Wednesday, February 16, 2011

American Ministers: Preachers or Pimps?


I have always wondered whether preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or the ‘gospel’ or philosophy of any deity for that matter, was a social calling of humanity or a profession-- which reaps massively grotesque amounts of financial benefits. I am not sure, but I do believe some ministers tend to get into the business as a means to create a self-worth and societal relevance that they could not acquire within the normal realm of social standing and hierarchical positioning.

The older I get, the more I realize that the preacher’s preaching is not necessary for one to live a ‘good’ life or to be smiled upon by God, or whatever name one calls their Creator and Higher Power. I come from a family with a history of males who have made a comfortable existence through the discipline of Christian Theology (i.e. Baptist, Lutheran), but I have yet to comprehend the notion of being ‘called’ by God to preach this Gospel. I believe ministering and preaching is a chosen field of occupation, a profession if you will. Living in the South, where ministers are as prevalent as maggots in a wet garbage can, I can hardly differentiate a preacher from a pimp. From their usage of smooth, if not slick, sounding words of manipulation to their chosen attire of peacock-colored suits to their jewelry to the vehicles they navigate through the city streets, a preacher is synonymous with a pimp in my book. Sure, a pimp manipulates the bodies of women by selling the sex of a particular whore for profit, but doesn’t a preacher do the same by sending members of his congregation or flock out into the workforce for five or more days a week only to bring their tithes back to the preacher’s church or ‘God’s storehouse’ so that the church can maintain their utilities and general maintenance? And in most churches, the head minister/preacher, or pastor, draws a salary that, in some cases, mirrors that of a Chief Executive Officer of a Fortune 500 company.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘minister’ as “one officiating or assisting the officiant in church worship” or “a clergyman especially of the Protestant communion.” ‘Pimp’, as defined by Merriam-Webster is defined as “a man who solicits clients for a prostitute.” Now, by no means am I equating God to a ‘Lady of the Night’, but who are ministers soliciting parishioners for—God or themselves? Now, if the job, for lack of a better term, is for the preacher to preach the Word of God as a means to bring lost and wicked souls to salvation, then why is it that the preacher or minister, be they male or female, take a salary? Why do these ministers not live meagerly like the revered Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or even Jesus the Christ for that matter? I thought, from my Judeo-Christian upbringing, that the goal of Man is to be more Christ-like? If so, would Jesus be riding clean in a high-end vehicle or dressing like a GQ model (although tackily with the fluorescent suits) or going around preaching for funds by being paid to preach at another pastor’s church? Why is monetary reciprocity always on the voucher submitted by ministers of the Gospel?

Well, maybe because the Bible tells us so; I Timothy 5:17-18 “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” 18 For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” Basically, doing God’s work is the equivalent of doing our secular jobs. Need more scriptural evidence? 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 says, “13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple get their food from the temple, and that those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.”

Even Jesus, in the Gospel of Luke 10:7-8 (and Matthew 10:10) suggested that the worker of his Father be given a stipend or payment for their duties; “7 Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. 8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you.” Now, Jesus said to eat, not gorge, and some of these so-called ‘prosperity preachers’ or ‘poverty pimps’ we call men of God who claimed to have been ‘called’ to preach are gorging the communities, that are often times economically depraved and disadvantaged, of the little wealth they may have in hopes of being saved from their conditions. Not through Christ’s salvation, but through the preacher’s duplicitous rhetoric emitted weekly from the pimpin’ pulpit.

The American Preaching Pimp dates back to the 1930s when tent preaching became a huge draw for the desolate and displaced families and workers trying to recover and find some comfort in the word of God during the Great Depression. The tent preachers, who traversed from town to town, made their living by garnering donations from the crowds that attended their outdoor concerts (oops, I meant sermons). We can even go further back than the tent preaching and trace the popularized and celebrity version of our ministers to S. Parkes Cadman who was one of the first preachers to be broadcast on radio in 1923, and was eventually given a weekly radio spot on NBC radio and reportedly had a listening audience of over 5 million Americans (it goes without saying that donations were accepted). Though radio made celebrities out of preachers, the advent of the television in the 1950s and the popularization of the television in the homes of our average U.S. citizens in the 1960s would make little gods out of the American Minister.

