Thinking Out Loud

January 21, 2020

Getting Rich from the Gospel

Quickly scanning a list of of the highest paid Christian ministry executives released a few days ago by Ministry Watch, I couldn’t help but notice the irony of seeing this the day after the book review I published yesterday.

The article noted, “We are not calling this list the ’50 Highest Paid Christian Ministry Executives’ because we know that many pastors and other church leaders who might make more are not on this list, because churches are not required to make their Form 990s available to the public.”

This would include Focus on the Family. which, as we noted a few days back, is willing to perform all manner of legal contortions in order the have itself classified as a church. Guess they don’t want their key people to turn up on lists like this one. 

If there is a ‘crime in progress’ here, it would be concerning The Inspiration Networks. No less than ten execs from The Inspiration Networks appear on the list, including the #1 spot, but those numbers are, frankly speaking, too heartbreaking to reiterate here. (Don’t want to raise your blood pressure, but the top spot, belonging to David Cerullo, is well over $3.5M and the #2 on the list from the same organization is their General Counsel at $1,521,741.) Moving forward, this is an organization worthy of far greater scrutiny from the media; both Christian media and the mainstream press. The compensation packages in total are just obscene.

But it wasn’t the only organization listed more than once. Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice was #3 at $1,421,188, while “spokesperson” Kim Sekulow was #5 with $1,053,432, and Gary Sekulow, CEO/COO was #7 at $985,847. (And their ‘Senior Counsel’ was also on the list at #21.) (All figures U.S. dollars.) 

Also in the top ten was Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University, at $1,018,527.

Curriculum Publisher David. C. Cook’s CEO Chris Doornbos is listed as having CEO salary and other compensation totaling $361,532. While that places him in position #50 on the list, it fails to provide context since we don’t know executive salaries at other Christian publishers such as Zondervan, Tyndale, Baker, etc. Additionally, David C. Cook COO Scott Miller received $336,760.

For the groups that do relief and development charity, it also failed to provide the overall income of the organizations in question, which provides necessary context. For example, I had never heard of Food for the Poor, but its senior exec received $469,654, money which, the cynic in me noted, could have been spent on food for the poor. Since I was unfamiliar with their work, I wondered what the total compensation was as a percentage of the total income.

Richard Stearns of World Vision was listed at $534,505, while at Compassion, Mark Hanlon was last on the top sixty list at $302,481.

Charles Stanley of In Touch Ministries was listed at $375,672, while Philip Bowen, the CEO was listed at $371,140. (Here’s an organization that really could list itself as a church and avoid public declaration, but they chose not to.)

On the entertainment front, Ryan Durham of Integrity Music was listed at $312,619, position #57. Michael Novak of the Educational Media Foundation, which operates radio station K-LOVE, ranked #17 at $580,628.

Also, “This information comes from the most recent Form 990 available on Guidestar.org. For some ministries the most recent year available was 2016. For most years, the most recent year available was 2017…”

Again, you may read the list for yourself at this link. An article like this can’t replace the impact you get when you look at the list as a whole.

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