Partially Penitent Pastors - Updates on the Seemingly Endless Driscoll and Furtick Sagas 4/1/2014
Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle and Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church in Charlotte cannot seem to get the controversies they are embroiled in out of the headlines. Still, some of the recent news surrounding these two troubled pastors has reflected a degree of penitence on their part. Unfortunately, the progress made has been significantly less than we would have hoped for and has been accompanied by additional troubling revelations. From the perspective of World Magazine editor Marvin Olasky, these latest developments have capped off what he refers to as "the Second Great Embarrassment". This is a sideways reference to the First and Second Great Awakening, two periods of great spiritual growth in the United States. In Olasky's view, the First Great Embarrassment can be traced to the damage to the church brought on by the Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggert scandals. The Second Great Embarrassment, in his view, began with Ted Haggard's fall from grace in 2006 and has continued more recently with a seeming avalanche of unfortunate circumstances in ministries ranging from Bill Gotthard and Doug Philips to Driscoll and Furtick.
You Ask, We Answer - St. Matthew's Churches Are Despicable Con Artists Preying on the Elderly 4/1/2014
When we asked for your ideas about what we should look into in 2014, MinistryWatch.com was asked by one reader about a ministry which now goes by the name of Saint Matthew's Churches. We can unfortunately confirm our reader was correct to be very concerned about this group. It is run by a sketchy individual named James Ewing who has used his experience as a direct mail fund raiser to bilk what likely amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars over many years from primarily elderly recipients of his highly emotional pleas for donations, promising answered prayers in return. Ewing apparently lives the high life in Beverly Hills, CA while fleecing the elderly with promises he knows are false. While the IRS was able to overcome Ewing after years of legal battles in the early 1990s and remove his charitable designation, Ewing simply reformed his organization as a church, where it is much more difficult for the IRS to withhold its charitable designation. From what we can tell, the organization actually acquired two churches in order to justify its claim that it is an actual church. Still, it is really just a post office box located in Tulsa, Oklahoma collecting cash from unsuspecting and naïve donors. If you have an elderly relative, be on the lookout for mailings from Saint Matthew's Churches and do your best to explain to them that this organization is essentially a fraud stealing money from them.
Bishop Bling Formally Fired by Pope Francis 4/1/2014
The so-called Bishop Bling, a German Catholic Bishop who we highlighted late last year for spending an incredible $43 million of church money on renovations to his housing complex in Limburg Germany, was permanently removed from his post last week by Pope Francis. He had offered his resignation in October 2013 and has been under investigation by the Vatican ever since. The issue was particularly sensitive in Germany since citizens pay a church tax which is used to support the country's churches. The Associated Press reported he will be replaced by Bishop Manfred Grothe, who stated Bishop Bling (whose real name is Monsignor Franz-Peter Tebartz van Elst) will be given another position "at the opportune time". It will be interesting to see where Bishop Bling lands and whether he has learned from his downfall. Indications are he has at least figured out Pope Francis is focusing on helping the poor, given he sat in the economy section of the airplane he took to Rome to try to explain his actions to the Vatican.
Answers in Genesis' Ark Park Finally Moving Forward Thanks in Part to Atheist Bill Nye the Science Guy 3/7/2014
For several years Ken Ham, founder of Answers in Genesis, a ministry devoted to teaching Creationism, has been seeking tens of millions of dollars in funding in order to begin construction of a theme park centered around a life size version of Noah's Ark. Due to the large amount of money the ministry needed to begin construction as well as difficult economic conditions negatively impacting the ability of donors/investors to provide funding in recent years, construction of the "Ark Park" has been repeatedly delayed. The frustrations Answers in Genesis leaders must have felt were quickly swept away, however, after Ken Ham engaged well known atheist Bill Nye "the Science Guy" of PBS fame in a public debate which was purportedly seen by millions over the internet. While many opinions were expressed over who actually won the debate, one thing became clear very quickly - the publicity surrounding the debate coalesced interest in funding the "Ark Park" much better than any other fundraising effort the ministry had undertaken in previous years. Having been privy to the original plans for the park, we are confident it will be a worthwhile and impressive attraction once it has been completed.
