90 thoughts on “Testimony Redux”

      1. Yeah that is a joke! Why spend money on something to help the community when you can spend half a million dollars on a new sign and audio equipment? After all, Jesus did tell us to help the poor by putting up a fancy sign.

    1. Me too! We had a “pantry” but the price to get any food was to attend services

  1. I’d claim fifth, but then I’d have to run some more today and I don’t want to.

    1. Well I’ll take that fifth. I just drained my Ocean organic vodka and my (can’t spell because it’s in Russian) platinum vodka. I’m a bit disappointed, as my vodka collection is somewhat depleted, but quite happy otherwise. *hick*

    1. My own brother has tried to chastise friends from other denominations for distributing food baskets in poor neighborhoods. “Why would you help thse people?” he’s asked unironically. It’s hard to know where to even start with that level of lunkheadedness

      1. Maybe because they’re hungry?
        I’m just working on a hunch here, but that seems like a good guess.

      2. Just a guess, but he wouldn’t be too keen on a prison ministry either, right?

        1. Actually, mid of the fundy churches I have been in support a prison ministry. First is a captured audience which they joke about but actually believe. Second is that it is easy to get a jailhouse conversion so they can talk about big numbers.

    2. Yes, and Jesus only healed people to get them to join his Religious Club. If someone didn’t join him, he took away their healing and afflicted them with something worse. Serves them right.

  2. I have family in the area and they have mentioned this truck. Not that it makes a difference, but this church is not IFB. There Is evidence on their website that proves this as well. The pastor is African American and they have a “praise dance” ministry. These two things alone would be cause for separation.

    1. Tommy Steele speaks at meetings and conferences along side Joe Arthur and Ralph Sexton. If he’s not out-and-out fundy then he at least is welcome in those circles.

      1. He’s IFB, just of a different stripe. He used to preach at my old church all the time. He never got pushy about KJV or music (and once he even sang “How Great Is Our God,” somewhat of a no-no but a forgivable one), but he sometimes affirmed these stances. His style of preaching was mostly the energetic, get people excited type. He liked to use props and audience participation (I’ve been one of his helpers before). They’d bring him in to balance out the stodgy, angry, confrontational preachers.

        I’ve heard that at his church he pretty much just preaches, and the staff handles everything else. No clue whether that’s true. Whether he is responsible for cheating the contractors or not, he should still step in and make things right.

        1. I have heard him preach several times. Always did a good job. Of course he is a Cowboys fan so that helps:).

          I do hate to see him on this site, however it could be just.

          Not throwing off on SFL at all.

        2. “…he’s just of a different stripe.” The only difference I see in the “stripes” is their narrowness

  3. Did a double take. I know of Tommy Steele from waaay back, a good man. Surprised to see him show up here, didn’t know he was a fundie, and can’t imagine him not paying his bills. Will need to investigate this one. Gotta be a legitimate dispute of some sort.

    1. I did a double take, too, but for a different reason.

      My wife’s grandfather was named Tommy Steele, as was her uncle. Her grandfather was a Plymouth Brethren evangelist, and her uncle a PB pastor (well, not called that, but effectively so). No relationship–whew!

      But yes, many ministries cheat others to increase their profits. “Is he a man of God, or a man of gold?” (Aramis? The Three Musketeers, speaking of Cardinal Richelieu).

    1. Don’t know about that.
      As civil lawyers will tell you, getting a lien (or even a jury award) against someone is relatively easy, but collecting what the law says you’re entitled to is a whole other project.

    2. Don’t know what the law is where this church is, but in our state we are supposed to have a customer sign a ‘right to lien’ form before the job in order to be able to lien them later. Many contractors skip these because most people are decent. You’d think a church would be.

  4. Ah, Churches not paying contractors. Good times.
    My first job out of college was construction management for a small firm outside Chicago. My first project was to build a paved parking lot and sidewalk for a new church building (not IFB). Red flags abounded on my first site visit. The gravel lot in place was not surveyed correctly, the plans did not match the property except for in a few places, so I had to work with the pastor about rectifying these. He seemed happy to comply at first. As the weeks wore on, he got more and more nasty toward me, telling me just to do the work to the site as-is, and to stop making changes to comply with the plans. I got some nasty nasty voice mails from that man. About halfway through the process, we found out that city of Aurora was soon going to close the facility until the exterior was complete, which led us to believe that was why he was pushing us so hard to do the work so much faster than the schedule. Then we discovered the whole story: the pastor hadn’t secured the funds to complete the project as he claimed, and way instead relying on “faith promise giving.” Needless to say we dropped the project. I finished the sidewalk, moved the light poles from storage to the property, and gave the pastor the bids I had for asphalt contractors, and washed my hands of it.
    I found out later that the church was soon evicted from the property and it took 2 years and a $250,000 bank loan for them to finish the work.
    To give context: My original bid scheduled 10 weeks for completion at a cost of about about $125,000 (which included change orders for about $22,000).

