Christian Headlines Investigation: $34 billion to be stolen by Christian leaders in 2011.

I've been checking out the website Christian News Headlines as of late to read some of the bigger stories going on in the Christian world.  They recently started a new series on their blog looking at an overview of religious financial fraud. This is their first article in the series.  According to the article, the International Bulletin of Missionary Research reported that Christian religious leaders will commit an estimated $34 billion in financial fraud in 2011.  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.  The three most common funding sources are:

  1. The Offering Plate — In 2002 NBC Dateline aired an exposé on Benny Hinn. Mike Estrella, a former Benny Hinn Ministries employee responsible for counting the money given at Hinn’s crusades, said that he observed Gene Polino, Hinn’s CEO, embezzle thousands of dollars from the crusade collection buckets.
  2. The Ministry Checking Account and Credit Card — Jason Reynolds, the finance director of National City Christian Church, used the church credit card to acquire a Lexus SUV and Land Rover. He also embezzled over $200,000 by writing himself checks.
  3. Investments — In 1999 the Baptist Foundation of Arizona filed for bankruptcy after accumulating $530 million in liabilities. Dishonest administrators engaged in a cover-up to hide bad investments. William Crotts and his associates set up more than 90 dummy corporations to hide financial losses and used a ponzi scheme to cover old investments. New Church Ventures was the largest dummy corporation formed by the BFA and held $173 million in debts. New Church Ventures had zero employees and provided no funds for building new churches even though that was its stated objective.

I am glad to see that more and more outlets are starting to investigate and report on this stuff.  I know the people who give are just as problematic as the people who steal, but it's no secret that Christians are gullible people.  If you present something with a claim that "God will bless you more by doing it," and attach a few Bible verses with testimony about how it changed someone’s life, countless sheep stand up ready to participate.  The liars who preach this stuff have to be more accountable then the followers who get sucked in.  Let’s hope 2011 is a year of change in the Christian world.  As these stories of fraud reach more and more people hopefully there will be a huge shift in the amount of money that is actually given to the corrupt organizations.  And once the rivers of money stop flowing, maybe, just maybe these crooks will be forced out of their evil ways.

31 thoughts on “Christian Headlines Investigation: $34 billion to be stolen by Christian leaders in 2011.

  1. Somewhere, I can hear a preacher with bouffant hair and silky southern accent say “Stolen is such an ugly word. Ah would prefer to say-ah the funds were lavished-ah upon the will of God-ah!”

  2. My favorite “excuse” would be – the guvment doent get to deeside what is God’s and what is mans. If God put me in controll of HIS money then I have a right to take it. The guvment is just the paperwork – now give me your tithes.

  3. I wonder if this will be the year that churches and ministries will no longer enjoy tax exempt status? Unfortunately it’s not only the ones who abuse the system who will be punished. The good and honest leaders will suffer too.

    By the way, this is only related in a round about way, but Tom Delay was just sentenced to 3 years in prison.

  4. Great link, Reformer. I think it is important to share these to hopefully change the perspective of so many(especially young) “Christians” who fall into the trap of believing their pastors should never be questioned.

    Here is a link to a list of sexual abuse by “Bible Church” Ministers

    And this is a rather disturbing example:

    Overlake Christian Church elders moved to debatable theological ground when they used the Bible to justify dismissing sexual-misconduct allegations against their pastor, other church leaders say…Many of the verses cited by the elders referred to needing more than one witness to support accusations of wrongdoing, particularly against church leaders. Others require “greater scrutiny” for allegations against leaders. Another “biblical principle” requires one who is violated to “cry out,” the elders said, though they cited no Bible reference for the principle. (Seattle Times, 5/29/98)

    Pastors are People and People aren’t Perfect. Please question, question, question.

  5. Hey Reformer,
    It is great to see you on this blog, I really thought highly of you and your brother CJ back in the late 90’s. Unfortunately my experiences with CBC were as negative as yours, however I found the Lord there. It is sad to see where it is at today. Do you ever hear from Faith P. Or Asim at all?
    Take care

  6. Thank you for recommending the article that I wrote. Before this week ends I’m hoping to post 4 more articles.

    1) Editorial endorsing IRS audits of the 6 TV ministries Sen. Grassley investigated. I’m also endorsing specific legislative ideas to force churches to be more open with their finances.
    2) An overview of techniques used in cover-ups so church members will be able to recognize how these criminals try to hide their crimes.
    3) Practical steps to reduce fraud in churches by returning to biblical basics and honest accounting techniques.
    4) Re-inventing religious television by removing the prosperity preachers from the airwaves and replacing them with better programming.

  7. Amen Barry. Look forward to it. Saw this write-up in my in-box too. This is your filmmaker friend in Washington by the way.

  8. 4) Re-inventing religious television by removing the prosperity preachers from the airwaves and replacing them with better programming.

