The Secret, Exorbitant and Ridiculous Salaries of Southern Baptist Convention Leadership and Celebrity Pastors


NASA Picture of the Day

A dreadful thing is the love of money! It disables both eyes and ears, and makes men worse to deal with than a wild beast, allowing a man to consider neither conscience nor friendship nor fellowship nor salvation. ~ John Chrysostom, Early Church Father


Shortly after the Houston Chronicle published its series on the child sex abuse scandal in the Southern Baptist Convention, the SBC sought a new CEO for the Executive Committee. This is the committee which would be tasked with trying to do something to respond to allegations of sexual abuse coverup in some of the famous SBC churches like Second Baptist Church in Houston.

Dee, being somewhat cynical, has little hope that anything will happen to any of the church named in the report. However, the SBC understands optics and JD Greear is supposedly moving full steam ahead to *do something.*

According to SBC Voices in The SBC’s worst kept secret and how if this were the real Army, SBCers would be in the hoosegow., Ronnie Floyd was appointed to the position to *do something.*

According to Religion News:

Ronnie Floyd, an Arkansas megachurch pastor and former Southern Baptist Convention president, has been elected to head the denomination’s Executive Committee.

Meeting in Dallas, Executive Committee trustees approved Floyd’s nomination by a vote of 68-1, according to Baptist Press, the SBC’s official news service.

“It’s a great privilege for me to be able to accept the opportunity to become the president and chief executive officer of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee,” said Floyd in a news conference after his election Tuesday (April 2).

Floyd is pastor of Cross Church, a congregation of about 9,000 that has campuses in Arkansas and Missouri. He is also president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.

…In his new role, Floyd will head the Nashville-based Executive Committee, which acts on behalf of the SBC in between its annual meetings. One of his major tasks will be promoting the SBC’s Cooperative Program, which funds missions, seminary education and other ministries.

It is my understanding that Floyd will be stepping down from his pastorate which  is a good move in the days of one man doing a gazillion jobs in the SBC and pretending that he is doing all of it well.

Secrecy and $500,000

So what is the secret du jour? Apparently Ronnie Floyd is being paid a boatload and that is raising eyebrow. A commenter on SBC Voices claims that Floyd will be paid $500,000. Since the salaries of the leaders are not made public, this number is conjecture. However, it was the response of some on SBC Voices to this possibility that drew my attention.


It appears that the Southern Baptist Convention’s leadership has no problem in spending the money which was donated from local churches on fancy salaries. Ronnie Floyd will allegedly be making more than governors of most states. Surely his job is not more complex than those?

Salaries of SBC pastors, especially of the megachurch variety, are often kept secret and are often extremely high.

Recently we learned that James MacDonald (yes, HBC is SBC) makes bank on the church. Julie Roys posted James MacDonald Took Millions from Harvest & Now Demands Broadcast Ministry.

MacDonald who insisted his salary remains secret, claiming he would rather lose members than divulge it, appears to have a reason for keeping his salary on the down low.

James MacDonald, told three elders in 2013 that he’d “lose 1,000 sheep” before he’d reveal his salary. That’s according to former elders—Scott Phelps, Barry Slabaugh, and Dan Marquardt—who resigned soon after hearing that comment, and months later, were publicly excommunicated. (The church has since apologized for its “harsh” discipline of the men.)

What was his salary?

According to Roys, this was the official amount.

In 2018, Harvest reportedly paid MacDonald $80,000 per month ($50,000/month in regular salary and $30,000/month in deferred compensation) for a total of $960,000 per year. (This number does not include additional money MacDonald may have received from his broadcast ministry, Walk in the Word, Harvest’s church planting network, Vertical Church, its songwriting and worship ministry, Vertical Worship, and books.)

However,

Bucur and Banaszak said one of the leaders told them that MacDonald’s deferred compensation plan totals $2.6 million and was initially set up in 2010.

…Bucur and Banaszak said their source also told them that in addition to compensation, Harvest gave MacDonald between $800,000 – $1.2 million annually in discretionary funds. Half of that money reportedly came from a senior pastor discretionary fund, and a similar amount came from a discretionary fund in Walk in the Word.

The church leader with whom I consulted confirmed that these discretionary funds were part of the hidden or “black budget” I reported in my December WORLD Magazine article on Harvest. This budget reportedly comprised about 20-percent of Harvest’s total budget and was kept secret from all but top church staff and the former elder executive committee. The executive committee was a group of four to five top elders who had sole responsibility for approving Harvest’s annual budget and executive salaries.

Bucur and Banaszak said one of Harvest’s leaders told them that MacDonald was supposed to note any expenses from his discretionary funds that were personal and then reimburse the church for those expenses. However, Bucur and Banaszak said their source told them that MacDonald counted as a ministry expense having a bear stuffed and shipped from Alaska.

What are the salaries of the senior leadership at these 500 churches?

Here is a list from 2015 of the 500 largest SBC churches. Can anyone who attends these churches find how much the leaders make in salaries, benefits and black book compensation? I would love to find out and I will keep you identity confidential. I think that James MacDonald will not be the only one with a eyebrow raising salary.

MacDonald is not the only one who has a slush fund. I have been told by a reliable source that well known megachurch in my area has a pastor’s discretionary fund of $200.000+ along with a healthy salary.

Thoughts:

  • It seems to me that churches/parachurch groups are playing more by the rules of Wall Street than the Via Dolorosa. Do we want pastors or CEOs? The office of CEO is not mentioned in Timothy.
  • Why shouldn’t those who give money to any entity know what is being paid to the top salary earners?
  • Why shouldn’t we suspect that the salary is too high if they refuse to tell us?
  • If it is perfectly fine for a pastor to earn $1 million or $500,000, then why does it need to remain a secret? The church should let it be known since the church is supposed to be a city on the hill with lights blazing.
  • There are companies that specialize in advising churches on pastors’ compensations. I believe that the industry may be driving up the expectations for high salaries.
  • Low level staff serving in churches which richly compensate senior pastors develop demands for higher salaries. One church leader told me that a pastor from Ed Young Jr’s church applied for a job as a music leader. He said he would not consider the position unless it was well into the 6 figure range. They laughed and told him to get lost.
  • If you suspect that your senior pastor is being compensated in an exorbitant fashion and the church leaders will not share his salary, I suggest you stop giving to the church directly. Instead, if you wish to stay, contribute your money directly to a local mission group that the church supports. And, if you have the nerve to do it, tell your church friends of your decision.This may start a movement that will lead to a decline in revenue. My guess is the church will rethink their secrecy.
  • I will be happy to post exorbitant salaries of church/parachurch leadership on this blog. I get to decide what is meant by exorbitant. (Hey, I do get some benefits for doing this blog.) Folks also need to remember that I have an MBA so I understand that a pastor who lives in NYC may need more money than a person who lives in Mississippi. However, let me end this by saying that I think $500,000 is excessive for Ronnie Floyd’s new position even though I’m sure he is a nice guy.

Shun, as you would the plague, a cleric who from being poor has become wealthy, or who, from being nobody has become a celebrity. Jerome


Comments

The Secret, Exorbitant and Ridiculous Salaries of Southern Baptist Convention Leadership and Celebrity Pastors — 235 Comments

  1. “It seems to me that churches/parachurch groups are playing more by the rules of Wall Street than the Via Dolorosa.” (Dee)

    That should make every believer in the organized church in America pause and reflect. Is the Main Thing the main thing? What are our priorities and loyalties, really?

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  2. DEE,

    If you can get through to Ronnie Floyd and persuade him to reveal his secret salary, see if you can get him to reveal another SBC secret. In 2010, as Chairman of SBC’s Great Commission Resurgence Task Force, he convinced committee members to seal the records of their proceedings for 15 years. What the heck was that all about?! Why hide anything about the Great Commission?!

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  3. $80,000 a month. I can’t even imagine.

    I think as soon as finances are a secret, it’s a red flag. When you are expected to contribute but have no idea what is happening with your hard earned money, something is wrong.

    When the widow drops her mite in the collection (all she had to live on, wasn’t it?) and it goes toward someone’s wealthy lifestyle, it just seems wrong. I wonder how many of the givers can’t even afford necessities like health insurance? How many cannot afford their own home or to pay off their student loans?

    Someone remind me what these guys are doing that is so important, again?

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  4. I have never been SBC; who pays these people’s salaries? And why, oh why, would any church organization allow secretive salaries? I am honestly so disgusted. Has this organization always been a fraud? What will it take to wake people up?

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  5. For many years, I worked for a government entity. At the time, Texas Monthly was doing open records requests and publishing the salaries of every public employee (teachers, police, judges, governor, UT football coach – he was the highest paid) in the state of Texas. They may still do it. While I didn’t love that this was one of the first things that popped up if you googled my name, I understood that I was supposed to be working for the citizens in my area, they were paying my salary, and why shouldn’t they know how much they were paying for me to do my job. Shouldn’t there be at least as much accountability with our tithes? What does the church have to hide?
    One of the MANY reasons we left The Village Church was when Josh Patterson, Chandler’s BFF and executive elder for life, bought a 4,000 sq ft home on an acre in an nice area in Denton County. House is valued at almost $700,000. How can an associate minister, or whatever he is, afford that? (I’ve heard someone on the “business” side of the church state that he gets paid for being Matt’s best friend. Apparently, that job pays well). The budget they would hand out was a joke.

    Maybe another time I’ll write about the lengths TVC will go to – the buses they will throw people under – to protect their money.

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  6. So MacDonald is not an anomaly – these guys are all crooks, living large off the faithful giving of the little guy who is just barely scraping by? It’s a good thing I already left the organization, or I think I’d be tempted to become an atheist. Whatever and whoever the Body of Christ is, folks, this is not it.

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  7. The position of CEO in a local church or gathering of churches (SBC) is completely bogus, in my opinion. “Highly compensated executive” is not a gift of the Spirit in the NT.

    Nothing personal against Ronnie Floyd, but if he becomes a CEO earning half a million dollars (from the tithes of Christians with a much lower avg. income), what does that make the Apostle Paul?

    Paul, who was flogged, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, constantly in danger, overworked, sleepless and starving. Making tents with his hands to earn a living, in harsh circumstances. Paul who said to the church at Corinth “…I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you.” 2 Cor 12:14

    Yet all these mega-pastors and CEO’s really believe they are superior, deserving of rock-star lifestyles, wealth, status and extraordinary treatment. All funded from the hard-earned possessions (savings) and misguided gifts of humble Christians. It’s so wrong, but the American church seems to accept it by and large.

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  8. Muff Potter: Saving souls from the fires of hell?

    No. The big preacher guys I know aren’t going out to the highways or biways or pigglywigglys to tell anyone about Jesus. They’re just standing up on the stage telling everyone what the Bible says about it.

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  9. I wonder if regular Warburg watch contributer and SBC pastor Wade Burleson would mind divulging his total compensation package his church pays him? This is not any kind of accusation just a simple question.

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  10. Ken P.,
    I don’t believe in paying people exorbitant salaries to get them to move when it involves the use of contributions of average people. That money is being paid by average people who are probably not excited to have their money used in this fashion.

    Nashville may be more expensive than Memphis but it doesn’t take $500,000 to live there.