From Fulton Sheen to Billy Graham to Oral Roberts to Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker to Creflo Dollar (what a name) to T.D. Jakes and Joel Osteen, it is difficult to separate the salaries, and sometimes the opulence—particularly T.D. Jakes and his private jet, of these Holy Men from their ‘calling’ to preach the Gospel. Yes, many of these ministers, pastors, and preachers mentioned have done much for the communities in which their congregations reside and have probably saved countless souls from moral decay and an eternity of playing Marco Polo in the Lake of Fire, but why must they live better than the average parishioner?

I would bet a dollar to your dime that in most of these mega-churches (churches with an average weekly attendance of at least 2000 people) in the United States of America the pastor is one of the wealthiest, if not the wealthiest, individual there (and there are politicians, CEOs, CFOs, professional athletes, entertainers, doctors, lawyers, and Indian Chiefs who are members of their church, and they all give their tithes!). There are 50 mega churches in Tennessee, the state in which I reside, alone and ten of those are either in Memphis or the surrounding suburban cities that many consider a part of the Memphis-metro ‘area.’ The list is as follows: Christ United Methodist, New Salem Missionary Baptist, Mississippi Blvd. Christian Church, New Direction Christian Church, Temple of Deliverance, Pentecostal Tabernacle-COGIC, St. Stephens Baptist, Mt. Vernon Baptist, Central Church (Collierville), Germantown Baptist (Germantown), Bellevue Baptist (Cordova), and Hope Presbyterian (Cordova). This is interesting and alarming information for a city whose poverty level is 67.2% greater than the national average and has an average household income of $41000 per year (per the 2009/2010 census).

I guess the question is “What are these ministers peddling?” Do we really need a preacher to guide us to God? Is he or she a better discerner of the biblical texts than we are? I’ve even heard of a mega-church in Memphis that offers an automatic pay plan for their monthly tithes. Since when are our tithes a bill or the Church a creditor? How can we really know that the churches we attend are adequately allocating our monies to the people and places that need those monies the most? I think I can give my time and money in my own way and honor my God? You don’t have to fool or scare me into thinking that I must tithe to a specific ‘Church’ on a weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis (depending upon how often I get my direct deposit from my ‘secular’ or ‘worldly’ job) in order to gain favor and receive blessings from God. Don’t pimp me, pastor? I’m not naïve, and I’m not a whore.
                                                                                                   -Gee Joyner


  1. Hmm... interesting take. Valid assessment, in my opinion, of a particular brand of "minister." Broader question would be, what kind of "parishioner" would support such "clergy?" And also I wonder why ministers who project the more integrous attributes of the Gospel don't receive adequate support from the community. Clearly there's enough blame to go around. With all do respect to the adequately ENLIGHTENED, there is a core human longing to be in Fellowship with people of shared belief (which relates to our need for church and also our need to expand what/where church is). Nevertheless, sometimes preachers become the scapegoats for a people's spiritual, physical and intellectual laziness (and blind sheepism)


  2. regardless of faith...people need to realize that the "path to enlightenment" is not a path that they are going to hear on Sundays, but rather, a path that they have to take part of themselves. One must find their individual relationship with God before they can find or be on "Fellowship"

  3. An eye opening post we have here!!! The fact that the churches have flocks that sin so much, yet attend church every sunday is extremely alarming. From what I was taught by the bible, a sin is really to only happen once, learn from the mistake, ask for forgiveness, and move on in a righteous path not to commit that specific sin ever again. But look at this situation....the flock is doing so wrong that the minister feeds off these wrong doings and the more money you put in, the bigger the blessing to behold the thinking. In my eyes as long as you are a benevolent person and give of yourself, not moneterily, then my God offers even a much larger blessing than a so-called 10%er constant sinner.....Earle made a good point dealing with the act of fellowship....many people have nothing but church members to congregate with and have made the members family and friends and church member. Some churches have atm machines, some churches want to see a tax return for membership. All these acts are completely blasphemy of my Lord and savior. So I say to the minister black, white, or whatever......KEEP IT PIMPIN.......PIMPN!!!!!! The money from tithes is not to drape out the is to build the community for the parish to be proud and to give hope thru community.

