Hillsong and Mr 10%’s Exflux

Don’t wish to steal Lance’s thunder, but people were hassling me to post this along with other additional information on this. First off are these articles:

Tax office push for charity monitoring

Hillsong services attract huge crowds with devotees encouraged to donate generously to the church Source: Supplied Hillsong

THE tax office wants a special national body set up to monitor “not for profit” charities, admitting that churches – such as the multi-million-dollar phenomenon Hillsong – are literally “invisible” to it.

And the sector is expanding so rapidly that $31 billion a year is now being drawn out of the federal Budget in tax exemptions to the ever-growing list of groups claiming church and charity status.

The push to put not-for-profit groups under greater fiscal scrutiny comes amid revelations that senior pastors of the Hillsong mega-church and their families are enjoying lavish lifestyles virtually tax-free.

Critics say Hillsong – which makes millions by routinely demanding its followers hand over at least 10 per cent of their salaries for the church coffers – exploits tax exemptions designed to help small, struggling churches.

The Sunday Herald Sun can reveal that Hillsong founder Brian Houston uses a not-for-profit company – Leadership Ministries Inc (LMI) – to fund a burgeoning, tax-free global preaching empire.

LMI and other tax-free companies in the Hillsong network are able to provide housing, cars, overseas travel, accommodation, credit cards and other perks free of fringe benefits or income tax.

And since LMI was set up in 2001, the Houston family’s relationship with the company has included:

* Property deals that have earned Brian Houston and his wife Bobbie $1.4 million. The Houstons are still tenants of waterfront properties at Sydney’s Bondi Beach and the Hawkesbury River that they sold to LMI.

* A $1 million, fringe benefits tax-free expense account each year for five people, including the Houstons.

* The use of vehicles worth more than $120,000.

* Fully funded overseas tours where Brian Houston can earn $US20,000 a speech in “love offerings” on the preaching circuit.

* The refund of all goods and services tax paid by the Houstons in their pastoral duties back to LMI.

* The creation of a network of Hillsong subsidiaries in South Africa, Britain, Sweden and Ukraine.

The Sunday Herald Sun has also learnt that the Australian Taxation Office reviewed LMI’s tax-free status this year and has re-affirmed it, despite growing concerns about a lack of accountability in the not-for-profit sector.

ATO Assistant Commissioner Michael Hardy told a recent Senate inquiry he lacked the staff to monitor religious organisations.

Once tax-free status was granted, churches were “technically invisible to the tax office”, Mr Hardy said.

On the push for a special national body to oversee charities, Mr Houston said: “I would welcome a charities commission . . . to avoid continued speculation surrounding charities doing legitimate work in the community.”

Mr Houston said his total salary was “just over $300 000”.

The ATO defines salary as cash payments, excluding fringe benefits and exemptions.

Pentecostal preacher Philip Powell, a critic and former Assemblies of God national secretary, said Hillsong, which has a congregation of more than 20,000, should be stripped of its tax-exempt status.

“It should be recognised for what it is: a corporation, not a church,” Mr Powell said. “Hillsong is really just a sales and marketing operation.

“If you took out the religious aspect, a company like that would have to pay thousands of dollars in fringe-benefits tax each year.”

Lobby group Taxpayers Australia spokesman Roger Timms wants the Government to adopt Treasury secretary Ken Henry’s recommendation that tax exemptions for churches be replaced with direct grants.

Under the Tax Act, there is no cap on the amount of expenses churches can pay ministers of religion before incurring fringe-benefits tax.

Mega-churches such as Hillsong have taken full advantage of this, rewarding its leaders tax-free, the pastor of a church aligned to Hillsong says.

A former Assemblies of God pastor, who declined to be named, said: “It’s what many of the AOG churches are doing.

“Hillsong can legally pay all of Brian Houston’s salary as fringe benefits, so he can end up paying no tax whatsoever.”

A Hillsong spokesman said: “We do not pay Brian Houston or any ministerial staff 100 per cent, or anywhere close to that amount, in fringe benefits.”

Mr Houston added: “My salary has been consistent throughout the year and includes fringe benefits. I pay personal income tax.”

Assemblies of God pastors typically take at least 75 per cent of their salaries as tax-free benefits.

This provision was meant to help small churches retain low-paid staff, not for those like Hillsong, which earns $50 million a year.

“The Government has an opportunity to make the tax system more fair by closing the loopholes that exist for churches,” Mr Timms said.

Read more: http://www.news.com.au/money/money-matters/tax-office-push-for-charity-monitoring/story-e6frfmd9-1225896551630#ixzz0ulipzoNv

Hillsong – why people sign up for a lifetime deal

By Brenden Hills
From: The Sunday Telegraph
July 25, 2010 1:27AM

EVERYONE in the building has a common understanding: 10 per cent of your income – at the very least.

A woman barely into her 20s sits two places down from me in the 10th row. She’s maybe old enough to be a poverty-stricken, second-year university student earning retail wages.

She drops in three fifties – notes, not coins.

The Asian gentleman next to me drops in four $50 notes.

Young parents and elderly people dot the room that looks more like the Sydney Entertainment Centre than a Pentecostal church. Can they afford to do the same?

Even if they can’t, they do. Then there’s me – an unmarried white-collar worker with no mortgage or dependants.

The Asian man passes me the bucket – one of 100 doing the rounds – with holes in the bottom large enough to discourage coins.

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Related Coverage

* Tax office push for charity monitoring NEWS.com.au, 1 day ago
* Tax office wants charities monitored Herald Sun, 1 day ago
* Gloria Jean’s faces $56m coffee lawsuit Adelaide Now, 19 Apr 2010
* Hillsong rock God a hit Daily Telegraph, 28 Jan 2010
* More lies come to light Herald Sun, 2 Sep 2009

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I pass it on without dropping in any money.

People glance at me. My flick-pass has been noticed. This is Sunday night at Hillsong Church.

For three months, I attended Sunday morning and evening ceremonies at Sydney’s Waterloo and Baulkham Hills sites.

To an outsider, it seems phenomenal the church took $17 million in tithes and donations from its attendees in 2008. This was up from $16 million in 2007.

But, after sitting through about 20 services, it’s easy to see why. It’s only 15 minutes into my first service and I’ve heard the guy on stage with the microphone make his third “shout-out” for people to make a “generous donation”.

“The world of the generous gets larger and larger, while the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller,” he says.

“Can we bring an offering? We need to contribute to the prosperity of the church so our souls can prosper.”

And contribute they do. There’s a shared understanding among Hillsong worshippers: they love going to this church, and they’re prepared to pump as much money into it as they can.

And it’s hard not to get caught up in the moment. The atmosphere is seductive.

For the uninitiated, Hillsong is more like a rock concert, with the light shows, the band and the screaming crowds. But instead of sex, drugs and merchandising, it’s church, Jesus, tithes and merchandising.

As a “newcomer”, I received a lot of attention. I was “love bombed” by three enthusiastic church workers who wanted to know about my prior religious involvement.

I was signed up as a member and listed to join a “connect group”.

Then came the phone calls. They wanted me in, and they wanted to seal the deal for life.

Read more: http://www.news.com.au/national/hillsong-why-people-sign-up-for-a-lifetime-deal/story-e6frfkvr-1225896551731#ixzz0uliVs1H7

I was emailed a link to this site with the Telegraph’s story, (edit: ‘written’ by Adam Shand):

http://frozensummers.com/blog/2010/07/sunday-tele-hillsong-expose/

I have also been emailed by some people Steve West’s story who seems to be quite public about his experiences on Facebook. Don’t have time to email them up. I’ll do them when I get back.


122 thoughts on “Hillsong and Mr 10%’s Exflux

  1. I have just been informed that Steve West will be interviewed on Today Tonight Tomorrow.

  2. I found this article very informative and up-to-date. I totally agree with the views of the writer that the custom signs play an important role in order to increase the business profits and build brand image of your company among the masses. These signs not only help your existing customers find your place of business, but also help you draw high percentage of the potential customers into clients and increase profitability of the company. These signs are very vital to your business success.

  3. I don’t see the point of constantly regurgitating and channeling Groupsects, myself. Why be a minion of his? Seek out your own material.

    $17 million, divided by 15,000 members, divided by 52 weeks, equals $21.80 per person per week. Seems reasonable to me for the amount of satisfaction members receive.

    And I doubt very much that those figures add up to forcing members to fork out 10%, or they’d all be on $218 a week, which wouldn’t even pay for half a week’s rent in Sydney.

    Figures from the US, where tithes are tax deductible, and so records can be kept, indicate that only around 17% of Pentecostals actually tithe. The rest give what they want, which is why I have a difficulty with this concept of Pentecostals being somehow forced to tithe. Most don’t. These figures confirm this, clearly.

    It is true, nonetheless, that Hillsong do raise quite a lot of money, but I don’t know why anyone would be surprised that a congregation which is now at around 20,000 members would raise such amounts by donations.

    By the way, if everyone, rich and poor, did tithe, we would not have any lack in our nation, and we would be able to bless the poor nations of the world. The common wealth would be amazing and we could end poverty quickly.

    I don’t know why anyone should be surprised that they would need large auditoriums to accomodante the crowds, and that, as the crowds grow, so does the quality of ministry provided in music, presentation and satisfaction, or that people should leave the place feeling good about life, and having been filled by great services. It does cost money to build buildings. Sad but true.

    I know there are those who do not think a service has been at all good unless everyone leaves feeling wretched and brought low, but that is their problem. jesus came hat we should have life, and that more abundant. It is the sinner who needs to be brought low and repent, not the saint.

    I’m more interested in the bloke who managed to go to these great churches and put nothing in the offering, paid not a cent for a thoroughly good time, great communication and excellent music, and has no qualms in criticising the whole enterprise.

    Apparently there’s nothing like freeloading and offloading!

    The ATO has every right to look at the way churches function. As long as they are fair in their assessments, they will see that the majority of chuches are worth investing more of the nation’s wealth in, to assist them in their enterprise to reach the community at the grass roots level, not taking it away because a small handful are large enough to generate huge wealth.

  4. The reason Facelift, is because of the emails. We do have a lot of well informed lurkers on Signposts02. This was in my inbox. It’s an article that Steve West wrote before going public. Lurkers do wish to remain anonymous, like the one who updates me on Matthew Fords ministry. I’m posting this on the run. I will publish other things from my inbox when I get more time.

    Hillsong Church (Steve’s Epic Note 1) *updated
    Friday, 09 July 2010

    I will never be able to write this note correctly. I have far too much experience to expect that people will understand me – or that many will walk away from my words even comprehending what I have said. Psychology has long shown that people cannot deal with too great a confrontation to their worldview.

    This post discusses my views on Hillsong Church. They are now largely critical, but they are not wholly so. In fact, I see some seeds within Hillsong of some very great things indeed – lost in the pageantry and parade.

    Who I am to Criticise Hillsong Church

    Who am I that I dare to bring public a critique of such a church?

    In summary, I became a sold out Christian in 1999 at the age of 17. I gave all I was to my understanding of service and devotion to God (more on this in part 2). I rapidly associated these radical changes in my life to the work of the Spirit, which I perceived as being active in Hillsong Church. I attended Hillsong Leadership College in 2001 and 2002, achieving my Diploma, during which time I spent up to six days a week, mornings and nights, at the church, and was deeply involved there. I attended all conferences and was involved in virtually everything the church had to offer. I worked in carpark, ushers, new Christians, sound, lighting, set up, children’s ministry, preacher’s club, attended church meetings at from twice to five times a week, connect group, counselling, satellite services and young adults meetings and programs, camps, exo days, doorknocking evangelism, evangelism seminars, vision builders, as well as camps.

    After my time at Hillsong, I ran an AOG ministry in a medium sized Sydney church. This was the young adults program, which worked with about sixty people but would have only had about forty at it’s meetings. Some would argue that it was equivalent to the position of a pastor.

    I say all this to demonstrate that I am no ignorant critic.

    I know Hillsong church; it’s people, it’s culture.

    It is a major part of my life story.

    My Criticisms of Hillsong, the AOG and their culture

    I am now wishing to speak here more directly of Hillsong than I have I have in the past.

    I have laid the case of how I see Hillsong is failing in evangelism elsewhere:

    http://www.facebook.com/notes/steve-west/modern-pentecostalism-in-australia-part-1/419682131927

    In summary, I feel that Hillsong gains a lot of its confidence from its demographic strength. Yet I argue that the demographic strength is largely an illusion aided by large meeting halls. The oft quoted statistic is that Hillsong loses half of its membership every five years. Compared to any other denomination, this is an atrocious retention rate. This is only viable because Hillsong has a significant inflow of Christians (mostly denomination switchers) and a much smaller rate of converts from wider society.

