Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Richard Roberts - One Down, Several More To Go

It's about time. Richard Roberts did the right thing when he resigned as the president of Oral Roberts University. The Roberts' have brought shame upon the body of Christ with their lavish lifestyle, questionable fund-raising methods, and lack of accountability and transparency.

With other prominent media pastors - Benny Hinn, Randy and Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Eddie Long, Creflo Dollar, and Kenneth Copeland - being investigated by Senator Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) it will be interesting to see who will be the next to fall.

In several previous posts I have written about the need for greater financial transparency in large media ministries and in local churches (I have even posted my salary and benefits). Once again, here is my warning - if a media ministry is not a member of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) DO NOT GIVE THEM A DIME! (None of those currently being investigated by Senator Grassley are members of the ECFA). Do not give money to any ministry led by anyone who is leading an opulent lifestyle. Mansions, exorbitant salaries, luxury cars, private jets, and closets the size of a house are not marks of a person who is being a good steward of the tithes and offerings of ministry donors.

But this is not just a warning about large media ministers; this is a warning for local churches of all sizes. If your church does not provide regular financial information - including staff salaries - you need to start asking some questions and consider whether or not you should give any money to that church. Our church provides a monthly treasurer's report that is available to anyone. That report lists monthly and year to date information regarding all income and expenditures, salaries, mission giving, and lists every check written on all church accounts. All financial information is disclosed publicly and is distributed openly. The only financial information not disclosed are individual giving records (and by the way, as pastor of the church I do not have access to that information and do not want access to that information. If your pastor knows what you give - tell him/her to mind their own business! Church staff members have no business accessing the giving records of church members/attenders). In recent years many churches have stopped providing some financial information, primarily staff salaries. This, in my opinion, is wrong and sends a terrible message about a lack of financial transparency. I know some of the reasons this is done - to minimize jealousy among staff members and to provide privacy for staff - but none of the reasons are legitimate, in my opinion. Being open about finances extends to any minister, and any minister desiring to keep information from being disclosed must realize they are leaving themselves open to questions about financial and personal integrity.

Before you write another check to a ministry or a church, ask some questions about how the money is handled before you give them a single penny.