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  11. (the other) Lance: One of the MANY reasons we left The Village Church was when Josh Patterson, Chandler’s BFF and executive elder for life, bought a 4,000 sq ft home on an acre in an nice area in Denton County. House is valued at almost $700,000. How can an associate minister, or whatever he is, afford that? (I’ve heard someone on the “business” side of the church state that he gets paid for being Matt’s best friend. Apparently, that job pays well).

    Maybe he invested in the cattle ranch? Let me know when they install freezers next to the coffee machine so members can line up and buy their * gospelly clean meat.*

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  12. I googled “salary president USA”. I got this answer:

    “The president is paid $400,000 a year, plus an extra expense allowance of $50,000 a year, a $100,000 non-taxable travel account and $19,000 for entertainment.”

    Are we saying that Mr. Floyd will be getting paid roughly the same amount as the president of our nation? Not sure if I should roll on the floor laughing or cry till I run out of tears.

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  13. Max: he convinced committee members to seal the records of their proceedings for 15 years. What the heck was that all about?! Why hide anything about the Great Commission?!

    I actually wrote about that secret back then. The sad thing is that no one seemed to ask any questions about this secret. I wonder if the news media has ever looked into this.

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  14. Siteseer: Someone remind me what these guys are doing that is so important, again?

    “Important” is beside the point; it’s the wrong framing.

    It seems to me that they’re entertaining people in ways that make the people feel valued (by God) and (provided they stay within the parameters of the church covenant) safe. The peace of mind people get from this might be, in their eyes, worth what they are paying for the experience. Presumably if they didn’t find the experience worth what they were paying, they would pay less.

    It doesn’t have to be objectively “important” to be valued by the customers.

    Church experience is being engineered and refined to appeal to the paying audience, and they keep coming back. It works in “fast food;” why not fast religion? And if the engineered experience generates a lot of revenue, one could understand that the corporate officers who are in a position to influence how the cash flow is distributed within the enterprise might want to ensure that more of that flows toward themselves.

    This happens all the time in the business world. CEO pay seems absurdly high (and this in spite of academic studies that find that there is no correlation between business CEO compensation and measurable outcomes in the businesses they oversee), but these companies generate plenty of cash flow, and the corporate boards are happy to send large amounts of that to to the corporate officers. Are we surprised that this also happens in the self-described churches?

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  15. We should know pastors’ salaries and we should also know all of the financials publicly of all of these churches. It is just too easy to hide fraud or wreckless spending. Imagine if all of tithe money was actually put to good use instead…

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  16. In the Presbyterian churches that I know, the pastor’s salary is publicly made known (including benefits) in an annual meeting of the churches members. In this and other matters of governance, the ruling elders (taken, of course, from active members) make a lot of the decisions, and it helps tremendously in holding the teaching elders (pastors) accountable to the church. I am truly impressed by the Presbyterian form of government, although I’m sure it’s not perfect. As church polity, it is certainly vastly superior to the Baptist churches I knew growing-up.

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  17. Bill: I wonder if I were a member of his church would that info be available to me or any other member. I would like to know if I could find out what the salaries are. Simple question.

    Yes, it would, and you could. Simple answer.

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  18. Yep, all those ridiculous salaries ……. while the SBC elites are wringing their hands because Annie, Lottie, and CP giving are all down this year. Their main concern: How do we get the average pew peon ($50,000, or less income per year, before taxes) to give more!!!!

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  19. Discussing your pastors salary is gossip. It is also a form of touching the Lord’s anointed. A case could also be made that is’s breaking the 9th Commandment. Additionally, I believe there is a bible verse about not muzzling the wolves.

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  20. “Comrades!’ he cried. ‘You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health. Milk and apples (this has been proved by Science, comrades) contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organisation of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink the milk and eat those apples.”
    ― George Orwell, Animal Farm

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  21. My salary when I retired in 2013 was $90,000 as executive pastor of a church (2500 at 2 locations). I could designate a portion of this as housing allowance based on actual expenses. IRS allows this portion to be un-taxed. I was reimbursed by the church for actual mileage for hospital visits and other ministry (these miles were documented in detail). We based our salaries on studies of similar positions in comparable US churches of similar size and local economics). At least a tenth I voluntarily gave to charities including our church. I worked 60-80 hours per week with 3 weeks vacation.

    In addition to having a ThM and a PhD, I have a BS in engineering from Ga Tech. I could have made far more as an engineer if I was $$$ motivated. (FWIW, my fraternity brother at Ga Tech with the same degree at Tech served as CEO for Walmart).

    So, amid the abuse there are many churches that seek to compensate pastors on a scale that reflects the area they serve.

    Abuse deserves criticism. Blanket criticisms are unfair to those being compensated fairly.

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  22. “This budget reportedly comprised about 20-percent of Harvest’s total budget and was kept secret from all but top church staff and the former elder executive committee. The executive committee was a group of four to five top elders who had sole responsibility for approving Harvest’s annual budget and executive salaries.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++

    what are the names of the individuals that were part of the “top church staff and former elder executive committee”?

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  23. As far as I understand from looking at charitynavigator, all non profit except churches have to put 10 highest salaries in IRS 990, which is available on charity navigator.org (may be .com). Churches should have the same minimal level of reporting requirements other non profits have.

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  24. I keep thinking back to Acts and what the apostles went through to share the gospel. They didn’t sit in one place making a high salary and waited for crowds to come to them. They braved storms, sickness, people trying to kill them, and much more to share the gospel.

    And Paul supported himself as much as possible despite all these things, believing that was of great importance.

    As I no longer believe in the pastor-leader, I don’t really believe in large institutions in the church anymore where these salaries would even be an issue of “comparable US churches”. This would include the SBC entities, as it’s clear the original idea of churches working together for missions is no longer true of the SBC. It’s now people donating to institutions who are more interested in developing funds and keeping secrets from those donors than sharing the gospel.

    I do think you should help those in need, and that includes those serving in ministry. But they shouldn’t be earning way above what the average member of the group is making when depending on the gifts of others.

    What I see, all over, whether “Christian” or secular, is that when you start believing you deserve more than the person next to you, you start to take that person for granted. And this almost inevitably happens on a greater and greater scale when you start adding more and more people in the group.

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  25. Kevin Davis:
    I am truly impressed by the Presbyterian form of government, although I’m sure it’s not perfect. As church polity, it is certainly vastly superior to the Baptist churches I knew growing-up.

    It’s not perfect. Firstly, those elders are, if the Presby churches I attended are any indication, all prominent and wealthy people themselves, to a man (yes, all men too, but I was in the PCA and EPC end of Presby-town and that might explain it), apart from any spiritual qualifications. Second, Presbys have a real rep for forming splinter denominations at the drop of a hat, almost as bad as Baptists. In seminary, we called the History of Presbyterianism class “Split-P Soup” because of all the divisions.

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  26. Sarah:
    As far as I understand from looking at charitynavigator, all non profit *except churches* have to put 10 highest salaries in IRS 990, which is available on charity navigator.org (may be .com). Churches should have the same minimal level of reporting requirements other non profits have.

    If there’s ever serious talk of revoking that exception, expect to hear pastors screaming “PERSECUTION” from the rooftops. 😛

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  27. When I was editor of the newspaper for the Illinois Baptist State Association from 1999 to 2002, I had mentioned to a few colleagues over lunch in our break room that I thought Southern Baptist church members in Illinois had the right to know our annual salaries to the dime. I had never seen so many jaws hit the floor at the same time. To this day, if any Illinois SBC church member asked me what my salary was, I would gladly tell them. They have a right to know; they’re paying my salary. Churches and nonprofit religious organizations should at a minimum list the salaries of their highest paid employees in accordance with the IRS’ Form 990, like all other nonprofits. Many churches and religious groups don’t fill out this form, especially the salary details. While SBC leaders may shroud their executives’ salaries in secrecy, the value of the homes these execs own is public record. Maybe that’s a good place to start in figuring out their compensation.

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  28. If any church cloaks their finances—especially their compensation packages, then RUN! Do not give to them, because you’re more than likely being taken to the cleaners. If you’d like to see my church’s budget and compensation packages, all you have to do is attend a monthly business meeting and pick up a copy of the treasurer’s report! I have to admit, though, that you’d have to lose a zero (or two) from Ronnie Floyd’s alleged salary to come even remotely close to what we pay our pastor!

    Churches that refuse to disclose financial information should not collect tithes and offerings, but should rather sell tickets at the door, as would be the case in any other entertainment venue…and they should pay taxes too, because they are clearly not “not-for-profit!”

    It does make wonder, though, wonder what the SBC paid Thom Rainer (CEO of Lifeway) to fly it into the ground! We’ll probably never know. 🙁

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  29. Secrecy by a nonprofit toward the people who pay the bills is not a good thing. There’s no way it can be spun to be a good thing.

    But it is amazing to read the comments in that SBC Voices post to see how many pastor types support secrecy.

    There’s also a fallacy in the argument that people in the SBC don’t need to know the salaries because the trustees do.

    First, I’d be surprised if the trustees know. Probably a small committee does.

    But more importantly, how can people in the SBC tell if the trustees are doing a good job if the people don’t know what the trustees are doing or voting on?

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  30. I’ll grant my former Presbyterian church this: every dime taken in was documented and presented to the members, including the pastor’s salary, housing and expenses. I simply cannot imagine belonging to a ‘club’ that insists on my money, but never documents where it goes. Apparently, indulgences live on, as the masses are suckered into ‘giving God’ their money.

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  31. When I worked for a major retailer in Central Ohio many years ago, the salaries of all the top execs, from the president on down, were fully disclosed at their annual shareholders’ meeting. I cannot for the life of me understand why churches would be so antsy about disclosing their salaries. The SBC is so broken at this point, it feels like we have lost all of our direction and credibility. Sadly, there are probably thousands of SBC churches doing the right thing and no one notices. People only see the circus-like atmosphere of the clowns at the top!

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  32. ION: Cricket

    I will return in due course to the topic of the post, but first, I need to update you all on the important matter of Wartburg’s national sport.

    In an intriguing one-day international yesterday, Ireland hosted ODI world cup favourites England. England survived a middle-order collapse (funny how the words “England” and “middle-order collapse” appear so often in the same sentence) to win by 4 wickets, but one can’t help but remember Scotland’s famous victory over the Auld Enemy in a fine ODI in Enbruh last year.

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  33. drstevej: Abuse deserves criticism. Blanket criticisms are unfair to those being compensated fairly.

    Like anything else, pastors provide a service.
    However no one would link their eternal fate to what I do for a living.

    Throw in a god and boom! You’ve got one massive force multiplier.

    Until some churches start to separate the business aspect from the spiritual aspect the abuse will continue

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  34. Bill:
    Still waiting on an answer concerning financial policies at the church I commented on earlier in the discussion.

    So this post was posted late on a Friday night, and early Saturday morning “you’re still waiting for an answer”? Even if he is willing to give an answer, it seems a lot to expect that he would even know about your comment. He doesn’t comment here that often.

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  35. Bill,

    Bill, I told you to ask him. This is not a message board. I’m going to put you into moderation and will not approve it if you keep asking this question. It is obvious to me that you have a bone to pick. So, go to him and pick it.

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  36. drstevej,

    Thank you so much for saying this. Based on your degrees and hours worked, I’d argue you might have been underpaid.

