Your Heart and Your Treasure
I read today that a pastor in Colorado allegedly swindled members of his congregation out of 1.3 million dollars. He sold cryptocurrency to his flock. (Crypto to me is just another Ponzi scheme dressed up in technological clothing.) Apparently, God told him to set up this business, therefore you should trust him and buy what his business was selling—worthless investment in his cryptocurrency coins.
It’s familiar pattern of a scam perpetrated by other pastors. The script is, “God told me that everyone should buy into this real estate deal…this ministry I started…this Gulfstream jet…this _____; parishioners trust the pastor but then later regret their decision. As the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “What has been, will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” These ministers are the reason the United Methodist denomination requires ethics training of all pastors every four years.
I’m sure scams happen in other professions and other religions with equal regularity; however, it pains me to see it in our own faith. One of the top reasons “Nones” walk away from Christian faith and the church are these mistakes with money and obsession with wealth. It’s an unfair comparison because 99% of pastors are not scammers, but social media and mainstream media makes it seem like the norm—just like every other issue. Jesus cautions us about money and how it can cause us “decay and rust on the inside.” (Matt. 619ff) We should listen to him!
I say this as the Church tithes and offerings end-of-year statements go out this week. In the envelope, I include a short pastoral letter that shares some of the good ministry work done at Madison First UMC. It’s our way of transparently witnessing how we serve Christ in this community and around the world. There will be no invitation to buy crypto at a reduced price or a plea for a new Gulfstream 650.
As I’ve said many times, there are no secrets in budgeting or how money is spent in our church. For example, I don’t know of any other denomination that invites all its members to a meeting in the Fall to vote on a Pastor’s salary package. It’s awkward for pastors, but very transparent. The budget line items are openly discussed in open Finance Committee meetings and approved at open Administrative Council meetings. It’s God’s money and we are simply caretakers of it. We have nothing to hide from you or God himself.
So if I or anyone else tells you “God told me that you should invest with me.” run the other way. Your wallet and your Lord will be glad.