Bill Gothard Resigns After Being Forced to Take Administrative Leave from the Institute of Basic Life Principles in Wake of Multiple Claims of Sexual Harassment and Abuse 3/7/2014
World Magazine broke a story last week that the board of directors of the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP) had forced its founder, Bill Gothard, to take administrative leave from his positions at the ministry and the associated home schooling program run by the ministry, the Advanced Training Institute (ATI), due to allegations of sexual harassment by as many as 34 women, including four cases of alleged sexual abuse. Yesterday, Gothard submitted his resignation from all of his positions with the ministry. The allegations were made via testimonies of often teenage women who worked at IBLP many years ago via a website called RecoveringGrace.org. The website is dedicated to helping individuals and families who have been harmed by IBLP's often legalistic teachings. Anyone who was or is closely associated with IBLP or ATI should make it a point to visit the RecoveringGrace.org website. We have been impressed with the manner in which this site has operated given the harm done to many and the raw emotions associated with that. IBLP's board, in a statement, promised a full investigation and appropriate reaction to the findings of their investigation. Now that Gothard has resigned, it is not clear how the board will proceed.
More Pastor Problems - Driscoll, Furtick and South Korea 3/7/2014
Unfortunately, dubious behavior by prominent pastors has again been in the news recently. Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle apparently went to questionable lengths to have a recent book of his make the New York Times best sellers list. According to documents obtained by World, Driscoll spent over $200,000 to hire and fund a firm that arranged a complex plan to make it appear that Driscoll's book sales were large enough to merit a one week inclusion on the New York Times Bestseller List. We previously reported on Elevation Church Pastor Steven Furtick's own attempt to concoct book sales and get on the best sellers list for at least one week so he could also make the claim he was a New York Times best-selling author. Apparently, book sales is not the only thing Furtick is willing to distort. Now Furtick is being criticized for his church's attempts to manipulate people into going forward to be baptized. According to a report by Stuart Watson of NBC affiliate WCNC in Charlotte, NC, Furtick strategically places already believing Christian volunteers from his congregation in pews who are the first to respond to Furtick's call to receive Christ as their Savior and be baptized. Sadly, US pastors are not the only ones in trouble recently. In South Korea, the pastor of one of the largest Pentecostal churches in the world, was sentenced to three years in jail for $12 million in church funds. Apparently, Pastor Emeritus David Younggi Cho, 78, of a more than 1 million member denomination affiliated with the Assemblies of God, used church money to pay for stock owned by his son. Unfortunately, he paid more than three times what the stock was worth.
A MinistryWatch.com Readers Asks - Is Rodney Howard-Browne's Ministry Legitimate? 2/6/2014
A reader of MinistryWatch.com was concerned for his brother's welfare after he sold everything he owned, including his wedding ring, to move closer to Rodney Howard-Browne's ministry based in Tampa, FL. He asked us to look into this ministry and we are happy to assist. While the prosperity gospel message appears to be a part of Howard-Browne's teaching, it does not appear to be as prominent as seen with other pastors. Still, our reader's brother could well be at risk in this situation of both personal financial problems, if the church is encouraging him to give more than he has the capacity to do so, and doctrinally, given the focus of Howard-Browne's ministry on "holy laughter". While Howard-Browne's church is a legitimate church - not one set up simply to avoid IRS and other financial oversight - it is highly unconventional and likely does pose a risk to our reader's brother's financial and spiritual well-being.
New Press Reports on Elevation Church and Pastor Steven Furtick's Manipulation of His Book Sales 2/6/2014
Recently, the Charlotte Observer newspaper published several articles shedding additional light on the situation at the mega-church in Charlotte, NC pastored by Steven Furtick. Additionally, another report has surfaced highlighting how Furtick's upcoming book will inevitably end up as a New York Times bestseller simply because of how his publisher is manipulating sales. In the past we have written about the controversy that had arisen over Furtick's new multimillion dollar home, so we thought readers might also find these latest articles of interest as they describe the unusual approaches used at Elevation and the concerted effort to manipulate the sales of Pastor Furtick's books to make sure the book ends up ever so briefly on the New York Times best seller list.
