Megachurch Millionaires. What happened to caring for the poor and unfortunate?

PZ Myers posts on Senator Charles Grassley’s investigation into megachurches. One profiled Bishop, Eddie Long who pastors a megachurch in Lithonia, Georgia, has an annual salary nearing $1,000,000, owns a lavish mansion, and drives a $350,000 Bentley. Long defends his luxurious lifestyle by insisting “I pastor a multimillion dollar congregation. You’ve got to put me on a different scale then the little black preacher sitting over there that’s supposed to be just getting by because the people are suffering.” Wow. For someone who is supposed to be a high representative of Christ, he’s acting pretty un-Christian-like by living in the greatest luxury while billions languish. And why not a throw a little racism in there while you’re at it, huh? Oh, sorry, it’s not racism because Long is black.

I’m not a Christian and am by no means a Christian scholar, but the fact that many of the highest religious leaders are living like this while many in the masses are living in despair, and the fact that they are enabled to live like this by their thousands or millions of followers seems to say something. Within the masses of the faithful, there is a subsection of so-called fundamentalists. Why are the fundamentalists allowing these leaders to live such lavish lives? And why are so many fundamentalist leaders living these lives? If these people were truly fundamentalists, this situation would not be happening. No fundamentalist would live in luxury or allow another fundamentalist to do so without scorning them as if they were a homosexual.

Some atheists say that in a way, they have more respect for the fundamentalist because the fundamentalist is more honest in their reading of the scripture. But are they? They judge, contrary to judge not lest thee be judged. Many seem perfectly willing to allow others to languish even if they are living beyond their means.

Why are the so-called fundamentalists the way they are?

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42 Responses to “Megachurch Millionaires. What happened to caring for the poor and unfortunate?”
  1. PB and J says:

    wow!!!

    yes, very sad that these men are claiming to follow the impoverished Christ, but live in luxury.

    they claim to forsake all their wealth to follow the Messiah and yet they hoard up their wealth on earth. its gonna be sad for them, for they will reap what they sow.

    peter

    • Problem Solver says:

      wow!!! Maybe it’s time to read the Bible and ask the Holy spirit to guide us when we read. My understanding is if Yeshua was impoverished why did he need a treasurer? Who supportrd the decipeles on there travels. Why did Yeshua come to earth in the first place… To give us life and life more abundintly and so on…

  2. Xander Legere says:

    This preacher must have missed the bible study class on “Priestly Teachings”. Practice what you preach? Walk among the people, if you are one of the people? Try not to bash people who are living correctly to try justifying an unjustifiably luxurious lifestyle?

    Whatever, its priceless.

  3. ronbrown says:

    “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”-Orwell.

  4. starbirdcanada says:

    I am a former Pentecostal minister, that walked away from Evangelical Christianity after 24 years. These people (Benny Hinn, the aptly named Creflo Dollar, Joyce Myers, Kenneth Copeland and others) are insipid crooks bilking the poor, sick and aged out of what money they have with the promise of a divine payout. It is sick, disgusting, and nothing like what Jesus taught. I think he was more concerned about the poor and outcast, that these bastards shun. I say that these churches should be forced to disclose ALL financial dealings and be forced to pay taxes. In reality they are nothing more that a business disguised as a church.

  5. The televangelists are not holding a gun to anyone’s head. If people are stupid enough to send them money, then I say great. Why did God make fluffy sheep, if not to be shorn?

  6. charden says:

    Mr. Brown, you are absolutely right in what you said about preachers living in the lap of luxury. For the sake of time, I suggest you obtain a copy of the movie “Jesus of Nazareth” and compare Jesus’ lifestyle with what is going on in today’s world. Also pay close attention to the proud, arrogant robed men. I am a Christian. I would never want to go back to the person I was before I asked Jesus to save me. When I did, a miracle occurred. My heart was changed, my life was changed. The Bible says in effect that these people are having their reward now. There will be no reward for them in eternity. They will reap what they sow.The Bible does not approve of this lifestyle. Much to the contrary, it states that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Go check that out. The Bible is fascinating. No one reads it anymore. They just pick out what they can twist up to suit their needs not even seeing the truth it holds that is more than relevant for today.

  7. ronbrown says:

    Charden: While, as you may have gathered, I don’t personally have much appreciation for religion, I would be happy to live in a world full of people like you.

    I’m reading the Bible right now—starting with the OT…. Eventually I’ll get to the NT.

    Buddhism seems to have a lot to offer, too, in terms of promoting compassion, selflessness and wisdom. While I will not subscribe to any Buddhist faith claims, I am very receptive to its wonderful non-faith-based philosophies and practices.