    I do hope in these comments there is a distinction made between celebrity/mega-church “pastors” and regular pastors. In our denomination the preacher has the least control in the church (I think it was actually a reaction to how Baptist pastors are treated). In some of the more conservative churches there is a tendency to make sure the preacher “knows his place” and then pay them accordingly. And unless it’s a fairly big church, they may not pay for social security, health insurance, or retirement. In our church budget, the two biggest expenses are the building and us. There is always the fear that when money gets tight, some people would rather keep the building. But, we don’t keep anything a secret. Generally, the more transparency, the better.

    Also, is this a surprise? This seems pretty par for the course when it comes to the SBC these days.

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  37. dee: I wonder if the news media has ever looked into this.

    Beyond a couple of reports in the religious press, this SBC secret has escaped media attention. To date, it has just been a small blip on the radar of weird things in the SBC … like Al Mohler’s membership in the secret society Dodeka.

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  38. Kevin Davis,

    I think the annual announcement of the salary is great. The presbyterian hierarchy has their own share of problems. They tend to be pastorcentric and will knee jerk support him at all costs. Now, I’m discussing PCA, not PCUSA since I’ve not written much about them.

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  39. Oracle at Delphi: it is amazing to read the comments in that SBC Voices post to see how many pastor types support secrecy

    That blog should be named “New Calvinist Voices”, with content and comments primarily leaning in that direction. If SBC’s New Calvinist elite support Ronnie Floyd, anything about him is OK with reformed minions. Remember, the young reformers have a history of taking over SBC traditional non-Calvinist churches by stealth and deception; thus, they have no problem with secrecy.

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  40. TS00,

    The SBC has lots and lots of secrets and has been functioning in this pattern for years. It has successfully covered up child sex abuse, rogue pastors and incredible reimbursements for *servning* on a committee.

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  41. Muff Potter: Siteseer: Someone remind me what these guys are doing that is so important, again?

    Saving souls from the fires of hell?

    Oh no, that business is too tacky for this new breed of SBC “pastors.” It’s an easier row to hoe if you believe in the predestined elect and the predestined damned … they just can’t do anything about anybody’s salvation, you know.

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  42. Oracle at Delphi,

    I, too, found there comment section fascinating. My guess is the the unspoken system that supports secrecy because it covers up both awkward things like exorbitant salaries as well as the mishandling of child sex abuse, molestation, etc. I bet some of these guys have benefitted from this *keep it secret* policy.

    I’m currently sitting on an incredible story of a pastor’s abuse of office. We are awaiting the opinion of an attorney.This one is going to be awkward and you, in particular, will understand why when I post the story.

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  43. Bill,

    This is your last comment on this matter. You are now in moderation. you are acting like a big baby who needs his mama to take care of him. Pull on your big boy panties and ask him. However, it may be difficult if you don’t have skin in the game. You have a real thing against Wade.

    Whatever it is, deal with it. Wade is one of the most open people that I know. he even endured abuse that I would not tolerate. He does it with graciousness.Yes, he’s Reformed. I’m not. However, he knows how to major on the majors. He’s not perfect just like the rest of us. But, he has stood up to the powers that be and does things in his own, unique way.

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  44. Folks, Ignore Bill. He is now in moderation and may not be able to ev er comment again unless he wises up. He is a one trick pony, determined to slice and dice Wade. I think he’s a wimp. He is doing this here instead of contacting Wade who handles criticism better than most, including me.

    Yes, Wade is Reformed. He and I disagree on our perspectives of the problem of evil. However, his actions are what count to me and he has been nothing but gracious to people from this blog who’ve interacted with him.

    I have now deleted one of his comments which posted before moderations kicked in.

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  45. Most 503c nonprofits’ 990s are public information and can be viewed on sites such as Guide Star for free. The highest paid top 10 or so employees’ salaries are listed on the 990. However, for some reason, non-profits in the religious category are exempt from public disclosure. That needs to be changed. ALL non-profits should disclose their 990s.

    I work at a public university and anyone can see ANY employees’ salary from the top down because we are partially funded by taxes (paid by the citizens of the state). Churches many times will say, “if you want a break down of all the salaries, (usually all salaries are lumped into a total figure on the annual finance report) just ask us, and we will provide. More people need to request that cause I think the church does that so people are too intimidated to ask cause then the person will be labeled with whatever title (busy body, gossiper, etc). If you want a good idea of how much a pastor makes, look to see how much they paid for their house. Baring an inheritance, how much they paid is a good indication of their salary (if the wife has a job outside the church and makes good money that would change things). I looked up the house on our county’s auditor’s site of a local pastor of a large church here where I live, and he paid $550,000 for his house. I bet only 1%-5% of his congregation have homes that expensive or more. And the little guy in the congregation sacrificially gives so he can live that life style. I will not give to a church that does not reveal individual salaries. You should hear the flax I get from people when I tell them I look up that stuff!

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  46. Brent Howard: “None of those people who would complain about 500K would want even a fraction of the responsibility that the CEO has.”

    Years ago we had a family friend who was a top executive at a Big Three auto maker. The corporation was losing huge amounts of money because the cars were just awful. Being young and rash, one time I asked our friend why his CEO just got a gigantic raise.

    He answered that it was harder to run a corporation during the bad times.

    His blind spot? That CEO had a personal financial incentive to run the corporation into the ground. Of course, if the corporation turned a big profit, the CEO would have demanded another huge raise, not a cut in salary as logic would have demanded.

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  47. TS00: every dime taken in was documented and presented to the members, including the pastor’s salary, housing and expenses.

    For anyone brave enough to be looking for a new church, consider asking whether it has an annual business meeting with budget disclosure of this kind, and voting on the budget by every member.

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  48. Michael Leathers: While SBC leaders may shroud their executives’ salaries in secrecy, the value of the homes these execs own is public record. Maybe that’s a good place to start in figuring out their compensation.

    Yeah, and whatever is wrapped up in their house (utilities, improvements, a new lawnmower) is all considered part of their housing allowance, which is tax free. I am personally a big fan of the housing allowance (for obvious reasons), but I also think a preacher should make the median salary for their level of education in their area.

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  49. Lady Preacher: I don’t think he is legally allowed to work for free, but apparently he has been donating it.

    From what I have read across the spectrum of news and analysis sites, you are correct. He has to receive a quarterly check, and he has written checks every quarter to specific federal agencies.

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  50. dee: I believe that will happen via the news media or blogs. Times are changing.

    Yeah, that’s why we see all the admonitions coming from Christian celebrities to avoid internet “gossip.” The mainstream pew has not yet realized that the best source of “real news” on ministers and ministries may very well be the blogosphere … they sure can’t trust church leaders and denominational executives to always be on the up and up with information.

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  51. Oracle at Delphi: But it is amazing to read the comments in that SBC Voices post to see how many pastor types support secrecy.

    One might be tempted to think that the name of that site is mis-spelled — perhaps the “o” does not belong there?

    prodinov:
    I think the Internet Monk had one of the best commentaries on “The Widow’s Mite”. Read it! An eye opener.https://internetmonk.com/archive/83959

    That is indeed a thought-provoking interpretation, and so relevant to present and past practice. Teach people to be afraid of God, and then teach them how to use their money to alleviate their fear.

    In other contexts, I have seen this sort of thing referred to as a “self-licking ice-cream cone.”

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  52. I was part of a Calvary Chapel church for a few years that followed the “Moses Model”. This basically means “mind your business, we are God’s annointed!” Nobody knew where the money went.
    I am on the board at my American Baptist church. We set the salaries of our pastors as part of the annual church budget. Every major line item, including salaries is published for our annual congregational business meeting.
    This is how congregational polity works.
    I would not be part of a church body that is not this transparent.

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  53. ION: Fitba’

    Couple of items of interest today in the Premiership. Spurs could’ve cemented a top-four finish today, but lost away to Bournemouth (and and two players sent off in the process). They’ll need to beat Everton at home next week to guarantee Champions’ League fitba’ next season, as things stand; though that may change depending on how their nearest rivals, who have yet to play this weekend, fare.

    At the other end of the table, Cardiff can make things interesting if they beat Palace at home this evening. This would put them a point behind Brighton who play tomorrow – but that’s a tough game away to Arsenal. This is Brighton’s last chance to get points this season, so if they fail to beat Arsenal, it will be Manchester United who keep them up by, most probably, beating Cardiff at Old Trafford next weekend.

    Liverpool are away to Newcastle this evening; Newcastle are safe from relegation and Liverpool can’t be caught for the runners-up spot nor overhaul City for the title. So it’s something of a dead rubber.

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  54. Samuel Conner: The peace of mind people get from this might be, in their eyes, worth what they are paying for the experience. Presumably if they didn’t find the experience worth what they were paying, they would pay less.

    Honestly, sounds like the selling of indulgences. Hmmm

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  55. John: Was your salary openly known while you were on staff?

    At my church, all salaries are disclosed in the budget, even as the clergy and some lay employees sit among us. We also have members who serve in the military or work for government or non-profit organizations, and their salaries are easily discovered online.

    Some corporations now require employees to keep their salaries a secret. This tends to benefit shrewd negotiators over the more loyal and dutiful people.

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  56. dee: You are now starting to sound like a one trick troll.

    Well, it’s obvious to me that the trouble with all of you is that you’re looking for the perfect church.

    What I would say is, if you ever find the perfect church, don’t join it – you’ll spoil it.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Arnold Smartarse

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  57. Friend: Quoting one Brent Howard: “None of those people who would complain about 500K would want even a fraction of the responsibility that the CEO has.”

    None? What a daft generalisation! To paraphrase Linus Pauling: it’s so silly it’s not even wrong.

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  58. Nuttshell: And the little guy in the congregation sacrificially gives so he can live that life style.

    How true.

    Two bible fragments here…

    1) Many who are first will be last, and the last first
    2) Whoever has will be given more…

    Perhaps the top-earning church CEO’s are betting everything they can get on 2) winning in eternity.

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  59. Back to the fitba’, Cardiff vs Palace is about to kick off. If Cardiff win, they have an outside chance of staying up; if they draw, they are all but relegated, and if they lose, they are relegated.

    Also Celtic won the SPL for the eighth time in a row today. If they win again next year, they’ll equal the record they jointly hold with Rangers. And if they win the Scottish Cup in a few weeks’ time, they’ll have won all three domestic competitions three years running.

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  60. Dee,

    No need to block Bill (in my opinion) to defend me. But it is your blog, and I know you’ll do what you believe is best. Thanks for your kindness. I notice that our church is listed around 300 on this list of 500 largest churches. The Personnel Committee has made it mandatory that staff members of Emmanuel not reveal their salaries not because they are exorbitant, but to keep staff members from comparing their salaries with other staff members. Any and every church member can ask the Personnel Committee Chairman for salary information, and it will be given fully and freely. In the spirit of abiding with the wishes of those who hold me accountable, but wanting to be as transparent as possible, I have been at Emmanuel for almost 28 years and make 5 times less than the Ex. Director of the SBC. I take no position on individual salaries in the SBC, believing that those responsible have more information than I. That said, I would suggest folks read an article I once wrote about a disgruntled church member at Emmanuel who since the experience I had with him, has become one of the biggest supporters of our church’s ministry (and of me). The article is here:

    https://www.wadeburleson.org/2009/03/lessons-in-dealing-with-disgruntled.html?m=1

    Finally, in our church we have people who believe in the doctrine of election, people who believe in Wesleyen Arminianism, and full-blown universalists. All are friends. All can teach as they see fit. And any of them could be right (and I wrong). We all love Jesus. That’s enough.

