis re-directed his path a bit. 🙂

  64. @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    My favorite part of the article that sounds familiar to all religious organizations:

    “The Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told The Independent that he did not wish to comment on Bishop Tebartz-van Elst’s new accommodation. “I don’t know anything about this. It’s nothing to do with me and I don’t wish to comment on this gossip,” he said.”

  65. now, about rainbows…

    saw an intact rainbow, the whole arc, this morning while driving the high school carpool. after drop off, i sent searching for it — i’d have to jump a few fences into some backyards to actually be ‘in it’, so that was out of the question. but i thought maybe i could ‘see it from the side’.

    but then it vanished.

    got me wondering… a rainbows wafer thin? are they as thick as the cluster of water vapor? or are they just the surface of the water vapor? are they 3 dimensional?

    seemed to me the rainbow was a perfect half circle interrupted by the surface of the earth. is there ever an uninterrupted full circle rainbow high in the sky?

    thought i’d put it out there, seeing as we’re all together here.

  66. In the United Methodist Church, the Pastor’s salaries are not only revealed annually, but voted on by all members in a special session.

  67. Missionaries seeking support usually need to provide a breakdown of their financial needs. So why not publish salaries?

  68. @ Dale:
    9Marks is a ministry of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, so Dever does not need to file a 990. This 990 business is a pet peeve of mine going back many decades before 9Marks, but it is another example of double standards, IMO.

  69. I don’t think 9Marks is claiming exemption as a ministry of CHBC. It is incorporated as a separate entity. According to guidestar.org 9Marks is exempt as a religious organization beginning in 1997. I don’t think it is considering itself a church or association of churches.

  70. Bridget wrote:

    People want to believe that they are giving to a good cause. I refuse to give to Samaritans Purse because of Franklin Graham. People look to him like he is a prophet or something. Did he ever even pastor a church? I don’t get it either.

    I see him as an alt-right political hack who gets big money off of his father’s name. He is not a man like his father, no.

  71. This is another reason that New Calvinists push an elder-rule church governance. The pastor and his hand-picked elder team determine what church leadership compensation will be … the congregation does not have a say. They may claim that elder-rule polity is Biblical (it is not), and that the congregation just needs to trust them, so they can control where the mammon goes. If church receipts and expenditures are not available to the pew, get the heck out of there and let the pulpit pick somebody else’s pocket.

    I actually had this conversation with a man in my community who was still attending a Southern Baptist church that was taken over by a young, restless and reformed pastor. He is a non-Calvinist, but decided to stay because his family has been attending there for years – it’s ‘his’ church. He doesn’t like the new leadership, nor their belief and practice – calling it “another gospel”, but continues to tithe there! I questioned him on that and he replied “Well, if they are not using my money right, they will be responsible to God for that.” My reply “No, sir, you are responsible to God for how you use the resources He has provided to you. If you continue to tithe into a work you don’t feel is right, you will stand before God to answer for that.” He pondered that for a minute … but still continues to go to ‘his’ church because his buddies do … they all think they will outlive the new pastor! Stinkin’ thinkin’.

  72. @ Dale:
    I am not a CPA and have no affiliation with 9Marks. However based on a relationship with a similiar set up, a religious exempt organization (with its own separate governing board) may be exempted from filing a 990 if it is properly affiliated with a properly recognized church. I do not recall the particulars of the requirements of that “protection,” but that is my understanding of the nature of the 9Marks 990 exemption.

    It is interesting that you mentioned 1997. The convergence of Mark Dever-C.J. Mahaney’s bromance and the birth of 9Marks at about the same time is certainly interesting. Did SGM ever file 990s?

  73. A local mega church exemplifies 2 more hidden ways the sheep can be fleeced. The Moses model pastor was really active in mission, frequently traveling overseas. Now if, hypothetically, he was in a decade-or-so long “relationship” with the staff member in charge of missions, it’s just possible that designated missions giving found its way into financing the wining, dining, and hotel rooms for indisgressions, without even first making it into salaries.
    Then, a year ago, the wolf resigned by telling the congregation God was moving him on sooner than expected, and God doing this and that and all very wonderful. Now if, hypothetically, he got a big severance package, and forgot to mention at the time that he’d been threatened with exposure if God didn’t move him on right then, then he was enjoying a last meal of tasty mutton. As an xmas gift the church was finally informed that their former beloved pastor had made some mistakes for which he was sorry and getting counseling. But they’ll never hear about the financial stuff, let alone get paid back.

  74. Bridget wrote:

    there are exceptions

    I didn’t say there were none. But I would want to see what is taken in, including salaries, gold, silver, paintings, buildings, gifts, etc., etc., compared to what is expended on charity.

    Paintings, buildings …. I wonder what the Church could get for the poor by selling the Sistine Chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica with it’s ceiling done by Michaelangelo? There is much that can be done, but when the treasures are more ‘world heritage’ and in the keeping of the Church as such, it becomes a different situation. Can we sell the catacombs that go five stories deep under the Vatican? What about selling the bones found in a niche there marked ‘Peter is here’?

    some things are not to be reckoned, but there is much ‘silver’ and ‘gold’ that might be sorted out and redirected for the poor, yes

    “G.K. Chesterton tells the story of the time that St. Francis of Assisi visited Rome and the pope of the day proudly showed him all the wondrous treasures of the Vatican. Referring to a story in the Biblical Book of Acts in which St. Peter spoke with a beggar in Jerusalem and told him he had no money, the pope pointed to the treasures around him and said, “Peter can no longer say ‘Silver and gold have I none.’”

    St. Francis’ response: “Neither can he say, ‘Rise up and walk.’”

  75. @ Steve240:

    ” tax breaks … housing allowance. As I understand this, they can take their housing allowance tax-free such as to pay for any housing expenses including mortgage, repair etc. At the same time, they can use the interest deduction that most use for their home mortgage.”
    ++++++++++++++

    i’m too deep in creative land to begin to understand taxes and accounting and all ‘dat.

    i’m curious to know what services and projects these tax dollars (which they keep) fund? is it tax for city use? county? state? federal? would the services be such as police? fire fighters? street resurfacing, road and highway creation and maintenance? what else?

    it’s all so nebulous.

    i’ve wanted to come up with a calculation to illustrate how a church’s and ordained minister’s neighborhood/town subsidizes them by paying for their share of services which they benefit from.

    maybe break down to show how much an individual citizen or family in the community ends up paying to cover for what the church / pastor don’t pay.

    and then if my fantasy conversation ever happens (previous pastor: “so, tell me, Elastigirl, why did you stop coming to our church? Tell me everything. Don’t hold back.”), i’ll be ready for it.

    (i mean, i’ve been ready for a few years, now, with my indepth presentation. it’s just this compelling financial piece that’s missing)

  76. I am no fan of Franklin Graham, but lest we get off balanced about him as compared to his father, check out the Wiki article on Billy Graham. Billy was very political. Adviser to three presidents it says, including the embarrassing Nixon-and-the-Jews situation. And that is just the surface of it.

  77. Okay, you legal eagles. Here are the Form 990 requirements:

    (g)Organizations not required to file annual returns.

    (1) Annual returns required by this section are not required to be filed by an organization exempt from taxation under section 501(a) which is:

    (i) A church, an interchurch organization of local units of a church, a convention or association of churches, or an integrated auxiliary of a church (as defined in paragraph (h) of this section);

    (ii) An exclusively religious activity of any religious order;

    (iii) An organization (other than a private foundation) described in section 6033(a)(3)(C), the gross receipts of which in each taxable year are normally not more than $5,000 (as described in paragraph (g)(3) of this section);

    (iv) A mission society (other than an organization described in section 509(a)(3)) sponsored by or affiliated with one or more churches or church denominations, more than one-half of the activities of which society are conducted in, or directed at persons in foreign countries;

    (h)Integrated auxiliary –

    (1)In general. For purposes of this title, the term integrated auxiliary of a church means an organization that is –

    (i) Described both in sections 501(c)(3) and 509(a) (1), (2), or (3);

    (ii) Affiliated with a church or a convention or association of churches; and

    (iii) Internally supported.

    (4)Internal support. An organization is internally supported, for purposes of paragraph (h)(1)(iii) of this section, unless it both –

    (i) Offers admissions, goods, services or facilities for sale, other than on an incidental basis, to the general public (except goods, services, or facilities sold at a nominal charge or for an insubstantial portion of the cost); and

    (ii) Normally receives more than 50 percent of its support from a combination of governmental sources, public solicitation of contributions, and receipts from the sale of admissions, goods, performance of services, or furnishing of facilities in activities that are not unrelated trades or businesses.

    (5)Special rule. Men’s and women’s organizations, seminaries, mission societies, and youth groups that satisfy paragraphs (h)(1) (i) and (ii) of this section are integrated auxiliaries of a church regardless of whether such an organization meets the internal support requirement under paragraph (h)(1)(iii) of this section.

  78. In our most recent former church, one of the red flags which we chose to ignore for a time was lumping church staff compensation into one line item. Questions about line items were not permitted in the congregational meeting, but members could get answers in private in the church office, and that seemed odd to me.

  79. Janet wrote:

    the existence of “pastor appreciation day”, “pastor’s wife appreciation day”, should be forbidden by law.

    At the former church it lasted a month, there was also an expected gift for Christmas that everyone contributed to.

  80. @ Gram3:

    “…so Dever does not need to file a 990. This 990 business is a pet peeve of mine going back many decades before 9Marks, but it is another example of double standards, IMO.”
    +++++++++++++

    i recall a former pastor, when questioned about tax exemptions & all, said, “it’s all perfectly legal.” as if to say it’s ethical.

    my thought was just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. doesn’t mean you’re not taking unfair advantage of your community.

    NEWS BULLETIN: RECENT REPORTS CONFIRM THAT PASTORS DO NOT HAVE TO USE TAX EXEMPTIONS. ACCORDING TO A NUMBER OF SOURCES, PASTORS CAN CHOOSE TO DECLINE THE TAX ADVANTAGES AFFORDED TO THEM.

  81. elastigirl wrote:

    is there ever an uninterrupted full circle rainbow high in the sky?

    Yes! Got to see one years ago while flying across the desert in a Cessna Skyhawk.

  82. Max wrote:

    They may claim that elder-rule polity is Biblical (it is not), and that the congregation just needs to trust them, so they can control where the mammon goes.

    There is nothing about an elder rule church that means this business has to be secret. Again, my session led (elder) church gave all of the information after church one day for every pastor on staff.

  83. @ Gram3:

    Well, going down the list, I don’t think 9Marks qualifies as:

    1) a church
    2) a religious order, or
    3) a mission society.

    Thus, it would need to qualify as an integrated auxiliary of a church. This would be logical if it deems itself affiliated with CHBC.

    It would then be subject to the 50% internal support test.

  84. @ Gram3:
    I thought they had doctrinal problems with parachurch organizations. Maybe I am confusing them with some other group.

  85. elastigirl wrote:

    i recall a former pastor, when questioned about tax exemptions & all, said, “it’s all perfectly legal.” as if to say it’s ethical.

    “But Everything We Did Was LEGAL!”
    — Los Angeles law firm, disbarred en masse several years ago for REAL shady business practices

  86. @ Bridget:

    Sadly true and I agree. How many Village Church campuses have Matt Chandler preaching on a video screen? Surely there’s some economies of scale that can happen? Compare to Highland Park Presbyterian (ECO), their budget is $10.1 million and $3.7 appears to go outside. Plus the offers of more information on their page is nice. So they’ve matched The Village on that with half the total budget.

    http://www.hppc.org/budget

  87. okrapod wrote:

    I am no fan of Franklin Graham, but lest we get off balanced about him as compared to his father, check out the Wiki article on Billy Graham. Billy was very political. Adviser to three presidents it says, including the embarrassing Nixon-and-the-Jews situation. And that is just the surface of it.

    And Billy pulled back from being “adviser to three presidents” after the Nixon situation came back to bite him. At least he realized he’d been used, which is more than you can say for his son.

  88. Stan wrote:

    @ Bridget:
    Sadly true and I agree. How many Village Church campuses have Matt Chandler preaching on a video screen?

    You mean Big Brother on all the Telescreens?

  89. Lydia wrote:

    @ Christiane:
    His father made sure he was in line to takeover.

    To which you can echo my roomie’s comment re Elron Hubbard and David Miscavage:
    “Roos Bolton really F’ed up, didn’t he?”

  90. Lydia wrote:

    @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    My favorite part of the article that sounds familiar to all religious organizations:

    “The Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told The Independent that he did not wish to comment on Bishop Tebartz-van Elst’s new accommodation. “I don’t know anything about this. It’s nothing to do with me and I don’t wish to comment on this gossip,” he said.”

    Then how about this comment from Hunter S Thompson?
    “The Scum Also Rises.”

  91. okrapod wrote:

    Billy was very political.

    Yes. And he played all sides as needed. I think he was one of the precursors or pioneers for more commercial Christianity. I fear what has happened with Graham is often what happens: So built up and revered that no one dares question anything and if they do they are (insult inserted here)

  92. elastigirl wrote:

    saw an intact rainbow, the whole arc, this morning while driving the high school carpool. after drop off, i sent searching for it — i’d have to jump a few fences into some backyards to actually be ‘in it’, so that was out of the question. but i thought maybe i could ‘see it from the side’.