    1. Ah yes, Faith Promise Giving. AKA: Committing money you do not have because showing such “faith” will oblige God to “honor” your efforts.
      In my neck of the desert, (former) BIMI leader Don Sisk was a big proponent of Faith Promise Giving; preaching about it often.

      1. My favorite part of faith promise is you “promise” to give God a certain amount if he provides it. Then when that extra 500 a month doesn’t show up you pay it having “faith” god will feed you somehow.

    2. When I was just out of college my parent’s fundy church sold bearer bonds to finance their new sanctuary. I purchased a few as an investment. The church was faithful in making their payments as agreed until that pastor left and a new young hotshot smooth talking weirdo was voted in by the growing group of younger members. My folks told me he balked at the monthly payments and wanted to default but the deacons board prevented it. He eventually fell from grace and was fired when pornography was found in his office by the cleaning lady. Several people left the church leaving the debt to the few who stayed, but they persevered until all was paid off. These were older people of the WWII generation who still had some principles. Interestingly, the Mormon church does not start any building project until all the money is raised, of course by compulsory tithing by the members.

      1. Interesting note on Mormon churches. But I’ve seen one of their temples, looks like a bloody palace. They have a lot of members, and their revenue model (cult loyalty) obviously works.

        From a 2012 Reuters article:

        “Relying heavily on church records in countries that require far more disclosure than the United States, [University of Tampa sociologist Ryan] Cragun and Reuters estimate that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints brings in some $7 billion annually in tithes and other donations.

        It owns about $35 billion worth of temples and meeting houses around the world, and controls farms, ranches, shopping malls and other commercial ventures worth many billions more.”

        Ho-lee shite. That would surely make the average IFB MOg green with envy.

  5. I would not want to be too quick to judge the situation the photo involves. The contractor may have a legitimate complaint against the church. . . . And vice versa.

  6. Know this Tommy Steele as well from way back…he definitely was a part of the IBC circles at least back in the 90’s.

  7. WWJD? Drive around town with a crappy looking, eye sore of a sign and shame his self imposed enemies, of course.
    Ahh, these folks. Just out there livin’ the Great Commission and the Gospel. I’m touched. I really am.

  8. Ain’t no IFB church if his wife is First Lady.

    As an aside – if you see a church advertised as “Pastor and First Lady,” run, don’t walk, away from it. No servant spirit there!

  9. The sign says “Why Pastor Tommy Steele?”

    There’s no comma after “why,” so I guess the contractor is wondering why this guy is a pastor in the first place.

  10. Dear SFL Reader:

    Honestly? I thought this was a joke. But then we know how that goes…

    I would be horrified if a church refused to pay the bills. And while my church is elder-driven, were the treasurer NOT to pay the bills, I would make such a racket that the problem would HAVE to be addressed. This guy ought to be defrocked.

    Christian Socialist


    1. Most people seem to be assuming that the church is at fault — what if the contractor is the one at fault? What if he lied about his experience and the work was so bad that the church had to bring in a second contractor to fix (redo) the work of the first one. I’d like to hear more of the background to this story before assuming that the church is at fault.

      But I agree with CS that a church should always pay its legitimate bills on time.

      1. I agree that assumptions shouldn’t be made without more info. It did spark a lot of interesting comments.

      2. Dear Guilt Ridden:

        You are indeed correct that there are two sides to every story. We have also grieved to learn that far too often, the church has profaned Jesus’ Name with questionable financial transactions. I think that the ‘most’ who speak from the contractor’s position have in mind those cases where churches have been in the wrong.

        Even if this particular church is in the wrong, it belongs to the members OF that church to address the matter.

        Churches in general and Christians in particular ought to be their own worst critics. While seldom understood, that is the most effective strategy for derailing criticism from the world.


