U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa and a ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, on Tuesday released letters he has written to six powerful ministries. It's the official launch of a federal investigation into the legitimacy of these ministries. The names are surprising indeed.
- Benny Hinn Ministries (Grapevine, TX)
- Kenneth Copeland Ministries (Newark, TX)
- David & Joyce Meyer (Fenton, MO)
- Randy & Paula White (Tampa, FL)
- Bishop Eddie Long (Lithonia, GA)
- Creflo & Taffii Dollar (College Park, GA)
The letters ask for audited financial statements and information about executive's pay and benefits provided to those executives, including private jets, Rolls Royce automobiles, multi-million dollar homes, etc. Senator Grassley said the investigation was triggered by public interest and will look at whether or not these ministries have abused their tax-exempt status. See the whole story at http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/110707dnmetfinances.1e4809a1b.html.
Strolling through this list of esteemed spiritual leaders, I am reminded of times in the past when I have questioned at four (4) of the six (6) because of how it appeared they were handling the financial affairs of their ministries. Let me explain.
Benny Hinn is a wonderful speaker and has for years led tremendously successful stadium events around the world. But the perplexing news about Benny Hinn was about his lifestyle. The multi-million dollar home on the Pacific Coast (his ministry is based in Texas), the expensive luxury cars, and other matters have been questioned by the news media before --- with no response from Mr. Hinn.
I love to listen to Kenneth Copeland and his wife, Gloria, teach. They are anointed. No question. But I remember the day I turned off Kenneth Copeland --- and vowed that I couldn't take him seriously any more. Why? Well, he was talking about his private jet. He was asking viewers to send in money so that he could buy a brand new jet. His logic? He claimed it was an affront to Jesus that they could only afford to purchase a used jet. He said Jesus was sad about this and that as good Christians we needed to help resolve this very painful matter for Jesus. Frankly, it was the most outrageous thing I've ever heard anyone say with a straight face. I felt as if I were watching skit on Saturday Night Live!
Then there's Joyce Meyer. I love her no-nonsense approach to applying Biblical principles in our daily lives. But I had to wonder about the pleas she made a few years ago for funding for a new headquarters building. I went on-line and checked out this new headquarters. What was special about it? What made it unique? To my dismay, it looked like the standard, run-of-the mill two or three story office building that you can find anywhere in America. And it occurred to me that Joyce didn't really need to build this new building --- she could have found one just about anywhere in America. Joyce, was it necessary to spend God's money to build a redundant office building?
Creflo and Taffi Dollar are captivating. They really speak from the heart and they speak from the Word. You get the sense that you are hearing from some of God's finest servants when you hear them teach. And of course their ministry is very successful, like the others. So what raised my eyebrows with them? It was the Rolls Royce automobiles (catch that plural form of the word) that they drive. It's a matching pair, if I'm not mistaken.
Have you ever priced a Rolls Royce? I'm pretty sure there isn't a more expensive car available on the market today. It is the epitome of luxury and wealth.So if I'm the first to admit that these people are anointed and called by God to lead their ministries, what can we make of these financial things that seem to go "bump in the night?"
Quite frankly, I think we can conclude that they've made a mistake. They didn't pray and ask God what kind of car to buy. I know the heart and character of God. I don't think He frets about a used jet versus a new jet, or worries about the most luxurious form of transportation available to the human race. I'm pretty sure He's into more practical matters.
God wants us not to get tripped up by the material things in life. Ironically, they are the things His blessings have made possible. Nonetheless, God wants to make sure those things don't have power over us. For indeed, even when we are unaware, they do have power. Look at the power they’re wielding over those ministries and individuals today!
I love these ministry leaders. But in Christian love, I would have to say to them, "It's not all about you. You have to consider what other people (of lesser faith) may get from seeing you live like a billionaire. Is this the best way to use your life to model Jesus Christ? Do you think that Jesus would drive a Rolls Royce if He were doing ministry today? Would Jesus fly in a private jet, or would He fly coach (with an occasional upgrade with frequent flyer miles)?"
We all know the answers to these questions. So do these ministry leaders. So my prayer today is that this investigation will be a wake-up call to them and to other Christian ministry leaders.
To the leaders of global, powerful and effective ministries, live lives that are above reproach. Live lives that illustrate the character and nature of the Christ you represent. When you do, there won’t be any investigations. Even better, there won’t be questions about your integrity or intent. There won’t be distractions from the message you were so divinely called and anointed to communicate.
God's people are watching. You know … the ones you're trying to reach!