Book Sale

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Bringing Disrepute Upon The Church


This is a bit of an old article, and I may have even referred to it in the past. But it is an even older story, as old as our faith, and this article was just shared by someone on my friends list on social media, and I think it bears further comment.  

“Megachurch pastor tells his congregation his newly built 16,000-square-foot house is gift from God

Pastor Steven Furtick of the Elevation megachurch in North Carolina has built a $1.7 million home

He told his congregation on Sunday that the home is a gift from God

Elevation Church and Furtick will not disclose what he is paid by the church or the church's earnings

Furtick's salary and benefits are not decided by an elected board of elders or his congregation

A panel of five 'appointed' members who are all pastors of megachurches decide Furtick's pay

The pastor of a North Carolina megachurch has built a $1.7 million mansion for himself and his family which he told his congregation at Sunday's sermon is a 'gift from God.'

Elevation Church Pastor Steven Furtick, 33, is unapologetic about his ostentatious new seven-and-a-half bathroom, 16,000-square-foot home built on 19 acres in Weddington.

He spent the first part of his sermon talking about the controversy surrounding its construction and apologizing to his parishioners for any 'uncomfortable conversations,' they may have been forced to have about it.”[1]

On occasion I get down my volume 2 of Plutarch's lives and have a read of one or two of the stories in there.[2] Plutarch's lives is a two-volume set of history about the greatest men of ancient Rome and Greece, written by an ancient great man of Rome himself, Plutarch.

One of the most consistent themes you see in this book is that good men generally do not live large. They almost always live very simply, so simply in fact, that it often shocks their opponents and friends alike. For example, one man, Phocion, received a gift from Alexandar the Great for 100 Talents, that's a lot of money. That is never having to work another day in your life kind of money. That is striking oil kind of money. Phocion sent it back. He did not want it. Often these great men show similar character with money and possessions. In fact, the famous lifestyle of leading your country and then going back to humbly live on your land was an ancient Roman ideal. A man who was beyond the temptations of wealth and power and only wanted good for his people, was their idea of the epitome of a man. A bit like Mel Gibson’s character in the patriot who is forged in a very similar manner.

The reason these men lived this way, is that they knew that even the perception of corruption could undermine their just life and just cause. So, they avoided even the perception of living like kings. Even though it was within their means, through honest gain. Perception matters and a political or religious leader who obviously lives large gives the appearance of a man that can be bought, or has been bought. 

So, this principle is something that has been recognized outside the Bible and inside the Bible. Pastors who live large never make the Church look good, they always bring it bad repute, and no amount of your trying to wish this away will change that fact. Some Christians will defend this to the hilt, and then some church will have its books revealed and they will be like, "Oh wait, they were doing what with the money?" 

So, honest gain or not, wise Christian leaders don't try to live the lifestyles of Jesus' most consistent opponents, the well off, because they know how this looks. This is why almost every traditional Christian denomination in history has asked its priests to take vows of poverty, or has determined moderate wages that allow pastors to support a family and not struggle. Going beyond this will always bring the Church into disrepute in the eyes of many. This was true in Ancient Greece, Rome and other civilisations, before Jesus walked this earth. It will be true in a thousand years, if we are still here. It is only very foolish denominations in times of great corruption in the church which ignore this wisdom.

How much is enough to support a family? There is a decent range in there. But most wise denominations have worked out that around about, or just above or below the average wage is sensible.

Someone will bring up some Old Testament Patriarch to try and contradict this, but they one) fail to understand why God made patriarchs rich, he was building a nation, two) we are talking about Christianity here, not Judaism and they are not the same thing. Show me a New Testament Christian minister known for living large and I'll consider your argument. Those who had wealth, and are mentioned, are known for giving large amounts of it away, which is why they are mentioned.

The Church of the West needs to reclaim the practice of not encouraging pastors to live large. It does so much damage to the Church's reputation. What is interesting is that you don't have to be a Christian to understand this, but I think you have to be a Christian to not see be able this. Interesting, isn't it? Jesus did say the people of this world were far shrewder with money. 

List of References

[2] I’ll read volume 1 once I am done. I treat it more as an occasional read than a book to get through. I chose to read them out of order because I wanted to do some reading on the Roman men in volume 2 for some research a while back.

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