    An old legend says that every rainbow has a pot of gold at one end, and a rattlesnake at the other. About 10 years ago, I chased a rainbow across the farm – I could where it ended it in a fence row. When I got there, there was no pot of gold, no rattlesnake, and no rainbow.

  93. Dale wrote:

    Well, going down the list, I don’t think 9Marks qualifies as:
    1) a church
    2) a religious order, or
    3) a mission society.
    Thus, it would need to qualify as an integrated auxiliary of a church.

    But 9 Marxists don’t qualify for that either. Because they’re a Gulag.

  94. @ Velour:

    No, seriously. I am trying to figure out the legal and ethical justification for avoiding financial scrutiny. Are the members of Capitol Hill Baptist given financial information and/or governing authority over 9Marks? Does congregational rule apply to 9Marks “governance?” Who runs 9Marks?

  95. @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    He went more private. Learned lessons, I guess, but still good PR for any president to have a private audience with Graham.

    Before Nixon, remember that infamous picture of him and his entourage kneeling on White House lawn after meeting with Truman?

  96. They should disclose. It’s a megachurch and megawannabe church thing. I disagree with my friend Peter Reilly’s position that churches should file 990s. Can’t imagine all the tens of thousands of 20-80 in attendance churches having to inform the government about their stuff.

    Big money is in the effectively unlimited housing allowance. Want to hear clergy squeal, start talking about capping or eliminating that.

  97. Lydia wrote:

    @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    He said Ann was the best preacher in the family. And from what I can tell, the most calm and steady of the Graham offspring.

    I don’t have the URL available, but the same thing happened with Oral Roberts. His daughter was actually the best-qualified to succeed him, but she was just a woman and the succession went to “Oral Junior” (male heir, natch) who ran everything into the ground in a series of scandals. Reads like something out of Game of Thrones, with Oral as Patriarch of House Roberts/Wanna-be Tywin Lannister.

  98. Lydia wrote:

    okrapod wrote:
    Billy was very political.

    Yes. And he played all sides as needed. I think he was one of the precursors or pioneers for more commercial Christianity. I fear what has happened with Graham is often what happens: So built up and revered that no one dares question anything and if they do they are (insult inserted here)

    Until you have the Reverends making pilgrimage to Trump Tower to deliver the Anointing. Followed by taking their private jets to the Inaguration of the Anointed (and bankrolling the party afterwards). Kingmaker’s nights in the Lincoln Bedroom, anyone?

  99. Lydia wrote:

    @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    Isn’t that gossip? :o)

    Don’t you know gossip is Godly and Gospelly if it’s done from the pulpit against Pastor’s Enemies List?

  100. Christiane wrote:

    Paintings, buildings …. I wonder what the Church could get for the poor by selling the Sistine Chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica with it’s ceiling done by Michaelangelo? There is much that can be done, but when the treasures are more ‘world heritage’ and in the keeping of the Church as such, it becomes a different situation.

    Henry VIII and the Reformers did. Except all the treasures there (melted down for gold or not) ended up in the pockets and palaces of the King and the local Lords.

  101. @ ishy:
    @ ishy:

    Remember the John Oliver bit on Our Lady of the Tax Exemption? I saw a discussion about that on a political forum where a poster talked about churches in his/her small town: integral parts of the community that helped people in deep ways a secular charity or welfare never could. And, if more people thought of that when they think of church, the church wouldn’t have half the disrepute it does now. I agree with that. Even if that’s what most churches are actually like, that image is blotted out by the entrepreneurial suburban megas. Many nones, and for that matter dones, see the Christian religion as one big racket and that’s a big reason why. That’s why that John Oliver segment was so popular.

    Same thing in Dallas. I tell people I don’t care for Watermark or The Village, and it’s like I told them I sacrifice burnt offerings in my backyard. If there’s anything that makes me want to be a done or Catholic like Kirsten Powers, it’s that. I was sitting at my previous church, and the pastor preached about the issues in Dallas that every big city has: segregation, inequality, etc. “In Dallas, where we have such great churches like Watermark and Village, it shouldn’t be like that!” I was floored, and realized how deep in the bubble I and everyone else was. Let me know when one of those places opens a branch in Duncanville. Nope, The Village’s latest expansion was in Southlake.

    For those not familiar with DFW suburbs:

    Duncanville: About a third white, a third black, and a third Hispanic. Median household income of $52K

    Southlake: 94.5% white, median household income of $173K

  102. Lea wrote:

    There is nothing about an elder rule church that means this business has to be secret.

    Agreed. But in an elder rule church it is much easier.

  103. Dale wrote:

    @ Velour:
    No, seriously. I am trying to figure out the legal and ethical justification for avoiding financial scrutiny. Are the members of Capitol Hill Baptist given financial information and/or governing authority over 9Marks? Does congregational rule apply to 9Marks “governance?” Who runs 9Marks?

    Gotcha.

  104. Lydia wrote:

    they had doctrinal problems with parachurch organizations

    Possibly, but history shows us that they have no doctrinal problems with double standards when said double standards work in their favor. I can’t fault them for that because I have no problem with double standards which work in my favor, either. But I’m not claiming the authority to teach others that they have the authority to affirm who is In and who is Out. Among other nonsense.

  105. Gram3 wrote:

    Lydia wrote:

    they had doctrinal problems with parachurch organizations

    Possibly, but history shows us that they have no doctrinal problems with double standards when said double standards work in their favor.

    “Reformed Charismatic”

  106. There’s big money in the false gospel. And fancy cars. And travel. And silly fashion. And mansions (not in the sky, but in LA); and fame among no one important. And inconsequential social media status. Oh, and ultimately spiritual death. They can have it.

  107. @ Dale:
    9Marks should have a Board of Directors which should be available somewhere. No doubt that Board is composed of Dever cronies. The congregation does not vote on 9Marks activities or at least it is not required to vote by law or IRS regulation, unless those regulations have changed.

    There is only one reason for 9Marks not to file a 990, and we already know what that reason is. It is not to protect anyone in a dangerous country overseas or anything noble like that. It is to keep the compensation of the highest-paid executives from being disclosed. I am acquainted with the executive director (uncompensated) of a very small charitable organization which files a 990. It is not as big a deal as these whiners want you to believe.

  108. The internal support test for a ministry associated with a church is to require transparency. If the majority of an organization’s funding comes from sources outside the church, then these donors are entitled to know where the money goes. If the majority of the funding comes from the church, then presumably the members of the church would receive financial disclosure.

    I would assume that the majority of 9Marks funding comes from outside of Capitol Hill Baptist. Where is the disclosure?

  109. To our readers

    I am slowly recuperating from a serious stomach virus that started yesterday. I am quite weak so I don’t have mush strength to engage. Hopefully, I will feel better this weekend and will start commenting more.

    I am due to visit Tucson with my husband tomorrow. Please forgive my lack of comments until Saturday.

  110. To pastors who are commenting, I should have added the following. There are some churches that have a standard that sounds pretty good to me. The pastors would not make more than the average salary of the congregation members.I think such a standard would be acceptable to most.

  111. Stan wrote:

    Let me know when one of those places opens a branch in Duncanville. Nope, The Village’s latest expansion was in Southlake.

    For those not familiar with DFW suburbs:

    Duncanville: About a third white, a third black, and a third Hispanic. Median household income of $52K

    Southlake: 94.5% white, median household income of $173K

    interesting stats ….. oh well, you can hang out at Holy Spirit until the Church of your theological persuasion shows up in the community of Duncanville … I looked at the photo album for Holy Spirit and it looks racially inclusive: white, Hispanic, black, Asian, and ?
    (also seems a good range of ages) …. they look like welcoming folks and Catholics don’t proselytize, instead, they will feed you donuts and coffee and fish fries on Fridays 🙂

    http://www.holyspiritcatholic.com/photoalbums

  112. dee wrote:

    To our readers

    I am slowly recuperating from a serious stomach virus that started yesterday. I am quite weak so I don’t have mush strength to engage. Hopefully, I will feel better this weekend and will start commenting more.

    I am due to visit Tucson with my husband tomorrow. Please forgive my lack of comments until Saturday.

    well pray for you to feel better …. get some rest

  113. dee wrote:

    To our readers
    I am slowly recuperating from a serious stomach virus that started yesterday. I am quite weak so I don’t have mush strength to engage. Hopefully, I will feel better this weekend and will start commenting more.
    I am due to visit Tucson with my husband tomorrow. Please forgive my lack of comments until Saturday.

    Oh, Dee. I am so sorry to hear that you’ve been ill.

    You take care.

    Praying for you and your husband.

  114. Dale wrote:

    If the majority of an organization’s funding comes from sources outside the church, then these donors are entitled to know where the money goes. If the majority of the funding comes from the church, then presumably the members of the church would receive financial disclosure.

    But donors to these sorts of systems trust them explicitly. I don’t think we need more laws to protect us from ourselves in Religious decisions but to continue asking people if they really agree to and understand such closed religious systems.

    I believe most don’t care. They get something from it that is of some value to them. The root problem is deep.

  115. I work for the State of North Carolina and every state employee’s salary is public record; it can be found by Googling NC STATE EMPLOYEE SALARY. University employees, including professors, are public record in NC as well. This is done in order to comply with project sunlight-style accountability, that public funds are used with public knowledge and consent.

    Why is the secular government more transparent about its salaries and spending than most conservative, mainline, evangelical churches. Doesn’t that seem backwards? It does to me.

    I decided several years ago that I would never willingly attend, much less join, any church where the average congregant is punished for asking about salaries and spending. Including the Summit and its pastor with a $550,000+ house.

  116. @ Nancy2:

    “When I got there, there was no pot of gold, no rattlesnake, and no rainbow.”
    ++++++++++++++++++

    flashbacks…. to when i spied my parents filling my christmas stocking. suspicions confirmed…… deep breath….

    so, maybe you can only see a rainbow from a distance, and at a certain angle. well that’s no fun. i want to know what it’s like to be inside a rainbow.

  117. Max wrote:

    Lea wrote:
    There is nothing about an elder rule church that means this business has to be secret.

    Agreed. But in an elder rule church it is much easier.

    I think where you and I sometimes differ is that you tend to focus on the elder rule, but I tend to think it’s the attitude that pushes the rule to get what they want. It is the attitude that is the problem.

    and of course their version of elder rule tends to have fewer safeguards than an old school church that’s had a lot of time to work out the kinks. So it’s like these non-denoms that pop up out of nowhere and then they make all the rules themselves and those rules are not time tested at all.

  118. dee wrote:

    t started yesterday. I am quite weak so I don’t have mush strength to engage. Hopefully, I will feel better this weekend and will

    Yep, let’s pray that it’s just a little 24-hr bug ~~~ for both you and 2 of my nieces.
    Our schools were closed last week due to a flu outbreak. So, of course my nieces were perfectly healthy last week and have the stomach bug this week! The girls are completely out of it today, miserable.

  119. Some pastors obviously know so much about the deleterious effect of mammon on your spiritual health and well-being that they commit the ultimate act of self-sacrifice by protecting their sheep from all that mammon and its negative influence.

    Seriously though: in the 1980s I read an interview with Graham père in which he said that BEGA was only paying him 125,000 $ annually, and if he didn’t have some money from his wife’s side, he wouldn’t even be able to afford doing the work.

    In the early eighties 125k was actually an awful lot of money, in 2017 terms it probably had 2-3 times the purchasing power of today’s dollar. So the Grahams were always able to get very well paid, indeed, especially considering the fact that executive compensation was a lot less removed from the kind of money the average earner can make than today.

    Franklin seems to be a terrible fraud who is in it mostly for the money and the influence, and has been getting worse and worse since 2001, but his father did very well for himself, too. At least he seemed to get wiser with age, more than can be said for the son.

  120. Pastors and all church personnel should reveal their salaries to the congregation. In the Orthodox Church, all tithing members are given a financial printout of where the tithes and donations go. No secrecy. This is how it should be. Never give money to an church or organization if you don’t know where it is going.

  121. Dave A A wrote:

    A local mega church exemplifies 2 more hidden ways the sheep can be fleeced. The Moses model pastor was really active in mission, frequently traveling overseas. Now if, hypothetically, he was in a decade-or-so long “relationship” with the staff member in charge of missions, it’s just possible that designated missions giving found its way into financing the wining, dining, and hotel rooms for indisgressions, without even first making it into salaries.
    Then, a year ago, the wolf resigned by telling the congregation God was moving him on sooner than expected, and God doing this and that and all very wonderful. Now if, hypothetically, he got a big severance package, and forgot to mention at the time that he’d been threatened with exposure if God didn’t move him on right then, then he was enjoying a last meal of tasty mutton. As an xmas gift the church was finally informed that their former beloved pastor had made some mistakes for which he was sorry and getting counseling. But they’ll never hear about the financial stuff, let alone get paid back.

    NICE. RACKET.
    Got rich and got laid all the way, and got to leave with the loot.

  122. Bridget wrote:

    elastigirl wrote:
    Who writes the handbook?

    Pastors

    “What is the Law?
    WHAT IS THE LAW?

