In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the Methodists used "circuit rider" preachers to minister to rural flocks. In our modern evangelical mega church world, we have our own sort of "circuit rider" - the traveling mega church preacher fleecing congregations by accepting large sums of money for recycled sermons at churches they visit.
Just look at who is preaching where this summer, and you see a virtual guest-speaker fest. It is hard to keep track of 'em all. Johnny Hunt goes on sabbatical, and Woodstock has to not only continue to pay Hunt's salary and bennies, they have to pay to bring in some big name preachers to preach the word.
Steve Gaines was preaching at Johnny Hunt's church last Sunday on his vacation, then on Wednesday he preached at Charles Stanley's church. Not bad, get your vacation fully paid by popping into a few churches to recycle an old sermon and tell the peeps they're thieves unless they give the magical 10%. Gaines' church in turn has to hire speakers for the Sunday night sermons in August. [correction: Gaines' church brings in the big guns on Wednesday nights in August, has for several years]. Mac Brunson is a regular on the preaching circuit as I've blogged about before.
The emergents are masters at this. They travel to each others' churches and conferences and push their books, and expand their market for selling their Holy Land trips and building their brand image.
My word, Steve Gaines is even taking speaking gigs at the Assemblies of God functions!
Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church flew out to Charlotte to be at emergent Steven Furtick's church this weekend, while Kevin Ezell comes to Prestonwood to fill in for Pastor Jack. It is a musical chairs of preachers during the summer as they earn extra scratch for their new boat or condo.
Why do they do this? Of course they will tell you they have the most noble of intentions. They are just spreading the gospel, right?
No, not really. It is another example of how the great masses in mega churches are fleeced by greedy mega men of God. Their sermons are already on the Internet, and we don't need to fly them in. It is all completely unnecessary. You want to hear Perry Noble tell you you're scum? Go to his website. Want to hear the latest tithing nonsense? Dial up Gaines or Young on your browser. You don't need to fly him in to the church. Besides, can't other staff members at the church fill in for the mega church pastor who is on vacation or sabbatical? The sad answer is no, they can't, because they aren't celebrities. Many worshippers view Johnny Hunt preaching behind their pulpit in the same way a giggling high school girl would see Justin Beiber crooning at their high school. It is all about celebrity.
Insiders tell me that visiting preachers at mega churches will earn up to $3000 for a Sunday morning sermon, or $5000 if they do the hard work of staying over and preaching the Sunday evening sermon also. But I'm sure they have not one iota of guilt, since they tithe on the money, which makes them super spiritual.
Not bad scratch. If they earn $3000 in addition to their travel, meals and lodging, that is about $100 per minute for an average 30-minute sermon. Not an hour. A MINUTE. That is professional baseball player per minute money. While churches everywhere are seeing their revenue continue to decline, the mega church pastors are hot and heavy to get out on the circuit to get their share of the visiting preacher dollars.
And usually what they are preaching is a sermon that is recycled from one they just were paid to prepare and preach at their mega church. Nothing new or fresh. Mac Brunson does it. Johnny Hunt does it. Steve Gaines does it. The master is Ergun Caner - as for years and years he was preaching virtually the same story, same jokes and lines at churches all over the country.
Sometimes preachers are brought in to do the dirty work of the pastor. One of the more brazen moves was Perry Noble of NewSpring church hiring Robert Morris to come in for two straight weeks to beat up the sheep over tithing, telling them of the curse on them and their money unless they gave Perry's church 10% of their income. Shameless.
And don't get me started on the Holy Land trips and luxury cruises hosted by the pastor and his family. I'm just amazed that in these days where governments at all levels are searching for creative ways to gain new revenue that they haven't figured out there is an entire market that continues to operate tax-free.
So next time the visiting mega church preacher shows up at your church, put a little extra in the offering plate for the poor traveling preacher.
Next thing you know, we'll have preachers pushing multi-level marketing schemes in their churches.