Thinking Out Loud

June 5, 2018

A Whole Other Solution to Evangelists Needing Jet Airplanes

♫ Gimme a ticket for an airplane
Ain’t got time to take a fast train… ♫

The other day my wife said something that was so outside the box that I felt I needed to share it here, even though there will be a lineup to poke holes in her logic.

Basically, she was saying that if an evangelist on the east coast is trying to figure out how to get to an appearance on the west coast, perhaps, instead of accepting that engagement, they should have checked around to see if there is a west coast evangelist who is equally capable.

Makes sense to me.

Why not have an East Coast branch and a West Coach branch? One takes the gigs on one side of the Mississippi and other takes the gigs on the other.

Why not have people you’re mentoring in ministry all the time? Billy Graham did this for decades. They had an entire stable of “Associate Evangelists” such as Leighton Ford, and John Wesley White.

Why not revisit the whole star system; the whole celebrity mentality?

…Well, there are reasons.

It doesn’t build empires.

It doesn’t sell as many books.

It doesn’t look good on fundraising letters to say that Reverend Bob only preached a few dates last month that were all within a six-hour drive of his mansion. (Last word in that sentence is also a whole other article.)

…But these guys are all being too self-important. As if the Holy Spirit can only work through them.

That’s just not the case. There are a lot of very gifted people out there. People capable of putting together a series of meetings and preaching the requisite sermons.

If the capital ‘C’ Church in the local area chooses to, they can lend their support to these individuals, invite their friends, and pack larger venues with those whose hearts God has already been preparing. (Last seven words in that sentence chosen to be both Calvinist- and Arminian-friendly.)

Many of these gifted individuals also have one especially gratifying characteristic: They don’t mind flying commercial.


On Saturday, our friends at Internet Monk uncovered this rather pathetic piece of video.

Jesse Duplantis made news this week when he asked his followers to pony up 54 million for a new jet. Of course, he already has a jet, silly… “but I can’t go it one stop. And if I can do it one stop, I can fly it for a lot cheaper, because I have my own fuel farm. And that’s what’s been a blessing of the Lord.” Besides, he’s just being Christlike:  “If the Lord Jesus Christ was physically on the earth today, he wouldn’t be riding a donkey. He’d be in an airplane flying all over the world.”

Duplantis’ fellow-evangelist Kenneth Copeland recently upgraded to a new jet as well. If you have five minutes and a VERY strong stomach, you can see the two men defend their aquisition of these jets:


Three years ago this very month, it wasn’t Jesse Duplantis, but Creflo Dollar who was asking God (through you) to supply $65,000,000.00 for a new Gulfstream G-650 jet. Adam Ford (who you remember from The Bayblon Bee) commented via this extended infographic-type-thing; click this link to see it all: adam4d.com/creflos-jet/

 

 

 

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April 22, 2017

“We Know Where You Live”

front_gate

Thanks to the internet there are no secrets anymore. A few years ago I briefly turned my attention to the housing that certain pastors and church leaders enjoy and were building. With Google Earth and Google Street View tracking every square inch of the planet, major Christian authors and church leaders have difficulty concealing their personal residences.

If you believe that Christians inhabit a world where there is neither “male nor female; this ethnic group nor that ethnic group; or rich nor poor;” get ready to have that ideal shattered. The divisions between rich and poor exist, and some of your favorite writers or televangelists live in places that, were you able to get past the gate somehow, the security force would be tailing you within seconds.

And the sign said long haired freaky people need not apply
So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why
He said you look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you’ll do
So I took off my hat I said imagine that, huh, me working for you

Several years ago we did a story — and ran the same pictures and the song lyrics — when a Saddleback campus was planted in the middle of a gated community in Laguna Hills. On one level, just another unreached people group, I suppose. On another level, rather awkward.

And the sign said anybody caught trespassing would be shot on sight
So I jumped on the fence and yelled at the house, Hey! what gives you the right
To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in
If God was here, he’d tell you to your face, man you’re some kinda sinner

To be fair, (a) this was a community of 18,000; an unreached people group you might say, and (b) southern California invented the whole gated community thing; they exist there on every block the way Waffle House or Cracker Barrel exists in the southeast. Still, there was something unsettling about this, if only because (a) if it’s been done before, it’s certainly been low key and (b) it’s hard for anything connected with Saddleback to be low key.

