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.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Problem With Furtick Not That He is Wealthy, But Accumulation of Wealth Occurred BECAUSE He is a Pastor

Over at Pajama Pages, an anonymous commenter "Josh" posted a lengthy comment that was worthy of featuring here. Below is the comment in its entirety, with some highlights by me.

But first a few comments of why I really like Josh's post.

Josh's comments below touch on some of the issues of why this blog began in 2007. I had my own eyes opened up to the same sort of thing: pastors made wealthy simply BECAUSE they are pastors. Pastors who view the church as a business - THEIR business - THEIR FAMILY business. They hire marketing consultants, they use the church resources to build their own brand, to sell their own goods. They view Christians as customers, as impersonal "giving units" who generate revenue for their godly pursuits.

And good people allow it. They defend it. They encourage it. As Josh says, the mentality is that if something is good for the CEO/pastor, it is good for the church. And people who give the money are not allowed to see the details of how it is spent, especially on CEO/pastor compensation. If you scan the early days of this blog, what Josh writes about are concerns I had in my own church, and I couldn't believe that good people in a good church would allow this sort of thing to go on. I figured if more people knew, they would do something. Thus the blog.

I was wrong. And that is why Steven and Perry and Ed will keep on trucking. The consumers are brand loyal. This will be a very minor speed bump for Steven. The only question is: is this business ("church") model sustainable in the long run? As James Duncan wrote yesterday, perhaps not.

Lastly, in a strange way I might give MORE leeway to Steven Furtick and Perry Noble than I would most other celebrity mega church pastors in this: at least Steven built his OWN business ("church") from the ground up, with ZERO members. He just didn't come in behind other pastors and assume the throne and the perks, be anointed the king and get a sweet land deal and immediately build a huge house and put his family on staff and turn the church into his own family business.

Steven has built quite a successful business, and feels he is justified in making lots of money. In his response to the congregation, he emphasized how he started the church with just 4 families.

It is Steven's business, he started it, he is the CEO.

Here is Josh's post:

The problem with Furtick isn’t that he’s rich, or even that he’s a rich pastor. The problem is that he’s rich because he’s a pastor. If professing Christian Steven Furtick started a successfully bakery, retail store or construction company in 2006 that was incredibly successful, so much so that he could buy a 3 million dollar home, few would criticize him for enjoying his earnings. In fact, the world and people in the church generally look favorably on successful Christian businessmen. No one questions how Truett Cathy spends his Chick-fil-a money, for example.

The problem is that Furtick and others got their money by turning the church into a business. Pastors like Furtick are obsessed with business leadership because they fashion themselves as the CEO and identify more with celebrity CEOs like Steve Jobs than with non-celebrity pastors. Decisions are made by the CEO to build the brand, to create a larger customer base, to increase the giving margin, and to expand into new opportunities. Church personnel decisions are made in the same way. Is the youth pastor growing the youth brand? Is the worship pastor stylish enough? While such decisions are constrained at some point by biblical considerations…they aren’t going to hire a guy who publicly rejects the bible…the biblical standards of Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3 aren’t really considerations. 

This creates two problems, though. One, churches aren’t businesses and aren’t supposed to be run as such. There is nothing wrong with Macy’s developing a non-fraudulent pricing and promotional strategy designed to extricate consumers with as many spending dollars as possible. Macy’s should offer products and services designed to produce high margin income. But churches aren’t businesses. The pastor shouldn’t spend time developing (or more likely purchasing from consultants) “offering talks,” or message series, or coaching services, or conferences with a goal of increasing the church’s income. The church shouldn’t be selling books and tshirts and lattes and bibles or anything else. God’s house is not a house of merchandise!

So when the Furticks of the Christian world stand up and talk about money (and they talk about money a lot!) it sounds a lot like Macy’s running television commercials for their two-day after Thanksgiving sale. When they preach on tithing (a subject on which bible believing Christians can easily disagree), it sounds self-serving because it is self-serving. Is it Furtick the preacher of God’s word talking, or Furtick the CEO of Elevation Church, Inc. talking? Nothing has changed in two thousand years. A pastor cannot serve two masters.

The second problem is the conflict of interest between the company (the church) and the CEO (the pastor.) Former GM CEO Charles Wilson reputedly once claimed that “What’s good for GM is good for the country.” (A misquote, but that’s not the point here.) Celebrity CEO Pastors seem to believe that what’s good for the Lead Pastor is good for the church. That’s why they freely write and promote books on “church time” and bring in other celebrity CEO pastors to “teach” (with undisclosed and sizable speaking fees). Does Furtick invite Craig Groeshel to teach for $____ because Groeshel brought in Furtick to teach at Lifechurhc for $_____? No one knows because it’s all a big, big secret. Is the five week sermon series on “Sun Stand Still Prayers” for the edification of the church, or to promote the CEO’s new book, which is conveniently for sale in the church bookstore. Building the CEO’s profile will help him sell books, increase his demand as a guest speaker, and feed his ego. But does it benefit the church? None of your business.

The clear conflict of interest is exacerbated by an utter lack of accountability. Sure, if Furtick gets caught sleeping with his cute personal assistant (which has happened in at least two smaller CEO-style churches I’m aware of), he couldn’t salvage his position. But no one from inside his inner circle is going to question his business dealings, his use of church time to work on and promote his books, his purchase of his own and friends books by the church, his speaking fee at churches with mutual relationships, or his promotional choice of message series. Anyone from the inside who did ask such impertinent questions would suddenly find themselves on the outs, and in a personality driven organization, loss of access to the leader is a dire sanction. Outsiders in the media or blog may ask questions, but they won’t get answers. And the rank and file members will stay on and keep giving.

