Monday, October 22, 2007

Why is Word-Faith So Popular With Megachurches?

I found an interesting point in this article. First, a bit of a preface:

The names may have changed - Juanita Bynum, Kenneth and Gloria
Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes and St. Louis' Joyce Meyer have replaced Bakker, Swaggart and Oral Roberts at the top of the evangelical mountain - but the message remains virtually identical.

Believe with all your heart and soul, they tell the faithful. And give, give, give until you can't give any more.

God, they say, loves a cheerful giver.

Now look at this observation:

[Ole] Anthony said that most of the preachers begin with a "sincere desire to spread the faith. But the pressure of fund raising slowly moves all of them in the direction of a greed-based theology."

The result?

Sheer greed took over the Word-of-Faith movement, and it became about money and nothing else. Money. Money. Money. Money. Money. All about money, all the time. Every religious program on TV is selling a product, every preacher is demanding money. Every message preached somehow concludes with a demand for money. People don't matter. Souls don't matter. The gospel doesn't matter. Only selling and demanding donations matters. This is when I hit the burnout point on Word-of-Faith. I was sick when I found out that most of the major preachers on television use the same service, essentially psychological experts in talking people out of their money, that writes their fundraising material for them. The Word-of-Faith world has become a constant, demanding fundraising machine, and that's not Christian in any way. (They don't even follow their own theology: they never give anyone anything. They don't sow seeds, they spend all their time demanding donations and taking other people's money. And the money is going to no good purpose, other than to buy television time so they can get more money.)

By way of contrast, let's see what the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability recommends:

Standard 7 - Fund-Raising

Every member shall comply with each of the ECFA Standards for fund-raising:

7.1 Truthfulness in Communication

All representations of fact, description of financial condition of the member, or narrative about events must be current, complete, and accurate. References to past activities or events must be appropriately dated. There must be no material omissions or exaggerations of fact or use of misleading photographs or any other communication which would tend to create a false impression or misunderstanding.

7.2 Communication and Donor Expectations

Fund-raising appeals must not create unrealistic donor expectations of what a donor's gift will actually accomplish within the limits of the member's ministry.

7.3 Communication and Donor Intent

All statements made by the member in its fund-raising appeals about the use of the gift must be honored by the member. The donor's intent is related both to what was communicated in the appeal and to any donor instructions accompanying the gift. The member should be aware that communications made in fund-raising appeals may create a legally binding restriction.

7.4 Projects Unrelated to a Ministry's Primary Purpose

A member raising or receiving funds for programs that are not part of its present or prospective ministry, but are proper in accordance with its exempt purpose, must either treat them as restricted funds and channel them through an organization that can carry out the donor's intent or return the funds to the donor.

7.5 Incentives and Premiums

Members making fund-raising appeals which, in exchange for a contribution, offer premiums or incentives (the value of which is not insubstantial, but is significant in relation to the amount of the donation) must advise the donor of the fair market value of the premium or incentive and that the value is not deductible for tax purposes.

7.6 Financial Advice

The representative of the member, when dealing with persons regarding commitments on major estate assets, must seek to guide and advise donors so they have adequately considered the broad interests of the family and the various ministries they are currently supporting before they make final decisions. Donors should be encouraged to use the services of their attorneys, accountants, or other professional advisors.

7.7 Percentage Compensation for Fund-raisers

Compensation of outside fund-raising consultants or a member's own employees based directly or indirectly on a percentage of charitable contributions raised is not allowed.

7.8 Tax-deductible Gifts for a Named Recipient's Personal Benefit

Tax-deductible gifts may not be used to pass money or benefits to any named individual for personal use.

7.9 Conflict of Interest on Royalties

An officer, director, or other principal of the member must not receive royalties for any product that the member uses for fund-raising or promotional purposes.

7.10 Acknowledgement of Gifts-in-Kind

Property or gifts-in-kind received by a member should be acknowledged describing the property or gift accurately without a statement of the gift's market value. It is the responsibility of the donor to determine the fair market value of the property for tax purposes. The member may be required to provide additional information for gifts of motor vehicles, boats, and airplanes.

7.11 Acting in the Interest of the Donor

A member must make every effort to avoid accepting a gift from or entering into a contract with a prospective donor which would knowingly place a hardship on the donor, or place the donor's future well-being in jeopardy.

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Art S. said...

I'm having trouble following your point, to be honest. But, this jumped at me:

They don't sow seeds, they spend all their time demanding donations and taking other people's money. And the money is going to no good purpose, other than to buy television time so they can get more money.

No good purpose? Churches, orphanages, hospitals, doctors are all tangible, and I'd say they are "good purposes." There are also intangibles--direction, hope, strength. Imagine a battered woman that finds the strength to leave, or the hope of a better day, because of that television show she saw.

Are there problems with Word-Faith? Of course. But, there are problems with every religion in the world.

Art S. said...

My apologies for a second post. It should be noted, though, that one of the authors of the piece you reference was suspended from her assignment due to the series of articles that this article was a part of, due to the errors and unsubstantiated assumptions it contained. The article was not a non-bias view, and an unprecedented 600 word retraction was printed.

I believe that a lot more good comes out of these people than the average person cares to see.

Ontario Emperor said...

No apology for multiple comments is necessary. I assume you weren't talking about Bill Smith, so I did a search on Carolyn Tuft and found this.

The St. Louis Newspaper Guild has accused the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and its former editor, Ellen Soeteber, of a "breach of ethics" for disciplining investigative reporter Carolyn Tuft when the Post was threatened with a lawsuit last year by Joyce Meyer Ministries.

The accusation came in a recent Guild bulletin, shortly before an arbitration hearing was scheduled in late August on a grievance by Tuft. She is appealing her two-day suspension and publication of an "apology" last year for alleged errors in her reporting on the finances of the ministry.

A letter of protest signed by 124 of Tuft's colleagues defended her and called the discipline over alleged errors "unwarranted." It was a rebuke of Soeteber and her then-managing editor Arnie Robbins, for bowing to pressure from the ministry rather than supporting their own reporter.

The letter from staffers, including a plea for re-examination of the issue, was ignored by Soeteber, Robbins and then-publisher Terry Egger. Tuft was told she would be fired if there were any more "problems." Tuft's hard-hitting stories about Meyer, her $900,000 salary, benefits for family members and avoidance of property taxes were stopped. One of Tuft's alleged errors was calling Meyer's salary "hefty," though Tuft's editor and a lawyer for the newspaper had approved it.

Fourteen months after publishing the apology, the Post still insisted on a gag order over adjudication of the grievance. Tuft and Guild lawyers had trouble getting correspondence between lawyers for the paper and the ministry. In those letters, it appears the ministry essentially wrote the correction, or apology, as it was labeled. The ministry's lawyer threatened to sue the paper if it was not printed in toto....

I wasn't specifically looking at Meyer, but I'll have to look at her ministry and the percentage of finances that goes to tangibles rather than self-preservation. And perhaps there is some merit in TBN's argument, or perhaps not:

In addition, TBN also explained to the newspaper that one of the hard learned lessons for churches and charities nationwide following 9-11 is to create an endowment to insure sufficient funds to cover whatever catastrophes may arise. In this context, Trinity’s reserves represent less than a year’s operating expenses.

The issue of "building up treasures on earth" is not limited to the megachurches; it needs to be considered by every congregation before they purchase choir robes or chairs or whatever.

Ontario Emperor said...

More on Joyce Meyer's spending here.