I’m not sure what happened to that campus, but we’re well aware of the people that make up the Evangelical star system who live in similar neighborhoods.

And the sign said everybody’s welcome to come in, kneel down and pray
But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all, I didn’t have a penny to pay,
So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign
I said thank you Lord for thinking about me, I’m alive and doing fine

Do major Christian leaders need a “retreat” from their parishioners, the press, and the public at large? Certainly Jesus tried to break away from the crowds at time, seeking some rest and renewal, but the texts also tell us the crowds followed him. And far from a gated community, we’re told he was completely itinerant, “having no place to lay his head;” and sometimes camping out on the fold-out couch in the homes of his followers.

veggie-gated-communityThe Gated Community
Is where we’ll always be
Our smiles are white
Cause we’re inside
In comfy custody
And when you come to visit
You can stand outside and see..
What a smiling bunch we are
In our gated unity!

The question is, “How much money is too much?” “When does a house become excessive?” It’s sad when it reaches the point where someone started a Twitter account from the viewpoint of a pastor’s grand estate which even two months ago was being updated.

Oh! The Gated Community

Is where we like to be

Our clothes are never dirty

And the lawns are always green

And when you come to visit

You can stand outside and see

What a tidy bunch we are

In our gated unity!

I guess my biggest concern is that everything we do should be without a hint of suspicion. I often think about Proverbs 16:2, which says (he paraphrased) that everything we do can be rationalized one way or another, but God is busy checking out our motivation. (And also reminded that no one is to judge the servant of another.)

The Gated Community
Is where we’ll always be
Our smiles are white
Cause we’re inside
In comfy custody
And when you come to visit
You can stand outside and see..
What a smiling bunch we are
In our gated unity!

So what are your thoughts? If you have an issue with this, what’s the problem? If you’re at peace with this, why do you think it’s got so many others steaming?

Lyrics from “Signs” by the Five Man Electrical Band (lyrics from the band’s home page) and from “The Gated Community” from Veggie Tales’ Sherluck Holmes and the Golden Ruler (from Veggie Tales lyrics site.) See sites for full lyrics with choruses not printed here.

Pictured: Gated community in Atlanta, GA

April 24, 2014

Of Fancy Homes in Hidden Places

front_gate

Lately, a lot of attention has been turned to the housing that certain pastors and church leaders enjoy and are building. In an internet world, with Google Earth and Google Street View tracking every square inch on earth, there are very few secrets.

If you believe that Christians inhabit a world where there is neither “male nor female; this ethnic group nor that ethnic group; or rich nor poor;” get ready to have that ideal shattered. The divisions between rich and poor exist, and some of your favorite writers or televangelists live in places that, were you able to get past the gate somehow, the security force would be tailing you within seconds.

And the sign said long haired freaky people need not apply
So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why
He said you look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you’ll do
So I took off my hat I said imagine that, huh, me working for you

Several years ago we did a story — and ran the same pictures and the song lyrics — when a Saddleback campus was planted in the middle of a gated community in Laguna Hills. On one level, just another unreached people group, I suppose. On another level, rather awkward.

And the sign said anybody caught trespassing would be shot on sight
So I jumped on the fence and yelled at the house, Hey! what gives you the right
To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in
If God was here, he’d tell you to your face, man you’re some kinda sinner

To be fair, (a) this was a community of 18,000; an unreached people group you might say, and (b) southern California invented the whole gated community thing; they exist there on every block the way Waffle House or Cracker Barrel exists in the southeast. Still, there was something unsettling about this, if only because (a) if it’s been done before, it’s certainly been low key and (b) it’s hard for anything connected with Saddleback to be low key.

When we tried to track this particular campus this week, we couldn’t locate it. But we’re well aware of the people that make up the Evangelical star system who live in similar neighborhoods.