    Thanks for your friendship. I would have responded earlier but have been out of the country.

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  61. Wade Burleson: Any and every church member can ask the Personnel Committee Chairman for salary information, and it will be given fully and freely.

    That’s transparency, where it counts, to the constituency. Refreshing, particularly in light of this discussion.

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  62. When my husband was a pastor I always cringed when annual meeting took place. The people in the congregation were our friends, people we love and spent time together. When a person would ask questions about our salary ( which was listed) I died inside. Sometimes everyone had an opinion. Then we went to a new church and I liked the way the salaries were listed on the annual report. All the salaries of staff were listed together and after the meeting anyone who wanted a breakdown was welcome to come and receive one. I did not cringe anymore at annual meetings. Just my perspective.

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  63. The office of “Pastor” isn’t mentioned in Timothy, either. There are elders—multiple—and teachers—multiple—but nowhere is there an office of “pastor” mentioned anywhere in the New Testament. It shows up once, in the singular, as fourth in a list of five gifts useful for the church, in Ephesians chapter 4. And in Eph 4, it’s not described with any specificity, and certainly not as a single church leader, head of the elders, who goes up weekly to give a talk that all sit on the edge of their seats to hear—or once in a while, if you’re big enough to warrant the big honorarium/love offering circuit, another major source of dark income for mega pastors that’s totally off the books of the mega pastor’s church. That does bring up another point. People need to realize how this game’s played. If Pastor Foghorn invites Pastor Narcissus to his mega, where Narcissus gets a fat honorarium and maybe a love offering, then Narcissus will of course do likewise for Foghorn. Whole networks like this surely exist, and they provide a very nice source of quid pro quo income that can be off the books and not included in the pastor’s salary.

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  64. “There are companies that specialize in advising churches on pastors’ compensations. I believe that the industry may be driving up the expectations for high salaries.”

    ______________________________________________________________________

    So, Pastor Salary Advisers, Incorporated looks at the work Pastor X does and advises a salary of $80,000 a year. Pastor Compensation, LLC, is called in and looks at the work Pastor X does and advises a salary of $580,000 a year. Which compensation advisement service do you think Pastor X is going to recommend to his friends? Which compensation advisement service is likely to get more business? What incentives do advisement services have? To low ball? Or high ball?

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  65. Wade Burleson: we have people who believe in the doctrine of election, people who believe in Wesleyen Arminianism, and full-blown universalists. All are friends. All can teach as they see fit. And any of them could be right (and I wrong). We all love Jesus. That’s enough.

    Liberty of conscience is a beautiful thing, and especially if it can co-exist with the “regard for one-another” posture of Philippians 2. Thank you, pastor Wade.

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  66. Nuttshell: Does our current sitting president even take the salary? I heard he does not.

    I heard the same, but that would be his choice. I’ve lived on donor support many years and have a sense of holy responsibilty before God and people to use those funds carefully. In good conscience I could never receive a donor funded salary higher than a US president is granted by congress.

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  67. drstevej: Abuse deserves criticism. Blanket criticisms are unfair to those being compensated fairly.

    Agreed, but I’m not seeing that blanket criticism of all pastors being expressed here. It’s a given that the majority of pastors in the country are not making the big bucks. I was a half time staff member at a small church. Youth Director. I did Sunday School, youth summer vacation, VBS, ran youth night, gave messages to high school students, spoke at the local nursing home regularly, and gave the kid’s message each week before the congregation. $12,000/yr plus health care (that was the nice part). The head pastor made $43,000 plus a housing allowance and health care benefits. I know our experience is closer to the norm. We’re just pointing out that the power brokers are enriching themselves off of the church in much the same way that the leaders of Jesus’ day were.

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  68. Law Prof: People need to realize how this game’s played.

    There may be a paradigm shift in the wind, with all due respect to the truly wonderful and faithful leaders, who are not “in the game”, so to speak. The cheese is moving. Those who walk in the Spirit, IMHO, will “get it” and move on to the next level/step. Dare we whisper Reformation, as in re-formation?

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  69. jyjames: There may be a paradigm shift in the wind, with all due respect to the truly wonderful and faithful leaders, who are not “in the game”, so to speak. The cheese is moving. Those who walk in the Spirit, IMHO, will “get it” and move on to the next level/step. Dare we whisper Reformation, as in re-formation?

    That’d be great. I might even go back to church.

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  70. Todd Wilhelm: Additionally, I believe there is a bible verse about not muzzling the wolves.

    I suppose one could make the argument that the wolves are also created by God and are entitled to satisfy their God-given carnivorous appetites. And in fact, by preying on the weak sheep they make the flock stronger. See https://www.conservatorscenter.org/2018/08/03/carnivores-for-healthy-planet/.

    All major predators play key roles in helping keep the ecosystems they live in – and all the other animals that live there too – healthy and sustainable.

    The wolves in the church serve a vital and needed role and we should not be quick to condemn them. (/sarcasm)

    I suppose I should not be giving them ideas…

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  71. Final fitba’ update of the day:

    Cardiff lost at home to Palace and are relegated; Brighton, fourth from bottom, will stay there even with no points from their last meaningful game against Arsenal tomorrow. Wolves have qualified for Europe next season with a 7th-place finish; Leicester, 6 points behind them, are on 36 games but their next game is a no-points dead rubber against City and they cannot therefore catch Wolves even mathematically.

    IHTIH

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  72. Law Prof: That’d be great. I might even go back to church.

    While I was running errends this morning I stopped by our local Lifeway bookstore to see what was left in their empty-the-store clearance sale. There were quite a few New-Calvinist books still on the shelves. I feel bad for the young folks there who will be losing their jobs at the end of the month.

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  73. Law Prof,

    IMHO, the church belongs to God, however, He patiently works with people, so there are factors and variables involved.

    Again, IMHO (taken with a grain of salt), if/when change happens, it will be of God, and wonderful, unique (the enemy is a copy-cat) and the real deal, (again, of God). And, as a commenter mentioned upstream, recognized by carefully reading the Bible and also walking in the Holy Spirit. That’s where we here are putting our effort and investment in the interim.

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  74. I stopped at our local library book sale today. The religion table had precious few books about Jesus, about what He did and Who He is and what He will do.

    But it was chocked full of books telling you to do this 5 things or that 7 things and guaranteed “growth” of your church will occur. A quick scan and yep, back to mind games in the teaching and in the music. No Bible study recommended just pluck a verse here or there to help folks feel good about themselves and fix their lives. And prayer?? Only if you are using it to hype up and ramp up feelings to get people to give. Same with the music.

    Reminder to self: Christianity is the only religion without special clothing, special buildings, or shamans being necessary to the practice of it.

    And the SBC? It has gone from arguably the world’s best agency for evangelism to being just another pyramid scheme to bring in investors.

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  75. Leslie: I just read that Rachel Held Evans died this morning. So sad.

    Thanks for the heads up Leslie.

    I will mourn her passing.

    She really was a woman of valor.

    Sadly, the fundagelical haters will crawl out of their holes with unkind things to say.

    Here’s a quote from Tolkien, almost tailored for them:

    “Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.”

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  76. Gus,

    Robert Morris, on TBN, infomercial pushing his own book, using shaming, telling people that they aren’t saved if they are not tithing. Using the pressure selling technique. Using singled out verses, not all the verses, related to church offerings.

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  77. Thought, based on compilation of previous discussions. SBC hierarchy, put money towards church building in the US, not world missions. An anology of some of the descriptions of the program, Borg assimilation.

    Increasing churches at home increases their customer base for all the books and products to be sold.

    Lucre, not God, is the goal.

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  78. Brian:
    Gus,

    Robert Morris, on TBN, infomercial pushing his own book, using shaming, telling people that they aren’t saved if they are not tithing. Using the pressure selling technique. Using singled out verses, not all the verses, related to church offerings.

    I think it’s closer to the truth to say that if you think people are not saved if they don’t tithe, and have the audacity to teach it, that you are not saved. I’m not saying that IS the truth, but it’s almost certainly closer to it than what Robert Morris, the pampered affluent Breck girl with the several hundred dollar hairdos, teaches.

    The truly remarkable thing is if a good friend of Robert Morris were ever caught doing something awful, like taking advantage of his position to diddle with women in his church or embezzling funds or covering up the abuse of children, that Robert Morris would almost certainly appeal to King David and scream at people “But what of forgiveness!” to argue not only that his friend is saved, but qualified to stand in front thousands and teach the Gospel. Trust me, the sins of leaders, why there’s no question of their salvation. The sins of the pew peons, even sins that aren’t really sins such as refusing to tithe to megas, or questioning church leadership, why that calls your very salvation into question.

    I would not want to have been Robert Morris’s buttocks had he been around 1,990 years ago during that Passover when Jesus cleared out the money grubbers out of the temple at the point of a whip.

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  79. Brian:
    Gus,

    Robert Morris, on TBN, infomercial pushing his own book, using shaming, telling people that they aren’t saved if they are not tithing. Using the pressure selling technique. Using singled out verses, not all the verses, related to church offerings.

    Giving and having a cheerful spirit about doing it, that exists at all times. But the tithe was instituted for one reason: to compensate the Levites in the OT era because they didn’t get an allocation of land in the Promised Land. 11 tribes got allocations of land, one tribe got the priesthood but no land, so each of the 11 tribes were instructed by the Lord to give 10% to the Levites. There you go, that’s a tithe.

    Robert Morris is a liar.

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  80. drstevej: So, amid the abuse there are many churches that seek to compensate pastors on a scale that reflects the area they serve.

    This is very true. The sad thing that I have seen when I found a small church like this to attend is that they became anxious to emulate the big boys and brought in the “vertical church” model in hopes of getting there. 🙁

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  81. Law Prof,

    Moreover, the tithes ALSO went to fund the four yearly festivals, and in such a way that the poor did not go without; so that everyone had at least some chance to live it up.

    More further over, Liverpool’s hard-fought (and, TBH, ever so slightly jammy) win at Newcastle means we finish with the highest-ever points tally for a second-placed team.

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  82. Wade Burleson: Finally, in our church we have people who believe in the doctrine of election, people who believe in Wesleyen Arminianism, and full-blown universalists. All are friends. All can teach as they see fit. And any of them could be right (and I wrong). We all love Jesus. That’s enough.

    To me, this is the base of true humility- while having studied the evidence and made a decision as to ones’ beliefs, having the awareness that one is not omniscient and could turn out to be wrong.

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  83. Nick Bulbeck:
    Law Prof,

    Moreover, the tithes ALSO went to fund the four yearly festivals, and in such a way that the poor did not go without; so that everyone had at least some chance to live it up.

    More further over, Liverpool’s hard-fought (and, TBH, ever so slightly jammy) win at Newcastle means we finish with the highest-ever points tally for a second-placed team.

    Good for Liverpool. I love the way the traditional have-nots in the Premier League have been shaking up Brit football in recent years. My son attended a soccer camp years ago put on by a player on Liverpool’s junior club team.

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  84. Lynn Windsor: When my husband was a pastor I always cringed when annual meeting took place. The people in the congregation were our friends, people we love and spent time together. When a person would ask questions about our salary ( which was listed) I died inside. Sometimes everyone had an opinion.