    Who makes the Rules?
    Someone Else!
    What happens when the Rules aren’t fair?
    We all know where we go from there —
    To the House of Pain!”
    — Danny Elfman/Oingo Boingo (h/t to Dr Moreau), “No Spill Blood”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PM8cmDpIFLo

  123. elastigirl wrote:

    @ Nancy2:

    “When I got there, there was no pot of gold, no rattlesnake, and no rainbow.”
    ++++++++++++++++++

    flashbacks…. to when i spied my parents filling my christmas stocking. suspicions confirmed…… deep breath….

    so, maybe you can only see a rainbow from a distance, and at a certain angle. well that’s no fun. i want to know what it’s like to be inside a rainbow.

    when I was teaching writing, I had my sixth graders make up ‘origin’ tales about special things in nature ….. I told them they could have fun with the assignment …. I got some wonderful stuff, funny, and original …. strangely no one did ‘rainbow’ but then I figured it was because of the Bible story about the Flood and the Ark and the Rainbow 🙂

  124. I think any member who is willing to share THEIR salary with the church should be entitled to knowing the pastor’s salary.

  125. “Should Members Keep Giving Money to a Church That Refuses to Disclose the Pastor’s Salary?”

    No. Why the secrecy? If you’re being obedient to what Jesus asks of you, why do you need to hide anything?

    Been lurking here for about a year but this is my first comment.
    At my former church, the answer I got when questioning why the budget wasn’t itemized was that “no ministry would get done if we have to disclose the entire budget.” The pastor basically said they would be spending all their time answering questions and running meetings. Personnel expenses weren’t the only thing that I had issue with not being itemized – pretty much everything was lumped together for example “Church planting” – okay what is that? What activities and expenses are considered church planting? Food? Travel? I got a wise-crack comment like “What, you want to know how many cups we buy?” When speaking specifically about breaking down personnel expenses by position and salary, benefits, housing etc. the answer I got was. “We don’t want to create any negative feelings” He basically said staff members would be tempted to get jealous and fight about money. He then used the example of how he saw how much one of the denominational leaders was getting paid and it made him upset. I told him to keep in mind that like in the secular world, people with experience and higher education often get paid more (the guy from the association had his doctorate and had been in ministry pretty much as long as the pastor had been alive.) The pastor then said “Oh well what about young people in the secular world?” I said sure, a young successful businessman/entrepreneur could make big money too. I tried to redirect the conversation – that is wasn’t about justifying how much we should pay our staff but that transparency is a good thing. He also said that no church he’s ever been a part of disclosed salary for each position, it was just lump sum. I found that interesting because I come from the same denominational background and my experience has been the exact opposite – every church had full transparency, all members could see the entire budget. The whole encounter was weird. When planning to meet, he was supposedly checking in to see how I was doing and was hoping he could answer my questions. But it felt like he was just trying to tell me what he thought I wanted to hear while at the same time trying to defend the decisions that were already made that I didn’t agree with. He then told me as the conversation was ending that I shouldn’t continue leading a small group if I “wasn’t 100% on board” with how the church was moving forward. He didn’t initiate prayer together when we met either. As I was about to leave I had to ask that we would pray together.

    The most disturbing thing about all if this is that the whole reason I was asking questions and looking for transparency was that our previous pastor just RESIGNED FOR GETTING CAUGHT MISUSING CHURCH FUNDS! Sure, they put some financial safeguards in place after the fact but there still wasn’t any true accountability in my eyes. The real issue wasn’t so much financial misuse though– that was just a symptom of the disease. The real problem was the (unhealthy, not-scriptural) power and control we were giving our pastors. The former pastor (and the current one too) seem to have an attitude that they have it all figured out and that people just need to stop asking questions and just listen to them and follow them and everything will be amazing. Unfortunately there were few who saw it the saw way I did. For them it was just “Bad pastor stole money, bad pastor gone now. Continue church as usual.” The new pastor is charismatic (as in personality, not the movement) and very good at speaking Christianese so most everyone didn’t have the reservations about his fit to be the new pastor as I did.

    I ended up leaving quietly and respectfully and didn’t ask anyone to leave with me. In some ways I wish I made a big deal about how poor the clean-up was and that we need to make serious changes because the system we created stifles the Holy Spirit and limits our potential (obviously you can’t be who God made you to be when you are following man instead of Christ). I didn’t want to burst anyone’s bubble though – the church has been huge blessing for many people, and not everyone had the connections or support that made it easy for me to walk away. Though I do not regret leaving, I think about my former church every day and it makes me sad. I pray for them all, that they we see the beauty of being led by Christ and to BE the church rather than just attend church. I pray for the new pastor as well, that he would submit to the headship of Jesus Christ and do what God is calling him to do instead of what seminary and his church planting buddies are telling him to do.

  126. As a small church pastor, my salary is included in the budget and we have a quarterly business meeting that provides everyone with the figures regarding our we are spending God’s money versus the budget.

    On a Southern Baptist Convention level, i wonder why we cannot find out what are the salaries of entity leaders such as Kevin Ezell, NAMB President, David Platt, IMB President, Russell Moore, ERLC President, Frank Price, Executive Committee Director, etc.? When entities provide a report at the annual convention, there is one line item entitled, “Salaries.” When our Entity leaders are asked about their salaries, they say the information is not available. It seems to me that since their salaries are paid by Cooperative Program dollars, we have a right to know how our money is spent, even on salaries.

  127. PM wrote:

    as one who makes less than $50,000, with a church budget of $750,000+, I can also speak from experience and tell you that there are people out there who will use salary information (especially if it is deemed to be slightly above ‘modest’ in the individual’s eyes) to shame, manipulate, and power-play.

    Thank you for bringing this up. Will you please tell us more? I’m sorry this has happened to you.

    In the church where I grew up, clergy were expected to have big families and survive on a pittance, as some sort of forced example that was more like an attempt to replicate the Feeding of the Five Thousand. Even as a teen, I felt sorry for them.

    My current church (quite large) discloses all salaries. People certainly spar about money, but not about clergy salaries or expenditures. That’s viewed as private and sensitive.

    Our senior pastor lives in an old church-owned house. Though it looks grand from outside, it was neglected for decades. He never once complained about the condition of the place. Finally it was renovated a few years back.

    Our younger clergy are not very well paid, and yet they are generous with what little treasure they have. When I attempt to buy lunch for a seminarian or assistant, they always resist or try to buy my lunch instead.

    What are some ways for people to help underpaid clergy, especially the young ones?

  128. PM wrote:

    Can we attend to the other side

    You raise a legitimate issue. Do you have a suggestion?

  129. elastigirl wrote:

    @ Steve240:
    ” tax breaks … housing allowance. As I understand this, they can take their housing allowance tax-free such as to pay for any housing expenses including mortgage, repair etc. At the same time, they can use the interest deduction that most use for their home mortgage.”
    ++++++++++++++
    i’m too deep in creative land to begin to understand taxes and accounting and all ‘dat.

    Perhaps a simple way to explain this is this way. When most people receive income they have to pay taxes on that. For simplification let’s take receiving income of $10,000. We might get PAID 10,000 but since we have to pay taxes on this we will only net around $7,000.

    For pastors with this tax break they get the full $10,000 without having to pay taxes on this amount. Using a 30% withholding amount, that effectively is a pastor making around $14,300 vs. $10,000.

    This tax break only applies to part of their income but the point is that with this tax break a pastor effectively makes more than their salary shows. Thus if a pastor is being paid the average income of his congregation then he is essentially making more than average with this tax break.

  130. Leslie Puryear wrote:

    On a Southern Baptist Convention level, i wonder why we cannot find out what are the salaries of entity leaders such as Kevin Ezell, NAMB President, David Platt, IMB President, Russell Moore, ERLC President, Frank Price, Executive Committee Director, etc.? When entities provide a report at the annual convention, there is one line item entitled, “Salaries.” When our Entity leaders are asked about their salaries, they say the information is not available. It seems to me that since their salaries are paid by Cooperative Program dollars, we have a right to know how our money is spent, even on salaries.

    The information (salaries) is available. It exists. The Mountebanks choose not to disclose it. They (religious non-profits) do not have to follow the same rules everybody else [non-religious 501-c3(s)] must abide by.
    This needs to change. The laws need to change across the board, no exemptions.
    Some of you up-thread have expressed exemplary behavior by your churches who restrain and police themselves.
    When men cannot, will not, or choose not to restrain themselves, it is the legitimate prerogative and domain of government to do so.

  131. PM wrote:

    It can create an unhealthy culture in the church in which members will begin to nitpick each and every spending purchase by the pastor. Can we attend to this side of the conversation as well?

    I don’t think it creates that culture, though. Something else does. I know exactly what my pastors make and I don’t pay any attention to what they buy with it. So maybe the question is what makes the church members nitpick.

  132. Lea wrote:

    I think where you and I sometimes differ is that you tend to focus on the elder rule, but I tend to think it’s the attitude that pushes the rule to get what they want. It is the attitude that is the problem.

    No, we agree on that. Leadership problems spring from a heart that is not right … be it congregational or elder rule … denominational or non-denom. If a leaders’ attitude is to control the flock, rather than to lovingly shepherd it in Jesus’ name, such leader will be running in the flesh and not the Spirit. I agree that it is possible to have an elder-led congregation on track with God, where both are working together to further the Kingdom … just as I know that congregational polity can drift from Kingdom work if the pew tries to control the pulpit. It all depends on just who the pulpit and pew put on the throne … themselves or God.

  133. Ian wrote:

    PaJo wrote:
    Pastors shouldn’t be kept in penury, but neither should it be a gravy-train job.
    I once read that a pastor should receive a salary similar to the average member of their congregation. If it’s more, then the pastor is exploiting the congregation, and if it’s less, then the congregation is exploiting the pastor.
    I don’t have much experience in this area, but that seems to be a sensible approach.

    Reasonable approach.

  134. Burwell wrote:

    I work for the State of North Carolina and every state employee’s salary is public record; it can be found by Googling NC STATE EMPLOYEE SALARY. University employees, including professors, are public record in NC as well. This is done in order to comply with project sunlight-style accountability, that public funds are used with public knowledge and consent.
    Why is the secular government more transparent about its salaries and spending than most conservative, mainline, evangelical churches. Doesn’t that seem backwards? It does to me.
    I decided several years ago that I would never willingly attend, much less join, any church where the average congregant is punished for asking about salaries and spending. Including the Summit and its pastor with a $550,000+ house.

    Texas is the same way. A media outlet called the Texas Tribune has a link on their site to how much government workers, professors, teachers, politicians, etc are paid….who are the highest paid state employees in Texas?
    The football coaches at the major state univeristies…and surprisingly the basketball coaches were not too far behind…( Texas is NOT a basketball state.)

  135. Ian wrote:

    PaJo wrote:
    Pastors shouldn’t be kept in penury, but neither should it be a gravy-train job.
    I once read that a pastor should receive a salary similar to the average member of their congregation. If it’s more, then the pastor is exploiting the congregation, and if it’s less, then the congregation is exploiting the pastor.
    I don’t have much experience in this area, but that seems to be a sensible approach.

    It does in a lot of ways. However, some interesting realities when it comes to what people think a pastor should make: The way it generally works out is that people think a pastor should make “just a little less than I do.” So for the 49% of the people who make less than the median, the gut feeling will be that the pastor is making too much money. The other thing is that in churches I have been in, which have been large but not in the “mega” or “campus” model, and which have wanted to have leadership in the denomination, the search committees wanted a pastor with advanced degrees, preferably PhDs because they were ministering in university towns, or in areas with a lot of intellectual firepower. Those degrees are not free and the student debt can be crushing. In addition, they do a lot of hosting and offer a lot of hospitality. These things need to be recognized and dealt with.

    I will admit to being a little snippy about this. I have a friend who was a PK whose father was the ideal pastor, in all the right senses of that word. He took in the homeless, fed the hungry…out of the most meager salary. That congregation was soooo proud of itself for paying its pastor the same as a first-year teacher makes–fo 25 years. And then they had the GALL to shame him and his wife when she took a job so they could actually afford food.

    God is faithful. He has immensely blessed that family and all the children and grandchildren, and all of them love God for His mercy and faithfulness…but I still can’t help feeling ashamed of that flock for its lack of care for one who loved them well. Once this man left so he could actually afford to retire someday, they have never had another pastor like him…and that is their loss.

  136. PM wrote:

    I’m a pastor. I’m all for transparency. And this seems to be a very fair, worthwhile critique of megachurches.
    But as one who makes less than $50,000, with a church budget of $750,000+, I can also speak from experience and tell you that there are people out there who will use salary information (especially if it is deemed to be slightly above ‘modest’ in the individual’s eyes) to shame, manipulate, and power-play. It can create an unhealthy culture in the church in which members will begin to nitpick each and every spending purchase by the pastor. Can we attend to this side of the conversation as well?

    This is a real and acknowledged problem with pastors and with missionaries as well. You are in the ballpark of where my church sits, re: numbers. It’s astonishing the worship and love we partake in even in so small a gathering.

    There is a balance between knowing what the pastor makes (so that it’s not money-grab) and thinking you have anything to say about how he or his family spend their money.

    In another church, a long time ago, someone was ENVIOUSLY yammering about how the pastor was going to Hawaii and the yammerer was all peeved because SHE couldn’t afford to go to Hawaii and goldurn if she was going to give one more dime to the church. A. That is just ugly. B. It was a gift from a family member for a family reunion. C. It was none of the yammerer’s business.

    In the same way that my company pays me what I am worth, it is none of my manager’s or my employees’ business to butt in to how I spend it.

