As I have said on a few occasions, I’m terrible with money. I don’t really care about it (sometimes until it’s too late!) and I have never been ambitious to have a lot of it. I simply assumed that God would take care of me and my family when I went into ministry, and he has proven faithful, in spite of my laissez faire mentality and sometimes slipshod financial management approach.
That has caused me some regrets over time:
- I wish I had been able to be more available to my children at times when I could have helped them.
- I wish I had been able to support our churches and friends in mission work more generously.
- I wish our family had had enough resources to have a retreat somewhere where we could have gone for rest, recreation, and building memories.
- I wish I could do a lot of my ministry work gratis and never have to talk to my church or employer about my salary.
I have a couple of illustrations from other pastors that I always come back to.
When I read A.W. Tozer’s biography, I learned that he never had an automobile. There came a time in his ministry when the church wanted to honor him for all his years of service, and they presented him with a car. Never one to worry about offending sensibilities, Tozer immediately and publicly refused to accept the gift, handing the keys back to the presenter. He didn’t need it, didn’t want it, didn’t care to have it. He thought it an extravagance and a waste of the congregation’s money. He probably could have been more polite, but he certainly held his ground against materialism!
W.A. Criswell, the well-known pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, a megachurch before there were megachurches, gave back every penny of the salary he earned in over thirty years of ministry. This was a theme from the beginning of his career. When he preached his first sermon, the deacons took up a collection and gave him $10. He handed it back and told them he didn’t preach for money. Then, at the end of his career, having made money through writing books (in a much different publishing world than we have today) and wise investments, he paid back the congregation more than $600,000 as a testimony to them that he had preached the Gospel freely and not for reward.
This freedom from the love of money and a generous spirit is something I admire in a more contemporary Southern Baptist pastor, Rick Warren. He did the same thing as Criswell, adding up what he had received from Saddleback and giving back to the congregation. He has always been committed to frugal living and giving away a large portion of the money that comes to him through various ministry efforts.
And then there’s Stephen Furtick, who represents many of today’s megachurch pastors (we’ve mentioned James MacDonald on this site too, as another example). He has fallen under scrutiny for a 1.7 million dollar home he is building in Charlotte, NC, where he pastors Elevation Church.
Christian Post spoke to Ole Anthony, the president and one of the founders of the Trinity Foundation, a nonprofit foundation that monitors and investigates religious fraud. Anthony detailed the money-making operation that preaching in a megachurch and selling books and videos has become.
“What happens is these pastors are on television or on radio and they write a book, and it’s based on their sermons,” Anthony told The Christian Post on Thursday. “But then what happens is the church is paying for the time and the place to write the book, and then the church is paying for the airtime to advertise the book. And it’s just unseemly.”
He continued: “There are a lot of pastors like him (Furtick), who have an assembly of like-minded pastors. They are on each other’s board of directors and they all speak at each other’s churches for big speakers’ fees. And it’s a situation in which there’s no oversight, there’s no transparency. And it becomes just another secret money-making option for the pastors who are supposed to be the servants.”
You can read more about Furtick and the situation in Charlotte in several posts over at The Wartburg Watch.
The evangelical industrial complex rolls on.
Dr. Tozer, where are you when we need you?