Monthly Archives: July 2012

Filthy Lucre: Part 3 – How Money Has Produced Cowards in America’s Pulpits

This may appear to be an article describing how pastors are afraid of the federal government, more specifically the Internal Revenue Service, the fear of having their tax-exempt status yanked should they speak out about certain issues, or their fear of criticizing certain people and agencies. The answer is no, it is not about fear of the IRS, because that fact has already been aptly demonstrated ever since President Lyndon Johnson painted the church into that tax-exempt corner several decades ago. Besides, if a church very simply drops the tax-exempt status and pays the taxes on church contributions it could solve that problem. It would honor God by showing that we fear Him more than man, and then possibly God would honor the pastor and his congregation by providing extra revenue to pay the IRS. He is a big God, right? I wonder if the “Word of Faith” people ever preach on that topic.

There is one common thread between what I wrote above and what is to follow below; the fear of man rather than God. Pastors fear those who sit in the pews, fear that people might close their wallets when certain topics are breached, specifically public schools and the harm they do to our children. And I am not talking about closing the wallets on a given sermon; it could be that some people would leave the congregation permanently and go look for a church congregation that is more seeker-friendly…where have I heard that term before?

Oh, now I remember, seeker-friendly means something like this: people (some Christian, some not) are seeking a congregation that will give them what they want to hear… the Bible calls it itchy ears. I plead guilty to that charge; I’ve done it multiple times. There is one concept worth noting at this point. Truth never changes while lies have to be told in an attempt to cover previous lies. Another way to put it is that truth-tellers have one message while liars have multiple stories, building lie upon lie.

Let me point out two truthful things at this point:
1. A pastor who tells the truth (all, not part) will drive some people away because for some reason they do not wish to hear it.
2. A pastor who drives many people away will likely encounter reduced income into the church coffers.

I could just stop here and say, “There you have it folks, preachers do what they do to keep the money flowing into the church collection vessels (when I was a kid they were plates whereas today’s big men of faith use buckets). Of course coins won’t roll out of a bucket as they could from a plate.

I hesitate to call half-truths a lie, but that is one definition of half-truths. No pastor can preach on every single verse or topic in the Bible, although meeting and doing nothing but reading the Scriptures would at the very least be the Truth. I am more than a bit troubled (irritated is more accurate), that so many topics clearly shown in the Bible are all but ignored as I have witnessed while listening to thousands of sermons over seven decades. My wife will verify that I get irritated when I hear half-truths from the pulpit. I tell her it is “tweaking the Scriptures.” It is one thing to tweak the Scripture to make a valid truthful point, and yet quite another to use the tweaks of truth to tell a lie…I have seen it happen from the pulpits.

Public schools are not specifically mentioned in the Bible. Neither are hand held mobile phones. God did not institute public schools. I do feel confident that God did not institute the church and then expect her to put her children in public schools that reject all things Christian. I tell in all honesty, that I have NEVER heard a message from the pulpit about Christian schooling…NEVER.

I am lead to believe by my own observation and the testimony of many others that the primary reason pastors do not preach about the merits (mandate might be better) of Christian schooling versus the dangers of public schooling is because most of the adults in the pews are a part of public schools as parents and/or teachers. Such messages could offend people and reduce church income.

Cowards!

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Filthy Lucre: Part 2 – Hypoglycemia in the Pews and Hyperglycemia in the Pulpit

When evening comes you say, ‘It will be good weather because the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘Today will be stormy because the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to read the appearance of the sky, but you can’t read the signs of the times. (Matt. 16:2-3)

About 35 years ago a friendly, mild-mannered young man come up to me with some special information right after my first lecture of the semester in an Animal Nutrition class I was teaching at Northeast Missouri State U. He told me he had a medical condition, hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. As he started to explain what hypoglycemia was, I assured him I understood (after all it was a nutrition course I was teaching). The reason he wanted me to know about his low blood sugar condition was the fact that he was prone to fall asleep in class once he got comfortable in his seat. He wanted to assure me that if he fell asleep, it would not be for a lack of interest in Animal Nutrition, what I had to say about the topic, or the boring delivery I had, but simply the result of his hypoglycemic condition.

