I think I am getting it, but I’m not quite sure. There is an anger and angst right now among some Christians that is pointed directly at the pulpits of some of the Lord’s churches. More specifically, some of the more well known pastors of some of the more well known Baptist churches have come under fire from some of their own members, and members outside their churches. These are men like, Mac Brunson, Steve Gaines, Robert Jeffress, and Ronnie Floyd. You can also throw in the names Ed Young, and Paige Patterson, (though Patterson is not a pastor.) While each situation has it’s own unique set of circumstances, there are three general points in their ministry that people seem to be taking issue with.
1.) That they teach the principle of tithing.
2.) That they themselves are individually very wealthy.
3.) That the facilities or projects that they lead their churches into have nothing to do with true ministry but are personal monuments to themselves.
If I understand what I’ve read and heard correctly then while each circumstance may differ slightly, generally those are the points of interest.
If I understand the logic, or the thinking correctly then the thinking goes something like this 1.) A pastor has no business being made wealthy from the church that he pastors in the first place. 2.) For a wealthy pastor to preach on tithing is a lighted billboard of his own personal greed. 3.) For a wealthy pastor to lead a church into such monstrous, and lavish building projects, or other endeavors, (such as a TV ministry), it is for no other reason than completely self aggrandizing monument to make it into Baptist history Lore.
All of this while homeless people stay homeless, lost people do not get the gospel delivered to them, and community service goes by the way side.
Now I will say this. If all of that is all that is happening, and all that is going to happen, then I too would be in outrage, and everyone else should be also. Those scenarios have absolutely no business masquerading as ministry.
Furthermore, I would go on to say that I have no doubt that at least some of it is happening. Hirelings, False Preachers, wolves in sheeps clothing, and demons with smily faces, diamond rings, and power neck ties pepper the landscape of our nation, fleecing the Lord’s flock. I deny none of that, abhor all of that, and pray every day that the Lord’s true ministers wherever they be, be filled with the Spirit, preach boldly the truth, and are protected from mistaken identity.
Now let me say this. I do not know personally know any of the men that I mentioned, their names have just been the ones that others are speaking of. As I have said in a previous post, Steve Gaines has preached here at our church and did a magnificent job. Furthermore, he would not receive the honorarium that we offered, nor allowed us to cover his expenses. Had we not prearranged the meal, he would have rejected that provision as well. (He tried). In short it financially cost him to preach here. I did enjoy his company, as well as did the other speakers at our conference. I will let that stand on its own.
That being said, my worry is that all of this angst and anger over these matters is undermining the the true ministry. Not only that, I do not believe that all of the fury is actually justified.
First, a church is biblically autonomous and has every biblical and moral right to pay their pastor whatever they believe to be sufficient. They certainly do have a biblical mandate to care for the needs and living of their pastor. What many are upset about, is that in their view some churches have gone beyond the mandate, to the point of extravagance. Of which I will not argue against. That the church should provide for the needs of the pastor is not debatable. How much, and how far, certainly is, and well within the perameters for sensible discussion. That being said, it is not sin for a pastor to be “wealthy” in and of itself. It is most certainly a sin for him to be wealthy if that is his personal pursuit, motive, and driving force. Contrary to popular opinion, pastors do not take vows of poverty, nor should they. They are under no more of a Biblical obligation to take the cheap road than any other Christian. Money is never to be their motive NOT because they are pastors, but because they are Christians.
Very often, other Christians fail to realize that the financial issues that apply for Pastors also apply to all of Christianity. I’ve used this illustration before, and it fits here. “If I as a Pastor were to resign my church, and accept another one because it just makes financial sense, such as saying ‘hey’ they’ll pay me more over there; then I would immediately be branded as a hireling and rigthly so. Yet, Christians leave one company for another all the time, just for better money.” That being said, Money is not only not to be the Pastors motive, it’s not to be ANY ONE’s motive for any direction and decision within their lives. Jesus made it clear that no man can serve two masters. Many have read that “no pastor can serve to masters”.
Second, and I’ll not beat this dead horse much again, but preaching on tithing has absolutely nothing to do with “money for the preacher.” NO DOUBT Some preach it that way out of greed; but not ALL. Some actually, and factually, preach it, because it is their biblical conviction, not their personal greedy motive, and they should not be labled as such.
Third, – Big churches, need big places to meet! – That ought to make sense. Clearly the greatest desire for any church is that they grow, and that they grow mightily. Not merely a reshuffling the deck among Christians, but through conversion and baptism of the lost. There is no point in scripture in which they are to say, “we’ve got enough, ya’ll go somewhere else.” Ideally each of the Lord’s New Testament churches would not stop growing deep and wide. That being said, “lots of people need lots of seats.” Without question, there is a difference in quality and luxury. I believe that whatever we do in the name of the Lord ought to be done to the highest quality possible. Frivolous extravagance no. But anything that we dedicate to the Lord is to be our very best possible. (Surely that can be seen as a principle)
Which brings up one more issue. Lots of people, giving their offerings (tithes 0r not) are going to amount to large sums of money, that in turn is to be used to continue the furtherance of the ministry. Are these sums sometimes abused? Does Charlie Daniels play a mean fiddle? Of course they sometimes are, but not every time.
My primary concern is that those who have legitimate concerns and issues with particular pastors, and specific circumstances, are using so wide of a brush that they are painting things, “greed” that aren’t supposed to be.
Not all pastors are greedy. Not all buildings are frivolous, and Not all churches who follow their pastors are kool-aid drinkers. I do not pastor a “mega” church, nor am I a millionaire. I love the people I pastor, they love me. I attempt to be the best pastor they could have, and their desire is to take good care of my family. I try not to need much, they try to supply much. The Lord has blessed me with a wonderful church. Maybe one of these days He will bless them with a wonderful pastor. I’ll do my best to fill in until He does. 🙂
I said all of that to say to those who stand afar off and wonder at the Christians with their claws out, and the Counterfeits within the church, that Christ is still worth it. There are still many Gospel preachers that are proclaiming the truth of God’s Word, and leading the Lord’s New Testament churches. Jesus said to let the tares grow with the wheat, because his servants might not be able to discern between the two, and they would damage the grain. That being the case, trusting Christ, believing His Word, and engaging His men would definitely be a change worth making.
(More later . . .)