Jun 5, 2007

On MegaChurches and Worldly Wealth

Left: Interior of Houston's Lakewood Church

(Toledo, OH) I admit to a certain stubborn asceticism when it comes to religion; while I do not expect my religious leaders to be wandering mendicant friars, neither do I cherish priests or pastors who flaunt material wealth. The oft-cited example of Joel Osteen is but the most egregious case of a minister profitting mightily from the Word.

The number of megachurches - defined in one study as Protestant congregations with regular weekly attendance of more than 2,000 - has doubled over the past five years. With larger congregations, of course, rises the ability of a church and its principals to accumulate substantial wealth, all in the name of preaching a bizarre sort of prosperity Gospel.

The phenomenon is not unique to Christianity, though. There has been a rise in what has been described as Templezilla in the Hindu traditon; the Tirumala Venkateswara in Tirupati is the most visited temple in the world, with more than 50,000 people visit the temple every day.

What Would Jesus Drive?

Or, better yet, would He take the TARTA bus? Somehow I suspect He would not approve of church leaders tooling about town in a Mercedes, but I admit to getting hung up on the whole Christ and the money changers account as it relates to commercialization and Christianity.

Or should I just ignore those who might profit from the Gospel, stay home, close my wood blinds, and hope it all works out well for everyone in the end?

Note: an earlier verion of this post incorrectly identified the owner of an expensive sports car with the license plate CEDAR CREEK as being affiliated with Cedar Creek Church. This is not the case, and I apologize for the mistake on my part (see comments section for further details).


Anonymous said...

Hey, if theyre going to put their business out there on a vanity plate, they are just asking for criticism.

historymike said...

This was posted on Toledo Talk:

No offense Historymike but I would appreciate it if you disabled that link as well as retracted the post on your blog. That is not a car owned by any employee of CedarCreek church. It is owned by someone who is involved with a horse farm with a name Cedar Creek. It is something that has been discussed at church before – even brought up during a service. If it makes you feel any better, most pastors there drive cars and SUVS just like you and me and the financials are open to see what the lead pastor makes (he is not getting rich, trust me, his wife still works at a salon). Where exactly did you get your information?

kooz said...

History Mike,

As a Christian...I'd like to add my two cents.

I think its clear that the Bible teaches that money or having a lot of it...is not a sin....rather, its the love of money. Also, the Bible has many examples of God abundantly blessing those who did His will. And, there are those like the Apostles who were broke and had horrible deaths. So, there's quite a spectrum there.

That being said, I think with the wealth issue...it comes down to the heart. Pastors should be aware that buying expensive luxuries as elaborate as houses and cars gives the perception to people that money is being used in the wrong manner...and, those people are usually right.

If a man's heart is truly concerned with glory being given to God and not himself...that man would not buy a vanity car like a mercedez. But, then again...we should be cautious to judge. Do we know the pastor paid for the car?

My brother is a pastor on the east coast. He spent many years making nearly nothing and still does...BUT, his congregation bought and paid for half of his house out of their own pockets and appreciation for his service. Its a nice house...and, I'm sure people in the neighborhood think a pastor shouldn't have "paid" for such an expensive looking home. Little do they know...that one of the church members is a home builder and OFFERED to build the home at cost...eating any profit he could have made.

I agree that there are many prosperity preachers and churches that truly are in error in their interpetation of the scriptures...and many of these men and woman are money changers like you say.

There are so many varialbes in such issues.

Good post.

Hooda Thunkit said...

This is why, in my readings on insurance, the Catholic Church was referred to as a business.

Apparently that author had been blessed with clear vision. . .

That said, many religious workers toil from sunup to sundown and conduct austere, yet satisfying lives.

Many, but not all. . .