What You Won't Find In A Christian Bookstore

by David Y.

The other day I was sorting through some old paperwork I had in a box out in the storage shed and found a print-out of a letter I wrote back in 2005 to a professional pastor by the name of Gary Langness (of Augustana Lutheran Church in West St. Paul, Minnesota). There was an article of his I read that provoked me to send a response… to which, I might add, I never received a reply. Perhaps I was too harsh in my approach (I don’t waste much time these days writing preachers to pick on their views, unless they contact me first or if I feel a direct prompting from the Holy Spirit); however, as I was reading the letter again, I found myself still strongly agreeing with everything I had written and it stirred up that righteous anger in me again concerning preachers who take every advantage to manipulate people with money at the center of the whole issue. Back then I did this a lot; wrote a lot of ministries and professional pastors to challenge the things they were teaching. Many of my letters, as I’ve looked back over them, were very spirited, blunt and sometimes not so graceful. I was weary of religious garbage and tired of the fact that no one seams to speak up when some these knuckleheads are out there spewing such unbiblical, ungodly religious fodder on their congregations and in books and all over the web. Sometimes my zeal overpowered my sense of God’s grace and to approach people with respect, love and patience… Sometimes, I do believe, bluntness is called for and necessary… I just feel it is more important to make sure I am led by the Spirit on those occasions… Of course (ahem), I don’t always succeed in this. My zeal still gets ahead of me sometimes. Sure glad God is more patient than I am! 🙂

Out of curiosity, I typed this man’s name in a Google search today to see what I could find and, interestingly enough, I found an article titled “Pastors Change Their Pitch For Stewardship Money”. At first I thought it might be evidence of him ammending some of his emphasis on his view where he stated in the past that he can tell when a church member is having problems in their life by his looking at their monetary giving record (this was one of the mindsets that first prompted me to write him). Unfortunately, the article (which was actually pretty old – 1998) only affirmed that he loves to talk about giving money to the church; especially the subject of tithing. So I searched for other articles referencing him from over the years and noticed, time and again, he is always talking about money.

So why mention him by name? I assure you it’s not just to pick on the guy (ok, maybe it’s to pick on him a little bit). After all, he’s certainly not the only preacher that believes money (especially giving money to a religious organization) is apparently supposed to be the central focus of the Christian life. I guess I mention him simply to illustrate that he is a real preacher out there (who chose to be public about his views on this matter) and that this kind of money rhetoric is typical among too many pastors. Also, since Gary never even replied to my email, I figured, why not post it for others to consider what many preachers think about the subject of money as it concerns their view of religious obligation and why not share a challenge to all those who preach this same subject? Maybe one day Gary himself will happen across this article. Maybe the Lord will touch his heart in some way by it. That would be awesome! I hope some of you will take the time to share your own thoughts in response… Perhaps this pastor (and others like him) will see these responses as well and consider the matter more seriously. I would love to see the Lord touch their hearts with the truth and with conviction. There but for the grace of Jesus go I… and you… and all of us. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is FREEDOM! May God set all those free who have been trapped in religious bondage and slave to the errant ministry money doctrine.

Please note that Gary’s original article (that I was responding to) follows my comments below.


Dear Mr. Gary Langness,

I recently read your article on Luthersem.edu (copied below my letter) where
you asserted that you believe it should be the pastor’s business what
members of his flock give. I am saddened by your statements and, to be
honest, just a little annoyed. I hope you will extend me the grace to
honestly share some of my reactions.

First of all, the flock (i.e. “your people,” as you put it) isn’t yours,
they are the Lords. When Jesus asked Peter, “do you love Me?” He followed
with the direction, “feed MY sheep.” The ownership of the Lord’s flock was
NEVER transferred to a man!

John 17:9-10 – (Jesus said) “My prayer is not for the world, but for those
you have given me, because they belong to you. And all of them, since THEY
ARE MINE, belong to you; and you have given them back to me, so they are my
glory!

Revelation 3:5 – (Jesus said) All who are victorious will be clothed in
white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will
announce before my Father and his angels that THEY ARE MINE.