    You mean, like the Gong Show?

  9. Thanks Barry. Look forward to it. I don’t know your background much or if you’ve done this kind of investigating before, but watch out for all the attacks from the blind sheep claiming you are dividing the church and of the devil. So many of these people have to justify the fact that they’ve been giving their life and money to a crook for 10+ years by making excuses that the allegations against that crook are just an attack from hell. It helps ease their conscious a bit. Keep up the good work.

  10. Yes, I believe the Right Revered Reverend Pat Robertson bailed out of his presidential campaign because he would’ve had to come clean and open the Christian Broadcasting Network’s books to the world. Really? If you have nothing to hide…oh, I get it, you do have something to hide. Gee, I wonder what that could be….

  11. Did you hear the news? City Bible Church is selling the 217 campus in Tigard to a local Christian school, and is going to rent it back through a long-term lease.

    So, I ask you… the Forward Together campaign, which was spurred on by the vision “God gave the leaders”… was it a ploy? was it leading the people on? where did all the money go? why was this decision made without talking with the people who actually “bought” the 217 campus in the first place?

    The decision is brought on by the tough economic times… but God knows these things will happen in advance. What do you think?

    My first gut-reaction is that the Forward Together campaign years ago was NOT a God thing, and the vision to have campuses 15 minutes apart from one another all over the Portland Metro area was a colossal financial blunder – too much of a burden on the staff, the volunteers, the congregation, and the community. ALL of that could have gone to supporting missionaries who are doing great things through Christ and leading people to the Lord, it could have gone to supporting, encouraging, and witnessing to the military men & women overseas. It could have gone to many practical ways to reach the lost and hurting. But, no, they had to have their big, fancy buildings – and remodel them with top of the line furniture, electrical equipment, musical instruments, and television screens. Now, all of that in the first building dreamed and “envisioned” of God seems to have been an example of men’s thoughts and dreams… but packaged in the phrase, “a vision from God”. That bugs me.

    Seems if they had truly heard from God on the whole vision thing and goal for the area, this wouldn’t be happening. And, why decide behind closed doors on something so big? I’m not annoyed that the campus will no longer belong to CBC, but that they bought and can’t pay for it in the first place – I thought they raised MORE than enough… where did it all go?

  12. The “Man of God” is due a double portion. That is wher the first fruits go. To support lavish giving (bro Dick needed a new ride), nice toys, mission trips to bless friends who really don’t need help, cushy salaries (the amount is never known to the congregation) and gifts to MFI cronies. What part of an entitlement mentality don’t you understand? When times get tough and there isn’t quite enough money to support what the senior pastor’s vision was for the “house” then it must be the congregation’s fault for not planting enough seed. Has anyone ever heard a senior pastor say, “Maybe I misunderstood God’s will”? Of course not. Senior pastors are NEVER wrong. It must be the low faith and sparse seed of the congregation.

  13. The “Man of God” is due a double portion. That is wher the first fruits go. To support lavish giving (bro Dick needed a new ride), nice toys, mission trips to bless friends who really don’t need help, cushy salaries (the amount is never known to the congregation) and gifts to MFI cronies.

    This is SO true! I was recently told by a friend that Judah Smith took a guest speaking pastor on a shopping trip to Nordstrom’s as a thank you for his time and service. The gift…a nice $3,500 suit coat. Cause you know, the $1,000 one is for the poor folk at the Baptist church down the street.

    It blows my mind that these people actually think this is OK. To take the money that hard working, average folks give to the church in the name of obedience to God, only to have the pastor use it for expensive clothing. Damn shame!

  14. It really is sick Reformer I agree. This is the real “money changers in the temple” today. It makes me sick, thinking about it and how often it goes on. It really is a scam and TCC is guilty.

    This is the number 1 problem in church today! I am so turned off by “traditional church” because of this . .

  15. Why don’t they see it? I know there are logs in my own eyes, but I’m constantly asking the Holy Spirit to help me, and constantly asking forgiveness. It’s a daily struggle. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve made a mistake or done something wrong. Sometimes it’s my attitude, sometimes pride, or sometimes just not loving as Jesus loves – and so much more.

    But, to be so caught up in power, greed, and promoting oneself to the world as a “Man of God” – in a leadership position, none the less. Whatever happened to the one who serves being the one who will lead? Whatever happened to sitting at the lowest place of the table, so as not to offend or be reseated when one more important shows up – like JESUS?!

    Maybe (and this is how I felt growing up), there is NO fear… because God is good and wants only the best for us. If there is NO fear, there are NO consequences. If there are NO consequences, there is nothing wrong with our actions. If there is nothing wrong with our actions, then we can do whatever makes us feel good.

    Yes, perfect love conquers that fear, but we are also to remain humble, prostrate, and servants… worshiping, obeying, and living in the grace of God daily. Not taking advantage of Him or looking for personal gain. In my eyes, there’s nothing different between a bad CEO and a pastor who comes between the people and the Lord. God doesn’t look with favor on those who lead his sheep astray.