Boston Episcopal Church Spends $3.6 Million, More Than Twice as Much as Furtick's House, on a New Condo for its Rector 2/6/2014
Another church is now facing questions about its decision to spend $3.6 million to purchase a 3,100 square foot condo for a parsonage for its pastor in one of Boston's toniest real estate markets. This sum is more than twice the amount Elevation Church pastor Steven Furtick paid for his home and is less than half the size of Furtick's home as well. It would be easy to be outraged by this seemingly exorbitant spending, but there are some notable differences from the situation with Pastor Furtick.
Barnabas Aid Looks Like a Good Choice When Viewed Through a Global Perspective 1/23/2014
Thanks to excellent cooperation from the ministry, we have now had the opportunity to review Barnabas Aid's audited financial statements and IRS form 990 for the ministry's fiscal year ending August 2013. We have also reviewed the audited financial statements for the ministry's US parent, the UK-based Barnabas Fund. We have also had extensive discussions with the UK based finance director of Barnabas. With the ministry's quick response to our request for financial data, there is no longer any concern about Barnabas' transparency. When looking at the global Barnabas organization, it is clear it operates very efficiently and quite effectively as well. While it is not possible to profile Barnabas on our MinistryWatch.com website due to the lack of consolidated financial statements and the differences in US and UK non-profit accounting, we believe we have enough information to be able to encourage donors to strongly consider Barnabas when they are looking to help persecuted Christians.
Important New Information Regarding Barnabas Aid 1/22/2014
We are very pleased to report the leadership of Barnabas Aid quickly contacted us following our report yesterday on their ministry. While initially we were not able to get a response from the ministry, this appears to have been a result of miscommunication within their staff. We will have a further update just as soon as we are able evaluate the financial statements we have just now received. Meanwhile, we wanted our readers to know Barnabas Aid has responded very quickly to our initial concerns and has been very open and straightforward in answering our questions. Additionally, as we noted in our update yesterday, we believe Barnabas Aid does very worthy work on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world.
A Quick Look at Two Other Ministries Helping Persecuted Christians: Barnabas Aid and RescueChristians.org 1/21/2014
UPDATE: Thanks to excellent cooperation from the ministry, we have now had the opportunity to review Barnabas Aid's audited financial statements and IRS form 990 for the ministry's fiscal year ending August 2013. Click here to view our latest analysis of Barnabas Aid.
In our last MinistryWatch.com Update we took a close look at the finances of the three ministries helping persecuted Christians in the MinistryWatch.com database: Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), Open Doors and The Persecution Project Foundation. In today's Update we look at two ministries seeking to aid persecuted Christians that are not presently in our database. In both cases, we are responding to questions raised by our readers about these ministries. Since neither is in our database, the level of financial information we have on them is less than normal and also less reliable. Nevertheless, what we discovered is interesting and meaningful to potential donors of each ministry.
Pew Foundation Chronicles Rising Religious Hostilities, Mostly Centered in Muslim Countries 1/21/2014
One reason for our focus on ministries helping persecuted Christians is because this is becoming an ever increasing problem throughout the world, but particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. The amount of money donated by Christians to ministries specifically seeking to provide help to those facing death, torture and other forms of persecution for their faith in Christ is currently rather small in relation to total giving to Christian ministries of all sorts. In research provided by the Pew Foundation, the growing scale of the problem is clearly revealed. We recommend you read the linked article and consider if the Lord would have you contribute to the needs of those who are paying a very heavy price for their faith.
American Bible Society Appoints President to Replace the Recently Fired Doug Birdsall 1/21/2014
Recently we reported on the surprise firing of American Bible Society (ABS) Doug Birdsall after he had spent just six months on the job. We noted ABS would signal if it was intending to continue drawing closer to evangelicals with whomever they chose to replace Birdsall with. With the recent announcement of ABS hiring Dr. Roy Peterson as its new president, donors can be assured that ABS's board has not diverted from the new path it had embarked upon when it first hired Birdsall.
What Topics Would You Like MinistryWatch.com to Address in 2014? 1/7/2014
There is rarely a shortage of topics for us to address in our MinistryWatch.com Updates. Even so, we would like to focus our work in 2014 on those subjects that are of greatest interest to donors like yourself. Is there a particular ministry you want us to examine? Is there a ministry sector you would like us to review to find the most financially efficient and effective ministries? Are there subjects like which ministries are growing fastest or slowest that are of interest to you? Do you need practical teaching on the Biblical basis for Christian charity? Just send us an e-mail at Suggestions@MinistryWatch.com with your thoughts. Thanks in advance for giving us helpful feedback so we can serve you best.
