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Thursday, September 23, 2004

Paying People to Attend Church Plan Fails

Bishop Fred Caldwell thought he had a great idea... he figured that if he paid white people $5.00 each to attend his black church that maybe some would come and his church could be somewhat 'multi-racial'. We talked about this last year in MMI when Bishop Caldwell first tried his idea. Here's a follow-up article (written by James Ragland) that appeared recently in the Dallas News.

Lord knows what went wrong.

But Bishop Fred Caldwell's 5,000-member congregation hasn't changed one iota – it's as black as ever.

And neither the pastor nor, he said, the Lord is pleased that Bishop Caldwell's offer last summer to pay white people to attend his church didn't produce lasting change.

Once the novelty wore off, the white guest worshippers weren't faithful to his cause.

"A year later, things are right back where they were," Bishop Caldwell said in a telephone interview last week from his office at Greenwood Acres Full Gospel Baptist Church in Shreveport, La. "They came, they saw, they left and they didn't return.

"And they came from as far away as London and Dallas-Fort Worth," he reminisced. "We had a great time. A lot of white people came, and they went back to their white holes. Because I'll say it again: 11 a.m. on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America."

He's right, of course, with the exception of a few places where people from different racial backgrounds worship together.

That's a shame if you ask Bishop Caldwell, and he said the Lord called on him one Sunday to do something about it. "God told me to pay white folks," he said, to lure them to his nearly all-black church.

So he did.

Bishop Caldwell offered white worshippers $5 to visit his church on Sunday mornings in August of last year. And he extended twice as much to those who came on a Thursday night in August "because the middle of the week is a challenge."

At the end of the month, he said, "I ended up paying out of my own pocket $1,045, and I had budgeted either $2,000 or $2,500."

Dozens of people came, he said, and not all of them accepted the cash. I jokingly asked him if anybody tried to "pass," or pretend to be white to get a few bucks.

It was a wisecrack. The response I got surprised me.

"Actually, yes," Bishop Caldwell said. "Some American Indians came, and when it dawned on me they were Indians [and] not white folks, I told them I wouldn't pay them, and they threatened to go to the [newspaper] on me."

I guess the Lord was very specific in his diversity message.

Bishop Caldwell said it wasn't a big deal – he just didn't want to be hustled – and the misguided worshippers went away.

"It was just a couple of people," he said. "They came three times, and the last couple of weeks in August, they didn't show."

Anyway, Bishop Caldwell withstood criticism from some, including a few members of his own church, that his cash offer was just a publicity stunt. The story made headlines around the world, and he's still getting calls about it.

"It was never about the $5. It was about the need to come together," he said. "But after Aug. 31, it went back to where it was.

"And God," he said, ratcheting up his voice like he does in the pulpit, "is angry with us."

I asked him why he thinks his experiment failed to change the makeup of his church, which has the same number of white members – "four or five," he said – that it had a year ago.

"This is the South, and people keep forgetting that. But it's not so much the South as it is a race issue," Bishop Caldwell said. "White preachers aren't going to ever preach it. You show me a white preacher who offers to pay black people to come on Sunday, and he'll be fired on Monday."

The same could be said of some black preachers.

I asked Bishop Caldwell if differing styles of worship were keeping the churches segregated on Sunday mornings. Folks who use that excuse, he said, are "hypocrites."

"First of all, Madonna doesn't care who's in her audience, [and] neither does Usher," he said, referring to two pop culture icons whose music has crossover appeal. "We use 'style' as an excuse when it comes to what people don't want to do."

Maybe the Lord did call on Bishop Caldwell to at least shake things up. After all, he's got one heck of a story to tell. "Thirty-four years ago," the 58-year-old pastor said, "I went home to commit suicide. I was a junkie and drug dealer in this city."

But when he went home to take his own life, he said, a miracle occurred – a white preacher on TV touched his heart.

"I went home to commit suicide" before something told him to turn on the tube. "And Billy Graham was on there preaching. And I accepted Jesus in my life."

These days, he said, he's not afraid to do God's work – even something as difficult as trying to integrate churches. That's a giant hurdle.

"One rock will take care of everything," he said. "And the Lord is our rock."

Here's a link to the whole article (it was still up as of posting time) at the Dallas News.

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September 23, 2004 in Current Affairs | Permalink

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"Paying people to attend church" is totally unscriptual, and would never be used by the Lord to cross racial boundries. If this was a principle from the Lord wouldn't we have at least heard it stated in the Bible? To hear that a Baptist Pastor of 5,000 members is said to be hearing this type message from God is extremely disheartening to all Christians. I'm sure that this message even brought forth a tear or two from Jesus himself. The principle is "sowing and reaping", now it appears they may have just placed a limit on their incoming tithes to a mazimum of $5 per member rather than allowing financial blessings from the Lord.