Josh is so right: outsiders in the media or blog may ask questions, but they won't get answers.

Never.

15 comments:

tomlegrand said...

Or those who question will be dismissed as haters. Or they will be labeled as "persecutors" for the greatness that God is manifesting through the magnificent pastor. Or they will be dismissed because God is doing such great things that the leadership MUST be doing everything right. Or they will simply be pointed to the "scoreboard". Because the score is all that matters, right?

Anonymous said...

We the people are the reason these guys get away with this.We buy this bill of goods they are selling and think we are serving the lord. Just how much more stupid can we get? Stop the money flow and this nonsense will cease. Guaranteed.

Anonymous said...

"[P]astors made wealthy simply BECAUSE they are pastors. Pastors who view the church as a business - THEIR business - THEIR FAMILY business."

So true.
In what other business can the owner or CEO shame or guilt-trip customers into giving him a tenth or more of their income EVERY WEEK by inducing fear of eternal damnation or poverty in this life - and invoking the name of God to back himself up?

It is the closest thing to a money tree if there ever was one.

Politics and the Clergy is the last resort of scoundrels.

Lynn123 said...

Excellent post and excellent comments! It all boils down to the people in the pews like it, and they'll keep giving their money. So outsiders can point and laugh and criticize all they want, and it won't matter. In fact, they'll become more loyal, because they'll see their beloved pastor as "attacked."

I still have hope that a few eyes of thinker-types in these congregations will become opened. They may still enjoy attending these churches, but they'll cast a more skeptical eye on how things are done.

Bruce Gerencser said...

Great observations.

I would object to one thing in your post. I dint think Furtick built anything from the ground up. I am sure he had seed money from his fellow franchise owners to help get his franchise off the ground. (I remember starting a church with, hey honey, how much money is in the checking account) :)

Even the members he has came from other franchises. He is like a McDonald's taking customers from Burger King and Wendy's. Same cheap lousy fast food, just in a different wrapper.

Joshua said...

"In what other business can the owner or CEO shame or guilt-trip customers into giving him a tenth or more of their income EVERY WEEK by inducing fear of eternal damnation or poverty in this life - and invoking the name of God to back himself up?"

A pyramid scheme.

An Attorney said...

Yes, but politicians are not using "God", etc., in their personal marketing campaigns to the extent that the CEO pastors use the Lords name in vain.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Bruce - agreed. He did have "seed" money. He was helped by the SBC. Excellent point you make.

However, compared to 2nd and 3rd generation mega super stars who take over a church from a big name pastor, Furtick DID build it from zero. How many Furtick wannabes are out there who don't get off the ground or just have a modest sized church of 50 or 100? Furtick is the Bill Gates...he made it big, and in his mind, and the mind of his followers, he deserves every penny he gets and more.

I'm thinking of more Breaking Bad comparisons - the "blue" crystals and how others tried to copy it...the Heisenberg brand, etc. etc....maybe there's more to be said!

Anonymous said...

"I figured if more people knew, they would do something."

Nail on the head. Heart of the problem.

The experience at my former church was similar. People knew things, saw things, heard things, and in some cases were even told they weren't needed any longer (talking volunteers here) - and they STILL DID NOTHING. They just shrugged their shoulders and kept on coming back for more.

It's like the Stepford syndrome has invaded the church. Programmed to take whatever comes with a smile.

It's disappointing, discouraging, and the reason so many of us are done with church. Not faith, but church.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Or those who question will be dismissed as haters. Or they will be labeled as "persecutors" for the greatness that God is manifesting through the magnificent pastor. Or they will be dismissed because God is doing such great things that the leadership MUST be doing everything right.

Or "Troublemakers in the Church!"

New BBC Open Forum said...

All excellent comments! These guys understand one thing... money. "The love of money is the root of all evil." So true.

lastdaysoftheage said...

Fantastic post! Thanks for sharing that. It's time to realize though that we can't fix that which is not the Lord's. It's time to be separate and touch not the unclean thing so that the Lord will receive that which is His. The True Body of Christ. There is a fake co-opted by Satan and the real. In Revelation 18 the Lord says to come out lest we suffer the same plagues as those caught in the beast system. And so I have stood outside that camp myself. My early years learning and then praying for people there and then realizing all we can do is warn people that these systems are fit for the fires coming in the Great Day!

Anonymous said...

Everybody, please pray for these men to be exposed. God will hear us, and He will answer us. If there are things hidden, please pray that God will bring them to light. We can't allow these pastors to get away with what they try to get away with.

Anonymous said...

And how is this guy ANY different than Brunson, Jeffress, both Ed Youngs, et al.???

They're all the same self-aggredizing shysters.

Anonymous said...

I THINK THE LARGEST PROBLEM IN THE AMERICAN CHURCH ISNT BUSINESS MINDED, STRONG LEADERSHIP GIFTED PASTORS LEADING MOVEMENTS FOR CHRIST....BUT RATHER MEN WITH NO BUSINESS SENSE OR LEADERSHIP ABILITY PASTORING THE MAJORITY OF THE CHURCHES IN AMERICA DOING NOTHING FOR CHRIST.