Why I dreaded it
By Sam Gaw – Editor of ChristianHeadlines.com
I knew it was coming and I knew I would have a hard time but when it came last week, my 40th birthday hit me A LOT harder than I thought.
One unexpected reason was because I was at the funeral of my wife’s grandmother. She was an awesome and funny Christian women, so it wasn’t sad for me. Instead it was a reminder my time is running out.
As I looked back and then looked forward, it was hard to see.
In my 30′s:
by Sam Gaw, Editor of ChristianHeadlines.com
On December 3rd, Greg Laurie posted a new blog post named “Some Thoughts on Drinking in This Holiday Season”.
Here at Christian Headlines, we linked to the new blog post as well as an article about the blog post. But after much thought and prayer, I thought I needed to add my personal comment about Greg’s post. While we love Greg and think he is a great Christian leader, there are times that Christians can disagree.
Here is my response to the post:
I usually love your stuff but must disagree with you on this one!!
While I could start by saying you seem to say, ‘do as John the Baptist did over Jesus’, I will skip that part. While I believe this might be the biggest issue, it could look petty since you never actually said it but only seem to refer to as such.
My biggest problem is that you leave out that John the Baptist was a Nazirite (like Samson). So, yes, a Nazirite would never drink wine or strong drink BUT you fail to mention the other parts of that. So, if we use John the Baptist as your main example, we must:
(1) abstain from ALL things from the vine (grapes, wine vinegar, raisins, and vinegar distilled from such substances. But why? Because they believed the fruit that Satan used in the garden was actually grapes – so NOTHING from the vine!)
(2) Refrain from cutting the hair on one’s head (even though a permanent Nazirite could cut their hair once a year if bothersome)
(3) Stay away from dead people.
SO, if we follow Greg’s version of this, we also must take the vow of the Nazirite and not partake of jelly and jam and vinegar and grow our hair out.
I will agree that if you don’t drink you won’t get drunk. But even the ’cause a brother to stumble’ part is taken out of context…if you read on, you will see that is a one-time deal and there must be actions taken to clarify and talk through the issue (iron-sharpens-iron). The whole stumbling thing has been used against true Christians so others church-goers can have their way too many times!! It is time to really learn what that says and how to react to it.
The only way to get around the drinking part is to say that the wine Jesus made was NON-alcoholic (or at least barely had any alcohol or even that it was grape juice like the IFB churches believe). That is nonsense to the highest degree! First, there were words in each language for grape juice. Second, that means you haven’t seen the grapes from Israel…they are bigger and better than most places (which means more sugar – which indeed means more alcohol, not less). Third, you are changing the Bible and Jesus’s first miracle for your own want and desire…shame on you!! Fourth, you forget all the other positive references there are in the Bible about wine…new wine/old wineskin. Fifth, wine was used in communions in the Bible (Paul got mad and told the people stop getting drunk on it).
I could go on and on but hopefully I made a point here. You must take the Bible in true reference and cannot just piece together your wants and desires from it. And, even though I really like Greg, you have to take EVERYTHING from EVERYBODY (no matter how educated or popular) and read the Bible for yourself!
I actually don’t drink but just because I don’t, it doesn’t mean that others shouldn’t. I know some that are healthier because of a glass of wine but I also know others that can’t even have a drop or they would become an alcoholic instantly. But isn’t that everything? We are all sinners. Some can handle themselves when a pretty girl says “Hi” to them and for others it would start them down a road of adultery. Some can control their eating while others can’t. Some can rise to become a leader while others would be so boastful and prideful that they would fall.
As Christians, maybe we need to relax on the demands that others-do-it-like-me syndrome! I love it when someone yells at me and questions my Christianity because I might prefer more contemporary music in worship. They usually say that I want my preference and that’s wrong…but isn’t preferring only hymns a preference? They don’t even stop to listen that I do actually like hymns rather than them hating new songs.
I digress. Just be careful not to twist scripture to your own liking. And if you have the thought that I just caused the next drunk-driving accident because of my personal response to Greg’s post…maybe you should stop living in the extremes!
Senator Charles Grassley, the former ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, has completed a five-year investigation of religious financial fraud that uncovered weaknesses in the United States tax code which allow churches to become tax shelters. The investigation revealed how televangelists exploit love offerings and housing allowances as nontaxable income and operate companies from their churches. Unfortunately two mistakes crippled the investigation:
- No subpoenas were issued and this resulted in an incomplete investigation.
- Questionable activities by televangelists Benny Hinn and Joyce Meyer were overlooked after they cooperated in the investigation.
