While the Ed Young story is very interesting, and more is sure to be told, his story is just a symptom of a bigger problem we have in Christianity today.
That is mega church celebrity preachers who are siphoning off funds that generous Christians are giving to their church. These CEO-style, mega church preachers use this money to live a lavish, luxurious, jet-setting lifestyle building massive wealth, brand name recognition and celebrity status. And many of them do it while shamelessly telling Christians they MUST fork over 10% minimum of their income to their ministries to be in a right relationship with God. While these antics for decades were relegated to the "TV evangelists", the millionaire CEO pastor phenomenon has now crept into mainstream evangelical Christianity. And it is harming the cause of Christ as non-Christians watch these men get filthy rich off the backs of their church members, and worse they see Christians continuing to fork over their money to these mega church temples. Very much a turn-off to non-Christians who might consider becoming a Christian.
How did this happen? How did we get to this point? Take Ed Young's jet for example. If you ever wonder what kind of mindset would cause a pastor and his church board (made up of other church pastors in Young's case) to think it is a wise investment of the church member's hard-earned money to lease for themselves a luxury private jet at the cost to the church of one to two million dollars per year, you just have to watch the video below of Ed Young. It will become clear how this can happen when you listen to Ed's own words.
As you watch the video below, keep in mind the timing....it was filmed by Ed Young on May 27, 2007, just a few months AFTER the jet lease was signed and very near the time that the church took possession of the jet. It was just a few weeks AFTER this video, that as Brett Shipp reported, the jet logged a week-long trip to the Bahamas in June 2007, then another week long trip to Mexico.
In the video, Ed Young spends 10 minutes telling his audience just how incredibly difficult it is to be a pastor. I wrote an article about this video back in 2008, and I noted how his body language, his posture, his hair, everything makes it look like the man has the weight of the world on his shoulders. He talks about how taxing it is to have to speak to large audiences each week, how tough it is to lead an army of people that "you can't fire or dock their pay" (his volunteers), and then he offers this disturbing analysis:
"...and then the whole financial thing as well. We're responsible every year, we're the main one that raises money. You know I call the pastor the 'franchise player' because we're the ones who are responsible before God for raising money. Every year - we've been going here for about 17 years - and every year I've stared a lot of money in the face and I know at the end of the day its up to me to raise that money. Whether its in the early days thousands and it moved to hundreds of thousands and now its many many millions of dollars, and that's a taxing thing..."
"Franchise player"...for those of you not familiar with this term, it is used in sports to speak of the one player on a professional sports team that will be the highest paid player, with the longest contract typically, around which the rest of the team is built. He is the one that the owners believe will bring the fans in, that will sell tickets and bring in new fans and raise overall team revenue. Others on the team are brought in to support and complement this star. He is considered the most talented and demands a mammoth salary, and gets all the accolades and celebrity status and endorsements - often he is considered the "face" of the organization.
If a pastor actually views himself as the "franchise player" of the church, and the one responsible for "raising money" as Ed Young says...it stands to reason that if massive amounts of money ARE "raised" at his church, then he is responsible, he DID something. The pastor-franchise player was the money man, the go-to guy that caused the money to flow from the pockets to the plates. And why if he RAISED the money, then he should be rewarded, right? Who would argue with that? The salesman gets the commission of his sales, the CEO gets a bonus for creating shareholder wealth. And the CEO pastor gets the lavish jet.
What I come away with from this video is that Young, and other like-minded mega church pastors, believe that they are ENTITLED to the huge pay, family on staff - and perhaps even an 8-million dollar jet - because of how stressful their job is and because it is their superior leadership and speaking skills that brought the money in!
The only way this will ever be fixed, is through good old-fashioned American capitalism...Christians wising up and voting with their feet and their pocketbook - after they realize God is NOT calling them to support these temples and their rock-star preachers.