  4. Well, I guess I will take you on. This year, I decided to enroll in the seminary. I wanted to know more about the recorded Word of God. For most of my long life, I have listened to others bring the Word to me. I wanted a better understanding of God's grace. I have known for a long time that His grace is more than "the unmerited favor of God". My life's experiences have taught me that God's favor is to know Him (discernment).
    I have taken the view that when one is called to preach, the calling is a personal communication from God. I have never questioned one's calling (to the ministry). However, I listen to the message of the "called" preacher, and if the message does not complement my spirit and the Scriptures as I have read them, I decide that this specific "called" preacher cannot preach to me.
    Romans 10:14 ...How shall they hear without the preacher? suggests that there is a great need for the preacher. (This scripture references those who do not believe because they have not heard.) It is virtually impossible to know God's word without study, hence my enrollment at the seminary. I have not been called to preaching, but to ministry (as we all are).

    I try not to focus on the financial success (or not) of the preacher. It seems that to do so, takes attention from God's work. Surely, one would not begrudge a pastor of a decent living. I do not believe that God relegates his called preachers to poverty. There are religious leaders--priests, nuns, etc. who actually take a vow of poverty. For them, this is "putting off self".
    What troubles me about some pastors is their failure to take a real leadership role in guiding their congregations to make informed decisions with regard to secular concerns, i.e., school consilidation, sex education, financial planning, addiction, etc. Such issues cause great despair in the church and in the communtiy. To be clear, I do not think it the duty of the pastor to give directives, but rather, to provide information with basis in the Scriptures.
    As for, mega-churches, I believe that where one attends has little to with the size of the congregation. If the message is flawed, it is spread to others in its flawed state, large or small.
    The church-the building-allows the congregants to come together in community. We (Christians) have been instructed not to forsake the assembling together. This congregating provides a place and time for congregants to honor the Sabbath--holy day.
    God is faithful to His promises and to His promised.

  5. C'mon now certainly being called to preach,or minister does not mandate mediocre living or a poverty stricken lifestyle. I see the points made here,but tell me...If you equate the ministerial salaries to those of secular salaries,are the employed not to spend Their earned money as they please? ijs.... Still,Id like to point out ,for every right,there is a wrong. What I mean by that is for every real preacher, there is a cunning pimp mimicing the real thing. So,in this day of preaching for profit,discernment is so vital. Satan will use anyone he can to keep you out of the will of God,that his job. Even detouring your focus to the well being and lifestyle of the preacher when it should be on your own! God will handle the evildoers,all we can do is be informed,and resist that spirit of deceit . Personally,I want to see the promises of God working in the life of my pastor,overseer ,etc ..I want to see him blessed and highly favored.Nice homes,cars,clothes,etc are apart of that...what good is knowing if u delight yourself in the Lord he will give you the desires of your heart,if for the sake of "some peoples focus", your desires should only be modest or not at all? No!I dont agree with that.. Show me Gods hand is with you! just like my tax bracket shows the lifestyle afforded to me...& just to reference back,was not Job well off,look at all he lost,he wasnt exactly poor to begin with ,and he was a man of God....and Joseph,his jealous brothers sold &faked his death,but because he was wealthy and so prosperous his own blood didnt know him when they saw him later in life,& he was a man of God, & since bible has been a basis for info here ,we dare not forget the humble beginnings of David,later King David, & surely he didnt continue to abide in the pasture so he wouldnt appear 'too blessed' by the people!