Revealing Insights About How Ministries Helping Persecuted Christians Spend Your Money 1/7/2014
The Pew Foundation claims Christianity faces the greatest level of persecution of any religion. Naturally, many US-based Christians are very interested in helping their persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ who are under threat of harm and even death in many of these nations. Here we take a closer look at three Christian ministries who seek to provide a desperately needed helping hand to those Christians facing particularly threatening circumstances simply because they believe Jesus is their Lord: Voice of the Martyrs, Open Doors and The Persecution Project. While all three ministries do great work and are worthy of your support, this financial information may impact which of these ministries you might give to.
Happy New Year! Consider Spreading Some New Year's Cheer to These Deserving Relief and Development Ministries 12/30/2013
The last few days of the year is the most intense giving period of the year. With the tax deadline of December 31 looming, donors need all the help they can get to make sure their gifts are as wise and effective as they can be. Fortunately, you can find lots of information on many worthy Christian ministries in the MinistryWatch.com database. We hope you will utilize this free service so that you can give not only cheerfully, but also intelligently so as many as possible can be blessed by your generosity! In the spirit of spreading the good news of the season, here is a small sampling of some of the many great Relief and Development ministries which you should consider as you do your year-end giving. Each of these ministries has a history of effectiveness as well as a 4 or 5 star Financial Efficiency rating from MinistryWatch.com.
Five Other Shining Light Ministries Worthy of Your Interest 12/30/2013
In late November, we highlighted these five excellent ministries on Giving Tuesday. Given December 31st is tomorrow, we thought it would be good to remind our users about these very worthy ministries. If you need to make some quick decisions about where to give before year-end, these suggestions may prove helpful.
May You Have a Joy-filled Christmas! Consider Spreading Some Christmas Cheer to These Deserving Evangelism Ministries 12/23/2013
The last few days of the year is the most intense giving period of the year. With the tax deadline of December 31 looming, donors need all the help they can get to make sure their gifts are as wise and effective as they can be. Fortunately, you can find lots of information on many worthy Christian ministries in the MinistryWatch.com database. We hope you will utilize this free service so that you can give not only cheerfully, but also intelligently so as many as possible can be blessed by your generosity! In the spirit of spreading the good news of the season, here is a small sampling of some of the many great evangelism ministries which you should consider as you do your year-end giving. Each of these ministries has a history of effectiveness as well as a 4 or 5 star Financial Efficiency rating from MinistryWatch.com.
Two Needy, Smaller Ministries Worthy of Your Gift This Christmas Season 12/23/2013
Because of personal relationships, we are aware of two smaller ministries we believe are worthy of your consideration. Neither is yet profiled in our MinistryWatch.com database and neither has the resources to let you know about their faithful ministry efforts. While we have not yet been able to fully analyze these ministries, we feel we know enough to at least bring them to your attention. Like most ministries, they could certainly use additional financial resources. While there are many such smaller, deserving ministries across the country, these are two which we can knowledgeably recommend. It would really be a very, very special blessing for these humble servants to receive an unexpected year-end gift from you.
Pastor Mark Driscoll Controversy: Plagiarism, Idolatry and the Christian Evangelical Complex 12/16/2013
Pastor Mark Driscoll is no stranger to controversy. Driscoll, who pastors Mars Hill Church in one of the country's most secular cities, Seattle, would be controversial in his city simply for seeking to live out a biblically-based Christian life where Christians are definitively in the minority. Driscoll's latest controversy, however, was not one he intentionally orchestrated. On a tour for his latest book on November 21st, "A Call to Resurgence" Driscoll was being interviewed by Christian radio host Janet Mefferd. Mefferd's research in preparation for the interview lead her to discover passages in Driscoll's book which were clearly lifted without credit from another book Mefferd had read. Mefferd confronted Driscoll about the apparent plagiarism, and as World Magazine reported, it "quickly became an awkward and contentious interview". Further incidences of plagiarism by Driscoll were discovered by Mefferd after the interview was completed and were initially reported on her website. Indications are Mefferd then came under pressure to remove the material critical of Driscoll from her website.
