>
IPS-Eye-White
001orange

Section 10A .. The Contemporary Church

 

003white  Section 10A .. The Contemporary Church     >     Shepherds or Wolves     >     Lifestyles of Wealthy Celebrity Pastors - Introduction

IPS-Header
Church-Index
 

Introduction

 Welcome To The Mile Wide And Inch Deep Flashy Mega-Churches, Very Expensive Entertainment, And Wealthy Celebrity Pastors With Deep Pockets And Self Serving Shallow Theology 

 Carol Brooks

Index

Chapter 1: The Investigation: Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Paula White, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer and Eddie Long
Chapter 2: Joel Osteen, Steven Furtick
Chapter 3: Ed Young, Kevin Gerald, Joseph Prince
Chapter 4:  T.D. Jakes, John Hagee, Fred Price, Jesse Duplantis, Juanita Bynum
Chapter 5: Franklin Graham, Mark Driscoll, James MacDonald, Wendy and Casey Treat
 Chapter 6: Jordan and Jordan. Rev. Run
Chapter 7: Others - Here and Abroad
Chapter 8: Conclusion


On This Page
Entertainment - The New Way of Doing Church
The Rise of The Mile Wide And Inch Deep Flashy Megachurch
An Emotional Response

Celebrity Pastors With Deep Pockets, and Very Shallow Theology -
American 'Capitalism' At Its Worst
The New Buzzwords
Book Royalties?


Entertainment - The New Way of Doing Church
Modern Americans have one passion that they pursue with unrelenting vigor - they want to be entertained. 'Having fun' seems to be the major goal of many, if not most people. In fact, it often seems that this generation believes that it is their inalienable right to be constantly amused - and they will pay almost any price to achieve that goal. The more extravagant the light show, the louder the music, the more terrifying the ride, the more dancers and parades etc. the more they like it.

And all too many of our so called church leaders, only too happy to cater to this insatiable quest for pleasure and enjoyment, put on quite a show. Regardless of the fact that it is not the Church's function to amuse the masses, that is exactly what they do under the guise of 'worship services'.

Perhaps the true tragedy is that most of the congregation cannot distinguish between the two. The primary element of true worship expresses wonder, awe, and humility, at the grandeur, infinite power, and sheer majesty of the transcendent God. See Worshipping God. As A.W. Tozer (the outspoken minister well known for calling a spade a spade) wrote in his book Keys to the Deeper Life.

    "In my opinion, the great single need of the moment is that light-hearted superficial religionists be struck down with a vision of God high and lifted up, with His train filling the temple. 

However, something that very few Christians realize is that worship was never the reason the people in the New Testament gathered together. In fact, the New Testament never once mentions "worship" in the same breath as a gathering of believers. In fact, there is absolutely no record of a sermon being preached when they came together, yet it has somehow become the high point of our meetings.

See Why Christians Assemble Together. Chapter III of The Church... Then and Now.

As an aside, one has to wonder whether the trend towards being entertained in church began centuries ago when most Christians abandoned the New Testament's house church model in favor of a stage performance in which the clergy performed up front and the laity watched. Ornate decor, extravagant robes, and elaborate ceremonies ensured it was the best show in town.  

While there are no existing 'Christian Disneylands' (that I know of) like the one Jim and Tammy Bakker built [01], the 20th century saw another kind of revolution with many churches growing to enormous sizes - more often than not incorporating entertainment into the so called 'Worship Service'.


The Rise of The Mile Wide And Inch Deep Flashy Megachurch 

'Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,  (Revelation 3:17 NASB)

An article on Forbes entitled America's Biggest Megachurches says

    Churches across America--like shopping malls, houses, corporations, hospitals, schools and just about everything else-- have erupted in size in the last few decades. The number of megachurches in the U.S. has leaped to more than 1,300 today--from just 50 in 1970.

    Featuring huge stages, rock bands, jumbotron screens, buckets of tears and oodles of money, as well as the enormity of the facilities, pastor personalities and income - over $8.5 billion a year all told - these churches are impressive forces flourishing at staggering rates. [02]

The megachurch appeals to and attracts many people of this generation simply because it is what they are used to and seem to thrive on - They are visually stimulating, multi-sensory, immersive experiences - an extension of rock concerts and to a lesser degree - sports arenas and the mall. They are pure entertainment.

I suspect these churches confuse the sensory overload with a movement or working of the Spirit and therefore encourage it. And of course, Biblically ignorant Christians attracted to the hoopla, perceive these to be a 'successful' churches and want to be part of them - and the numbers keep growing. 

