Crying wolf

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.

Prosperity doctrine

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.
http://www.fightingforthefaith.com/2010/09/christian-thug-life.html

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.

wolves-phil-pringle-brian-houston-casey-treat-paul-de-jong

The pastor from our previous church is second from left. Picture is from hillsongchurchwatch.com/tag/wolves/

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That poor widow

sowing

As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.” Mark 12:38-43

How many of us have heard the story of the widow’s mite as an example of sacrificial giving?  Jesus made the observation that she gave more than all the rich people.  He did not commend her for that.  He just stated a fact after warning about the Teachers of the Law, who liked to devour widows houses!  (Mark 12:38-43)

When he did talk about commending people, he used the example of the unjust steward! (Luke 16) Really?  How does that work?  I asked the Lord for his wisdom on that, because it appeared he was being contradictory.

I was at work, so he gave me an example from my business.  Say I order a really expensive computer part, but the customer doesn’t follow through on the order and I can’t return it.  I’m going to be in trouble with Bert, my husband and business partner, because I didn’t get a 50% deposit and it has to go in stock.  I decide to sell it at cost.  I tell the next customer that I’ll give them a 30% discount on it.  I’ve lost my profit on the item but Bert is happy because he’s got the money back, and the customer is happy.  That’s what the unjust steward did after getting into trouble with his master.

Jesus said the master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; “For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” (Luke 16:8)
He certainly wouldn’t have been commended if he’d used the master’s money to curry favour for himself.

We’re told to use unrighteous mammon (worldly wealth) to gain friends for ourselves, so that when it is gone, we will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.  But we’re not to serve mammon.

How can the use of unrighteous mammon welcome you into eternal dwellings?  Well, if it’s used to build on God’s foundation, the builder will receive a reward, when the day brings our work to light.  1 Corinthians 3:10-15.

When Jesus warned you can’t serve two masters; God and mammon, he said to lay up treasures in heaven; Matthew 6:19

plater_02The Bible warns about being exploited by false teachers who will make merchandise out of us.  They are ferocious wolves, not sparing the flock.  You’ll know them by their fruit.  They will look like sheep, nice guys who identify with the common people – but they’ll love money, just like the Pharisees of old.  Listen to what they’re preaching, and have a look at their lifestyles.

The historian Josephus (himself a Pharisee) claimed that Pharisees received the full-support and goodwill of the common people, apparently in contrast to the more elite Sadducees, who were the upper class.  (Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharisees.)  The Pharisees loved money. (Luke 16:14).

With feigned words they’ll make merchandise of you.  They talk about the law of sowing and reaping.  Money doesn’t grow on trees and I haven’t seen a harvest after people “sowing” it.  If you sow money into their ministries you’re sowing your talent into the ground, where it’s not going to yield any fruit.  Well, it will yield fruit for them in the form of cash.  There is a proverb that says “From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled; with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied.”  Proverbs 18:21

They trot out Malachi 3:8, knowing that it’ll work.  After all, no one wants to rob God!  They should be reading the previous chapter Malachi 2:1-9.  The one that starts “And now, you priests, this warning is for you.”

Here’s what the New Testament has to say about sowing and reaping;
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.  Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.  Galations 6:7-8.Malachi 3-8

So if a person sowed for financial abundance, they’re sowing to please their flesh.

Another verse about sowing is in the parable of the talents, (Matthew 25:14-29) where the master came and settled accounts with his servants. The one who’d only had one talent had buried it in the ground.  He sowed it, so to speak. Through fear!  Because he thought the master was harsh.  What was he afraid of?  Robbing God?  But Jesus pointed out that this master does not obey the law of sowing and reaping!  “He reaps where he has not sown and gathers where he has scattered no seed. (Matthew 25:24-26, said twice)

Did you know Baal is the god of prosperity?  I believe the devil is trying to get believers to sow into the natural (the flesh) so they’ll build on a foundation that is not Christ, thus affecting their treasures in heaven (spiritual inheritance).  And it will frustrate God’s purposes by diverting funds away from the Kingdom of God.  And THAT is robbing God.

Now who do you think encouraged the poor widow to give?  The Teachers of the Law!  Oh by the way, true religion is taking care of widows and orphans.  James 1:27.  What’s wrong with this picture!

Now I’m not against giving.  I’m for being wise, being a good steward of my money, and having the freedom to give joyfully.  I love investing in the kingdom of God.  Did you know you can even loan God money?
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.  Proverbs 9:17

But I’m not going to allow religious leaders to take away my freedom, or my riches in heaven.  We are not under law when it comes to our giving.  Anyone who references the Old Testament law to compel giving is a Teacher of the Law.  Watch out for them.  And don’t “sow” into their “ministries”.

God bless.  I’d love to hear your comments.  Next chapter, I’m going to tell of my own experiences with the tithing and sowing doctrine.