By David J. Stewart
I recently visited a church in my area. I enjoyed the pretty music and the atmosphere in general. However, they had a guest missionary speaker the Sunday night I visited and he was really pushing for donations. He announced that beginning in a couple weeks the church was going to sponsor a week-long “missions conference,” and said that the people of the church would have to “dig deep” and “give sacrificially” in order that the people of the Philippines might be reached for God. He laid a heavy financial burden upon the church members and said that despite their previous donations, now was the time to give sacrificially like never before for the work of the Lord.
As I sat listening to the preacher, I looked at their schedule for upcoming events and noticed a planned two-week “TRIP TO ISRAEL” that the pastor, his wife, friends and wealthy church members were going to take. At that point I pondered the woeful hypocrisy of what the missionary guest preacher was saying. If reaching the lost in the Philippines is so important, and it certainly is, then why is the church spending tens-of-thousands of dollars for a HOLY LAND TRIP?
Sad, but true, the average church nowadays is nothing more than a lucrative business, where the pastor and his staff enjoy new vehicles, routine vacations and live high-on-the-hog, at a lifestyle that few people in the congregation could enjoy. It's just plain wrong. I mean, if your church wants to take a trip to the Holy Land, fine, but don't turn around and hound your congregation for money, making them feel guilty for not “giving sacrificially” to missions. It's utter hypocrisy!
I am of the opinion that a pastor and his staff ought to live what they preach. If you want your people to “Give until it hurts,” then you cancel your Holy Land vacation and use that money for mission work instead. In most cases, the people that are expected to give sacrificially aren't the one's going on vacation to the Holy Land. Something is wrong with America's churches today, where pastors dress, eat, travel and live like the elite, at the expense of the blue-collar working man. Call me what you will, I'm just calling it as I see it.
Many pastors today want to have the best of both worlds, i.e., money for church projects and trips to the Holy Land, and then they also want to support mission's work, and they expect the people in the church to “give until it hurts,” throwing 2nd Corinthians 9:6-8 and Luke 6:38 in their faces. Most people have no choice but to prioritize their spending, because they only receive so much money from their paycheck; but pastors can unfairly hound their people for more and more money, unethically pressuring them with the Scriptures and accusing them of lacking love if they don't give more money. That's just plain rotten in my opinion. So many pastors take unfair advantage of their congregation.
You should have heard this guy, i.e., the guest missionary speaker. Money, money, money! The assistant pastor was sitting right behind him listening. The pastor was on a “business trip” at the time of the sermon I heard. So he's coming back from one vacation just to go on another to the Holy Land. It's really sad. And then at tax-time they write-it-off as a “business expense.”
Honestly, I just wish Christians would open their eyes and start questioning the ministries they support. Please understand that my purpose is not to criticize America's preachers, not at all. Thank God for all the faithful preachers and pastors out there! However, if your pastor and his family and friends can afford a trip to Israel, then don't you empty your pockets when he begs for money for other things, such as missions. Who's kidding who?
Isaiah 56:11, “Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.”
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