Lord help us, have mercy on us and forgive us for sometimes we know not what we do (or whom we had heard things from).........

Posted by: Bruce | Sep 27, 2004 8:31:46 PM

Bishop Caldwell believed that God told him to pay white folks so as to lure them to church. Let's be careful how we react to what somebody believes he hears from God.

Spriritual results or transformations are always difficult to quantify. This is because Ministry efforts are seeds. Same with the money Bishop Caldwell had given out.

Nobody, not even the Bishop himself, can fully and truly tell what this issue of paying people to attend church has accomplished.

Posted by: Victor A. King | Sep 28, 2004 5:35:40 AM

In many ways I can relate to the Bishop. I believe God wants us to have multicultural churches, because Revelation tells us that it will be that way in Heaven.

Paying people to come may be a little bit of a wake up call for the rest of us. Today's churches use other ways to get people to come. High tech worship, hot new worship bands, fancy lighting, skateboard parks in the parking lot, basketball courts inside the church, state of the art programs, you name it, the church of 2004 has it.

I have struggled with what God has whispered in my ears. Is that really from the Lord or are we hearing our own subconscious thoughts? Or worse, is the enemy infiltrating our minds?

Bishop Caldwell, you may have a black church, but at least they are there on Sunday morning. Most of our churches in rural New England are averaging between 30-60 people, and most are senior citizens.

It's great to want to reach out to the other people of your community, but be careful what you say is "from God".

Posted by: Nick | Sep 28, 2004 11:22:24 AM


it's not without precedent -- Jesus fed thousands, remember?

i think it's possible that God had him do this experiment.

However, his conclusion may be wrong.

Did he convict his congregation to reach out? Out of all those 5,000 regular attenders, how many went up to those white people.

Also, why did he have a problem with American Indians? How many Indians did he have in his congregation? Or Asians?

Multicultural is more than just black & white.

How multiculturalism is happening at Uptown Baptist Church is people be willing to approach and hang out with others, especially those different in culture from themselves.

Posted by: JP Paulus | Sep 28, 2004 5:41:23 PM

I don't think money is the issue to be concerned about in how much the pastor payed White people to come to church. I praise this pastor for even trying to step out in a southern church. I spent 8 years growing up in the state of Virginia and went to church with my family every Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday night. My family is even white. The problem we had is that we had no family in the city and we were from the "north". I made more black friends at school than white and the church "white" people had nothing to do with us. I learned a lot about segregation at a young age then ever I wanted to know. I love the southern states and the beauty of the mountains and the ocean. But, I would never go back to live. How I ended up in a cold state like Minnesota is rather odd except maybe it now reminds me to pray for my cold hearted race. I can see why God told this pastor to reach out to those white folks. They really have a chip on their shoulders that only a lot of love, patience and prayer can change.

Posted by: sherry hoffman | Sep 28, 2004 7:51:18 PM

Hey folks lets keep it real. $5.00 ? Humm!!! I still trust in what has already been estabished. Jesus said " I if I be lifted up from the earth I'll draw all men unto me!!! I'm trusting that all mean all. I will continue to trust Jesus plan and leave man's ideals and brain storms to the foolish. 101 bad move!!

Posted by: C.D Roberts | Oct 10, 2004 8:02:03 PM

It's not the first time. A Lutheran minister did a similar action in the late 80's. $5 was given to first time visitors. I knew another pastor who started a church. Every year they take out a full page ad in the local paper. They give $20 to first time visitors. Out of 200 visitors, they get most of the money back in the offering plate. People come out of curiousity I guess.

I place it in the same category of the various gimmicks churches use to get people to come: door prizes, contests for the most friends invited for a prize, free dinners, etc. They all cost money.

Its sad that it has come down to gimmicks and giving away money rather than relying on the power of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

Posted by: Dan Moore | Oct 12, 2004 8:52:08 AM

While I understand that some of you find Bishop Caldwell's actions unusual, I'm reminded of Gamaliel before the Sanhedrin in Acts.

If what this man is doing is from God, then that will become clear. If it is not, then that will become clear as well.

We have no way of knowing what God will do - or has already done - with this experiment.

Posted by: Ezra | Oct 12, 2004 9:27:01 PM

Ezra states that we should remind ourselves of Gamaliel's comments before the Sanhedrin and that, "We have no way of knowing what God will do - or has already done - with this experiment."

However, we do infact know the results of this "experiment". It was a failure. Apparently, she did not read the article. People came, left, and did not return. No lasting change occured and no legacy seems to be enacted. Sounds like a failed experiment.

