Posts Tagged ‘profit’

(From “The Twisted Cross:  Distortion of the Gospel”)

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“…I was wounded in the house of my friends.” (Zechariah 13:6)

I will never forget when I first realized that religion had become a highly profitable business.  I had been attending a large evangelical Friends church for a long time, and I had grown very close to many people there.  I loved my church.  I loved the leaders and the teaching and I started outreach ministries in the name of the church.  I put my money in their offerings, and dedicated my children in that church.  I went to prayer meetings and every service I could possibly go to. I was immensely smug about myself and my church.

But after Juan Carlos Ortiz spoke at our yearly conferences, the “scales fell off of my eyes,” and I saw things in a new way. I stood up in the sanctuary the following Sunday, and announced to my dear friends, “I just want to let you know that I am not the same person that I was one week ago.  I am a changed person.  I have claimed my identity as a servant of Jesus Christ, and I will never be the same.”

That is when my spiritual battlefield opened up before me, and I first saw my enemy.  What frightened me was that he was operating through my church.

Soon after my public statement, I was sitting in the sanctuary of my church and the executive minister said that they were starting a new program called “Kingdom Seeds”.  In those days, these phrases about seeds had not been coined like they are now.  Our pastor began to explain that the ushers were going to pass out dollar bills which were the “seeds” in special envelopes.  He said that the general idea was that people were to take the money and “plant it” and “make it grow”.  Then in a few months, after it had grown, they would bring it back for a special offering at “harvest time”.

I had promised God that I was going to be obedient to Him in whatever He led me to do.  Anger began to rise in my heart, and a voice broke into my thoughts, saying, “They have turned my house into a den of thieves.”  I knew I was supposed to speak up, but I began to argue with the Spirit inside of my mind, saying, “Why me?  They won’t listen to me.”  The Voice answered, “You said you were my obedient child.”  This hit me hard, because I had two young children at the time.  One of them was more obedient than the other.  When I needed something done in a hurry, I knew not to ask the disobedient one.  In a situation that required quick action, I knew to call upon the obedient child.

A few minutes later, the minister announced that it was time for “open worship.”  I rose to my feet and said, “Friends, we need to face the fact that we are tithing to ourselves in this church.  We are not tithing to God, but to man.  At least ninety percent of the money in our offerings stays within this church building to pay salaries, clean carpets, do building repairs, and such.  Very little is used for missions and outreach.  The gospel is being used as a cloak for covetousness, which Paul warned about.  Paul also wrote, ‘We are not like many, peddling the Word of God.’ People were selling the gospel then, and they are still doing it today. If Jesus came in right now He would come with His whip, because the moneychangers are still in the house of God.”  I was in the back row when I stood to speak, and people were turning around in astonishment, some with anger in their eyes.

When I sat down, it fell silent for a few endless moments.  Then our lady minister stepped to the microphone and turned to the executive minister and asked, “Do we still want to proceed with this?”  He nodded firmly, and the lady minister prayed and the ushers came forward with their hands full of envelopes.  The piano and organ began to play softly, as the ushers carried handfuls of envelopes to the end of each row, and everyone seemed uneasy.  The people in the congregation began shaking their heads or sweeping their hands at the ushers to refuse the money.

When the lead pastor saw it, he went to the microphone and asked the ushers to pass the whole stack of envelopes down each row.  I watched in surprise as the people passed the whole stack from one end of each row to the other, and no one wanted to take them.  It was an act of civil disobedience which startled me.  I never dreamed that these people would listen and act. I thanked God, but I knew I was in trouble.

A little later in the church service, the offering plate was passed around, and can you guess what happened next?  People were not putting money in the offering either.  Then I knew I was deeply in trouble.

After the service was over, many people approached me and thanked me for being the “voice of prophecy” in the midst, for telling the truth when no one else dared to.  I knew that God had used me that day, but I knew that it was not over.

The next morning, I got a phone call from the executive minister.  He said that we needed to talk, and that he wanted to arrange a time.  We planned his visit later in the week.

During that week, I began to receive thank-you cards from people in the congregation.   To my surprise, one of them was from the chairman of the financial committee.  Two missionary friends of mine asked if they could come to our house when the minister visited, because they wanted to provide moral support.

Then came the meeting with my husband and two missionaries present, and the minister asked me how I could do such a thing without clearing it with someone first, such as the elders.

I explained, “The Spirit asked me to speak, and I could not wait and get permission.  I had to be obedient.” He asked, “How do you know how this affected people?”  I answered that I had been receiving notes from people in the congregation, and I walked to my desk and pulled them out.  I will never forget the look of dismay on his face as he looked at the notes, particularly the one from the financial committee chair.

Then my missionary friend Susan spoke up and asked, “Why can’t Olive tell the truth?  Is it because she is a woman or because she doesn’t have a PhD?  Other people have said similar things in jest, and nothing was said.  Why can’t Olive say these things?”  The minister said that he just felt that I should have asked him first.

Then he quizzed me about whether I tithed regularly.  I explained that we spent much more than ten percent between our outreach ministry in the community and the offering plate.  I expressed surprise that he should even ask this question, since he was more than aware of the costs of the ministries that we did in the name of the church with no donations from anyone.  It was evident he was simply trying to undermine me.

After that, he told me that I needed to respect the authorities in the church, or find another church to attend.  I asked him, “Who is the head of the church, you or Jesus?”  He became very quiet, and said that he had a lot to do that day and needed to go.  We all said our farewells and the minister left first.

After that, I continued to attend the church, and watched the wheels of greed and corruption in motion.  I saw the programs and newsletters pleading for people to give money to the church.  I saw an abrupt change in the character of certain people that I had respected.  One woman approached me at church and told me ever so nicely that if I didn’t calm down, I might “go over the deep end”.  I told her it was much more satisfying than the shallow end and walked away.

The whole landscape shifted from spiritual to political, and I suddenly felt that this church was not the place that I thought it was. I felt a sense of resistance from the leaders towards the purposes and agenda of God.

There was good deal of financial trouble in that church for several months, because people were questioning things for the first time.  I kept getting calls from the child care department that they needed help on Sunday mornings so I helped with the children many times. I knew that the minister did not want me in the services until he could repair the financial damage.  I felt disillusioned, and betrayed by this man that I looked up to and trusted, and it hurt me a great deal.

But my faith grew because of this experience.  I learned to trust Jesus more, and man less.  I saw that all people have flaws, but Jesus doesn’t.  It ended the idolatry that had been going on in my heart.  It revealed to me that many people are idolizing religious leaders instead of looking to Jesus.  Because of my obedience and the ostracism I encountered, I grew closer to Christ and shared in His suffering, and that gave me great joy.

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me…”  (Exodus 20:3)

OLIVE TWIST ©2012

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