  137. @ PM:

    I imagine there are congregants who would want their pastors to take an oath of poverty, which is why I would rather, at least at first, discern rather than demand information. The job does take post graduate education that costs money after all.

    @ Leslie Puryear:

    You mean, you have doubts that David Platt is RADICAL?

  138. When my son in law was pastoring a small Assemblies of God Home Missions church in the SFBay Area part of his compensation was a parsonage. They had no hear for three years, and the stairs in the 2 story house were dangerous. More than one person fell down them. About fifteen years ago he left the ministery and took a full time job. He and his family are much healthier for that decision. They are very involved in their local church.

    On a slightly different but related topic . One of my pet peeves with tithing( which I no longer do, but give to people in need) is that many if not most churches here in the Bay Area charge for vacation bible school. I have always felt that should be a mission of the Church, an Outreach .

  139. Stan wrote:

    I imagine there are congregants who would want their pastors to take an oath of poverty, which is why I would rather, at least at first, discern rather than demand information. The job does take post graduate education that costs money after all.

    It is possible to get that education without amassing mounds of debt. Working your way through seminary is what I did. It was very hard, but it is possible. However, a lot of my classmates either had wives that supported them through seminary, or they took out loans because they “just wanted to study”.

    Many of the latter believed that was what it meant to be a pastor–that everyone else would deal with people and they would just study and write sermons. They were not very mature people in general. When they got out, they wanted a cushy job, with a high salary, and no pressure to do actual ministry.

  140. Leslie wrote:

    One of my pet peeves with tithing( which I no longer do, but give to people in need) is that many if not most churches here in the Bay Area charge for vacation bible school. I have always felt that should be a mission of the Church, an Outreach .

    I grew up in the Bay Area, and the spiritual climate there is very different from other places that I’ve lived. I don’t even know how to explain it. There were a lot of very angry people there. I went to a very tiny church with a wonderful pastor, but he was quite an aberration. The church around the corner had some of the angriest people I’ve ever met, and they were supposed to be “pillars of the community”. I think the cost of living is so high, the commute so long, and the expectations of society are so much that people are just really angry at the world. And that was just as true in churches as outside of them.

  141. I was in paid pastoral ministry for 35 years. My highest annual salary was far less than it would have been if I had entered the workforce as an Industrial Engineer (GaTech). If fact, my fellow Ga Tech Industrial Engineer grad (also a fraternity brother) retired at a much higher salary than I. He retired as CEO of Walmart.

    FYI, my wife makes more as a Nurse Practitioner than I did as Executive Pastor of a 2,500 member church.

    So, the mileage varies.

  142. drstevej wrote:

    So, the mileage varies.

    IMHO, so take this with a grain of salt…

    It seems that back in the day, church clergy salaries were not talked about because many local churches were just getting by, serving their communities, and no one wanted to get it out there that the Lord’s work was getting by on a shoe string.

    The Francis and Edith Schaeffer ministry was like this – and they were constantly taking others in, helping wherever there was need. Son Frank writes about how little meat they ate due to low finances. Jim Dobson’s dad also was a minister who gave away much of what he earned, which was also very little.

    Today, it seems, lack of transparency may hide the wealth or greed on the part of some clergy.

    In any case, transparency is a good place to start and might be a key, to remove temptation to amass a dynasty.

  143. @ ishy:

    “I grew up in the Bay Area, and the spiritual climate there is very different from other places that I’ve lived. … There were a lot of very angry people there. … I think the cost of living is so high, the commute so long, and the expectations of society are so much that people are just really angry at the world. And that was just as true in churches as outside of them.”
    ++++++++++++++++

    could it have been more sarcasm, than anger? a frank way of talking about things instead of a softer approach? people in a hurry, who get right to the point?

  144. @ Steve240:

    i want to get down to brass tacks and demonstrate how many dollars the income-earning tax-paying individuals have to pay to cover the pastor’s / church’s share of govt. services at their disposal.

    (and to know what services are paid for with the tax dollars at issue — firefighters? police? road resurfacing? etc.)

    i think this kind of data-based illustration would be quite meaningful.

  145. I went to Summit in the Triangle for a year with my family. For a number of reasons we stopped attending, but the lack of transparency with salaries was definitely one reason.

    Here is a vague explanation they offer for WHY they compensate the way they do, but not WHAT they actually compensate: http://www.summitrdu.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/pastoral-compensation-policy.pdf

    Another issue I’ve pondered, are these churches debt free? And does that matter? At Summit, they heavily promote a debt-free course for everyone to take, so I always wondered if the church itself was operating debt-free.

    BTW- First time commenter. I have been so blessed by this blog. Thank you for your insights, they have been so helpful to me in seeing that I am not alone in questioning these issues.

  146. @ Leslie Puryear:
    Amen, Pastor Puryear! Southern Baptists are being used and abused these days regarding their giving (e.g., IMB financial mess leading to the recall of missionaries, millions spent on planting YRR churches, etc.). They do indeed have a right to know what the compensation and benefit packages are of SBC entity leaders, particularly those whose theological leaning does not reflect SBC majority members who are supporting them! If they knew, they might not be so generous in CP giving.

  147. ishy wrote:

    I grew up in the Bay Area, and the spiritual climate there is very different from other places that I’ve lived. I don’t even know how to explain it. There were a lot of very angry people there. I went to a very tiny church with a wonderful pastor, but he was quite an aberration. The church around the corner had some of the angriest people I’ve ever met, and they were supposed to be “pillars of the community”. I think the cost of living is so high, the commute so long, and the expectations of society are so much that people are just really angry at the world. And that was just as true in churches as outside of them.

    sounds like a lot of people who got caught up in a material culture that robbed them of their peace of mind and soul …… imagine the pressure of debt increasing faster than you can earn; imagine the lack of sleep and stress on the nerves from long commutes; imagine the betrayal of having ‘made it’ with the big house, the cars, the truck, the country club, and wondering why you are not enjoying your arrival at paradise on Earth?????

    Sounds more to me like a lot of people in need of something that money can’t buy and can’t be found in a pill bottle, or in an extramarital affair, or at the bottom of a bottle of tequila ….. they’ve lost their serenity and are suffering from being badly ‘out of tune’

  148. elastigirl wrote:

    @ ishy:
    “I grew up in the Bay Area, and the spiritual climate there is very different from other places that I’ve lived. … There were a lot of very angry people there. … I think the cost of living is so high, the commute so long, and the expectations of society are so much that people are just really angry at the world. And that was just as true in churches as outside of them.”
    ++++++++++++++++
    could it have been more sarcasm, than anger? a frank way of talking about things instead of a softer approach? people in a hurry, who get right to the point?

    I am a native to the San Francisco Bay Area and I haven’t seen the “just really angry at the world” people in church that you’ve talked about. I think folks here, like elastigirl is getting at, cut to the chase.

  149. Christiane wrote:

    ishy wrote:
    I grew up in the Bay Area, and the spiritual climate there is very different from other places that I’ve lived. I don’t even know how to explain it. There were a lot of very angry people there. I went to a very tiny church with a wonderful pastor, but he was quite an aberration. The church around the corner had some of the angriest people I’ve ever met, and they were supposed to be “pillars of the community”. I think the cost of living is so high, the commute so long, and the expectations of society are so much that people are just really angry at the world. And that was just as true in churches as outside of them.
    sounds like a lot of people who got caught up in a material culture that robbed them of their peace of mind and soul …… imagine the pressure of debt increasing faster than you can earn; imagine the lack of sleep and stress on the nerves from long commutes; imagine the betrayal of having ‘made it’ with the big house, the cars, the truck, the country club, and wondering why you are not enjoying your arrival at paradise on Earth?????
    Sounds more to me like a lot of people in need of something that money can’t buy and can’t be found in a pill bottle, or in an extramarital affair, or at the bottom of a bottle of tequila ….. they’ve lost their serenity and are suffering from being badly ‘out of tune’

    I think is is a situation of ” where sin abounds grace abounds more”. There were a lot of good churches that were taken over by the YRR crowd. A lot of really good pastors went to the mission field instead of fighting. Now we are stuck. We just recently found a little church in Dublin that seems to be a very good church. Not a mega. The pastor has been there for 7 years. All age groups represented as well as ethnic diversity. Hope springs eternal

  150. Leslie wrote:

    We just recently found a little church in Dublin that seems to be a very good church. Not a mega. The pastor has been there for 7 years. All age groups represented as well as ethnic diversity. Hope springs eternal

    good for you …. I think the ‘real’ Churches must still be out there, but they likely don’t deal in flashy come-ons and celebrity pastors and speakers ….. so it takes a bit of looking to find those gems that exist where Our Lord IS ‘Lord’ and the people are faithful to Him.

  151. william wrote:

    They should disclose. It’s a megachurch and megawannabe church thing. I disagree with my friend Peter Reilly’s position that churches should file 990s. Can’t imagine all the tens of thousands of 20-80 in attendance churches having to inform the government about their stuff.

    Big money is in the effectively unlimited housing allowance. Want to hear clergy squeal, start talking about capping or eliminating that.

    I would note there’s also the 990-EZ, which non-profit organizations that bring in less than $500K (at least that’s what it was a year or two back) have to fill out. I volunteer and donate to a non-profit that pulls in less than most churches, even small churches, and yet we have to fill out the 990-EZ (not an easy form to fill out) and pay an accountant. So I am somewhat unsympathetic to the cries of the churches in this matter.

    As for “all the paperwork,” when I moved up the tax brackets, started getting bonuses and stock options and that sort of stuff, I also discovered I was going to pay more to have my taxes done because of all the paperwork required for itemized deductions and suchlike. For the record, I have had a professional tax prep service since I managed to mess up an Arizona tax return and owed the state a chunk of money. That’s because I couldn’t seem to pull the right number out of the right blank on the W-2 form and then add/subtract correctly. (Yes, you too can go to law school, graduate and manage to mess up a tax return not once, not twice, but *three* times, and it didn’t become an issue until it was the state taxes. Hence, a professional service for the peace of mind.)

  152. Muslin, fka Dee Holmes wrote:

    Because of the embarrassment of the salary Franklin Graham was pulling down from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, BGEA moved to change its status to a church. And the IRS approved it. We’ll never know how many millions Franklin is taking now.

    http://religionnews.com/2016/09/29/irs-changes-status-of-billy-grahams-ministry/

    Franklin Graham spent a lot of money to get the status changed from a regular non-profit charity to a religious organization. He freely admitted that his primary reason for making the change was so he would no longer have to file any Form 990s. His salary was taken up from $880,000 to over $1,000,000 in 2015. Now with no ability to find out what it is, the sky is literally the limit on what that man will skim off the top from money meant to go to starving orphans.

    This blatant inurement should offend every donor who is giving sacrificially to provide life sustaining food and clean water to the least of these. It should also be noted that while Franklin drew over a million dollars in base salary in 2016, he spent virtually the entire year stumping in all 50 states for the GOP. He was running around DC with the other million dollar pastors like Jentezen Franklin and Robert Morris, using ministry funds to hobnob with Donald Trump. That didn’t leave him much time for looking after the impoverished.

    Franklin is bringing utter disgrace unto a name that Billy Graham worked hard to associate with Christ. It’s hard to believe these people do not see the avarice and evil in what they are doing and turn back before it is too late.

  153. I really appreciate all the dialogue in the comments, especially from those who either are/were or knew hardworking pastors who made an average salary. I think it’s precisely because of people like these that I never had a problem tithing or supporting a church financially. Growing up, it never crossed my mind that that a minister or church would be less than ethical regarding finances.

    Maybe that’s why I was naive enough to sign a covenant stating, “I confess my conviction and clear understanding that, without a doubt, the Bible mandates that one-tenth of all the profitable bounty that comes to me belongs to the Lord and is given by God into the charge of those whom He has designated as ministers in His temple. I further confess my understanding as to why this would be a point of fellowship. This tithe is not something I can take pride in giving, as if it were a free-will offering: it is what I owe God; and so if I withhold it, according to Scripture, I rob God.”

    Of course, the congregation wasn’t privy to the ministers’ salaries. We did know that new vehicles purchased every year were coming from church funds. We knew that church funds were used to purchase property around the US that only the founding elder and his family were allowed to vacation on. We knew that they badgered members with businesses to join the church’s 501d tax association, which gave the church access to the business finances. We heard that funds disappeared from those businesses to purchase new vehicles for the founding elder and his family. In 2011, the church dissolved the 501d and sold back the businesses that had been freely given to them. They also divided up the church debt amongst those businesses. I’d always assumed the 501d had gone bankrupt, but I recently read somewhere that the county told them they could no longer function this way to avoid paying taxes.

    So, I’m a little jaded about it all right now. It is encouraging to me to read about pastors who are simply loving and serving their congregations, and some even being underpaid to do it. That’s the kind of church I always wanted to be a part of. I’d like to think I wouldn’t be too persnickety about that kind of pastor disclosing every nickle and dime. But I don’t think I’ll be handing over 10% to a church that has all the lavish accoutrements. I’d rather give it to a domestic violence shelter or something like that.