Second Baptist Church of Houston
The article went on to describe a Saturday evening at the Second Baptist Church of Houston - the second-largest megachurch in the U.S. led by Dr. Ed Young (Homer Edwin Young) whose three sons are all in ministry.

    Inside "E Gym," where the congregation's "small" Saturday evening service is being held, two basketball courts full of believers in jeans and flip-flops rock out, sing along or just watch as a huge contemporary band jams to the song "Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?"

    White and yellow stage lights hit the rising smoke before the performance cools down for the opening prayer. The sermon stops for applause as the audience watches an video projected overhead of a Christian-gone-wild beach retreat, where the church baptized nearly 700 teenagers. [03]

Other examples of Flashy mega-churches include

Elevation Church
Elevation Church pastored by Steven Furtick (a perfect example of the new breed of celebrity prosperity preachers) is based in a suburb of Tele-Elevation_Easter 2Charlotte NC. Their 'special effects' are handled by a professional lighting systems company called Clay Paky, whose web site says they "are known throughout the world as they have changed the way of putting on spectacular (light) shows".

    Their products include "moving body and moving mirror projectors, color-changers, followspots, projectors for architectural lighting and various lighting effects" used for example, in "Theatre, Television, Live Events, Discotheques and Clubs, Trade Fair Exhibitions, Theme Parks, Shops, Commercial Centres" etc. [04]

And of course by Elevation church (All Emphasis Added) And I have to ask what that figure in the background is - a pole dancer or circus performer?

    "added Clay Paky A.leda B-EYE K20 LED-based moving lights to the extensive roster of AV equipment it used for a series of Easter worship experiences this year. Main Light Industries, Inc. in Wilmington, Delaware supplied Elevation Church with 35 B-EYEs for the Easter worship experiences, five for its primary broadcast location and 30 shared among nine other satellite locations. [05] > See many more pictures here.

What in the world is a worship experience anyway? 

According to the same article on the claypaky web site, Andy Bentley, lighting designer for Elevation Church said they (All Emphasis Added)

    “... place great importance on excellence in production,"  and three of their locations "are permanent facilities with AV and lighting gear installed. The other seven have portable rigs that are set up and torn down every Sunday." ... They were incredible. We used the ability to control the color of every LED to get some really interesting color palettes, including a patterned, stained-glass look that played off the theme of the sermon.” [06]

Considering the modern mindset, I am not surprised that in a Charlotte Observer article titled A Cool Pastor, And A Hot Church, the very deluded Rev. David Chadwick is quoted as saying (emphasis added)

    "They really are the major show in town for (those) 20 to 32,” [07]

And while they might be an extreme example, Elevation Church has also taken the word 'convenience' to an entirely new level. It has made Fortune magazine's list of 100 best places to work for millennials in 2017, saying

    Their "on-site services include, haircuts by professional stylists, car detailing, alterations, discounted movie tickets, oil changes, and financial planning services." [08

Fellowship Church in Highland Park Village in Dallas
Ed (Edward) Young, whose father is the pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Houston (above), is the controversial founder and senior pastor of the sprawling Grapevine-based Fellowship Church in Dallas. He is said to have come up with the idea to launch Fellowship Park Cities at Highland Park Village after spending time at the busy Starbucks there that "teems daily with affluent types from Highland Park and University Park, and the parking spots around the coffee house are heavy on the Bentleys, Porsches and spotless Suburbans".

    Church happens inside a theater with plush leather stadium seats. As approximately 50 congregants trickle in — hipster dads with Sunday-morning stubble and retro eyeglasses, women in designer jeans with their hair pulled into ponytails — an extended remix of Justin Timberlake's Suit & Tie thumps through the sound system. (The church embraces secular music.)

    Ahead of his arrival? An elaborate production number interpreting Radioactive, an end-times anthem and hit song by Las Vegas rock band Imagine Dragons. A young woman on-stage sings the apocalyptic tune while laser lights slice through a thickening mist from a fog machine. Behind her, three jumbo screens flash disturbing images of gas masks. At stage front, two break dancers in yellow bio hazard suits contort and gyrate, and simulate drum-beating on large toxic-waste barrels. [09] (All Emphasis Added).

Others
And this kind of show is not limited to the younger and more 'with it' crowd, For example, the events page on the Hagee ministry site features Tele-joycemeyer.org Stagequite a spectacular looking music and light show. [10]

Joyce Meyer is certainly no stranger to the fancy stage. This picture from her website is of one of her many conferences.