    This is significant because a major aspect of the culture of the AOG and Hillsong is premised on demographic strength. The theory goes that because it is large, God must be blessing it. From and evangelical Christian perspective, this logic must be derided as asinine. Are we to conclude that the Catholic church is more blessed by God, as its numbers are larger? What of the annual Haj of Muslims to Mecca? This is phenomenally larger than Hillsong Conference. If numbers are a sign of God’s blessing, Hillsong is abysmally small cookies. Even were they to say numbers are significant only for evangelical Christians – there are far more evangelical Anglicans than there are Hillsongers, in Sydney alone. The logic is so two dimensional and – frankly – shallow, that it staggers belief.

    But Hillsong’s success is borne out of criticism, and it has developed certain unique traits to cope with it. These traits themselves I consider to be the most sinister aspects of the organisation.

    Hillsong does not tolerate dissension, reasonable or not. Any Hillsong pastor who has strayed even moderately from the vision is quickly exorcised and ostracised. Among the fallen are Geoff Bullock and Craig Woods, but the list is extensive. Once outside the ranks of those who ‘carry the vision’, these former giants are treated with disdain and suspicion from the simple (clergy or laity).

    To the stranger, Hillsong’s intolerance begins as a strange positivity. Everyone is upbeat and speaks well. This is because they are intolerant of those who speak negatively. This sounds healthy enough for creating a positive environment, but it goes deeper.

    Those who question methods or practices are quickly seen to. The attitude is simple – get on board or get out. There is no room for flexibility.

    Fair enough, if you’re running a business. But it is no business, it is a church. It contains vulnerable people, with alternate views. Those expecting a Biblical experience are soon disappointed.

    The teaching of tithing has melted away, by and large, but its lingering legacy remains.

    Be clear, dear Christians, that this is not a biblical teaching. Tithing was expected of the old testament Israelites, and even then, not all of them were expected to tithe – only agriculturalists of eleven of the twelve tribes. Pentecostal churches fail to admit this point. The New Testament never teaches tithing…the closest affirmation to it Jesus famously reminding the Pharisees that they should be tithing. And they should have been, they were under the Old Testament law – the curtain was not yet ripped.

    I think it sinister that any church would teach tithing when it is so easy to shoot down as an unbiblical teaching.

    And here we run into some more issues.

    Hillsong has run the mill of criticisms for its teaching on money, and indeed it has toned these down over the years. For a critic like me, I can’t help but see this as a marketing move to reduce the heat being placed on the organisation and to reposition it to expand its market.

    Why so cynical about the money?

    I have run a church ministry for years and have never found the need to emphasise money as they have. They teaching in my view is both unbiblical and exploitative. Not only has tithing been taught, but also the sowing and reaping principle has been taught ad nauseum. Hillsong Church and its affiliates are the only churches I know to have sermons designed to inspire giving EVERY SINGLE SERVICE. I have run a church ministry. This is totally unnecessary behaviour. And waving the carrot of blessing seems unethical to me.

    Furthermore, I am not unconvinced that Brian does not personally benefit from all this.

    As will detail below, my personal snapping point with Hillsong came when I discover them being dishonest about their financial dealings. From then on, there was no more grace from me, no more “they are imperfect but they still do some good so praise God for them anyway”.

    Dishonesty is deep and systematic. Not only are individuals censored, but there certainly is something funky going on with the money. I propose to you that Hillsong Church is buying properties to host visiting pastors, and this is labelled in the budget as a ministry expense, so that the public auditing never shows this. These properties are given to Leadership Ministries International – Brian’s personal company that he directs. Although held in the company’s name, it is effectively his personal wealth, bought by tithers and ‘sowers’ in the church. Why do I say this? 1. I’ve had access to the ‘open’ financial records of the church, 2. An examination of the claims of Brian to the media. He at first claims that he is a property developer, but then goes back on this in later interviews. He’s just getting more savy on how he needs to present himself…both are true. He is a property developer, just not in his own name. He let’s LMI do it and he benefits from it personally.

    So in total, with Christians being used and spat out of that system at an alarming rate, I do not see Hillsong as the flagship for the Christian church, but a symbol of what can go wrong and how well meaning people can easily be duped.

    I think I have a right to criticise if I see it as systematically evil, and not just a flawed but essentially decent enterprise.

    But, the culture is so clearly tuned against criticism, that most of those Christians will never see through it. Especially those who cluck about grace.

    My Story of Losing Faith In Hillsong

    My loss of faith in Hillsong took much time. It took me some years to finally concede that tithing was clearly unbiblical.

    But I was still so zealous for Hillsong that I was anxious to prove it to its critics.

    The critics kept banging on about how Hillsong was all about the money, so I was anxious to prove to them that Hillsong was open and honest about its financial practices. It had assured me that any member of the congregation could agree to meet the manager, George Aghajanian, and see the financial books.

    So I made the appointment. After some months, I was finally in the meeting.

    After pressing George and his assistant for a long time, I left the meeting without seeing a single figure. They refused to show me anything. I was a supportive congregant for five years. Not a single figure. In fact, they filled my mind with spin and answers so that when I left the meeting, I thought they had answered my questions. Only later I realised they had shown me nothing.

    The financial accountability of the church is a grand lie. It is upheld by willing people, and those who are conditioned not to question, because criticism is ungodly.

    I took many years attempting to discuss my perceived doctrinal and practice issues with the leadership of Hillsong. Almost universally, they are not interested in such discussions. All their responses could be reduced to simple patronising rhetoric: it’s wrong to be critical, no where is perfect etc etc. How could they fail to see that deep systematic issues actually need to be addressed and not just swept under the rug?

    I came to see Hillsong culture, which is highly controlling of the way people think (their attitudes are groomed to come to pre-determined conclusions about many issues) is designed to prevent critical thinking. How people think this is ok is beyond me. History is full of leaders who were to be unquestioned. Human leadership is indeed flawed, and those who brainwash their followers into unquestioning subservience are the same leaders who took the liberty this afforded them to selfish and evil ends. It need not be that way. Our wider society is full of checks and balances that enable people to raise legitimate issues with leadership – the judiciary, the ACCC, the ICAC, the police, various lobby and appeal groups. But if you disagree with Hillsong leadership there is no appeal. They control their position tightly. This is a terrifying and inhuman thought. Even the Anglicans and Catholics have methods for dealing with dispute resolution. At Hillsong, you’re just told to shut up and get your attitude right.

    In Conclusion

    For those whom my view challenges, I beg your indulgence. Please resist the temptation of simply labelling me a ‘bitter cynic’. Oversimplifying my thoughts and feelings, borne through years of heartache, study and soul searching, just so that you don’t feel threatened, is indescribably patronising. I had every reason to thoroughly believe in and support Hillsong and its style of doing church.

    But you just need to think clearly on some points to start seeing something awry is going on.

    I loved that place. Deeply. It has been devastating to me to realise it was largely a con and I fought against that conclusion with every ounce of my intellect and energy. This realisation caused me a severe depression and I have fought since to get my life back on track.

    I wish people to wake up and the AOG to fix its game, as I believe they have something very valuable to contribute to society – if they give up these ridiculous games.

    I am only one person, and these things have exacted a terrible toll on my emotions. I believe in being willing to discuss things, so I open the floor to discussion, but I ask for a certain respect for my human frailty. I have not the resources of a megachurch, but I shall try to answer your questions and comments as best as i can.

  5. Faithlift said.
    “$17 million, divided by 15,000 members, divided by 52 weeks, equals $21.80 per person per week. Seems reasonable to me for the amount of satisfaction members receive.

    And I doubt very much that those figures add up to forcing members to fork out 10%, or they’d all be on $218 a week, which wouldn’t even pay for half a week’s rent in Sydney.

    Figures from the US, where tithes are tax deductible, and so records can be kept, indicate that only around 17% of Pentecostals actually tithe. The rest give what they want, which is why I have a difficulty with this concept of Pentecostals being somehow forced to tithe. Most don’t. These figures confirm this, clearly.”

    Come on man, this is just crazy talk. Firstly, there is a difference between attendees and members, and churches love to inflate numbers.
    Second, haven’t you considered that their may be couples, and families who attend with only one tithe payer – so your maths is totally off.
    Thirdly, even if its true that only 17% tithe that’s of Pentecostals – emphasis on tithing differs through different churches, so it’s not a valid figure. But the point people are trying to make is that even if in a mega church only 17% (who COULD tithe do), maybe there are 83% who are made to feel guilty that they don’t. And given the statistics on turnover, have you thought that some people join, try to tithe (because they’re told to all the time), but fail, and later give up.

    On the other hand, I’ve had the experience of Pastor’s boasting to others about how they have 90% tithing rate – and yeah, you should see the look on the faces of the ones listening!

    And as for your point about if all tithe we would feed the world’s poor – that’s assuming that churches would use the tithe money to feed the poor. You think they would?

    And as this guy Steve alluded to, some mega churches only start their emphasis on charity in response to criticism.

    If there were no media attacks, I don’t think Houston would be regret his “you need more money” book.

    But, watch for even more HIllsong giving to charity in the future.

    You also said “I’m more interested in the bloke who managed to go to these great churches and put nothing in the offering, paid not a cent for a thoroughly good time, great communication and excellent music, and has no qualms in criticising the whole enterprise.Apparently there’s nothing like freeloading and offloading!”

    This paragraph says a lot about you and church pastors.
    Look over what you just wrote, and think about it. I could spend a week using that paragraph to show what is wrong with the modern church.

    But here’s a starter. If I do “pay” for the “good time”, communication and “excellent music” (which might just be provided by volunteers!), am I able to have some qualms about criticizing.

    For the record, I don’t believe that a person who goes to a meeting of
    called out saints without “paying” an offering is a freeloader.

    The tragedy of churchlife, is that there are so many people like Steve who were NOT troublemakers. They gave their lives. But now when it’s over, there is no acknowledgement of how they served in “the House”.

  6. Also, I see Groupsects and Signposts as really quite different blogs. I think it’s okay to borrow posts and themes because some people may read one but not the other for many different reasons.

  7. Mr Houston said his total salary was “just over $300,000″.

    If that is true that says it all.

    It means he is a rich man fullstop.

    From late 2009…..

    Best paying sectors
    Average Australian Salary $89,637

    Sector
    Avg. Min Avg. Max Average

    1Mining, Oil & Gas
    $57,750 $258,725 $145,375

    2Executive

    $57,053 $231,164 $129,033

    3Scientific

    $40,740 $153,889 $121,356

    4Engineering

    $50,157 $199,736 $114,105

    5Construction, Building & Architecture

    $44,142 $196,572 $108,064

    6IT & Telecommunications

    $43,764 $229,464 $100,242

    7Banking & Financial Services

    $45,244 $210,476 $86,710

    8Human Resources & Recruitment

    $43,553 $203,000 $86,343

    9Sales

    $40,000 $180,000 $84,794

    10Marketing

    $45,636 $154,545 $82,573

  8. According to the ABS in 2008 the top range of gross weighted household income was $3624.

    That equates to 52 x 3624 = $188448.

  9. Yeah that para of FL’s got me too.

    I didn’t think going to church was fundamentally an honour based financial transaction where we kick money in based on how entertained we are.

    C’mon FL that is just crap.

    The other thing Churchman is every body loves a whistle blower except the blowor.

    And in almost every case who pays the most?

    The whistleblower.

    Back to the other thread for a response to FL’s comments this morning.

  10. Ha Ha Ha, well it was rather tongue in cheek, and not at all worked out as a critique, I must admit. But the basic idea of going to a meeting to criticise giving and deliberately letting the offering basket go by whilst watching exactly what people placed in the basket was very revealing. What a hypocrite! He was getting paid for a piece on Hillsong, and got a free ride at their expense.

    Who cares if he put anything in, really. It’s not entertainment, as you say, and the gospel is free, after all. The truth is, he was under no compulsion or necessity to give, but he failed to include that in his critical piece.

    And the constant banging on about people being ‘forced’ to give tithes is such a worn out cliché. Now that is just ‘crap’, as you put it. No one is ‘forced’ to do anything in church.

    What? Do we have special ushers who hold people down until they have paid, or do we lock the doors and let no one out until their tithe is in the bag? What utter nonsense. Talk about painting a false picture.

    I’ll tell you something about most Pentecostals. There is more chance of people being upset because they are are forbidden to tithe, than if they are forced to. They actually enjoy the honour of giving to God. And they would give more if they could. Giving is part of the culture, not a chore, or a hindrance, or a painful exercise. They love it. It’s only the truly offended who utterly refuse to give.

    Wake up and smell the roses!

