"...When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Matt 9:36

"Do not rob the poor, because he is poor... for the Lord will take up their case and plunder those who plunder them." Proverbs 22:22-23

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Even Emotional, "Common Sense" Tithing Appeals Make No Sense

Like all good salesmen, mega church pastors will try multiple approaches when selling the ridiculous doctrine of tithing to their church members, and we see this most clearly in the fall during pastors' emphasis on stewardship.

The first sales tactic is usually twisting Old Testament scripture (Malachi, Melchizidek, and the doctrine of first fruits and Jericho).

Pastors will then resort to misinterpreting and/or ignoring selected New Testament scriptures regarding stewardship.

Of course some will berate and scare the congregation - the best at this are Ed Young, Jr. and Steve Gaines.

But sometimes pastors will make emotional, seemingly "common sense" appeals to sell their tithing tonic to the peeps - and that is the topic of this post.

Here is how the more basic, common-sense argument usually unfolds - many of the readers here have probably heard something like this recently at YOUR church by your mega church pastor:

- pastors will equate "walking with Jesus" to tithing - that if you're going to walk with Jesus, you have to give 10% of your income to your church, undesignated, off the top, before you pay anyone else. No scripture, but hey, who doesn't want to "walk with Jesus"?

- your mega church pastor will try to tie your devotion to Jesus to devotion to church and tithing, saying something like:

"If you can trust Jesus with your eternal soul, surely you can trust him with your finances."  

Sure, I suppose I can trust Jesus with my finances - but Jesus doesn't own any banks, and Jesus doesn't work at Schwaab or Bank of America last time I checked. And Jesus never says to give 10% of your income to your 501(c)3 religious organization. I can't tell you how many times I've heard this rubbish - that a logical next step to "accepting Jesus" is to fork over 10% of your income to your pastor's church, that tithing is a matter of "trusting Jesus" with your finances.

- your mega church pastor will tell you that HE tithes, that his parents tithed, his dog tithes, and thus you should tithe too. That is great that he gives 10% or more to the church, but that doesn't mean it is a good idea for the others in the congregation.

- pastors will tell you that as a Christian, tithing is one of the greatest disciplines that you can develop in your life and will help you spend the other 90% wisely. What a nutty idea: let me donate more money than I can afford, to put myself under further financial duress to force me to better manage what is left. My new dieting strategy: let me binge tonight, so tomorrow I'll be more motivated than ever to eat less and lose weight.

- pastors will even go so far as to tell you that if you are struggling in your finances, one of the best things you can do to help your situation is learn to trust God and start tithing, that by tithing you demonstrate your faith in Jesus and he will then be able to help you more. They will tell you that the reason you ARE struggling financially is you are not tithing yet! Again, pure fiction, but it helps to increase revenue at the church.

This kind of rhetoric is why it is dangerous to give a man a microphone for 45 minutes - any man: a politician, a lawyer in a courtroom, or a pastor in a pulpit.  Dangerous thing for men to have access to your mind to spin their yarns and make their arguments with no rebuttal time or at least a question and answer time. Imagine if the Romney/Obama debates consisted of all the networks giving 45 minutes of uninterrupted time to each candidate.

It even gets worse when your millionaire mega church pastor lectures his congregation on their selfishness in owning too much stuff and being too focused on the material- even yelling that you don't need a raise, or barking that you're being stingy if you think your family needs extra income during these tough times - when they themselves and their family live the life of jet-setting rockstars off of the very money you contribute to the church. It is very, very sad.

If your pastor takes luxury cruises and uses your church to market luxury cruises to other rich people in the church - and brags about how many shoes his wife has in the closet - and then lectures you on being materialistic and selfish, you have a world-class hypocrite in the pulpit, and the people who continue to fork over their income need to lay off the grape-flavored Kool Aid.

Next, we'll take a look at some specific examples of tithing nonsense delivered here in Jacksonville during this fall tithing season. It ain't going to be pretty.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ed Young Acquires Church Just 1/2 Mile from Perry Noble's Columbia, SC Satellite - Who Will Win the "Battle of the Tight Pants"?

Ed Young announced last week that Fellowship Church has opened a new satellite church in Columbia, South Carolina - just 1/2 mile from Perry Noble's Columbia satellite church!

Ed Young's new Columbia satellite is actually an acquisition of an existing church (Friend Church) that is joining Ed Young's system of churches. Ed did the same thing in Miami last month, acquiring a former hispanic baptist in Midtown Miami. These acquisitions are a perfect business strategy for Ed: each of these new churches will be a place where he can sell his books and sermons, and where revenue can be brought back to the mother church.

Seeing Ed Young expand his church brand into South Carolina should not come as a surprise, given that Perry Noble has seen explosive growth with his satellites with revenue in excess of $25 million a year. There are plenty of peeps in South Carolina ready to join mega churches,and who are gullible enough to obey Noble's and Young's abusive tithing sermons (for sampling, click here, here, here, here, here, and here)

The continued expansion of mega churches using satellites and church acquisitions is further proof that modern evangelicalism is about mega church personalities who are seeking to build their personal and church brands by expanding into areas already saturated with churches to tap into wealthy markets.

