Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Uh Oh, Reverend Creflo!!!

I'm sure most of you know who the Reverend Creflo Dollar "Dolla Bill, Ya'll" is. For the unaware, he's a TD Jakes (assuming you know who he is too) like pastor of a megachurch in Atlanta. His "prosperity ministry" has a large television presence, airing weekly sermons in most markets, usually early in the morning. And assuming all this has missed you, he was that preacher in that godawful "Welcome To Atlanta" video that Ludacris had a few years ago. Ok, so we're all on the same page now.

Anyways, Creflo, fellow ATLien Bishop Eddie Long, and a few other high profile preachers are now under intense scrutiny from Congress to justify their outlandish expenditures. This is a story that is probably going to get very ugly very soon.

Acting on tips about preachers who ride in Rolls Royces and have purportedly paid $30,000 for a conference table, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee said Tuesday he's investigating the finances of six well-known TV ministers.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa said those under scrutiny include faith healer Benny Hinn, Georgia megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar and one of the nation's best known female preachers, Joyce Meyer.

Grassley sent letters to the half-dozen Christian media ministries earlier this week requesting answers by Dec. 6 about their expenses, executive compensation and amenities, including use of fancy cars and private jets. In a statement, Grassley said he was acting on complaints from the public and news coverage of the organizations. Most of those under investigation preach a variation of the "prosperity gospel," the teaching that God will shower faithful followers with material riches.

Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International and Creflo Dollar Ministries of College Park, Ga. Grassley's letter asks for records on private planes, board makeup, compensation and donations and "love offerings" to visiting ministers.

Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and Bishop Eddie Long Ministries of Lithonia, Ga., was questioned about his salary, a $1.4 million real estate transaction and whether he, and not the board, holds sole authority over the organization.

Because the groups have tax status as churches, they are not required to file tax forms open to public inspection.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out, since we know that alot of times Congress just delves into such things as pure posturing (see past hearings on (c)rap music, violent video games, steroids in baseball, etc.) that don't lead to any real change.

Still, it does raise the question: Is it ethical for these preachers to use what appears to be tithes and offerings on such extravagance?

My opinion might throw you guys for a loop. Personally, I think there's a fine line to be toed here. If a pastor leads a huge congregation (we're talking 25,000+ people in many of these megachurches), literally dedicates his entire life to said congregation, and by sheer virtue of the number of members, said church pulls in millions of dollars a year, who's to say that pastor should live like a pauper?

Like it or not, when you really look at it, a church is a business that provides a service (spiritual guidance) to its customers (congregants). This business needs capital (tithes) for basic operations, and extra money (offerings) to continue to grow and expand (offer more programs and thus attract more members). And just like any other business, I think it's perfectly reasonable for the CEO and Founder (usually the Pastor) to share in the wealth that is generated. It also goes without saying that if that Pastor uses his own intellectual property to create a product (books, audio taped sermons, movies) that in turn generates income, he is entitled to enjoy some of the spoils of this efforts.

The fine line here is obviously just how much these Pastors should be sharing. I don't personally think having a private jet and Bentley GT on the company dime (church tithes and offerings) are a necessity. But reality is, if the congregants at these churches know such things occur and by continuing to attend and give, they are in a sense agreeing that this is okay. If they don't, I trust that these churches have procedures in which these church members can voice their concerns. And of course, this being a free country, those church members can always just pick another church. It's hard, but it's fair.

Of course, the real travesty is when small churches (less than 100 members) in depressed communities find themselves supporting preachers who misuse their funds in a similar fashion. There's no justification whatsoever for a congregation of 200 in the hood' to be buying their preacher a Rolls Royce. Does it happen? Sure. Does that make it right? In my opinion, no, but then again, that's not the sort of church I go to, nor are those the sorts of acts I would personally condone.

I am blessed to go to a medium sized (2,000 members) church that isn't prosperity based. The church is community focused and uses its tithes and offerings on tangible things (programs for kids, feeding the homeless, classes on parenting and marriage) that directly benefit its members. When above and beyond special offerings are requested, they are for specific things like hosting a Halloween Carnival or Funding a Men's retreat. Once the money is raised, it is immediately allocated to the area it was requested for. My pastor isn't ballin' out of control like these guys are, but he isn't struggling to pay his rent either. There's a happy balance.

