Matthew 7:15 (NIV) “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

Matthew 24:11: (NIV) “…and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.”

2 Timothy 2:23 - 25 (NIV) - 23Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. 24 A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. 25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Southern Baptist Mega Church Pastor Linked to Mortgage Scheme Investigated by Feds

As we close out 2010 we see another example of how to mine the Southern Baptist pews for gold. This time it is Pastor Gary Hawkins of Voices of Faith Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia, who brought a man named Fred Lee of "Matrix Capital" into his church to sell his congregation a mortgage scheme that is now being investigated by Dekalb County Police and federal investigators. Hawkins vouched for Lee's integrity to his church members - resulting in Fred Lee collecting $1500 from church members who thought Lee would help them save their mortgages.

Who is Fred Lee? He is a self-professed multi-millionaire living in a $6 million home in Atlanta, and who has a history of trouble with state mortgage agencies dating all the way back to 2002, as reported back in October by CBS Atlanta (this link has more compelling footage, including ex-employees of Lee). But as reported by CBS Atlanta this week, Fred Lee did not successfully modify any of the Hawkins' church members' mortgages, and many lost their homes and went into bankruptcy. One of the church members interviewed by CBS Atlanta said they trusted Lee because of their pastor's endorsement of him, and because the sales pitch was made at their church.

Now some church members, and apparently federal investigators, want to know if the pastor received any kickbacks from Lee or Matrix Capital. The news report says over 1000 church members forked over $1500 to Matrix Capital - for a whopping $1.5 million total take: definitely gold in them thar mega church pews.

Wendy Saltzman, the CBS Atlanta reporter, said the following near the end of the clip:

"Robinson [one of Hawkins former church members] tried to speak to Bishop Hawkins, but he wouldn't answer her questions, and he wouldn't answer our tough questions either...police have spoken to Bishop Hawkins but tell us he was less than forthcoming with records that would have shown if payments were made either to the Bishop personally or to the church."

Gee, the pastor wouldn't answer their questions. I can't believe it.

Gary Hawkins and his mega church are part of the Georgia Baptist Convention, which is part of the Southern Baptist Convention. You will recall the GBC issued a proclamation condemning critical bloggers in 2007, and also disfellowshipped several churches for the dastardly deed of hiring a woman pastor. How long will it take the GBC to issue a proclamation against mortgage schemes, or to dis-fellowship Hawkins' church?

But it is all just another sad example of how Christians can be so incredibly gullible, and how mega church members idolize their mega church pastors. And pastors, please take note: you have no business using your church and your position to advertise for outside ventures to your church members. This is why I wrote in 2008 and 2009 about my concerns over what I saw at FBC Jacksonville with the commercialization of the pastor's conference and selling of "promotions packages" and selling "emcee mentions on the platform".

H/T: Christa Brown and God Discussion


Anonymous said...

I would also add that they have women elders. Is this not the same thing that GBC kicked the other churches out for? I am sure they will make a distinction between pastor and elder but....

Come on guys in the GBC be consistent.

Anonymous said...

Can you say: "Affinity Fraud"?

Anonymous said...

Another example of why the Mega's are loosing their members as well as their community testimony to unbelievers

Another reason why I like this blog that "some" call filled with hate and anger. Fleecing the sheep to fill the Mega church leaders personal income can no longer be kept secret in today's world and for sure there was some kind of kick back.

As our one friend so well tells us, worse & worse.

Kenneth said...

I agree that this pastor shouldn't have done this, whether he got a kickback or not.

However, you are incorrect about the Georgia Baptist Convention and the removal of the churches with women pastors. If you are going to be a member of the GBC you have to follow the guidelines which are based on the Bible ( or at the very least the GBC's understanding of the Bible). The GBC believes the Bible to teach that men are qualified for the role of Senior Pastor. They are merely going by their own Biblical standard.

Anonymous said...

Charles STanely used to be in Amway. Can you imagine the ready made prospects he had? This stuff has been going on for years.

Katie said...

Looks to me like Bishop Hawkins and Bishop Eddie Long might have something in common.

Why am I not surprised?

