Profit!

An alert SFL reader sent me a link to the 2011 tax return filed by The Sword of the Lord which on page 7 reveals the following information about the income of its employees:

SOTLIncome

I had no idea that running a fundamentalist fishwrap which features mostly old sermons, self-righteous rants, and ads for bus ministries was such a lucrative affair for the guy at the top. If Shelton is making that kind of dough I guess it must be seriously hard work culling all the Calvinism out of Spurgeon’s sermons to make them fit to print.

74 thoughts on “Profit!”

  1. Ms. Hurt is making about $10 an hour, based on a 40 hour work week. Although I’d bet she works more than 40 hours a week and they don’t pay her overtime.

    1. I would assume since her name is Eunice, she is probably over 60 years old and she could use some extra money
      I always knew Doctor Smith was evil, trying to sabotage Jupiter II and kill Will Robinson and Robot, now he’s a cheap bugger too. I would not be surprised he left those gospel tracts like look $20 bill as tips at Denny’s.

  2. I am new here. I mean I left only a week ago. I was a deacon. I left and took my wife and daughter (a wonderful girl being groomed for BJU… I didn’t want her to go there, but it was being made loud and clear that that is the only university with saved people attending.)
    Finance meetings were particularly nauseating. I don’t mind someone being on a payroll as long as it’s not on the backs of the hurting 2-bit widows.
    Don’t tell me what you believe, show me what you do, and I will tell you what you believe.
    ~ Finally Tired of the Hypocrisy

    1. As a BJU grad, I had mostly a good time there and I felt I was well trained to teach; however, many states won’t even consider my degree because BJU isn’t regionally accredited. Your daughter definitely doesn’t need to waste four years and a lot of money for a degree that may be useless in her field.

      Blessings as you follow Christ in LIVING the Gospel not just TALKING about it!

    2. I wish I could get out, but frankly I don’t know how right now. I have a ministry supported by more than a few fundamentalist individually and my home church,, who are mostly kind people that invest in me. I don’t want to quit what I’m doing, take their money, and spit in their face by saying fundamentalism stinks. But my distaste grows every day, and it gets harder to stay. Leaving all together would require giving up my own financial security for the uncertain. So far, my approach has been that I can stay in fundamentalism without being one of those fundamentalists, and just run our ministry in a better way, but its not that easy. To stay, I have to keep wearing the suit, keep acting like the AV1611 is the only real Bible and pretend my music is the only Christ honoring kind. It makes me sick sometimes.

      1. I’m sorry you’re in this situation, but because you are a pastor/ teacher, you have to do something. If you are pretending to believe certain things that you actually don’t, you are spreading a bad teaching to believers. That’s pretty serious, and God holds us accountable for what we teach.

    3. “Don’t tell me what you believe, show me what you do, and I will tell you what you believe.”

      Amen!
      I nominate this for the motto of the Stuff Fundies Like web site.

      1. More time for family, personal growth, solice, etc. Less religious bantering, and in the case of fundamentalism; less bull crap guilt tripping and otherwise authoritarian cult trappings.
        Most attend religiously because they are more religious or because it canbe a great social network.
        If thats not what you want or need; i am slowly coming to the conclusion its time better spent elsewhere. ❓

      1. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Your situation is revealing the heart of those who appear godly and it’s not so pretty. I’m sorry you’re facing this though, and I hope you find a good support system because it can be hard to be the recipient of so much animosity.

        1. I don’t know about Shelton Smith’s situation, but the “salary” could be low. Most of us have to pay out of our salary to trips to a SOTL conference, but his trips are surely paid for by the SOTL. In addition, it is fairly common for pastors to have housing/utility/car allowances, which are not taxable, but add to one’s “salary”, since most people pay for their house, utilities, and car expenses from their salary.

        2. GR– that’s another thing we would have to see Shelton’s individual tax return to know. If your employer provides housing, cars, boats, and the like as part of your compensation, it’s usually taxable as income. Not so business-related travel and entertainment, though.