I'll monitor this story here, assuming it grows legs, but I'd like to know from my readers: Is there a thin line between Preachin' and Pimpin', and if so, exactly what is that line?

Senate Inquiry Targets Televangelists [AP]

19 AverageComments™:

deedee said...

woo, woo- great topic!

first- i think mega church preachers get a bad rap. i mean we as Christians WANT souls to come to Christ. but then when some preachers bring in DROVES and accordingly have to build bigger churches to accomodate them, we get an attitude with them and hate on them. that's messed up.

second- i have no problem with a preacher who balls out of control when his earnings are based STRICTLY on love offerings- the $ that the congregation pays specifically to the pastor. if they give him stacks, they feel he deserves it so that's that. i have a problem when the pastor is paid out of the general fund or heaven forbid that precious and oh so sacred BUILDING FUND (LMBO!) and he uses that money to kit-out the first lady's chrysler 300.

third- even when the pastor is living off of love offerings alone, i still have a very hard time seeing members of various congregations who are straight SKRUGGLIN'. i think more churches should put programs into place that really help and support the least of their members- even by simply providing jobs in and around the church. i know that volunteer ministries typically take care of these things but it's something to consider.

deedee said...

i do fear, however, that michael baisden will use this story to advance his tired "pimps in the pulpit" tirade that he feed to his mingle city flock...

domo said...

Anyone who gives their hard earned money to these pimps is an idiot. You get what you deserve when these people turn around and spend the money from that collection plate on a Hummer and a mansion. This is textbook enabler/codependent behavior.

Anonymous said...

It is immoral for these preachers to live very extravagantly while countless poor children suffer. How is this Christlike! A church is NOT a business. Or, it would pay taxes! Worship God, not the dollar! I'm shocked by your take on this. And very disappointed. Shame!

Anonymous said...

Well like you say AB there is a very fine line here. What needs to be taken into consideration is the income of the congregants, the surrounding communities, and the size of the church. If there are several thousands of members then there will be millions in the offerings and tithes. I do feel if a person "works" full time as a pastor he should be compensated fairly. If he chooses to purchases jets, mansions, marble toilets..ects with his own money then there is no problem. However if the congregants and the communites surronding the church are in poverty and struggling to make ends meet then the pastor should not be living large.

cinco said...

When is enough, enough? Some 'pastors' get a 'salary', ' part or all of the tithe money', 'Pastor's anniversary' money, 'building fund' money, and 'income' from audio and book sales- not to mention the 'free will offerings'- oh I forgot one- the offering taken after some preachers preach (for their time and trouble). I'm convinced I'm in the wrong line of work..I've missed my 'calling.'

Cal said...

I'm not going to call them "pimps", but some of these deals are outrageous. I thought that since most of these preachers teach about Jesus, wasn't he a carpenter? I agree that the preacher shouldn't live like a pauper, but he shouldn't have a spot that could be on MTV Cribs.

I have a friend and we say that there are three things young black boys now aspire to be: rapper, athlete or preacher.

deedee said...

anonymous- first- a church IS a business- it's just a non-profit business hence no need to pay taxes. second- these preachers actually WORK VERY HARD. i think you're missing that point. my mother's church has abt 10,000 or so members. the pastor preaches FOUR SERVICES EVERY SUNDAY- BY HIMSELF- and he leads Bible study and prayer during the week along with countless other things. that's WORK. his doctors have warned him to slow down but he keeps pushing forward doing the work of the Lord which he was called to do. why are you hating on preachers who are busting their butts doing GREAT work? i don't hear you knocking real estate developers for caking off of kicking poor tenants out to convert rental apartment buildings to condos. i don't hear you knocking the executives of viacom or universal records for caking off of portraying black women as inanimate sex objects in hip hop music and videos. so why are you hating on men and women of God who are doing some GOOD in the community?!?!?

domo- i was expecting your answer. but who wasn't? why must you always resort to name-calling? but i'm not offended. i know i'm not a house nicca and i know i'm not an idiot. i'm a Christian. i give tithes and offerings to the church because that it what God says to do. and it is up to the church and the preacher to distribute it properly. if the money is mishandled, that's on THEM, not me. i still know i've done what God told ME to do so i'm covered.

Adam said...

I think they will find some paperwork problems however if you have ever been involved in a million dollar business with multiple receivables and payables you know that if you don't have a team on top of it you will have mistakes.

