Thursday, February 13, 2014

An acquaintance of a friend of a lady told me...

While I don't listen to him very often anymore, every time I've heard Steve Gaines speak in recent years he's at least mentioned tithing and has devoted more than a few entire sermons to the subject. He seems obsessed with this one Old Testament law that, as many before me have noted and a contextual reading of Malachi 3 (the perennial proof text) reveals, was not in the form of money but crops brought to the storehouse (literally like a barn) to support the Levitical priests who were not allowed to own property and to help care for the poor and widows. There were two annual tithes and a third tithe every three years, thus making the total tithe 23 1/3%, but preachers today would have a much more difficult time convincing people to fork over that much of their income, so they have settled for the tithe (singular) with frequent appeals for "offerings" over and above the obligatory undesignated 10%. Plus it's easy to calculate your bill. Just take your gross income, move the decimal point to the left one position, and write a check to said preacher's 501(c)(3) for that amount.

Every year Bellevue has "Prove the Tithe" Sunday, the day where people are encouraged to tithe one week's income. Of course, that describes every Sunday at Bellevue now, but when it began it was a special Sunday dedicated to tithing. Every year each household receives a robo call from "Brother" Steve the Saturday evening before. I can almost quote one of these calls verbatim now. In fact, this was my best guess before I heard the recording:

Hi, this is Brother Steve inviting you to join us at Bellevue this Sunday. This week is "Prove the Tithe" Sunday at Bellevue, and even if you don't regularly tithe, I want to encourage you for just this week to tithe 10% of one week's income in an undesignated fashion to our church. In Malachi 3, God says, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house." The bible says we are to trust God in ALL things, and that includes our finances. For one week we want to see how God will bless Bellevue if everyone gives just 10% of their income. Won't you pray and ask God what He would have you to give? We have Life Group classes for all ages and encourage you to come be a part of a small group where you can get plugged in. You may bring your tithes and offerings to your Life Group, give during any of our worship services which begin at 9:20 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., or, as Donna and I prefer to do, you may give online any time by going to God says, "Test Me now in this if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows." Won't you put God to the test and see how much He will bless you? Donna and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow morning.

This was the actual script this year:

Hello. This is Pastor Steve Gaines. I'm calling to remind you that tomorrow, February 2nd, is "Prove the Tithe" Sunday. We're asking every member of Bellevue, whether you tithe or not, to bring an offering equal to 10% of your weekly income. Malachi 3:10 says, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in God's house, and test Me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out a blessing for you until it overflows." I really believe that 2014 will be a year [of] increase in your life and Bellevue and that God will pour out his blessings on all of us. It is such a joy to be your pastor. I sure look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

So am I to understand that Bellevue Baptist Church at 2000 Appling Road in Cordova, Tennessee is the "storehouse" and "God's house" and that they need food? And that if we "test God" and bring (or send or go online and give) money to the "storehouse" that miraculously the "windows of heaven" will open, and we'll be "blessed until it overflows"?

I know plenty of people who have been blessed both financially and in life ("blessing" does not always equate with "money") without giving money to a 501(c)(3) where it will be spent on exorbitant salaries and building programs. Those with the means often give to equally important, I would argue more important, causes than a for-profit business disguised as a church. I also know people who have let bills go unpaid so they could give to a church or TV preacher, and I know people who have dug into their savings to give to their church. I know because I used to be one of those people. No, I've never given to a TV preacher, but my parents and grandparents tithed to the Baptist church, and it was drilled into me from an early age. It was so ingrained I never questioned it. Now I'm embarrassed to admit that after giving to the church and paying the bills (yes, always cheerfully and in that order, Steve), we were having to dig into our savings to make ends meet, but I thought this was what God expected us to do.

And then one day I woke up and realized we were simply funding the lifestyles of the rich and wannabe famous. Don't tell me we were living above our means. We live a very modest lifestyle, never eat out (unless you count McDonald's once a month or so) or go to the movies, drive an 11-year-old car, and I wouldn't know what a vacation is as we've never taken one, but money just goes so far. Of course, this is something Steve and Donna Gaines will never have to worry about since the handful of men at Bellevue who make these decisions behind closed doors were willing to pay them what has been reported to be as much as half a million a year in salary and benefits. It wouldn't surprise me to learn it's even more than that.  Something is wrong with this picture.

