Church Offering = Highway Robbery!
For millions of churches throughout the world, the traditional church offering is an absolute necessity to keep the doors open and the lights on. However, for many, many other churches, the traditional church offering is simple highway robbery!
We’ve all been to church before and experienced “offering time,” when the ushers pass around the collection plate. We’ve put money into the church offering because we were either emotionally moved or because we believed in the mission of the church and its pastor. However, many churchgoers are putting money into the church offering because they’re being guilted into doing so, because they’re being promised church perks (reserved parking, reserved seating up front), or because they’re being threatened with losing basic membership privileges.
Many modern-day Christian churches have adopted a policy known as tithes, which requires members to pay a tax of 10% of every dollar they earn. The adoption of “tithing” by Christian churches is an interesting one, particularly since the practice is an old Jewish tradition that was never intended for the Christian church.
Still, many churches are making tithing an absolute requirement. Contemporary churches are not just spiritual enterprises, but are tax-free businesses. They have budgets, staff, building repairs — and they need cash and converts. So when the cash gets tight, many go into Sunday Morning stick-up mode. But there’s something drastically wrong with a church mandating the paying of tithes to a pastor who is living in a multi-million dollar mansion, driving around in expensive foreign cars and flying around the world on private jets, while church members are struggling to pay rent and keep food on the table.
David Lee, author of the book “Sunday Morning Stickup,” recalled sitting through 2 successive offerings at a church one Sunday morning when the pastor approached the pulpit for a 3rd request.
“You all going to think I’m crazy, but God says give again,” Lee remembered the pastor saying.
Almost like clockwork, the congregation marched to the front of the church and delivered their offerings at the altar. “God says give EVERYTHING; don’t hold nothing back,” the pastor urged, prompting members to reach deeper into their pockets. As the organist revved up the tempo, the pastor shouted, “God says run!” and members obediently rushed toward the altar like music fans rushing a concert stage.
“It was pandemonium. They weren’t just giving money, but shoes, watches and diamond rings,” Lee said. “There were people dropping alligator shoes on the altar.”
For Lee, these members were victims of the oldest church trick in the book: the “Sunday morning stickup” — his term for the underhanded and manipulative tactics church pastors use to get your money.
“They bypassed their common sense,” Lee said of the almost hypnotic congregation. “One lady took off her wedding ring and dropped it at the altar. That’s how charged the atmosphere was. People got caught up.”
The practice of whipping people up into an emotional frenzy in order to take their money has reaped enormous benefits for some of the best “pastors” in the business.
Atlanta megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar recently asked his church members and television viewers to buy him a $65 million private jet. Televangelist Mike Murdock shamelessly bragged in front of his congregation about purchasing not 1, but 2 private jets with straight cash. Televangelist Kenneth Copeland and his wife, Gloria, called their private jet a “preaching machine” that it used only for church activities. However, it was recently discovered that the couple has used it to fly to luxury ski resorts, as well as gaming trips to India to hunt exotic animals.
Tithing has become such a sacred duty in some churches, that members aren’t permitted to enjoy certain benefits unless they tithe, says Tyrone Jacques, a former Church of God in Christ pastor and founder of PimpPreacher.com, an online website devoted to exposing pastors who prey on congregations.
According to Jacques, the pastor of one church refused to eulogize a 93-year-old woman who was a member of his church for years because she had stopped tithing. When he called the pastor to ask why, the pastor replied: “Membership has its privileges.”
Non-tithing members have been denied other privileges as well.
“You have churches that if you cannot contribute financially you cannot be in church leadership or you can’t be part of the choir,” Jacques said. He added that he has belonged to churches where the first rows were reserved for the biggest givers. He’s even seen churches section off those front-row pews with velvet ropes. The message: Big givers have their privileges.
“The most coveted area in the church is the circle around the pastor,” Jacques said. “The way you get into that space, you pay to get into it. You have to pay to play.”
The concept of “pay to play” was never more prevalent than in Florida, after a church recently sent a delinquency notice to a new member reminding her that worshipers were expected to pay $1,000 in required fees or face possible removal.
Candace Petterson said she started attending the Greater Mount Moriah Primitive Baptist Church about 6 months ago after moving to a new home in the Tampa area. However, she received what amounted to a delinquency notice from her new church asking her to contribute a minimum of $50 a month, along with other assorted fees, to remain a member in good standing and vote on church matters.
The predominantly black church, which has operated for more than a century, asked her to pay a yearly $250 anniversary fee and another $150 for Mount Moriah Day – amounting to $1,000, some of which would be set aside to pay off church debt.
“What church charges you to help pay off what they’re going through?” Petterson said. “I’m not there for that.”
Perhaps the worst part of the church offering money swindle is that it is tax-free — meaning anyone who establishes a “church” of any kind under very loose guidelines, can get away with not paying Uncle Sam a single red cent. They get to keep all the money all for themselves. Oh, and their “church” is off-limits too. The Copeland’s, for example, live in a $6.3 million mega-mansion tax-free, since it is designated a “parsonage.”
Comedian John Oliver, host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” recently did a segment on church offerings, singling out televangelist requesting money from those who watch their programs.
Oliver corresponded with televangelist Robert Tilton’s Word of Faith Worldwide Church for 7 months, first mailing him $20 in January along with a kindly worded request to be added to his mailing list.
“Within 2 weeks, he sent me a letter back thanking me for my donation, and claiming, ‘I believe that God has supernaturally brought us together.’” A couple of weeks after that, Oliver received an envelope with a $1 bill in it and a message that read, “Send it back to me with your best Prove God tithes or offering.”
“That’s right,” Oliver said, “I had to send the $1 back with an additional recommended offering of $37, which I did. So at this point, we’re just two letters in and it’s like having a pen pal who’s in deep with some loan sharks.”
In March, Oliver was sent 3 packets of colored oil that he was instructed to pour on letters and send back to Tilton by specific dates, accompanied with more money. He did it. Then in April, Oliver was sent a manila envelope with a check enclosed—only the check was for $5 from Oliver made out to Pastor Tilton’s church. Seven letters later, he received pieces of fabric and was told to mail them back to Tilton with more money, which he did. Oliver later received a letter with a single $1 bill inside, requesting that he place the bill in his Bible overnight, then send it back the next day with $49. In return, he’d receive a $1 bill that had been blessed.
“That did not stop him,” Oliver said. “The letters kept coming. I received another oil packet, more prayer cloths, and even—and this is true—an outline of his foot which I was asked to trace my foot on and mail back to him with more money. So, as of tonight, I’ve sent him $319 and received 26 letters—that’s almost one a week. And again, this is all hilarious until you imagine these letters being sent to someone who cannot afford what he’s asking for.”
To prove his point, Oliver filed paperwork establishing a new church called Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption—a process he describes as “disturbingly easy.” The church has since raised thousands of dollars in tax-free money (cash Oliver says he will not keep) and has also raised the ire of the IRS.
So, the message here is this: If a pastor or church leader has ever told you that the Bible commands Christians to tithe or give 10% of their income; hit you up for multiple offerings during a single service; made you march up front to give; asked you to donate to a mysterious “building fund” or give a “first-fruit” offering; or even given special recognition to big givers in your congregation — you are getting played!