  11. Dear Contributors,
    Brilliant and revealing commentaries, one and all. I thank you for welcoming informed debate on this issue.
    Still I think it’s important to bear in mind all the good that churches do in charity and spiritual matters. This is about the system not the man, the congregation or their beliefs.
    Two questions need to be answered.
    What is the state of disclosure and corporate governance in NFPs?
    How much of expenses should be reasonably tax-exempt?
    I would welcome responses here or by email.
    Kind Regards,
    Adam Shand
    News Ltd Melbourne

  12. “By the way, if everyone, rich and poor, did tithe, we would not have any lack in our nation, and we would be able to bless the poor nations of the world. The common wealth would be amazing and we could end poverty quickly.” – FL

    Um, we all already give between 15% and 45% off our gross incomes to the ATO, and unfortunately, we haven’t defeated poverty in Australia, let alone other parts of the world. Therefore I think that argument is wrong, even if it would be nice to think it would be that simple.

    Re disclosure and corporate governance:

    Well, I am no expert. But transparency can only be a good thing. If corporate governance rules ensure this occurs, then it is a helpful, if tedious, thing. It protects congregation members sincerity and generosity from being taken advantage of, and can help protect some people from themselves, knowing they have to reveal their spending decisions to others. For some, it will just be extra paperwork, so hopefully it won’t be too complicated, especially for the smaller churches with maybe only one or two staff.

    In terms of tax exemption levels – I don’t see why tax payers should have to contribute to anything in a church (staff benefits, program costs, or buildings) unless it has some demonstrable community benefit. Where that can be demonstrated, then generous deductions would seem appropriate. Where it can’t be demonstrated – well, why should the wider community contribute? Not-for-profits that are purely charitable, are going to have the most deductions in this case, and rightly so.

  13. Hello Adam Shand journo

    1.
    What is the state of disclosure and corporate governance in NFPs?

    DYOR – look at the ATO website, go in and see your nearest Tax Office that has a public contact desk, or even talk to your employer’s tax agent – they may bill you of course.

    2. How much of expenses should be reasonably tax-exempt?

    How long is a piece of string? I don’t think any of us on either side of this discussion should hazard a guess….because that is all it would be.

    What you should consider is that most pastors are not on $300K a year….far, far from it. And they use their own homes, cars, offices, etc for ministry within the church in which they serve, and permanently ‘on call’…quite sacrificially…. 99.99% of pastors never get ‘rich’.

    Another way to think of exempt benefits is salary sacrifice being available for expenses incurred in ministry. Many denominations have salary scales in much the same way as you see in normal agency bargaining agreements or awards, with a recommendation as to what is appropriate level of exempt benefits. They are there because historically – and in most cases still currently – those salaries are not high, and probably more often than not, not average either – and the exempt benefits allow them to stretch the dollar a little further – again the expenditure of which is often directly attributable to ministry.

    The danger as always is perhaps the behaviour of a very small minority may wreck it for the majority.

    I do hope you restrain the urge to sensationalise any thing you put out, because there always ending up being collateral damage.

  14. Adam,
    ‘What is the state of disclosure and corporate governance in NFPs?’

    It is the same legal requirement for all incorporated associations, that there has to be an annual audit presented to the members, and access, by contributing members to this audit. Churches generally have elected boards, AGM’s, and membership. Some have a governing authority. Legally, there is no specific structure for churches. They come under the same category as all not-for-profit organisations.

    ‘How much of expenses should be reasonably tax-exempt?’

    Tax exemption applies to association related activities only, where a not-for-profit uses donations and finances from sales of goods for the activities of the association, as identified in their constitution, including the acquisition of buildings and paying of salaries, and any other activities which directly relate to the stated purposes of the association, which is submitted to State or Territory government for approval.

    The law is concise on this, and, unless there is a requirement for a special charter for churches, separate from the recognised not-for-profit sector, is not in need of revision.

    Churches and charities should remain tax exempt, and not be penalised because of the ill-founded opinion of those who have become shortsighted in believing poor media reports about a relatively small group of wealthy churches.

    If the ATO is recommending the expense of further staffing to check into the financial workings of churches within the not-for-profit sector, then they would also need to add staffing to ensure that all not-for-profit organisations are equally financially accountable. This would be a costly and pointless exercise, frankly, since there is already a legal requirement for accurately audited accounts provided by an independent auditor for all not-for-profits.

    Any finances for this exercise would be better directed towards the work of local churches in their outreaches to disenfranchised youth, drug rehabilitation, feeding the hungry, assisting the abused, assisting couples who are going through a marriage crisis, comforting those who are mourning, and bringing aid to the ailing. It would also be helpful for government to increase their giving to chaplaincy in schools, which, it is widely recognised as being hugely effective in those states which have employed chaplains.

    The pitance which has been directed towards youth for the odd rock concert, rather than facilities and infrastructure, in most States and Territories is pitiful. The need, at this time, for financial assistance to assist young families with housing, including those who are struggling to pay mortgages, could be well directed to those churches and church groups which are currently working at a grass roots level, using volunteers.

    Employing people whose strongest desire is to assist those in need, rather than expecting them to work long hours for nothing, would be a huge boost to agencies which are working their hardest to meet people’s needs in a practical way.

    Rather than take finances away from this sector, or penalise churches because of a media driven aversion the those churches which are financially successful, at the expense of those which are working with the poor, abused, destitute, disenfranchised, homeless, lost or dysfunctional, would be a great shame for this nation, which has always had a heart to assist those who are doing it tough.

    Some level-headedness needs to be shown when it comes to the vast majority of churches.

  15. FL, federal funding for chaplains has an end date, and it is not likely to be renewed, which will likely see the end of it….especially in state schools, if not in private schools as well.

    The idea is to replace them with psych’s which is not a bad thing in itself, but the net result is to medicalise a lot of issues, and take away the current focus on informal independent relationships to sort through issues.

    Psych’s are good, but so are chaplains. Why not both?

  16. Because, mn, it has been demonstrated that, for impressionable youth, there is a huge stigma attached to being sent off to the psyche. That is known amongst those wo work with high school age kids. However, remarkably, they love the chaplains, and it’s cool to sit down and have a quiet chat with them.

    Would you prefer to be asked to spend half an hour with the school psychologist, or the visiting chaplain?

    This is a politically correct cop-out!

    Julia Gillard is already beginning to have an impact on lour schools which will prove to be derogatory. But why should she worry. She is not married, and has no children, so how would she know what goes on the minds of children in schools, or how to deal properly with children in dysfunctional homes, or those who are suicidal, or those who have lost all hope?

    Just the comforting presence of a chaplain has been shown to be effective, which is why Kevin Rudd, who is from Queensland, where chaplains have been hugely successful, wanted to upgrade the program, not diminish it.

  17. You are deaf dumb and blind. Read my post again.

    Am I supporting the effective abolition of chaplains?

    I said there is a role for both – that is not being politically correct. It is just a fact Jack.

    As for your commentary about Gillard, I’m no fan.

    But as usual your point of attack is of no account; you pick on her where she has been honest, not where she hasn’t.

    I’d rather an honest atheist than a dishonest anyone – at least we would know what to expect. In her case though she is refusing to come clean about other issues where she clearly has blood on her hands, and where the tail has clearly facilitated in the dog being wagged.

  18. Thank you Adam Shand for a brilliant article.

    And thank you for your time and thoughtfulness to consider our responses worthy to your questions.

  19. Adam Shand, if you’re still browsing what has been said on here, I’d appreciate if you can answer three questions if you have the time:

    1. A few years ago Tanya Levin’s hit headlines but seemed to have her credibility shaken by the way she was portrayed by media and by the way she personally came across on online forums. I am wanting to know how credible Steve West and Phillip Powell are when you interviewed them. The church would generally accuse them of suffering bitterness or anger towards them. In your words, how would you describe them?

    2. You said: “This is about the system not the man, the congregation or their beliefs.”

    Why do you not see Brian Houston accountable to the ‘system’ he created? To quote another pastor (Phil Pringle) in his book ‘The Leadership Files Vol 1’, (File 9), this addresses ‘Creating Culture’.

    He says the following:
    “Creating Culture…
    What we celebrate becomes our culture.
    What we honour becomes the values of the group.
    What we reward becomes the goals of the organisation.
    What we elevate becomes the model our people conform to.
    If we say our culture is evangelism but celbrate educxation more, then we wuill become educational more than evangelistic.
    If we honour those that add people to the church then others will start adding people too.
    If we reward those who do not achieve our goals we will not achieve our stated aims. This is poor leadership.
    If we elevate people who cause church growth others will imitate them and the church will grow.”

    As Houston often endorses Phil Pringle’s teachings and person on the covers, is it not worth making the leader accountable to these church environments they make?

    It’s interesting to note that the theologians who know their material cry foul at ministers who make doctrines that build their own empires.

    Here are just a few false doctrines:

    Tithe Doctrine: Brings in money to the business. If the member does not tithe, they are either 1) cursed, 2) handed to Satan the devourer or 3) will not financially or spiritually prosper.

    Firstfruits Doctrine: Brings even more money into the business. If the member does not give their firstfruits, they will not financially or spiritually prosper.

    House Of God Doctrine: Makes people dependent and hopelessly committed on the church business. If they aren’t committed to the ‘House of God’ they will not financially or spiritually prosper.

    Touch Not God’s Anointed Doctrine: Don’t question, criticise or doubt the leader in the business. Those who do are not ‘worthy of a prophet’s reward’ and will not financially or spiritually prosper.

    Gateway of Heaven Doctrine: Makes people support the business zealously. Usually preached for a churches money-making season, to re-inforce people that the building is a portal to a place of divine encounter.

    Stinking Thinking Doctrine: Makes people only think good thoughts about the leader, the church and movement and removes doubt that they could be wrong. Used to encourage members to give their money, make commitments to the church, support the leadership and everythin they do. To not think positively is stinking thinking and can make you operate in spirits of backsliding, bitterness, cynicism, criticism, etc. Steve West surely would have faced this persecution.

    Vision Doctrine: Makes people support the pastors vision 100% in every vision they wished to see accomplished in ministry. To question the vision is to question the leader, which is to question God.

    These doctrines made the environment. The environment is made for people to give up their money, to give up their thinking or criticisms, to pledge their loyalty to the physical building, leaders and visions.

    After all that was said, don’t you think Houston is accountable to the system he has made?

    3. Final, but quick question, After meeting with other ‘critics’ from Hillsong, what type of stories did you hear from those who no longer attend Hillsong?

  20. I forgot to put this email I got. Here is another article supposedly written by Steve West, which was emailed to me. The sender said these were from Facebook notes:

    My Approach
    Monday, 12 July 2010…

    Gentlemen,

    If something is true, it can be demonstrated as true.
    If something is a perception, we hit very difficult territory of determining what is fact or no.

    What is evident now to neutral observers (see comments of David West and John Mahoney in prior posts) is that no one has directly addressed my allegations, and now these neutral observers are wondering – if you cannot answer them, are they true?

    I have chosen to address my questions to you as I believe you are reasonable people, who have the ability to honestly and candidly address these issues. As many enjoy patronising me about bitterness etc, please overlook the patronising content of this statement: emotional healing begins with honesty, and if you are leaders in this organisation, your honesty on these issues is the beginning of healing for them.

    If you do not wish to publically answer my allegations, I consider that to be a valid response. Private message me and your response shall be taken as a reasonable response to a reasonable situation. I am more than happy to take down my posts and post anew discussing the merits of Hillsong, on the provision that my allegations are addressed…privately or publically. Let’s move on from responding to my criticism by just pointing the finger at me. That’s ridiculous. Regardless of who brings the criticism, it may or may not be true. Do try to move on from such games and let us consider the points as they stand.

    You are all grown and mature people who enjoy the living and respect that comes with your office. Considering it is built on the backs of people who mean very well, it seems reasonable to me that you be accountable to them.

    But I understand that Hillsong talks in demographics, so let me lay down my cards.

    I have hundreds of readers, my networks amongst Christians are large and my work is circulated in pentecostal and evangelical networks. I can bring significant demographic pressure to bear on the organisation, and have no qualms with doing so if I am convinced it will be better for thousands of people if I do so.

    So these are my questions and allegations:

    1. Teaching such as tithing is grossly unbiblical and exploitative. If you disagree, can you or your organisation show studies that demonstrate that people who tithe enjoy significant financial reward over those who do not? (as Hillsong has consistently claimed for years).

    2. Can you account for why Hillsong has ‘open’ financial books but anyone who has seriously attempted to explore this option has been shafted? Do you understand financial accountability as it might work in a government department, and do you see that this applies to churches? If not why not, and if so, why does Hillsong evade such standard and commonplace scrutiny?

