I debated heavily as to whether or not to put this church on full blast for the following practice that I’m about to explain. But, I realised that there are other blogs designed for that exact purpose and I don’t want to get caught up in making this a blast site seeing as how it’s not a big media following that would make it more appropriate for me to comment. So if you figure out which church and pastor I’m talking about–wonderful–if not, oh well.
I have a friend, who’s done a guest blog on here a few times, and she recently joined a very popular church here on the South Side of Chicago with famed roots in Gospel music. She wasn’t completely raised in the church as a regular Sunday event, but had ties at Bishop Arthur Brazier’s Apostolic Church of God and Johnnie Coleman’s Christ Universal Temple, but mostly at the former of the two. So frankly, I was borderline shocked when she told me that she had joined this Low End church (yessssssss! I finally get to use a thoroughly Chicago phrase in a blog post!!), but I most certainly didn’t say much. It’s a new pastor and the church is vibrant and growing—nothing wrong there.
So, she had hyped it up, I thought about visiting with her one Sunday, but I really wasn’t going to invite myself because frankly, I just wasn’t all that impressed. However, she did invite me so I said okay. But, she said she wasn’t going this past week. Of course I asked why. She proceeded to tell me that they have a capital campaign going on in the church and that this past week that everyone was going to have to get up and go to microphones placed in the pews and tell how much they were giving to the church with an asked minimum of $200.00–EVERYONE.
See, here’s where I get off completely.
Actually my friend burst out into laughter when she saw my face cringe up as she told this story and I kept on repeating “What are we doing in these churches?” over and over again.
I remember in New Orleans that attending Greater St. Stephen’s Full Gospel Baptist Church Uptown location was the first time that I saw people run up to the altar to give money while the pastor or preacher was in the midst of their preaching. Personally, I equate that to people at the strip club throwing dollar bills on the stage–the more …. you see the more dollar bills get thrown on the stage and the more the preacher squalls the more money would get thrown on the altar.
Oh wow, the prophetic tradition of the Hebrew Bible has so much to say about the altar.
Although I’m not the best fan of the Old Testament, I do happen to agree with the prophet Amos who prophesies a day of the Lord which isn’t exactly all that prosperous:
Woe to all of you who want God’s Judgment Day!
Why would you want to see God, want him to come?
When God comes, it will be bad news before it’s good news,
the worst of times, not the best of times.
Here’s what it’s like: A man runs from a lion
right into the jaws of a bear.
A woman goes home after a hard day’s work
and is raped by a neighbor.
At God’s coming we face hard reality, not fantasy—
a black cloud with no silver lining.
I can’t stand your religious meetings.
I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
So what this popular South Side church has done making the parishoners line up and tell what they are giving to the church is just shameless to me honestly. It reminds me of the reaction of some of my fellow classmates at Dillard. The closest church was Darryl Brister’s Beacon Light Full Gospel Baptist Church and that some of them were appalled coming back because he had the $100 lines and the $50 lines and so on and so forth.
I heard one popular pastor put it simply that “I don’t think God is all that impressed with how much we hock and spit and run up and down the aisles. God already know’s He’s the stuff and he don’t need us necessarily to tell Him.” I agree with the sentiment of Amos in that fifth chapter particularly as far as what God wants which is “justice to roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.”
What message does it send to a parishoner when the pastor would supercede a sermon and usual Sunday service to focus all on how much money has been raised for the new church building? It was such a turn-off that my friend, who’s a member in good standing at this Baptist church did not want to come to service that day. Most long time readers may recall my post against tithing as we know it in favor of the Pauline text in 2 Corinthians 9:6-11:
Remember: A stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop. I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving. God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done.
Church is a membership organization. Much like the Greek organizations of the Divine Nine that populate that church and no doubt many black churches, they have membership dues that they pay with no questions asked–even if they know the money aint going where it should–and pay to multiple organizations. It seems to be that only at church that pastors feel as though they’ve been put in the position of having to use the tithing passage in Malachi 3 to guilt members into giving a set amount. I really think that it’s simple economics. The pastors should simply use the aforementioned Pauline passage that simply says “We need our light bills paid and to keep the heat on. And if you give more money the more that we can do with and for this church.”
I’m at a lost as to what to say.
This is on the heels of Bishop Charles Ellis (yes of relationship to Bishop William Ellis of Chicago’s Apostolic Pentecostal Church of Morgan Park who was convicted of fraud a few years back) driving the three SUVs from the Big Three Detroit automakers to make his point about the economy preaching about “God’s Bailout.” Okay, I understand that 40% of the members of Greater Grace are associated with those companies, but it’s a little bit too late in my opinion. Is this saying that God is unable to perform miracles, no, but nonetheless I believe God requires us to be responsible. Honestly, this country should have seen the writing on the wall for Detroit back when America’s favorite liberal Michael Moore did his premier documentary “Roger and Me” which, weirdly pointed out disdain for the then GM Board Chairman Roger B. Smith, and began outsourcing, despite profits back in the 80′s.
Before I go off on a complete tangent, when will churches get it. Honestly, I want to ask Bishop Charles Ellis, “What if God says no?” What if all of this preaching about receiving “the blessings of Abraham” doesn’t work and all three automakers fold. Honestly, fact of the matter is that if we, as an American public don’t buy cars, no amount of governmental bailout will keep these companies alive, the money is not endless. That being said, of course the best we can do is rely on God, but what kind of legalistic God is this that we’re claiming to serve who operates like a hypothesis in a 3rd grade science experiment with “If, then” clauses.
If you pay your tithes, then God will bless you.
Some people really believe that. That’s fine. I’m sure I’ll lose all my witnesses with this post, but oh well. Hope the holidays are working out for most of you, but this weather up here in Chicago finally got to me when my car got stuck trying to get in a parking spot in -5 degree weather with windchills in the -20s.
Do you think it’s appropriate for this South Side church to have its members go up to the mic and say how much they’re giving, going through all 1,000+ members one by one? If you read the link, do you think the members of Apostolic Pentecostal Church of Morgan Park have lost their damn mind by still following their pastor after he stole money from them? How do you view God–as a God of legalistic clauses? One who merely accepts the best you have? Do you believe God “tests” us just to see how we react? Have you ever asked yoursevles these questions?
Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL