Around 2,000 years ago, Jesus told a group of his followers, “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Much of Christ’s ministry was centered around the poor and the powerless. The meek, he even said, would inherit the earth.
But flip to any religious television channel and you’re far more likely to see thousand-dollar suits and elegant churches the size of small municipalities than anything resembling “the poor,” “the meek” or “the suffering.” Except when those people are being used to further a rockstar pastor’s agenda.
Televangelists, as they were known in previous decades, and mega-pastors regularly make the news concerning their grand spending accounts and baffling choice of words.
The latest on the long list of ministry pyramid schemes is Creflo Dollar, a pastor out of College Park, Ga., whose net worth totals around $27 million.
Dollar, whose name is ironically unfortunate for the position he’s put himself in, recently asked his following to donate money for a new jet via an online funding account. The jet is estimated to cost $65 million dollars.
Not only is this an abuse of status, but convincing followers to donate based on the claims of a jet’s necessity to perform ministry duties is outright despicable.
Dollar’s heinous misuse of his platform promotes neither the health of his individual church nor the health of the global Church.
He and other mega-media pastors are prominently displayed, so when they abuse their privileges, it reflects on entire institutions and faiths.
Dollar’s net worth is over 900 times the average yearly income of College Park residents, which is around $29,000. While questions of appropriate stewardship do arise – certainly his Rolls-Royce and $2.5 million New York penthouse should be questioned – attention should also be called to what he is doing to the Gospel. By making his ministry about money and fame, Dollar is weakening the most important currency he plays with: trust.
Skeptics of the Christian faith use massive pastoral wealth as a highlight of the double-standards and hypocrisy of the religion. By living such a high-profile lifestyle, Dollar is possibly hurting God’s kingdom more than he is actually building it.
Just because people show up for lights, cameras and actions does not mean he is actually developing souls. Especially if he’s more concerned with funding jets for questionable motives than his true kingdom work of helping heal the afflicted.
Of course, not all religious leaders with huge followings carry evil motives. Internationally famous song leader Kirk Franklin has condemned Dollar’s actions as an abuse of privilege. Pastors such as Andy Stanley of North Point Ministries and Baylor’s own Chris Seay of Ecclesia Houston carry an exalted status in the ministry world, but do not abuse or flaunt from their platform.
While it is easy to point to many verses where Jesus condemned leaders for misguiding their flock or living extravagantly, it is important that Christians not merely make Dollar the latest scapegoat.
Everyone falls. Everyone makes mistakes. In slandering and attacking Dollar’s misconduct, we must also remember that Jesus had a more overarching theme than feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless and helping the poor.
Jesus came to present the world one word. Simply: Grace.
As Dollar and other religious leaders wade through the messes they’ve made, it is the job of followers, critics and displeased onlookers who profess the name of Jesus to remember the necessity of grace.
What Dollar has done is reprehensible. We should not treat it as inexcusable, though.
Everything is forgivable because Jesus has forgiven us already.
We must hold others accountable, but we must also be ready to extend open arms.