  154. Stan wrote:

    Hey check this out, and I just found this for the first time. The Village Church, to their credit, posts their finances publically. Now someone help me out with this, because my eyeballs aren’t that great. Of their $21 MILLION budget, $17.5 MILLION stays inside the doors for salary and overhead?

    http://www.thevillagechurch.net/annual-report-2016/#giving-generosity

    That’s giving 16.7% to charity which puts TVC on the more generous end of things. Gateway only gives 15% and they claim to be the most generous church on earth. Much, if not most of that 15%, is spent on luxurious European, Australian and Asian vacations labeled as “mission trips”. Most other big megas are at or below 10% on “mission/outreach”.

  155. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Lydia wrote:

    @ Headless Unicorn Guy:
    He said Ann was the best preacher in the family. And from what I can tell, the most calm and steady of the Graham offspring.

    I don’t have the URL available, but the same thing happened with Oral Roberts. His daughter was actually the best-qualified to succeed him, but she was just a woman and the succession went to “Oral Junior” (male heir, natch) who ran everything into the ground in a series of scandals. Reads like something out of Game of Thrones, with Oral as Patriarch of House Roberts/Wanna-be Tywin Lannister.

    To Lydia, check out niece Jerusha Armfield. She’s no fan of Uncle Franklin’s politics or theology. She sounds like she has a good head on her shoulders. http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2017/jan/13/trump-is-bringing-billy-grahams-complicated-family/

    To HUG, I think the URL you were thinking of is this https://longreads.com/2014/09/16/oral-roberts-family-history/?mc_cid=8476dbea31&mc_eid=dc9f68e417
    So, would that make the Hobby Lobby Green family the House Tyrell; bailing out the Robert’s clan to keep their kingdom in tact? Perhaps we can hope for a Season 6, Ep 10 happy ending.

  156. ishy wrote:

    Many of the latter believed that was what it meant to be a pastor–that everyone else would deal with people and they would just study and write sermons. They were not very mature people in general. When they got out, they wanted a cushy job, with a high salary, and no pressure to do actual ministry.

    Then they should have “planted” or inherited a Mega and got on the book-and-conference circuit. get ghostwriters for free as a “Ministry” and sluice the tithes into ResultSource to juice it onto the best-seller list.

    “Writing for a penny a word is stupid. If you want to make a million dollars, START YOUR OWN RELIGION!”
    — L Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology

  157. There is one rainbow to this post. It’s not just Ed Young Jr’s Fellowship Church that pays their 20-somethings well over $100,000 base salary to strum a guitar a couple days a week. Gateway’s base salary for all employees (part-time and full-time) is over $100,000. The lower end people make low wages, meaning that many of the pastors are making well into the six figures. Very few have any degree let alone seminary training. The bios are pretty funny to read actually. There is no real rhyme or reason (outside of blatant nepotism and cronyism) for how this or that person with zero qualifications or experience in ministry is suddenly hired as a pastor and given an enormous pay package.

    The rainbow? In 2015 Gateway Church lost $11M. By the end of Summer 2016 they were down $15M. They have not said a peep about Vision Weekend (when the Annual Report is released), which is supposed to be the last weekend of February. My guess is they are still running around trying to figure out how to break the news/spin how and why the Blessed Church is no longer blessed.

    So now that GW is cancelling all kinds of programs and services, some of those obscenely over-compensated, non-qualified pastors are scrambling to update their LinkedIns and kick-start their non-Gateway networking. Unfortunately, they are not recognizing that DFW megas are seeing a general decline right now so they are still expecting to continue earning these inflated salaries for little to no work.

    The reality is about to set in for a lot of people. Fellowship has definitely had their fair share of downsizing and campus closings. I am sure that’s what made Mr Skinny Jeans entertain a “menial” lower paying pastor job in the Midwest where he might have to show up to an office and work. The gravy train is slowing down. And as tithers start catching on it will slow down even further.

    The big buzz word right now is “consumers” and it is being fought against tooth and nail. For all of those mega-church hoppers other commenters mentioned above, many have finally figured out the scheme. They now change churches so they can enjoy the entertainment and kids programs, but no longer give away large amounts of cash and free labor. They are no longer “contributors” but “consumers”. That’s why the sermons are hitting hard on the “commitment” theme. It’s driving these mega pastors CRAZY that the people that have been pulling their lavish carts for all these years, have finally figured out it’s more fun to hop inside the cart for the ride, than to keep pulling it for very little benefit. It’s starting to get amusing.

  158. @ Christiane:

    All of these characterizations are quite inaccurate. 3rd generation Bay Area person here, lived here my whole life. i find people very down-to-earth, saying what they mean and meaning what they say. very multi-cultural, very accepting of people for simply being people (regardless of sexual identity, religion, ethnic background, degree of wealth of unwealth).

  159. elastigirl wrote:

    @ Christiane:
    All of these characterizations are quite inaccurate. 3rd generation Bay Area person here, lived here my whole life. i find people very down-to-earth, saying what they mean and meaning what they say. very multi-cultural, very accepting of people for simply being people (regardless of sexual identity, religion, ethnic background, degree of wealth of unwealth).

    The same is true for me.

    The *angriest* people I knew were the haters at my ex-church, Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley. They buffed and shined their hatred and prejudices. And of course, when not unleashing it on outsiders, would practice their viciousness on insiders.

  160. @ elastigirl:
    @ Velour:
    The daughter of my best friend lives in San Fran. She grew up with my daughter. And I couldn’t find a better person anywhere for kindness and tolerance of those who are different.

    I imagine Ishy has had a different experience or she would not have shared what she did with us. There are different communities in San Fran. So it is quite possible she had encountered those less blessed with tolerance and good will towards others. It happens, I guess.

    My best friend’s daughter is a lesbian. She is an attorney and lives happily with her life partner and their daughter. I don’t judge any of this. I want her to be happy. She is a very good mother and a very good person. She is Jewish. I consider her as a member of the family, since I’ve known her and her mother since she was two and a half and we met in a Montessori School where our daughters attended and moms helped out on occasion. Good people, yes. I hold ‘kindness’ to be a most important gift; as I also think that ‘unkindness’ is the greatest sin.

  161. Velour wrote:

    could it have been more sarcasm, than anger? a frank way of talking about things instead of a softer approach? people in a hurry, who get right to the point?
    //
    I am a native to the San Francisco Bay Area and I haven’t seen the “just really angry at the world” people in church that you’ve talked about. I think folks here, like elastigirl is getting at, cut to the chase.

    Not just in church, but everyone. And they were angry, not straightforward. In fact, they were rarely straightforward about anything. Everything was done behind the backs of others, trying to tear anyone else down to make themselves feel better.

    I lived out in the East Bay, where people had long hours, and rather long commutes on top of that. People lived there because it was as close as they could get and afford a (tiny and poorly made) house with a yard. Add the rising gang violence, to which I’ve lost at least 5-10 classmates. Maybe it wasn’t so bad closer in to San Fran, but I had no experience like you all.

  162. Headless Unicorn Guy wrote:

    Then they should have “planted” or inherited a Mega and got on the book-and-conference circuit. get ghostwriters for free as a “Ministry” and sluice the tithes into ResultSource to juice it onto the best-seller list.

    That’s probably what some of them are doing now. They were still just a bit idealistic then.

  163. @ Lea:

    “Practically, I’m sure most tiny congregations cannot afford to pay high salaries, or maybe even a salary (maybe all they can afford is a stipend in many cases). So I get that. But it doesn’t also seem there should be a sliding scale that translates 20k people into 1mil salary.”
    +++++++++++++

    it’s all pretty ridiculous. every very large church i’ve observed has so many employed staff to do everything. the pastor(s) at the top are simply alleviated of whatever it is they don’t feel like doing. why does that deserve a high salary? just cuz the building’s big? cuz there are lots of bodies?

    christians can be as impressionable as the aliens in awe of the claw in Toy Story.

    what a silly religion (of mine — sort of. i’m kind of a hybrid — always have been, just acknowledging it now. refusing to accommodate cognitive dissonance does that, I think)

  164. @ ishy:

    i’m sorry about your classmates. what you describe sounds like high school. did you live here as an adult? i think full-fledged adulthood better enables a person to appreciate all the good a place has to offer.

  165. @ elastigirl:

    i mean, it wasn’t until my adult years that i really started appreciating where i live. all growing up it was ‘get me outta here! it’s so stupid & booooooring!”

  166. In the “ministry” I was in I never got one penny from anyone for anything. I self-funded even gas, whatever bringing folks to church. I even carried extra insurance because I did not trust the business part of the org I was with. The leadership made bank and the organization were sitting on 1/4 billion dollar assets in property and the national leader made easily 300K. Not counting the parsonage tax breaks and pastor tax breaks. I worked 40 hr + a week on my dime and would do it again but as a volunteer, we were seen as window dressing at best. To be honest we were often treated with utter contempt or indifference. I prefer contempt at least I know where I stand. My relationship with the organization and with church, in general, has always been based on utilitarian needs of the organization. I never felt that way I always saw us as a family and servants of God. I was stupid and pathetic and no longer look at much of this stuff that way. To be honest when I got booted out with a message on my answering machine letting me know what a piece of human filth I was, of course in love and a bit of a tear. When I pushed back a bit the true colors came out but I did not attack back after I saw that they would go after the local leader who really was just caught in the middle. I eventually reconciled by making the first step actually all the steps, like the bible says. Of course, that was seen as pathetic as well but whatever.

    I actually want to get back into ministry but I am terrified of Christians/evangelicals who are in the industry, not the regular folks but the ones in charge. You cannot have a conversation, a disagreement or even some constructive criticism they will retaliate, always.

  167. @ brian:

    “I actually want to get back into ministry but I am terrified of Christians/evangelicals who are in the industry, not the regular folks but the ones in charge”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    you have good reason to feel that way.

    “ministry”…. why does it have to mean under the umbrella of an institution? we can create our own opportunities, wherever we are. and be extremely productive about it, without all the bureaucracy and relational complexity (from big egos and fragile ones, and a plethora of unnecessary rules, spoken and unspoken). Yuck!

  168. ishy wrote:

    Velour wrote:
    could it have been more sarcasm, than anger? a frank way of talking about things instead of a softer approach? people in a hurry, who get right to the point?
    //
    I am a native to the San Francisco Bay Area and I haven’t seen the “just really angry at the world” people in church that you’ve talked about. I think folks here, like elastigirl is getting at, cut to the chase.
    Not just in church, but everyone. And they were angry, not straightforward. In fact, they were rarely straightforward about anything. Everything was done behind the backs of others, trying to tear anyone else down to make themselves feel better.
    I lived out in the East Bay, where people had long hours, and rather long commutes on top of that. People lived there because it was as close as they could get and afford a (tiny and poorly made) house with a yard. Add the rising gang violence, to which I’ve lost at least 5-10 classmates. Maybe it wasn’t so bad closer in to San Fran, but I had no experience like you all.

    Where did you live in the East Bay?

    I’ve lived and worked in Oakland before. There were some angry people, some gang shootings, and some murders. But even in that city there were many really nice people of
    all ethnic backgrounds, all income levels.

    Why it was older black women who brought me to Christ. Including Virginia from Everett & Jones BBQ, running one of her family’s restaurants.

  169. I grew up in the bay area as well, still am here and it depends on the church. I have been to a lot of churches usually driving people there who can’t drive etc. I don’t know because of the insurance and because if you make one mistake you will get sued. Many of the churches are full of extremely angry people, especially where money is concerned I mean very angry even violent people at times. I have never had actually been punched but bumped into “accidently” intimidated etc. I will admit that is somewhat rare, in my personal experience maybe five or six times of the top of my head. That does not include city council functions concerning homeless issues or refugee issues. Those meetings can get a bit rough, the trump rally is san Jose was violent, not as violent as some other events I have seen. The real frustration is the passive aggressive spiritualism/moralism /we are being persecuted schticks and the demagoguery. Some of these churches operate like a borg hive and when you are in that little world it can mess with your head.

    I had some contact, actually a lot of contacts online with the Harold Camping crowd even before we went deeper off the deep end. Some of those folks were totally devastated when the end did not come and they were just thrown to the curb. There was a Calvary Chapel crowd there when the first date did not manifest which I found ironic considering chuck smith’s eschatology especially back in the 80’s but that is another post. The power struggles, the church splitting, the attack on pastors and on congregations the excommunications of groups of people over personality clashes were all very sad. That was just the tip of the tip of a very large iceberg I have observed. It is important to note, from the people in the pews and many front line staff I have mostly very fond memories of service and love. The examples above or a small minority but they happened at key times in my spiritual journey so they do take on a larger significance in my memory.

  170. ishy wrote:

    I’ve lost at least 5-10 classmates.

    I am sorry to hear that.

    I had to call 911 in Oakland to save a guy who was kidnapped at gun point walking out of a pizza parlor in broad daylight. Police said I saved his life. Lots of other scary experiences in that city that I have never experienced anywhere else.

  171. elastigirl wrote:

    @ Steve240:

    i want to get down to brass tacks and demonstrate how many dollars the income-earning tax-paying individuals have to pay to cover the pastor’s / church’s share of govt. services at their disposal.

    (and to know what services are paid for with the tax dollars at issue — firefighters? police? road resurfacing? etc.)

    i think this kind of data-based illustration would be quite meaningful.

    In my neck of the woods, many moons ago, all this was developed by the pew peons in committee and presented to the congregation to discuss and vote.

    I realize other religions have never had that sort of process but I do wonder why people are either not interested in where their money goes or how it is spent and why they trust closed religious systems. In closed religious systems you have to believe whatever you are told/shown or leave.