  8. YCS says:

    Jesus died poor for us to live rich. Christians are meant to be rich, so these pastors are merely being role models here. Being rich and helping the poor comes together. After all, the poor cannot help the poor. Only the rich can. The Vow Of Poverty is invented by religion, not God.

    Feel free to visit my blog for more proofs.

    • Arcadio says:

      Man you must be one of this pastor, because have got it all wrong. Tell Me wich of you is helping the poor, when one of you give somthing is to get more back, you will never be satisfied with what you already have, because you to greedy, and you think that when you die you are going to take qwhat you have with you. A nonbeliever is more closer to God than you are with your way of interpreting the word of os, if it is that read it, because the way I see you put it, I don’t think you read the Bible at all.

  9. ronbrown says:

    How wonderful a justification for one to drive a Bentley while many across town fetter away 10% of their income to help pay for that Bentley while they struggle to pay their rent.

    You seem to be looking at this from the perspective of a person living in a society where most rich people don’t help the poor to anywhere near the greatest of their ability. A person who makes a lot of money could certainly give most of that money away and live poor while making lots of money. I’m not saying that wealthy people should be obligated to do so, but it seems ridiculous that a Christian leader would live in such excessive luxury—much of which comes at the expense of poor congregation members.

    Nevertheless, I don’t doubt that you could quote-mine your Bible to find justifications to support your argument.

    But wait, how do we know what was invented by religion versus God? If it says it in the Bible it *must* be true, right? Lucky for us, the Bible seems to be inconsistent enough for people to justify all sorts of contradictory things.

    And just as the vow of poverty was invented by religion, a dispassionate rational analysis would show that so, too, is God.

  10. derrick says:

    god requires that we pay 10% of our total income to the body of christ. the pastor recieves 10% of which all the church collects, and the other ninety percent is used for the advancment of the church, saving souls, and to help the needy etc…….so if a church collects 1.2 million anually, the pastor recieves $120,000…..now if the church collects $600,000 annually, the pastor recieves $60,000……if what the church collects, is not enough to support itself, the pastor would not be able to collect 10%…….if the church is able to support itself and the pastor is able to recieve his 10%, no matter how much it is, who are we to say that it is wrong?????

    • Arcadio says:

      Tell Me where in the new testamen you reed this, because I don’t see this in the Bible that I read. And another thing, if a pastor reseive 10 so much money is no he supposed to give a big part of that money to the people that are in need, like Jesuschist did. You must be a pastor to talk the way you do, or mabe you are one of thoes that have been brainwash by one of thoes crooks, or maybe you are one of their drivers, or one of their family members, you can not be a real biliever you must be one more of thoes religious guys that only read from the Bible what is of your own interest.

  11. ronbrown says:

    I’m not saying that we should say it’s wrong. But I am saying that this pastor doesn’t seem to be the greatest ambassador for Christ if he feels comfortable living in excessive wealth—having more wealth than probably 99.9999999999% of the people who have ever lived—while so many people in the world, including many of his own congregation members (who help make him rich) are struggling to get by (or worse).

  12. derrick says:

    is a multi-millionaire pastor supposed to forsake all his fortunes to do gods will?????? or is he supposed to pay the rent of his congregation…..if so would’nt he be they’re source, and not god……god never said that we should all live with the same riches, however, he does’nt want his children impoverished either……

  13. ronbrown says:

    Are these absurdly wealthy congregation leaders really representing their faith well when they are driving in 350 K Bentleys while so many are barely scraping by, or worse(including so many of their own congregation members who pay a portion of their income to the church and thus to the leader)?

    If he really heeded the words of Jesus, why not just have an annual salary of 30-40 K plus business expenses (e.g., travel and communication expenses). This would be quite sufficient to live a modest life. Of all the ways that Jesus, *if* he were real and was actually the son of God, would have imagined the future leaders of his legions of devout followers, I doubt he would have imagined them becoming excessively wealthy while a huge proportion of the world lived in poverty, disease was rampant in many parts of the world, etc.

  14. Duke Nelson says:

    A regulated salary with a cap is a good idea. But let’s not forget most of these ministers income also come from their own work such as books, dvd’s, cd’s and some even have movie deals. All of there money should not be put into the same pot. But I can not digest the fact that many ministers live totally off church offerings, and tithes and live well. While, on the flip side the one’s doing the giving are on fixed income, barely feeding their families, struggling to get to church because of the price of gas and no automobile to make it to church to give to the ministry and or minister who is living well. Only If the real truth about Tithes was taughted.