I am white and produce a black preacher's television program and videos for his national ministry. His church is multicultural, but predominantly black. What I have experienced working with him and through his conferences, is that they way black churches worship and act during the preaching is fairly universal in America. Black pastors from the North, South, East, and West all seem to connect and have similar dialogue during the preaching. White churches do not have this universal characteristic. Some churches encourage the congregation to voice their thoughts during the sermon, others would discourage this citing confusion in worship. The choice of songs, not to mention the worship styles are very different from region to region.

While I am a producer and editor, I am also a preaching and evangelist. I hold a minor in religion from college and an M.Div from seminary. Personally, I love to see different cultures and people from different regions, worship as they feel comfortable. At the same time, I do not like to see people talking back to the preacher so much, that they are not listening to the sermon. I have had this discussion with a number of black and white pastors and Christians. For the most part, white pastors and laity are not comfortable nor familiar with this cultural/racial characteristic. I have even heard the comment from a black preacher regarding this characteristic as for show and emotional, that it inhibits their ability to listen to, not just hear, the message..."but that is how we [African Americans] do church and I am not going to change it." So, when caucasian Christians don't feel comfortable with the emotional and albeit loud congregation, they find someplace more to their style.

I do think style has a great deal to do with it. The comment about Madonna's concerts is a falacy. People DO attend Madonna because of style. They like her music, otherwise they would not spend $50-$200 for tickets. You won't find someone who enjoys Classical at her concert. You won't find a person who likes Heavy Metal at an In'Sync or Backstreet Boys concert. Granted people can like a variety of styles, but most prefer one over another. Thus, people do choose churches based on style (music, worship, leadership, polity, theological views, modern vs. post-modern, etc.).

I do think church will remain divided to some degree. Part of my believes as long as it is to celebrate the uniqueness of each culture, that is great. However, if it is to isolate ourselves from one race or other races, we have missed the mark. For example, there are a number of Korean churches in my area and some meet and use the space of a "white" church. Now one of my friends, being Korean, attends the Korean services. However, his youngest brother attends the "white" service. The older brother enjoys worshipping in a way that is familiar to him and connects him to his roots and culture. His youngest brother grew up in America and is much more mainstream than his brother and feels comfortable, even more comfortable, attending the mainly white service. Why? Because he likes the style of the church more than the Korean church.

Style is a factor and will always be one.

Posted by: Sean | Oct 14, 2004 4:07:35 PM

I was not clear in defining long-term success.

God may have had a very specific reason for leading the Bishop to do this.

On this side, we have no way of evaluating the eternal impact of the event.

That is why I am hesitant to judge this man.

Posted by: Ezra | Oct 18, 2004 4:22:06 PM

When it comes to the issue of intergration, I know without a doubt that worship styl can play a very significant part. As a worship leader for many years I have dealt with people idiologies of worship in every church I have been a part of. Now, since I have to go here because of what we are talking about let me say I am a (white guy).
I lead worship in a predomantly white church and always have, not by choice, its just how it has worked out. I will tell you that white people (from my experience) are far more acceptable of a african american form of worship than african americans are of a caucasion form of worship. Be honest, you know, I know it its the truth. However, if you truly want to de-sgregate your church then you need to de-segregate your worship. It is not a sin to like a particular style of song or music. Thats what makes every individual and individual.
But dont serve a white only meal or a black only meal and then cry about Sunday Morning being the most segregated hour of the week. YOU REEP WHAT YOU SOW.

Posted by: jeff | Oct 19, 2004 3:39:39 PM

In the U.S., we are so blessed with so many choices when it comes to churches. We should always choose our church based upon spiritual issues, however a side-effect of our multiplicity of choices is that we might be faced with a choice between multiple churches that all meet the spiritual criteria.

In this case, we are freed to choosing based on nonspiritual criteria like "Which church has the style of worship music that I prefer?", "Which church is closer to home?", etc...

So style can be factor and this is o.k. as long as we have our priorities straight. As Christ taught in Matt 6:33, "Seek first the kingdom of God..."

I therefore think that one reason most churches are segregated is because the U.S. is demographically segregated (especially in the suburbs).

Here in Dayton, Ohio, we have a white side of town and a black side of town. I'd go to a "black" church if I didn't have to drive so far and that church met other criteria. But of all the churches that do meet the spiritual criteria, I can think of at least 5 of them that I would narrow my choice down simply because of the shorter commute.

I would then further narrow them down based upon music style, opportunities to serve and whether or not there are other people like me that I can socialize with. Maybe this is a big factor in many people's minds, but for me, the socialization factor has nothing to do with race, and more to do with interests and mindsets.