    You could walk in any mega church today and ask random people and they will tell you they trust their leaders. I think it is the same in Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, etc. It says more about us than corrupt leaders who go along with closed system religion.

  172. @ ishy:

    This has been an interesting conversation since straightforward in a way that sounds rude to southern ears seemed like more of an east coast description than west (and accurate at least in some areas).

    Stereotypical west coast and real west coast may be different (one vacation wasn’t really enough for me to judge)

  173. I have to admit, 9marks is brash. They actually charge $295 for the opportunity to let you witness how they do church membership, and learn the incredible journey of Capitol Hill Baptist from dying and unhealthy to a thriving and healthy congregation under Mark Dever. I would hope for that much money that you get to experience an excommunication as well!

    Reverse hospitality? Has anyone seen one of these “Weekenders?” They do three a year, and the next four are sold out. They limit each one to only fifty people. On the bright side, you get fed and get 15 free books to indoctrinate, er, teach you all about how to turn your church into a 9marks masterpiece.

  174. drstevej wrote:

    Compensation Handbook for Church Staff

    I can’t tell from the description, but does the book have variance for cost of living? Cost of living in some places is much lower than in others. Also – who wrote the book? The blurb just says it is the average of compensation Nationally, which doesn’t make a lot of sense.

  175. Christiane wrote:

    feed them

    You’d be surprised to witness the variety of ways our young clergy dodge a free lunch in the corner cafe. I’ve rarely met such charming people. Yes, I could invite them to our house, but they are swamped with work obligations.

    For our parish, the answer is probably to start by comparing their pay with germane salary guidelines, and then to raise awareness that 1) it’s low, and 2) cost of living here is quite high. I do belong to a group in the parish that can rally behind this.

  176. Google says:
    Alternate Job Titles: Pastor, Minister.
    What is the average annual salary for Pastor? How much does a Pastor make? The median annual Pastor salary is $90,643, as of November 07, 2016, with a range usually between $74,522-$102,751, however this can vary widely depending on a variety of factors.

    Personally I think this is way too high.
    again according to Google:
    According to the US Census Bureau persons with doctorates in the United States had an average income of roughly $81,400.

    the MEDIAN household income is $56,516 in 2015, up $2,798 or 5.2% from the 2014 level of $53,718

    I would think that the median (or less) would be what should be expected by a pastor. After all, they seldom (in my experience) work even 40 hours a week.

  177. @ elastigirl:

    i feel the need to qualify what i’ve written.

    circumstantially & by accident of birth, i’m a majority person. i believe the greater area where i live is the land of the free spirits, and tends to be very open and tolerant and accepting and pro-people. it is my experience.

    but then i’m a majority person. i have no doubt that my fellow Bay Areans who have minority sexual identities, are african american, latino, and asian would give me an ironic look better than the one i’ve perfected. i have no doubt the road they’ve walked here has been fraught with all manner of prejudice, and pain because of it.

    while i believe it can be demonstrated that this area prioritizes acceptance & tolerance & compassion, there are painful limits (which i am immune to, but not unaware of).

    i have many ‘minority’ friends. i am aware of their experience — and i’ll qualify that: shades of it. i’ll never fully understand what it’s like to be in their shoes. but i care deeply.

  178. One church where I was considered the following in making the initial decision on pastor’s pay:

    + denominational base lines based on denominational guidelines
    + He was going to be the sole pastor and therefore on call all the time.
    + He had a wife and four young children and the church wanted to make it possible for her to stay home.
    + He had formerly been a missionary and they were stone cold broke because of that.
    = The best they could come up with to ‘do right’ by the pastor.

    It was a small church but they did what they could.

  179. okrapod wrote:

    One church where I was considered the following in making the initial decision on pastor’s pay:

    + denominational base lines based on denominational guidelines
    + He was going to be the sole pastor and therefore on call all the time.
    + He had a wife and four young children and the church wanted to make it possible for her to stay home.
    + He had formerly been a missionary and they were stone cold broke because of that.
    = The best they could come up with to ‘do right’ by the pastor.

    It was a small church but they did what they could.

    This is excellent. Thank you.

  180. Bridget wrote:

    Stan wrote:

    @ Todd Wilhelm:
    Watermark has its outreach, they run a health clinic, and I know they support some other things. But it’s all a black hole, and who knows how much of the pie that stuff is.
    Hey check this out, and I just found this for the first time. The Village Church, to their credit, posts their finances publically. Now someone help me out with this, because my eyeballs aren’t that great. Of their $21 MILLION budget, $17.5 MILLION stays inside the doors for salary and overhead?
    http://www.thevillagechurch.net/annual-report-2016/#giving-generosity

    I would say this is probably true for most churches. ALL the money to hey receive is tax free, but very little of it goes outside the church walls towards charity. This is why I believe churches should lose their 501c classification, or there should be some serious reporting guidelines, including how much money can be kept inside the walls. Most churches clearly do not do much charity work.

    My former IFB church refused to even give to the local crisis pregnancy center! How pro life is that?!

  181. okrapod wrote:

    + He had a wife and four young children and the church wanted to make it possible for her to stay home.

    This is sometimes the kind of thinking, though, that leads to ‘Mrs. X has a husband who makes a good salary so she doesn’t need as much money’. Not saying your group would have done that, but it happens.

  182. Just heard back from Alex at 9Marks. The 9Marks Ministry is considered an auxiliary of Capital Hill Baptist and thus is exempt from filing the form 990. I am waiting to hear back from the Executive Director regarding whether 9Marks receives more than 50% of its support from the church, and thus passes the internal support test.

  183. Dale wrote:

    They actually charge $295 for the opportunity to let you witness how they do church membership, and learn the incredible journey of Capitol Hill Baptist

    Anything for a buck…

    Paul was a tent maker. We read what he shares, etc. – free at the local public library, online or in print – how the church was established, and God’s plan from start to finish. No capital plan.

    What kind of a strategist is God? The successful do not show so He instructs his servants to reach out to the disenfranchised. (Luke 14) Doesn’t sound like the campaigns of the megas, of Nash/Bash in the UK, etc.

    Apparently, God doesn’t need the wealth of the worldly successful to launch/maintain His church. Jesus instructed the rich young ruler to give all to the poor, THEN follow Him. (Mark 10, Matthew 19) This is counter-intuitive and contrary to church practice today.

  184. Lea wrote:

    This is sometimes the kind of thinking, though, that leads to ‘Mrs. X has a husband who makes a good salary so she doesn’t need as much money’. Not saying your group would have done that, but it happens.

    Who is Mrs X?

  185. I fear a cage wrote:

    My former IFB church refused to even give to the local crisis pregnancy center! How pro life is that?!

    What was their reasoning behind that decision?

  186. Dale wrote:

    I am waiting to hear back from the Executive Director regarding whether 9Marks receives more than 50% of its support from the church, and thus passes the internal support test.

    That will be interesting to say the least.

  187. okrapod wrote:

    Lea wrote:
    This is sometimes the kind of thinking, though, that leads to ‘Mrs. X has a husband who makes a good salary so she doesn’t need as much money’. Not saying your group would have done that, but it happens.

    Who is Mrs X?

    I was thinking of a person who worked for a church. And that was the attitude about their salary.

  188. BeenThereDoneThat wrote:

    It is encouraging to me to read about pastors who are simply loving and serving their congregations, and some even being underpaid to do it.

    Well, here’s another story for you. My son-in-law is a bi-vocational Southern Baptist pastor at a “traditional” rural church. He has a Masters degree from an SBC seminary, but intentionally chose a low-pay vocational ministry in a rural area vs. pursuing the “mega” like so many of his seminary peers. He works a full-time non-ministry job through the week to support his young family and drives a long commute to the rural church for Sunday and Wednesday services. They pay him $150 per week, no benefits … that’s all those hard-working rural folks can afford. The congregation has labored long to pay for a very nice little church and fellowship hall … they’ve built what they could afford, paid their bills and have no church debt. The church members love and care for each other; my son-in-law, daughter, and grandson love serving them, seeing them come to Christ, grow in the Lord, and serve the Kingdom of God as the Spirit leads. They have all the compensation they need.

    The economy of God is quite different than what we see in the American church in far too many places. Mega is mini in God’s eyes, if mega is the leader’s pursuit and not Christlikeness. Jesus said “”Those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”

  189. okrapod wrote:

    I fear a cage wrote:

    My former IFB church refused to even give to the local crisis pregnancy center! How pro life is that?!

    What was their reasoning behind that decision?

    It wasn’t Christian enough.

    But yet they give to a highly suspect IFB boys rehab type ranch place. Oh and 25 a month to the local food pantry. Bless them.

  190. Lea wrote:

    I was thinking of a person who worked for a church. And that was the attitude about their salary.

    I think that a person who worked for that particular church (let us say as a secretary or a musician) would be paid the going rate for that job according to denominational guidelines (or local custom) without extras.

    I think that the feeling of the church was that a ‘N T church” has a responsibility to make it financially possible for people to go into full time ministry of the gospel (pastor or missionary or such) but does not have the same financial responsibility to people who just ‘work for’ the church.

    So, no, Mrs X would not be given money so that her spouse could give up his good job and stay home.

  191. elastigirl wrote:

    i think this kind of data-based illustration would be quite meaningful.

    You’ve just enumerated even more reasons why the financial regulations for religious non-profits need to be revamped. They enjoy the benefits of arguably the best infrastructure on the globe, and yet pay nothing toward its maintenance.

  192. okrapod wrote:

    I think that the feeling of the church was that a ‘N T church” has a responsibility to make it financially possible for people to go into full time ministry of the gospel (pastor or missionary or such) but does not have the same financial responsibility to people who just ‘work for’ the church.

    Problem is, when Clericalism takes hold, EVERYBODY is supposed to be in Full Time Ministry under pain of Christ Spewing Thee Out of His Mouth on J-Day, LUKEWARM!

  193. dee wrote:

    I am due to visit Tucson with my husband tomorrow. Please forgive my lack of comments until Saturday.

    I have relatives who winter near there. Visited once for Christmas — hearing the song “Sleigh Ride” in the desert was a whole new experience for me.

    I hope you feel better soon, Dee. Enjoy the weather in AZ!

  194. @ Headless Unicorn Guy:

    ‘Everybody’ does not have to be on the paid staff, or be full time, or get further education for ministry, or be on call. ‘Everybody’ does not have to drop out of the employment main stream and compromise their chances of getting back in should that become necessary. And there is nothing in scripture about financial support of ‘everybody’. I have been ‘everybody’ all my life. The church does not owe me financial support.

  195. Lydia wrote:

    You could walk in any mega church today and ask random people and they will tell you they trust their leaders. I think it is the same in Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, etc. It says more about us than corrupt leaders who go along with closed system religion.

    I think it also says a lot about human nature. These same people most likely would say they trust their doctor, their dentist and the politicians they voted for.

    I also think a church should be considered as a business. The amount of money you give to a church should simply reflect the value you receive from going to the church. It’s an individual decision.

  196. Max wrote:

    He works a full-time non-ministry job through the week to support his young family and drives a long commute to the rural church for Sunday and Wednesday services. They pay him $150 per week, no benefits … that’s all those hard-working rural folks can afford.

    your son-in-law sounds like the real thing

  197. Ken G wrote:

    The amount of money you give to a church should simply reflect the value you receive from going to the church.

    in my case, there isn’t enough money on the planet …

  198. okrapod wrote:

    I think that the feeling of the church was that a ‘N T church” has a responsibility to make it financially possible for people to go into full time ministry of the gospel (pastor or missionary or such) but does not have the same financial responsibility to people who just ‘work for’ the church.

    I was speaking more to the paying someone based on their life situation, ie, a spouse who could stay home and supporting 4 kids, as opposed to what a job should be paid based on other factors.

  199. okrapod wrote:

    who just ‘work for’ the church

    Also, I don’t know if you meant it this way, but this struck me as a dig. I don’t really like that.

    You do a job, you should be paid an appropriate amount for the job, not penalized for being a woman, or given extras for being the pastors son in law and ‘needing’ the money.

  200. okrapod wrote:

    So, no, Mrs X would not be given money so that her spouse could give up his good job and stay home.

    Oh, just saw this part. That is the OPPOSITE of what I was trying to say, which is that she was being actively penalized in salary for being married, based on supposed ‘need’ or lack thereof.

  201. @ Lea:

    I understand that you consider that as being penalized. I do not consider it that way. I think we understand each other; we simply disagree.

  202. @ Lea:

    The idea behind what I originally said about how the church did had nothing to do with gender or nepotism. Let us stay in precise-land here.

    The church was generous with a specific pastor in a specific situation. Much like Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard.

  203. A comment kind of out of left field at this point, but it does have to do with the topic: I am very sure that there are pastors/churches that abuse the tax exemption rules. However, those exemptions have allowed our small and below-average-income parish to pay our hard-working priest a living wage. The salary we pay goes a lot farther; were it not for those exemptions, we would have to come up with…money we don’t have.

    Because we have a full-time priest, we can serve the community (not our parish but the homeless and needy) that we could not before (I don’t want to go into it all…it would come across as showing off or something and it would take away a lot of the blessing). I would go so far as to say that the “unpaid taxes” would not offset the community benefit resulting from the exemptions.

    It will be a sad day for a lot of people when the “spiritual grifters” cause the true pastors and body of believers to lose these benefits.