Utter depravity indeed.

Anonymous said...

Listen to some of his sermons, really and truly this guy should be more aligned with Creflo Dollar and the TBN crowd than any Southern Baptist I have ever come in contact with!

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think Steve Gaines is a lot like Creflo Dollar doctrinally. He has taught some weird stuff such as praying out the demons in furniture.

Anonymous said...

Scams like this are not all that uncommon and its not just a SBC thing. Pentecostals and African American churches have been targets of this sort of thing since at least the 70's. I was a Special Agent with the FBI back in the early 80's and we investigated about 15 scams like this. In fact I would say that among true evangelicals the SBC is about as clean as it gets, doesn't make it right but I do think your post reads too much as if this is a SBC problem.
How do you define a Mega Church? Honest question, I just don't know where you draw the line.

Anonymous said...

a church of 1,000 members probably has less attenders, and isn't a mega-church.

Anonymous said...

Dog, how you can tie this to FBC, which is your former church, Brunson, the SBC, and the builder that you won't call by name, is just amazing. This is a real clinic for your other blogger buddies. This is how it is done.

Truth said...

If one was to initiate a big scam it only makes sense to target a large group with a proven lack of critical thinking skills. Christians or members of any religion for that matter fit the bill. These mega church preachers know it well.

"Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers (and preachers) as useful" Seneca

Dr Who said...

This is a fact we have been reading since Doug posted against that GBC Executive officer and the Pastor from Ga since 2007 and received that proclamation,

The Georgia Baptist Convention is full of deceivers and deception. A fact that even the Ga Baptist Pastors and lay know, but won't and can't fight.

There is only TWO guys I know that have stood against them and who the GBC fear. If only other would take up the fight!

Now you guys are onto something Dr Dog.

Christa Brown said...

"...about as clean as it gets"

If the SBC is "about as clean as it gets," then that's sure a sad statement on evangelicals in general. And I expect that someone like Mary Kinney Branson could shed some better light on this. She was a former high-level employee of the SBC's North American Mission Board, and she wrote a book called "Spending God's Money," which documented the financial shenanigans there. You can read about a few other Southern Baptist financial scams and schemes in that same linked post.

On its website, the SBC-affiliated Voices of Faith Church claims 11,000 members. Since there has obviously been some confusion on the numbers, I'll spell that out: Eleven thousand members.

The 1,000 number comes from the news report that at least a thousand people have allegedly been victimized by this scam through loss of their homes, loss of their money, etc.

Anonymous said...

On a related note:

SBC operatives Richard Land and Jay Sekulow recently referenced "net neutrality" in concerned nebulous tones, as if a dark lurking evil prepared to pounce upon our already imperiled Christian rights.

I am largely ignorant on the topic but I'll betcha they think elimination of net neutrality will somehow attenuate blogs like this.

They cannot tolerate criticism from which they are unable to blithely withdraw.


Anonymous said...

Ergun Caner - Over 60 Misstatements (bloopers)

Gene S said...

This is truely sad. It is but an extension of "block busting" from years ago.

The saddest thing is the racial aspects of it.

In "block busting" a black realtor managed to get a house sold to a black family or several occupying the same house. He then started to promote scare tactics that the community was going black.

In a few weeks he was buying houses at 30% their real value and selling them to black families at 100% or more value. He even offered financing to "help them."

It is all about money / false trust / deception. Nothing much has changed since the 60's in fast-growing Atlanta. No one really knows others, but those who can make the "right connections" and tell big enough falsehoods walk away with the dough.

The racial element makes it even more sad for me, who grew up in Atlanta and watched his own aunt and uncle suffer from the terrors of block busting.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Anon 12/18 9:06 - I am not trying to "tie" this scandal to FBC Jax. I am pointing out that it is wrong for this church, or any church, to SELL access to their church attenders eyes' and ears', or to exploit their vulnerability to put more weight on what they hear from the pulpit, in order to sell.

What I am referencing is FBC Jax selling, collecting money for, the privilege of having one's name or business or ministry mentioned by the emcee of the pastors conference. They sell that. I don't think that is right at all.

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