        3. My understanding is that for pastors, such an allowance is not considered taxable income, assuming it meets IRS guidelines. Shelton Smith may be able to have a similar set up. I’ve known many pastors and staff under this arrangement; it keeps their taxable income low, and allows the church dollars to go further.

    1. Because Christians have been “dumbed-down” to follow the “great leader”; staying busy is encouraged; private Bible study is discouraged. Instead of focusing on Jesus Christ, these groups focus on their leader.

  3. Keep reading, there’s more. For example, I notice that just about every category shows significant declines from prior years. Total revenue down 2 million.
    Also, Part VI, Section B, number 15.

    1. Yeah, I was thinking that was about right for a part-time secretary, then I double-checked her hours.

      But she’s a woman, so her work isn’t worth as much as a man’s work, hay-men?

  4. Seriously, how much time does it really take to edit the SOTL? Most of it is just copy/paste – and omitting all offensive material from historic sermons so it appears well-respected preachers from the past actually agree with them when they clearly wouldn’t. (Like that hatchet job Shelton Smith did on the Charles Spurgeon sermon back in 2007, making it appear Spurgeon was not really a calvinist)

    1. Also, my old fundy pastor is the editor of the ‘Biblical Builder’, which is the Aussie version of this (I believe). I was going to make a joke that the pay would be why he would do that, but honestly, I don’t think it is.

      In his case, it’s the ability to have power and manipulate just so many people. It actually really scares me to think about it. He’s really not a nice man.

  5. i’m gobsmacked that ol’ Shelton makes nearly twice my spouse’s income in mid-level management, and in “ministry” no less. 😐

    When we were in ministry, the pay was so low we had to accept government assistance to get by. πŸ˜•

      1. Ok, in 1976 he got his Doctor of Ministry, Practical Theology, from Luther Rice University. LRU is currently TRACS accredited, which is national accreditation but not regionally accredited. Also, I don’t know in what year LRU became TRACS accredited. TBH, I don’t know in what year TRACS was even started.

        In 2003 he got a Doctor of Theology from Midwestern Baptist College and Seminary. If I’m reading correctly (and as a foreigner, I don’t expect to get the tricky subject of US accreditation correct) it looks as though that college is accredited through HLC, which might actually be regionally accredited.

        1. I think you were looking at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Based on their faculty bios and Statement of Faith, I’m almost certain that’s not the institution that granted Dr. Smith his degree. It’s more likely that the Midwestern Baptist College is one in Lake Orion, Michigan (http://www.midwesternbaptistcollege.net/index.cfm), which was founded by Dr. Tom Malone, a long time SOTL hero. Dr. Smith has spoken there a few times (based on their chapel sermons available online), and there’s a link for a SOTL conference.

          My guess is the school has maybe 40 students. I actually spent a semester there thirty years ago. I couldn’t get out quickly enough. I managed to get some of my credits accepted provisionally at another local school, with accreditation, and I never looked back.

  6. I don’t mind it if people make money, IF they earn it. Getting paid well to do a good job is not a bad thing. But, when we were in fundystan, it WAS a bad thing to actually do well. You were looked down upon and were expected to “give until it hurts” and what was given to usually was the pastors pet projects, one of which was his beloved Bible college that could not break even to save its life so the church “sponsored” it.

  7. Looks like they only have four employees? It’s still kind of a large organization. It could be that Smith puts in a lot of time managing logistics in addition to simple editing. Or maybe the others do that and he just collects a pay check. I don’t know. $94,000 a year isn’t obscene although it’s pretty good in Tennessee.

    1. It is possible that they have only four employees, but the 990 requires listing only certain employees (directors, board members, key employees and highly compensated employees) In this case, the “secretary” is listed as an Officer.

        1. Mr Walker is employed as treasurer/secretary. There are two reasons why I doubt she is the corporate secretary. One, I doubt they would employ a woman as secretary of the corporation. Two, I doubt that the ops of SOTL are so complicated that they would need two people to perform the duties of secretary of the corporation.

          Also, if SOTL employed a man as office secretary, I would bet he would paid more than $20k. Conversely, if Shelton Smith’s position were held by a woman (fat chance!), she would be paid far less than $94k.

