I'm supposed to be doing my homework right now...reading my Latin American Comparitive Literature works, but I can't focus on that right now. I need help in understanding something.
Did you happen to see May 2005's Black Enterprise? No? Well I'm going to read you bits and pieces of it, because I was truly perplexed.
On the front cover of the magazine is a very striking picture of Bishop T.D. Jakes, Bishop Eddie Long, and Pastor Kirby Jon Caldwell, all standing like men of statute and power in their very sharp suits, plastered on the backdrop of a huge stain glass window with a large cross. The bold letters across the picture read, "The Business of Faith". Now as soon as I slid this magazine out of my mailbox and had a chance to peep the picture, I literally laughed out loud. Wait...wait. Let me explain.
I was so perplexed with the notion of Faith being a Business that I walked back to my apartment and immediately took a picture of the cover and the inside article to post on my facebook page. My captions read, "Wow. Now doesn't this just say it all? There are so many different angles I could take on this, I don't even know where to begin..." and "The sub-title reads "Black megachurches are turning pastors into CEOs of multimillion-dollar enterprises". So what happens when all of our little boys and girls out there want to become multimillion-dollar pastors when they grow up?" I did get a couple of responses which I'll copy and paste right now.
A friend of mine responded, "It sounds like a wonderful idea. I think the world would be a lot worse off than if 10% of young boys were trying to become multi-millionnaire pastors. In my opinion, these guys are living lives that should be emulated. Not that they aren't doing their share of sinning, but our community needs men like this helping people instead of the stereotype of what we have. Just my two cents. Drop me a message, I really wanna talk to you about this."
I replied, "I have a somewhat different opinion on this. I understand what you're saying but I don't think church should be a business. It's a human, life-saving work, and not something to be made rich off. I don't know... something about it bothers me. I messaged you the rest of my opinion."
I got a few more responses but I want to rewind right quick, and bring you through some of the meat in the article.
"Megachurches, defined as houses of workship with more than 2,000 members, have become major players in the economic and business development boom that has revitalized inner-city communities nationwide. In today's environment, many pastors function as CEOs, developing and executing plans that utilize financial and human resources to achieve objectives." Alright. I think that sounds good.
"Generating Megadollars...It's solid financial infrastructure has also been responsible for funding close to 100 ministries, ranging from grief management and debt consolidation to Texas Offenders Re-Entry Initiative, a rehabilitaion program for ex-convicts." Wow. That's inspiring.
"The line between church and business is often blurred as ministries grant pastors oversight powers for both for-profit and nonprofit ventures...pastors must develop a series of safeguards, including annual compliance audits, appointing a compensation board to determine salaries and budgets, hiring outside financial firms to oversee finances, and establishing 501(c) 3 nonprofit corporations to manage economic development initiatives." So this really is a business. Yeah I can definitely see them wanting to safeguard their dollars and avoid getting stomped on by the IRS. Because that's what's most important right? (You should see the expression on my face right now.)
"...the break down for Potter's House revenues was as follows: 43% from tithes and offerings, 22% from national ministry offerings, 18% from comferences, 15% from product sales, and 2% from the church's international pastoral alliance." I'm taken back! I didn't know churches did all that! International Pastoral Alliances?! What is that??
"Bishop Thomas D. Jakes, Impeccably attired in a gray suit and polka-dot tie, holds court in an opulent conference room dominated by floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook 400 acres of church-owned land." Umm....ok. I'll take that. The man likes to dress and prefers to have a nice place to do his people saving work. Ok.
"Rebuilding A Community...It's that kind of power that allowed Pastor Anthony G. Maclin's church, Sanctuary at Kingdom Square, to purchase Hampton Mall [Capital Heights, MD] for $13 million....The church plans to transform the 254,000-square foot shopping center, renamed Kingdom Square, into a 3,000-seat sanctuary, complete with a school, day care center, bookstore, hair salon, and spa." Shut Up! This is right by where I live so I'm a tad bit more shocked on this one. A Hair Salon and SPA!!! And this is for a church? That's why they closed down Hampton Mall?!!!! I am truly enlightened!!!
"At present he is rejoicing about a multimillion-dollar deal with Sony Pictures to produce nine movies, following the breakthrough success of Woman Thou Art Loosed..." Ok... so he's a business man and wants to use his talents to make money. Can't fault him at that right? But wait a minute. So what happens when you want to speak to your pastor about the abusive relationship that you're in or the battles you're going through with pre-marital sex and dating? Do you really have to make an appointment? Do you really have to wait weeks to speak to someone other than his secretary and appointed overseers because he's in Hollywood dealing with his movie contract?
"The 48 year old pastor oversees two kingdoms, divided by a carefully constructed firewall, which separates his church responsibilities from his business enterprises." TWO KINGDOMS?!!! Huh?
"Maclin serves as the CEO of Kingdom Mangament, the for-profit entity established by the church to manage the mall." What's up with these names? I thought the only Kingdom was God's Kingdom. Now every rich, powerful man in the "Business of Faith" has a KINGDOM? And it's to manage the mall?Again, hmm...
""The African-American church has always been a leader in the community," Maclin says. "Who else in the community has the resources? We are trying to erase the blight in the community...The scriptures say that we should be lenders and not borrowers."" So wait.. that's what the scripture meant when it said that? Are we sure we're talking about what's best for the community though? Are you sure this isn't about your wallet size? Even if you told me that it wasn't, why wouldn't I believe you?
"Some who work in the ministry are not above engaging in skulduggery to achieve results. At times, the misuse of funds and resources is so flagrant it calls into question the priviliges afforded to the church leaders." Did anyone read that scripture at Hebrews 13:5 where it says to let your manner of life be free of the love of money, while you are content with the present things? What about the one at 1 Timothy 6:10 - for the love of money is the root of all sorts of injurious things, and by reaching out for this love some have been lead astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains. What about the one saying, "No one can slave for two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. You cannot slave for God and For Riches." (Matthew 6:24) Did anyone read these yet? Can these scriptures apply here or are they used for everything except this?
"Long says his woes are partly due to a misunderstanding that many people have about the role and function of the modern-day megachurch." I wonder why man!
The last section of the article reads, "WALL STREET MEETS THE PULPIT". What can you say about that one?
So, I'm confused. I'm a Jehovah's Witness and have not stepped into a church in over 5 years so things have drastically changed since I left. I'm not sure what's going on, how things work, or what the pastors and bishops are saying to the congregations to make them ok with this, but something about it doesn't sit well with me. Yes, I see the benefits. I see the financial improvements that megachurches are making in the community. I hear what my friend was saying in his reply, but I never hear about the congregation. Where are those reports? Are we seeing improvements in the way the members live their lives? Do we have accounts of incredible advancements in people's spirituality? Are the pastors pushing out more spiritually grounded and peaceful people? What about the live-saving work?!!!! How many are seeing the benefits of living their lives according to God's word? How many in the congregation do normal Bible reading? Has that percentage increased? Do the megachurches keep personally designed spiritiual progress books for their members in addition to their financial accounting books? Do they make time for their members who are fattening their wallets like there is no tomorrow? As far as I can see, the statistics that I'm seeing for African-Americans aren't helping the pastors/bishops' case.
Seriously. Am I missing something here?