I'm a musician (and a part-time worship leader) and I have a great black friend. We are friends because of our common faith and musical interests (he's also a musician).

Posted by: Greg Jones | Oct 20, 2004 10:59:45 AM

I think Bishop Caldwwell's idea...or should I say God's idea was delightful. I am seriously considering this somewhat , "novel" approach to outreach for our The ACORNs Ministry. However, with today's rate of economic exchange and inflation..$5.00 (Five Dollars)is just about what it would take to purchase a meal of two fishes and five barley loaves. On second thought , I don't you could get the "five barley loaves", with this meal, "to go today".Perhaps, it's not just scripture in the book of Hebrews that says, "..God is the same yesterday, today, and forever"...yum. Maybe, this time God is suppling the money for the "meal".

God Bless The Bishop. The Church, above all institutions uoght ta be concerned,"taking God out of the box".

In Christ Jesus

Elder Herman S Robinson

Posted by: Elder Herman S. Robinison | Nov 10, 2004 8:06:17 PM

Concerning Bishop Caldwell's offer of paying to have white people come to church is totally unscriptual simply because our Lord will never pay someone to follow him.If a person is truly a christian they will go to the church that the Holy Spirit of God lead them to, because Father knows best and since we are His, He always lead you in the right path, so I think it is foolishness to pay some one to come to your church. If we trust God and ask for the nations as our inhertance,then I believe it will happen.I have seen it a million times since being a christian.20years to be exact and I praise God for that.God's heart is to see none perish but that all come to Salvation.When we depend on God and have a personal relationship with Him His desire becomes our desire and He gives us "GOOD SUCESS".I can testify to that and give God all the glory and He is not finished yet.Praise God!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: leila | Mar 29, 2005 9:14:57 AM

Oh well, you get what you pay for. RevJay

Posted by: RevJay | Dec 14, 2005 9:48:57 PM

[I have struggled with what God has whispered in my ears. Is that really from the Lord or are we hearing our own subconscious thoughts? Or worse, is the enemy infiltrating our minds?]

Or is it the pizza I ate last night... JK.

Great question and point Nick! The ONLY real way to know for sure if the message is from God is filtering the message through Scripture. God NEVER contradicts Himself.

Posted by: BeHim | Dec 15, 2005 2:00:20 AM

Dear Brethren,
Let's keep in mind that our ways are not His ways. I believe that anything that God implements, will be in line with the Word of God. God says, "I do not change." We have too many preachers who try too hard to 'reinvent the wheel', so to speak. Let's keep in mind that the Apostle Paul never had the big churches, the lights, the cameras, the christian rock worship bands, and the skate parks. He said, "I preach Jesus Christ, and Him crucufied." That is all we need! What the Bishop is trying to do, is what God has already done! God said, "If I be lifted up. I WILL DRAW ALL MEN UNTO ME.", i know I raise a lot of 'dander' from those preachers who are materialistic, and marketing oriented...Oh well! I speak in the Spirit! Paul walked everywhere he went, no Lexus. John the Baptist ate locusts and honey, not rib-eyes or T-Bones. Jesus had no place to lay His head, not the Marriot or Holiday Inn. I know how important it is to want racial, ethical, and cultural harmony in this world...But my friends, THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN as long as we walk in the flesh, or carnality, I speak the truth. The Word of God says to walk in the Spirit, and not in the flesh, for there is NO CONDEMNATION for those who are IN Christ Jesus, who walk NOT AFTER THE FLESH, BUT AFTER THE SPIRIT. This condemnation would include racial boundaries.

I believe that God is calling out to this generation a people who will stand in His stead, take up our cross, and follow Him, obey His word, walk in His Spirit, and obey Him. When we start to walk in the Spirit, we find harmony, racial indifference, the peace of God, and His love. The reason, once again, why our churches are not in the harmonious love of God, is that we have too many churches who are walking in the flesh, and NOT in the Spirit. Does not the Word our Heavenly Father not say:

" God is Spirit, and those who worship Him, MUST worship Him in SPIRIT and in TRUTH"

PRAISE GOD! i FEEL LIKE PREACHIN'! I love every man, no matter what the race, ethic, creed, or background. I love all, for I choose this day to walk in the Spirit, which is His love, so therefore when we walk in His Spirit and Word, here will we find perfect peace with one another. Are we not one body? Are we not one Spirit? Dare we question His ordinances? I think not.

For I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, not I but Chist who liveth IN ME, and the life that I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loves me, and gave HIMSELF for me. -Galatians 2:20

Yep, you guessed it....I'm a white preacha'!

Posted by: Rev. Vierra | Feb 21, 2007 4:15:25 PM

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