I think people have to weigh each pastor accordingly. Just like traveling profits. Seek confirmation. Read the Word.
If your church doesn't allow access to the financial picture find out why. If the Deacon board are all family you may wanna ask questions.

To think just because poor people exist means a leader of a church can not be wealthy is ridiculous.

I know if I put the work in that my pastor and his assistant pastors put in I would want to be highly compensated for it.

If they make a million a year and lead just ten people to Christ and manage a church which all come with church folk....Believe me it is worth it.

Lets pray these men and women of God have been responsible with the blessing God has bestowed on their ministries.

Anonymous said...

I think the pink elephant in the room here, that everyone seems to be skirting around, is why exactly did the Senate choose to investigate these ministers in the first place? White names are listed as well. Kenneth Copeland is one of them and he has a thriving televangelism ministry.

Adam said...

No pink elephant.

It is rather obvious that the Trinity Foundation among other detractors read whistle blowers, recently fired, contractors, ect have made a stink.

Plus when you see a chink in the armor such as the Bynumms and the Whites break up the detractors will go at it.

Most of the world thinks anyone affiliated with Christianity should be meager.

Conspiracy moment....I wonder if this is a preemptive strike by republicans to marginalize evangelicals in the rush up to crown Giuliani the primary winner. Robertson coming out 2 days later supporting a pro abortion, pro gay, who's city was the scene of two terrorist attacks. Seems to me that most evangelicals and the issues that make them vote are not satisfied by this candidate. So why would another popular televangelist come out and tow the party line despite the obvious incongruence with faith based voters?

AverageBro said...

Creflo Defends Himself - Video via CBS

Adam said...

Did anybody else see the ease at which the anchor passed right over the inconsistencies pointed out by Pastor?

This is what makes me sick about mainstream media. They are less interested in getting to the truth than they are trying to embarrass and harass.

Follow up with a question such as...
So at no time did you or your ministry own two Rolls be it at the same time or two at separate times?

Where does the 500,000 figure come from?


Has at any time your ministry been culpable for breaking 501 c laws?

Pastor Dollar did an excellent job considering the time he was allowed to speak.

Thembi said...

The name "Creflo Dollar" never did sit quite right with me.

Anonymous said...

agreed thembi

Their names are both bad puns about money. Creflo makes the money "flow" and his wife, Taffi, makes the dollars "stretch".

no, seriously.

Anonymous said...

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:24)

If church=business then church=pay taxes.

Kamau said...

Why do people tithe anyway? People, read your Bibles!!! Tithing went away when the New Covenant was established. Should we keep sacrificing animals too??? The new commandment is for the Body to give "offerings" as God has prospered us, which means ANY amount as long as you are a cheerful, selfless giver. People who tithe are getting fleeced. And people who tithe to crooks like Creflo are getting bent over and fleeced. Read your Bibles and lift the veils of ignorance!!!

C Howard said...

I agree with you 100%. I don't hate ministers i hate crooks. Why live such a lavish lifestyle if your a MAN of God. Give the surplus back to the community. I hate to see a member of these guys church's try to justify the lavishness that the guys live in. They striaght tripp'n when they struggling to pay a light bill ( I know my brother inlaw was a member of "Bishops" church). Don't be stupid guys. Open your eyes people it's a business to these guys not a mission.

Sweet Treat Jenkins....You need to be on my blog! said...

I don't think you would find any paperwork problems. If you want the see their paperwork anyone is free to ask since they are a nonprofit organization! Pastor Dollar receives his money from his check and his resources (books, tapes, cd's, appearances, etc.). I think it is interesting how people don't have a problem with actors, musicians who are paid rolling in Bentleys, own airplanes, etc. no one questions their ethics. However, when a man or woman of God is using their money not tithes and offerings to purchase those same things. It's a problem. If a church wants to give their pastor a Bentley or a jet...isn't that their prerogative? They also build Hospitals in Africa, feed children and house families domestically and internationally.

I say so what if they want to buy a 30,000 conference table. conference tables and check the prices. If you want one that is with tech savvy-ness then that is a good price including chairs.

All I am saying is. If someone is up studying, praying, and sacrificing his time to bring a word from the most high....what is a bently? what is a jet? We give more to those who don't benefit us at all.

That is what I consider sad.

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