When parachurch becomes parasite
Some church leaders I know believe all
parachurch organizations are parasites—pirates and pickpockets
who suck money, people and time out of the body of Christ diverting
resources from God’s kingdom to their own personal kingdoms.
They won’t say this publicly, but they believe it deeply and will
tell you in private.
I disagree—I like many parachurch
organizations. I think many help the local church do
things we can’t do on our own. Perhaps I work for a parachurch
organization—though my University is a wholly owned institution of
The Wesleyan Church it still functions like a parachurch
organization. And I have favorites among the parachurch
Billy Graham and
However, some parachurch organizations make
me mad. We have such rampant religious freedom in the USA
that it opens us up to graft and corruption. We Christians
scream bloody murder any time the government attempts to clamp down
on a religious entity so a few folk can get together are found a
501(c)(3) (or better yet a local
church-on-paper) the government will pretty well let you alone and
you can get away with just about any sort of corruption and
profit-taking that occurs to you. The government will be
putting the Enron people put in jail for lesser sins than are
committed daily in some parachurch organizations. I’m not
saying that these organizations did not begin with a good cause in
mind. Jerry Pattengale puts it
What beings as a ministry often gravitates
to a business then degenerates into a racket.
Some parachurch organizations have become a
racket. Sure, the local church raises money and spends it on itself
sometimes. Sure, the local church occasionally takes money
from poor widows and pays its pastor too much. Sure, once in a
while the church has a treasurer, pastor or D.S. who swipes money.
But these occurrences are far less frequent in the church than in
parachurch organizations. The way we let parachurch
organizations operate in America invites corrupt practices.
That is what make me mad.
Five things that make me mad at
1. When they prey on the poor with promises.
It is no secret that the poor are the best
givers—research shows this every year. I get angry when
parachurch preachers promise poor people that God will bless them if
they “plant a seed of faith” by sending money to the televangelist.
Hogwash! If this is true then the televangelist should
send money to the listeners—then God could bless their own
seed-faith! Seed faith preaching is a signal of crooked
hucksterism. Any preacher on TV or anywhere else giving this
line is a flim-flam man not a
representative of the gospel. They are con men making their
pitch. The poor folk who respond to these crooks also buy lottery
tickets for the same reason—hoping to hit the jackpot to escape
poverty. When I see the Reverend Mister
Fancypants sporting his diamond-studded cufflinks assuring
poor people that God will bless them if they “bless this ministry” I
wonder why God doesn’t strike such snakes dead in their tracks.
It makes me mad when rich parachurch preachers prey on the poor with
2. Making desperate pleas for more money
when they already have plenty
One way to recognize a real crook is when they
sob for more money when they already have plenty. This sort of
outright deception makes God madder than me I bet. But it is
rampant in some Christian parachurch organizations. Take for
Broadcasting who has 341 million dollars in
the bank yet televises tearful pleas for more money “or stations
will have to close down.” Shame on you Paul and Jan Crouch!
While the average parachurch organization has a zero savings rate
(they spend on ministry all the money they take in) TBN socks away a
whopping 39%! What for? Money is given to the kingdom to
be spent on a cause—not buried in the ground. This money was given
for a cause not to be stashed away in a rainy day mattress
somewhere. I think it is outright deceitful to raise money with fear
tactics when you’ve got millions stashed away. Parachurch
organizations can too easily become fund raising machines.
3. When they pay extraordinary salaries to
themselves and their family.
I think ministers, like oxen, shouldn’t be
muzzled while they work. They are entitled to a fair salary.
Perhaps there are pastors who receive extraordinary salaries, but
the way an American parachurch organization can be set up invites
paying the leaders exorbitant salaries. For instance, in
America you could start a parachurch organization then name three of
your family members as the entire board—which is exactly what the
TBN Crouch’s did. You could then pay yourself about $400,000,
pay your wife another $347,000 then decide that your son Matthew’s
profit-making company was doing such a wonderful thing with
his new movie idea that you divert $32 million over to his company
from God’s money in your organization. Yes, you read that
right—32 million dollars from non-profit TBN to a
profit-making company owned by their son Matthew. I’m not
inventing this. Or, how about Benny
Hinn’s salary of “somewhere between
$500,000 to $1 million dollars.” What? How about Benny
Hinn’s crusade a half hour from his home
where he turned in $25,000 for expenses? How would a preacher
spend $25,000 for expenses? What do you think of Benny
Hinn’s perk of a $10 million
seaside mansion? Nice parsonage, huh? Do these things
bother you? They make me mad. Sorry, I know too many pastors
getting such poor salaries they buy their kids clothes at second
hand shops. Members in their churches send their monthly gifts
to Benny Hinn or TBN thinking they are
supporting God’s work. Their local church suffers. Their
pastor suffers. The crooks get rich and laugh their way to the
bank. The pastor goes to the bank too—but to borrow money to
send her daughter to college. I think these rich parachurch leaders
are wrong to accept such huge salaries living a lavish life of
luxury. But I also think these dedicated Christian members are
wrong to give to them. You are a co-dependant in the crook’s
sin. Shame on both of you.