        Christian Socialist

      3. Just so you are aware, GR, none of those reasons you cite are legal grounds in my state for not paying one’s bills. Unless there was breach of contract. I would find it highly surprising if a contractor breached contract and then went around with a sign like this. Of course, there is the broader context of how a church’s actions affect testimony. Our church had a contractor perform some roof work, and it was done incorrectly. We had to pay another contractor to fix it, even though it was supposed to be warrantied. The contractor was just a scum bag. We still paid him.

      1. Dear Lord Don:

        Precisely correct. Lacking any meaningful doctrine of ordination, and lacking church elders, what structure/polity exists to address abuses when they do occur?


        Christian Socialist

  11. Sadly this is a VERY common problem with churches. A lot of businesses have been left unpaid for goods and services to the point that many won’t extend credit to churches at all. But I guess they are fair about it, a lot of church members don’t pay other members for services rendered either. I saw a church split because a construction business owner agreed to build the assistant pastor a house. The assistant pastor would pay for the cost of materials and the business owner paid for all of the labor, even hired a full crew at his own expense. The assistant pastor accused him of padding the materials cost and getting rich off the man of God. It was rediculous. Most of the church sided with the “MoG”, about a third left. In the end he got his house for free.

    1. *blink blink*

      And nobody thought that an expense that big should be put to a vote, not merely of the vestry committee, but of the entire congregation?

    2. We decided after a few uncomfortable experiences not to do work for churches or fellow church members unless it was entirely a donation on our part. Your bill will never be cheap enough no matter how low it is, even if you are charging them only for the cost of the materials you’ve bought, the person or church tends to feel like it’s more than they wanted it to be and so you must be padding the price. They have no idea of the cost of materials, the cost of doing business, and the time involved where you cannot be doing paying work. And then there’s the liability you are taking on. Expectations can be so high. Feelings end up hurt and people offended at one another. It’s just better all around to either do it as a gift, if you can, or not to do it at all.

  12. When I was in elementary school, our church decided it didn’t have the money to pay the teachers. This included my mother. The teachers were forbidden to tell the church people they were not getting paid. It was a long time (months and longer) that the teachers went unpaid and they were never given any money for this time.
    Of course, the pastor continued to get paid. He also had a “one for the church, one for me” mentality. New vacuum for the church meant ordering two, one of which was for his wife. They got new furniture during this time, but no one cared about the teachers not getting paid. There were also some deacons that had a “one for the church and one for me” mentality when they counted the offering so that didn’t help with the budget.

    *when your parents are super-involved in the church, you learn an awful lot*

    1. Dear SeentheLight:

      There is feeding the flock and fleecing the flock.

      Christian Socialist

    2. I’m no stranger to the financial shenanigans churches get involved with. My family’s church was used and abused as the personal piggybank/money laundering/storage facility of the church president and his family. The priest was the father-in-law of the church president, and so his family thought that gave them the right to run the place like it was their own personal little fiefdom. By the time the whole lot of them were evicted, the church president’s family had fucked up the finances and leveraged so much debt that the management is still working on cleaning up the mess they made, 10 years later.

      While an ordeal like that would send a church’s doors closing for good, it’s nothing short of miraculous that my family’s church is still operating today. I suppose God decided He wasn’t done with the place yet and didn’t want to see them go under.

    3. The teachers in these schools take so much garbage…pay you a little, give you awful insurance, expect the teachers to pay all their S.S., teachers required to volunteer for all sorts of outside of school time activities, home visits on their own time, etc. It always bothered me that the building was sparkley and new extras were being purchased (like large flat screen tvs for announcemnts in the hallway) when unexpected prescription or vehicle repair cost just knocked the air out of one of these poor families. Our kids’ small public school is a little shabby but the teachers are loved on (lunches, gifts, loads of volunteering) even if their paycheck isn’t the highest and they are not expected to do all the extra nonsense.

      1. I remember the day that sealed my decision to go for Master’s level work in mathematics.

        I was graduating with a degree in Social Studies Education. BJU had a Christian School Fair where “Christian Schools” came to recruit teachers, and we were required to attend and encouraged to apply for these jobs.

        The pay was shockingly low. I looked at the salary offerings in astonishment. I even double-checked to see what the cost of rent would be in those areas — and the salary did not even cover that!!! Furthermore the schools required the spouse (presumably the wife) to “contribute” 20 hours of unpaid work in some capacity per week.

