Since that time, the man who sent me that email has apologized, and I think he too has left our former church. I don't know if he still believes a blogger like myself might be struck dead by God at any moment for their disobedience - but in the 5 years since receiving that email I have noticed a trend in "men of God" and their followers in proclaiming holy death warnings on those who oppose a man of God, or those who dare to stand in opposition to a ministry vision of the man of God, or even those who don't deliver 10% of their gross income to the church offering plates.
We saw Steve Gaines do this just recently, misusing scripture by insinuating that the fate of Ananias and Saphira described in Acts 5 might befall members of Bellevue Baptist Church who don't tithe. I've heard ministers here in my own city stand in the pulpit and insinuate that church members who don't support the pastor's expansion plans might have to soon be buried. These warnings often go something like this: "I knew some men who dared to oppose me [or my vision or my church or my TV station], and I buried them soon after. You can interpret that anyway you like..."
Below is a classic example: Paul Crouch issues a death warning to those who might bring harm to Trinity Broadcasting Network. Crouch and his son in the video below call TBN "God's plan and purpose" and anyone who might "get in the way" may suffer an untimely death. Crouch says "I've attended the funeral of at least two people who have tried [to harm TBN]."
Readers, beware of pastors who try scare tactics couched in scripture and claims of spiritual authority. Actually when a pastor tries this, you know they really are not a "pastor" but a charleton. This is spiritual abuse, plain and simple. David Johnson and Jeff Van Vonderen in their excellent book "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse", point out these "scare tactics" as evidence of misplaced loyalty that abusive religious systems will demand from their members. Johnson and Van Vonderen devote an entire chapter to how scripture is misused to abuse people in the church. They start out quoting Titus 1:9-11:
"Hold fast the faithful word...for there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain." (Titus 1:9-11)Johnson and Van Vonderen describe this sort of abusive leader:
"Instead of using the Word as a sword to pierce through to the thoughts and motives of their own hearts, many spiritual leaders have used it as a stick to drive others, for a variety of reasons: to keep others from holding them accountable; to protect their image; to keep funds coming in; to build religious kingdoms in order to bolster their own spiritual self-esteem. In other words, it's possible that some leaders teach the Word for personal gain, not to heal and to free."So readers, beware when your pastor tries the scare tactics to gain support for their ministry vision - whether it be for starting a new satellite church, or a new vision for the church, or for a building program - by declaring that their vision is directly from God, and that it is God's own vision that members are obligated to support.
And if your minister points to some experience in the past where they performed the funerals of church members who opposed their ministry vision - run for the exits while you hold on to your wallet. If your pastor portrays himself as a God-appointed prophet sent to deliver you from your spiritual ignorance, take that as a sign that God wants to "deliver you" by moving you to another church.
Find a church where the pastor and staff are humble and where they respect the priesthood of the believer and congregational rule in determining God's will for the church. These churches and ministers are out there, but you have to look hard and be discerning.
When you find one, you will wonder what took you so long to break free from the mega church, rock star-preacher mentality.