And although much of what he said was not Scriptural, a pastor of First Southern Baptist of Junction City, Kansas described what he saw when he went to the Potter's House website to pull up Sunday's sermon. He had to first

    "sit through more than five minutes of Potter's House commercials. Then the camera showed this multi-millon-dollar stage with "Endure the Race" lit up on a video screen. Someone off-camera sang-shouted, "I just want to tell you what I think about you!" Suddenly a bunch of singers and dancers came running out to pop music and a dazzling light show. Multiple video screens went into hyper seizure-inducing screen-saver mode. Everyone rushed the stage and started jumping up and down. Oh, great. I thought I had accidentally clicked on a link to a concert. Nope. This was a Potter's House worship service. [11]

There is no reverence, no humility, and apparently no appreciation of the majesty of the Father.

Also whatever happened to dignity - a word Paul repeated several times which means poise and self-respect - formality in manner and appearance. He said we should pray for those in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity (1 Timothy 2:2). Overseers had to keep his children under control with all dignity (1 Timothy 3:4.  Deacons had to be men of dignity (1 Timothy 3:8), Women also had to be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate (1 Timothy 3:11). Older men are to be temperate (moderate and self-restrained), dignified, sensible, sound in faith (Titus 2:2).

The sad thing is that many of these churches are populated by often younger people who have absolutely no idea why a church exists, how it is to be patterned and what its purpose is). They, painfully unaware of the fact that that the original apostles gave us a pattern for a church, think that the way these mega churches operate is the norm.  Hint: Come to think of it, most older church-goers do not understand that although corporate worship is a good thing, it is NOT supposed to be the primary function of the church. Nor is entertainment. Church meetings existed for mutual sharing, encouragement, study, and care of one another.  See The Church Then and Now.


An Emotional Response
Being in a crowd hyped up by a charismatic, and very convincing dynamic speaker can be a very exhilarating experience, and it is not at all uncommon for a person to be 'swept up' or 'carried away' by a wave of heightened emotions. In some situations this can lead to violence and property damage when a mob gets out of hand. However, in a church setting the response is restrained and patterned, under control. However, the fact remains that not many people think or act independently when in this kind of group setting.

In other words, the emotional response to the music and atmosphere etc and the accompanying good feelings can lead many to be convinced that this church and this pastor are the best ever and that they are ready to make a full commitment to Christ and even be baptized.

These churches ignore the fact that 'decisions' are often made in a highly charged atmosphere rather than thoughtful prayer and contemplation, call it "saving souls" and boast about how many they have baptized. And some of them are apparently not above actively helping to pad the numbers. As reported by religionnews.com

Several years ago, Elevation had a "spontaneous baptism" event that purportedly resulted in hundreds of immersions by new converts. Videos of the service went viral, and a number of Christian leaders criticized the practice on its face.

    But then in 2013, it was revealed that these spontaneous baptisms were not spontaneous after all. The services were well-planned and volunteers were reportedly planted throughout the crowd in high-visibility places to stand up and walk forward as Furtick commenced the baptism. This would hopefully create an emotional trigger for actual baptisms. The church even created a "Spontaneous Baptism How-To Guide" to train other churches on how to engineer similar experiences (the link to the original guide on Elevation's website now redirects to a sales pitch for one of Furtick’s books). [12]

Make no mistake. I am fully aware that genuine conversions can take place in any circumstances, but there is no salvation without repentance, and no salvation without holiness or separation from the world. How many of these people go on to live a life of righteousness that is pleasing to the Lord and ensures them a place in His kingdom? Note that returning Sunday and Sunday for more entertainment and to hear more self help/prosperity messages does not count as being saved.

See Sin, Repentance, and Salvation on THIS page.


Celebrity Pastors With Deep Pockets, and Very Shallow Theology - American 'Capitalism' at Its Worst

"I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30 NASB)

Unfortunately, these ostentatious churches have all too often substituted the "elders" of the New Testament with contemptibly shallow, self serving, Scripture manipulating, vastly deluded and very rich impostors. Subjects like, heaven, sin, salvation, repentance, holiness, the end of days, and the character of God are rarely broached. Instead the show they put on - the lights, music, dancing, and their own antics are all designed to bring attention to about the only message they preach - what God can do for you here in this life.