  204. PaJo wrote:

    It will be a sad day for a lot of people when the “spiritual grifters” cause the true pastors and body of believers to lose these benefits.

    That is worth thinking about. We have an overflow homeless shelter program during the coldest months also. This sort of thing has to be done, and it is not cheap.

  205. @ PaJo:

    “It will be a sad day for a lot of people when the “spiritual grifters” cause the true pastors and body of believers to lose these benefits.”
    ++++++++++++

    i hear what you’re saying, and sympathize.

    but to me, true pastors / bodies of believers and remuneration have nothing to do with each other.

  206. PaJo wrote:

    It will be a sad day for a lot of people when the “spiritual grifters” cause the true pastors and body of believers to lose these benefits.

    there isn’t enough Bubble Wrap in the world to protect us from the bad con people. And decent people are always punished when new laws are created to go after bad people. Church is voluntary. Giving is voluntary. As Jesus said, be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. At some point, grown ups have to be grown ups.

  207. Lydia wrote:

    Church is voluntary. Giving is voluntary.

    Yes. And when Paul voluntarily gave up his right to financial support this may establish a precedent that paying or not paying whomever may also be voluntary, according to what everybody agrees on.

    The church has nothing to gain by adopting the values of the world in this, but I am afraid that will be forced on the church because of the bad guys. If so, we brought it on ourselves.

  208. Dale wrote:

    Just heard back from Alex at 9Marks. The 9Marks Ministry is considered an auxiliary of Capital Hill Baptist and thus is exempt from filing the form 990. I am waiting to hear back from the Executive Director regarding whether 9Marks receives more than 50% of its support from the church, and thus passes the internal support test.

    Good work, Dale.

  209. okrapod wrote:

    @ Lea:

    I understand that you consider that as being penalized. I do not consider it that way. I think we understand each other; we simply disagree.

    I have seen this in life, the nepotism and the penalization. That’s my experience with that philosophy. Yours was good. I am merely presenting another perspective.

  210. @ Muslin, fka Dee Holmes:

    I’m not persuaded by the argument that the 990ez is simple and easy. It’s a governmental intrusion into the affairs of churches. I’m for disclosure, full disclosure, to church members not to the government. Every member should have all of their money questions answered, a practice I practiced consisted. Let individuals who want full disclosure of their pastor salary but who don’t get it find another church.

  211. William wrote:

    I’m not persuaded by the argument that the 990ez is simple and easy. It’s a governmental intrusion into the affairs of churches. I’m for disclosure, full disclosure, to church members not to the government. Every member should have all of their money questions answered,

    This sounds too much like “just trust me” accounting, which would not be accounting at all. I want my church to follow generally accepted accounting practices, and to demonstrate that it follows the law.

    Heck, I belong to a small secular women’s group that manages to prove nonprofit status through the efforts of a volunteer treasurer. I trust them with my money because I know they follow a legal standard, and account for every single penny, every single year.

  212. William wrote:

    I’m not persuaded by the argument that the 990ez is simple and easy. It’s a governmental intrusion into the affairs of churches. I’m for disclosure, full disclosure, to church members not to the government. Every member should have all of their money questions answered, a practice I practiced consisted. Let individuals who want full disclosure of their pastor salary but who don’t get it find another church.

    I have. It is the church of no church! My experience is that men do not want to be accountable to anyone but themselves and their hand-picked friends.

    I have been on staff and seen where the money goes. I don’t understand why churches have nonprofit status. Most of the money stays inside the church for salaries and buildings and worship fancies. Why should it not be taxed? The money given by members is not spent on charity, most of it goes for self service of members and pastors.

  213. William wrote:
    I’m not persuaded by the argument that the 990ez is simple and easy. It’s a governmental intrusion into the affairs of churches.
    The entities in question are not churches. They are affiliated with churches. Should political entities or business entities be allowed to affiliate themselves with churches and operate as “non-profits” and be able to pay people whatever they want? They are tax-privileged. They need to be tax responsible.

    I think Dale may also find that there is a 990 reason that 9Marks maintains a substantial presence in Dubai.

  214. PaJo wrote:

    It will be a sad day for a lot of people when the “spiritual grifters” cause the true pastors and body of believers to lose these benefits.

    PaJo, I don’t think it needs to come to that. Currently, non-profits who have under $500,000 in assets and less than $200,000 in revenue a year, do not have to fill out a Form 990. Instead they can fill out the simplified Form 990EZ where they don’t have to show much detail. One of the reasons for this is because Form 990’s can be cumbersome and require a bit of effort to put together. Non-profits with gross receipts under $50,000 a year need only mail in a 990-N postcard which has virtually no disclosures.

    The tax code could be modified to extend the 990 rules to all 501(c)3s including religious organizations. Larger religious orgs would fill out a Form 990 while the smaller ones would only have to submit the Form 990EZ. The smallest could use a 990-N. If the church uses something like QuickBooks (which typically even the smallest do these days) this is easy enough to do. The 990EZ form is only 4 pages long. The balance sheet is only 6 lines and the expense detail is 7 lines. It does require the disclosure of compensation for officers, directors and the five highest paid employees, but that’s a small price to pay to expose spiritual grifters.

    Perhaps the IRS could exempt that requirement for smaller churches. I would think that pastors of little churches would want the pastors making hundreds of thousands a year exposed, to protect the larger body of Christ across the U.S., as well as for the good of the souls of any potential abusers.

    I don’t think it’s asking too much for a corporation that makes millions of tax free dollars every year, to submit a 990. This would not put a financial burden on the smaller, more humble churches like yours, who need every penny they get, as all 501(c)3s are still exempt from paying taxes. The Form 990 and 990EZ are informational returns only.

    These days megas have outgrown the former definition and understanding of what a church is as many have become large franchise businesses that engage in shrewd marketing and revenue maximization techniques.

    Personally, I think if churches had to make even small basic disclosures on how the money is spent, including the salaries of the top paid officers and employees (as required by the Form 990) it would make it more difficult for greedy grifters to get away with gross personal enrichment. That would reduce the motivation to enter ministry purely for profit and fewer con artists might be drawn to this industry.

  215. @ Bridget:

    I can see property taxes. The staff and employees already do pay taxes on salary. Is the church exempt from sales tax? Maybe eliminate the housing allowance. I have not checked my utilities bills to see if there is a tax charge on them, but I am thinking there probably is. Are churches exempt from those kinds of taxes? But what if somebody makes a contribution for a new carpet, should that be taxed? Taxed as what? Gift tax? That would mean that I could put carpet in my home with no tax consequences, but if I gave money to the church for carpet it would get taxed. That seems weird to me. The whole gift tax thing would hit the contributor I think, aren’t they who has to pay that tax and not the recipient? So would this be it…I have salary and pay tax on salary. I give money to the church and pay gift tax on it. The church buys carpet and pays sales tax on the carpet, then pays the people who install the carpet who in turn pay tax on that money. Then the city ups the value of the church because of the new carpet and so the property tax goes up, for which the church wants me to give them some more money just as soon as the merry go round circles back. At this point I would have to increase my giving since I am giving not just to the church but also to the tax man. Also at this point the church has to cut back on money let us say to the co-operative program because the tax line in the budget is huge.

    I don’t know how all that would work, actually, but I am not a CPA for sure. I do know that I have done enough already in forwarding money to the tax man and I have no plans to want to see that increase.

  216. Bridget wrote:

    I have been on staff and seen where the money goes. I don’t understand why churches have nonprofit status. Most of the money stays inside the church for salaries and buildings and worship fancies. Why should it not be taxed? The money given by members is not spent on charity, most of it goes for self service of members and pastors.

    I think churches too often function more like a private club rather than for the public good. Therefore, I don’t see a direct benefit to the community. It’s not only churches that are tax exempt; Hindu temples, mosques, etc. are also tax exempt. I don’t understand why members get to deduct their donations as the churches grow bigger and wealthier. A good place to begin would be to eliminate any tax deduction for the donations.

  217. Ken G wrote:

    A good place to begin would be to eliminate any tax deduction for the donations.

    This has been proposed in the past. Charities immediately cry out that people will give less if they don’t get a tax deduction. Many Americans give to charity at the end of the year to lower their income taxes. And, as PaJo points out…PaJo wrote:

    those exemptions have allowed our small and below-average-income parish to pay our hard-working priest a living wage. The salary we pay goes a lot farther

  218. okrapod wrote:

    But what if somebody makes a contribution for a new carpet, should that be taxed? Taxed as what? Gift tax? That would mean that I could put carpet in my home with no tax consequences, but if I gave money to the church for carpet it would get taxed. That seems weird to me.

    That shouldn’t be a problem because there is an annual gift tax exclusion of $14,000 per individual in 2016. Amounts in excess of $14,000 count as part of the $5.45 million you are allowed to give away during your lifetime, before you must pay the gift tax. I think it is more important that churches just don’t get their “hands” on your money due to concerns about diverting the funds for some other use. A few members can get together purchase new carpeting and have it installed without giving the money to the church.

  219. okrapod wrote:

    Is the church exempt from sales tax?

    In my very limited experience of buying stuff for secular 501(c)(3) organizations, you provide the organization’s tax ID number to the vendor to establish exemption. Also in my experience, it’s an elusive thing. I hope somebody else will weigh in…

  220. Friend wrote:

    In my very limited experience of buying stuff for secular 501(c)(3) organizations, you provide the organization’s tax ID number to the vendor to establish exemption. Also in my experience, it’s an elusive thing. I hope somebody else will weigh in…

    Yep. That’s what I did when I bought non-food supplies for the church kitchen. (No tax on food in Kentucky …….. except for soft drinks, candy bars, and the like.)

  221. LT wrote:

    It does require the disclosure of compensation for officers, directors and the five highest paid employees, but that’s a small price to pay to expose spiritual grifters.

    Exactly. That does not require a lot of time or a lot of effort. Transparency for the benefit of the donors is a good thing.

  222. Ken G wrote:

    A few members can get together purchase new carpeting and have it installed without giving the money to the church.

    That carpet money will go further if some taxes are eliminated from the transaction.

    Also, I’ve seen an effort like the carpet example. Well-meaning people decided to make targeted donations to fix up the kitchen, which had been excluded from a renovation plan. They were quietly told that this was “splinter fund raising,” and politely asked if they would mind just giving to the renovation fund. In the end, one member silently paid for the kitchen renovation. She pushed the idea through without reviving the small rebellion. Nice she had the dough and the ninja moves to get the work done…

  223. So far it looks like changing the current tax law in this matter would be disadvantageous to both the churches and the contributors. That looks like overkill to me. Why would we rather that the government have the money rather than the churches and the contributors?

    Would not transparency suffice? If the church is big enough it could get an outside audit yearly (we do) and then practice transparency. Really small churches could skip the audit and just go with transparency.

  224. okrapod wrote:

    Would not transparency suffice? If the church is big enough it could get an outside audit yearly (we do) and then practice transparency. Really small churches could skip the audit and just go with transparency.

    It would only work if it were legislated. I’m on the board of our school childcare centre – we deal in thousands, not even hundreds of thousands, and we have dot every i and cross every t in accordance with our province’s companies act which governs not for profits.
    The mini mega down the street – pastor has a 9 bedroom mansion, his congregants bought him a $25 000 Harley Davidson motorcycle. All. tax. free.
    Forgive me for being cynical but I trust churches as far as I can throw them. I never give to church based charities though I have given to those para church orgs that are transparent (like Salvation Army and some of our local shelters). I’m more inclined to give to Cancer Research though I know that you have to be careful with some of those charities as well when you look at what the administration overhead is versus what is actually getting to where its needed.
    Getting back to the post – if it smells wrong then it probably is.

  225. okrapod wrote:

    @ Bridget:
    I can see property taxes. The staff and employees already do pay taxes on salary. Is the church exempt from sales tax? Maybe eliminate the housing allowance. I have not checked my utilities bills to see if there is a tax charge on them, but I am thinking there probably is. Are churches exempt from those kinds of taxes? But what if somebody makes a contribution for a new carpet, should that be taxed? Taxed as what? Gift tax? That would mean that I could put carpet in my home with no tax consequences, but if I gave money to the church for carpet it would get taxed. That seems weird to me. The whole gift tax thing would hit the contributor I think, aren’t they who has to pay that tax and not the recipient? So would this be it…I have salary and pay tax on salary. I give money to the church and pay gift tax on it. The church buys carpet and pays sales tax on the carpet, then pays the people who install the carpet who in turn pay tax on that money. Then the city ups the value of the church because of the new carpet and so the property tax goes up, for which the church wants me to give them some more money just as soon as the merry go round circles back. At this point I would have to increase my giving since I am giving not just to the church but also to the tax man. Also at this point the church has to cut back on money let us say to the co-operative program because the tax line in the budget is huge.
    I don’t know how all that would work, actually, but I am not a CPA for sure. I do know that I have done enough already in forwarding money to the tax man and I have no plans to want to see that increase.

    The church is exempt from paying sales tax, property tax, and income tax. All monies given to a church are tax free to the church.

    Yes the staff pay income tax on their salary, but we all do. Many of us are then taxed again when we purchase food and merchandise, and on our property every year. Businesses are taxed on their income, property, and merchandise purchases.

    Churches are exempt from all of this, yet most of these church do very little charity, which was part of the purpose for their tax exempt status. They take money in and most of it gets used for purposes other than charity.