This reminds me of this quote by SBC pastor Bart Barber that I featured on my blog last year:
"I predict that you won't soon see the following multi-campus sites opening: Fellowship Church Wilmer-Hutchins Campus, Saddleback Watts Campus, NorthPoint Community Church Bankhead Campus, or Second Baptist Houston Third-Ward Campus. The multi-site movement and the preponderance of domestic SBC church planting is focused like a laser upon those areas where people with lots of money live in church-friendly cultures—places where it is easy to fill a church with rich people." Bart Barber, Pastor FBC Farmersville (TX)
Bart is right on the money; Ed Young is a Southern Baptist, and he is expanding into areas where he can get new church members who have loads of money who just might be willing to give Ed their checking account numbers.

Recently, Pastor Tom Messer of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville announced the church's plans to open a new satellite church in affluent St. John's county, just south of Jacksonville. Messer told his congregation how much it would cost, who would pay for it, and how the initial investment will yield positive dividends.

Said Tom Messer in Trinity's evening service on September 16, 2012:
"Look, its going to take us probably $150,000 in a budget and $150,000 in capital investment to start a South Campus. About $300,000. You say 'where is that money going to come from?'  You.  You say 'Really? We're going to give it to all those people down there in St. John's county?'  Yes!  You say 'Will they ever give it back?' Sure. Absolutely. They're going to invest it in YOUR rescue mission, they're going to invest it in YOUR college...". Pastor Tom Messer, 9/16/12
That quote is very telling, and gives us a glimpse into how pastors view satellites! The satellite church members are viewed as people that can give money that will come back to the mother church to the benefit of the church members!  

That is the modern model of mega church growth. Potential new church members are viewed as a market to be tapped. Potential church members are viewed as "giving units" who can begin generating positive cash flow to the mother church. Starting new, autonomous churches doesn't generate cash flow for the mother church, doesn't help hire new staff, or provide the needed revenue to justify an increase in the pastor's salary and expense budget.

It will be interesting to watch the battle of Perry Noble and Ed Young in Columbia. Reminds me of this video, where Will Ferrell and Jimmy Fallon quarrel over who has the tightest pants in the land.

 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Professor Watchdog Issues a "Reverse Tithing Challenge" - Give NOTHING to Your Church, See if God Indeed Curses You!

As I promised a few days ago, here is my tithing challenge for church members whose pastors again this year trot out the same old tithing phoney-baloney sermons.

Your pastor will probably use Malachi 3 to tell you to "test God" by giving 10% of your income to God (meaning giving 10% to your pastor's employer, the 501(c)3 he works for).

But why give 10% as the "test"? There are two parts of this tithing teaching out of Malachi that can be tested: one is that if you tithe, God will "open the windows of heaven" and you'll reap financial rewards. The other part is that if you DO NOT tithe, that God will curse you and your finances. One of my former pastors even said that "God collects" and God will get the un-tithed money you owe him through calamity he will bring your way, such as leaking roofs, wrecked cars, etc. I never figured out how God would collect the money I pay my roofer or my auto mechanic, unless maybe they attended the same church and THEY tithed...but I digress.

So don't tithe to see if God will bless you; instead, let your pastor know you've decided to give NOTHING to the church, to withhold what you were giving, and to cut it to zero, to test God and see if he curses you like the pastor claims. That is a much easier way to test God in this area, because presumably you are ALREADY receiving blessings - it will be much easier to detect a blessing decrease as you give nothing.  Be sure to let your pastor know that you appreciate him giving you the challenge, but you've decided to stop giving until God curses you. Tell your pastor if God does curse you, you will resume giving at the 10% level.

This reverse tithe challenge has a number of benefits to you, the church, and all of Christianity:

1. You can experience the freedom to be a blessing to other people with that money you were giving to the church. You can donate it to another Christian organization, or you can use it to bless your immediately family by paying someone's rent, or buying a new set of tires for your spouse, or even take a much needed trip or cruise to mend a strained marriage or relationship. YOU decide what you will do with it!

2. Your church won't have the burden of possibly raising their spending in response to members' tithes only to have to return it all when God doesn't bless. This reverse tithing challenge will instead require them to tighten their financial belts while they wait for you and others to see if God will keep his word and heap coals of cursings on your head. If God keeps his promise and curses you as your pastor says will happen, then your pastor and staff can rejoice that God cursed you while you reluctantly "bring the tithe" to remove the curse. What a day of rejoicing that will be!

3. God might actually REALLY bless you when he sees you've decided to use your money more for what he really wants it used for: helping people in need, taking care of your family, planning for your future so you can meet needs in the future...rather than using it for lavish buildings and to pay salaries of professional religious men who haven't yet learned a marketable trade.

Anyways, why give your 3% or 5% to the church when the man of God is telling you that you are still cursed since you aren't meeting some phony 10% threshold? Use your charitable contributions to bless other ministries that will actually thank you for being a blessing, instead of one that pronounces cursings on you because you didn't give enough.

So give it a try, church members. It is a novel, fresh, innovative way to put God to the test as he says to do in Malachi 3! But be sure to let your pastor know that you're taking "Watchdog's Reverse Tithing Challenge"!

