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Reflections: Follow the money

It’s said that no one enters ministry for financial gain, but several recent accounts take issue with this.

Let me hasten to say that the overwhelming majority of ministers live and work with integrity. And many live below the comparable wages of their parishioners. Nor do pastors take what belongs to others.

A former staff colleague reported to me that the church secretary began to tell people who were searching for something at church that “the pastor must’ve taken it with him” — the pastor being me. I’m not sure what folks were looking for, but I only took my books and sermons.

Long before electronic storage, I printed sermons as “hard copies.” I still have several file drawers full of them. In fact, I was wondering lately why I’ve saved all these sermons for so long. Looking back at them I’m chagrined that I was ignorant about so many things and would be ashamed for people to see or hear them now.

But that’s another story.

The aforementioned secretary was asked to leave a few weeks later, so, as they say, she had issues.

An FX documentary series recently called into question several aspects of church life in a megachurch, money being one of them. Evidently there was a lack of accountability. And author Mary Kinney Branson in “Spending God’s Money” wrote of mismanagement in a large denomination, including a missionary agency head who spent thousands of dollars for an excursion to London for a movie premier. Branson also told about an employee interpreting “entertainment” on his expense report to include a massage he got on a trip. And a seminary just released reports of a former president’s extravagant spending, including an $11,000 espresso machine.

British novelist Henry Fielding wrote, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

Accountability is important.

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul insisted “the spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets” (1 Corinthians 14:32). He was advocating for order in the assembly and against anyone claiming a word from God falsely. No minister has unparalleled access to God or his word, and sometimes we who stand behind the pulpit must admit our often-fallible interpretations of scripture.

For example, everyone who’s predicted the return of Christ thus far has been wrong.

Accountability in the spoken word is mandatory, and accountability in the matter of money is mandatory.

Church leaders should remove themselves from handling cash offerings, and from spending without budget guidelines or receipts.

And, again, the vast majority of ministers are people of integrity.

Those who aren’t give rise to books and documentaries that, sadly, give the church a bad reputation.

“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.

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