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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Big Ministries: How Much Is Too Much?

DollarsignsI received an email from Bernie Dehler this morning about a new post over at his blog.  Many of you know Bernie from the past here at MMI.  Bernie has compiled a list of executive pay at some of the largest ministries in America; and has identified his top seven "Most Abusive Ministries" based mostly on the ministy's total intake compared to their total pay for the ministry's highest executive.

Those of you who know Bernie know that this is one of his 'things'... and prides himself as being a kind of the ministry watchdog. (He has a special aversion to one John Hagee.)  But Bernie makes a point that I think it would be good to discuss:  How much is too much?

Is it OK for a John Hagee to make $900k annually when his ministry is supported entirely by donations?  (I think it would different somehow if John was in business, not ministry; but is this a double standard?)  Or for Billy Graham to make almost $425k a year, or Charles Stanley's $300k (just from InTouch)?

How much is really too much? 

One potential flaw I do see with Bernie's rankings is that he holds up certain ministries like Focus on the Family who pay their leader $0.  That is admirable; but I wonder if Dobson is really hurting, especially if he keeps book royalties that have to be in the millions.  Rick Warren is another example... he takes $0 from his church; but he does ok (even tithing 90%).  That doesn't make Saddleback exemplary; it just means that their leader has other sources of income and doesn't need executive compensation from the main body.  That shows more on the leader than the organization, I think.

So, I ask you this... how much is too much?  How much should a ministry executive make?  How about a megachurch pastor or the pastor of a small church of 100?  And should we really care?  Does it make a difference?  If so, why?  If not, why not?

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April 26, 2006 in Church Finances | Permalink

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dang... well- 900K is too much. I have a feeling that the Apostles would elder-smack someone like Hagee.
I have no problem WHATSOEVER with someone writing books, and when people buy them, making money...

But for a church to pay a pastor nearly a million dollars a year????
I don't care how many TV sets you are on or how big your congregation (or ego), that is wrong. The pastor's needs should be met so he can focus on the needs of his people without worrying about feeding his family. And he should be living at the level as the people he is ministering to.
I'm not sure what Hagee's church does for the poor, probably some good things... but my gut feeling is that on the Final Exam they as a community and Hagee as a shepherd are going to be docked some points on that one.

Posted by: bob hyatt | Apr 26, 2006 1:50:40 PM

Hmm. Some clarification:
"Pastor Hagee was paid $371,000 as Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio Texas, and $949,000 as President of Global Evangelism Television."

Still too dang much.

Posted by: bob hyatt | Apr 26, 2006 1:58:33 PM

I say get it!

I learned something two years ago...invest wise enough to where your investments eventually take over the amount you make at work...

I will never say how much is enough…if you have the energy and ability to produce cash then produce cash.

I work around people who travel…speak…and write books while growing mega churches…these are not sloths by any means…their energy is endless and they work their tales off…

Nothing is handed to these guys…we get what we work for…


Posted by: phill | Apr 26, 2006 2:04:30 PM

900 thousand! Are you kidding me? That is gross and obscene and we wonder why the “world” has no respect for Evangelicalism.

Posted by: Pastor Al | Apr 26, 2006 2:22:03 PM

John Wesley said: "Make all you can. Save all you can. Give all you can." I think too many of you assume they keep all they make which is probably a projection of what you would do if you made that much! I really don't think it's anybody's business.

Posted by: Will | Apr 26, 2006 2:45:51 PM

I guess I find it interesting as to who is qualified to determine what is right and fair compensation. I have no problem with Billy Graham making the salary he is does, in fact I thought it was low, considering the impact and the sheer weight of his influence. Is there anyone that doubts that he would be a good steward? Is John Hagee's salary high? Maybe, but I did not contribute toward it. I do not know much about this gentlemen, and probably never will. Nor does the average person outside of the church. In my interactions with people outside of the church, my salary level never comes up. The issue of money has more to do with how we go about asking for it, not spending it.

Why is it that a low salary is somehow more holy than a higher salary. What is so kingdom beneifical to pay a pastor low enough that he or she cannot live ni the community they serve? I do not know why Bernie comes to the conclusion about his hall of shame, but I do not agree.

Posted by: Kent | Apr 26, 2006 3:10:35 PM

I think that is between them and God. I also wonder how much of their salary is actual cash, and what is tied up into a car, housing extra.

Posted by: Jade | Apr 26, 2006 3:21:00 PM

I had another thought, no one has a problem when a pastor makes $50K in a church with a budget of $200K. Well then if 25% is all right there why not with a $50 million ministry?