    3. Are you aware of the large stream of broken people leaving Hillsong, including pastors and leaders? Do you feel this Hillsong has developed its anti-criticism culture as a method of dealing with this situation? Do you have statistics on those who leave the church? Outside observers have put the figures at about a 50% loss every five years. We wish to validate these figures. What are the real figures and how did you access them? If the figures are anywhere near this magnitude, as anecdotal evidence suggests, then why isn’t there a serious reconsideration of how Hillsong operates, as that would mean there are MORE people now in society who have left Hillsong (many unhappily) than there are actually in Hillsong?

    (Btw, that last point is the counterpoint to all those who tell me “lighten up, they have good fruit”.)

    As you can tell, I am a lucid thinker, as well as determined. I was all these things for HIllsong, but I was alienated by the leadership’s inability to address these issues. My loyalty is to my conscience. You will not silence me or dismiss me unless you address my points with FACTS.

    Leave the patronising talk to those more easily swayed.”

    I’ll put the other one up tomorrow after a few more posts by others.

  21. “I’ll tell you something about most Pentecostals. There is more chance of people being upset because they are are forbidden to tithe, than if they are forced to.”

    I really don’t understand this comment. Is there a blog someone full of upset Pentecostals moaning and seeking counseling because their Pastor didn’t let them tithe??

    Seriously, I know so many Pastors and missionaries and church workers. People who get little reward or do most of what they do for free. I really believe that this whole money issue is because of a handful of megachurch Pastors and tele-evangelists. It’s such a pity that the church in general is getting a bad image because of a few characters who are just taking things to ridiculous levels. And yes, with all due to respect to Americans, it started there. People like Houston are just copying what the big guys in the US have done.

    I don’t believe it’s wrong to preach about tithing IF you believe in it. And I know many people who do. But those who live on those tithes need to be very careful how they live and use the money.
    Also, I don’t believe ministers have to be poor, and I hope they all “prosper”, for their sakes and the sakes of their families. But a few, and it really is a few have gone way overboard.
    The tax laws re religions and charities are probably good in principle. But they were never meant to be used in the way they are. Once again, the US ministers with private jets and huge mansions are just a handful. They must just get cut off from reality or something to not see that what they are doing is simply wrong when looked at by the man in the street, or pew.

  22. “I really believe that this whole money issue is because of a handful of megachurch Pastors and tele-evangelists. It’s such a pity that the church in general is getting a bad image because of a few characters who are just taking things to ridiculous levels. ” – churchman

    On the whole, I agree. The problem also exists in smaller churches though, who see the prosperity of the megachurches and megapastors, when they want to arrive in the same place. So my small ex-church changed from one where money was far from the focus, and never to my memory addressed in an unhealthy way, to one where it was focussed on at least once a week, with accompanying prosperity doctrine. All the same doctrines, and supporting doctrines (including a number of those that S&P mentioned) began to be preached, though less extreme than Sumrall’s talk for example. So the direction of the megachurches began to transform the teaching and environment of my smaller church.

  23. Ravingpente.
    you are right. And your Pastor probably went to a church growth conference. Everyone wants to be like the big guys. The sign of success is when you grow a megachurch and then have seminars on how to do it.

    But I am still staggered by Faithlifts comment. Can I be forgiven for thinking it was a line from a crazy caricature in a Monty Python movie

    “I’ll tell you something about most Pentecostals. There is more chance of people being upset because they are are forbidden to tithe, than if they are forced to.”

    If this is what Pentecostal Pastors honestly believe, then how far out of touch with reality are they? Quote of the century!

  24. mn,
    you’re far too sensitive to blog. My comment about political correctness wasn’t directed at you, but at those who want to remove chaplains and replace them with psyches. What other possible reason would they have for this but political correctness?

    churchman,
    The focus of most of these posts is money, so why would there be an expectation that the discussion would be about other issues? It’s mostly the people who have an aversion to tithes and offerings who make a noise.

    My point was on the prohibition of tithing, as many would like to see here. If it was prohibited by pastors, there are far more people who would walk out than who are currently walking out because tithing is permitted.

    Why aren’t you seeing masses of people blogging in favour of tithes? Perhaps because it isn’t prohibited.

    In fact, for most churches, as was the point I made, neither prohibition nor permission to tithe or give offerings is an issue, because tithing is not prohibited, nor is it compulsory. It is the critic who fabricates the notion that it is a forced necessity to bulster their criticism. That is what I was saying.

    If you could possibly read what I said in the context in which it was written you would understand that this is not only logically correct, but it is also a social fact.

    And remember that I am talking about Pentecostals, not people from other persuasions. Pentecostals are brought up in an environment where giving is seen as a positive thing, and that it is part of a Christian’s make up to be generous. Most of them have no problem with the idea of giving a percentage of heir income as opposed to an across the board fixed rate. Percentages are not only just, they are aso Biblical. It is a useful guideline to use the tenth as a reasonable measure, but not as a legal requirement. Where I disagree with some churches is in the understanding that we are still obliged, by law, to give a certain amount.

    But, in context with what I am saying, the tithe is held by most Pentecostals as fair and equitable, and enough of a stretch to require some level of discipline and sacrifice on the part of the giver. This is not a bad thing, unless it becomes a religious exercise, or a works-based salvation trip.

    If people are going to continually take snippets out of conversations and apply what is said inappropriately, then it is no wonder it is so difficult to work anything out between us.

    As s&p implies the ‘us & them’ syndrome is alive and kicking, only it isn’t being manipulated by those who support the concept of generous giving, but by those who erroneously question the motives behind giving.

  25. Answer to Adam Shand’s second question:

    Have a sliding scale adjusted to CPI increases setting the proportion of salary income before exempt benefits that can have access to exempt benefits.

    I wouldn’t want to hazard a guess at the final point – in excess of the 100K figure may be, but way, way, way short of the 300K figure above.

    This would support those on low to medium incomes, progressively reducing the proportion of access as incomes increase.

    While fellow blogger Faithlift says that many churches are required to have audited accounts for this the reality is I cannot remember any church I have been involved being given a cursory check by the ATO.

    What good are audited accounts anyway if no-one looks at them.

    That probably wasn’t a potential pressure point in days gone by, but with the advent of mega churches with mega budgets it is.

    I would have to say from all reports here – I don’t know myself – but a lot of the staff on mega churches wouldn’t be on too much either, and by all accounts – see Steve West above – slog their guts out for their church.

  26. Definitely success was measured against membership numbers. And I think every pastors conference was in a way, a church growth conference.

    If I recall correctly, within the C3 movement, at least in NSW, pastors of smaller churches were mentored by pastors of larger churches. So my ex-pastor mentored at least one other pastor of a smaller church. This was irrespective of how they’d arrived at their congregation size (inherited vs planting and starting from scratch), or of how long they’d been pastoring for.

    I think the idea was that issues to do with growth could be addressed by someone who’d already dealt with those issues having had those numbers already. However, it appeared to affect the status of the pastor amongst their peers, as well. So, apart from tithing and giving messages, the next most frequent emphasis was why we should make weekly, on time church attendance our first priority. (Gateway of heaven teaching was useful here. Also, apparently, church attendance was a vital part of personal holiness.)

    Yes, the Monty Python association doesn’t seem too big a stretch.

    I am personally staggered by any bible reading person’s attempt to justify some of the more manipulative teaching and practices.

    Also, the Emperor has no Clothes.

    Ah well. In an attempt to be more positive (…a relic of my past perhaps?), I will try to start a post soon about how we respond to all these issues in our own walks.

    I was wondering if any churches put together their annual report and make it available at least to their church members, online? Does anyone know any church that does this? These days you don’t even need to spend money on paper and printing, so there’s no reason not to. I know some charities do this.

    I just have the feeling that if Hillsong had been more open with Steve West in the beginning, and just gone through an annual report with him, he would have been quite amenable to being shown they were OK. By not trusting him, they actually gave him more reason to question. If audited annual reports were available online to church members, and questions allowed, then there would be a lot less suspicion. Much of the issue would probably then revolve around the most effective uses of the available money, and congregation members might even have the odd helpful idea.

    Where a trust takes care of a huge amount of church funds, again, why not post the accounts up online for all members to see?

    It would encourage people to feel more comfortable with their giving, if they have this back up any time they might have concerns.

  27. FL, in context, it sounded as though you were responding to mn.

    ‘…you are too sensitive to blog…’ – fl

    I am astonished you would say that to mn! Mn is an inherently reasonable and balanced voice here, whether in agreement with others or not.

    Anyone who bothers to blog is passionate about their subject matter. If they are also ‘too sensitive’ they will not bother in this environment. Perhaps you should watch your own sledgehammer tendencies at times – and you’ve been much more restrained in your manner recently here than in former times, so I think you have been more careful mostly.

  28. FL” mn, you’re far too sensitive to blog. My comment about political correctness wasn’t directed at you, but at those who want to remove chaplains and replace them with psyches. What other possible reason would they have for this but political correctness?

    MN: it is not so much political correctness. That is part of it, but not the whole. It is part of a often nasty trend in our society which has also turned up on this blog to professionalise everything, because the professionals know better. Unfortunately it often reduces problems to a number is is not the best fit.

    It is also a normal part of pursuing a secular society, which is what we are. To that end I think Christians everywhere should get political – not to point out that our current beloved leader is an atheist – which achieves nothing – but point out the benefits in secular terms for have chaplains – which is far more important than my so called ‘sensitivity’.

  29. Also – no one is talking about ‘banning tithing’. Once again, an extreme stretch beyond what anyone has said. I’d rather they didn’t preach doctrine which is very arguable as irrefutably true and a measure of people’s faith, however.

    No, accountability to both the congregation and the tax payer is the point here. To prevent abuses and misuse of both congregational and tax payer funds.

  30. Do we have anything in the Australian or states’ constitutions which insists upon the separation of church and state? Does anyone know?

  31. It’s OK, RP. It’s a man thing! I consider mn to be a brother I can actually talk to, even disagree with and not get upset with, and vice versa. He will slap me if he thinks I’ve gone to far! He actually said I was ‘deaf, dumb and blind’, earlier! You didn’t comment on that, sis! Preferential treatment! 🙂
    ••••••••••••••••••••

    There is no way there can be a state-run church in Australia. This protects people from having to be in one national church, and frees them up to worship any way they want. It also protects churches from interference from the state.

  32. @AdamShand

    “This is about the system not the man, the congregation or their beliefs.”

    I don’t see how this is true when photos of Brian Houston are sprawled across four pages in the paper and “Hillsong” is in giant bold text all over it. The entire article is solely about Brian Houston & Hillsong.

    Reading the article it seems you have more of a problem with Houston and Hillsong than any government issues.

  33. Well, bro, it sounded like a bitch slap to me! At least ‘deaf, dumb and blind’ doesn’t imply a lack of emotional capacity!

  34. ““This is about the system not the man, the congregation or their beliefs.”

    I don’t see how this is true when photos of Brian Houston are sprawled across four pages in the paper”

    Both kind of right – It’s about the abuse of a system by a man.

    “Where a trust takes care of a huge amount of church funds, again, why not post the accounts up online for all members to see?”
    Exactly.

    “I just have the feeling that if Hillsong had been more open with Steve West in the beginning, and just gone through an annual report with him, he would have been quite amenable”
    Exactly

    Then again, if people REALLY knew the income and sources of income of some of these guys, they might just freak out.
    If the financial accounts were reasonable, there wouldn’t be so much secrecy.

    “Pentecostals are brought up in an environment where giving is seen as a positive thing, and that it is part of a Christian’s make up to be generous. Most of them have no problem with the idea of giving a percentage of heir income”

    Then why do only 17% tithe according to your statistics?

  35. I am joking around, by the way. “It’s a man thing” is like a red rag to a bull, I’m afraid.

  36. Even I wouldn’t ban tithers from tithing. That is extreme. I would heavily emphasise it’s not biblical, but to ban it might hurt people’s spiritual walk if they are convinced in anyway that it helps bring them spiritual/financial blessing or more of a closeness to God.

  37. Bravo to Steve West. And double bravo for being “loyal only to my conscience”.

    But Specks… Are those quotes really from Pringles leadership material?
    Why do Pastors have to reward, honor and elevate certain members? Talk about manipulating people and using them for your own end.
    What about feeding and caring for the sheep? Is that too old-fashioned?

  38. “Where a trust takes care of a huge amount of church funds, again, why not post the accounts up online for all members to see?”

    Imagine the abuse which would follow for those churches which have more than 1,000 members, and generate a large income through donations. How long before some self appointed fiscal discernment committee starts telling them what they should be doing with their finances? Keep it open, but in-house!

    What is wrong with providing a hardcopy to members as has been done for years? Or presenting the figures at an AGM?