Glossing Over Jesus' Message
They forget, if they ever knew, that Jesus never stopped talking about the "kingdom of God", which phrase is used over 50 times in the four Gospels alone. This coming kingdom was not only at the heart of many of His parables (likened to a mustard seed, a pearl of great price, a banquet given by a king, etc), but He even said that the proclamation of the Kingdom was the reason He was sent to earth. (Luke 4:43). He also spent a great deal of time telling us how to get there and warning us what would keep us out. For example,

    For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 5:20 NASB)

See The Message of the Bible

Yet, how much time do any of the modern prosperity teachers spend talking about heaven and what it takes to get there - repentance, and obeying Christ's commandments. How many times do they tell their listeners that without holiness no one will see God - How many even know what the Bible means when it uses the words holiness or righteousness. See What Is Holiness?

"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  (Matthew 16:26 NASB)

In fact, come to think of it, although Jesus said He was sent to earth to proclaim the kingdom of God how many even know what and where this kingdom is? See What and Where is Heaven?


The New Buzzwords
In more recent years the Prosperity Doctrine mantle has been assumed by a different breed of cat that may not make * statements as stupid as the ones made by Copeland, Duplantis, Dollar and the like, but are prosperity teachers nonetheless. The beliefs haven't changed but have simply been worded differently - "Success", "God's Favor", Excellence, and "Dreaming Bigger" are some of the new buzzwords.

It is the same old story told in a slightly different way. The degree of shamelessness and Scriptural manipulation remains the same.

    * (Some examples of imbecile statements  - Jesus was a wealthy man who wore garments fit for a king and who lived in a big house. The first thing on His agenda was to get rid of poverty because God is not going to come back for a church in debt etc.)

While I have little doubt that these preachers are motivated by money and a five star lifestyle, being famous and influential and having a lot of people fawning over you, often hanging on to your every word has to be a huge ego booster. In fact, virtually everything that happens in the church centers around the 'pastor' to the point that many of them seem to have become cult like figures. And, in their eyes, believing that they are specially anointed by God legitimizes it all.

"Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:24 NASB)

Although I am sure that at some point all of them have read James 3:1 (Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment) none have taken the message seriously but have instead chosen to focus on a handful of cherry picked verses usually quoted out of context - none of which hold up to any scrutiny. See Alleged Biblical Support For The Prosperity Doctrine - Chapter 2 of The Prosperity Gospel and The Word of Faith Movement

And, what will ultimately be to their detriment, Hundreds of thousands regularly respond to these charlatans. And of course they throw money. Who isn't willing to pay someone who convinces them that they are 'favored' by God and making them feel good about themselves. What they seem to miss is that virtually no layman without the benefit of stage, air time, charisma and a well memorized collection of misinterpreted Bible verses ever comes anywhere near acquiring the material wealth that these high flying ministers have amassed. 

What makes it worse is the fact that many, if not most of the congregation seem to believe that neither their pastor nor church can do anything wrong and Heaven help you if you should say anything negative about either. I guess most of them are either ignorant of the New Testament warnings about deception, or arrogantly believe that they themselves cannot possibly be deceived. 

See The Four Most Dangerous Mistakes Any Christian Can Make


Book Royalties?

Many pastors make the claim that that their five star homes and affluent lifestyles is thanks to the royalties they receive from the many books they write. Joel Osteen, Joseph Prince, and Steve Furtick are prime examples.

(Note that even more mainstream pastors who do not live lavish lifestyles can make plenty of money off their books. See Footnote I)

But there are other questions that have to be asked. For example, whether any of the church staff handles book related projects, or whether the actual writing, editing or any other matters associated with releasing a book takes place on church time.

What we can be certain of is that it is church members who provide the financial resources necessary to enable the pastor to write and the church itself contributes to the book's success by helping advertise and sell them - not only to parishioners but in online stores. The pastor's books are often promoted on the church's television broadcasts. 

The problem is not that they are rich nor that they are rich Christians. The problem lies in the fact that they are rich because they are Christian pastors. No one is criticizing Chick-fil-A's Dan Cathy for making a lot of money. Similarly, if Furtick, Osteen, Duplantis or Copeland had made their fortunes from commercial enterprises, no one would care. However, whichever way you look at it these so called 'Christian pastors' make their money off the backs of countless hard working and often struggling members of their churches. What's worse, is that they use the Bible to justify their extravagance.

What they call prosperity, the Bible calls greed and materialism.

Finally If you are a member of one of these churches, it might be a very good idea to re-acquaint yourself what the Bible says about
SinRepentanceSalvationHolinessTithing,  and Prosperity etc.