More on the Problem of the "Evangelical Industrial Complex" and MinistryWatch.com's Experience With It 12/16/2013
Ingrid Schlueter, who resigned her job at Salem Radio Network in protest over the Mark Driscoll plagiarism controversy, has done a great service for her fellow Christians by warning of the need to be aware of the "evangelical industrial complex", a term used to resemble President Eisenhower's warning in his final speech as president of the risks of the "military industrial complex". This "evangelical celebrity machine" can and sometimes does distort reality in order to protect its interests as Schlueter sadly discovered. MinistryWatch.com has long been aware of and impacted by the same "evangelical industrial complex" which Schlueter identified. From the very outset when we formed our ministry in 1998 MinstryWatch.com was targeted by the "complex".
Following up on the American Bible Society Management Change Controversy 12/16/2013
Since first reporting on the surprising firing of Doug Birdsall as president of the American Bible Society (ABS) after just seven months on the job and the remarkable open letter from Tim Keller and other evangelical leaders chastising ABS for its action, we have been able to gather additional information about what led to this situation by speaking to ABS leadership, some of the signatories to the open letter and others who are knowledgeable about what happened. We are also happy to report the two sides are scheduled to meet shortly to seek ways to mend their relationship as best possible. Nevertheless, donors would be wise to wait to see who ABS hires as their new CEO and what this person commits to doing before considering new gifts to ABS. We have been impressed the ministry joined the ECFA, put together a statement of faith, started to spend some of its oversized endowment and was willing to hire someone with Birdsall's talents and vision. We hope after this recent diversion ABS will quickly get back on a path heading towards more energized and effective ministry. We sincerely hope that day comes soon.
Billy Graham's Health Said to be Deteriorating but His Vital Signs Remain Stable 12/9/2013
Franklin Graham told a Charlotte TV station last Friday his Father's health was deteriorating. Billy Graham, who just turned 95 years old, has suffered from respiratory issues in recent years. Shortly after celebrating his latest birthday, Graham was again hospitalized for two days. Apparently, he has been unable to regain his strength since returning home.
Is the United States the Most Charitable Nation in the World? 12/9/2013
At least according to one metric, Americans are the most charitable people in the world, reclaiming that title from Australia. The Charities Aid Foundation has commissioned Gallup to study charitable trends around the world since 2008. Each year, between 500-2,000 people in 135 countries are surveyed to determine how charitable their nation is. The USA achieved the top overall rank among all nations in 2012 by ranking first in the percentage of citizens willing to help a stranger in need, coming in third in volunteering while only landing in thirteenth place in the percentage of people donating money to charity.
Tips for Jesus? We Have a Better Idea. 12/9/2013
News outlets reported last week very sizable tips were being left for waitresses, waiters and bartenders in various states with the word's "Tips for Jesus" written on the credit card receipts. Tips apparently have ranged from $1,000 to $5,000 and even as high as $10,000. While those receiving those tips are needy in some way or another, at MinistryWatch.com, we can't help but think the money could be given much more effectively if the tippers first checked out our MinistryWatch.com database rather than giving randomly.
Tomorrow Is "Giving Tuesday" - Which Worthy Ministries Should You Give To? 12/2/2013
In an attempt to redeem the rampant consumerism of the holiday weekend and return to a true spirit of Thanksgiving, the charitable community has been promoting the Tuesday after Thanksgiving as "Giving Tuesday". People are being encouraged to give to charity tomorrow, December 3rd, as a way as kicking off the typical year-end charitable giving season. At MinistryWatch.com we are normally a bit skeptical of gimmicks used to prod recalcitrant givers to open their checkbooks. We prefer encouraging cheerful givers, who the Bible proclaims God loves, over those being nudged reluctantly into giving through the latest marketing technique or emotion manipulating appeals. The Giving Tuesday campaign hardly seems to be a sophisticated marketing effort nor is it trying to guilt anyone into giving. So we are happy to participate and thought we should mention some often overlooked ministries you might want to explore further.