    By the way, contrary to mn’s claims, it is, I believe, compulsory for not-for-profits to submit their annual audit for inspection. It also has to be conducted by an independent auditor.

    Not-for-profits can get into a heap of trouble for not complying with the law.

  39. It is possible to make things available online, with a unique member password/s, to keep things in-house. Also, this would save the printing and paper cost of producing one thousand reports.

  40. That I would agree with, RP, in essence.

    I think more and more church websites will need to become member encrypted in some areas as a matter of expedience and wisdom, since there are blogs which will take otherwise internal information and turn it into a public dissection, at the expense of the original intentions of the ministry. I think this already takes place, regrettably, but the benefit is that churches and leadership will need to exercise more wisdom and Biblical accuracy, which can never be a bad thing.

    At the same time, it is not an onerous chore to provide a member with a hardcopy. I’m sure a church of a thousand can just as easily afford a print out for its members as a church of 100.

    Not every member has access to the internet, nor is inclined to search for an annual report, although this, of course, will change as time goes on.

  41. Heard about Benny Hinn and Paula White having illicit sex in a Rome Hotel?

    Check out Slaughter of the Sheep …

    With Hinn still married at the moment, even the non-believing world thinks he’s a hypocrite. However, there is no such thing as a no-fault divorce in the Bible.

    create a new thread for this please …

  42. FL: “By the way, contrary to mn’s claims, it is, I believe, compulsory for not-for-profits to submit their annual audit for inspection. It also has to be conducted by an independent auditor.

    from ato.gov.au

    Charities and income tax exempt funds

    There is a system of endorsement under which the following organisations must apply to the Tax Office to be exempt from income tax:

    * charities, and
    * income tax exempt funds.

    If the Tax Office notifies you that your organisation is endorsed as an income tax exempt charity or income tax exempt fund:

    * it is exempt from income tax, and
    * it does not need to lodge income tax returns, unless specifically asked to do so.

    There are important obligations that your organisation has as an income tax exempt charity or income tax exempt fund. Your organisation will need to:

    * regularly review whether it is entitled to endorsement, and
    * tell the Tax Office if it ceases to be entitled.

    Other non-profit organisations

    Organisations that are not charities or ITEFs can self-assess their entitlement to income tax exemption. They do not need to be endorsed by the Tax Office to be exempt from income tax. Most have additional tests and rules that must be met before the organisation can be exempt.

    If you work out that your organisation meets all the requirements for income tax exemption:

    * your organisation will not need to pay income tax, capital gains tax or lodge income tax returns (unless specifically requested to do so)
    * you do not need to get confirmation of this exemption from the Tax Office, and
    * you should carry out a yearly review to check whether your organisation is still exempt. You should also do this when there are major changes to your organisation’s structure or activities.

    Direction icon

    For more information about the requirements for the exempt categories (including the tests that have to be passed), refer to Income tax guide for non-profit organisations (NAT 7967).

    MN: So FL,

    1. not all NFP’s and especially not all churches have to lodge annually if ever based on self asessment.

    2. If they do lodge – in your words submit for inspection – it doesn’t mean its inspected.

    3. Having a requirement for certain things to be audited by an independant auditor does not mean that it actually happens.

    In other words it is very, very loose.

    The only thing a church may end up doing depending with they have deductible gift recipient status or not (they are a registered by the ATO charitable organisation)is:

    a) lodging a BAS to get back their input tax credits; or

    b) meeting the PAYG requirements – withold tax from employees and remit it to the ATO.

    So yes NFPs can get in a heap of trouble for not complying with the law – anyone can.

    The question is if someone is doing the wrong thing how likely are they to be caught and dealt with?

    Do the maths.

  43. b) meeting the PAYG requirements – withold tax from employees and remit it to the ATO.

    If someone is flogging the guts out of the ability to claim exempt benefits, they will be paying bugger all tax – if any.

    And if they are a low income earner (because the use of exempt benefits camouflages what their real income is), then in terms of overall benefit that individual will get more from the government than they put in – that is those who do pay tax will be supporting them.

    I don’t mind the vast majority of people in ministry who are slogging their guts out being supported through exempt benefits as already outlined.

    But those who are on pretty healthy salaries should receiving the same if any benefits.

  44. Typing skills to the fore again…

    But those who are on pretty healthy salaries should not be receiving the same if any benefits.

  45. That seems reasonable, MN. I admit I go a step further – I don’t really see why tax payers should support religious organisations in any case. Obviously I believe in the freedom to have religious organisations, but unless there is some recognised community benefit, I wonder why our secular government should give them benefits. If they do work/programs that benefit the community, apart from preaching on Sunday then fair enough. I am open to being convinced otherwise, but can’t yet think of a fair reason that would seem logical to someone who doesn’t share our faith.

  46. I don’t like some unions much either, but they are tax exempt, being non-profits, and have a right to exist, meting the needs of their members.

    But, on your reckoning, you’d tax the local footy club because you prefer netball?

    And there is no recognised community benefit to churches?

    I don’t think you like churches very much.

    You’d like churches, clubs, social organisations to pay taxes on donations form members who have already paid taxes?

    mn,
    there would be no point in submitting a tax return if you were tax exempt. But non-profits, incorporated associations, at least, are required by State and Territory Governments to provide an annual audit. That is different to a tax-return, surely.

  47. ‘An incorporated association has reporting obligations under the Associations Act
    and office bearers should familiarise themselves with the Act and their
    obligations. These include, but are not limited to, the lodgement of audited
    annual returns, lodgement of notices in relation to the details of the association’s
    Public Officer, and the way in which the affairs of the association are conducted.’

  48. I am not messing around Churchman (but have now fixed typos). It’s a direct quote from his book:

    “Creating Culture…
    What we celebrate becomes our culture.
    What we honour becomes the values of the group.
    What we reward becomes the goals of the organisation.
    What we elevate becomes the model our people conform to.
    If we say our culture is evangelism but celebrate education more, then we will become educational more than evangelistic.
    If we honour those that add people to the church then others will start adding people too.
    If we reward those who do not achieve our goals we will not achieve our stated aims. This is poor leadership.
    If we elevate people who cause church growth others will imitate them and the church will grow.”

    – Phil Pringle, The Leadership Files Vol 1, (File 9. Creating Culture’)

  49. FL a state return has nothing to do with federal tax obligations, and shouldn’t be confused.

    Exempt benefits are federal, not state. If someone lodges a return of some sorts for state purposes the ATO doesn’t care.

    RP: they do lots of counselling, run youth groups which at worst keep kids off the streets.

    I see your point but there are benefits even if not readily apparent.

  50. Nonetheless, it is compulsory for a non-profit to provide audited accounts annually. No one gets away with anything.

    ‘If someone lodges a return of some sorts for state purposes the ATO doesn’t care.’

    Then why should the ATO complain if the law allows non-profits to be tax-exempt? Why are they saying they are like ghosts, when it is clear the tax office has no claim on them?

    The non-profit sector is still rendered accountable by their State or Territory Government.

    Accountable is accountable.

    Legal is legal.

  51. Victims of church theology end up like this.

    After watching this, is the church the people, a place, or building? This confusion is also the same in the Hillsong landscape.

    We will never win arguments with Hillsongite’s or C3ite’s if they are taught confusion like this. Conversations with them are completely irrational on issues with these places.

    Is it right to say Facelift is proof?

  52. In that C3 Vision Builders video, Pringle pushes his self-titled television program as one of the major initiatives. The Christian City Church program was at one stage on Channel TEN in Sydney, but hasn’t been on free-to-air TV for many years. (Excluding the now ended free-to-air ACCTV trial broadcast in Sydney). So if the aim is to reach people in Sydney via television through ACCTV (on Foxtel), a channel that rates 0%, how does this happen?

    Hillsong is at least on Channel TEN in Sydney.

  53. I don’t like some unions much either, but they are tax exempt, being non-profits, and have a right to exist, meting the needs of their members.

    But, on your reckoning, you’d tax the local footy club because you prefer netball?

    And there is no recognised community benefit to churches?

    I don’t think you like churches very much.

    You’d like churches, clubs, social organisations to pay taxes on donations form members who have already paid taxes?

    – FL

    It’s got nothing to do with what I like or don’t like. It’s to do with community benefit.

    We live in a society where all of us, regardless of belief or interest, pay taxes, which go to support facets of our society that are theoretically for the good of that society.

    Unions perform a community service that arguably benefits the community beyond their own membership. They give people a voice who otherwise would not have one. I am not a unionist, but recognise their contribution to the way our work places function. For example, without unions, our building sites would be much more dangerous places, and we would see many more deaths and injuries. This is a benefit to society as a whole, beyond those whose lives have been saved. There would be many other examples.

    Interestingly, when unions have gone overboard, laws have been added to hold them in check. However, they provide a balance in a capitalist society that we would not otherwise have, that has aa direct effect on many workplaces, regardless of religious belief, race, gender etc.

    Sporting clubs offer a health benefit to society that if encouraged can save money, due to the benefits of exercise and the fight against obesity. Not to mention the teaching of team work etc.

    If a church only preaches to its members on a Sunday, what wider benefit is there to the community? That goes for any religious group. If a church has programs that reach the homeless and feed the hungry, or support needy groups that are overlooked by the government though, then there is a benefit to the wider community. To the extent that this is the case, funding is good, I think.

    I just can’t see why teaching a belief system (any belief system) alone is beneficial to the wider society in a way that non believing tax payers should fund it. Where it turns into action though – then if that action is beneficial, funding is good.

    Only my opinion. I wouldn’t campaign to change things. Maybe my view is limited. It’s got nothing to do with whether I like churches, mosques, temples or whatever.

    But then I am also in favour of private schools funding themselves, and the government putting all the funding into public schools, especially until standards are raised to a high and very equitable level across the board.

    And I don’t think that scripture should have to be taught in schools, and can’t see why that should be funded by the government either.

  54. Now you probably think I am some kind of extreme left winger. Not the case. I’ll probably vote for Abbott, with some distaste, at the next election, because Labour has made a mess of NSW at the state level, and in their first federal term, have not demonstrated competence running things at a national level either. Not to mention the lack of certainty over their policies on a number of things. So there you go.

  55. All I’ll comment on is this:

    “Legal is legal.”

    FL another load of crap, pure BS..

    You have a history of falling back on this argument when it suits you.

    We are Christians, not secularists.

    Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right, and we have should be living to a higher standard.

    If it was the law to homosexual psych’s in schools who had to teach that as healthy life, I wouldn’t be able sleep at night from the screaming I would be hearing all the way over in here in WA.

    And not that I would agree with that (because my standard is above legal), but you know what my response to you would be?

    Legal is legal FL, legal is legal.

  56. And I will clarify, the standard I aim for is above legal.

    Talk about the lowest common denominator….

  57. As a life long labour voter I am considering the same thing for the same reasons.

    It’s like having to swallow codliver oil.

  58. mn,
    I also said accountable was accountable, so please don’t dissect and limit what I say to suit your disagreement. If an organisation is legally operating, and is accountable to government according to government standards, then they have nothing to worry about, and need do no more than is required. They should be treated with respect for their compliance, and not harassed with speculation.

    I agree that these are the minimum standards acceptable, but that is also a legal fact. Whether you have higher standards is neither here nor there to government. Your morality does not determine what is right or wrong for the non-profits. Your opinion is just that – yours. Yes, in a way I agree, we should aim for the highest standards as churches, but that is a matter for each board to determine. What is higher, in a legal sense, than absolute compliance?

    Do churches make the laws? Or do they comply with the existing laws? What else can they do than what is asked of them?

    The point I am making is that, contrary to claims, churches, on the whole, are not operating illegally, or without government accountability. They cannot, without getting into trouble with the authorities. There are already laws in place which ensure accountability. They are not lawless.

  59. Or do you think that the Government, States and Territories have only put together barely legal requirements, and have not done their utmost to put in fair and equitable standards for all non-profits?

    Are you attacking the churches for actually complying, or Government for their standards?

    I cannot see the point of what you are trying to say.

    How can a church or non-profit do more than comply? Why is there a higher standard than this?

    Are you saying that we have to develop a Christian hierarchal papal see that we present audits to which are better audited than existing audits?

    If a non-profit has tax-deduction status, of what interest is their none-tax status to the tax office, apart from the knowledge that they are none-taxable entities, and therefore have nothing to present as taxable. Why waste taxpayers’ money employing tax agents to confirm that a tax-exempt entity is tax-exempt, and therefore has no taxable income to declare, pay, or have scrutinised? Surely, that is what the ATO has determined, and has made the ruling that it serves no logical purpose to present none-tax audits to a tax office!

    And I fall back on what exactly? The facts? Truth? Reason? Well, since when was providing facts which demonstrate a truth a problem?