And the sign said everybody’s welcome to come in, kneel down and pray
But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all, I didn’t have a penny to pay,
So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign
I said thank you Lord for thinking about me, I’m alive and doing fine

Do major Christian leaders need a “retreat” from their parishioners, the press, and the public at large? Certainly Jesus tried to break away from the crowds at time, seeking some rest and renewal, but the texts also tell us the crowds followed him. And far from a gated community, we’re told he was completely itinerant, “having no place to lay his head;” and sometimes camping out on the fold-out couch in the homes of his followers.

veggie-gated-communityThe Gated Community
Is where we’ll always be
Our smiles are white
Cause we’re inside
In comfy custody
And when you come to visit
You can stand outside and see..
What a smiling bunch we are
In our gated unity!

The question is, “How much money is too much?” “When does a house become excessive?” It’s sad when it reaches the point where someone has started a Twitter account from the viewpoint of a pastor’s grand estate.

Oh! The Gated Community

Is where we like to be

Our clothes are never dirty

And the lawns are always green

And when you come to visit

You can stand outside and see

What a tidy bunch we are

In our gated unity!

I guess my biggest concern is that everything we do should be without a hint of suspicion.  I often think about Proverbs 16:2, which says (he paraphrased) that everything we do can be rationalized one way or another, but God is busy checking out our motivation. (And also reminded that no one is to judge the servant of another.)

The Gated Community
Is where we’ll always be
Our smiles are white
Cause we’re inside
In comfy custody
And when you come to visit
You can stand outside and see..
What a smiling bunch we are
In our gated unity!

So what are your thoughts? If you have an issue with this, what’s the problem? If you’re at peace with this, why do you think it’s got so many others steaming?

Lyrics from “Signs” by the Five Man Electrical Band (lyrics from the band’s home page) and from “The Gated Community” from Veggie Tales’ Sherluck Holmes and the Golden Ruler (from Veggie Tales lyrics site.) See sites for full lyrics with choruses not printed here. Pictured gated community in Atlanta, GA

April 14, 2013

Weekend Link List

Faith Reason Hope

A handful of things have gained a lot of traction over the weekend that should probably be dealt with here instead of waiting until Wednesday.  If you read other Christian blogs, none of this will be new, but I wanted my regular readers to be up to speed.

  • The first is the death of Brennan Manning. He authored The Ragamuffin Gospel and Abba’s Child and at least 20 other books.  Here’s a beautiful tribute from a blog which takes its name in part from Brennan’s inspiration. If you don’t know of him, here’s a set of quotations I compiled from his writing a little more than a year ago.
  • We also learned this weekend of the earlier passing a week ago of another prolific author, Christian apologist and radio host Dave Hunt.  He was the author of over 30 books.
  • Unless this is the only Christian blog you read — for which we’re grateful, by the way — you can’t have missed hearing about a rap song video by Shai Linne in which he calls out the names of prominent televangelists he believes to be False Teacher$. Having said that, I can’t find a YouTube version of the song with stats commensurate to the articles about the song. Maybe televangelists are no longer all that interesting, but it took courage to name names.
  • What is without a doubt truly viral is a letter “to the church” that appeared on the blog of a gay young person who “misses you.” Here’s a key line: ““When I was at church, they taught me something else: if you preach hate at the service, those words aren’t anointed. That holy water that you soak in has been poisoned.”  By the time you read this it is closing in on 2,300 comments!  Here’s the letter.  And here’s a response from a Christian blogger.

So many other links in the vault, but we’ll have to save some for Wednesday.  You can also follow me on Twitter.

Today’s lower graphic is a bit of a curiosity. It’s a warning to epileptics from the bottom of the page of a church bulletin from North Point Community Church (Andy Stanley) in Atlanta. I’m not sure if the warning about the church lighting system appears weekly or if this was a one-off situation. I’ve always thought the lighting at North Point resembles high school dances I attended, but they’re not the only church to do this type of thing. And what if someone misses the warning?  Comments on this topic appreciated.

North Point Church Lighting Warning

February 11, 2012

It Never Rains (Money) In Southern California

From VirtualGlobetrotting.com: The co-founder, chairman and president of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), the world's largest Christian television network, lives here with his wife Jan. The network has grown to 47 satellite stations and 12,500 affiliates, reaching nearly 100,000,000 households globally. They also own the property next door that is also featured on this site.

Apparently when the Orange County Register isn’t following the Crystal Cathedral story, they’ve got to keep their eye on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, aka TBN.