In response to these mistakes Christian Headlines is calling for the IRS to audit the six TV ministries and complete the investigation. Christian Headlines is also endorsing legislative proposals from the Senate and supporting whistleblower protections for nonprofit organizations. And lastly, Christian Headlines is recommending that the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) adopt compensation limits and revise its membership application to obtain additional information regarding church nondisclosure agreements and self dealing.
IRS Should Complete the Investigation by Performing Audits
Senate Finance Committee attorney Lynda Simmons authored four reports describing questionable activities uncovered in the ministries of Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Creflo and Taffi Dollar, Eddie Long, and Paula and Randy White. These reports list companies and questionable integrated auxiliaries that televangelists have operated from church properties. When someone operates both a nonprofit organization and for-profit corporation and these entities do business with each other, it can be illegal to excessively profit from these self dealing transactions. 1
An IRS audit should examine at least seven issues:
- Did church employees provide free labor for the televangelists’ companies?
- Did these companies obtain free office space from the churches or did they pay rent? If more than $1,000 was paid in rent during the year, a 990-T form for unrelated business income should have been filed with the IRS. No 990-T forms were listed as sources in the Senate reports. An IRS audit would determine if any of these forms were required and if they were filed.
- Did the churches purchase products and services from these companies? If so, did the churches pay for these products and services at fair market value? For example, if Paula White Enterprises sold Paula Whites’ books to Without Walls International Church at full retail price rather than wholesale, then an illegal transaction took place and Paula White received excessive compensation from the transaction.
- Did Long receive any income from New Birth Missionary Baptist Church (NBMBC) besides a love offering? Did attendees of NBMBC receive tax receipts for giving to love offerings taken for Long? 2
- Is Kenneth Copeland operating secret foreign bank accounts? Copeland did not provide to the Senate Finance Committee any information about money collected at conventions held in Fiji, Nigeria, and Singapore. 3
- Did Creflo Dollar pay a gift tax when he gave almost $1 million to Kenneth and Gloria Copeland? 4
- Did each televangelist reimburse their church for use of the church-owned jet when used for personal trips?
The $34 Billion Scandal
The January 2011 issue of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research reported that Christian religious leaders will commit an estimated $34 billion in financial fraud in 2011 while $31 billion will be spent on global missions. Researchers from the Center for the Study of Global Christianity estimate that Christian religious leaders will commit $90 million in financial crimes daily and the fraud is growing at a rate of 5.97% each year. If the researchers are correct, religious financial fraud among Christians will almost double in 14 years to $60 billion annually by 2025. 1
Dr. David Barrett, the first editor of the World Christian Encyclopedia and a researcher for the Center, has been studying religious financial fraud for more than 20 years. According to Dr. Todd Johnson, the Center’s director, these statistics were the result of Barrett “developing a balance sheet for global Christianity.” Barrett was “trying to understand the totality of Christian finance.” 2
A Global Problem
Barrett and Johnson in the reference book “World Christian Trends” reported, “Probably 80% of all cases are kept private or swept under the carpet, but each year a rash of megathefts (over $1 million each) is uncovered and publicized in the secular media.” 3 Here is a small sample of religious financial scandals from around the world:
- Brazil: Bishop Edir Macedo, head of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, and 9 of his associates have been charged with embezzling more than $2 billion. 4
- Canada: Televangelists Ron and Reynold Mainse allegedly recruited investors in a Ponzi scheme. 5
- China: A whistleblower goes to jail for speaking out after donations for earthquake victims were stolen. 6
- Italy: Police confiscated 23 million euros in a Vatican bank account as part of an investigation into money laundering. 7
- Ukraine: Pastor Sunday Adelaja charged with fraud in promoting a business venture to his congregation that lost $100 million. 8
- United Kingdom: Church treasurer Derek Klein embezzled funds to pay for a stamp collection. 9
- United States: Trent Huddleston, former senior accountant at Oral Roberts University, alleges that more than $1 billion was money laundered annually by members of the Oral Roberts University board. 10
10 days ago a pastor’s wife called me after a friend of her’s was threatened for planning to expose financial fraud and a cover-up in the Assemblies of God denomination.
I responded by posting the following comment on the Christian Headlines home page:
“Christian Headlines is investigating financial fraud in the Assemblies of God denomination. Recent threats indicate that a whistleblower’s life could be in danger. Please pray for the criminals that they will repent, that the embezzled money will be returned, and no physical harm will be done.”
Since hearing of the threats I have spoken to two people familiar with this scandal and they confirm the allegations.
This story shows the need for strong whistleblower protections.
The National Whistleblowers Center is dedicated to protecting people that expose fraud.