Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Television Evangelists Under Investigation . . . Again!



I plan to return to the subject of Heaven and Hell, but I couldn't let today's hot news story pass without comment. I am speaking of the news that U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) is spearheading an investigation into the financial dealings of some top televangelists. Among those under investigation: Creflo Dollar (ironic name, isn't it?), Joyce Meyer, Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland.

Normally, I dislike the idea of the government getting too high-handed in its meddling into church affairs. However, the horrible high-profile scandals of the 1980s ensured that both government investigators and the media would begin paying a very close eye to the ostentatious side of "ministry." Remember the PTL scandal? Remember the falls of Jimmy Swaggart and Marvin Gorman? Remember Bob Tilton? Some television ministries today still refuse to join the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, set up in part to help guard against such shenanigans and misuse of donor contributions. Unfortunately, it appears there are many out there who haven't learned a thing.

Yes, I know that I shouldn't prejudge this before the investigation is complete, and I don't intend to. However, I can be justly critical of lavish lifestyles that border on the obscene when that lifestyle is supported by sometimes naive people who think they are giving to the Lord's ministry. It is alleged that one of these televangelists spent thousands of dollars for a marble commode. That's a pretty expensive trip to the bathroom if you ask me.

Do I think that it is a sin to be wealthy? Not necessarily. However, I do believe -- with biblical justification -- that to whom much is given, much will be required. God expects His people to be good stewards of what He has provided. That includes me, and I don't make anywhere near what these televangelists probably consider as chump change. But compared to other parts of the world, I live pretty well and I have been convicted about how I've used money over the years. Beyond all of that, there is a pretty serious reason why stories such as this should be troubling to Christians.

What sort of witness does this kind of thing provide? I have personally traveled to places like Russia and Belarus where many Christians are very, very poor. They can't afford to pay their pastors and the vast majority have trouble even renting small, shanty-like houses to hold church meetings. It's heartbreaking.

And some of these types of Western preachers have flown over to these countries on so-called ministry trips, and then chide these dear saints for not having enough faith to be prosperous. They don't have a clue of what these genuine saints deal with every day of their lives, and how they sacrificially give of what they have to both advance the Gospel and to be hospitable to guests. I have seen how their dinner tables are laden for visiting Westerners, knowing full well that it probably means their families will have to eat fairly skimpily for the next week or more. But they lovingly give the best that they have. After seeing things like this, for me to see the palatial mansions of some of these televangelists truly makes me ill.

Again, it's one thing if this money is made from book sales, music sales or some other product. But if it's done using donations from people who think that their money is being used to advance the Gospel, that's quite another thing. I can't help but think the Lord is grieved, all the more so because His name is profaned by unbelievers who see that kind of ostentatiousness and think that example is representative of both the Lord and His people.

We'll see how all this ends up, but I am not optimistic in the short term. Lavishness is often hard to give up when one becomes used to it. However, they might well be forced to live a more humble lifestyle when the donations dry up. If the charges are false, I hope they will be exonerated. More than that, I hope that they will learn the lesson that God is trying to teach them. We all could learn something as a matter of fact.

5 comments:

Randy said...

Joel,

I personally think Joel Osteen should be included in this investigation. Get this: He is coming to Cincinnati and 'charging' admission! Hmmm...a preacher collecting ticket money to see him. I'm sure Paul the apostle would have a lot to say about that idea.

It's easy too for Kenny Copeland to say 'live it up' when he wears thousand dollar suits purchased by donations of others. Not to mention his outright heretical doctrines.

I could go on. But, I'll be kind and leave it at that. I wonder though, will God be as kind at the judgement seat of Christ?

Be well,

Randy

Kelly said...

