Each Sunday morning, millions of Americans head to worship houses or gather around their television to listen to televangelists’ faith-filled sermons.

 The preachers leading the flock rely heavily on donations from their faithful followers, who give nearly $100 billion annually. But some, such as Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), question how the churches are allocating their funds.

“We need to make sure that the sanctity of tax exemption for charitable giving is preserved, respected… maintains its credibility,” Grassley said.

Grassley said he was prompted to action by whistleblowers before he sent six letters to television ministries and demanded they explain their alleged lavish spending, among allegations of $23,000 marble toilets.

 The televangelists have one month to respond to the Senate inquiry, which is voluntary. The senator has requested information from the following people and churches: Creflo and Taffi Dollar of World Changers Church International and Creflo Dollar Ministries of College Park, Ga.; Benny Hinn of World Healing Center Church Inc. and Benny Hinn Ministries of Grapevine, Texas; Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church and Bishop Eddie Long Ministries of Lithonia, Ga.; Joyce and David Meyer of Joyce Meyer Ministries of Fenton, Mo.; Kenneth and Gloria Copeland of Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas; and Randy and Paula White of the multi-racial Without Walls International Church and Paula White Ministries of Tampa, Fla., according to The Associated Press.

 Dollar, who requested funds to purchase a jet for his church, defended his position.

 “Like a carpenter has to have a hammer to do his job, I’ve got to have a plane to fly around this world and be back here to pastor two churches — one here and one in New York,” Dollar said.  Dollar, who requested funds to purchase a jet for his church, defended his position.

 “Like a carpenter has to have a hammer to do his job, I’ve got to have a plane to fly around this world and be back here to pastor two churches — one here and one in New York,” Dollar said.

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The popular media rarely reports on the Christian Church in a positive manner.  This article is no exception. I am not a fan of prosperity/celebrity preachers but I do have some questions before pronouncing guilt or innocence.

What are the staffing costs?  Are the salaries for the responsibilities equivalent to the secular salaries in their metropolitan areas?  What types of benevolence is given to members of the congregation and to the community?  How much do they give in outreach?  What is their facilities cost?

The millions of dollars that we are seeing spent do not reflect the Church of Jesus Christ.  Jesus took 12 men and lived among them with no place to call “home”.  One on One interaction to teach people a new way of life and walk with them through the process of life transformation (discipleship) was the model of The Master.  Jesus cared more about the marginalized people than anyone else.  In fact as I quickly scan the scriptures I see Jesus hanging out with a lot of people who were not included in the social, political or religious elite.   Zacchaeus was a tax collector and unwelcome in his own community.  The woman with an issue of blood was ceremonially unclean and lived on the outskirts of the city. The 10 lepers probably lived in the same neighborhood.  The Samaritan woman was an outcast in two communities.  The man by the pool of Bethesda depended on other people for everything.  Where are these preachers fulfilling the model of Christ?  Since I do not know all of the answers to these questions I am slow to reach any conclusions or judgments of ministry ethics violations.   I do believe that the mega-church is antithetical to the biblical model of church that we see in the scriptures.

You can not have koinonia in a mega church structure.  Yes there are small communities in most large churches but it is hard to have table fellowship with 5000 on a regular basis.  Why build a multi million worship facility to be used once (maybe twice) a week when you  equip 100s of pastors and plant them in the communities where they live to provide a community of faith rather than a celebrity following.

Don’t forget that Richard Roberts is under investigation for dipping into the college’ endowment funds for personal expenses.  Where is the accountability? Where are the elders?  Where is the church council? I notice that John Cherry, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Bishop Charles Blake and Floyd Flake,  are not under investigation. They are also not prosperity preachers. What are these pastors doing differently?  Is this a prelude to eliminating the 501 (c) 3 status for all churches?

By the way – I have been accused of being jealous. I am critical of the way we do church period after studying the New Testament.  I am challenging the clergy to critically reflect on their calling.  Everybody wants to live in relative comfort but the excess is what I am arguing against.

If you want to donate me your Bentley or jet I will accept it and probably sell it and use the funds to dig wells and provide clean drinking water in a developing country. (Maybe I should put a donation button on my blog)

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