Then today I saw a video of James Merritt, mega church pastor and former Southern Baptist president giving a 10 minute testimony pushing the "Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing" (FHTM) pyramid scheme.
Where was the video of Merritt pushing this scheme filmed? At a conference, a convention perhaps?
No, it was in Merritt's church auditorium, at Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Georgia.
Yes, a pastor in his church, a tax-exempt house of worship, speaking at a seminar in his church to encourage people to be involved in a pyramid scheme that is currently being investigated by the attorneys general of at least four states states including North North Carolina and Montana. USA today has an article about FHTMC here, and a Louisville news station did an investigation here.
As you'll read the story, you'll see how religion is often used to push this scheme.
From the Louisville news station report:
"The pitches promise fast cash with help from a higher power.
The Lord opened a door, says Pastor Mullens. No, the pastor is opening your pocketbook.
Kevin Mullens, a Pentecostal pastor out of Crawford, FL delivers his recorded speech inside a church.
He encourages other pastors in the audience to get involved by signing up members of their congregations.
'The Lord wanted you to be here today,' he says during a recruiting session under a cross. 'Can't survive. Can't pay your bills and all of the sudden, the Lord opened a door.' "
I'm not surprised at all that a mega church pastor would use his position and his church to market a pyramid scheme.
It is how the game works in mega churches. The pastors use their position, their power, and the trust of the congregation to sell them their books, to get them to travel with them overseas. They will even use their church resources to the do the selling. They market their Holy Land trip and vacations on church websites. They'll mention their Holy Land trip during sermons. They'll take their church video production crews with them to film the trip. And now we see Merritt breaking new ground to push multi-level marketing schemes that are under investigation for possible criminal activity.
But I'm not surprised, really. Merritt was one of the 41 SBC leaders who signed a letter affirming the integrity of Bob Reccord at NAMB, as reported in Mary Branson's book "Spending God's Money" - despite the extravagance and misuse of NAMB funds under Reccord's leadership.
Merritt was the keynote speaker at the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference just a few months ago, preaching the final sermon on Tuesday evening. Oddly enough, his sermon was about the danger of criticizing pastors (surprise, surprise). Just before Merritt got up to preach Mac and the Israeli Commissioner of Tourism gave a sales pitch for pastors to bring their congregations to Israel. Merritt must have had to bite his tongue to not put in a good word for FHTMC with the promotion-fest in full swing that night!
This is what I have been warning lay people about.
It started back at the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference in 2007, when they started selling "promotions packages", allowing people to actually buy stage time to push their products.
What Merritt did at his church, now, is just a logical extension of this nonsense at FBC Jax Pastor's Conference as seen in the graphic below listing what someone can buy for $12,500. Keep in mind, this is within the walls of the church, not at some leased convention center.
But we better not criticize Merritt too harshly. You see, he is a "man of God", and he warned all the lay people at the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference just how dangerous it is to criticize the "man of God" in your church:
Well, Merritt should be careful what multi-level marketing schemes he chooses to market in his church. Pushing the wrong product - those that might be ponzi-schemes - under the guise of pious religion can be absolutely devastating to the financial well-being of unsuspecting church goers.
H/T: Tim Rogers and Bart Barber