I have many silly thoughts. Most just don't get out in public.

Posted by: Kent | Apr 26, 2006 3:38:31 PM

I don't think you can set a cap as to what's right and what's wrong. I personally feel that a pastor, senior or not, should be paid so that they can not only live within the community that they are serving but be at least at the midian income of their congregation. There are a lot of factors. 900k does sound like a lot, especially when for the last 10 years I have been tentmaking, but if you are ministering in California where a two bedroom house can run between 300,000 - 600,000 it doesn't seem so out of proportion. And if anyone of these "executive" (I really hate the use of that term by the way) are abusing their position then they will stand accountable for it. And if it is legit, and their people choose to bless them in that way I think it's OK, as long as they manage that money according to God's WORD.

Posted by: Kurt | Apr 26, 2006 3:38:39 PM

I've been to Cornerstone Church in San Antonio...it's a large, independent congregation. I do think the $900K is a bit excessive.

But I don't believe in "starving the preacher" either....

Maybe we should put alot more of this money into actual evangelism...and not just into television programming.

Posted by: Phil Hoover-Chicago | Apr 26, 2006 5:42:53 PM

Well......... Here I go.......... Bernie has opened up a can of worms... Just kidding Bernie....
John Hagee is making $900K... Man.. You have got to be kidding me. This floored me when I read that... I almost had a Fred G. Sanford "I'm coming to see you Elizabeth"...
If he's making that much money he had better be able to rais the dead, heal the sick, and walk on water brother...
I just don't understand this, and it really bothers me, because it does give the ministry a bad name, because everyone I come in contact with always mention's these T.V. Evangelist, Like Creflo Dollar, John Hagee, and Jerry Falwell. They ask me if I think they should make that much and also live in a mansion while they're members suffer and while there is others starving in the U.S. and other countries. I tell them I don't think Jesus would making that much, living in those fancy establishment's driving around in a fine car or even Schofferd around. So I try not to look at them but to keep my eyes:


Remember the story of Mary & Martha in Luke 10.... I try to just set at Jesus' feet and commune with him.

Posted by: Clairvoyant 1 | Apr 26, 2006 5:51:35 PM

It's all God's money and He'll hold people responsible for what they're entrusted with. Who's to say what these guys do with the $ they pull down? That's between them and God. And it's no different for a preacher, professional athlete, executive, or a worker bee like myself......

Posted by: Steve McGill | Apr 26, 2006 6:23:17 PM

Ok let me get this right... some are actually afraid to call this obsene amount of money JH is making wrong? What will it take to get to you move condemn Unbelievable!

Call me Judgmental if you want, shout it from the rooftops I don't care... but don't tell me a pastor making 900K is right or even healthy spiritually. But this is as obsene as it gets... :-(

Posted by: Pastor Al | Apr 26, 2006 6:26:19 PM

Corrected post below! I was so ticked off I sent the last full of errors. Probably should have taken a breath before I hit “send!”

Ok let me get this right... some are actually afraid to call this obscene amount of money JH is making wrong? What will it take to get to you move and condemn anything? Unbelievable!

Call me Judgmental if you want, shout it from the rooftops I don't care... but don't tell me a pastor making 900K is right or even healthy spiritually. This is as obscene as it gets... :-(

Posted by: Pastor Al | Apr 26, 2006 6:29:25 PM

I agree that 900K is too much. Just watched Oprah, a show about the genocide in Sudan, Aids/HIV pandemic in So. Africa. George Clooney and others spending personal millions to try and wake up Americans. Granted, they both earn millions more, but they don't earn a salary paid by an NPO with a budget met via donations. So . . . I do find some of these salaries inappropriate. Hard for me not to feel guilty my own income when I stare at the millions of starving children on my television screen.

That said, each of these churches and organizations has a board that approves budgets and executive salaries. Each of these people will have to account for their decisions before the Lord someday. I do not feel any personal responsibility to "expose" inappropriate salaries or fight to change them. In a world deeply hurting and needy for Jesus, there are many more important things over which we should appropriately expend energy . . . things I believe have potential to produce more kingdom fruit than fighting against salary abuses of a few American Christian leaders. After all, how we spend our "energy resources" is also a stewardship issue.


Posted by: Wendi | Apr 26, 2006 11:31:25 PM

Well, growing up at Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, VA and both serving under Jerry Falwell as well as working for him....I do know this much....he is a lot like Rick Warren ...He does not draw a paycheck from the church...absolutely nothing...he makes 250k as the Chancellor of Liberty University...everything else he gets is through Jerry Falwell Ministries!