Of course we already know what the outcome of this "challenge" will be. The only "curse" involved will be the reduction in revenue at your 501(c)3 - THAT is the real curse that your "man of God" fears, and it is what drives him to preach such nonsense. A perfect example of how much these men of God fear this curse is this quote from Stovall Weems in his tithing sermon last month entitled "Yes, the Church Wants Your Money":

"When you get that check, when you get that $2000 check, before you look at your bills, before you do anything else, before you even know if you have enough money to do that, you take $200 and you bring your tithe - to Jesus, through the house of God, your local church."

Stovall and those like him don't want you to even think about or budget your giving. This is greed that knows no bounds. They want - they need - you to blindly give the first chunk of your income before you even consider caring for your own family's needs. It is sick and twisted.

When you get down do the bottom line, THIS is the curse that currently exists in the church, that greedy men twist the Bible to raise revenue at their church.

Break the real curse, by taking the Watchdog's Reverse Tithing Challenge.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dr. Watchdog Gives a Tithing Alternative to Pastors as We Enter the Season of Tithing Sermons

 "I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving." (II Cor 9:7)
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October is the month when we see the absolute worst tithing sermons. Of course Perry Noble and Steve Gaines are tithing preachers for all seasons, but October is on average the worst month for pastors misusing scripture to deliver the anti-gospel bad news that God has cursed you, your family, and your checking account because your offering each week does not equal 0.1 times your gross income.

So I want to try to help this year. I would like to take a proactive approach, to help prevent the sheep-beatings and scripture twisting BEFORE it starts, rather than having to blog again this year about pastors threatening church members with curses from on high.

Pastors, because I care, here is an alternative approach to the same old tired tithing approach you've taken year after year:

1.  Acknowledge Your Tithing Sermons Don't Work: Pastors, please recognize that while you might be teaching tithing year after year, it is not helping. You aren't gaining a larger percentage of tithers, and the amount donated per "giving unit" is not going up. 

2. Understand that Your Members KNOW You Aren't Telling the Truth: Realize that since such a low percentage of Christians practice what you are preaching about the tithe, this means they don't believe your tithing nonsense. They KNOW you are lying and scripture twisting, or at best they are demonstrating their grace toward you by tolerating your ineptness at this one theological point. They KNOW God does not require 10% as a starting point, or as a condition for God to bless them, or a threshold below which God curses them and their families and their finances. They know there is no set percentage at all! While you preach fantasies and fairy tales of tithing and first-fruits giving from the Old Testament as a fund-raising tactic, your church members know the NEW Testament says clearly:

"Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (II Cor 9:7, NIV)

Or better yet, what another version of this verse says:

"I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving." (II Cor 9:7, The Message)

Your church members don't want to hear your sob stories and they don't want their arms twisted again this year. Christians decide what percentage and amount to give. When you arm-twist and threaten and coerce, you make it very hard for your church members to delight in what they give.

3. Acknowledge to Your Church You Might Be Wrong: In your stewardship series this fall, start off by humbling yourself. Admit from the pulpit that you might have been wrong about tithing in the past. Tell them that you've researched things a bit - you can mention John MacArthur and David Croteau and Andreas Kostenberger as credible sources on the topic - and that you have decided that Christians should decide what they give because that is what the New Testament teaches. Even challenge your church members to read John MacArthur's views on tithing, tell them about Croteau's book

4. Don't Misuse Malachi and Don't Mention Melchizedek, "First Fruits", and "Storehouse":  Tell your people that you might have been wrong about the "church" being the Old Testament "store house". Tell them that what the Jews gave under the tithing tax probably has no bearing on what Christians do with their finances in 2012, but that the New Testament does say we should all be generous, regular givers of our resources, and this will manifest itself in varying percentages and dollar amounts. Please resist the urge to misuse Malachi and Melchizedek. Whatever you do, don't bring up Ananias and Saphira in the context of tithing. Teach New Testament grace giving.

5. Tell Your Church Members You Trust and Appreciate Them:  Tell church members that they are the best ones to know what percentage of giving to the church is best for them, their kids, and for their futures. Tell them no mater what they give you will appreciate it, and you know that it represents a sacrifice on their part. Tell them that you are fully trusting them to do the right thing, and that if the church revenue increases you'll praise God, and that if the money decreases you'll praise God and gladly adjust the budget accordingly.

6.  Actually trust God: I know this is hard to trust God with the finances at the church. You have for so long told your church members they should trust God and blindly fork over 10% of their income - well, now is the time is for you to blindly trust God that he will deliver the finances to your church as you release the members to decide in their hearts what to give. 

I believe that if you humble yourself and take this approach, you might be shocked as to how people in your church actually respond. You may actually free them up to be generous givers at your church.

You say that no one would ever preach something like this, that it wouldn't work.  Not true. Click here, and you can see a Baptist preacher who actually has taught this for decades, and whose church grows numerically and meets their budget year after year.

Pastors, give it a try. Be innovative, cutting-edge, willing to try new things - you know, just like you tell your congregations to be.