  60. Just to clarify my stance above – I don’t actually think the ATO should tax donations to churches. As FL says, this is from money already taxed. But where there is no demonstrable benefit to the wider community, I don’t see why other expenses should be tax deductible. So, tax exempt income for church workers, distributed in the form of fringe benefits, shouldn’t be different from what anyone else would have access to. And sales of books, cd’s, profits from tickets to events etc, should be taxed as in any business; likewise the input expenses be deductible – as a business.

    Just my opinion.

  61. The benefit of a non-profit is actually to its members. It is not necessary to improve benefit to the general community.

    The reason non-profits are allowed to operate tax-free is so that the community can enjoy a place where their social needs can be met. They pay by donations or subscriptions, but are permitted to raise funds in other ways, as long as the finances go towards the running of the association.

    A local church provides a service to its members by providing ministry, including child dedication, marriages, funerals, comfort for the mourning, spiritual counselling, marriage guidance, prayer, youth, seniors and children’s work, and other things including worship and teaching in the Word.

    Although this is primarily for its members, this is also extended as a service to the community.

    On top of this, many churches have social service outlets of some kind, which are dedicated to the needs of the community.

    A non-profit incorporated association, by constitutional definition, doesn’t have to demonstrate that it serves any other than its members, but most churches do anyway.

  62. Mmm, I can see what you are saying. Usually, in a small local church that does not look like a business, all of this seems reasonable. Marriages and funerals are important services; I’m not sure that funding teaching any particular faith should be supported by our secular government, but it does apply to all faiths at least. The trouble is things like this:

    “And the sector is expanding so rapidly that $31 billion a year is now being drawn out of the federal Budget in tax exemptions to the ever-growing list of groups claiming church and charity status.” – from the article posted at the top

    You just have to wonder at that amount of money. $31 BILLION! You just wonder how much good it is really doing, when we have people who can’t afford to work because they are FULL TIME carers for disabled, ill or aged relatives, or so many homeless, or so many mentally ill. Maybe that $31 BILLION could at least partially fix some of these crisis up? I mean, right now, we have entire familes, with children who have nowhere to sleep at night in Sydney, for months on end. How can it really be argued that groups who are largely just teaching faith on Sundays, and providing spiritual services to largely middle class families that DO NOT fix these crisis, though they may assist a few – how can it be argued that the money is better spent by subsidising them, rather than those who really, through circumstances that are completely overwhelming, in such crisis, and of whom we now have so many?

    Perhaps it is a travesty of our faith, and Jesus’ message, that we would even accept such deductions, when we have far needier people out there in our society? I don’t know. However – there are indeed churches out there who do wonderful work helping these people, and there is no doubt these places are entitled to all the deductions that they can get, for their vital work to proceed.

  63. Firstly, how does the writer come to these figures? If churches are included as non-profits, then their figures, as the ATO hinted, are hidden amongst all the other non-profits.

    Is the writer lumping all non-profits in with chuches and charities? He must be, because if the non-profits do not have to give a tax return, based on being tax-deductible, then there are no figures to draw from.

    Secondly, charities receive huge amounts in donations, not just from the general population, but from other outlets. This has to be factored in. They are actually helping the list of people you put forward as needy. In fact, they need more, not less funding to meet the needs of the community. Why would you want to tax the donations of people who give because charities reach people efficiently that hey cannot? How many people would give donations if they though 40% was going out in taxes, even though they’d given their donation after paying their own taxes?

    Thirdly, if you tax churches and charities, you will also have to tax sports clubs, unions, and others from within that sector. Or you would have to designate separate laws for churches and charities to those for social clubs and other non-profits. I don’t think any government would be game to touch this sector with a tax. So tax all or tax none.

    If you tax incorporated associations, many of them will have to close down, because they run on meagre budgets as it is.

    Jesus said to render to Caesar what is due to Caesar. if Caesar says no tax for churches, then churches need not render a thing. Therefore it s no travesty of faith for the government to see the benefits of church life for the thousands of adherents.

    Finally, if churches had access to more funding and finances without strings, they could do far more to assist people in the community who are doing tough, at a grass roots level. Governments know this, but do little to help.

    We ran a community services wing for five years on a budget of $7,000 a year, paid for by church members’ contributions, and staffed by volunteers, which assisted hundreds of people with food and clothing relief. The local government gave us a computer, and an airconditioner for the shop, and a used bus, and that was it. WE had a constant stream of referrals from Centrelink. In the end our volunteers were wearing themselves out, so we had to close. If we’d had better funding and been able to pay staff, we could still be helping people today. No organisation has been able to take up he ministry we had to lay own. Those struggling families are still in our community. How will paying taxes help us reach the rest of the people we touch? Our story is not unique to our church.

  64. Yes, I don’t see an issue where charities are actually helping these needy people. It would be good if a breakdown was published. I have never suggested taxing work that is actually effective charity. And support various charities myself. Plus, if you read my clarification earlier, you would see that I did not suggest taxing the donations from people where they have already paid tax. More along the lines of looking at eligible fringe benefits that are different from those accessible to the business population, and income from business like activities – unless they are done to raise funds for the effective charitable work. But preaching on a Sunday is not charitable work, in my opinion. Your church work sounds like real charitable work – I’m not at all critical of that – as you can see if you read what I’ve said previously.

  65. Well, Sunday preaching actually helps many people. We have a stream of testimonies to this, as I’m sure all churches do. It is most heartening to hear a former alcoholic praise God for saving him, and tell you the weekly preaching of the Word sustains him. There are hundreds of stories like this. Marriages saved. Children reunited with God. People healed. Lives changed. You never know who is being touched.

    The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to those who believe!

  66. Not disputing that. Just that it is funded by non-believers via the tax system.

    Anyway, in some cases it might be too hard to draw a line between demonstrable charity work and operations purely about faith.

    But maybe it is possible to draw a line between local church work and when a church becomes a business operation.

  67. Non-profits may need to pay tax on certain goods if they constitute taxable goods. I think mn outlined the information earlier. Contrary to some speculation, taxes are paid where profits are made which are external to the non-profits exemptions. I don’t have details to hand, but they are on the ATO site. Some of Hillsong’s retail goods may be taxable. I’m not sure they would be entirely exempt.

  68. Also, there are tests to see whether something is a business activity or not. I realise I’m pretty ignorant on this kind of thing, but I do know for example that there are tests to see if a super fund is carrying on a business (businesses aren’t allowed in super funds). There are criteria like the nature of the regular transactions, the quantity of them, the frequency of them, and so forth. If its activities are deemed to be a business, the super fund can’t continue them (and would be subject to severe fines if it did so). Perhaps this kind of test would work for church activities. Then things like the annual fund raising church fete would not be treated like a business, but a large, regular turnover of CD’s, DVD’s and books might be, or a preaching empire. And there’d be questions like where the profits from that business went, in terms of charitable activities, or primarily back into the business or its owner entities. Maybe this kind of test already exists.

  69. FL I don’t think you quite have it right.

    In terms of obligations to pay tax this is a simple explanation.

    Non-profit companies

    For your organisation to be a non-profit company:

    * it must be a company that is not carried on for the purposes of profit or gain to its individual members, and
    * its constituent documents must prohibit it from making any distribution, whether in money, property or otherwise, to its members.

    Your organisation can be a non-profit company and still make a profit. However, any profits it makes must be used to carry out its purposes. The profits must not be distributed to the members.

    Example
    A society makes a $40,000 profit for the year. It uses the profit to reduce its debts and provide for the activities it will carry on next year.

    The prohibition on distributions applies while the organisation is operating and on it’s winding up. If it permits the organisation’s members to transfer the assets to themselves on winding up, it is not a non-profit company.

    *****************************

    This link gives a list of organisation types that may not have to pay tax:

    http://www.ato.gov.au/print.asp?doc=/content/34269.htm&page=3#P71_5258

    The basic issue provided it is one these is whether the organisation making or has the capacity to make a profit for distribution to its members, shareholders, whatever.

    In the ‘religious institution category there are two issues that concern this thread:

    1. The institution itself does not have pay tax and gets its input credits back. So for example in Hillsong’s case if they as a church make a CD and sell it, they may make a profit but because at face value any profits go back into advancing religion and not to fatten the pockets of individuals there is no tax implication.

    If I on the other hand put together some gospel music and make some money out of it, because it is going into my pocket it is assessable income and I should be paying tax on it.

    2. The other issue is the benefits that an individual may receive because they work for a religious institution in a MINISTRY CAPACITY – those benefits are not available to a catholic priest who only works in administration. But the parish priest, or bog standard pastor can use salary or wages they receive to pay for expenses that were incurred in ministry BEFORE tax. It doesn’t have to be a 100% use but has to have a pretty strong connection and not minor.

    A record has to be kept by the church, but it doesn’t show up on payment summaries. Unless the ATO rocks up on the church’s door and asks to see the records they would have no clue about how much of a pastor’s income would be used in this way – they are blind to this.

    100% of pre-tax could be used in this way conceivably, although I don’t know how anyone could justify.

    My short experience as a church treasurer where I looked into this issue informed me that a number of denominations place their own limits on how much they will allow church ministry workers to use their salary in this way, which I think is wise.

    The other issue is that there is no limit on this tax benefit in terms of how much salary a person earns.

    A person earning a million bucks could ‘self assess’ and pay no tax…..or $300,000 as the case may be.

    Someone could earn a million, and if they were in a position of power within that church self assess $700K as income used for ministry and who would ever know.

    The church I don’t care about. Lots of NFP type entities get exempt benefits, but where I think there is a real problem is the lack of good law arounnd what individuals can do these days.

    The law was drafted back in the days of Anglican and Catholic priests who had virtually no disposable income, and this was a way of helping them.

    The times have changed, and the law needs to as well.

  70. That was a very interesting and helpful explanation, MN. Thanks.

    Well, I guess the issue of whether or not non-believing tax payers should pay for the advancing of religion is one issue. Most people support this, but I wonder if they’d support it so much if the dominant religion in Australia was not various forms of Christianity. Anyway, most local churches do provide a service to believing members of the community in the way any local club does. So, putting that to one side… (was there a really bad pun in there?)…

    I think your last comment, MN, summed the current situation up well:

    “The times have changed, and the law needs to as well.”

    The law probably does need to change, since situations have arisen since its inception that it was not designed to cover. In fact, no one could probably have imagined them. Limits on these things would seem seemly.

    There’s another area, too. Where we have situations like the Houston’s selling their properties to LMI, then still being able to use them beneficially, to a large degree, and control use of them, just as if they still owned the property personally, but also having the benefit of the proceeds of the sale, we have a situation which looks really bad to outsiders, and gives churches a bad name, even if the reality is completely innocent and justifiable.

    In a super fund, you can own art. But you can’t hang it in your house. So it has to be for investment – for the purpose of the fund – rather than the fund being used to enhance your lifestyle in the current time. This ensures decisions are made with the purpose of the fund in mind, rather than the purpose of your convenience or current pleasure. (Though I’m sure there are people who could do the latter without compromising the former. But still.) Plus there are limits on the value of related party transactions that can take place, such as selling an asset you own to the fund. (Or something like that – haven’t looked it up to check the detail.) Perhaps something like that, suited to a church or NFP context, would help ensure probity and visible propriety of some of these ‘business arrangements’.

  71. RP I think you would find that the vast majority do not abuse what is available to them but as we have discussed there are issues.

    By the way I didn’t say the ATO doesn’t cast around to have a look, but I’ve never heard from any of my fellow believers in their churches that they were given the once over by the Commonwealth tax collectors.

    From the ATO’s Compliance Program for this year which is on their website:

    http://www.ato.gov.au/corporate/content.asp?doc=/content/00205435.htm&page=26&H26

    Addressing non-compliance

    Non-profit organisations tend to be highly compliant and seek to abide by the requirements of their special taxation status. However, a small number of organisations ignore their responsibilities or deliberately attempt to abuse concessions and we need to be fair but firm in those cases.

    We monitor compliance through a range of activities including data matching, profiling and analysing third-party information such as media reports. We identify discrepancies and when we find instances of non-compliance or deliberate abuse, we undertake follow up action.

    In 2009–10, our compliance work will focus on:

    * deliberate misuse of tax concessions
    * ensuring taxable non-profit organisations understand and meet their obligations
    * closely-controlled organisations
    * activities not consistent with any special exemption
    * integrity of business systems, including record-keeping and dealing with unusual or complex transactions
    * intentional or inadvertent complicity with tax avoidance arrangements of others, for example, trusts distributing large amounts of tax law income or capital to charities but paying only nominal amounts.

    We will review 200 non-profit entities to determine continued eligibility for concessions, including deductible gift recipient status. We will check that they are making correct calculations in relation to fringe benefits tax and mutuality exemptions. We expect to review 95 non-profit employers to ensure they are complying with their responsibilities to workers. We will talk to any non-profit entity where there is any connection with a tax avoidance scheme.