Paul Crouch Sr., Founder of TBN

The granddaughter of Trinity Broadcasting Network’s Paul and Jan Crouch has accused the world’s largest Christian broadcaster of unlawfully distributing charitable assets worth more than $50 million to the company’s directors.

The charges are leveled in a federal lawsuit filed by Crouch granddaughter Brittany Koper (far left) last week against her former lawyers, who also do legal work for TBN.

“Observers have often wondered how the Crouches can afford multiple mansions on both coasts, a $50 million jet and chauffeurs,” said Tymothy MacLeod, Koper’s attorney. “And finally, with the CFO coming forward, we have answers to those questions.”

…continue reading at Orange County Register, or catch the Reader’s Digest condensed version at Bene Diction Blogs On.

Isaiah 56: 9b-11 (The Message)

For Israel’s watchmen are blind, the whole lot of them.
They have no idea what’s going on.
They’re dogs without sense enough to bark,
lazy dogs, dreaming in the sun—
But hungry dogs, they do know how to eat,
voracious dogs, with never enough.
And these are Israel’s shepherds!
They know nothing, understand nothing.
They all look after themselves,
grabbing whatever’s not nailed down.

August 3, 2011

Wednesday Link List

Wednesday list lynx

All the news that’s fit to link.

  • A U.S. judge has ordered the ban on circumcision to be removed from the fall ballot in San Francisco.
  • Nicholas Kristof remembers both John Stott and the idea that not all Evangelicals are blowhards in this New York Times article.
  • We’re getting weary following the Schullergate story, but the latest has Robert H. back on the board
  • Can’t post enough of these type of links:  Jim Martin on Six Ways to Avoid Having an Affair.
  • Or Jon Acuff on three perfectly easy ways to wreck your marriage with social media.
  • Randy Alcorn looks at the two books written in response to Rob Bell‘s Love Wins and finds great material with surprisingly little overlap in the books by Francis Chan and Mark Galli.
  • You can’t call it televangelism any more because they no longer use television.  So how about intervangelism.
  • This link is actually from 2009, but it’s good every once in awhile to get inside the anatomy of a witness/evangelism experience.    (Note: Go Buses are a provincial transportation system serving the Toronto hinterland.)
  • The amazing thing about this online book about Biblical Relationships is not the solid Biblical content or the clarity of the online formatting, but the fact that the author, Regis Wengel is only 19.
  • Nothing intensely spiritual about it, but here’s an interesting one minute video about What Matters Most.
  • ‘That was a great talk, can I have your notes and PowerPoint slides?’  John Stackhouse explains why the answer to that will always be ‘no.’
  • Tony Campolo on ‘Baby smiles’ and having a joyful countenance.  After you read this, copy and paste it and create your own brand of email forward.
  • Speaking of babies, Jason Boyett now has a parenting blog; check out Dadequate: Ordinary Adventures of a Write-Brained Dad.
  • This fall, Canada honors its own Christian musicians with the cross country Maple Noise Tour featuring Thousand Foot Krutch, Greg Sczebel, Manafest, Johnny Diaz, To Tell, Jon Bauer, Jodi King, Manic Drive…  oh yeah, and some group called The Newsboys.
  • Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk reports — with tongue firmly in cheek — on a group that finds the book of Genesis too explicit and is fighting to get it banned.
  • Our closing cartoon this week is a somewhat random sample of what’s going on at Mighty Mag.  Richard Gunther is a New Zealand artist whose work can also be seen on Ray Comfort’s webpage.  In addition to various types of illustrations, a “daily nibble” provides a brief devotional thought.  This one illustrates I Tim 1: 3-4

April 4, 2011

An Apology

While hunting, gathering and collecting all the ingredients of this blog’s midweek “best of the Christian blogs” list, I came across something too good for the list.  I don’t like stealing other posts, I’d prefer to just link to things and watch the stats show that you’re clicking.  But the stats don’t always bear out that taking place.  This is from Joe Boyd at the blog Rebel Pilgrim


I ask your forgiveness for the ongoing corruption of the church at large since the early days of the church, for I believe that it is a sin to use the church for personal or political gain.

I ask your forgiveness for every boring church event, church service, or sermon since the creation of the world, for I believe that it is a sin to bore people with really good news.