I say this to say that I do think there is a great misconception on the amount that some of these pastor make!

My dad is on staff at TRBC and I can remember way back in the day when TRBC was struggling and I can remember Jerry Falwell writing personal checks to cover payroll for the church....people have no clue the amount (millions) that man has given to that ministry!

Posted by: Tadd Grandstaff | Apr 27, 2006 1:06:41 AM

Someone said that making too much money is not spiritually healthy. It would follow then that being poor leads to spiritual health. Really? And what does it mean to be poor? Here in the US you are poor if you have income less than what the government has calls the "poverty level". In other countries, however, that amount of money would make someone rich! The amount one makes has nothing to do with spiritual health. I think one could also make the point that God entrusts much to those who have shown themselves to be good stewards. Remember the guy who buried his talents?

Posted by: Will | Apr 27, 2006 7:08:33 AM

Where is Bernie when we need him. Perhaps he should come back and just post on this one issue!


Posted by: Peter Hamm | Apr 27, 2006 8:33:09 AM

What I mean is, I want his answers to our answers to his answers...

Posted by: Peter Hamm | Apr 27, 2006 8:33:44 AM

Actually, it is none of our business what any man makes. It is up to the church and the boards of those churches to decide what is proper. Who in the world do we think we are to deteremine what is right or wrong for these men. We don't carry their pressure, responsibilities, and demands. How would everyone here like their salary posted and discussed? Worry about your own life.

Posted by: larry | Apr 27, 2006 10:21:57 AM

Same old...same old. Who cares. Let's talk about pastors that are grossly underpaid and I'll get in on the discussion. God bless John Hagee.

Posted by: Art | Apr 27, 2006 10:55:59 AM

Au contraire, I think salaries and church finances should be public knowledge. If we’re asking people to contribute, they should have a right to ask where their contributions are going.

I think there is sometimes a perception that if people know how much money is involved in church finances and how high some salaries are they will be less generous in their giving. But, if the money they give is being spent inappropriately, or in ways they just don’t agree with, maybe they have a right to know.

Politically, I am for open government, some things need to remain secret but not most things. At church, I am also for openness. If I am contributing to a church or mission and I don’t think the money is being used in accordance with God’s will, I should be able to have access to the information needed to make that judgment and decide to contribute somewhere else if appropriate.


Posted by: DanielR | Apr 27, 2006 11:11:29 AM

I think the amount that a minister receives being obscene depends on who decided what amount he makes. If his board thinks he is worth a lot of money, then give it to him, but if it's his decision then that's another matter. I have found that the world is not nearly as offended at the amount a servant of God makes as they are the way that people that call themselves Christians act and can’t get along.

Personally I never made over $60,000 per year and I lived in San Diego Country most of the time I was in the pastorate. Some might say that’s a lot of money but not for the area we live in.

It’s interesting to me that the amount that a minister receives is published but almost never what he does with that money. Hat’s off to Dobson, Falwell and Rick Warren for their relationship with their ministries financially and more power to them for writing books that help people to grow in the walk with Christ and I hope they make millions there. They deserve it. As Americans we all have that opportunity to do so.

Sure Hagee’s salary seems extreme to me and he’ll have to answer to God and the people he serves, but don’t you think it’s strange that we are so wound up about this, knowing that these men have introduced people into the kingdom by the scores, we will even get upset over the bill that comes to us from people that saved our lifes through the miracle of medicine and yet we will cheer on and scream out heads off at spoiled brats that make $5,000,000 a year just to hit a baseball, catch a pass or slam dunk a basketball and still pay the price of admission?

Posted by: Andy McAdams | Apr 27, 2006 11:18:20 AM

You know I can't believe that I am going to say this.... But I agree with Daniel R.... This is entirely to much money for John Hagee to be making. Heck that's almost close to what President Bush is Making isn't it...

Posted by: Clairvoyant 1 | Apr 27, 2006 11:18:56 AM

I would comment over at Bernie's site but since he has to "approve" the comments what are the chances they'll find their way on to the site?

Anyway, I think he is way out of line and treading on dangerous ground accusing people of being greedy. Prov 19:5 says a false witeness will not go unpunished. I don't think going just by salary demonstrates anything and certainly not greed. Unless he has proof of specific abuse then he should keep this junk - "his free speech opinion" - to himself.

Posted by: Floyd | Apr 27, 2006 11:27:16 AM

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