  226. okrapod wrote:

    Would not transparency suffice? If the church is big enough it could get an outside audit yearly (we do) and then practice transparency. Really small churches could skip the audit and just go with transparency.

    Except many are not transparent. Many that are transparent are still controlled completely by Pastor/elders so your only option if you disagree with how finances are handled is to leave. Not much of a community feeling in a church like this.

    I’m with Jack on this one. Legislation is the only way to bring change.

  227. Well, I think I have figured it out. I have never worked for a church, but I have worked for the government. One sees through one’s own lenses.

  228. This new article in Christianity Today illustrates to me a big part of the problem we’re discussing here: “Trump Adviser’s Megachurch Withholds Major Donation from SBC” http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2017/february/trump-advisers-church-withholds-donation-sbc-graham-moore.html

    Money = power & influence. Churches are morphing into political structures. The millions of dollars worth of pressure that they are discussing in this article are amassed from the individual offerings of members, tax free.

  229. I wonder how many 21st century pastors would be willingly to live on the compensation/benefit packages of 1st century pastors? Do you reckon the early church provided perks (housing allowance? paid vacations and sabbaticals? retirement program? health insurance? book fund? paid conference attendance? etc.)

  230. okrapod wrote:

    Well, I think I have figured it out. I have never worked for a church, but I have worked for the government. One sees through one’s own lenses.

    So, I imagine you have seen the waste in government?

    All churches are not, necessarily, wasteful. I just dont see that many of them do charitable work to the extent that they should have tax exempt status.

  231. Max wrote:

    I wonder how many 21st century pastors would be willingly to live on the compensation/benefit packages of 1st century pastors?

    It would do the ministry good if we could transport the whole bunch back to the 1st century to learn a thing or two about leading a church following the right model.

  232. LT wrote:

    PaJo wrote:
    It will be a sad day for a lot of people when the “spiritual grifters” cause the true pastors and body of believers to lose these benefits.
    PaJo, I don’t think it needs to come to that. Currently, non-profits who have under $500,000 in assets and less than $200,000 in revenue a year, do not have to fill out a Form 990. Instead they can fill out the simplified Form 990EZ where they don’t have to show much detail. One of the reasons for this is because Form 990’s can be cumbersome and require a bit of effort to put together. Non-profits with gross receipts under $50,000 a year need only mail in a 990-N postcard which has virtually no disclosures.
    The tax code could be modified to extend the 990 rules to all 501(c)3s including religious organizations. Larger religious orgs would fill out a Form 990 while the smaller ones would only have to submit the Form 990EZ. The smallest could use a 990-N. If the church uses something like QuickBooks (which typically even the smallest do these days) this is easy enough to do. The 990EZ form is only 4 pages long. The balance sheet is only 6 lines and the expense detail is 7 lines. It does require the disclosure of compensation for officers, directors and the five highest paid employees, but that’s a small price to pay to expose spiritual grifters.
    Perhaps the IRS could exempt that requirement for smaller churches. I would think that pastors of little churches would want the pastors making hundreds of thousands a year exposed, to protect the larger body of Christ across the U.S., as well as for the good of the souls of any potential abusers.
    I don’t think it’s asking too much for a corporation that makes millions of tax free dollars every year, to submit a 990. This would not put a financial burden on the smaller, more humble churches like yours, who need every penny they get, as all 501(c)3s are still exempt from paying taxes. The Form 990 and 990EZ are informational returns only.
    These days megas have outgrown the former definition and understanding of what a church is as many have become large franchise businesses that engage in shrewd marketing and revenue maximization techniques.
    Personally, I think if churches had to make even small basic disclosures on how the money is spent, including the salaries of the top paid officers and employees (as required by the Form 990) it would make it more difficult for greedy grifters to get away with gross personal enrichment. That would reduce the motivation to enter ministry purely for profit and fewer con artists might be drawn to this industry.

    But those amounts are of varying value in different parts of the country. We have saved for TWENTY years to be able to buy our building. Twenty years. In this neck of the woods, a relatively crummy building on less than 1 acre costs $2M. Yup, that is an M. We were blessed recently through an odd set of circumstances (dare I call it the working of the Holy Spirit?) to be able to purchase the building or $1.2M.

    Former parshioners moved away to another part of the country. They were able to buy a building of decent quality on 5 acres of land for $80,000 in an area where the median income is 75% of our median income. It’s not that people aren’t giving–it’s that it takes an order of magnitude MORE giving.

    Both parishes are about the same size, and both parishes pay their full-time priest a living wage (neither is getting rich, that’s for sure).

    Putting a flat rate of $500,000 assets is arbitrary and penalizing in our circumstance.

    I’m not saying that there isn’t a rational way to look at this…but a flat rate isn’t it, if you see what I mean.

    Since we started looking for property less than 7 years ago, when it became financially feasible, more than 7 churches have been torn down and turned into business parks or condos, or appropriated by government entities…and these will never ever again be churches. That is a real loss, if you ask me. They were not huge properties…just unaffordable. And so, multiple homeless cots have been removed, 3 “soup kitchens” have gone away; wedding/anniversary/Boy or Girl Scout meeting locations are gone…and so on.

    It is a change in the fabric of our society…and a lot of the blame for this can be laid at the feet of the “spiritual grifters” who have proclaimed a false gospel and turned people against what they perceived to be God.

    Yes, I am angry. Anger is an appropriate response in this situation.

  233. When receiving a financial statement that only has about 5 to 8 line items that doesn’t really show what or where the funds are being spent…as a person giving to such an organization, asking for more detail would seem reasonable. Maybe a financial statement with 30 line items will satisfy you that donations are being spent wisely. If you are told the details are none of your business and asking questions is a sin bordering on slander..if that happens the best suggestion is to donate (give, tithe, offer) money, time and things to an organization that is helping others rather than feeding their own bellies, pride or selfish motives. Part of stewardship is being a good steward of what, who and why the beneficiaries are being blessed by your giving. I believe that giving is a blessing given from G_d for me to attempt to help others. At the same time, if the administrators of the funds attempt shaming and manipulation tactics to avoid disclosing what’s really being done with said donations, at that point I believe my heavenly Father would prefer me to trust a different organization to carry out G_d’s will.

  234. I could be wrong but I think churches being tax exempt has more to do with “no taxation without representation”. It’s an effort to keep churches separate from the state.

  235. Max wrote:

    It would do the ministry good if we could transport the whole bunch back to the 1st century to learn a thing or two about leading a church following the right model.

    I see it a different way. The model of both church and society in that day is not something which we should want to maintain. Today is not yesterday. Be good to your slaves. Wives submit. Honor the king who is God’s anointed. Let a visiting evangelist stay only a short time and then not all at one house. Obey those who have oversight of you in the church. And on and on.

    If the scripture has said that the Spirit will lead us to all things, is it reasonably possible to say that indeed He has not made any progress at all in that direction?

  236. @ okrapod:
    Well, whatever the 21st century church is supposed to look like vs. the 1st century assembly of the saints, one thing is clear … there is no power resting on the current one. If we accept that the Holy Spirit has lead us into the modern thing we call church, He must have decided to leave His power out of it. We don’t have enough spiritual power in most gatherings to blow the dust off a peanut! And, as a result, the devil is having his way in far too many places, as evidenced by the continued TWW pieces on his activities.

  237. Wayne wrote:

    .if that happens the best suggestion is to donate (give, tithe, offer) money, time and things to an organization that is helping others rather than feeding their own bellies, pride or selfish motives.

    This was my take.

  238. okrapod wrote:

    Would not transparency suffice? If the church is big enough it could get an outside audit yearly (we do) and then practice transparency. Really small churches could skip the audit and just go with transparency.

    Which is what I originally suggested up-thread.
    Transparency as a starting point.
    The little guy as always has nothing to hide, and like always, he’ll continue as always, neither hurt nor hindered.

    If other congregations then want to continue to finance the fabulous life-styles of mountebanks in their pulpits, that’s their own business.
    There, now we have a reasonable compromise between you libertarian leaning folks down here in our own lower 48, and old socialists like Potter.

  239. I am 61 years old and have been attending church for 45 years. I have moved a lot so that included a lot of church changes as well as denomination changes. Here is my conclusion and fix for the problem of money hungry churches:
    1. I do not join, but attend regularly, use my spiritual gifts and attempt to grow under the teaching. you don’t have to be apart of a program to use the gifts God gave you and you don’t have to go out of your way to offend church leadership.( unless God calls you to)
    2. I calculate the cost of my attending ie: air conditioning, electricity, paper products, things of that nature then I pay tithes accordingly.
    3. I NEVER give to the missions fund unless I have personally vetted the missionary. I know that sounds hard but I can tell you 9 out of 10 missionaries I have asked simple questions to had very unsatisfactory answers. Questions like ” how many people did you share the Gospel, come into personal contact with or helped in the last 30 days?” How is your prayer life and Bible reading? If I was paying a salary to someone say cleaning my yard I would expect them to actually be cleaning my yard, why would I support someone’s computer habit( which 9 out of 10 confessed to having) when they are suppose to be ministering to peoples needs?
    4. I find an invisible servant of God who is humbly helping others and I support their work with the bulk of the tithes I have to give.
    5. I try to enjoy church fellowship reach out to others and not focus on the bad, and I try to keep my relationship healthy with the Lord.
    After several years of being crazy frustrated with the unhealthy church and trying to fix it I have come to the conclusion that where there are people there are problems and I can only really fix me and be willing to help someone else along the way.
    Thanks for your ministry, A light in the dark. Donna In sunny Florida in a mega church …smile….

  240. “Should Members Keep Giving Money to a Church That Refuses to Disclose the Pastor’s Salary?”

    Why are “members” giving money to the “church” and not directly to those in need? Why has the exception become the rule/norm?

    Salaried pastors? Where did that come from?

    Just my initial thoughts. Maybe it’s true, in this case, that wrong questions don’t have right answers.

  241. To answer your question about churches receiving money: The scripture teaches tithing( some disagree) and the main verses that are used are in the Book of Malachi the last book of the Old Testament. If you read it all, the whole book in context God is looking at our hearts and when He commands us to bring the tithe into the storehouse which was the Temple He was asking us to have faith in HIM as the Temple was very corrupt at that time. Whatever we do God cares about humility, faith , trust and love of Him not the appearance of man. I would encourage everyone reading this blog to take the time to read through the whole Bible at least once a year, 5 chapters a day will do it. 2 in the old 3 in the New to start with. This act of faith will have great rewards for all our futures. I am sure many are already doing so by the insightful comments.

  242. I forgot to add that salaried pastors came from the verse a workman is worthy of his hire Matthew 10, read the whole chapter for context.
    Paul the greatest preacher was a tent maker so he supported himself so no man could criticize him and hurt the Gospel. I think the key verse is Matt. 10:10. A worker is worthy of his hire… you have to have someone who IS working to be worthy of his hire. That word working has a lot different meaning from Jesus than modern day phonies and men who have good intentions but lack intimate Bible knowledge and only have seminary teaching.
    I hope this helps you with your questions.

  243. @ Donna:

    If one is going to apply the OT laws regarding tithes (plurals intended) then one should surely see what is the specific resource to be tithed and when and how often the tithe was required and what purpose the tithe served.

    Then compare this to what some churches are saying.

    The issues include but are not limited to:
    Which laws in the OT apply to gentile christians and which do not.
    If OT laws apply to what degree of specificity must one comply with the details of the law.

    IMO the current church can deal in a comprehensive and consistent manner with the OT laws issues, and the current church can quit twisting scripture to their own advantage at the expense of the ‘sheep’ or else the current church might as well zip their lip.

  244. @ Donna:
    Donna, your “method” of surviving in an unhealthy church (most are these days) makes a lot of sense. You essentially are being the Church in a church system you might not agree with. Many others who comment on TWW reached the same point in their journeys through 21st century churches which are missing the mark. However, they decided to join the “Done” ranks … done with the organized church, but not done with Jesus. They may not go to church, but they continue to be the Church as the Spirit leads.

  245. Donna wrote:

    Matt. 10:10. A worker is worthy of his hire

    That reference implies who is the boss and who is the employee. Thus we are not talking about a CEO who is in charge. Also we get to decide the pay rate, not him or the group he finds to justify his desired level of income. And lastly I cannot imagine hiring someone who dips into my accounts and resents my knowledge of how much he is taking.

  246. Paul admitted very clearly in 1 Cor 9 that money clouded the waters as to motivation (of his own and also how other viewed him) when it came to capitalizing on his rights regarding preaching the Gospel. Too many people read the passage and don’t realize the “BUT” in vss. 12 and 15 disengages the argument of capitalization.

    12 If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?
    But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.

    13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.

    15 But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me, for I would rather die than allow anyone to deprive me of this boast.

    He goes on to say in the next chapter (10) that our goal is the good of others, not our own welfare:

    23 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

    Then he puts the icing on the cake in the next thought which summarizes why he wrote all of it in chapter 11:1:

    1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

    Neither Paul nor Christ were salaried ministers of the Gospel, yet had EVERY right and qualification met to do so. BUT the Gospel is not about RIGHTS….it’s all about laying them down for the good of others.

    Four decades of being part of the “salaried pastor” mentality has left me with an experience that proves that pay checks distort loyalties and corrupt motivations.

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