Wednesday, May 19, 2010

High Rolling at The Vortex Church

Yum. Just downed a happy meal at MickeyD's tonight. Since the economic downturn we've been cutting costs in creative ways like many Americans. Occasionally splurging is a must, though, to keep the sanity and fun in your life. Thus the economy meal. (And dont forget, there's always the Number 12 at Polo Ray: $2.99 buys more than you can eat, or make it a platter for an extra $1.25. Just add ice water at no charge and your meal is complete.)

It's amazing, though, that our former Vortex Church doesn't seem to be affected by the economic dip, or at least it hasn't seemed to affect the senior pastor family. In fact, vacations to expensive theme parks clear across the country are being twittered about by their entire family as I blog. "Entire family" in this case means most of the Vortex staff which is senior pastor and wife, sons, daughters, and spouses. These people always vacation together which is a little weird anyway. How do you ever really take a break if your entire clan is in tow?

That's just rich isn't it? When the rest of us are driving shorter distances in these hard times or even cutting out vacations altogether for a staycation, this family manages to ride high on the tithes of the undiscerning (who believe that their tithes and offerings are furthering the work of the ministry which is supposed to help the cause of Christ). Instead, they feel free to spend the money on themselves. But that's nothing new. Actually, it's one of the primary reasons we left. Somehow the leadership (and the people who stay there with them) truly believe that there's nothing wrong with spending tithe money in extravagent ways.

Not that a family shouldn't take a break and make memories together. But come on. Doesn't ANYONE see that something is amiss here? Apparently not, because the entitlement behavior is still going on how many years later? They don't seem to be cutting back at all when the rest of us have to. They still eat often at fine restaurants (no MacDonald's for them), still live in their posh houses (and there's something fishy in the way they all got those houses) and they fly across the country monthly whether it be for what they call ministry or for a family vacation. (But they need those vacations because they are working so hard you know, trying to think of new and creative offering ideas to keep their good thing going).

I know it makes me sound bitter and jealous. Under normal circumstances I'd wish anyone the prosperity they seem to enjoy. And if they were owners of a company making lots of money, and as long as it were ethical unlike Enron, I'd have no qualms with their high end tastes. But when did pastors become entitled to lux living as if they were CEOs of big money-making companies? They are living off offering money. If so, then they should live within their church's means not like Benny Hinn or something.

It hardly seems fair that the economic crisis doesn't seem to touch them like it does the rest of us. I suppose if we had a personal tithe stash coming to us every week, we'd be flying across the country on vacation too. Is it because they are more privileged than the rest of us? Does God have a special affinity for them as his select anointed? Were they born into royalty? Why are they privileged then? The bottom line is they have somehow convinced enough people that they are deserving of money that doesn't belong to them. They lead people to believe it's for ministry purposes -- money they and their followers think they are entitled to dip into. Remember, as a church they have 501 3 C status which means they don't have to pay taxes on that money. That's a whole different topic. Related yes, but I can't even go there now.

How long is God going to look on while people in this church have lost their houses (something's fishy there too) yet they loyally give their tithe money every Sunday so the senior family can live in their high end homes? I can't help but wonder if God's silence is condoning their behavior? When I think again, I know it's not but it's certainly a diabolical thought that crosses the minds of those who have been used by them and tossed aside and forgotten. Reminds me of a few Psalms we've all come across, thinking 'Wow, David sure has an attitude here' -- apparently with good reason. If David, a man after God's own heart, felt free to ask God these kinds of questions, maybe my question here isn't so out of line. How long Oh Lord . . .

The whole disparity is so eerily familiar. Wasn't it the Pharasees in the New Testament who were eating the best cuts of meat provided by the poor people (those weren't free-will offerings, they were mandatory) as they walked around in their fine robes and lived in the best houses? Oh, and they were really into public prayer too - so eloquent(blah blah blah)and spiritual(such bloviaters). But whose prayers did God esteem?

If pastors want to truly relate to the average person in their congregation for the sake of the Gospel, shouldn't they at least try to live a balanced lifestyle, which may also entail living within a balanced means, and take an average salary (so they are neither tempted to steal or become so greedy they forget God)? That would mean they would be numbered among the middle class instead of the elite though, and for some pastors that could be a problem. When you think about it, Jesus wasn't even considered middle class and he managed to get the true work of the gospel accomplished. If it worked for him to remain lowly, why do we think we'd need to be any different?