Ezekiel prophesied about corrupt shepherds (Jesus also called them “sheep
stealers; thieves and robbers” in John 10:8) and Ezekiel remarked that God
was going to send ONE Shepherd to pastor HIS ONE flock. I’m sorry, dear
brother, but your concept of many shepherds who have their own sheep stands
at odds with God’s holy Word!

Ezekiel 34:9-10 – Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD. This
is what the Sovereign LORD says: I now consider these shepherds my enemies,
and I will hold them responsible for what has happened to my flock. I will
take away their right to feed the flock, along with their right to feed
themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths; the sheep will no
longer be their prey.

Ezekiel 34:15 – I myself will tend my sheep and cause them to lie down in
peace, says the Sovereign LORD.

Ezekiel 34:22-24 – But I will rescue my sheep and not let them be mistreated
any more. I will judge each of my sheep and separate the good from the bad.
I will give them a king like my servant David to be their one shepherd, and
he will take care of them. I, the LORD, will be their God, and a king like
my servant David will be their ruler. I have spoken.

Ezekiel 34:31 – You are my flock, the sheep of my pasture. You are my
people, and I am your God, says the Sovereign LORD.”

Jesus Himself confirmed Ezekiel’s words when he said in John 10:16, “…they
will listen to my voice; and there will be ONE flock with ONE Shepherd.”

Brother, there is no human on earth that can fill the role of “Senior
Pastor.” That title alone (besides the fact that Jesus commanded His
disciples not to take up titles and exercise hierarchical authority over
their brethren – Matthew 20:25-28; Matthew 23:4-12), is ANTI-CHRIST in
nature! Yes, I said ANTI-CHRIST! There is only ONE SENIOR PASTOR in
Scripture; Jesus Christ! The words are synonymous in the Greek! He ALONE
is the ONE SHEPHERD over HIS CHURCH!!! And His Church is not a building or
program! It is a house of living stones – a spiritual, global assembly of
saints.

Hebrews 13:20 – God has raised from death our Lord Jesus, who is the Great
Shepherd [SENIOR PASTOR] of the sheep as the result of his blood, by which
the eternal covenant is sealed. May the God of peace provide you with every
good thing you need in order to do his will, and may he, through Jesus
Christ, do in us what pleases him. And to Christ be the glory forever and
ever! Amen.

Just as surely as no man deserves the title of “Senior Pastor”, neither does
any man deserve the name “Reverend.” Again, this stands in opposition to
the Word. The Scripture teaches that REVERENT IS GOD’S NAME! No man in ALL
of Scripture was ever called REVEREND! How can men, in good conscience,
take unto themselves such titles of selfish glory? What’s the difference
between this and “Our Holy Father The Pope”? There is none! It’s the same
religious, arrogant, glory-stealing garbage.

Psalms 111:9 – He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his
covenant for ever: holy and reverend [is] his name.

Brother, I am not suggesting there are not human shepherds, but they are
under-shepherds. They are brothers among brothers. Not rulers over flocks
they think they own. Jesus clearly called Peter to “feed” (Greek: pastor)
His sheep, but you will not find a single verse in all the Bible where Peter
is called Pastor Peter or that he or any of the other apostles EVER referred
to one another by titles. Brother, sister… Brother, sister… Servants…
Slaves of Christ… THAT, my friend, IS WHAT YOU WILL READ!

It is organized religion in its worldly system of hierarchy that has
invented the concept of “church government” which looks nothing like that
which Christ taught His followers. Remember, the government RESTS ON THE
SHOULDERS OF CHRIST – NOT MEN!!! His shepherds never get in His way. They
are not mediating priests between the Lord’s flock and the Lord’s people.
They (true shepherds) never take the attention to themselves. They never
seek to profit from serving others. They serve in the same fashion that
Christ commands us to give; without boasting it from the rooftops, slapping
it on name tags, office doors, and church bulletins. I dare say that most
true pastors are not visibly recognized, at least not by traditional
institutionally-ordained ministers today. I dare say that these true
pastors don’t wear titles, sport credentials, and are not ordained in
seminaries and probably aren’t generally skilled orrators. I believe this
is one reason why Paul instructed Timothy how he would be able to recognize
who the true elders were. They were already “eldering” and serving AMONG
their brethren. They didn’t have titles; no one called them “elders”, they
just served one another. This is something that has been lost with all of
today’s grand focus on organization and the world’s influence of
governmental authority and prestige.