4. When God’s money is used as hush money.
I can’t imagine a local church paying hush
money to get someone to not talk about their affair with the pastor.
Hey, when someone confesses an affair with the pastor in my
denomination the pastor miraculously disappears before the following
Sunday! Not so in some parachurch organization. I
remember how Jim Bakker used God’s money
to hush up Jessica Hawn for her hotel room tryst with Jim
Bakker. PTL came to be laughingly
renamed Pay The Lady.
I think it was wrong to use tax-deducible charitable donations (let
along God’s money) as hush money. So I also think it was wrong
for TBN to pay Enoch Ford $425,000 to not speak of his homosexual
affair with Paul Crouch. Both are wrong. God’s money should
not become hush money
5. Refusing to be held accountable by hiding
I hate it when parachurch organizations hide
their data and refuse to be accountable. I can put up with
inefficient parachurch organizations if they will simply be
honest and open. For instance a parachurch organization I’ve
been a supporter of for years is
Kingdom Building Ministries.
When it comes to efficiency and “bang for the buck” they make a very
poor showing—they are in the lowest one percent of all parachurch
organizations—ranked 443rd of the 443 parachurch organizations by
ministrywatch.com. But I still like them. Why? Because
when it comes to integrity, honesty, and transparency they are above
MinistryWatch gives KBM an “A”
for “transparency.” What makes me mad (and ought to anger all
Christians) is a parachurch organization who
simply refuses to be accountable to anyone—they won’t come clean to
ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability) or
supply full information to
MinistryWatch.com (the foremost Christian watchdog group for
parachurch organizations). God’s money should be out in the
open not hidden in closets, mattresses and offshore bank accounts.
The books should be open to anyone who wants to see them.
Income, expenditures, audited reports and even salaries should be
open to all. Hey, we have nothing to hide. Refusing to
submit to ECFA or MinistryWatch by
claiming a direct accountability to God alone gets might close to
blasphemy in my book. It angers me when parachurch
organizations set themselves up as their own monitors. I don’t
trusts foxes guarding henhouses.
Face it, these guys are crooks.
Do they name the name of Christ? Yes. Could they go to heaven—maybe.
Do they do some good? Yes. But at the core they are thieves.
Even thieves do some good. They are “Christian thieves” (if there
is such a thing). I’m glad they say nice things about Jesus as
they sink their sucking teeth into the body of Christ. But I
do not apply the Philippians 1:18 rule to them. I don’t
believe they are “preaching Christ” at the core—they are
flim-flam men preying on the poor and
the sick. They are hucksters of hope who’ve found a haven in
American religion and I can’t wait until God or someone else roots
them out. They anger me. No, they infuriate me. I
don’t understand how God puts up them. How can he let them get
away with preying on the poor so long? How can he ignore this
injustice? He must have a longer fuse than me. Which may be
lucky for me, too, I suppose. But sooner or later He’ll act.
Maybe He’ll use us. Or the government.
Or the free press. Or maybe their own
arrogance. But sooner or later I suspect He’ll act.
God is the exposer of sin—and He never
fails to do it…eventually.
ANYWAY, that’s what I think. Sure, I
get angry at local churches too, and I’ll write about that in the
future. But this week I’m angry at some parachurch organizations.
That’s what I think—so, what do you think? What would you add
to this list that makes you angry? How do we help our people
understand this without being ministry muckrakers? Who can
clean up this mess that ECFA, MinistryWatch
and all of Christendom is impotent to fix? Which parachurch
organizations do you like? Which anger you?
Keith Drury January 23, 2006