The picture above is a snapshot of some of the key characters in HBO’s award winning series “The Sopranos” – a drama series about the mafia. We see Tony Soprano and a few of his “enforcers” (or captains).
If you’re a member of a black mega church today, then you might as well substitute these characters with pictures of your Pastor, Elders, Ministers, and Deacons. They too take on the role of “enforcers” to help the “boss” keep you in line.
To the outsider, it’s absurd to even try to parallel life in the mafia with life in the mega church today. If you’ve “escaped” a mega church, then you know all to well how these two entities can be confused with one another. It may not sound polite to say, but the reality is this: the leadership in most mega churches operate like the mafia.
Take a look at a few of the parallels:
These days, there is a single authority in the church – and it’s not Jesus Christ. The Pastor has become the lone leader. Just like the mafia boss, he rules from the top down – not the bottom up.
He doesn’t like independent thought or dissension. He doesn’t like to speak with you directly – he’ll send an emissary to tell you if he’s pleased or dissatisfied with your work.
He doesn’t want to have his fingerprints on any “controversial” decisions, so he assigns some of his “captains” (or Elders, Ministers, or Deacons) as decision makers to insulate himself from any fallout – and his “captains” will gladly fall on their swords on his behalf.
The Oath of Loyalty
In the mafia, it’s called the omerta’. In the church, it’s called “submitting to authority” or “submitting to your covering”. Either way, it’s all the same – there is both an implied and expressly sanctioned code of silence. In the mafia, “made men” (or loyal members who ascend to leadership) swear allegiance to the boss and swiftly punish anyone that dares to speak of what happens behind closed doors.
In the church, Deacons or Ministers in training (or loyal members who are about to ascend to leadership) often swear that same allegiance and oath of silence. Secrecy and confidentiality is taught and expected.
When I was in training for ordained leadership, I was expressly told “don’t share any of this with your wife”, or “this is not pillow talk, this is highly confidential information”. Our names were kept confidential and we met in private. We were even told to directly deny if someone inquired about our participation in the training programs.
You would think we were becoming Masons or something similar. Of course, this runs completely counter to scripture (John 7:4):
“For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.”
Mafia captains are required to share a percentage of their “spoils” (money they collect by “taxing” local business for protection) with the boss.
Church leaders (and members) are intimidated into paying tithes, offerings, love offerings, first fruit and any other contrived “offering” to the “man of God” to show your appreciation to him for his “work in the Lord”.
Leaders are chosen based on their giving records. Consistent givers are rewarded with luncheons and lapel pins.
Mafia bosses reward their potential captains with promotion after witnessing the potential’s ability to “earn” and solve problems.
Pastors promote those in ministry for many of the same reasons. If you’re a good giver, then you’ll be a good deacon or minister. If you can keep “problems” away from the pastor, then you’re marked for promotion.
Many church leaders will throw each other “under the bus” if they think that the pastor will reward their loyalty. I’ve know many minstry leaders in mega churches who were promoted when they exposed someone who may not be “towing the company line” like they would do if they were in that same position.
“You’re Dead To Me”!
In the mafia, dissenters are considered enemies and disposed of at the word of the boss. In fact, they are never spoken of again, almost as though they never existed.
In the church, if you leave the fellowship, you are officially dead. If you leave some of your family behind, then they are encouraged to shun you. “The devil is using them” and “they’re being swayed by outside influence” they’re told. You’re even ridiculed for leaving your “covering” (learn more about the faux “spiritual father” and “covering” scam).
Before I fled the plantation, there had been several leaders who left before me. One even formed his own church and was ordained as a Pastor. My ministry colleagues and I were expressly forbidden to attend the ordination service of our former colleague – if we went then we would be sat down…no questions asked.
One of us defied the order and attended the ordination in support of our friend. He was summarily sat down without so much as a meeting from the boss – he left the assembly soon after.
His attempts to reach out to some of our ministry colleagues were thwarted and rebuffed. As I’ve said on previous posts, I’ve had to repent to the Lord for such blatant foolishness – especially in this regard.
Mafia bosses display their wealth in order to encourage their captains to “earn” (i.e extort) more so that they too can live like the boss. Church bosses display their wealth to “brag on God” and show you that their pyramid schemes actually work and God is blessing them with Bentley’s, mansions, jewelry, etc.
The pastor uses his wealth just like the mafia boss does – to encourage our lust of the flesh so that we’ll do what it takes to live the same lifestyle.
This is just a short list of similarities. If you’re a former mega churcher, then I’m sure you could go deeper (feel free to comment if you’d like to expose your former boss to the world). This simply illustrates how much more prayer is needed in order for the people of God to know what the wolves look like, recognize their games, and avoid them at all costs.
Paul exhorted the elders whom he sent to preach the Gospel to remember the humilty with which he ministered – and that he didn’t preach to them for money or things. He reminded them that they were to guard against the wolves that would seek to destroy the faithful, and he commended them to the grace of God.
25“And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about (A)preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face.
26“Therefore, I testify to you this day that (B)I am innocent of the blood of all men.
30and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away (J)the disciples after them.
33“(Q)I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes.
35“In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
36When he had said these things, he (T)knelt down and prayed with them all. (Acts 20:25-36)
Seek God and His righteousness. Read the bible. Study what you don’t understand, and fellowship with a bible-based assembly (I know it’s tough, but they are out there). There’s so much more work that has to be done.