By Joanna Cattanach – Special to Dallas South News
Purpose-Driven Pastor Rick Warren’s message to parishioners: bailout the church.
In an online plea last month, Warren asked parishioners to help cover a six-figure shortfall, “With 10% of our church family out of work due to the recession, our expenses in caring for our community in 2009 rose dramatically while our income stagnated.
Still, with wise management, we’ve stayed close to our budget all year. Then… this last weekend the bottom dropped out. On the last weekend of 2009, our total offerings were less than half of what we normally receive – leaving us $900,000 in the red for the year, unless you help make up the difference today and tomorrow.” With all of the activities and ministries the church is involved in from mentorship of hundreds of leaders, to prison ministries, to Purpose-Driven radio and a Hula Team, the devotionals this year just weren’t cutting it.
No, the church didn’t mismanage the funds. The calendar and church member fatigue were to blame, “The cause of our financial shortfall was NOT a management issue but simply by the way Christmas occurred in this year’s calendar. After 10 packed Christmas services, and with Christmas Day on Friday, many people were out of town or too tired to come back for weekend services, so the unusually low attendance created an unusually low offering. That is understandable,” wrote Warren who also said the media (and blogosphere) would probably spin the news the wrong way.
“Because our church attracts a lot of attention, the media will undoubtedly report my letter- but only partially, not telling the whole story. It is likely that none of the positive end-of-the-year reports of your service to the community and none of your amazing accomplishments as a church family in 2009 will be reported. They may get some facts wrong or even misjudge our motivations. I know this is frustrating, but don’t let it bother you,” wrote Warren who is senior pastor at mega Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif.
Both an activist and author, in 2005 Beliefnet nominated him Most Inspiring Person of the Year after he refunded the church his entire salary when his book, The Purpose-Driven Life, became a national bestseller–his first royalty check was $9 million. He is also a proponent of reverse tithing–the Warren’s live on 10 percent of their income and give 90 percent away.
So why won’t the big man just cut the church a check? Well, defenders say it’s not his business. He isn’t a CEO and he does give to the church. But as a body of believers each member must be responsible to the church both spiritually and financially. But Warren’s request to his church members—many of whom gladly gave—hits on a sensitive nerve.
Doesn’t it bother you just a little to see a man or woman of God on TV or at the pulpit in a designer suit? Or with a diamonds and gold rings on well-manicured hands? It’s hard sometimes to hear their message through capped teeth. Especially when you are struggling financially, when you’re asking God to help make the mortgage or for good health because you don’t have insurance. During a recession, faith is often the only stronghold many of us have and tithing is the most painful when you know you can’t afford it.
But it’s not just our profiting brethren in Brooks Brothers that bother this believer. The Dallas/Fort Worth area is home to several mega churches with mega ministries and parking lots of parishioners and TV ministers and billboard ads and PR reps and those with private jets—the churchopolous I call it. Should they downsize for God? Maybe. I know a lot of smaller churches that are really struggling to just keep the lights on. Often small town ministers and those with small parishes take no salary (work on the side) and use church funds for help church members with basics like rent and food not to keep the hula team in new uniforms.
Did Warren’s church mismanage funds? I don’t know. But from an economic standpoint, you have to admit being so large, having so many ministries, wanting to be bigger and better for the Alpha & Omega costs money and time. Sometimes it seems that in the name of faith mega churches are just trying to keep up with the Joneses.
I do not want to throw stones. I’m simply of the belief: that which you do not have you do not spend. And if my minister is making millions, it’s a problem for me. It’s a problem when their suits cost more than my entire month’s salary and they preach to me from jumbotrons about staying positive, having faith in crisis and drive home in an Escalade or cut a percentage of their millions in royalties and call it tithing not a tax break.
Joanna Cattanach is founder of the website www.chicktalkdallas.com. She currently works as a frelance writer and writing instructor in the Dallas area.
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