  6. @Godiva You're deviating from the focal point of this piece. If I'm not mistaken, Joseph, David, nor Job were preachers, ministers, or rabbis. We are not slaves, and I dare not compare a pastor, or my pastor, to my 'overseer.' Though I do not believe that a minister or preacher should exist in the realm of "mediocre living or a poverty stricken lifestyle," I am in opposition to he or she living above and beyond a comfortable lifestyle and there being a great disparity between the pastor, preacher, or minister's lifestyle and that of his or her parishioners, particularly if their congregation is living in poverty or are members of the lower socioeconomic class. The mere fact that you state, "I want to see the promises of God working in the life of my pastor,overseer ,etc ..I want to see him blessed and highly favored.Nice homes,cars,clothes,etc are apart of that," lend me to believe that you have a whore's mentality in that you want your pimp (pastor) to look good and live well because it is a reflection of the fruits of your labor that you have provided for him and him alone. How come your preacher/pimp doesn't want the same for you? Or does he?

  7. well to start anyone who spreads the word of God,or is used to teach Gods word is in ministry. That includes you Gee,whether u accept that title or not,you are a vessel used for Gods glory.Ive read several of your writings and u are indeed gifted,called if u will,to spread the truth.Therefore in my book,a minister,just as the lives of Job,Joseph,and David are a ministry and testiment to us today.We as people get so caught up in what we think things should that we neglect the obvious, the bible says the poor we will have always, so there will always be a variant of wealth among the church from poor to rich.The mega churches You named exemplify that perfectly...Hope and Bellevue Baptist are gravely different from TOD and Pentecostal Cogic,look at the neighborhoods,those "ministers"are not balling downtown like they are in Collierville. Also, an "overseer" is but what some denominations call their preachers,its not that crucial. But the focal point made was on ministers in the piece written, which is not accurate unless u include pastors,or the leaders,because most ministers in the church arent on salary.They are mostly ones who profess they are called to preach, not lead a people. Those that venture out preaching for hire arent usually connected to a church.Whoredom mentality,is harsh. seeing as how I feel its ok to be blessed. truthfully some just cant handle wealth&some of them are the Criminals raping the church,but all arent,my pastor actually Works a fullti
    me secular job,&supports the church with his tithes,he doesnt take a stipend,or even a living allowance that actually legal to have.I dont believe tithes are just for a particular church,my tithe may go to someone who needs a bill paid.But I still want to see my pastor blessed even if they just live comfortable,but I know some who live much better.

  8. One main point about this article is that Malcolm X and Martin Luther king Jr.....if they lived meager, not as the bible says, but b/c they were the most humble of humble......why don't these ministers of today follow the best examples ever put in our lives!!!!

  9. I think the relevant ones do follow the example, but who says MLK lived a meager life? He had more than most of the congregations he spoke to....had he gone to them as broken and weary as they were he might not have been as effective.Im not saying he was rich, but it took money to do what they did, and still maintain and care for his growing family, he barely saw while traveling and fighting for our civil right to be.

  10. According to scripture and biblical history, you were to give 10% or tithe what you reaped from your harvest. Food was left on vines around the edges of farms for the less fortunate to consume. Romans and pharisees brought in the idea of exchanging actual currency for the king/pope/country. My question is, why not simply give of your time and excesses directly to those who need it most?

  11. Mustafa made a good point.....being benevolent has to be the tithe of all tithes....helping your fellow man is the highest form of tithe in my opinion

  12. And no one should be able to decipher God's message to you. It's like any other form of take from it what you understand, and it is your responsibility and your responsibility only to better understand that which you do not. Prayer is sacred and is meditation, reward and punishment. What I'm suggesting is that in the end, aside for occasional advice, there really isn't a real reason for the pastor to constantly stand between man and his GOD.

  13. Another stimulating blog G! From the responses and some of what you wrote I’m stuck on the bible. A book written by men, about Man, for man…not a book written by God, about God, for man---the real truth is that the bible is a book by Jews, written for Jews, about Jewish things. Ironically, God will get the credit for divine wisdom we know as the bible but shouldn’t God get that credit regarding anything? The bible was referenced for tithes, for listening to the preacher, for doing all of these human type things but none of those things are the central piece that builds ones relationship with his or her Creator. You could live rich or poor, pay major tithes or pay none, but those things don’t make you feel better about your relationship with God, well they shouldn’t.