    I know!! One year however they listed all the salaries together, but the elder who crafted the budget and led the meeting hated us. (I mean, he kept a list and tried to get us fired multiple times) He totaled not only the salary for us, the secretary, and the part time youth minister, but also the people who mowed the lawn, the woman who sometimes cleaned the building, plus extra money set aside for “raises” and a youth intern we didn’t have. Of course, he didn’t tell the congregation this and it only came out when the other elders were confused weeks later. To everyone in the congregation it looked like we made A LOT more money than we did.

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  85. SiteSeer: This is very true. The sad thing that I have seen when I found a small church like this to attend is that they became anxious to emulate the big boys and brought in the “vertical church” model in hopes of getting there.

    When you try to look up what exactly it means, and check out the church websites, you don’t get much explanation, just a lot of marketing pablum like “Vertical church models are for those who want to be all that Christ wants them to be!” “Vertical church is all about glorifying God!” “Vertical church is an enriching, life-changing experience!” But you get precious little about what the vertical church model actually is and how it plays out. As a general rule, when I try to find out what something is and I find it coated in a bunch of syrup and promotional claptrap like every explanation of vertical church I could find on the net, I know I’m dealing with liars. Just my opinion.

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  86. Lynn Windsor:
    When my husband was a pastor I always cringed when annual meeting took place. The people in the congregation were our friends, people we love and spent time together. When a person would ask questions about our salary ( which was listed) I died inside. Sometimes everyone had an opinion. Then we went to a new church and I liked the way the salaries were listed on the annual report. All the salaries of staff were listed together and after the meeting anyone who wanted a breakdown was welcome to come and receive one.I did not cringe anymore at annual meetings. Just my perspective.

    Why would you die inside if someone wanted to know where their donated dollars were going? Sounds like a fair question to me. Don’t die inside so easily. Those people have a right to know, and if they want to question it and then dock the salary, then so be it. It’s their right.

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  87. Lady Preacher: I know!!One year however they listed all the salaries together, but the elder who crafted the budget and led the meeting hated us.(I mean, he kept a list and tried to get us fired multiple times)He totaled not only the salary for us, the secretary, and the part time youth minister, but also the people who mowed the lawn, the woman who sometimes cleaned the building, plus extra money set aside for “raises” and a youth intern we didn’t have.Of course, he didn’t tell the congregation this and it only came out when the other elders were confused weeks later.To everyone in the congregation it looked like we made A LOT more money than we did.

    At that point, you’d have been within your rights to say “Hey, we didn’t make that much. Who put together these figures?” So you just set there and let all these extra salaries get represented as your own? Or were you not allowed in the congregational meetings? Seems like a dastardly thing to do, what that guy/gal did.

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  88. Sometimes it’s best if everyone attends to their own affairs. Some denominations post salaries in budgets, and some would likely call down fire, if a member request to see a budget. Both approaches will have supporters. Posting salaries could make for complicated relationships.

    As for myself, I am reluctant to gave an opinion on salaries. If those entrusted with leadership pay an employee $1M per annum, it’s their business. And it’s their fallout when they get caught.

    But for me, it’s the proverbial ten foot pole. This is one issue I would avoid criticizing. JMac is the category of celebrity that scares me, but not his salary.

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  89. Churches that take in over a certain amount of money should have to file Form 990. I’m not saying this about the tiny churches, the house churches, the churches where there are bivocational pastors, but these megachurches. None of them have to say how much money they are paying their pastors. Churches that take in over a certain amount should have to file a Form 990.

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  90. Nathan Priddis:
    Sometimes it’s best if everyone attends to their own affairs. Some denominations post salaries in budgets, and some would likely call down fire, if a member request to see a budget. Both approaches will have supporters. Posting salaries could make for complicated relationships.

    As for myself, I am reluctant to gave an opinion on salaries. If those entrusted with leadership pay an employee $1M per annum, it’s their business. And it’s their fallout when they get caught.

    But for me, it’s the proverbial ten foot pole. This is one issue I would avoid criticizing. JMac is the category of celebrity that scares me, but not his salary.

    There should be 100% total transparency. These are donated funds. This is stuff going, in theory, to God’s work. These are the people who are paying that pastor’s salary. It should never, ever be kept secret or set by a coterie of people surrounding the pastor or some outside organization. I am quite comfortable rendering an opinion. They want to keep anything hidden, there’s a reason. And I do not buy that it’s ever a good one. If feelings get hurt because of truth being told about where money’s going, then thank God for hurt feelings and thank God for people who care enough to be Bereans to call things into question. 100% transparency, all else is perfect nonsense.

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  91. Nick Bulbeck: ION: Cricket

    I will return in due course to the topic of the post, but first, I need to update you all on the important matter of Wartburg’s national sport.

    When did cricket become Wartburg’s national sport? I was going to propose sumo, the national sport of Japan.

    And in sumo news, the Banzuke (listing of the wrestlers according to rank) was released this week in preparation for the Natsu Basho in Tokyo, starting on May 12. There will be 15 days of matches. While I will be in Japan for the entire 15 days, I am going to be on a tour and will only be able to see the replays in the evenings. Eventually I am going to make it to a basho, where my freckles and red hair will stand out. (Seriously, I get stared at in Japan.)

    And yes, the guys are nearly naked except for the special mawashi belt. At first it’s kind of a shock, seeing so much skin. Then all you care about is the techniques the rikishis (wrestlers) are using to take each other down. For the record, if the rikishi loses his mawashi it’s an automatic disqualification.

    That’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about sumo.

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  92. Law Prof: There should be 100% total transparency. These are donated funds. This is stuff going, in theory, to God’s work.

    I agree with you. The budget should be distributed in advance, so people can formulate questions and even ask before the meeting.

    Despite the salary disclosures in our current church, people are civil during the congregational meeting–which is run calmly. There is no excuse for being mean to clergy or staff in a congregational meeting, or for conflating funds so it looks like clergy are making more than they do.

    Any accountants in the house? Conflating such figures does not strike me as generally accepted accounting practice, but I’m just a lil ol churchgoer.

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  93. Max: “It seems to me that churches/parachurch groups are playing more by the rules of Wall Street than the Via Dolorosa.” (Dee)

    “GREED IS GOOD!”
    — Gordon Gecko, Wall Street

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  94. Friend: I agree with you. The budget should be distributed in advance, so people can formulate questions and even ask before the meeting.

    Despite the salary disclosures in our current church, people are civil during the congregational meeting–which is run calmly. There is no excuse for being mean to clergy or staff in a congregational meeting, or for conflating funds so it looks like clergy are making more than they do.

    Any accountants in the house? Conflating such figures does not strike me as generally accepted accounting practice, but I’m just a lil ol churchgoer.

    I’m not a full boat accountant, but I have enough grad credit hours in the subject to teach it at the college level and have taught intro courses in financial accounting (nothing advanced, though). Nationwide, GAAP only applies to publicly-traded corporations, although some states require that municipalities and other govt entities follow GAAP. Some privately-held companies also follow GAAP for financial reporting purposes and depending on who’s lending you money, they may require your financials prepared that way as a requirement for giving you a loan. Nonprofits are more Wild West with regard to requirements, and since you don’t technically have investors in a nonprofit entity, there really aren;t a lot of standards, at least that I know about. Obviously, though, lumping everyone’s salaries in together makes no sense at all if you’re trying to disclose where funds are going in a nonprofit—of course, sometimes that’s the point..

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  95. dee: Nashville may be more expensive than Memphis but it doesn’t take $500,000 to live there.

    Only Silicon Valley or prestige highrises in Manhattan “take that much to live there”.

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  96. Brian: Robert Morris, on TBN, infomercial pushing his own book, using shaming, telling people that they aren’t saved if they are not tithing.

    For the life of me, I don’t understand why the Body of Christ puts up with characters like this! The 21st century church is in a mess on several fronts. Come Lord Jesus.

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  97. Bill:
    Still waiting on an answer concerning financial policies at the church I commented on earlier in the discussion.

    If your talking Wade Burleson, he has a blog.
    It’s in the blog list on the right.
    Go to his blog and ask him directly.
    He might even have contact information (email address, office phone) on the blog or website.

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  98. Wade Burleson: . The Personnel Committee has made it mandatory that staff members of Emmanuel not reveal their salaries not because they are exorbitant, but to keep staff members from comparing their salaries with other staff members.

    With all due respect, that reasoning is a “respectable” excuse for hiding salaries. I work at a public university that employs 22,000 people and anyone at any time can see what anyone else makes from the top all way down to the lowest paid employee. It keeps things more honest and helps to move towards equitable salaries. Perhaps that would benefit all churches as well.

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  99. Lady Preacher: And unless it’s a fairly big church, they may not pay for social security, health insurance, or retirement.

    One of the side effects of Calvary Chapel was none of their Pastors had Social Security or Retirement (don’t know about health insurance). To do so was treated as a denial of Faith because Papa Chuck taught The Rapture and Second Coming would happen long before they reached retirement age (any minute now… any minute now… any minute now…) The only career CC pastors have ever had is CC pastor; the only income they have (and under the Moses Model, it’s probably a good one) is CC pastor living off the tithes. No safety net (“O Ye of Little FAITH, Tsk, Tsk”), no secular(TM) job skills, nothing except a cardboard box under a freeway bridge if they ever lost that Pastor position. I think that dynamic adds desperation to the Pastor/Dictator mix.

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  100. Wade Burleson: No need to block Bill (in my opinion) to defend me. But it is your blog, and I know you’ll do what you believe is best.

    In this situation, I did not do put him into moderation to defend you. I have heard from him in the past and he seems to have an issue with you. I believe it is in the best interests of all concerned for him to contact you directly since I have no personal need to ask you how much you make and didn’t intend to do so.

    This has happened with others as well. It appears that some folks tend to believe that I should be tasked with taking their questions regarding you or your church to you as opposed to them writing you themselves. When that happens, I become suspicious that I’m gettin sucked into their hidden agenda and I don’t like to be played.

    Do not apologize. I would have contacted you directly if I felt the need to become a mouthpiece for Bill.

    Wade Burleson: Any and every church member can ask the Personnel Committee Chairman for salary information, and it will be given fully and freely. In the spirit of abiding with the wishes of those who hold me accountable, but wanting to be as transparent as possible, I have been at Emmanuel for almost 28 years and make 5 times less than the Ex. Director of the SBC

    Thank you for your answer. I am glad to hear that those who are in your church can obtain your salary information if they so desire. I am not surprised, having know you for almost 10 years. You are such an open and gracious individual. I use my admiration for you as a hedge of protection from the slings and arrows flung in my direction from certain folks who believe that I must *hate*. all Calvinists/Reformed whatevers. It always amuses me to inform them that if I supposedly despise such individuals, then why do I feature your sermons weekly on my blog. Silence usually ensues.

    Welcome home and thank you.

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  101. Samuel Conner: That is indeed a thought-provoking interpretation, and so relevant to present and past practice. Teach people to be afraid of God, and then teach them how to use their money to alleviate their fear.

    i.e. Pay the Squeeze and you don’t get hurt.

    “When coin in Tetzel’s coffer rings…”

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  102. Law Prof: Nonprofits are more Wild West

    My grandfather was a professional bookkeeper and volunteer church treasurer. He used the same skills and principles in both positions, although obviously the church was a charity. Heck, my women’s group lives in equal fear of members and the IRS. Why would any church be careless with offerings?