    The only part preached to the people is the giving of tithes to God. God dont recieve tithes man does. Man should manage it, to share and take care of the people in and through the love of God, that is what it means to give to God. To give to the service of love which is through God.
    Tithes is so exploited in the churches today. If you read the whole system of tithes in the bible you will find that only one tribe of people were to collect the tribes. And that was the Levites tribe a priest tribe. They were managers and keeper and distributors of tithes…sheep, cattle, crops etc. Don’t know any Levites today. So we all should give according to our hearts.

    Even in the tithes ordinance God allow families to plunder so often in a tenth of what they produced. Dont see any churches with that establish. At least God gave you a break to enjoy your labor.

    • Arcadio says:

      In the end, we don’t need more books we have the best book in the Bible. You are always saing, that the only book we should read is the Bible, because is the true word of God, then you read something fron it, and then you go and write a book about what you read, and then you gon and tell the believers that your book is going to help them to save their souls. Tell Me then, wich is the right book, the Bible wich is the real word of God, or your book that is writen bfrom something that you reeed from Bible.
      When Jesus told the rich man to sell all of what he had to give it to the poor, to be save, he godt bery sad and wolked away, and the apostles told Jesus that his word were to harsh, and Jesus said to the apostles, do want to do want to do the same?.

      So I don’t know, where you get this, about that Jesus died poor for us to be rich, is everi-budy rich today? are all the believers rich today?, I only know about a bunch of them, and this is because they are the greedy ones, the ones that believe that when they died, they are going to take with them what thay take from the poor.

      You know, this people that do this thing, is not way they are going to enajoy what they have, they will get something before they diead, that they will wich to give up what they have to live and they will not be able to du just that, and if they don’t diead die from a disease, so they can repent before they go, they will go stray to hell.

      So take My word, take some of the money that you already have a give it to the poor, before you diead and burn in hell, like many others already did.

  15. derrick says:

    is it possible to be modest and live your life to the fullest at the same time….the church is also to help the needy through foodbanks, clothing ministries…..their income is also based on the services they offer to members…..many men within the bible, strong men of god, had riches…..i may not be the best christian, but one thing i do is pay my tithes…..its what god wants from, and i don’t make a lot of money…..i have everything i need, and can have everything i want, obdeince and faith….

  16. Colin says:

    I’m with you on this one, Ron.

    • Arcadio says:

      Tell Me where in the new testament, you read anything about tides. You are taking something fro the old testament, to become rich, and said you, becasue I am sure that you are one of this guys that is using the word of god to make money. I am seen you like if you were right here with Me, you are some ome of this guys, you and derrick are some of this crooks, a nonebiliever is closer to God than you two guys are, you should be ashame of yourselves.

  17. Mark says:

    Pastors should not live in luxury off the contributions of their flock. Personally, I think its wrong for CEOs of megacorporations, college coaches, movie stars, and other to make multi-million dollar standards, but those professions don’t call them to follow the teachings of Jesus.

    “Fundamentalism is more honest . . .”

    If by honest you mean unhistorical. I have a degree in classics: Greek and Latin literature. I love Homer and his insight into human nature, but I don’t glorify war, and I don’t believe that when a nation goes to war captive women and innocent cities along the way are fair game. I admire Athenian democracy, but I understand how severely limited the franchise was–to free, property-owning male citizens.

    The roots of our democratic ideals are more in the Old Testament because the idea of human freedom and rights flourished there in a group of oppressed slaves who threw off their chains, rather than from the aristocracy. But you have to be willing to read the Old Testament historically–the same way I read the Greek classics–to see that.

  18. Charles says:

    I used to believe and listen to these clowns before the truth woke me up and opened my eyes. These prosperity preachers are nothing more than sheep that are disguised as sheep. They have been allowed to hussle the people of God for too long and it is time to stop being silienced by the voices of political correctness and speak the truth.

  19. Stoobs says:

    Sheep disguised as sheep? Cunning…

  20. professional says:

    Hello. I think you are eactly thinking like Sukrat. I really loved the post.

  21. Jersey Jackson says:

    The Bible says that Jesus became poor, so that His followers might become rich. Rich in every area of their lives. That is why the Gospel of Jesus Christ is so awesome. The sick can be healed, the dead raised, the blind made to see, the deaf made to hear, the dumb to speak, and more… This man is a pastor and apparently a real good one, to have the following that he has. He needs to be rich, so that he can devote himself to his church and congregation fully focused. God is a King, with a kingdom. Have you heard of any broke and busted Kings??????
    Instead of finding fault with men, give your life to Jesus Christ and see just how grand and gloriously God takes care of his own.

