Aug 17, 2007

American Capitalist Church Syndrome: The Franchising of Jesus

Hear ye, hear ye, come to church, and either get saved, learn how to get rich yourself, or how to make your pastor wealthy!

I introduced this topic at a conference attended by many of America's most well-known pastors, in Hunt Valley Maryland, several years ago. I first preached on this topic, about 10 years ago at a church in Seaside California, right next door to the more scenic and familiarly known (tourist destination cities of Carmel and Monterey).

Several pastors at the Hunt Valley Maryland Conference, admitted that they were entrepreneurial pastors themselves. Some of the same bishops and pastors admitted that they believed in the scripture that read that 'the wealth of the wicked was being stored up for the righteous'.

After a lengthy discussion, most of the pastors and Bishops on the panel, conceded that perhaps the church, particularly ministers, had gone to far in terms of fundraising.

Discussion Points:
* Seed offerings, preceding the laying on of hands by ministers ($101.00 a head by one evangelist).
* America's millionaire pastors.
* Individuals who are entering the ministry, having observed the wealth and influence that can be garnered by entering into today's 'business ministries'.
* How a church is affected by the respective economic system in the country in which it resides.
*The economic system that God created for the church.
*When is enough, enough!

Bishop Hilliard of New Jersey, and others on the panel seemed a bit discomfited given my comments; however, they remained pleasant thoughout the pastor's conference, and attempted to respond to my serious query.

Bishop Hilliard has been a keynote speaker many times at MegaFest. MegaFest is a creation of Christian icon and mogul, Bishop TD Jakes. I have been deeply concerned (not jealous), about where Bishop Jakes, Bishop Long, Kweflo Dollar and others are leading the church family today. Will it be too late before anyone realizes what is really going on, or that the church has been turned into a money-making scheme by some of today's most well-known ministers?

In a conference that I attended a few years ago, sponsored by Bishop Jakes, in the nation's Capital, both Bishop Jakes and his mentors proudly proclaimed that the church was a business. And certainly, one could argue that Bishop Jakes and several others of America's well known ministers are treating the church as just that, 'a business'.

Many Christians in the nation's capital were stunned to read in the Washington Post, a day or two after the conference that I attended, that Bishop Jakes stated that the church was 'a business'. Several pastors in the nation's capital were enraged. Most Christians come from a tradition that teaches that the church, the body of Christ, is a 'spiritual organism', not an American-style business organization!

Why would Bishop Jakes be so cavalier, given his intentional usage of words, referring to the church as 'a business'? Well, I suspect that I know what he meant, however, the majority of the people who attended his conference at Mt. Calvary Holiness Church, apparently attended for networking purposes, and based on their questions to learn how to get their get rich-quick business plans off of the ground. Our churches today have become a feeding ground for entrepreneurial capitalist ministers (and laypeople), who I believe are exploiting God's flock. Just as I experienced at the Washington D.C. Conference, I was told by an anonymous source that when you visit the Potter's House, that it reminds you of the court around the temple in Jerusalem that Jesus went about cleansing of merchants, merchandisers and currency changers.

My source said that he was accosted several times before he could reach the sanctuary by members of the Potter's House who were trying to sell him books, tapes, CDs, et al. I wonder what Jesus would have said or done if it were he who had visited the Potter's House and experienced what my associate did? Would he have said, give me two of those and three of those, or, would he remind Bishop Jakes that my house shall be called 'a house of prayer'?

Before you say, well why didn't you discuss this matter with Bishop Jakes, or why are so many individuals always attacking him? I am not attacking him; on the other hand I am worried about where he and other neophyte leaders are taking the nascent American Christian mega-church movement. The mercurial rise of these ministers, all involved apparently in 'the church incorporated business' suggests to me that we should all beware, and that it is apparently time for a change of direction. Besides, I attempted to contact Bishop Jakes several times. The only response that I received were requests from his ministry for me to send money - Bishop Jakes has never responded to my queries!

Christians, how many suits, rings, Rolls-Royce's, Mercedes, Airplanes, luxury homes do our ministers require, while at the same time many of those who attend their churches languish in poverty or want? Have these folks forgotten about or ignored the 'spiritual', as well as "social" dimension of Christ's ministry? What of the chronic poor individuals who give 10% and more of their incomes to these ministries, as they continue to suffer in poverty and want? Why are the righteousness in America today so interested in garnering the wealth of the wicked? Is Godliness with contentment, no longer enough for some Christians? What if you came to church to get saved, would you have enough money to buy your way through all of the merchandizers?

If a minister were to appear today in swaddling garments (like Jesus did), or goatskins (like Elijah or John the Baptist), would today's American Christian, who has been conditioned to judge the minister by their vestiture, even listen to him or her? Many of these ministers are changing the incorporation papers at their respective 501C3 church organizations into personal 501C3 corporations that are held in their names. In other words, today's church-member, might be unwittingly be a member of a ministry, that is incorporated or founded in the name of the minister.

These new Amway-styled ministries (similar to the way that Amway products are franchised and handled by Amway sales representatives) give me great pause. These ministers seem to hold the Gospel as nothing more than a product for them to use in order to derive personal benefit, and in pursuit of their personal visions. They treat it as they will, the marketing of Jesus, salvation, prayer and comfort - and sadly, they appear to inure much of the financial benefits. I believe that this is the wrong spirit, and nothing more than the spirit of capitalism that has been surreptitiously brought into the body of Christ. And keep in mind that along with the spirit of capitalism also comes the 'politics' of capitalism. Similar to a nation that accepts gross disparities between its have and have-not citizens, we are witnessing the same, more and more, in churches that are based on 'Capitalism-Jesus' principles!

Bishop Carlton Pearson, did not make it to the conference in Hunt Valley some years ago, although he and some of his teachings were discussed. About a decade ago, Rev. Pearson confessed that given all of the needs of his burgeoning mega-ministry at the time, that he had, unwittingly, outsourced the leading of his ministry to professionals. These professionals ran the church, the TV ministry and other aspects of the church. He admitted that God's leading had been replaced by all of the professionals that he felt that he needed in order to run his ministry. And where is he today (the doctrine of Universalism aside? Bishop Jakes and others like him, need to be cautious about the direction that they are taking the body of Christ into; in my opinion they should check and see whether they are truly being led by the Spirit of God.

It appears to me that GREED has found its way into the church, and some of these ministers are giving it aid and comfort. These ministers, it would appear, from mostly lower social economic backgrounds, are accomplishing via church capitalism what they could not accomplish in the secular American capitalist business world. It begs the question then, who brought the world to church? Answer: The ministers!

Peace & Grace
The Rev

Addenda: I saw pictures of Bishop Jakes, Bishop Long and another minister on the cover of a magazine recently. I was disappointed at the show of opulence and capitalist induglence. It would have put the average pimp, or even Reverend Ike's former ways, to shame. Nothing, in the picture on the cover of that magazine reflected Christ in any way, neither the rings, watches, suits nor the ministers!

1 comment:

Sed Emihcra said...

At times, this seems no different than what was happening with the Catholic Church just prior to the protestant reformation. I think what should be remembered is that anything in the hands of Man, even holy things, will have a potential for corruption. What I see in these ministers with jewlery and expensive cars are two deadly sins: greed, and worst still, pride.