I’m writing this post in response to the many calls and emails I’m getting from current members and leaders at a church here in suburban Atlanta. At the request of many, I’ll further explore the consequences of what happens when the Word of God is dwarfed by the pursuit of earthly riches and influence.
The church in question is relatively young (they’ve only been around for less than 7 years), yet they’ve racked up quite a few accomplishments:
- The church boasts a membership of over 12,000 members
- The pastor drives a Bentley and recently moved into an (almost) million dollar home
- The pastor has a phalanx of security personnel that watch his every move – from greeting him at the front door to clearing his path as he walks
- The church recently moved into a new double-digit multi-million dollar “worship facility and campus”
- The church streams their worship services live across the globe via Streaming Faith
With all of that happening, you would think that the church was on cloud nine, right?
Well, not so fast. Since the pastor of this church is a “spiritual son” of Eddie Long, you have to expect “the other shoe” to drop at some point, and that point is…now.
Problem #1 – He’s demanding submission to his authority:
While the pastor started out teaching from a sound biblical and doctrinal perspective in the early days, he got off track several years ago, and it’s beginning to alienate his followers. He’s demanding loyalty by submission to his “apostolic and prophetic anointing” while he insulates himself with layers of people instead of being accessible to the sheep. Even the first line of the church’s “Givers Confession” asks God to grant blessings to the sheep while they “support the vision and the visionary”.
Problem #2 – He’s ignoring the economic ailments of his congregation:
The pastor is a proponent and teacher of the false doctrine of tithing, love offering, first fruit, and any other money-making scheme at work in churches today. He’s keenly aware of the disappearing middle class within his church, yet that doesn’t stop him from demanding the sheep to “sow into God’s system despite what they see”.
Membership is down…way down (you can see row upon row of empty seats via the Streaming Faith feed on any given Sunday or Wednesday), which means giving is down also. All this doesn’t bode well for a congregation with a brand new double-digit multi-million dollar building. Did anyone stop to think that expenses would quadruple since this facility is 4+ times larger than the old facility?
Recently, the pastor acknowledged the decrease in revenue and asked (from the pulpit) that everyone bring an offering to the alter. On the surface you might assume that this is a “spiritual admonition” to demonstrate faith in God by bringing your “seed” to the alter yourself.
The reality is that this is yet another intimidation tactict that guilts the giver into coming to the alter because they don’t want to appear to be “disobedient” while everyone else around then brings their dough to the stage – while the pastor is looking at them sitting in their seat!
Even still, some of the braver sheep sat stoically in defiance, which prompted the pastor to intone:
“Some of you are being disobedient to God by either not giving or not giving enough. At the sound of my voice, obey the Holy Spirit and bring your seed to the alter. Move…Move…Move…Come On…Come On…Come On…That’s it…That’s it….Move…”
Problem #3- He’s emulating his “spiritual father” by disallowing local viewers to watch live services via Streaming Faith:
Last year, Eddie Long started to see a dip in his church’s revenues and (rightly) assumed that too many local people were watching his services via the Internet as opposed to visiting the church – and bringing an offering. So, he decided to cut live feeds to his services via Streaming Faith so that locals would have to visit to hear him live. He later reneged due to fallout from local viewers, but the point had been made – they’re more likely to get a “seed” from you if you’re in the building when the “anointing hits”.
Fast forward to yesterday (May 11, 2008). Local viewers logged in to Streaming Faith to see this pastor (Eddie’s “spiritual son”) twist scripture. Instead, viewers saw a video of the pastor describing how the Holy Spirit revealed to him that it was time to cut the church’s local video feed – oh, and the Holy Spirit wanted viewers from surrounding counties to come to the new double-digit multi-million dollar facility so that they could see God move in person!
Yup, sounds like the money woes are true.
The Apostle Peter masterfully described the role of an elder (pastor) in the local assembly – does the leadership at this church even remotely resemble it?:
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post – I get calls and emails every week from current members of this church, independently corroborating one bad thing after another.
I’ll tell you the same thing that I tell them: unless you’re speaking out against these practices while in the assembly, or you’re attempting to meet with the pastor (as the Lord leads) to discuss how off course he is, then you should pray for courage to leave the presence of this ignorance.
Pray for this pastor and this congregation – that God through the Holy Spirit would bring to remembrance the worthiness of his call (Colossians 1:9-12), and that he would tend to the sheep in his care.
Pray also that the sheep would hear the voice of God (John 10:27-28), and heed accordingly – even if it means to labor on this plantation even longer in order to warn others.