Transparency is the key to financial wisdom for leaders.
As Ur’s readers weighed in on Steven Furtick’s controversial mansion, it was clear that opinions on pastoral compensation vary widely. Your comments ranged from blistering critiques of ministerial excess, to defense of the pastor’s right to spend his money any way that he #*$@&! chooses. Here’s Bob Hyatt’s balanced take on the bigger issues at stake.
Another week, another mega-pastor breaks the internet. This time it’s the $1.6 million mansion of North Carolina pastor Steven Furtick (7.5 bathrooms???). Add to that the revelation that Pastor Furtick’s salary is set not by his own church and its elder board, but by a coterie of other celebrity pastors. In any such “scandal” you have the detractors, the defenders and caught in the middle, the Church as a whole.
We’ve long struggled with the question of wealth; in particular, how should money be handled by ministers of the Gospel? The problem is that we want to maintain that wealth can be, though is not necessarily, a blessing from God that should be enjoyed, used for good, and seen as a means, not an end. But when we see what to many of us appear to be outrageous salaries and expenditures in the church, whether huge building projects or expensive and lavish living arrangements of pastors, we begin to question just where the lines are between enjoying what God gives us and flaunting it, between love of the One who blesses and pursuit of the blessings for their own sake.
Here’s how I have struggled to answer this question in my life, as a pastor.
A few years ago some investments of my time and effort began to pay off financially. I was suddenly staring at a pile of money, and a freedom that came with it that many pastors can only dream of. And if I can be honest, I struggled. Money is a challenge for everyone, and large amounts of it only increase the challenge (though I realize many reading would love to try their hand at that particular challenge). With increased cash flow came the ability to give more, to save more… and to spend more.
James MacDonald pulled an unusual rabbit out of his Easter hat this year. The megachurch pastor preached his Sunday morning sermon on money.
You can view the sermon video here. Start at 2:00 in.
Whatever you think of MacDonald's logic (Easter = freedom, bad money management = bondage, therefore, good money management = good idea for an Easter sermon), is the day the church celebrates resurrection the time to talk finances?
What do you think of MacDonald's connection between resources and resurrection? Appropriate? Absurd? Discuss.
A new survey finds most pastors don't believe Scripture requires giving 10 percent.
by Url Scaramanga
A recent survey from the National Association of Evangelicals finds that a majority of pastors do not believe the Bible requires tithing. In this report from CNN, Leith Anderson and Brian Kluth discuss the survey and the theological basis for the tithe.
Anderson explains that while most evangelical pastors don't believe the tithe is required, most report that they give at least 10 percent and that the Bible encourages us to give far more. But Kluth reminds us that giving in the US has been declining for years, and therefore continued teaching on the tithe is helpful.
What do you think? Does emphasizing tithing actually limit Christian giving? And what do you read behind the survey's findings? Are pastors not taking the issue as seriously as in the past, or are they merely taking the New Testament's words about giving as more weighty than the Old Testament's? How should giving be taught today?
According to the study, megachurches are continuing to see attendance and giving rise even during the recession. (For those of you leading small congregations, insert salt into your wounds now.) And it appears the bigger your church is the more likely you are to see these increases. In the current economic environment churches are falling prey to Darwinism's survival of the fittest...or at least the survival of the biggest.
No, this post isn't about growing pains as your church gets bigger and bigger or what to do with the budget surplus all that extra tithing is leaving you with (though if your problem is the latter, email me).
I've been thinking this week about the cost we pastors and our communities pay when people actually begin to do what we're asking them do to: "Go in peace to love and serve the Lord."
So far this year, we've had a hard time making budget just about every month. And as a smaller church, that matters. As I looked at the numbers, I began to wonder what was happening. Were people giving less because of the financial crisis? Were we angering people and provoking a "hold back" response in giving?
But as I tried to see the big picture of where our community is, I realized we're actually just paying the price of success.
Recently we've sent some wonderful folks around the world - One family to Glasgow, Scotland, for church planting. One couple to Sudan to do medical and relief work for some of the poorest of the poor. Another couple to Bangladesh to rescue women from the sex trade and to help people begin businesses that will enable them to pull themselves out of poverty.
All these people have taken with them not just the hearts and prayers of our community. They've taken our financial support and the financial support of many members of our community.