      1. If they weren’t fundies I’d say that’s likely. πŸ™‚

        I’d guess they contract out the printing. Very, very few businesses other than newspapers and book publishers still own their own print shops. Even very large banks and utilities are selling them off.

    2. We may be overlooking something. Dr. Smith is on the road almost every week, speaking numerous times. Many of these churches will provide him with an honorarium for speaking. I don’t know whether this automatically gets put back in the SOTL coffers, or if it’s a personal perk for him. But he could be pulling in some additional cash beyond what he’s getting from the “ministry”.

  8. Darrell,

    I love your thoughts and your site. Truly, I do. Smith and the Sword are obscenities, but I don’t consider $94,000 to be a lot of dough. Actually, I’m surprised he doesn’t make more. However, I would love to make 94K πŸ™‚

    Also, there is a deeper issue I think at the core, namely, when does making a good living become wrong? Maybe it doesn’t, but I get that sense from your post. Regardless the absurdity of what he produces; he produces, nonetheless. Why is that bad? He creates a product and people buy it. I don’t see why that’s wrong. You create a site/blog (SFL) with hopes of having advertisements and income (I assume). You wrote a book in order to sell that book (though it’s only $1.99). If you make $94,000 for your product(s), would that be wrong?

    Please read the above in the kindest tone. Darrell, you’re the greatest. This site has revealed to me the darkest places of my fundy past and has guided me out of it. This blog has brought me laughter. You’ve expressed what I’ve felt for years but was unable to articulate. I thank you. I’m afraid the skeletons of my fundamentalism will always loom in my closet, but your blog has helped give concrete footing to my struggles.

    1. It’s not that I begrudge anybody a good living. It’s that the people who generally work for these ministries are usually badly paid and poorly treated.

      Christian school teachers are making poverty-level wages while this guy is making four or five times their salary for doing…what? Hawking a horrible newspaper? It’s the disparity that is so jarring.

      1. I would agree that the disparity is the real issue here. I agree with Jon that $94k is not an obscene amount of money by any means…but if you cannot afford to pay your secretary more than $20k, there is a problem. But this is the MO of Fundydom. I recently learned that the person that took over for the MOG at my former fundy church asked for – and received – a base compensation package of about $92k. That is not outrageous in and of itself, but when one considers that their Christian school teachers make a pittance – and that they (the church) actually sued the US government back in the 80s to try and get out of paying Social Security taxes (saying that the church, not the government, was responsible for the welfare of its members) – something is amiss. I guess that the concept of “sacrificing for the Lord” does not apply to the MOG.

    2. I believe Ezekiel put it best when he said “Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?” The Bible has a lot to say about people who minister only for their own greedy gain.

      Ministry isn’t supposed a capitalistic venture to increase your personal wealth. But for all I know, he might give half his salary away to the poor.

        1. Unless someone is blackmailing Eunice or holding a gun to her head, there’s nothing wrong with paying someone $20K/year to do an entry-level job. I have no idea what her job description is, but if she is working there voluntarily, no one should pass judgement on what she is making. Still, pretty strange to list a “secretary” making $20K/yr along with the executives.

          So yeah, I think you are probably right – I would bet a steak dinner there is something else going on behind the scenes that is “compelling” her to work there for a lower than usual wage.

  9. I just wonder how much money SOTL makes by bilking senior citizens. My mother gets plenty of junk mail from Christian organizations. Most seem to imply if she does send a donation now, the organization will closed down, churches will close, people in county X will no longer be able to read the bible or Obama will declare himself President for life.

  10. The SOTL for years (60’s thru the early 2000’s) has always employed about 60-80 employees. They now have about 35-37 employees hanging on. Franklin Road Bapt Church (Murfreesboro, TN) is full of ex-Sword employees. The subscriptions have shrunk, the sales have shrunk, the staff has shrunk…the editor and manager’s incomes have NOT shrunk. The editor, editor’s son, and editor’s SIL all drive very nice SUV’s to their SOTL jobs each workday. But its a free country so its your choice when you get “a begging letter” (what one long-time SOTL employee called it) whether you will send them a donation.

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