I ask your forgiveness for the silence of a significant percentage of the European church during the Jewish holocaust and of the American church during the years of slavery, for I believe that it is a sin for the church of God to stand by while innocent people die.

I ask your forgiveness for the unimaginable violence done in and through and with the blessing of the church throughout history, for I believe Jesus died once for all of us to put an end to violence.

I ask your forgiveness for the weight of rules and legalism that has shackled the church, making it oppressively fear-based and guilt-centered, for I believe that it is a sin to deny people their freedom in Christ.

I ask your forgiveness for every power-crazed political zealot who has ever advocated hatred against people in the name of Christ, for I believe that it is a sin to judge in the place of God.

I ask your forgiveness for every sidewalk and soap-box preacher who has so much as cracked upon a Bible with anger or pride in his heart, for I believe that it is a sin to misrepresent the character of a loving God.

I ask your forgiveness for every cult leader and extremist group leader who has ever led people astray in the name of Jesus, for I believe that it is a sin to desire the position of Jesus as the head of the church.

I ask your forgiveness for every pastor or priest who has ever served the church to get money, fame or sex because I believe the church is Jesus’ Bride, not some random guy’s mistress.

I ask your forgiveness for the millions of men in the church who have somehow stretched the Bible to validate their own sexist views, for I believe that it is a sin to dishonor a woman.

I ask your forgiveness for the thousands of church splits and denominational factions that have ripped the body of Christ in every direction except heavenward, for I believe that Christians loving and forgiving each other is the best way to show people who God is.

I ask your forgiveness for the thousands of churches who are set up as extravagant social clubs, for I believe that it is a sin to ignore the poor among you.

I ask your forgiveness for every misspent dime that was ever placed in an offering plate, for I believe that it is a sin to waste an old lady’s tithe.

I ask your forgiveness for the prostituting of the American church and the American church leader to the American dream, for I believe that it is a sin for the church or her leaders to love money more than God.

I ask your forgiveness for every self-centered, self-proclaimed “miracle worker” who has sold people counterfeit hope and light and fluffy theology for $19.95 plus shipping and handling, for I believe that it is a sin to spit in the face of God.

I ask your forgiveness for every sin of every priest, pastor, minister, reverend, teacher, elder, deacon, pope, nun, monk, missionary, Sunday school teacher, worship leader, and for every Christian who has ever come into your life for any other reason than to love you. If any of us came to you and hurt you, we are the ones at fault. On our behalf, let me say that I am very sorry. It’s not who we are supposed to be.

And lastly for me. I am no better than the rest. I am no role model. I’m misguided. I get confused a lot and I have hurt people in my misguided attempts to be “Christian.” I have not always loved God or the people around me. I am ashamed of me much of the time. I am ashamed of my people who have hurt you.

But I am not ashamed of the gospel. I am not ashamed of the good news that God has come near to you and is right now available to you through Jesus. I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is power from a loving God who can save you. He can save us all, even us Christians.

~Joe Boyd

August 7, 2010

Televangelists are the New Rock Stars

Taken from above the stage area around 6:30. By the 7:00 PM start time, most of the empty seats you see were filled.

The Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs may not score high in the statistical records of basketball and hockey respectively, but the teams make money and the ticket prices are astronomical, if you can find a ticket at all.    So having never seen the inside of the just-under 20,000-seat Air Canada Centre, we decided our only chance to see the facility was to crash the Joyce Meyer crusade that has taken place there over the past three days.

Actually, our other goal was to see Darlene Zschech lead worship, since the chances of our ever seeing Hillsong are about as remote as getting tickets to a Leafs or Raptors game.   (Which, as a guy who helped launch “Jesus Music” in Canada in the ’70s and ’80s, and who could once walk into any Christian concert anywhere without a ticket, shows how far my one-time status has fallen.)

A “pre show” video introduced us to an upcoming women’s conference in St. Louis, a promo for a youth curriculum Joyce has developed based on her Love Revolution book that must have had the budget for a Disney music video, and a video biography of Joyce and husband David.   Instructions for audience decorum were then delivered by two mock airline stewards.   Cute.  Then came the t-shirt giveaway with shirts fired from the stage.  It would be interesting to know how many of those shirts will be on the backs of the recipients a few weeks from now.    Maybe.   Especially given that 70-75% of the audience was female.

