Friday, March 09, 2007

Ministries & Millionaires...

Do these two concepts mix? Seems to me there are more evangelists out there preaching prosperity now than ever. Also, there are a lot of gimmicks. You know, I once saw a televangelist (name witheld to protect the guilty) who would wipe his brow with handkerchiefs while preaching- then sell the used cloths to the highest bidders, promising that the owner of these sweat-laden artifacts would be healed of whatever ailed them. I believe in spiritual gifts, but this is nothing less than snake-oil spirituality.

The more I get to know Jesus and His rag-tag band of misfits, the more I wonder if ministry is ever supposed to make people church celebrities or enviably wealthy. The richness of the love & grace we know is far greater than the thrill of owning a mansion, a Lexus, a jet or any other luxury. I’m not saying it’s wrong to have money or enjoy things, but it frays my nerves to see people in ministry being waited on and living luxuriously while the working class gives faithfully and poor old ladies are sending in their last social security dimes to support their ministries. To me, the truest ministry gives, not takes. Big church musicians & evangelists do some good, but how much more could be done if satisfied with a more simple lifestyle & image?

The late Rich Mullins once sang, in reference to Christ and His unwillingness to cater to popular religious thought, “They couldn’t own You, 'cause You didn’t own a home.” Rich was a successful musician who lived in a simple trailer with very few possessions. But he was wealthy beyond measure. People remember Rich as a servant, not a flashy rich guy vying for admiration.

Many Christians live to excess and it's one of the biggest turn-offs to curious onlookers. (At times, I've also been guilty of this- I mean how many pairs of shoes does one girl need?) However, we can only own possessions to a certain point, then they begin to own us. Why have a house so large you don't even use all the space and have to hire help to clean? There are worthy students out there who could use some tuition money and missionaries who could use sponsorship. There are families out there who have little food or transportation. The blessing of scaling down is that it allows us to give to others. If the Christian community was doing it's job, perhaps we wouldn't need welfare? At best, we tend to take care of our own and let everyone outside our social circle fend for themselves. There is much to be said for simplifying our lives. :o)

I'm not an advocate of the BIG church mentality, nor do I believe in prosperity preaching that preys upon greedy human natures. A gospel of this kind is legalistic, telling people that as long as they keep all the rules & put thier 10% in the plate, they will be blessed, but if they mess up, God won’t smile on them anymore. Is this not the way Jews of old believed? This mentality discounts the text that says, “God causes the rain to fall upon the righteous AND the unrighteous.”

Since my husband and I lost everything recently after 11 yrs in ministry. There are a few who are convinced that we've done some "secret sin" for which God is now punishing us. Such an attitude is quite judgemental. Christ was poor- what did He do to deserve it? We don’t get to choose our parents, but He actually chose a common girl as His mother- not a lady from high-society. It was Jesus message of love that made Him great- not His image or His stuff.


  1. Great comments. Thanks for sharing. It's so very true. I've been reading an incredible book by Shane Claiborne entitled "The Irresistible Revolution" and it's an amazing work on real, authentic, post-modern Christianity. Amazingly, it looks lot like apostolic Christianity. Taking Jesus at His words. A great quote from it reads "When I fed the hungry, they called me a saint. When I asked why people are hungry, they called me a communist".

    The fact is, we're going to be uncomfortable when we rock the boat and say that Christianity demands more of us. In fact, that Christ demands all of us.


  2. Hi Tim, Thanks for the feedback & the book referral- sounds great! Absolutely, there's more to being Christian than claiming the name and warming a pew.

    I'm not against enjoying our lives, but living with excess is not in harmony with the life of Christ. The balance between excess and self-righteous sacrifice is tough to walk, but I believe it's possible to be genuinely charitable as our Lord was. :o)