If you truly believe in "storehouse tithing," that's your privilege, but if you have even a moderate amount of intelligence and don't unquestioningly believe everything you've always been taught, you need to ask yourself if the money you give is going to help advance the gospel because when "administrative" costs eat up a large portion of a 501(c)(3)'s budget, they're really no longer a non-profit, and the main focus is no longer, cannot possibly be, the advancement of the gospel. You also need to question why we should continue to observe the Old Testament law of tithing while we reject most of the others. People are profiting, some of them very handsomely, all the while beating and berating the rest of us to give, give, and give some more. Oh, and to never question how they use the money because, after all, it's not your money or my money, it's "God's" money. I suppose with their direct lines to God that we ordinary pew-warmers don't have access to, preachers just know how "God" wants "His money" to be used. And hey, if it's to build another shrine to the man-o-gawd or a big shiny fountain as "an architectural invitation to the gospel of Jesus Christ" (I feel sacrilegious even writing that, but I suppose churches have been doing the same thing in one form or another for years), then who are you and I to ask questions? We should hang our heads in shame for daring to think!

Preachers like Steve Gaines, Ronnie Floyd, Ed Young, Perry Noble, Robert Morris, Steven Furtick, Charles Stanley, the late Adrian Rogers, Mac Brunson, and a host of other lesser known preachers claim you cannot be "right" with God, you will not be blessed, and you might not even be saved if you don't fork over 10% of your gross income, in an undesignated fashion, to their 501(c)(3).  Can someone tell me where that is in the bible?  Because I've read the bible through several times, and I've never read that.  It's interesting how most of these men are CEOs of large "non-profit" organizations in addition to being "senior" pastors of their own churches.  Not only do they receive large compensation packages from their churches, most receive nice 6-figure salaries from their non-profits.  (The latter numbers are public record.)

In the 11:00 Sunday morning service at Bellevue we saw a blatant illustration of the lengths to which these men-o-gawd will go when Steve Gaines prodded his wife, Donna, into standing up and telling a story about an acquaintance whose friend had been "sharing" (one of my red-flag trigger words) with a lady about the lady's reluctance to tithe because she didn't think she'd have enough money left to pay her mortgage but how when she finally mustered up the "strength and courage" to tithe (using Bellevue's convenient online giving option), the very next day when she called her mortgage company to beg for an extension or deferred payment plan, an unexpected miracle happened. Watch the video, and then let's "unpack" (red flag!) this little story.

Note how he called Donna to tell the story and acted like it was a spontaneous thing and a big surprise to Donna who had kicked off her shoes. Does anyone not believe this was planned? I guess he thought people would come closer to believing some giddy woman who couldn't wait to tell Donna about "God" blessing her friend after the friend forked over 10% to the "storehouse." A friend of a woman Donna doesn't know from Adam. How this anonymous woman was convicted for several days and finally submitted and went online (bonus points for shameless plug for "online giving") and tithed, and voila! "God" turned on the showers of blessing only then because she obeyed.

Imagine having to call your mortgage company and ask for a reduced/extended payment plan because, well, you had the money, but you gave it to your church. Not that you had to pay bills or taxes or buy prescription medication or feed your family, but rather you voluntarily gave it to a 501(c)(3). Somehow I doubt she included that part of the story when she spoke with the representative.

Her mortgage had allegedly (I think this whole story is "alleged") been sold to another company, and it just so happened that her mortgage had been "flagged" (can I get an amen?) to get a lower interest rate. Now don't you think she would have been notified of this ahead of time so she would at least know where to send her payments? Having been through the refi process myself a couple of times and having had our mortgages sold 3 or 4 times over the years, I know mortgage companies and banks don't operate like this. If they sell your mortgage they notify you well in advance. They may offer you a lower rate, but you have to formally apply, be approved, and sign a boat load of paperwork to get it done, a process that takes weeks, sometimes months, to complete.

So what happened when this lady tithed? Her monthly payment, which needed to be reduced from $1400+ to $1000 for her to be able to make her payment after giving 10% to Steve, was... wait for it... reduced to $1069! Hmmm... I guess "God" wasn't that impressed because "He" didn't reduce it to the needed $1000. She's still going to have to come up with an extra $69 a month, but if she continues to tithe I'm sure she'll get a $69 a month raise to cover it. That is, if she doesn't tithe her way into bankruptcy or foreclosure.

As long as you're making your payments on time mortgage companies and banks do not do things like this, actually cannot legally do things like this, without you being aware of it and signing off on it FIRST. With the new HAMP and HARP programs, more people may qualify for refinancing, and by law people who were a certain number of payments delinquent on their mortgages had to be notified that they may be eligible to refinance (HAMP), and people who are not behind and aren't under water on their loans who want to refinance may be eligible through the HARP program, BUT... and this is important... there is an application and approval process you must go through. You don't just call up your mortgage company one day and get them to immediately lower your interest rate or monthly payment. They may tell you a lower rate is available, but the approval process takes at least a few days to a month or more. So either Donna is flat out... embellishing, misunderstood the circumstances, or she left out a lot of the story. Perhaps the woman had already applied to refinance and just happened to have already been approved when she called the next day. That I could believe, but the whole "flagged" thing and not knowing her mortgage had been sold (the surprise element) don't wash. Not at all.