  72. And yes there are always variations on a theme….how stretch the lacky band in a new and exciting way.

  73. I was thinking about all this, and really, it could just be too hard to draw a line, though tests could be updated maybe to ensure the original intent of the NFP legislation is not abused.

    I think again, it probably comes back to transparency. I understand that some groups want privacy, but really, if the tax payer is funding things, the tax payer has a stake in how that money is spent. So maybe posting accounts online, publically, not privately, would be helpful. That alone might help prevent some abuses. Though from what MN says above, it sounds as though certain types of abuse wouldn’t even show up there. The Smith Family, Wesley Central Mission, the Salvation Army and Compassion, all put up annual reports online in public.

  74. @ RP’s last comment: I know a few anglican and uniting churches that distribute hard copies of their annual reports.

  75. Just found an interesting comment on this elsewhere. Marion Maddox is Director of the Centre for Research on Social Inclusion at Macquarie University, and was interviewed on the ABC program, ‘The Spirit of Things’, recently. In that intervire, she said:

    Marion Maddox:Quite a few of the most prominent prosperity teachers in America have recently been investigated by a Senate Committee looking at whether their tax exemptions and other benefits that they enjoy because of being religious organisations, in fact going towards personal wealth. Now if you are a prosperity gospel theologian, personal wealth is the religious message, that is part of what you’re there for. So in some ways that charitable purposes interpretation that a government committee might level at you, just doesn’t make any sense.

    Rachael Kohn: So it has implications for government and indeed for tax legislation, perhaps here in Australia. Do you think there should be changes made?

    Marion Maddox:I think there should, but it would take all day to go into the complexities thus opened up.

    Rachael Kohn: But certainly something to look at for the future?

    Marion Maddox:Absolutely. But there’s a book called The Purple Economy by Max Wallace, which is about that very issue. Obviously churches do do a lot of charitable work, and it’s work that the government would otherwise have to do, of picking up the pieces of people who fall through the welfare cracks. And so it seems only reasonable that that sort of work is tax deductible. There’s also the fact that churches are one of the traditional critics of government policy, and if they get at various times tax reform plans have suggested punishing churches for criticising government by removing the tax exemption, so there are a lot of questions about it. But when a church is just performing as a business, has structured itself like a business, with a CEO and a Board of Directors, sells products and is deliberately in its very architecture, mimicking business, then you have to wonder why it isn’t also subject to the same regulation as ordinary businesses.

  76. Every church I have been involved in for the last 40 years has made available a financial and other reports to members when meeting.

  77. Interesting. So, quite a lot of NFPs and churches have no problems publishing their reports to members at the very least.

  78. Given the number of churches that historically make this information available to members – having annual reports and treasurer’s statements pushed under your nose when you walk into the AGM or whatever – one can only wonder at those churches that have problems with these issues.

    What’s the driver here?

  79. Hi everyone…I have been apart of Hillsong church since 1993 and on my Christian Journey these 17 years there..I come from a small church originally . Hillsong has been on there journey as well.Through the years I have not let negetivity or gone along with peoples critisism of my church…I keep going forward and LOVE where God has placed me. Im very thankful for such a healthy church and wonderful preaching and wise leaders… I know God is sooo into what the Body of Christ and we are his hands and feet and are actively doing what it takes to be apart of every corner of the world helping and caring for mankind…My husband was on staff there for a while as well,I have been healed at church,was a student at Hillsong College and served faithfully on the music team and new christains..I love my church and know the heart of it is Jesus Christ …the leadership has to be run very carefully as human nature is cruel and suspicious and once you get disappointed or have issues the enemy gets in and before you know it you are on the outside and living a very hurt outer edge life and your heart hardens..God still loves you of cause ..Ive seen this happen to many freinds over the years..We get annual reports given out to us, always have ,and when leaders have issues in there lives or do the wrong thing or when something comes up like this its always addressed to the congregation..nothing is hidden at church ..Brian and Bobby are very open . I love to see the videos of where our money goes and to know the people are on the ground in these places where the money goes..I like to be apart of giving and seeing things change for the better..when I have been in need, I too have recieved charity from our City Care and practical help at home…I couldnt care less how much Brian made I actually thought 300,000 wasnt that much when I have freinds that earn 100,000 for a 5 day week job and the pressure of being a Pastor is huge… only with Gods strenght can you do it… their lives are not their own 24/7…I love my Pastors and have come to know them and deeply respect them and love them…
    People and human nature always get hung up on money..the church needs money to fund what the governments cant!!The governements would be no where without Jesus hands and feet the church and are well aware of it…Ive never felt like I had to give money at all, you could go there and free load if you wanted, lap up everything for free as everything is done so excellently ..but it all costs money!!Its a Bible principle to give so we may be a blessing and do Christs work here on earth…Dont let the money get you focussed off the great commission and I just want to be apart of contributing to our world in healthy soil…often I have nothing to give ..no big deal..I dont go to church to give money I go to worship God to be happy and thankful and to come together with other believers and be apart of what God is doing ….I love it when people come and look for themselves and actually see the heart and vision of Hillsong Church and let God do the best..Renenber its all about Jesus …God Bless

  80. “…We get annual reports given out to us, always have …” – Helen

    That’s good to hear. I’m glad that you are happy at your church, too.

    Steve West has said:

    “The critics kept banging on about how Hillsong was all about the money, so I was anxious to prove to them that Hillsong was open and honest about its financial practices. It had assured me that any member of the congregation could agree to meet the manager, George Aghajanian, and see the financial books.

    So I made the appointment. After some months, I was finally in the meeting.

    After pressing George and his assistant for a long time, I left the meeting without seeing a single figure. They refused to show me anything. I was a supportive congregant for five years. Not a single figure. In fact, they filled my mind with spin and answers so that when I left the meeting, I thought they had answered my questions. Only later I realised they had shown me nothing.”

    Why would this have happened if firstly they had said it was OK in public, and secondly, they are in principle, open about their finances? I think if they had shown him that day, when he was apparently open to being convinced all was OK then maybe he woudn’t be saying what he does about Hillsong today.

    It is also easy to dismiss people who have left in this kind of way:
    “…human nature is cruel and suspicious and once you get disappointed or have issues the enemy gets in and before you know it you are on the outside and living a very hurt outer edge life and your heart hardens..God still loves you of cause ..Ive seen this happen to many freinds over the years…” – Helen

    If you have seen this happen to ‘many friends’, perhaps they had some merit to some of their concerns. Have you listened with an open mind to them? Were they cruel and suspicious in character prior to finding the issues that they left over? By putting everything down to a hardened heart and a cruel and suspicious nature, these people are demeaned, their credibility undermined, and as such, any concerns they have don’t have to be dealt with.

    It is not loving to use a doctrinal approach (expecting others to forgive, forget, move on, get over it, get positive etc) to avoid listening, and this kind of attitude from those in positions of power prevents reconciliation or movement on legitimate concerns. But if the church is more of a business, or mission, where a culture and attitude are mandatory, it is not going to be seen as much of a loss when these people leave (especially as more are coming in all the time), and these people will eventually be happy elsewhere.

  81. God is God and he will build his Church and to have great momentum and statue and purpose is Gods Will being done on earth … Of cause people that choose to
    leave and worship somewhere else us there own choice … Just be aware of what’s driving you what your attitude is and where your heart is … Of cause God leads you on I have many friends through the yearsbthst have been apart of other church plants etc … It’s not my calling ..don’t limit God I love that Brian and Bobby are for unity in other churches that’s what’s the Hillsong conference us about … So much bigger than ourselves…God is good and when people do forgive and be restored and move on it’s healthier for the body of Christ as a whole and we can all
    move forward in strength and glory to glory …our life is like a vapour … Please guys don’t waste it on fighting between Christains … Let the road you are on change you and teach you what it needs too not go on and on and create disunity … I’ve said my bit off the be apart of the big picture and just loving God and others along the way …. Xox

  82. I made a comment a few days ago, which was removed.

    It simply said that I have been telling people for a long time now that incorporated associations are obliged by law to provide annual reports and audits to their members.

    I do not see what is wrong with that comment.

    I will add this: it is not unusual for a church to provide annual reports and audits. It is the law. That is why I find it difficult to understand how a large church like Hillsong allegedly doesn’t have a policy of providing access to an audited report.

    We have archives of every annual report and audit, every board meeting stretching back to the beginning of the church. The importance of well kept records has been drummed into Pentecostal churches at leadership conferences for years. The expedience of integrity, especially in financial matters, has been loudly articulated and voiced as being paramount. I know that C3 as an overseeing movement is fervently insistent on its member churches confirming, in an annual internal report, that annual reports and audits have been completed and presented to the church and to the overseer of each church.
    •••••••••••••••••••••••

    I would like to have confirmation that my comments have been removed by s&p, or if the there is a problem with the ip, or my computer, because those comments were definitely up on the threads, but now they are gone.

  83. Two things will never understand.
    First, why Christians will say “I couldn’t care less how much the Pastor made?”
    Why?
    Because a person runs a nice church or whatever, ANY salary is okay?
    300k? 600k? 3 million and a house?
    10 million and servants?

    I think this idea that if a church or ministry “appears” to be blessed, then no person should question where the money goes must be a pentecostal disease!

    Second, why do people think that someone like Brian Houston has such a terribly hard job and works more than anyone else.

    And yes, I AM acquainted with the workloads of Pastors of big churches and yes I have seen them on “ministry trips” overseas. And with all due respect Brian’s sermons probably didn’t take that much time to prepare….

    My point is that there are teachers, doctors, nurses and Pastors of micro-churches who work harder. And they do good too.
    But it’s like Benny Hinn and Copeland and co. If people want to give them lots of money and let let live in luxury because they were helped by sermons , just don’t complain when your money runs out of have a personal spat with someone.

  84. The Telegraph article quoted the published figures for Hillsong accounts as having spent over $20 Million on “religious services” last year (just for Australia).

    It seems a lot of money just for that purpose.

  85. I would have no problem seeing charismatic theologians gain more of a greater income then preachers like Houston, Creflo, Schuller, Pringle and Nalliah.

    It is clear these ministers who earn a great income, after analyzing their books, that they don’t know what they are talking about.

  86. “Religious services” would probably cover every single activity originating at the church. Any worship meeting, prayer meeting, outreach, ministry activity in the community or church itself… very, very broad. And presumably any admin or goods relating to that service. So impossible to know anything from that piece of data.

    Re salary levels:

    In traditional churches, there would be some agreement amongst the members that the minister should get paid a reasonable, livable wage, and benefits. They should be able to satisfactorily cover their living costs and other things which are regarded as a normal part of participating in life in our communities. If they had responsibility for a larger congregation and multiple staff, many would agree that a higher salary would be reasonable.

    The problem is probably a cultural clash caused by differing theologies regarding money and the way churches are set up. Since Hillsong is run like a corporation, they compare their salaries to corporate salaries, which are significantly higher than the average. Also, since Hillsong teaches prosperity doctrine, a prosperous looking lifestyle is desirable as it displays the blessing of Jesus, and proves to the rest of the world that God blesses those who honour Him (where honour = giving priority to church work, plus money and time). So in that context, to have an issue with the Houston’s salaries or benefits would be denying them the benefits of the doctrine that they preach. If you are in agreement with that doctrine, you would not begrudge them their salaries.

    If you disagree with that doctrine, you are unlikely to remain a member of Hillsong anyway, and so your opinion will be irrelevant to them. They would have to change their theology to have any issue with these amounts, and they are not a traditional church.

    Both views of course use the bible to justify their stance.

  87. Quote from ‘The Spirit of Things’, ABC Radio, 18 July 2010:

    Rachael Kohn: Well I guess the possibility to be saved, the possibility to have one’s life transformed, is a central religious message. And I would guess that there are, well I know there are passages in the New Testament that support getting rich.

    Marion Maddox:What’s different about the mega church approach is that the idea of wealth is taken very, very literally. So a favourite text for many pastors in the movement is one that talks about ‘For your sake Christ became poor, so that through his poverty you might become rich.’ Now most conventional theology has taken that as a metaphor to mean that we’re to be rich in fullness of life and experience and understanding our place in God’s love, but in mega church theology, rich means rich. It means rich in a capitalist sense, and it’s not merely OK, but actually a good thing to live a lifestyle of conspicuous consumption.