The auditorium continued to fill.   The number of arena staff on duty (probably at least 400) gave a clue as to the incredible cost of staging a crusade like this.   Several times my wife mentioned her amazement that this was a free admission evening.  Of course, lineups for teaching tapes, books, Bibles and videos (and mugs) in the lobby were long, and sales were brisk.   And at each entry point into the seating area there were the ubiquitous white buckets and stacks of offering envelopes.

Then the worship began.

Darlene Z. was joined by a 10-piece band.   It was loud.   Very loud.   Not too loud for me, but loud for the demographic we perceived to be in attendance.   Especially in a country that is much more conservative in worship.   The sound — such as we’ve seen take place on the recent Hillsong album, A Beautiful Exchange — more resembled the youth band Hillsong United than anything the regular Hillsong albums have taught us to expect.

There was a rush en masse of younger people into what my wife terms “the mosh pit,” and the resultant video mix of band and audience shots on the giant screen certainly resembled a United concert. I’ll bet a few seniors in the audience will never again complain about the worship band in their local church.

Four songs in and then, as the band continued playing, Joyce Meyer walked out on the stage.   A reverential hush came over the audience.   The reverence one has for a rock star.   The quiet that comes when someone is about to make a significant pronouncement.  Joyce prayed for the audience and then the band finished the fourth song.

Mission accomplished, we sprinted for the exit.   I told the volunteer usher he could give our seats to those still arriving.   “You’re not coming back?”  He seemed shocked.   “No we’re not;” I replied.  I’m not sure why anybody would want those seats however.   My neck was already sore from turning sideways to see the stage, and our view of either Jumbotron was complete obstructed.   This section of arena seating seemed to lend itself to a kind of detachment from what was taking place below.

If there were about 17,000 people there — I think my guess is accurate — I hope the other 16,998 enjoyed the rest of the night.

It’s just not our scene.

March 14, 2010

Random Sunday Notes

  • I’m increasingly impressed with the New Living Translation.   I often explain the relationship between the old Living Bible and the current NLT is similar to buying a house that you really like but it needs to be brought up to the standards of the building code.   So you bring in a number of contractors who fix the parts that need fixing and leave everything else that’s good.   Bringing The Living Bible up to translation status was a similar project.    Passages like Romans and Hebrews gain additional clarity, while the Olivet Discourse in John’s gospel reveals its rather stark simplicity.    I like this treatment of Ephesians 2: 8-9:

    8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

  • This morning in church we looked at this passage in I Samuel 2: 12-13a

    12 Now the sons of Eli were scoundrels who had no respect for the Lord or for their duties as priests… 22 Now Eli was very old, but he was aware of what his sons were doing to the people of Israel. He knew, for instance, that his sons were seducing the young women who assisted at the entrance of the Tabernacle.

    It’s a reminder that today’s television evangelists who seem to have outright contempt for their followers and for God Himself, with their misuse of money and serial affairs are really nothing new.

  • Imagine you’re sitting in church and the service is nearing the end and an usher walks up to the person in the row in front of you and hands him/her an envelope and whispers, “Thanks for your offering, but we don’t want to accept this from you, even though it’s perfectly useful cash.”   That would be like something out of a weird dream, right?   But that’s what we do when people offer their [other kinds of] gifts to the church but they can’t jump through the hoops or clear the screening process.   We’re basically throwing their gift back in their faces.   The church should be a place where gifting + willingness determines ministry.

February 20, 2010

My Day With Tiger Woods and Benny Hinn

I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only about myself. I ran straight through the boundaries that a married couple should live by. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled. Thanks to money and fame, I didn’t have to go far to find them.

I was wrong. I was foolish. I don’t get to play by different rules. The same boundaries that apply to everyone apply to me. I brought this shame on myself. ~ from the text of Tiger Woods comments at 11 AM EST, 19/02/10

At this point we don’t know any of the particulars surrounding the announcement on Thursday that Suzanne Hinn, wife of Benny Hinn was filing for divorce.    So please don’t think I am inferring any — absolutely any — parallels between Tiger Woods and Benny.

However, I did not check the “religious news wire” before heading out of town on Friday, so it was against the backdrop of the Tiger Woods press conference that I read the news about Benny and Suzanne Hinn around suppertime.