In other words, giving isn't down. I have a feeling that, on the whole, we're actually giving more. It just doesn't show up on our books.
Rethinking our stewardship of the church's space and staff.
by Dave Gibbons
We are witnessing what some are calling the greatest transfer of wealth in human history. The McKinsey Global Institute has shown how assets are moving primarily from Europe and America to the oil countries of the Middle East and the manufacturing giants of Asia.
At the end of 2007, these oil producing countries owned about 4.6 trillion dollars of assets. That's about 1.6 times the whole economy of the UK. The six Arab countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council are receiving 1.5 billion dollars a day. Those are pretty staggering numbers.
Our "dangerous dependence on foreign oil" and the transfer of wealth it is producing, is moving both political parties to emphasize a new green agenda. This includes new technologies, further exploration into alternative energy, clean energy, drilling off-shore, and conservation.
As we consider conserving energy resources for environmental and economic reasons, maybe we should reconsider how we steward our resources in the church.
What will your church members do with their “economic stimulus” checks?
"I thought that spending my check from the government was supposed to be the patriotic thing to do, but I'm not sure it's the Kingdom thing to do." That is how my friend Chuck began explaining his idea about what our congregation could do with the economic stimulus payments that begin arriving in the mail this week. After hearing so much about the sluggish economy and our responsibility to jumpstart it through consumption, he was wondering if there might be a better way to invest Uncle Sam's rebate.
On Sunday, I invited Chuck to join me in front of our church. I asked him to explain why spending the money on himself was not the best thing he could do with it. "As I read about the government's plan in the news, the more the idea of spending money on myself seemed to be at odds with the values of God's kingdom," he said. He told us he'd been reading Jesus' words in Luke 12 and it appeared to be opposed to the message that we can spend our way to prosperity, security, and happiness.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear? Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted.
Chuck said that Kingdom investment doesn't necessarily mean giving money to the church.
The Senate investigates “possible misuse of donations” by television preachers.
I come from a diverse family where few are Christians and even fewer venture into the curious sub-culture of evangelicalism. For this reason a number of my relatives have an impression of Christianity based largely upon what they see while surfing the television - an impression that I do not fit and work hard to deconstruct. Televangelists are loud and energetic; I'm rarely the life of the party. Televangelists have big hair; I have no hair. Televangelists fly around in private jets; I ride a bike to work to save on gas.
My work to deconstruct the image of gold-gilded Christianity appears to be getting some help from the United States Senate. Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, is investigating possible financial shenanigans on the part of six widely known TV preachers. From Ted Olsen's article at ChristianityToday.com:
"Recent articles and news reports regarding possible misuse of donations made to religious organizations have caused some concern for the Finance Committee," Grassley wrote to the ministries in letters asking for detailed financial records.
None of the ministries targeted - those led by Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Eddie Long, Joyce Meyer, and Randy and Paula White - are required to file the financial disclosure Form 990 with the IRS because they are designated as churches.
How can you pass the plate to people who don't carry cash? You can't. So the next big wave may be the "Giving Kiosk" in your church's lobby.
"A lot of people no longer carry cash or a checkbook," says Marty Baker, pastor of Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, Georgia. So he installed two ATMs in 2005. The experiment has been a success.
During the first year, the kiosks processed over $100,000 in donations at Stevens Creek. In 2006, that number increased to just over $200,000, representing more than 25 percent of the church's total income. Even more impressive is the fact that giving as a whole increased 18 percent since the ATMs were installed. "It's a safe, convenient way for people to donate to their church," Baker notes, "and it meets people where they are today."
These positive returns encouraged Baker to launch SecureGive, a for-profit company that produces and maintains several different versions of the giving kiosks. "We knew that if this concept and technology was so beneficial for our church, others could benefit from it as well," says Baker.
This month Out of Ur is starting a new feature called "Out of Context." Each week we will post a quote from an article in the current issue of Leadership Journal that may cause you to ruminate, cogitate, or possibly regurgitate. As always, your comments and responses are encouraged.
"I love the statement by G.K. Chesterton who said that we could have a really good argument over whether or not Jesus believed in fairies. But we cannot have any debate over whether or not Jesus believed rich people were in big trouble. There's just too much evidence that he did."
-Will Willimon, bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church Take from "Preaching Past TiVo" in the Summer 2006 issue of Leadership Journal. To see the quote IN context click on the cover of Leadership on this page.