"That night I had a dream in which I was in a bathroom and the sink started to back up. The clear water in the sink quickly became fouled with vile sewer material and it was revolting."
As time went by, we realized the dream had another dimension:
-the sink represented the Forum I had been part of...
-the drain pipe openeing was spewing out spiritual filth because the host was bringing forth the works of the flesh.
This dream was posted on a "watchman" site .
We had been discussing the lack of NT instructions regarding tithing or salaries as a form of support for any ministry and I was rebuked for speaking about it.
During this same period, we received a testimony from "Debi" regarding her church experience, which demonstrates the abuse of financial manipulation and the corruption of God's servants in the modern church.
This also really struck home for us as we recall that as elders in our old church, we did not protect the sheep when our leadership was corrupted and acting in their own self-interest.
When "Debi" sent her story, I wrote back:
"I just read your story, and felt like getting sick or crying, can I post your story as a blog?"
She gave us permission and this is it:
First off let me say that I don’t want to come acoss as being too bitter. There were many great times at this church and great people. The pastor did many great things with a hugh emphasis on soul winning. He had a great vision for what he wanted to accomplish in ministry and of course that is why there was so much emphasis on money. So I never minded tithing and giving because I was giving out of love for the Lord and what was being done in and through the church. I received a lot of good teaching while there and the worship was awesome. That’s what I miss the most. It was just the way the pastor left, that’s when we started asking questions and didn’t like the answers we got. And then after reading your book, that’s what made us realize how much we were duped.
The services were very exciting, charismatic and full of worship. That’s what drew my husband and I there. The pastor’s sermons were dynamic and he made every service like a party. His attitute was that church should be a celebration and not a funeral. He was very charismatic and funny and his personality fit my husband’s to a tee. He was kind of a man’s man, harley driving, not your typical churchy slick haired preacher. He came out of a rough background of being a drug dealer and smuggler so he was able to reach the kind of people that wouldn’t normally step foot in church. The church was mixed race, middle class to poor so the “God wants you rich” message resonated with them.
His basic philosophy was how can you reach the world with the gospel if you don’t have the money to do it. That the gospel is free but it takes money to get it to the world.
So the more we give, the more we’re blessed in order to be a blessing. We were taught that’s how God’s economy worked. Sounded good to us. How could that be wrong?
So his tithing sermons were kind of like an Amway rally. “If you are a tither and a giver, you have a right to ask God for finances and to be blessed.” If you’re not, then you don’t have any right and too bad for you!
Actually, the tithe would just “rebuke the devourer,” it was the “offerings besides” that would put you into the blessed category! He would preach scathing sermons against anyone who didn’t tithe.
Many times we would hear “the toilet paper isn’t free” line. I remember one time he even said he didn’t want non tither’s there at all. He even preached one time that you probably wouldn’t make the rapture if you weren’t a tither!! I think he eventually recanted that but not too strongly. So like you said in your book, all of us tithers felt like we were superior.
We were in a building program the whole 10 years that we were there. The fund raising was continuous all that time with gimmicks galore. The “Legacy for Generations” fund raiser, the tower of dirt was my favorite! You put your money in and as the money grew, the mound of dirt would rise closer to the top representing how close we were to getting the land paid for.
They had jewelery they would give to those who reached their pledges. One piece being 2 gold shovels (1 smaller than the other) soldered together, the smaller one respresenting how much we give vs. the bigger one how much God gives back. There was the service where people would line up to go up on the platform to hand the pastor jewelery, titles to cars, boats, etc. whatever they had. That time I personally gave him my old wedding ring!!
There were times people would just go up in the middle of the service and lay money or checks on the platform. We knew of at least one couple who lost their home because they paid their pledge instead of their rent. Other couples invested in the stock market where the pastor had told them he had made money, but they lost theirs.
The first thing you would see walking in the door of the church was a big portrait of what the new building was going to look like. Like I said before, a holographic image of Moses was going to greet everyone in the foyer along with a parting waters fountain.