Benny Hinn and I are not friends or even true acquaintances, but our paths did cross many years ago.   The original crusades he conducted in Toronto, Canada were held in the church that was the base for the mail order business I operated.   The Joyful Noise Record Club had customers across Canada, and later became Searchlight Music, a company I still own in another form.

The head of another ministry based in the building was about to be married, and people from various ministries operating in the Toronto church were invited to the wedding.   Some of us apparently were invited at the last minute.   I had no date for the wedding, and as I remember it, neither did Benny Hinn.   We talked briefly waiting for the door for the reception to open, but I was terrified he would suddenly lay hands on me, cause me to fall over, or announce to everyone some great secret sin — probably lust — that I was harboring at the time.

Fortunately, we were seated at different tables.

Benny’s ministry in Toronto was somewhat high profile — at least among Charismatics — but nothing compared to the size and scope of it when he moved to Orlando and married the daughter of Charismatic pastor Roy Harthern.   The website Precious Daily Devotions tells the story:

In the summer of 1978, on a flight returning from a conference in Singapore, Benny Hinn met Roy Harthern, an Englishman who was pastoring the Calvary Assembly of God in Orlando, Florida. They got to know one another on the long flight. Roy showed Benny pictures of his family. When he came to the photo of Roy’s daughter, Suzanne, Benny heard a voice inside him saying, “She’s going to be your wife.”

Roy Harthern invited Pastor Benny Hinn to come to his home for Christmas, he accepted. When he met Suzanne, Benny remembers jokingly, “I looked into her beautiful bluish-green eyes and my knees became weak”. When his friend Maxine LaDuke met Suzanne, she took Benny aside and confirmed that this was his wife.

Benny knew she was the one. He took Pauline Harthern aside to “ask her something.” Pauline thought he wanted to ask her permission to date Suzanne, but instead, he said “I want to marry Suzanne; I am in love with her.” “Well, well,” Pauline replied, “you really need to speak to her father.” When Roy gave his approval, Benny Hinn immediately went to find Suzanne. Suzanne accepted and Pastor Benny Hinn and Suzanne tied the knot on August 4, 1979.

The rest, as they say, is history.   Hinn catapulted to fame and infamy, as Wikipedia reminds us:

By far the most controversial aspect of Hinn’s ministry is his claim to have the “anointing”, the special power given to him by God to heal the sick. At Hinn’s Miracle Crusades, he has allegedly healed attendees of blindness, deafness, cancer, AIDS, and severe physical injuries. Since 1993, however, investigative news reports by programs such as Inside Edition, Dateline NBC, the Australian edition of 60 Minutes, and several network affiliates in the United States have called these claims into question.

Hinn made a number of unfulfilled (religious) prophecies for the 90s, such as God destroying America’s homosexual community in 1995, the death of Fidel Castro, the election of the first female president of the USA, the East Coast of the United States being devastated by earthquakes, etc., all before the third millennium. Hinn also appeared on the Trinity Broadcasting Network in October 1999 to claim that God had given him a vision that thousands of dead people would be resurrected after watching the network—laying out a scenario of people placing their dead loved ones’ hands on TV screens tuned into the station—and that TBN would be “an extension of Heaven to Earth.”

Again, I have no reason to link the divorce announcement to anything to do with Tiger Woods except to say that it was against that context that I heard the news.   But maybe that’s not it at all, maybe I’m also reading into this story against the backdrop of the post I wrote last week about Todd Bentley.  (But again, there’s been no inference of infidelity, the grounds for divorce filed are irreconcilable differences.)   Another celebrity.  Another Charismatic evangelist.   Another divorce.

There are two sides to every story, and Hinn’s people have allegedly already started going into damage control mode, and not everyone is buying it.

It’s all so very sad.

To those of you who are just starting out in your journey of faith, or building a ministry, remember:  You are responsible for the depth of your ministry; God is responsible for the breadth of your ministry.   Don’t aim for crowds, respect, praise or what some would consider success.     Because success and praise always come at a cost; the adulation of the crowds always comes at a price; and then, if you fail, you take down all the people who worshiped you.

Additional sources USAToday; Bene Diction Blogs On. Picture:  The Daily Show. Update: Confirmation at Benny Hinn Ministries website.

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