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.

February 18, 2019

When Ministry Organizations Compete

Do you get jealous when the church or ministry across town has an event that happens to catch the eye of the local newspaper? Or do you rejoice that God is using them in such a way? ~ Jennifer Maggio – Competition in Ministry.


John 3:26 NLT So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.”

competition among ministries

It started with a staff member at Organization A bad-mouthing Organization B.

Frankly, it resonated with me because I had some history with Organization B. Furthermore, Organization A was paying me a part-time salary.

But years later, I connected with the director of Organization B. We discovered many common interests. I saw their ministry in action. A friend started working for Organization B. I ended up financially helping him. Later, a ministry I was heading up partnered with Organization B for a project. Mostly, I came to understand why a certain group of people would gravitate to Organization B and not Organization A.

Immediately, I regretted the years I had been estranged from Organization B and its staff and its constituency.

Ministry organizations compete for donation dollars as well as for volunteers. But instead of staring at each other across a great divide, it’s better to find ways to (a) get to know each other better and (b) partner together. Perhaps even more. The charitable sector can see it as competition, but Christian ministries are, in theory at least, members of the same body.

We all labor in different vineyards, but we can’t afford to bad-mouth organizations whose work somewhat parallels — we may even see it as duplicating — our own. That just creates barriers to fellowship and friendship; and when heard by someone like my younger self, prevents cooperation and partnership from happening.

“…..whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31b

February 19, 2016

Competition Among Ministries

Filed under: Christianity, Church, ministry, philanthropy — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:45 am

Do you get jealous when the church or ministry across town has an event that happens to catch the eye of the local newspaper? Or do you rejoice that God is using them in such a way? ~ Jennifer Maggio – Competition in Ministry.

John 3:26 NLT So John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.”

competition among ministries

It started with a staff member at Organization A bad-mouthing Organization B.

Frankly, it resonated with me because I had some history with Organization B. Furthermore, Organization A was paying me a part-time salary.

But years later, I connected with the director of Organization B. We discovered many common interests. I saw their ministry in action. A friend started working for Organization B. I ended up financially helping him. Later, a ministry I was heading up partnered with Organization B for a project. Mostly, I came to understand why a certain group of people would gravitate to Organization B and not Organization A.

Immediately, I regretted the years I had been estranged from Organization B and its staff and its constituency.

Ministry organizations compete for donation dollars as well as for volunteers. But instead of staring at each other across a great divide, it’s better to find ways to (a) get to know each other better and (b) partner together. Perhaps even more. The charitable sector can see it as competition, but Christian ministries are, in theory at least, members of the same body.

We all labor in different vineyards, but we can’t afford to bad-mouth organizations whose work somewhat parallels — we may even see it as duplicating — our own. That just creates barriers to fellowship and friendship; and when heard by someone like my younger self, prevents cooperation and partnership from happening.

“…..whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31b

October 27, 2014

Religious Persecution in America: The Gay Wedding Trap

Filed under: current events — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:33 pm

Whether it involves a wedding cake, printed invitations, or floral arrangements, everyone has heard a story involving a principled store owner who refused to do work for a gay wedding. But this story has a few twists. First, the proprietor, Barronelle Stutzman, had in fact done work for the couple previously; she was simply uncomfortable with doing the flowers for the actual wedding. Second, the couple didn’t file the complaint; if I understand correctly the state’s Attorney General heard about the situation on social media and filed its own charges.*

This video was produced in March by ADV, Alliance Defending Freedom. It’s newsworthy today after being shown hours ago in Nashville at a conference of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, where the owner of the flower store then greeted attendees in person.


*I hope I got that right; as a Canadian I don’t always get the nuances of U.S. law, but clearly there wasn’t the normal “plaintiff” that you usually find in stories like this.

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