Bill Gates Is Recommending Heifer International for Giving Tuesday - Should You Take His Advice? 12/2/2013
In an effort to promote Giving Tuesday, Bill Gates and his wife Melinda sent out a message highlighting four non-profits they believed donors should consider contributing to, including Heifer International. When the world's richest man suggests donors consider a Christian ministry as a recipient of your gift on Giving Tuesday, it is news if for no other reason than the apparently secular Gates family is recognizing a Christian ministry. There is no doubt Heifer has performed admirable work helping alleviate poverty over many decades. According to Heifer, it has provided life transforming help to almost 21 million families translating into nearly 100 million men, women and children over its 70 year history. Despite this track record of helping the poor and the impressive endorsement from the Gates, MinistryWatch.com believes donors would be wise to look elsewhere in assisting the impoverished among us.
Trinity Broadcasting Network Founder Paul Crouch Died November 30th 12/2/2013
MinistryWatch.com has often been critical of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) and its founders Paul and Jane Crouch due to their propagation of the harmful message of the Prosperity Gospel and their mistreatment of donors via the financial mismanagement of their ministry. With the announcement of Paul Crouch's passing on Sunday, however, we want to respectfully pause from that criticism and ask MinistryWatch.com users to join us in prayer for his family during their time of grief and for the ministry of TBN during this time of transition.
Outrageously High Fundraising and Compensation Costs - What You Need Know About Those Emotional TV Commercials Asking You to Help Impoverished Jews 11/25/2013
Many have no doubt seen the rather frequent and emotion-laden advertisements on Fox News asking for your donations to help struggling Jewish people around the world. The ads come from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) founded and run by Rabbi Yeckiel Eckstein. Recent ads have featured what the ministry claimed were elderly holocaust survivors in the former Soviet Union and poor Jewish people in Israel. Unfortunately, television advertising is quite expensive, which is why few ministries utilize it. Using the ministry's audited financial statements, MinistryWatch.com calculates the ministry's fundraising costs amount to 14% of its revenues, almost three times the level of the average ministry in our database. This is an absurd amount of money being spent on fundraising and donors should be aware that so much of their gifts are being diverted from helping suffering Jews to instead raise more money for IFCJ.
Definitely Read This As It Has Big Implications: Judge Rules Against Clergy's Tax Free Housing Allowance 11/25/2013
Christianity appears under increasing attack in our culture from all directions. The latest news came last Friday when a Wisconsin judge, appropriately named Crabb, ruled the ministerial housing allowance is unconstitutional. We recently noted such fallout could occur as a side-effect of the controversies surrounding a relatively small number of ministers owning multimillion dollar mansions. Under a 1954 law meant to help the clergy who are typically poorly paid, the government established the right of churches and other religious groups to provide part of an ordained minister's compensation as a tax free housing allowance. Accordingly, some mansion owning, mega-church pastors like Stephen Furtick, Joel Osteen and Ed Young could be pulling down tax free housing allowances worth six figures annually. The sins of a few often cause pain for many innocent bystanders.
No Surprise Here: Study Indicates Churches Benefits to Their Community Far Outweigh the Cost of Their Tax Exemption 11/25/2013
If we are right about the potential for a future clash over churches tax free status, you will want to be prepared for the battle with good information regarding the economic benefits churches bring to their community. Fortunately, such a study has already been prepared and additional such research is expected to be completed soon. Richard Ostling at the Get Religion blog posted an article which you should familiarize yourself with. Ostling reviews the work of Ram Cnaan of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy and Practice on the subject of the value of a church in a community versus the cost of lost tax revenue due to its tax free status.
Tim Keller, Others Defend Fired American Bible Society President 11/18/2013
Recently, the American Bible Society (ABS) fired its new president, Doug Birdsall, after he had served just seven months at the ministry. Birdsall had joined ABS following his successful organization of the Lausanne Movement's 2010 Cape Town meeting that drew over 4,000 evangelicals from around the world. Evangelical leaders were very disappointed in Birdsall's dismissal. Birdsall is widely regarded as a good man who has served the body of Christ admirably. The action taken by ABS was seen as cruel and leaving a valued fellow servant in a precarious financial bind. Led by well-known Pastor Tim Keller, a group of these leaders took the rather extraordinary action of writing an open letter condemning the poor treatment of Birdsall by ABS and soliciting financial support for his family.