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  103. Friend,

    Good for your relatives. There need to be more people in religious nonprofits like them. I’m not necessarily saying that churches are known for corruption (though I think we’re drifting that direction with the megas), just that there aren’t the level of regulations with them and unlike most nonprofits, they don’t have to reveal where funds go, compensation, etc. The government generally leaves them alone, respecting the separation of church and state. I have no idea how some of these churches that ha e outrageous compensation packages for pastors can maintain their nonprofit status. It’s amazing that people like Kenneth Copeland can get away with it. Hence, Wild West. The church where I drew a salary of $12K a year ran a tight ship and had great controls. The procedure for counting donations I use as a model for good governance in the fraud classes I teach. So they’re certainly not all bad actors.

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  104. IMHO If ‘accurate’ reasonable $alaries, church monthly expenses, and monthly donation info are not published regularly by your local 501c3 ‘accurate’ God honoring Jesus’ gospel presented house of worship church establishment, aren’t you simply lōōking for trouble? ;~)§

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  105. Law Prof: When you try to look up what exactly it means, and check out the church websites, you don’t get much explanation, just a lot of marketing pablum like “Vertical church models are for those who want to be all that Christ wants them to be!” “Vertical church is all about glorifying God!” “Vertical church is an enriching, life-changing experience!” But you get precious little about what the vertical church model actually is and how it plays out. As a general rule, when I try to find out what something is and I find it coated in a bunch of syrup and promotional claptrap like every explanation of vertical church I could find on the net, I know I’m dealing with liars. Just my opinion.

    I totally agree. And this was after TED had already made a lot known so there was no excuse.

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  106. __

    “Wheel Of Church Fortune(s)?”

    hmmm…

    When discretion aligns with option worries become distant.

    *

    Sow Righteousness…Reap Reward?

    A wicked 501c3 pulpit pounder may earn deceptive wages, but the wholesome insightful pastor who patiently sows righteousness with genteelness among the flock reaps a sure lasting reward…(Solomon revisited and amplified)

    ;~)§

    – –

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  107. Lady Preacher,

    I don’t think he was underpaid. Different jobs have different salaries. Just having qualifications doesn’t automatically mean you get more money.

    But here is the point. So Dr Steve got 100k. I have no problem with that in a huge church.

    The problem is this.

    Is the Pres of a denomination worth 5 times that? I say no.

    People don’t become Pastors to make money. Or shouldn’t.

    If they did and we paid people like CEOs then how much should have the Apostle Paul been on.

    Consider his writing, responsibilities. Etc etc. A million? 2 million?

    For all the things that Paul was attacked over, money wasn’t one. I think there’s a reason for that.

    Personally, I couldn’t be living on the tithes of poor people, get 500k and preach about sacrificial giving.

    Unless I said “Hey guys, you wanted to give me 500k, but 250k is okay and I’ll give the rest to the missions/ poor etc.

    One thing that amuses me though is when guys on huge salaries and incomes from ministries have the hide to criticize “prosperity” doctrine. ANd yes, I am referring to John Macarthur. Check out how much he makes while acting like John the Baptist rebuking prosperity preachers.

    The world is waiting for a super Godly, super powerful, super influential preacher – who doesn’t get much money.

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  108. Justaguy: ANd yes, I am referring to John Macarthur. Check out how much he makes while acting like John the Baptist rebuking prosperity preachers.

    Are you sure you are not being too hard on him? His net worth is only reported to be around $14M…

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  109. What was Jesus’ salary? After all, He is the Author and Finisher of our faith, is He not? And did He ever command the religious leaders of His day, to “Go, therefore, and collect all the money you can from My Sheep, so that you can live an incredibly prosperous life, just use My Name in vain, and you will experience fame, glory, and riches for thyself? Meanwhile the poor within our churches are not taken care of with “church money,” they are chaperoned down to the local government complex to collect welfare from the state.

    Back in Jesus day, the Body of Christ cared for one another in meeting daily needs and for sustenance.

    Today, the wolves within the church complex are literally and figuratively fleecing the sheep and they love it so.

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  110. Wade Burleson: The Personnel Committee has made it mandatory that staff members of Emmanuel not reveal their salaries not because they are exorbitant, but to keep staff members from comparing their salaries with other staff members.

    I appreciate and admire you, and my comment is not about your own compensation. The policy you are describing, though, is drawn from secular corporations. It prevents people in similar jobs from learning that one of them is getting a poverty wage, while the other receives thousands more.

    Full disclosure is not just about embarrassment or jealousy or gargantuan salaries. It is also about basic fairness for good-hearted folks who keep a place running.

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  111. Karen: just use My Name in vain, and you will experience fame, glory, and riches for thyself? Meanwhile the poor within our churches are not taken care of with “church money”

    Much has been said about the varied sins of James MacDonald related to financial mismanagement of “church money.” I truly believe the one thing that turned the tables on him was his refusal to hear the cry of a poor mother for a mattress so her son would not have to sleep on the floor. He tipped a waitress $400, but couldn’t find it in his heart to buy a mattress?! Mercy should have prevailed; I’ve known pastors who would have given their own bed to that child. JMac was done at that point, IMO.

    “Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.” (Proverbs 21:13)

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  112. A reminder that James MacDonald is/was an SBC pastor. With $1 million+ in annual salary and slush funds, you would have thought SBC denominational leaders would have cried foul … but if they had pointed a finger, it could have been pointed back at them.

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  113. Law Prof,

    I agree with you 100%. I am surprised Christians push back so hard on this point. Seems to me transparency is the only way to go. Grouping figures together only creates a superficial lens of transparency… but everyone knows why they are grouped together. Thanks for your comments to this post.

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  114. Justaguy: The world is waiting for a super Godly, super powerful, super influential preacher – who doesn’t get much money.

    Hmm. Well, there was one. And he was really interesting. He came and worked with a group who, on paper, should’ve welcomed him with open arms; but they flat-out rejected him. But to everyone who did welcome him, he gave far more than “great preaching”. He really did put them into relationship with God.

    But the world, at least in the shape of the powerful and influential visible churches, still doesn’t like him.

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  115. Law Prof: There should be 100% total transparency. These are donated funds. This is stuff going, in theory, to God’s work. These are the people who are paying that pastor’s salary. It should never, ever be kept secret or set by a coterie of people surrounding the pastor or some outside organization.

    I guess they think the Scripture says “Touch not My anointed’s salary”

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  116. Friend: The policy you are describing, though, is drawn from secular corporations. It prevents people in similar jobs from learning that one of them is getting a poverty wage, while the other receives thousands more.

    Great comment Friend!
    I wondered the same.
    And a fair question to ask is:
    Why thousands more for similar work?

    In my opinion, if the disparity is that significant it needs to be looked into and not just glossed over with a policy of secrecy.

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  117. Friend: It prevents people in similar jobs from learning that one of them is getting a poverty wage, while the other receives thousands more.

    The policy has also helped cover the salary differences between men and women doing the same jobs. And, unfortunately, it seems to be a carryover of men being in power.

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  118. Tim Snider:
    Advocate for the law to change: Get churches to file IRS 990.

    They’re afraid of the 990… It makes them transparent. The BGEA a few years back refiled as an Association of Churches to escape it. I guess Franklin didn’t want to have his $1M salary publicized anymore. Likewise, FoTF. That outfit now’s calls all it’s employees “ministers”, so I suppose the janitor even gets tax free benefits. The extent to which they have gone to misuse the rules to hide their tracks shows how a charitable organization is first a charity to the private owners. Their followers are not “partners in ministry” so much as donation machines. The lack of accountability is staggering.

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  119. Law Prof: I’m not a full boat accountant, but I have enough grad credit hours in the subject to teach it at the college level and have taught intro courses in financial accounting (nothing advanced, though). Nationwide, GAAP only applies to publicly-traded corporations, although some states require that municipalities and other govt entities follow GAAP. Some privately-held companies also follow GAAP for financial reporting purposes and depending on who’s lending you money, they may require your financials prepared that way as a requirement for giving you a loan.Nonprofits are more Wild West with regard to requirements, and since you don’t technically have investors in a nonprofit entity, there really aren;t a lot of standards, at least that I know about.Obviously, though, lumping everyone’s salaries in together makes no sense at all if you’re trying to disclose where funds are going in a nonprofit—of course, sometimes that’s the point..

    Everyone who is moved to send them money is an investor. They should be permitted to see the “real” books. And not take ECFA’s seal of approval as a substitute.

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  120. Stuart: Everyone who is moved to send them money is an investor. They should be permitted to see the “real” books. And not take ECFA’s seal of approval as a substitute.

    In a sense they are, but not as the government or the FASB or SEC sees it. You’re right in the larger sense, just not the strictly legal one. I agree that things should be changed. I’d be all in favor of revoking tax exempt status for religious nonprofits unless they make a full and transparent accounting of where moneys go, including an individualized breakdown of compensation. But there are apparently powerful forces at work preventing this. I remember Sen. Chuck Grassley starting an inquiry into many of these charlatans who make themselves rich of their flocks and followers, and that just kind of went away, didn’t it? I don’t know why, but I have some suspicions.

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  121. ION: Fitba’ (for the last time this summer)

    So, as it happens this season, everything is decided with a week to go (barring a bizarrely improbable swing in goal difference next week).

    Champions: Manchester City
    Give-Us-Yer-Money-Cup qualification: Liverpool, Chelsea and Spurs (unless Spurs lose and Arsenal win by an enormous margin)
    Europa League: Manutd, Wolves
    Relegated: Cardiff, Fulham and Brighton

    Fitba’ will return in August. Although that said, there’s a funny wee tournament in Portugal over the summer in which England are involved, so I may report on that.

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  122. One other thing of minor interest is that I finally managed to send the 6c orange biscuit-like holds problem at the climbing wall today. (That’s roughly 5.11a in Americanish dollars, but more to the point, it’s a route I’ve never managed to complete before.)

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  123. Law Prof,

    Thought/Question: Have you spoken to the newer members of these megachurches?

    Were they more impressed by the financial success than the speaking of their pastors?

    Worldly success being used as a standard to measure pastors.

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  124. Max: “Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.” (Proverbs 21:13)

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    @Max,
    During my Baptist c’hurch years, I used to listen and adore every word that came out of James McDonald, until one day, I opened up my Bible and began reading it for myself instead of having someone else tell me how to think. The Lord’s Word came alive through the power of the Holy Spirit, and I am reminded of Saul, turned Paul, and his powerful words on working with his own two hands in earning a living while preaching, teaching, and ministering to Jesus’ followers. He explicitly said that he did not want to be a burden to the Body of Christ, and while he was capable, kept working hard while ministering.

    Likewise, each one of us who is born again of the Spirit of our LORD, can minister to one another while working hard with our own two hands and giving to the poor directly, instead of putting money in a coffer for fancy church buildings complete with its condiments.

    It appears to me, that the church industrial complex is not too worried about saving souls, loving our neighbors, helping those who are “the least of these, which includes all of us from time to time, caring for the elderly and sick, or just plain spending time with someone and listening to someone who is struggling (and shutting thy mouth while listening).

    To date, I have never known a pastor or his family to give up something in assisting the “least of these.” Every pastor man that I have known or sat under, has been positioned with the entitlement belief system in which all of us were to worship and adore them and wait on their every need. In addition, the pastorate and leadership systems have been filled with guilt mongers who come after you if you don’t abide by their wishes and their needs……what a corrupt mentality/system!