    • Arcadio says:

      Tell Me this you that know so much about Our Lord Jesus, are all the believers rich. You are no reading the word of God, you are reading the word of the greedy ones, the ones that think that money is everything that count in this world. Yo are a pastor and of this I am sure, this is why you are such in favor of pastors been rich, you are one of thoes, that should change the way of thinking before your time to go and faced our Lord Jesus.

  22. Michael says:

    YCS & Jersey Jackson,

    You totally miss the point. How sad.

  23. thomas says:

    Me and a friend did a small job for a church.
    the pastor shorted us on our hours. my friend was extremely poor and dying of cancer. He died, I miss my friend. I’ll not do another job for that pastor. We had given him a GREAT deal for the amount of work we did. and still got shorted. He now makes money off of ours and others work.

  24. voiceofreason says:

    What is appaling about this blog and the agreement with the premise of the author is that it totally and unfairly punishes a segment of our society for success. A rapper whose lyrics glorify violence and relegate women to trophy status is idolized for living in conditions that a preacher is condemned for. We expect to be rewarded for our own successes in life and we cry out when there is unfair treatment of those who work hard to achieve success in life are now rewarded and we want to tar and feather a preacher who is rewarded for his success. Do we for one moment stop and consider why people are poor? Could it be that some of them are taking needed resources and supporting the rappers or athletes or shoe companies? Dont act like it doesnt happen because it does. And what have you done to help the poor. It’s easy to feign indignation for the lifestyle of a preacher who you perceive is at the suffering of another but before you point that finger, you need to look at what is coming back at you. And get real, there are very few of you who have a negative view of a successful pastor who wouldnt trade places with him in a heartbeat. Do your part first and then criticize those who in your eyes are not doing their part.

    • Arcadio says:

      Two wrong will not make one right. So because a crook get rich a pastor should be rich. The crook goes by the devle’s tiching, a psator shoul go by God’s tiching, and I don’t see where you read, that a Pastor becomes a Pastor to live like a King. You guys are Pastors and this is why you are defending all of this wrong tiching, you are more lost than the nonebelievers.

  25. voiceofreason says:

    Ron, do you know Eddie Long or any of the other megachurch millionaires as you call them? You have an idea of how much they make, but I would like to see your statistics on how much they do give away. You see, that’s the problem with the majority of our society, we have such a knee-jerk reaction to the first thing that we hear without all of the facts being known. Povery is not just a church problem, poverty is a world problem, therefore the world’s responsibility to take care of it. Jesus said that the poor shall be with you always but he did not define who the poor would be. There is a segment of poor people who deserve all of out attention and then there are some who are poor of their own making who need to be confronted with the errors of their ways. If you are set on castigating preachers who live in luxury, then castigate all who live in luxury. You are admitedly not a christian or a bible scholar so you are in no position at all to judge the conduct of those who represent christianity. If are truly so concerned about what you perceive as missuse of church funds, why dont you just get saved so you can keep a watchful eye on the collection plate and then base your views on what you know first hand and not on what you hear in the news or from those disgruntled people who for the most part dont give themselves but complain about where the money is going. Do you know that there are some very well to do preachers who give away 90% of their income? I do and not from what they tell me but from what I know for fact. There are many in the body of christ and preachers in particularly preachers who have taken the 90% tithing position in order to facilitate the church’s ability to take of of many societal needs and they live in what is consideded luxury. Are they supposed to move out of their mansions because you and others dont think that they should live in them? What do you want them to do, give away everything while most of those who judge them without all of the facts give away nothing but negative opinions? What do you do with all of those people who squander 100% of their income on drugs, and partying, and clothes, etc. and all of these poor people are in our midst. I believe that your time would be better spent Ron, if you went after all of those people who are not doing anything, than you are by going after those who are doing something. Who are we to set the living standards of another just because of their professions?

  26. Pastor Peter Simbi says:

    I am here to inform you that we are caring of the vulnerable elderly people ofwhich are looking for much help and on our own we are not succeeding. So its our requst for your assistance. Some of the problems we are facing are: we bought a place to construct a church but we are failing due to financial problems and this place is situated in the Capital city Lilongwe here in Malawi.

    Thank you so much

  27. Michael says:

    I don’t have a problem with pastors making a decent wage. What I DO have a problem with is those that are bilking millions from the elderly, sick and poor, with their Televangelism scams. Then they fly around in their private jets, staying in Presidential suites at upscale hotels. That is a complete waste of money. Yes, I’m thinking of Benny “The Hair-do” Hinn, and Creflo “Mega-bucks” Dollar.