    I wonder why folk who are “called” to the ministry have this wonderful grasp on what God wants to share with mankind. If God can do everything, why can’t he just allow us all the opportunity to hear and discern His words? Do we really believe that everything God wanted mankind to know he managed to compile it all into one set of text and that was it—poof, it is done, now they know….period…?? I don’t know about that. Granted, the bible can be referenced regarding many things but so can the sitcom Happy Days. People find their personal relationship with their personal Creator the best way they can. I don’t think we can accept every story in the bible as the absolute word of God---frankly, I wonder if after so many translations we even have what the original author’s were intending. Preachers could be a great tool if they facilitated discussions, not barked orders or listed commandments. If you look at any instructional manual, it usually offers you a list of things to do to obtain a specific goal. Preachers love to tell us about the 10 commandments, 8 of which tell us what not to do. Thou shall not, thou shall not, thou shall not. I would never have learned how to drive a car if the only instructions I had were to not do something.

    I can’t knock a guy for making a living and if the institutions and followers of those institutions opt to pay large salaries to a preacher that is their thing. Regarding preachers being pimps…I bet somewhere in history the two rolls were one….the most spiritual leader (or elder) in a clan or tribe would have to be the one who would setup marriages or arranged the sale of goods (often bartering supplies for a young girl). <<>>.

    Here is what I would love to see, for those million-dollar churches, if once or twice a month they randomly selected someone to come to the front of the church and bring all of their bills with them (mortgage, student loans, car loans, credit cards) bring every bill that your household pays to the alter and let the church pay off those bills for one family. The only stipulations would be that you are a certified member of the church and that you have made some type of contribution to the church (time, talent, or possessions). Think about the attendance at a church that could bless families in that manner. I know many people would join just to in hopes of getting a blessing but isn’t that why folk are members of churches now (seeking some sort of blessing—be it eternal or just something to get through the week). I think that is the true nature of being Christ-like; giving to others, being selfless, and making a difference. I don’t think religion or spirituality is all that complicated, give a little and the Universe gives back hundreds of times more. If a church can build a 50 million dollar building and pay off the loan, I can bet the average parishioner won’t have 50 million dollars of personal debt. But may be I’m thinking of the old school churches that made a difference in the community, the churches had volunteers at the neighborhood schools and that served as a shelter for the homeless. Are churches going the way of institutions like the NAACP and labor unions? Is there truly a need for them? Have they served their purpose and are now just a part of the status quo?

  14. Wow!!!...Km really put some good perspective on this thing...I bet he went to White Station!!

  15. I dont think we need pastors to guide us to God, not how it is viewed today. People are giving their pastor's too much credit, or should I say, praising them as their god instead of God himself. For some reason, I was always drawn to some spiritual power which led me to the church even when my parents didnt attend. I even jumped around churches as a young boy until I found one suitable and that met my needs. As some also have stated, how does one get called? Is there a number or something or do they mean a feeling that they need to deliver how they interpret the bible which, if one is not careful, can be deceitful. I read the bible for my own understanding since I know I am convicted by my own beliefs.


  16. Gerald,you set the stage for an engaging conversation and I'm glad I was able to take the time this morning to read your blog as well as the comments. The things you all have pointed out were exactly the reasons I left the church at a young age. I was looking for and found everything wrong with it. Here I am now,a new member of Hope Church,and though not perfect,for nothing man does is,I am really pleased with the way they conduct the handling of the money here. If someone in our church loses their job,can't pay their bills ect.,the church steps up to the plate and assumes those debts for the period of time necessary to get back on their feet. They also provide an urban ministry where 30-40 members pack up and go stay in a poverty stricken area of Memphis for 3-4 days,serving meals and getting to know that particular part of the community. I guess at the end of the day,I'm raising a family and I see good morals being instilled in the youth at my I have started seeing and searching for the good rather than the opposite,because they are both out there.