Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Church of the Gold-Plated Squishy Marshmallow

I have no idea who Eddie Long is, and I know little of Joyce Meyer, but the rest of these bozos - it's about time. Note that three of these are on the board of regents of ORU, another organization that has its own air conditioned dog house issues.

CBS News has learned Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, is investigating six prominent televangelist ministries for possible financial misconduct.

Letters were sent Monday to the ministries demanding that financial statements and records be turned over to the committee by December 6th.

According to Grassley's office, the Iowa Republican is trying to determine whether or not these ministries are improperly using their tax-exempt status as churches to shield lavish lifestyles.

The six ministries identified as being under investigation by the committee are led by: Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn. Three of the six - Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar - also sit on the Board of Regents for the Oral Roberts University.

What Senator Grassley is looking for is evidence that these folks wrote off the Mercedes and the mansions as ministry expenses to avoid sales and other taxes.

But how can one know if a ministry is legit? Here's a few tips, using my church as an example:

Your pastors should have the same standard of living as the congregation. Your pastor shouldn't be living like Benny Hinn, but let's not starve the guy, okay? If the church parking lot is full of five-year-old Saturns, the pastor shouldn't be driving a 2007 Lincoln Town Car. My two pastors, whom I will call Steve and Gary (because that's their names) until recently were driving pieces of Pferdkaese. I'm happy to see that they now have something that will start in the morning.

Transparent finances. This is easier with a small church like mine. One Sunday a year Steve and Gary report on the church budget. There are always at least two people counting the offering for CYA purposes. I am just a shmoe in the pews, but I can get a finacial statement anytime I want it. Gary, in particular, is an extremist on these issues. He wouldn't use church money to buy a single unsalted peanut without checking with two other people.

Beware of the cult of personality. Pastors Steve and Gary are the best. One of the blessings of a small church is that I get to talk to them at least twice a week. They try to follow the Lord as best as their mortal flesh will allow them. But if they were to fall on their heads and all of sudden go squishy from the pulpit, I will repectfully call it to their attention. And I would bail if they were to continue in their squishiness. My first loyalty is to God and His Word.

A good place to check for evangelical ministries is the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. This was set up after Jim and Tammy troubles twenty years ago. I have no idea how Catholic churches handle this sort of thing.

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