    So Bobbie Houston wrote a book called I’ll Have What She’s Having, and the idea is that it’s really a religious obligation on a Christian woman to live a fashion-magazine lifestyle really, to be beautiful, to be groomed, to be well made-up, to even do pelvic floor exercises and have a great sex life, so that you can brag about it to your non-Christian friends and then when they see your beautiful home and hear about your wonderful sex life, they’ll ask you ‘How did you get like that?’ and you’ll be able say, ‘Oh well actually, it’s all Jesus’, and then they’ll say, ‘I’ll have what she’s having’ and be converted by the power of envy.

    A high salary and benefits are actually necessary for effective evangelism of the Hillsong message. (Even beauty costs money for many of us!)

  88. Another quote from the same source, illustrating the contrast with traditional churches, including Pentecostalism’s Wesleyan roots vs historical Calvinist thinking:

    Rachael Kohn:..I guess we’ve seen in Max Weber’s analysis, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, how a theology can be connected to prosperity. So how is this different?

    Marion Maddox:In a few ways. One is that Weber’s interpretation of how the Reformation fuelled early capitalism, included the fact that the early reformers warned people against being too worldly, too consumerist. Making money was not the point, it was just a kind of happy side effect of when you lived your worldly vocation in a religious way, and when you channelled all your anxieties about whether or not you were saved into your worldly work, then goodness me, you end up being quite successful at it. And the idea was that then you wouldn’t spend it on the early modern equivalent of fast cars and loud parties, you would plough it back into the business, and the business would continue to grow while you yourself maintained an air of sort of aestheticism and restraint.

    Nowadays the idea is not that at all. The idea is that you actively should be pursuing a life of conspicuous consumption so that you’ll be demonstrating to the world what a life lived in Christ can do and other people will be drawn to the church through the attractions of that life. So that’s one difference.

    Another difference is that Weber attributed that connection between Protestantism and capitalism partly to the Calvinist idea of predestination, the fact that you can’t ever know for sure whether you’re one of the elect or not, and perhaps you’re destined for hell but you don’t know it, and he suggested, which not everybody agrees with, but he suggested that early Calvinists channelled that anxiety into their work as a way of sort of sublimating it and then, although you can’t know whether you’re one of the elect, you can perhaps look for hints, and worldly success might be one of the hints.

    Mega churches, although they come from a lot of different denominational backgrounds, they’re very much influenced by Pentecostalism, and many of them at Pentecostal and the ones that aren’t have been very influenced by Pentecostal theology, and Pentecostalism comes not out of a Calvinist tradition, but out of Methodist tradition and holiness movement. And Wesley, the founder of Methodism, didn’t believe at all in predestination. He was emphatic that Salvation is available to anyone who wants it. ‘For all, for all my Saviour died’ is one of the great Charles Wesley hymns. That’s translated now in mega church prosperity theology into the idea that not only salvation, but also it’s earthly manifestation, wealth, is available to anyone who wants it. If you want to be rich, all you have to do is have the vision, and cling to it and pray properly.

    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/spiritofthings/stories/2010/2952369.htm#transcript

  89. $20 mill is still over $350,000 per weekend. Seems excessive to me no matter how many outreach services they do.

  90. Hey guys..just a bit of positive insight and speaking from experience….35 extention services on one weekend across our church Hillsong..I go to the city service in waterloo Saturday night 6pm then 8 then 10 then a 12 then 5 and 7 on a Sunday night..^ services alone to cope with all the wonderful growth alone of our Hillsong city church..we need another building its crazy but a great problem to have..over 48,000 strong church alone in Austalia alone imagion the logistics…thousands of people around the world getting help..all the charity we are involved in I LOVE IT …..groups you can go to for free to get over your problems, over 700 Bible study groups dueing the week across Sydney alone…Hillsong Church a very healthy and being a good example of what we can do as a company of Christians in unity for Gods Glory!!!Hillsong New York,Hillsong Capetown,Hillsong Kiev, Hillsong London..God is on the move ..dont just have a negetive opinion people..be truthfully informed see God moving all around the world by the Holy Spirit in all churches great and small and in agreement and unity…GOD WILL BUILD HIS CHURCH !!

  91. I do like the Hillsong Waterloo church. They are very spirit-filled believers. I’ve been their a few times and enjoy the people there. However, the institution that keeps telling the church to go in the direction it wants believers to go is the problem.

    Unfortunately, I am hearing from you when you say ‘God is building his church’, ‘we are building his church’. What you said prior seems to suggest that.

  92. Thanks, Helen Marie, for your positive insights into being a long serving member at Hillsong Sydney. I would love to heart from more people like you, as we seem to mostly get the other side of the coin, although that is the nature of a site like this one, I suppose, but I am certain that there are far more people in churches like yours who appreciate the ministry, than those who are offended by it. Not that we shouldn’t listen to those who have issues, or defend error, but we should also hear the perspective of those who are supportive.

    I agree that Jesus is going to build his church, and that there are many who are building with him, both in large churches and small and everything in between.

    Matthew 16
    13* ¶ When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
    14* So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
    15* He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
    16* Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
    17* Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
    18* “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.
    19* “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

    There seems to be an idea that Jesus is building his Church separate from, or in spite of the people of the Church, yet the context of what he is saying above clearly tells us that he has delegated the building work to the people of the Church under him, led by his Spirit. He gives the mandate, the motive and then hands the keys to the Church.

    These keys unlock the hearts and minds of those who hear the gospel. The Rock is the revelation that Jesus is the Christ. The mandate is to preach this in all the world before Jesus comes. he has sent us in the same way the father sent him. We are co-workers, with him, building his Church.

    He says it again in the Great Commission.

    Matthew 28
    18* And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
    19* “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
    20* “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

    The authority is his, but by those authority, and under this authority, he delegates the mandate, and shows the method to the Church.

    Ephesians 4
    Christ–
    16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

    The whole Body, or Church, builds, edifies, itself in love. Each part of the Body supplies to the rest. Each part fits the other in him, and each is glued to the other by love as we go about Christ’s call.

    1 Corinthians 3
    9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building.
    10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.
    11 ¶ For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

    So, yes, we are all at work in the field, building his Church together with him.

  93. That should say, ‘Jesus is building his Church’, rather than, ‘is going to build his Church’! All other typos are self-explanatory, hopefully!

  94. Helen, I don’t think you understand what some people are saying.
    Yes, Hillsong is growing. That’s great. I have no problem with that actually. (Just remember though that the 48,000 aren’t all new converts!). Waterloo e.g from what I remember was Frank Houston’s church, and if you are counting Garden City in Brisbane, well that church also has quite a history independent of Brian and Bobby).

    I love it when people seek the Kingdom of God first, and pray for it to come. Some seem to think first about their brand of church. Are we excited about Christ and his Kingdom or the growth of our brand.

    But what I really want to say to a person like you, in love, is that if you have been part of a church for 17 years, paid 10% and more of your income to it, and STILL needed charity, and then “couldn’t care less” how much the Pastor makes, then that makes an outsider think you might be in a cult. (I don’t think Hillsong is a cult, but hearing you talk makes me sad).

    re your post, I can think my country is great and can be deliriously happy that it is flourishing, but I don’t think I would not care less what the PM made. Most people think the regardless of the profits of a private hospital, or the great work of a charity, or the greatness of a country, that it is NOT being negative, critical, faithless to ask some questions about the remuneration of the people at the top. The problem with some churches is that the only permissable things to say are like yours – wow, it’s great, awesome, growing, flourishing, I love the leaders etc etc. The slightest question or apparent criticism is pounced on.

    Probably in North Korea, nobody cares what the leaders makes though. Or at least they don’t talk about it publicly.

  95. Hey guys last post Im making here ….please dont read and presume and put things in between what I have said ..read my other postings and be careful not to put words in …Ive been honest and alot can happen in 17 years life is a journey and Im thankful to the Body Of Christ and my spiritual home Hillsong..What Jesus Christ has done in my family and life is amazing and supernatural…get involved..life is short.. God be the glory …Blessings :):)XOX

    If you are not tranparent human nature seems to always twist things around to your limited understanding and Im speaking by expereience here.Im involved with Sisterhood and tomorrow will be taking a methodone dependant person to church Praise Jesus !!She will enjoy church ..shes looking forward to it and will find answers and find freinds, shell have me to come along side her in the lonely journey of life at times… her children will have good peer group..she will be loved and belong..that is the heart of church and Jesus..once we get caught up on these other issues it becomes a snare and the unity is broken….I love my Pastors Brian and Bobby and my wonderful church family…but Jesus Christ is the reason that I live.. lets leave the rest up to God and stop trying to resolve things by opinions..God is God He will have the last say…God Bless Everyone here and I hope you all find a healthy churches that preach the gospel, is a five fold ministry , has strong wise leaders and one day well meet in heaven 🙂

  96. Quotes by Pastor Brian ..you too can follow on Twitter and be informed and Blessed…Thank you Jesus for your truth..dont let the slander get in the way of Gods truth rise above and see God have the glory in the end( Helens quote ) …Praise Jesus!!

    BrianCHouston God is good!
    about 9 hours ago via UberTwitter
    Reply Retweet

    BrianCHouston When victory seems so CLOSE, yet still so FAR away; stay FAR away from cynics, & keep God’s counsel, CLOSE !

    BrianCHouston Don’t allow the inevitability of challenges, to undermine your certainty of victory!

    BrianCHouston RT @jarrydhayne_1: Do not let a brief moment in your life de-file who you really are. Keep praising !!!

  97. What was his fee for appearing? T D Jakes and Yonggi Cho come with quite a pricetag. Not to mention how much Ed Young makes from on-selling his sermons for which he’s already received a wage.

    “….. Young sold the intellectual property of Fellowship Church’s marketing Web site, CreativePastors. He also sold the church’s membership mailing list to a newly-formed, for-profit company called EY Publishing.

    Today, CreativePastors.com is used by the Youngs to sell his sermons and books for profit.

    “When did the intellectual property, when did the preaching and the Bible notes and the books become intellectual property for the pastor? That’s the property of the church.”

  98. Helen Marie, you said one post would be your last then you made another… no biggie though.

    Yes, it’s great about the methane dependent person. I think God is good too. I shared the gospel the other day too and will tomorrow. Some people here go to church too and some of them might even be doing good in their community too. What is your point?

    Because your church is nice and your Pastor says “God is good” on twitter that no questions can be asked?

    Sorry, I really wanted to think that Hillsong was not a cult, but reading your posts makes me wonder.

    In case you’re still here reading this, just remember that there are lots of religious groups all over the world that do some good, where the members love the leaders, and won’t question anything for fear of being negative. Some of them aren’t even Christian.

    I wonder if in 30 years there will be a church called Mountainpsalms and it will be the latest cutting edge, awesomely awesome church. Who knows – it’s Pastors Dwaine and Dolly Dollar might also live in luxury and be loved by their members who are always positive and blessed and flourishing or whatever. They might even add some aging Hillsong churches under its covering and claim 90,000. And no doubt there will be members of Mountainpsalms who think their church is the greatest thing out because it has the coolest praise holograms, and a branch on the moon.

    And guess what. If I’m still here I still won’t think it’s a terrible sin to ask questions. And whether it’s Hillsong or C3 or C5 or Mountainmelody church that has the most numbers, let’s pray that the Kingdom comes. And that there comes a day when Christians can be loving and full of faith, but also wise at the same time.

    Bless you.

    P.S The Apostle Paul was a five-fold ministry guy too. If he twittered, his tweets might have even been as awesome as Brians. And he actually answered his critics. (Read some of his letters – amazing.) Personally I don’t think he would have been upset if some believers in Rome or somewhere questioned why his income was 3, 5, who knows how many times the average wage. He took up an offering for the poor once . Hard to imagine him selling his letters and taking up offerings for the latest chariots all the time.

  99. A good article. I often like Lee Grady; he does try to stay square with the Bible even when the issues are difficult politically at times. It’s good to see Pentecostals standing up in public against these extremes. Of course Charisma magazine has promoted these preachers in the past. Maybe for that reason, this message will reach some of the audience of those preachers. I would like to see them stop advertising these people too. That might be difficult – then they would have to name names, and take a stance on specific ministries. The article spoke in generalities. If they were specific, I wonder if they’d end up with defamation issues?

  100. The article alludes to Benny Hinn with his recent request for two million dollars to keep the “business” running……

    “We were the naïve ones. When they begged for $2 million more in donations because of a budget shortfall, we didn’t feel comfortable asking why they needed that $10,000-a-night hotel suite. In fact, if we did question it, another Christian was quick to say, “Don’t criticize! The Bible says, ‘Touch not the Lord’s anointed!'” God forgive us.”

    Digital version here http://strang.imirus.com/Mpowered/imirus.jsp?volume=str10&issue=9&page=1

  101. I like Lee Grady too. But I really miss Jamie Buckingham. I wonder what he’d be saying (writing) if he were still here.
    I bet he’d have a blog…

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