It cost Jesus everything to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God. It came at great cost to Paul and Peter and John and so many countless others in the earliest years of the Church. The “cost” to the early church was in the form of suffering, disrepute and even death. “Cost” has taken on a whole new meaning in modern-day Christianity. It has become a vain and worthless word. It is no longer attached to Passion and Desire for the Lord and others. It simply means “payment of money”. Now, in modern-day Christianity, the “cost” isn’t in picking up your cross daily…it has been reduced to a simple “money exchange for services and goods”. Much like those who sold sacrifices to people entering the Temple. It was all quite convenient. Don’t worry about saving the best of what you have to bring as a sacrifice to God…we’ll do the work and simply charge you money in exchange so we can continue to provide this service. I’m always so disappointed when I hear someone on television preaching the Word of God only to find out that they have given the listener 5 of the 10 steps God has shown them. The listener is then offered an opportunity to give a gift for the remaining 5 steps. The gift is always money. The crazy thing though is that the listener is willing to let the speaker/preacher/”icon”-in-some-cases do the work for them and then simply pay a price to get it second-hand. Wouldn’t God speak to them as well if they were to search for Him with all their heart? Again, kind of like the picture we have of what was going on in the Temple in the days Jesus walked the earth. Where was/is the passion? The desire for God Himself?! The first-hand experience of a life-changing RELATIONSHIP with God that extends beyond this present world?! Where is the desire for the Kingdom of God?!! It’s as though Believers have forgotten it even exists. Jesus’ example was giving up His own life here for the sake of the listener. He spoke of the Kingdom of God time and time again. It was His Passion to have us there with Him! He had no place in this world to lay His head. No Bentley, no jet, no expensive clothing or home or cosmetic surgery to look good for the crowds. What was His joy? It was the joy set before Him that helped Him endure the cross. What joy? A kingdom here? Possessions and prestige here? No, I think the joy that lay before Him was the understanding that if He chose to die for us, to take up His cross here, the Father would raise Him from the dead as the Acceptable Sacrifice for our sins…and He knew we could THEN live with Him in the Kingdom of God forever. We could live with Him where He lives. Modern-day Christianity (that which has attached itself to the earth-bound prosperity doctrine) is showing us the example of kingdoms HERE. Lavishing upon oneself expensive houses and cars and treasures that will only last here. This is a counterfeit. A perversion of Truth. Don’t store up your treasures here! This is not the place!!! Lavish what you are given by God on others…give to those you come across on your every day journey who are in need…share YOUR drink with the thirsty, YOUR food with the hungry, YOUR clothing with the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned YOURSELF. Modern-day Christianity encourages us to let ministries do this for us. All we have to do is send them money. That is the extent of our sacrifice. Again, it sounds like the passionless sacrifices Jesus observed in the Temple. And we recall that He Passionately drove those money-changers out of the Temple and reminded men that the Temple was to be a house of prayer. The Gospel does not teach us to make store houses for ourselves here. It teaches us to be IMPASSIONED lovers of God and our neighbor.

Do not walk by the flesh and gain the whole world! Walk by the spirit and exchange finite counterfeits for infinite pleasures! Your Lover, your Lord is not here! He is in the kingdom of God making a place for you!

ed said...

Second Tiomthy chaps.3,& 4 apply to what is going on in the churches today.
Joel Osteens web site states that children over 2 must purchase a ticket.
I'm sure they'll learn alot about being the best they can be.

smudg said...

JACK & REXZELLA EMPE ARE CROOKS FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. WE HAVE DONATED MONEY TO BE FOR THE GOOD OF THE WORLD THAT THE EMPES, PURPORTEDLY, FUND AND TAKE CARE OF. WE HAVE FOUND OUT THAT JACK DRAWS A SALARY OF THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY THOUSAND DOLLARS ($380,000,000.00) PER YEAR. PLUS ANOTHER #250,000.00 THAT GOES FOR EXPENSES OF EVERYTHING THEY DO OR WANT. TOTAL OF $630,000.00 DOLLARS WASTED, ONE MIGHT SAY. WE ALSO BOUGHT AN ELECTRONIC BIBLE WITH JACK'S VERSES ON IT, ALSO. IT NEVER WORKED, EVEN FOR A MINUTE. JACK & REXZELLA WOULD NOT RETURN MY FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS ($400.00). THEY DID ALL KINDS OF THINGS TO, FINALLY, SAY NO DICE. CONSUMER FRAUD, CONSTRUCTIVE FRAUD, ETC. IF YOU HAD SIMILAR EXPERIENCE, PLEASE E MAIL ME @ joenickm@hotmail.com

lynn said...

I appreciate the wise and temperate words beginning this and agree that meaningful change can come to these ministries, the body of Christ as a whole and the world that is watching. Here are some things that have come to me.

2Chron. 6:23 Then hear thou from heaven, and do, and judge thy servants, by requiting the wicked, by recompensing his way upon his own head; and by justifying the righteous, by giving him according to his righteousness.

I was interested in getting some other side perspective. There is so much of a blast out there on this. Here is a posting of the letter track of one of these ministries, which contains some answers to some senate inquiries, some disclosures. It represents some factual basis for a side of this. We all need to pray and with insight. Thank you.
http://www.kcm.org/news/index.php?p=news_article&cid=10&eid=23912855