    In loving Jesus and His sheep, I have discovered that all of the fruits of the Holy Spirit can be found daily amongst His people, apart from the business/corporate church model. And not one single person can control the Holy Spirit, for God does as He wills.

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  125. Law Prof: There should be 100% total transparency. These are donated funds. This is stuff going, in theory, to God’s work. These are the people who are paying that pastor’s salary. It should never, ever be kept secret or set by a coterie of people surrounding the pastor or some outside organization.

    Agreed. We once lobbied unceasingly to make sure that the pastor of our small, rural, lower income congregation received the highest possible salary. (We paid for much of it as well, being one of the few families with a thriving self-owned business.) But it was a salary that was publicly reported and voted upon, as I believe it should be.

    Pastors are far less likely to extract exorbitant wages when they must openly face those who work to support them with their full knowledge, and must have the amount unanimously approved. However, to be honest, I no longer view as legitimate the office of pastor, or one individual serving as the full time instructor of all others. I believe we are all to enlighten and encourage one another, each bringing the insights God gives to us in the process of our daily walk.

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  126. Max: Much has been said about the varied sins of James MacDonald related to financial mismanagement of “church money.” I truly believe the one thing that turned the tables on him was his refusal to hear the cry of a poor mother for a mattress so her son would not have to sleep on the floor. He tipped a waitress $400, but couldn’t find it in his heart to buy a mattress?! Mercy should have prevailed; I’ve known pastors who would have given their own bed to that child. JMac was done at that point, IMO.

    “Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor will also cry out and not be answered.” (Proverbs 21:13)

    Maybe if he hadn’t bought the mansion, VW, ATV’s and Rolexes, shot captive exotic game, and gambled he would have had a little left from his black funds to help the needy?

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  127. Nick Bulbeck: Muff Potter: Last I heard, they crucified him.

    They did, yes. But the last I heard (you’ve probably heard this too) – it didn’t work.

    Amen, and thank you for giving me something to rejoice in this Sunday. Ha, bet you never planned on being ministers. (You should ask for a raise.)

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  128. Brian:
    Law Prof,

    Thought/Question: Have you spoken to the newer members of these megachurches?

    Were they more impressed by the financial success than the speaking of their pastors?

    Worldly success being used as a standard to measure pastors.

    I agree, worldly standards. But it makes sense, so many of these churches are about the world, not Jesus, and naturally they reflect things like Wall Street and pop culture and the Kardashians and who knows what. And naturally they measure success by attendance, just like the Kardashians measure success by TV ratings. Jesus could in one day build up a megachurch. He had powers that charlatans like MacDonald and MacArthur and Copeland could only dream of, because He was the real thing, when He spoke it wasn’t worldly wisdom and slick marketing, it was the truth. When He performed miracles, they were real.

    And while He could build up in hours what it takes these charlatans decades of conniving and scheming and manipulating to create, He could tear it all down with a few words—as He sometimes did, because He knew it wasn’t about numbers. He spoke of a narrow path, not a wide highway.

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  129. By the way, not saying all miracles claimed even by charlatans are necessarily not God-given. They could be. Jesus can use whomever He pleases for whatever reasons He wants. Saul prophesied, right? Balaam tried to curse God’s Chosen People, and yet prophesied and blessed them. Kings who didn’t know the Lord dreamed dreams that the Lord Himself had given them. God called an evil, rapacious monster of a king, Nebuchadnezzar, His servant. God can do what He wants, use whom He wants, the Holy Spirit is like the wind, who knows where He’s going or what He’s doing? But He also told us to call out charlatans, regardless of what use God may (or may not) make of them.

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  130. TS00: Agreed. We once lobbied unceasingly to make sure that the pastor of our small, rural, lower income congregation received the highest possible salary. (We paid for much of it as well, being one of the few families with a thriving self-owned business.) But it was a salary that was publicly reported and voted upon, as I believe it should be.

    Pastors are far less likely to extract exorbitant wages when they must openly face those who work to support them with their full knowledge, and must have the amount unanimously approved. However, to be honest, I no longer view as legitimate the office of pastor, or one individual serving as the full time instructor of all others. I believe we are all to enlighten and encourage one another, each bringing the insights God gives to us in the process of our daily walk.

    Amen!

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  131. Brian:
    Lynn Windsor,

    Just looking for insight. Would some of the parishioners gossip if they saw your children with dressed better than the other children? Or, the same if you wore a new dress to church?
    I do not think people would question my clothes or those of my children. But I cringed when people discussed whether the percentage of increase was worth it or not ,and hearing the different viewpoints was difficult. Very easy to say “ don’t cringe” it’s the right of the people. However I was just being honest about my feelings and experience

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  132. Lynn Windsor: I cringed when people discussed whether the percentage of increase was worth it or not ,and hearing the different viewpoints was difficult. Very easy to say “ don’t cringe” it’s the right of the people. However I was just being honest about my feelings and experience

    I can well understand the cringing. Whoever ran the meeting should have taken steps to explain the pay increases, e.g., this is a cost-of-living adjustment consistent with what we have offered in the past, the committee decided to offer all employees an x% raise this year, nobody has had a raise in five years and it is overdue, this is consistent with experienced ministers in our area/denomination, the church is in sound financial shape…

    The focus should have remained on the decision-makers, not on you and your family.

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  133. Law Prof: There should be 100% total transparency.

    Good explanation following your comment. Thanks. Makes sense. If a university can do this (as someone mentioned upthread), as well as other non-profits, it makes sense that a church can do the same. All truth rendered with honesty and gratefulness. Truth + love.

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  134. jyjames: Good explanation following your comment. Thanks. Makes sense. If a university can do this (as someone mentioned upthread), as well as other non-profits, it makes sense that a church can do the same. All truth rendered with honesty and gratefulness. Truth + love.

    For example, my salary and those of every employee in my state can be looked up on a public database. This is fair.

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  135. Law Prof,

    We didn’t know how malicious he was at the time. It was probably a year later when the depths of his dislike came out. It was a pretty terrible time, but they have all left the church and now there is little to no drama or discord (our business meeting last night, though there was a lot of disagreement, had a lot of laughter, smiles, and prayer!).

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  136. If it’s helpful, Episcopal bishops make as much as $350,000 annually, often with a variety of perks thrown in. Smaller dioceses sometimes pay quite a bit less, even into the $65K range,

    My former rector, Bob Malm, makes roughly 200K, although the fact that housing allowances qualify for a double tax break (from income, and as mortgage interest), makes the value much higher. I find this level of compensation troubling, in light of the amount of time Bob spends on vacation and being “out of town,” the fact that many parishioners (myself included) earn far less, and his feckless attitude towards the parts of his job that he doesn’t like, I.e.; financial management, records keeping, HR.

    In addition, HOW salaries of this sort are paid can be problematic, In Bob’s case, even the vestry doesn’t see the line item detail for salaries, so there is virtually no oversight. Lack of transparency should be a warning sign in any church.

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  137. Eric Bonetti: My former rector, Bob Malm, makes roughly 200K, although the fact that housing allowances qualify for a double tax break (from income, and as mortgage interest), makes the value much higher. I find this level of compensation troubling, in light of the amount of time Bob spends on vacation and being “out of town,” the fact that many parishioners (myself included) earn far less, and his feckless attitude towards the parts of his job that he doesn’t like, I.e.; financial management, records keeping, HR.

    My open question to anyone who goes to a church and issues with management is why continue to support it? If a charity did not align with my expectations then I’d stop giving. Yet we throw a god into the mix and people are afraid to walk.

    If there is a God, he/she/it will not be found in organizations like this.

    What peeves me is those of us who no longer subscribe to a particular faith have to subsidize it through tax breaks.

    Freedom of religion should also equal freedom from religion.

    There was a time when churches provided vital education, health and social services. I

    I don’t know about the States but in Canada public health and education (not private) is very much a government concern. Which I pay for through my taxes.

    Some churches, I’ll concede, run food banks and soup kitchens but the ulterior motive is often to further the great commission.

    I can only say from my perspective but I feel I’m subsidizing the propagation of a social club not anything that actually helps our society at large.

    Sorry to be so negative but if there’s a point to all of this I’m missing it. Maybe it’s time to join the lurkers again. 🙁

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  138. Jack,

    ..”If there is a God, he/she/it will not be found in organizations like this.”…

    That is a presupposition. Your assumption is, if organization A is corrupt, it’s not of God.

    It’s a faulty presupposition.

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  139. TS00,

    TSOO

    Yes…
    “I no longer view as legitimate the office of pastor,
    or one individual serving
    as the full time instructor of all others.
    I believe we are all to enlighten
    and encourage one another,
    each bringing the insights God gives to us
    in the process of our daily walk.”
    ——-

    Seems Paul, and most likely Jesus…
    Had a similar idea when “bretheren” come together.

    ALL “bretheren” can, and are expected to participate…

    1 Cor 14:26 KJV
    How is it then, brethren?
    **when ye come together,**
    **every one of you**
    hath a psalm,
    hath a doctrine, (Teaching)
    hath a tongue,
    hath a revelation,
    hath an interpretation.
    Let all things be done unto edifying.

    Yes, In the Bible…
    “ALL” can, and are expected to,
    “Participate.”

    NOT listen to just “one,” and…
    “Regurgitate.”

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  140. Jack,

    “Sorry to be so negative but if there’s a point to all of this I’m missing it. Maybe it’s time to join the lurkers again”
    +++++++++++++++++

    not negative. a frank appraisal.

    i imagine you have more company than just me, here. no need to join the lurkers. your view is valuable.

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  141. “…Secret, Exorbitant and Ridiculous Salaries…”
    “Celebrity Pastors”
    AAAARRRRGGGGHHHHH

    This once was a problem…
    When my pastor was buying…
    Expensive stereo equipment for his home…
    (NO kidding, saw it with my own eyes.)

    And at the same time asking for sacrificial giving
    To fix the roof on the building…

    BUT… I fixed that problem…
    I decided to follow Jesus…

    The “ONE” Shepherd
    The “ONE” Teacher
    The “ONE” Leader

    Seems Jesus…
    Did NOT “Reform” “The Abusive Religious System” of His day.

    He left it…

    And “Called Out” His Disciples…
    Into a relationship with Him…
    To become His Body…
    His Church…
    ——-

    I once was a “NONE”

    Now I’m glad to be “DONE”

    With this sad, sad, form

    Of “Christian-Dumb”

    Where “Titles” become “Idols”

    And “Pastors” become “Masters”

    Where you can NOT tell the deference between

    The “Church Leaders” and The “Deceivers”

    Where your Spiritual Authority is NOT The Spirit of God
    But a mere fallible human taking a Non-Biblical Title
    To be glorified

    And the name of Jesus is just a way
    To become a wealthy celebrity preacher
    And collect your pay

    But…

    Jesus asks those Titled pastors today
    Why call me Lord?
    And NOT do what I say?

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  142. Nathan Priddis: That is a presupposition. Your assumption is, if organization A is corrupt, it’s not of God.

    It’s a faulty presupposition.

    So…God’s cool with millions (billions depending on the organization/church/social club) being spent on planes & mansions & motorcycles & luxury cars?

    I considered myself Christian for most of my life, I did not get this message from Jesus ministry.

    Ok maybe in the old testament the temple priests got free roast beef sandwich at sacrifice time and they were pretty well taken care of so only God knows and he hasn’t shared it with me.