Prosperity Gospel Polluting Africa 11/18/2013
MinistryWatch.com has long warned of the dangers of the prosperity gospel, which has infiltrated a larger than commonly understood segment of the church in America. Unfortunately, many of the US-based prosperity teachers have been aggressively and successfully expanding their ministries overseas in recent years. Sadly, while this message has found many adherents among the world's poorer nations, the most damage to the church is being done in Africa.
Helping the Typhoon Victims in the Philippines 11/11/2013
The video and pictures coming from the Philippines following the nation being hit what some say is the strongest typhoon or hurricane to ever make landfall (reported wind gusts were as high as 235 miles per hour) reveal considerable devastation in a country ill-equipped to handle it. Many will be looking for charities to donate money to in order to help those who are in such great need of immediate assistance. There are many charities which will swing into action right away, some of which will bring the gospel message with them as well. We hope MinistryWatch.com can help as you decide how to best aid those in dire need in the Philippines at this time.
Happy Birthday to Rev. Billy Graham - A Man Who Always Treated Donors Well 11/11/2013
This week the Reverend Billy Graham celebrated his 95th birthday. Roughly 800 guests celebrated his birthday with the Graham family in Asheville, NC while Fox News channel aired a half hour special, billed as his "Last Sermon" and shown without commercial interruptions. Even at this late stage of his life, he is using his still powerful presence to help bring the lost to Christ. At MinistryWatch.com, we are not only impressed with the effectiveness of the ministry of Billy Graham, but also with how wisely he handled his great success. He did not allow his personal life or a desire for riches to become a stumbling block to the message of salvation that he preached. We only wish more successful pastors would follow his wise example.
Anne Graham Lotz Followed in Her Father's Footsteps, Other Children Fall Short 11/11/2013
Three of Billy Graham's children also are involved in Christian ministries. The most well-known is his son Franklin Graham. Unfortunately, Franklin has had some concerns arise in the past that donors would want to take note of. Another Graham child, who was less well known, Ned Graham, ran East Gate Ministries International (EGMI), a now tiny ministry to China which never thrived after serious disruptions in the ministry in the late 1990's due to Ned's behavior. On the positive end of the spectrum is daughter Ann Graham Lotz who founded AnGeL Ministries, a small teaching ministry. Ann has lived a life of integrity and it is reflected not only in her outstanding teaching ministry but also in her sacrificial approach to taking compensation from the ministry.
Rev. John Piper's Thoughts on Pastor's Compensation 11/11/2013
Since compensation issues have been in the news lately, a blog from the Gospel Coalition recently asked noted Pastor John Piper to weigh in on the issue. Piper gives thoughtful and biblically-based counsel on this important subject, and we highly recommend you take a moment to read the interview. If all churches followed a similar approach as Pastor Piper did in his church, there would be more money available for ministry and less problems that can inhibit the spread of the gospel.
Highlighting Some of the Key Issues With Pastor Steven Furtick's $1.7 Million Home 11/2/2013
Pastor Steven Furtick's construction of a new $1.7 million home as well as his and his congregation's first response to the controversy, continues to attract scrutiny from the press and the general public. We have developed in-depth thoughts regarding this story which we hope will help readers to better understand the often hard to understand key issues. Pastors can take advantage of general congregational ignorance of these points in order to appear like they are operating with integrity when they are not. These comments will also be relevant to those struggling with financial accountability issues in other churches. Additionally we offer some preliminary thoughts on what Elevation and Furtick need to do to get this mess straightened out.Read more
The Joshua Fund - Bringing the Love of Jesus to Israel and Its Neighbors 11/2/2013
The Joshua Fund was founded in 2006 by well-known Christian author Joel Rosenberg and his wife Lynn. The Rosenbergs' desire was to mobilize Christians to bless Israel and her neighbors in accordance with Genesis 12:1-3 where the Lord promises to bless those who bless Israel. The Joshua Fund seeks first to educate Christians around the world about the Lord's plan for Israel and her neighbors. The ministry accomplishes its educational goals by leading prayer and vision trips to Israel, organizing conferences about the Middle East throughout the world and by building relationships with government, businesses and religious leaders in the Middle East.Read more
"Bishop Bling" and the Role of Donors 10/26/2013