FBC Jax Watchdog has also written an article about this story.

An anonymous commenter (so I can't give credit) analyzed it well:

... so the basic logic here is, this woman tithed, so God "rewarded" her by allowing her monthly mortgage payment to be $400 less per month. Assuming (as is almost certainly the case) that this was simply a mortgage restructure where the monthly payment is lowered but the term is extended, then that means she actually will pay more over the life of the mortgage as a result of the restructure.

I just have to ask what this woman's annual wages are. If she qualified for a mortgage that has a monthly payment of $1,000-$1,500 a month, she likely makes at least $40,000-$50,000 a year, or $3,333 to $4,167 per month. Do you see where I'm going with this? A tithe on that would be $333 to $417. Instead of forking it over to Bellevue, she could have paid that tithe money to the mortgage company to take care of that "400 less per month" that she said she needed her monthly payment to be.

Lady, I hate to break this to you, but God really screwed you over here.

An observant commenter named Mark says:

It's funny, all the stories that I ever hear preachers give about the blessings of tithing really don't come across as blessings. It's mostly zero sum gains. Someone gives their tithe to the church then fall behind in their finances and miraculously at the last minute they get "blessed" with money in the exact amount that they were behind.

That's blessing? Certainly doesn't sound like the floodgates of heaven are opened up.

Another anonymous commenter summed it up in two short sentences:

The CEO needs to increase revenue. It really is as simple as that.

Yes. Yes, it really is as simple as that. The money is drying up, and Baby Doll needs a new pair of shoes!


Anonymous said...

We have some friends who go to BBC, and told us about the Prove the Tithe Sunday. They also said BBC has been doing this for many years. It was estimated that if the members gave regularly at that level, the BBC budget would go up to $35 million a year. During the last few years when Dr. Rogers was the Pastor, the annual budget was $25 million. I understand a few years ago the budget was reduced to $15 million, and they were having trouble making that!

Back in the mid '90's, I heard a Pastor say the average SBC church member gave 2 to 2.5%, and keep in mind this was before the economic downturn at the end of that decade.

It bothers me to see Pastors use guilt and pressure to get people to tithe. Also, do you tithe on the gross or net income?

Holly Parton said...

I am not going to tithe 10%, rather I am giving to charities such as Memphis Union Mission and Calvary Rescue Mission. These folks are on the front lines, explaining the gospel and giving out food and shelter to the homeless and poor. I don;t relish giving my money to a million $ a year preacher who lives in a huge mansion, preaches on Sunday only and sends his wife and co-horts on expensive trips , first class plane fare, to stay at 5 Star hotels. I'll do this until the Holy Spirit prompts me to do otherwise. I will however give to BBC upcoming mission, as Steve can't touch this money (supposedly anyway).

New BBC Open Forum said...

But... but... but... Brother Steve says that doesn't count! You can give to those (IMO worthy) causes BUT only AFTER you give Steve 10% of your income in an undesignated fashion. If you designate it for a particular purpose, that doesn't count either. They (whoever "they" are) must have total control over how you... uh... "God's" money is spent

Junius said...

Thank you for writing about this topic. I think this tithe doctrine permeates the church of all types and sizes, not just the seeker-sensitive, hip churches such as NewSpring and Elevation who rake in millions each year. My father pastored a small church for 23 years and always drilled the doctrine of tithing but he certainly was not doing it for personal gain. His maximum salary over those 23 years was $26,000 which was about $20,000 under the denomination's pay scale for the church's membership numbers. He held a full time job outside of pastoring to serve as his main income so he could leave the church with more money for outreach and expansion. I think the tithe doctrine has been so ingrained that it is just rarely questioned or pondered, but the twisting of scripture that is going on by pastors and the lifestyles that the tithe is funding in the megachurches is really starting to become quite odious. The church has done a lousy job in sound exegsesis and scriptural training in its youth so I fear this situation will only continue.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Memphis Union Mission was mentioned earlier. I've no question theirs is a worthy cause, and I've given to them myself in the past. However, something about them (and not just them -- St. Jude is among the worst) annoys me to no end. You cannot give even one time without being placed on their mailing list, and you will be bombarded with frequent mailings begging for more money from then on. Try getting off their mailing list! No one responds to phone calls or e-mails, and the mailings just keep coming. I'd much rather see them take what they spend on all these color mailings and plow it back into the mission. The continued begging makes it appear they're not grateful for what they've already been given.

Anonymous said...