There was going to be a Disney like train picking your children up in the parking lot to take them into a children’s area that he was going to have Disney design (so we were told). Seating for 7,000, a school, unwed mother facilities, prayer garden, Starbucks! It was going to be quite the masterpiece. As the years went on, we were told stories of miracle after miracle of what God did in providing for the land, materials, etc.
But then strangely, the 80 acres that we had on a prime location went down to 60 then to 40. After the pastor left, I think what they were left with is around 20.
Every year the pastor would put on conferences for 50 or so pastors and their wives around the world to come in for a week to get ministered to themselves and re energized. Big name speakers were brought in and the church would pay for their airfare, hotels, meals, etc. to the tune of around 500K.
The pastor would just do things like this and have faith that the money would come in to cover it. The associate pastor who handled the finances eventually quit because of the stress.
The most recent scam (I mean revelation J) came right before he left. He’s big into teaching on our Jewish roots and the feasts, holy days, etc. That when you gave an offering on Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur that was the day God would see how much you gave and the rest of your year would be blessed accordingly.
I remember mentioning to someone after one of those “special” giving day services that maybe this was just another gimmick to get another offering. You would have thought I said we should drill holes in baby seals’ heads! So I took my shabbat candle, sat in the corner and shut up the rest of the evening!
But the coup de gras was when the pastor invested 4 million dollars of church money in the stock market and lost it all!! Then had the audacity to ask us to give $1,000 each to replace it. He has been audited by the IRS and came through ok. I’m not sure how, but he did.
Another incident that started souring us was when one of our friends passed away who had been on the “board” and had served faithfully for many years there. He left a wife and 8 children.
People in the church swooped in to “help” the family by bringing food over and then staying around to eat it all. Someone called in a carpet cleaner company to their home and left them with the bill.
They eventually lost their home. We helped them as much as we could but when we saw the wealth being spread around the church to do this and that program but when it came to helping the widow and orphans, nothing. That’s when we started questioning where our priorities were.
The “board” I mentioned above was in name only. They were usually made up of people who were yes men to the pastor but with no authority of any kind. I had heard of him getting rid of anyone who disagreed with him on how he used the money. Everything at the church was in the pastor’s name.
There was never any financial report shown. His attitude was that he was the pastor and the one accountable to God if he was doing anything wrong.
He was audited at one point and came through ok. But basically he had said on different occasions that we could “vote with our feet, we need your seat.” And I know just reading this about what he said and did would make you wonder why in the world would anyone stay there. But I think it was because he was very convincing and charismatic and said some of the more offensive things with a lot of humor that people would overlook it.
We left shortly after the pastor left and before they got the new church completed and because it is now 50 miles from our home, but I visited there recently to see what became of it. I didn’t see Moses or Mickey! You wouldn’t even know it was a church except for the sign. It blends in with all the other industrial buildings in the area.
The associate pastor took it over and is struggling to keep 2 services going, both of which are just partially full. I heard that they had to take out a 1 or 2 million dollar loan. This after we were told everything was paid for! There are many good people there and actually there’s a better spirit there now.
It was just pretty sad to think of what happened especially after all the years of sacrifice of so many people. I know there are quite a few walking wounded” because of how pastor left things.
Many left and the others that are still there would never say anything even if they thought it because of the strong “never say anything negative” or “touch not my annointed” message that was drilled into us.
But he has gone on now to bigger and better things. He moved from the most unchurched area of the country to the most churched (and most lucrative) Makes sense if you’re passion is soul winning, huh?!
He’s got a TV show on TBN and Daystar and is making quite a name for himself. I did read a blog from someone who was in his new church who said that he is in another building program already and had received over a million $$ for land and had lost the land. They were questioning where the money went.
I came across his TV program not long after we left and heard him telling his new church that they were going to bring Disney in to design their children’s department!! It was a dejavu moment!! I guess building programs must be where the money is!