By now many of you may have seen the story of "Bishop Bling", a German bishop who spent over $40 million of donor and tax money (yes, largely secular Germans all pay a church tax that goes to support German churches - hard to see that working here in the US!) remodeling his home, including installing a $20,000 bathtub. Pope Francis just suspended Bishop Bling, as well he should have. The bishop's future remains uncertain, and he is barred from returning to his parish until an investigation is completed. Read more
"Bishop Bling" is Not Alone - Some US Church Leaders Also Go Astray 10/26/2013
It brings us no pleasure at all to report that "Bishop Bling" is hardly an isolated situation. Just in the past week we have heard reports on several US church leaders who are engaging in questionable financial activity. These leaders are not the standard prosperity preachers who regularly and intentionally surround themselves with wealth accumulated with donor funds, but rather from more mainstream evangelical churches and ministries. In each case, had donors and church members insisted upon greater financial transparency and good church governance from the start, they would have likely been able to protect these gifted church leaders from falling into the traps we are all susceptible to when success or trials come. Read more
Answers in Genesis - How About Spreading Some Love If You Want to Represent Christ Best? 10/26/2013
It was recently reported that Answers In Genesis, the excellent creationist ministry, had put up a huge, colorful billboard on a high traffic corner in New York City. What did the billboard say? "To all our atheist friends - Thank God you're wrong". Somehow, we have to think this will be a less than effective approach to reach our atheist friends. Answers in Genesis CEO Ken Ham was reported to say this ad would cost the ministry between $150,000 and $200,000 hard-earned donor dollars. MinistryWatch.com is certain this money could have been spent in a more effective manner if the goal was really to draw atheists to Christ. Read more
Will OJ Simpson be the Next Famous Prosperity Preacher? 10/19/2013
The Christian Post recently reported that OJ Simpson, who is still in jail, is laying the groundwork for a new ministry once he is released. While he is not up for parole until 2017, Simpson hopes to be released early, perhaps before the end of this year, due to his appeal of his conviction. Plans for a ministry entitled "Holy Safari" are apparently reasonably well advanced and Simpson is said to be modeling his ministry after that of prosperity preacher Fred Price who apparently claims 15 million viewers. Read more
Prosperity Pastors Get Their Own Reality TV Show 10/19/2013
Perhaps Simpson has also been inspired by the new reality television program called "Preachers of L.A." which focuses on the lives of megachurch prosperity preachers in Los Angeles. As CNN?s Belief Blog describes it, in the show "Men of the cloth cruise Southern California in lavish cars weighed down by their gold watches and tiny dogs." Read more
Clearing Up Questions in the News Regarding the American Family Association 10/19/2013
The American Family Association (AFA) has been in the news recently for two issues worthy of note. First, in a disturbing trend for politically active Christian ministries, AFA was labeled a "hate group" by a presentation by US Army personnel at Camp Shelby. We believe it is appropriate to highlight the US Army's retraction in case any of our MinistryWatch.com users missed it. AFA also recently called off its three year old boycott of Home Depot claiming the company's extensive financial support for homosexuality had been reduced due to its boycott. Read more
Evangelicals Increasingly Seeking to Help The Poor and Needy 10/19/2013
Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research recently surveyed protestant pastors and found that poverty was the most frequently cited issue for pastors at this time. MinistryWatch.com applauds this trend and trusts it will expand in the years ahead to giving more help to the poor outside the immediate community these churches find themselves in. MinistryWatch.com has extensive information on a variety of ministries in the relief and development area so that donors can choose wisely and effectively which ministry to support. Read more
Compassion International's Child Sponsorship Program Works 9/27/2013
Child sponsorship programs are big business in the US but many have wondered about their effectiveness. At MinistryWatch.com, we have been concerned with the trend of many Christian child sponsorship programs leaving the gospel behind. We are therefore very happy to report on the impressive results of a study of Compassion International's child sponsorship program recently undertaken by Bruce Wydick of the University of San Francisco. Read more
Prosperity Preacher Seeks Helicopter Upgrade 9/27/2013
As reported in Black Enterprise magazine, Pastor I.V. Hilliard of the Texas-based New Light Christian Center recently asked his congregation to give $52 "Favor Seeds" as money was needed to upgrade the blades on his helicopter. Such gifts, he suggested, would be rewarded with a "breakthrough favor" for the giver within 52 days or 52 weeks. The upgraded blades promise to save the ministry $50,000 in the long term, the pastor noted. Read more