Later I thought, hypoglycemia puts college students asleep in the classroom. Wow, think of how many students would like to fib to the professors and give a line like that which gives an excuse for their late-night partying. “Dr. Gullible, I have low blood sugar, and should I fall asleep in your class this semester, you’ll know why.”

A lot of us often refer to Christians who are asleep. Although it can be a literal phenomenon when sermons get boring, there is more dangerous type of sleep for which I write here. Sleeping Christians are those who have trouble with understanding the times or properly discerning the times as they relate to what is said in God’s Word. I quickly add that understanding the Bible is necessary before one can understand the times. I do come to the defense of the average Christian for the simple reason that it is hard to raise a family, hold down a full time job, and tend to a multitude of personal affairs, and then be expected to keep up with those who seem to work full time at strategies to deceive you. (I happen to be thinking of politicians in Washington, D.C.)

Having said that, it is imperative that we, especially adults, who have had our sins forgiven through repentance and acceptance of Jesus Christ as the One who died for those sins, develop a personal responsibility to go with the personal relationship we have with our Lord. I don’t mean to be making too many excuses for Christians who are asleep in the pews, so to speak, but I come to their defense in another way. Most all people want to follow those who seem to be leading in the correct direction; it is a natural tendency. We all like to be on the winning team, or be a part of the winning cause. With Christianity, we do have the winning cause, eternal life by way of the Lord Jesus Christ. However, sometimes we fall into the style of trendy people on earth. We must be constantly reminded that we have one High Priest and he is not your local pastor.

More than 20 years ago I talked to a pastor shortly after he had attended a big preacher conference where the speakers were of the mega-church variety. I ask him out of sincere desire to learn something, “What was the main thing you noticed about those who were pastors of such large congregations?” His reply stuck in my brain like a magnet when he said, “They were all very charismatic, dynamic speakers.” A big red flag has been in my brain ever since that brief conversation. I think we must be careful not to confuse “dynamic speech of carnal men” with “anointing of holy men.”

Hyperglycemia may not be a problem of those who fill pulpits, but hyper presentations can. Some congregations will have hyper music at the beginning, hyper alter call at the end, and in the middle there are hyper mini-sermons (infomercials) right before money is collected from the pew-sitters. With the latter you can expect generous and oft-repeated messages from Malachi 3:8, as in “how will a man rob God?”

The magnitude of potential problems is not so obvious until one analyzes the probable outcome when you combine the biblical hypoglycemia (sleeping pew-sitters) with the sometimes not so biblical hyperglycemia (hype) from the pulpit. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with a service that is fast moving with respect to music, videos, etc., but high-octane services with manipulative gimmickry to pull more money from the wallets of the people smacks of hucksterism.

I attended a church service once were there were two extended infomercials of the Malachi variety, one for the regular collection, and another at the end of the service to pump dollars into the pastor’s latest building project (and it wasn’t for the widows, orphans, and school children). At one point the pastor said that anyone who had been there for any length of time needed to give, and not be a “free-loader” as he put it. (you might say he put a little pressure on the idea of “free will offering.”) I wonder, would an orphan or poor widow in the pews be considered a “free-loader” if they failed to pump money into the building project? Just asking. Earlier in the service he had boasted about his nice house in a nice neighborhood, plus the nice “toys” he owned. He arrogantly indicated that he deserved such because he had been “successful.” Move over Elmer Gantry. The implication was that pastors who fail to draw big crowds and big money would be classified as unsuccessful… by his measure, of course. It appears that Deuteronomy 11:16 might fit here. “Be careful that you are not enticed to turn aside, worship, and bow down to other gods.”

Our children and grandchildren in public schools are becoming disciples of the worst kind of academic and moral rot, while some pastors fleece their flock to build a personal ministry that does zero to defend and train “the least of these.”

Part 1

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