        I asked about the salaries and was told they were “in line” with BJU recommendations, particularly a book by (if I remember correctly) a Dr. Dewink. The salary schedule for a Christian school teacher was half that of the Pastor, regardless of education and training. Half.

        And we all know that churches who pay their pastors well hide the perks in something other than “salary” designations. Christian school teachers don’t nearly get “half” of what the pastors actually get.

        Not to mention the fact that you had to belong to that particular “church.” Being a good Christian in your own denomination, even one with acceptable doctrine, or even the same denomination but down the road was unacceptable. No, you had to be under control of that particular “pastor” and be completely active in his “ministry” at your own expense on top of it all. Not to mention the “automatic tithing” that steals from their employees!

        I think I may have actually called it “slave labor” and “starvation wages.” In any case, I gave up on the idea of “Christian schools” altogether. I needed to make sure my family would survive, not starve to death. My estimation of the godliness of the leadership at BJU took something of a hit at the same time, though I did my first Master’s work there. And when I got the chance to go to Clemson for further studies, I jumped at the chance. Heh, even their stipend for Teaching Assistants was comparable to some of the “salaries” I’d seen offered! Better, when you include the value of the education I got.

        In my perspective, Christian schools should just close if they cannot or will not pay their employees a livable wage and give them freedom to be Christians as their conscience dictates.

        1. Me, too. Then again, I think that leadership often sees moral awareness as something for others, not for themselves. Or perhaps that “morality” in one area excuses a lack of it in others.

          Fortunately, the Episcopal Church I am at now doesn’t seem to have too many of these issues. But I think it is epidemic in fundamentalism.

        2. I was still so naive that I didn’t realize how abysmal the pay was at those Christian schools nor did I have any sense of self-worth, having been indoctrinated with the idea of self-sacrifice for the cause of Christ my entire life. I do remember, though, looking into a Christian school in Virginia Beach, VA and realizing that their code of conduct for teachers stipulated no mixed swimming. I couldn’t imagine living in a place near a beach and not being allowed to go! (I like swimming!) I knew that I’d never make enough money to have my own private pool so I could swim uncontaminated by the view of men. I immediately put that school out of consideration. (For perspective, though I’d been raised KJV-o, no make-up, no TV, etc., no mixed swimming was NOT one of our rules so I didn’t have any patience for what I saw as weird nonsense.)

  13. This happened in my family’s church. A parishioner contractor had done some remodeling work in the hall and the kitchen area, but because the church was short on funds, they essentially gave the contractor an IOU till they could get the money. But when they did, the church president wanted to buy some land instead of paying the contractor what he was owed. Naturally, the contractor threatened legal action against the church management (the president of the church was also a lawyer) for cheating him on work. After an unsuccessful attempt at convincing the contractor to write the work off as a “donation” to the church, the contractor eventually got his payment and left the church because of the hassle he had to put up with to get what was rightfully his pay.

      1. I had the same question. Which denomination is this? I’ve never heard of churches with presidents, but ya learn something new every day!

  14. Jesus never really said feed the poor right? I mean come on. Jesus wants us to live very spiritual lives. The blessings on the poor has to do with the “poor in Spirit”. Just like when Jesus said “love you’re enemies” he followed up with “unless they are like ISIS, then kill them.”

    1. Dear Joe Olachea III:

      You perceive in their fallenness the [economic/cultural/political/religious/etc.] structures of power and authority of this present age, and understand that God’s kingdom is aimed at them on a collision/intersection course.

      It is telling that where many wring their hands saying, ‘all we can do is save them,’ Paul wrote that Christ ‘stripped the rulers and authorities of their power and made a public spectacle of them, leading them in his triumph on the cross [Co 2:15].

      As William Stringfellow had it, WE rearmed the powers of this age by reinvesting them with authority and power as we adopt the ideals, practices and narratives they proffer for our consumption. Whereas Christ made a mockery of the powers of this age, we invert the offense and heap the shame back upon Jesus Christ.

      Thank-you for naming Consumerism for the idol god that it is. To it, we may add Nationalism, Militarism, Wealth, Hedonism, Racism and many others. We have overlaid an host of alien — and therefore heretical — ideologies on the cross, breaking the theology of the cross, and obscuring Christ from public view.