  28. Brutaltruth says:

    Ron Brown sure has a lot to say about God and the bible for being a person who does not believe ! I dont believe in pixies and santaclause but i dont spend as much time as Ron Brown does talking against something I dont even believe in. Its a shame that you let the true hypocrites and crooks of Chirstianity rob you of the truth about God and eternity ! Just remember Ron Brown, when God asks you to give an account of what you did with his free gift to you, its not going to be a good enough excuse to point at the hypocrites and blame them for your lack of beliefe. To find God you must humble yourself first, Then he will show you the truth. Dont spend eternity away from God just because you didnt want to humble yourself !!

  29. inspired says:

    megachurches are cults in disguise.

  30. Michael says:

    Brutaltruth:
    Prove to me that your God exists.

  31. jimbo says:

    Okay, just to shed a little light on the subject. I actually work for a church and in my opinion, the church is the one of the largest wasters of resources that exists in the world. I didn’t always used to believe that. There was a time that I thought the church did the greatest social good, but I can longer ascribe to that idea. I won’t divulge all the details, but I work for a large church and handle the business matters for it (and I am looking a new job, btw…). You know how much of our budget goes toward helping the community, (i.e. social good works like helping the poor and destitute)? Less then 1 percent. I am not even joking. 60 percent goes toward salaries. 20 percent goes toward missions and the rest is spent on resources to keep spreading the Christian fairy tale. And guess what? That’s how most churches structure their budgets (Expect the Catholic Church – I am speaking for most autonomous evangelical churches). People who think that Jesus of Nazareth would be a proponent of that type of lifestyle need to read some historical scholarly books about who he really was (that is…if he existed at all). If he did exist, he certainly was not a proponent of the rich. What these institutions really are are simply businesses that indoctrinate the ignorant and ill informed and then live off of their financial resources. That’s it. 99 percent of people I know who are fundamentalists btw don’t have a clue about church history or have ever bothered to read real, reputable scholarly accounts of the christian faith or the bible. If they did, they would be shocked to learn how much of this stuff is complete hocus pocus. That is, of course, if they were actually willing to take an honest look at their faith. But, most won’t, so the cycle just continues to perpetuate itself.

  32. RB says:

    Jimbo:

    Thanks for writing.

    Quick question: Do you have a blog? There’s a blog that I visited and commented at a few months ago which is run by a person who is in a situation much like you describe yours as – where he works for a church, but went from being an agnostic to someone who flat out has no confidence in the church’s beliefs, but has to keep himself closeted as he would almost surely lose his job should be come out with his disbelief.

    Second: Regarding the allocation of church funds, aren’t missions themselves geared primarily toward serving the less fortunate?

    I’d like to know more about these salaries. What’s the pay like at these places? I never thought of a church as a place you worked because you wanted to make good money. I thought the thing with working for a church is that, similar to (genuine) nonprofits and charities and what not, you do the work because you are passionate about what you’re doing. You often work harder for less money, but you feel privileged to do it, because you have the good fortune of being able to help a cause that is deeply important to as your day job. I’m a member of the Freethought Association of Canada and the Center For Inquiry, prominent Canadian and international rationalist/nontheist/secularist/humanist organizations, respectively. At these organizations, most of the people who work there are volunteers and the few paid employees work hard for wages that are far from impressive. And guess what, they’re grateful for the opportunity. In fact, everyone of the paid employees spent a few years working hard as volunteers before they got the paid job. And they would have continued volunteering had the paid job never become available. That wasn’t what they were there for. They wanted to help. Money just enabled them to make something that was very important to them a far bigger part of their lives.

    But I guess once money becomes highly available, it becomes very easy to rationalize pay increases which set new standards of what is normal and thereby create great aversion to decreasing pay, while also setting a precedent for increasing pay in other ways – e.g., performance incentives, regular pay raises, pay for over time, regular pay increases to always stay on pace or ahead of inflation and cost of living, etc. The intrinsic-extrinsic motivation balance becomes shifted away from altruism. I could see this also leading to less total work being done and less “going the extra mile” as people come to see it more as work for pay rather than the privilege of serving the greatest cause you know.

  33. Pastor Frank Antwi says:

    Please can you offer some financial help to my poor needy village church.

  34. My name is Roy wilkerson I have my own testimony on YouTube that is in total agreement with you my friend thank you and be blessed.

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