    Either way, in our pluralistic society, if some Christians want to give their money to support the high life of God’s anointed fine but the rest of us shouldn’t pay for it.

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  143. Jack,

    Your suggestion that Christians in a pluralistic society can do as they see fit, is the key to this situation. Those who support problamatic organizations, are enabling the export of those problems.

    However, you mentioned the Priesthood. God establish the Preisthood and it was violently corrupt. The Hasmonean Kingdom was a seizure of the right to the throne. Later, the Preist where enemies of Christ.

    Never the less, they are Preist of God. Likewise, God gave some as Pastors, and corruption does not negate this.

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  144. As a member of a Southern Baptist Church, I trust my church leadership to be good stewards of the resources provided and have little concern about knowing specific salaries. Our church has multiple committees, made up of a representative group of people, that provide input and oversight into these matters. I wouldn’t be so complacent in a church that used elder governance where the board was comprised of the pastor and a few cohorts. The church does not post specific salaries but any member that wants to know, can ask and it will be made available to them.

    At the SBC Entity level (Seminaries, IMB, NAMB, etc.), however, I would like to see Form 990 level reporting. After learning how SWBTS has been mismanaged for years and years it seems reasonable to expect a higher level of accountability to those that have faithfully supported the Cooperative Program through which these entities are funded.

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  145. Jack: So…God’s cool with millions (billions depending on the organization/church/social club) being spent on planes & mansions & motorcycles & luxury cars?

    Don’t forget canned safaris and stained-glass windows of themselves.

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  146. Jack,

    Thank you for your insights. I believe that thoughtful people (who are not coerced or brainwashed) stay with an imperfect or troubled church because they retain faith, and something about the community and worship experience is precious to them. Some folks try to work within the system to correct problems and safeguard what is good.

    A case can be made, based on human corruption, to eliminate all churches and all religions, but that’s not freedom of religion either. People should be allowed to choose, and empowered to make informed choices.

    Personally, I think it’s OK to pay full-time clergy a wage on par with the average member, if the members agree, and if the church has robust programs in mission and outreach. Then again, clergy in most churches I’ve attended have been humble, hard working, and skilled. Not one has asked for a Learjet.

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  147. Dee,

    Although salaries are probably high, I have a suspicion that SBC leaders make their big bucks by using SBC funds to purchase from themselves and each other.

    How much is being paid to these SBC leaders by SBC Entities? Thom Rainer’s company for doing church revitalization for NAMB, JD Greear for his networks “Whose your one”, Jimmy Scroggins for his 3 Circles… and I am sure many more. (feel free to add to the list). In any other corporation or group that would at least raise red flags and they would provide transparency.

    People always talked about what Johnny Hunt supposedly received for Timothy+Barnabas back in the day, even while he was president.

    (And to clarify, I do not dislike JD Greear, I just believe all leaders should be scrutinized equally.)

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  148. Jack: Maybe it’s time to join the lurkers again.

    I hope you don’t – I get a lot out of your input – makes me think. You also bring a voice that keeps this from becoming an echo chamber.

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  149. FW Rez: Our church has multiple committees, made up of a representative group of people, that provide input and oversight into these matters. I wouldn’t be so complacent in a church that used elder governance where the board was comprised of the pastor and a few cohorts.

    Now we all know why James MacDonald said “Congregational government is from Satan.” He didn’t want church committees poking around … they might have discovered his black fund and assorted other misbehavings.

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  150. Jack,

    I pretty much agree with you, Jack. People forget that we do all subsidize the tax exempt.

    The way I see it, God may not be found inside these organizations any more than outside them. It all depends on the individuals involved and their motives. But overall, In my opinion, these exorbitant lifestyles are antithetical to the faith.

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  151. Max: Now we all know why James MacDonald said “Congregational government is from Satan.” He didn’t want church committees poking around

    Yes, and we also know that he defines “Satan” as whatever limits his own pleasures and ego.

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  152. Nathan Priddis: Never the less, they are Preist of God. Likewise, God gave some as Pastors, and corruption does not negate this.

    I may not be as well versed in the bible or theology but this passage in Ezekiel came to mind

    21 “If someone evil stops sinning and keeps my laws, if he does what is right and good, he will not die; he will certainly live. 22 All his sins will be forgiven, and he will live, because he did what is right. 23 Do you think I enjoy seeing evil people die?” asks the Sovereign Lord. “No, I would rather see them repent and live.

    24 “But if a righteous person stops doing good and starts doing all the evil, disgusting things that evil people do, will he go on living? No! None of the good he did will be remembered. He will die because of his unfaithfulness and his sins.”

    Two words “personal responsibility”

    Pastors & priests are people. No better or worse than the rest of us.

    They may have felt a calling but they are not “anointed”.

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  153. Headless Unicorn Guy,

    The pastor of the Calvary Chapel we briefly attended fixed that. My husband, who works for the small town we live in, was able to find out that he owns the land the church sits on plus the home he got for free next to the church by having the church buy it and restore it. He’s got himself a nice little retirement setup.

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  154. Friend: Personally, I think it’s OK to pay full-time clergy a wage on par with the average member, if the members agree, and if the church has robust programs in mission and outreach. Then again, clergy in most churches I’ve attended have been humble, hard working, and skilled. Not one has asked for a Learjet.

    I agree.

    Even if they ask for a jet, you can’t stop people from giving it to them.

    Just wish it wasn’t done with tax breaks.

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  155. Karen,

    Not all pastors are like this. My dad has pastored small (250 or less) SBC churches my whole life. I once saw him give away one of our cars because a family needed it.
    What infuriates me is that my dad has given his life to the ministry and barely makes ends meet in retirement due to the SBC’s shoddy system. Only the boys at the top are sitting pretty.

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  156. SiteSeer: But overall, In my opinion, these exorbitant lifestyles are antithetical to the faith.

    I drove by Joel Osteen’s church stadium in Houston a couple of years back.

    Made me wish I could get a call from God like that.

    Guess I just don’t pray enough…

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  157. Jack: Just wish it wasn’t done with tax breaks.

    Maybe these guys are emulating corporations… It’s discouraging to think how many wealthy parties pay little or nothing in taxes these days. Wishing you the best.

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  158. Onlypassingthru: What infuriates me is that my dad has given his life to the ministry and barely makes ends meet in retirement due to the SBC’s shoddy system. Only the boys at the top are sitting pretty.

    The only reason for the existence of the Lowborn is the enrichment and convenience of their Highborn Betters.

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  159. K.D.: Nick, why have the Spurs collapsed? No Harry Kane?

    I’m going to come at this one thus: I don’t think they’ve collapsed. They’ve had a bit of a poor run, and it’s come at a conspicuous and unfortunate time of the season. I’m sure you’re right in pointing to the loss of Harry Kane; very few teams wouldn’t miss him. But they got to the semi-finals of the Champions’ League, losing to a very strong iAxe team; and they remain in pole position for the all-important top-four finish.

    Man City also had a very poor run of form around Christmas, losing two in a row (including at home to Palace); at one point, we were seven points ahead of them and had we won at the Etihad, we’d have been 10 points clear and out of sight. But at that point, Liverpool too had a bad run of results. Ours was marginally worse than City’s and the net result is we finished runners-up.

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  160. Jack,

    I agree. God often has little to do with staying or going, though — my experience is that people become invested in a church in multiple ways, and are reluctant to part with their investment. And some systems, like the Episcopal Church, are predicated on clericalism, so it’s almost a given that the priest is going to be fawned on and pampered.

    This sort of “survival by custom,” where people just instinctively support the church, is fast drawing to a close, though, and I guarantee that in 20 years there will be many fewer churches, Episcopal included. And I suspect my former parish will close its doors, not within the next 5 years, but sometime in the probably 30 more remaining years I have in front of me.

    It’s a shame, too — my former denomination spends a ton on governance, constituting about 40 percent of gross revenue, with audits at every level. Yet there is remarkably little accountability, with more than one diocese turning a blind eye to even the most egregious forms of clergy misconduct.

    So, if church is going to survive, it is going to have to change, big time.

    Jack: My open question to anyone who goes to a church and issues with management is why continue to support it?If a charity did not align with my expectations then I’d stop giving.Yet we throw a god into the mix and people are afraid to walk.

    If there is a God, he/she/it will not be found in organizations like this.

    What peeves me is those of us who no longer subscribe to a particular faith have to subsidize it through tax breaks.

    Freedom of religion should also equal freedom from religion.

    There was a time when churches provided vital education, health and social services.I

    I don’t know about the States but in Canada public health and education (not private) is very much a government concern.Which I pay for through my taxes.

    Some churches, I’ll concede, run food banks and soup kitchens but the ulterior motive is often to further the great commission.

    I can only say from my perspective but I feel I’m subsidizing the propagation of a social club not anything that actually helps our society at large.

    Sorry to be so negative but if there’s a point to all of this I’m missing it.Maybe it’s time to join the lurkers again.

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  161. dee,

    prodinov: I think the Internet Monk had one of the best commentaries on “The Widow’s Mite”. Read it! An eye opener. https://internetmonk.com/archive/83959

    This is a really novel approach / interpretation to the text. There is nothing in the text to support this approach. Jesus is commending the woman in verse 3 and this disparages the woman whom Jesus commends. Nothing indicates weeping. We ought not to twist Scripture to make it say what we want it to say. However, the church does have responsibility to widows and orphans which is made very evident in the Epistles. The first responsibility is on the family of the widow and orphan as per Pastoral Epistles. But if they are not able to meet the need, then the church is to help support. There are times when individuals with very limited means feel God calling them to invest for eternity in the Kingdom of God. To take those funds that have been sacrificially given and misuse them is an abomination to God on the part of the one who misuses God’s money. The story of Hophni and Phineas in the OT who were priests who misused the offerings of God’s people is instructive.

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  162. Max: Jack: Made me wish I could get a call from God like that.

    Could be a new TV series: “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous … Preachers”

    Sounds like a High Concept(TM);
    I’m surprised nobody’s pitched it yet.

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  163. The list of mega churches makes one think that there are few in California. It was only upon double checking that I realized these are denominational SBC churches. CA is replete with independent megachurches. Independent church is the business model for the entrepreneurial businessman who realizes he can be the CEO, with his private salary limited only by his creativity using the tools of Evangelicalism and his lack of moral constraint to build a financial empire privacy protected by charitable law. In Atascadero, CA (population 28,000) there exists Atascadero Bible Church (in the 1500-2000 membership range).

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  164. Anonymous: The list of mega churches makes one think that there are few in California. It was only upon double checking that I realized these are denominational SBC churches. CA is replete with independent megachurches.

    I live behind the Orange Curtain. We have LOTS of Megas in this county. I pass at least two on the way to work every day (though on alternate routes) and can think of two or three others in my vicinity.

    Megas are like Casinos; they tend to crowd out or starve out a lot of the smaller churches/businesses.

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  165. Headless Unicorn Guy: Megas are like Casinos; they tend to crowd out or starve out a lot of the smaller churches/businesses.

    And they are addicting! Many Generation X, Y and Zers would not think of going anywhere else. They are hooked on cool preachers, worship pastor idolatry, loud bands, praise teams in skinny pants, audio-visual excitement, espresso coffee in the foyer, come-as-you-are-stay-as-you-are sermons, fun and fellowship, etc. To go to a small church would require a disciplined withdrawal to reduce their dependence on the bells and whistles of mega-mania.

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