      Your blog brings a perspective on faith and life that is sorely needed. And when we get it right, the persecutions which you [and Saint John in the Revelation] reference will be ours.


      Christian Socialist

  15. At my first appointment as a pastor–fresh out of seminary–with lots of loans coming due–the head of the Staff Parish Relations committee came up to me and said, “the baptist pastor across the street donated his entire check back to the church every week. I think you Methodist preachers are far too entitled.”

    1. How awful — hiring you to do a job and then shaming you because you expected (rightly) to be paid for that job.

      1. I have heard numerous stories from pastors about how churches have expected a pastor to work pretty much for free…donate their time if they think its a ministry.
        For churches who do not require a seminary degree, the demand for a pastor to work for free is disgusting. But for churches who expect a higher education from their pastor to shame a pastor or refuse to pay a pastor, that’s abusive.

        1. If a pastor is able and willing to give back his/her paycheck, it should be done anonymously imo (and to an entirely different cause, if the pastor is so led). Otherwise it may be a temptation for the pastor to feel inordinately good about him/herself, and will appear to validate the ignorant notions of people like the committee guy.

        2. Episcopal Church dioceses generally set minimum stipends for clergy–full time, part time or supply.

          They also mandate that an amount equal to 18% of salary plus housing be sent to the Church Pension Fund. (This does not apply to supply priests.)

        3. The UMC also sets the pay package for pastors–licensed and ordained.
          Leo the lamb–I agree that it should be done anonymously for the pastor’s ego sake but also for the church. I am always aware that what I do as a pastor–whether i ask for reimbursement or not, whether or not I give 40 hours or more–it all impacts the church’s expectations of their pastor. The Baptist pastor that was giving back his check–was married and his spouse had a job. He had been a pastor for decades. So he and his family were in a different place than I was–starting out from seminary with loans as a single person. The fact that a parishioner would expect someone fresh from seminary to be free enough to do what a seasoned pastor who has a spouse who worked is crazy.

          Jay Croft– I think this is something I appreciate denominations like the Episcopal church and the UMC for–for ordination they require a good amount of education and testing before they ordain, its a costly endeavor….they also require the individual churches to honor that requirement by expecting them to pay a reasonable salary.

  16. As a deacon in charge of financial records, I was generally pleased with the way my IFB church treated the community. We kept the finances open and honest.

    But I knew of some churches where that wasn’t the case.

    Contractors were generally cautious and wouldn’t do work for the church without something like a third of the cost paid upfront. The work was divided into parts so the contractor didn’t lose money on the job.

    1. Dear rtgmath:

      Open and honest — THAT’S the way to do it!

      My church treasurer handled finances very poorly. But I didn’t discover this until I went on council as elder, and even then, it came out only gradually — when letters were received telling us that we had bills outstanding.

      I couldn’t work with this guy, and before too long, others councilpersons had had enough. Our membership had a businessman who was well respected and loved in the community. We made HIM our treasurer. He was aghast to see what was happening!

      When he arrived at the next council meeting, he told us [yes, TOLD us] that he would need the entire meeting to address deaconal concerns. He walked us through what he had learned. Missionaries were not being paid on-time. Nor was the pastor. Nor were others bills. Sometimes, this guy took money home and didn’t deposit it until he got around to making a trip to the bank. He discovered that one time, the pastor had to ask for money to take his family on vacation because he was two weeks behind and just sucked it up without complaining!

      That night — and it was a long one — our new treasurer gave us the true picture of church finances. And for month just passed, he gave us a spreadsheet with an account of all transactions for that period. He also included as a part of his treasurer’s report, the bank statement. From that night on, full council did an internal audit of church finances every month . After a few time, everyone understood the procedure.

      Each month, the church secretary distributed the treasurer’s report with the other information in the council agenda. People looked it over before council. The treasurer summed each monthly report, but periodically reminded us to ‘look at the figures…’ Then the council minutes — elders’ and deacons’ reports, with the treasurer’s report — were posted, and the congregation was informed that copies were available in the church office.

      This would go a long way to eliminating much of the heartache surrounding church finances, including some of the horror stories on this post.

      rtgmath: thank-you for serving Jesus Christ faithfully as your church treasurer. God bless you, my friend.

      Christian Socialist

    1. That must mean it belongs to Bama. We’re blessed with Derrick Henry. Roll Tide!!!

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