"My father pastored a small church for 23 years and always drilled the doctrine of tithing but he certainly was not doing it for personal gain. His maximum salary over those 23 years was $26,000 which was about $20,000 under the denomination's pay scale for the church's membership numbers. He held a full time job outside of pastoring to serve as his main income so he could leave the church with more money for outreach and expansion."

Which denomination is this? I want to work for them! My full time job today pays what your father was making working part time back then. I would say he gained personally from it.

Junius said...

It was the Church of God denomination. I understand your point. My point is, he could have taken close to $50,000 from the church in salary. He worked a second job for 23 years so he didn't have to.

But the point remains regarding the tithe doctrine. It has become so ingrained that it has almost become a truism.

New BBC Open Forum said...

Excellent illustration of this in a "guest post" by Wade Burleson on The Wartburg Watch:

Any pastor who takes Old Covenant rituals and practices and brings them into the New Covenant, slapping Christian terminology on those Old Covenant rituals and practices, is deceiving believers and leading them away from 'the rest' that comes through faith in Jesus Christ's work. For example, if you've been taught that the church building is "the Temple of God," then you have been misled. The person who comes to rest in the work of Christ is the Temple of the living God. Everywhere you go, God is, because the life of God is in you. If you've been led to believe that if you don't give 10% to your church then you are "stealing from God," the pastor of your church is misleading you. God actually owns all that you have, and you are but a steward of it all. Give as the Spirit of God leads you, wherever He leads you, because the institutional church this side of the cross is not the Old Covenant Temple of God prior to the cross. If you have been led to believe that only males can be teachers and proclaimers of truth and that only men can lead, then you have been duped into believing that the Old Covenant principles of male priesthood are still in effect, and you have missed the New Covenant principle that every believer, whether male or female "is a priest unto God." If you have been taught that there are people with "spiritual authority" over you, then you have never seen the truth that Christ alone possesses all authority in the New Agreement and dispenses His authority through the gifts of the Spirit and the servant acts of His people, not the positions and titles bestowed by fellow man.

Amen and amen! Couldn't have said any of that any better! How many times have we heard Steve Gaines (and many others) claim all of those things?

New BBC Open Forum said...

Copied from previous thread:

WishIhadknown said...

Questions. If all of the things Steve Gaines and others preach about tithing are true. Why is it necessary to have an annual, “prove the tithe Sunday?” If God is faithful, and He is, would not having one “Prove the Tithe Sunday” be enough to prove the point? Wouldn’t those who participate lives be so changed that others would see and want what those people have?

5:36 PM, February 18, 2014

Anonymous said...

Correction. We love brother Steve group on facebook

New BBC Open Forum said...

We love brother Steve group on facebook.

Which has seen no activity since 2011.

Anonymous said...

Matthew 22:36-39 Jesus was asked "which is the great commandment in the law and He replied "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. He goes on to say "ye shall love your neighbor as yourself". Though we give we may not love but if we love we will certainly give. Only God can measure the extent of our love. We are to give out of love not out of law. Galatians 5:18 says that if we are led by the Spirit we are not under the law. We should have faith that if God ordains something to be done by the leadership of His spirit we should have faith that He will make provision.

New BBC Open Forum said...

We should have faith that if God ordains something to be done by the leadership of His spirit we should have faith that He will make provision.

Exactly. Apparently Steve's faith isn't that strong because he seems to think people need perpetual "encouragement" from him to give more. And not just to give where, when, and how much the Holy Spirit leads but constant guilting and pressure to give to "the storehouse" (as redefined by Steve). Sounds to me like Steve might not be certain all those "somethings" he needs/wants money for are God-ordained after all.

Come on, Steve! How about sticking to presenting the gospel and preaching about, oh, say... "anything but money" (or reminding women of their proper "roles" in their own families as dictated by men like you, as that one's getting old, too), and just let the Holy Spirit convict people to give however He leads? If all your programs and big salaries are truly ordained by God, He will "open the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows," and people will give over and above anything you could ever imagine.

If they're not ordained by God... well... the receipts will reflect that, too. Step out in faith, Steve. Step out in faith, and stop trying to "help" God. If the coffers are getting low the sheeple not practicing "storehouse" tithing may not be the problem. The problem just might be that God wasn't in it in the first place. Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

Are we going to be dishing out a new article here soon. I always enjoyed keeping up with articles about Shyster Steve.

New BBC Open Forum said...

I don't know. Are we? Submit some new material for consideration, and we might. Frankly, I got tired of Shyster Steve quite a while ago. He bores me because he's just so darned predictable.

Unknown said...

So two honest comments (1) do you tithe? (2) which of these men ever said you are not saved if you do not tihe? (This was your clear implication)

New BBC Open Forum said...

Eddie Struble