For me, the year 2007 was the year of inheritance, where the Lord handed a baton to me from my ancestor and told me to run my race. He also warned about the Prosperity Gospel. I didn’t know what it looked like. We were soon to learn.
In 2010, our church was absorbed into an Auckland mega-church in a merger. It was more like a corporation than a church. We were referred to as “tithing units”. And they didn’t have to give an accounting of where the money went.
“Who wants to give?” we’d be asked, bailed up like cornered sheep. The pastor totally believed in tithing, even though he sneered at what a small amount 10% was. Being on a six figure tax-free salary, it was negligible to him. Everyone else was struggling. He said the reason we were all struggling was because “we were under the spirit of mammon.” Because we had house mortgages, in what has become the most expensive housing market in the world. I get the feeling he wanted the money to go to “the house” rather than the banks.
Every service, we had a 10 minute mini sermon about money from the local pastors, and then we’d watch the senior pastor on the big screen, streamed to us live from the Auckland “campus”. In March, there was “heart for the house, home for the harvest,” where the congregation was asked to give over and above, sacrificially. That netted them an extra $100,000 – which was a lot for our small “campus” of the mega church. A few months later the church was asked to give another gift to “honour the pastor” and on it went.
The pastor and wife frequently went to conferences overseas, although never in the third world. They hold conferences themselves in Auckland, where speakers fly in from overseas. At the end of the conferences, the pastor would take the preachers out fishing on the big boat he owned. Now, he and his wife aren’t the only ones with flashy life styles. There are two other Harley motorbike riding pastors heading up big churches in Auckland. They’re all friends.
One night we were invited to the Life Business Group. A business man said he was tithing to a missionary, and the pastor told him the tithe had to go to “the house” instead. He called the mega church “the house” to tie it into the verses in Malachi. Now I’m Kingdom minded. I felt really sorry for that missionary and felt the money should have stayed with him rather than go to them.
We didn’t feel the love there. They didn’t get much of our money as we didn’t have it to give. But under that preaching the freedom I’d previously enjoyed disappeared when I went back under law believing I had to earn God’s love with my giving. In 2011 we suffered a bad financial attack. We had tenants that wrecked our house in Wanganui, our old home town six hours south of our current location. After sacking the property manager we had to go down country every third weekend to sort the mess out. It kept us out of church. When we were home, we usually didn’t want to go. We had enough pressure from running the business and fixing up the house without getting any more from the church.
When we got the house sorted out, we were invited to join their business group. It was led by the Pastor’s son who looked like a mini-me younger version of his father. I didn’t see the nepotism at the time, but I didn’t have any peace about going. My husband said if we commit to that, we need to commit to the church. God stepped in at this point. After praying for God’s will I got directed to a website by Chris Rosebrough, a theologian who doesn’t mince his words about this kind of thing, nor suffer fools gladly. He is sarky but truthful. He called the pastor a charlatan and huckster, fleecing the sheep. Not one passage was handled correctly, he said. Where was the gospel, he asked.
We left after telling them why. We’re now at a Kingdom minded, Bible Believing Church where the Pastor knows us and there is no emphasis on money. Every year, financial statements are produced for the congregation, and we are asked to go to the AGM. We get to serve with our gifts and give freely of our money. And we’ve learned about important lessons about stewardship.
I am offering my story here in the hope it might help others who are or have been in a similar situation. I haven’t named the pastor because I don’t want to make it about him, I want to get at the false teaching. You can see and hear him from the links I’ve provided.
You can hear the pastor here, and Chris Rosebough’s response.
Here’s a link that talks about the methods the pastor employed; How Pastors Get Rich.
God bless, and may you give freely, not under compulsion.