Over the next few pages I have touched on a few of of the wolves - some who have arisen from amongst the flock fairly recently, others have been around for a while. I have largely, but not solely, focused on the amount of money they have made and the lavish lifestyle they live by preaching the message that they do. On occasion I have picked out one of their teachings and compared it to what the Bible teaches.

The few I have covered are only the tip of a very large iceberg, and I wish I could have done more, but I did not want to be writing on the same topic for the next year. 

I do however suggest you read the Final Chapter or Conclusion of this article and the Prosperity and Word-Faith Doctrines


Footnote I
Rick Warren once said on Larry King Live that he had reimbursed his church for all the salary he had ever taken from Saddleback Church, and that he and his wife Kay were "reverse tithing": keeping 10 percent of their income and giving away 90 percent.

Fair enough!

However, according to ECPA (the association of Christian publishers) his book The Purpose Driven Life was presented with first Double-Diamond award for over 20 million sold! [13] and remains one of the bestselling hardcover books of all time. I believe that the number of books sold stands at over 30 million now. However,

Royalty figures are among the publishing industry's best kept secrets, but industry insiders estimate that Warren gets at least 20 percent of the wholesale price of the book. All of this means that Warren's royalties from The Purpose Driven Life and its spin-offs, some of which have been certified gold and platinum themselves, likely approaches $100 million. Even accounting for his well-publicized "reverse tithe," Warren likely pockets well in excess of $1 million a year....

    Unfortunately, The Purpose Driven Life has much going against it. The non believer will be given little or no information as to how he, or she, can be included in the coming kingdom, and will certainly not be told anything about the necessity of repentance from sin and holiness. The reader will be introduced to a wide variety of, potentially, very dangerous people, ideas, and practices. And since they have been told, in no uncertain terms, that the most important thing is ‘unity’€¯, they will never hear a word about discerning between true and false teachings, nor how the Bible instructs them to deal with those who practice and teach untruths. DETAILS

Without the notoriety generated by multi-million-dollar radio and television ministries and mega-church audiences, authors such as Benny Hinn, Osteen, Paula White - and even more mainstream ministers such as Tim Keller and Warren - would likely not get the jump-start they needed to make the best-seller lists. [14]

 
End Notes

Unless otherwise specified, all links were accessed in July 2018.

[01] Sherryl Connelly. The story of televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's fall from grace.  New York Daily News | Aug 05, 2017. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/televangelists-jim-tammy-faye-bakker-fall-grace-article-1.3387060

[02] Jesse Bogan. America's Biggest Megachurches. Forbes. June 26, 2009.
https://www.forbes.com/2009/06/26/americas-biggest-megachurches-business-megachurches.html#5bd67cca40ec

[03] ibid.

[04] Clay Paky. In pursuit of perfect light since 1976. https://www.claypaky.it/en/company/who

[05] Clay Paky B-EYEs Elevate Easter Worship Experience for North Carolina’s Elevation Church. 2014.
https://www.claypaky.it/en/news/clay_paky_b_eyes_elevate_easter_worship_experience_for_north_carolina_s_elevation_church

[06] ibid.

[07] Tim Funk. A cool pastor, and a hot church. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/article9008744.html#storylink=cpy

[08] Leonardo Blair, Christian Post Reporter | Jun 29, 2017. Elevation Church Makes Fortune's 2017 National List of 100 Best Places to Work for Millennials.
https://www.christianpost.com/news/elevation-church-makes-fortunes-2017-national-list-100-best-places-to-work-millennials-190134/

[09] Christopher Wynn. Dear God: Is Dallas society ready for Fellowship Church's sex-loving, million-dollar minister? December 12, 2013. http://res.dallasnews.com/interactives/2013_December/pastored/

[10] https://www.jhm.org/Events

[11] Gabe Hughes. Are T.D. Jakes and Steven Furtick Heretics?
http://pastorgabehughes.blogspot.com/2015/11/are-td-jakes-and-steven-furtick_25.html

[12] Why won't Steven Furtick answer tough questions about his ministry? May 11, 2016.
https://religionnews.com/2016/05/11/why-pastor-steven-furtick-skirts-scandalous-questions/

[13] Milestones. ECPA Timeline. https://history.ecpanews.org/milestones/

[14] Kevin DeYoung. Seven Thoughts on Pastors Writing Books. Book Royalties Allow Some Preachers To Live Like Kings
https://www.baptistmessenger.com/book-royalties-allow-some-preachers-to-live-like-kings/

Catholicism-Back

Index To Lifestyles of Wealthy Celebrity Pastors

www.inplainsite.org