    Forgiveness is in order, but at what point should one say, “NO!” I said it, and it was one of the most liberating, joy-bringing, life-changing things since asking Jesus to be Lord of my life. That’s why it is soooo important to be under godly leaders who don’t preach for personal gain.

  16. Our Man of God (senior pastor) is on a track to better himself! He, his wife, his chief yes man elder and his wife are all going to Bob Harrison’s Increase conference at the Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa in Maui! This conference will surely bring great fruit to our small, local, financially struggling body. I’m sure that none of the po’ folks in the pews will mind paying for a trip (via their tithes) that they could never afford for themselves.

    The conference website says, “The purpose of an Increase Event is to instruct, motivate, and empower Christian Achievers enabling them to better live victorious and overcoming lives physically, mentally, romantically, and even spiritually so that they… and their finances… can positively impact this, and future generations.”

    I so pleased he’s going because with limited church funds it is hard to fulfill the vision this set man has received from the Lord: he’s trying to pass the mantel to his son-in-law but it will be hard to keep his own $100K salary and pay SIL enough to keep his daughter in the nice things she’s come to expect.

    (five weeks and counting…)

  17. God wants to increase your money NOW! .. stop paying your tithes an automatic 10% increase.

    But in return give him your whole life, if you have room take someone in – do foster care – reach out to your kids friends – share love and your life with everyone even if it hurts. Even if the people you reach out to reject you. Give 100% of your life .. and keep your measly 10% roman cash.

  18. [Comment ID #39569 Will Be Quoted Here]Just in case no one has told you, you have some good insights! :)

    I tend to think the whole ‘vision casting’ thing, where leadership goes on a retreat and comes back with some idea is a bit of a stretch. Buying property and erecting buildings is not a New Testament idea. On the other hand, house churches are mentioned 4 or 5 times.

    Matthew 28:18-20 gives the marching orders for the NT church. Make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to observe what Jesus taught.

    When I think about how many sermons I’ve heard about ‘possesing the land’ and how few there have been about how to apply the teachings of Jesus in my life, I have to hang my head. 1 Cor. 14:23-26 shows us NT meeting pattern, which is never going to be seen in a Pastor/King type of meeting. It is way past time to stop supporting the staus quo.

  19. They would always say we’re following New Testament pattern and then quote all the old testament verses for taking up offerings and building the house. Why? I guess because there are no verses in the N.T. for buying up property and building a colossal natural building.

  20. jayjacque Frank Viola makes the case in “Pagan Christianity” that all the money and resources that go to property in the church is the reason for the continued lie that the bible supports the tithe for Christians. This theology only goes back about 200 or so years.

  21. [Comment ID #39726 Will Be Quoted Here]

    I have asked this question to every single person who has posted on here that tithing is Biblical. I simply state, “where in the NT does it say we should tithe? Where does Jesus himself say tithing is a mandate of the church?” No one has ever responded. Now I wonder why that is?

  22. The only example I’ve ever heard cited, Reformer, is Jesus saying “ye give a 10th of your mind, dill and cumin, but neglect the more important matters of the law, justice, mercy and faithfulness …” (it’s in there somewhere / paraphrased) … that’s a lousy scripture to cite for the tithe doctrine.

    Note that Jesus says that tithing is a “matter of the law” in citing it along with “more important matters of the law” …

    I’ve heard so many preachers claim that the tithe predates the law, because Abraham gave a voluntary tithe of the spoils of war to Melchizedek, but that’s lame. His household goods remained at his home – he was just returning from doing battle with Chederlaomer to the north, returning with the captives of Sodom and the spoils of victory. So in essence, he gave a 10th of OTHER PEOPLE’S stuff – not his own. More importantly, he gave it ALL away – to his brother’s who fought with him and back to the King of Sodom – telling him emphatically that it was God who made Abraham rich, not the King of Sodom.

    So, technically, Abraham’s example was more New Testament than OT Law -in that he gave it ALL, not the 10% required by the law of Moses.

    Here’s another one for you. What do you think 2 Timothy 2:6 does for all those “first fruits” sermons?

    The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.

  23. I remember (yes, you can call me an old man now) when KRI was racking his brain (prayer didn’t seem to work) on what kind of church building to build on Rocky Butte. I think the architects were clueless up to the deadline. I want to say that KRI sketched out a “bubble” on a cocktail napkin but I guess that couldn’t be right….

  24. I was hoping to post in January the next article in my series about religious financial fraud. I finally finished my editorial about the Grassley investigation and endorse a list of legislative proposals to clean up church fraud.

    The newest article is entitled “Editorial: Government Intervention Needed to Curb Religious Financial Fraud” and it can be found at christianheadlines.com/blog

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