Second, there is not a shred of Scripture that supports the claims you made
in your article (I notice that you did not use any Scripture at all to
support anything you stated either). The Scripture does NOT teach that a
pastoral gift of ministry (which, by the way, is a functionary gift NOT a
religious title) is to be actuated through “busybodiness.” In fact, Paul
directly shunned the practice of being a busybody and told such to FOLLOW
HIS EXAMPLE and get a job. I like how the Message Bible says it:

2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 – Don’t you remember the rule we had when we lived
with you? “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” And now we’re getting reports
that a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings are taking advantage of you. This
must not be tolerated. We command them to get to work immediately–no
excuses, no arguments–and earn their own keep.

If you study early century Christianity, you’ll discover this was a problem
among the early Christians. Busybody preachers are mentioned, further
demonstrating the appropriate context of Paul’s message to the
Thessalonians. Visiting preachers would sometimes come and lodge with the
saints, mooching off them, asking for their money to “do the work of the
Lord.” In the first century historical writing known as the Teaching of the
Twelve Apostles, it remarks how it was a principle among the believers in a
given community to reject any minister who came asking for money or refused
to work as being a FALSE TEACHER!!! They did not tolerate such nonsense and
neither should Christians tolerate it today! Paul, Jesus and the apostles
warned their listeners time and again about false ministers who would center
their message around the subject of money! Interesting that that is also
the center of your message…

You say that if the money record shows an inconsistency then the pastor is
alerted to make a visit. HOW WRETCHED! Money is all that motivates you!!!!
EVEN BY YOUR OWN WORDS! Why not actually get off your lazy heineken and
actually build relationships with the people you claim to pastor (a shepherd
is a BROTHER who lives AMONG his brothers NOT OVER THEM). People who walk
in strong relationship, don’t need a “money log” to tell when their brothers
and sisters are struggling spiritually, physically, or financially. Excuse
my bluntness, but you are pathetic sir! Repent! Turn your face from
wickedness and believe the Gospel.

The Lord Himself also ordered that giving was to be done IN SECRET.

Matthew 6:3-4 – But when you give to someone, don’t tell your left hand what
your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in secret, and your Father, who
knows all secrets, will reward you.

You will likely say, “oh that just pertains to charity…” Is there another
kind of giving the New Testament refers to besides “charitable” giving? All
giving must flow from love. THAT’S WHAT “CHARITY” IS!!! Ahem… 1
Corinthians 13 (KJV)… If I do all manner of good deeds and EVEN GIVE MY
POSSESSIONS away, but have not CHARITY, I am nothing but noise!!! Even
Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians involved collecting gifts for the
purpose of meeting physical needs of other impoverished saints.

The IRS even regards giving to churches as “charity” and most churches also
classify it as such as most are set up as non-profit organizations.
Furthermore, there is not a single teaching ANYWHERE in the New Testament
for believers to give tithes or to support religious organizations!

There is not even one example of “pastors” receiving salaries and even the
figure of a “professional pastor” cannot be found ANYWHERE in the Bible! It
is a myth of tradition, born out of pagan and Roman Catholic influence.
Note that I am not saying it is wrong for believers to willingly give
financial gifts to support evangelists, but Scripture NOWHERE teaches that
ministry is a profession and it certainly doesn’t teach that a religious
organization’s tithe record is a indicator of problem in a person’s life.

In fact, didn’t Jesus also clearly say (in John 10) that a hireling (one who
“pastors” for wages) is not a real shepherd? Yes, He did! And it was Jesus
who said, “the thief does not come but for to steal, kill and destroy.”
That thief was not the devil, as most preachers like to tell us. The
context is all referring to those men (those hired pastors) who get
in-between His sheep and Him and who think that serving God is something
that is a profession. But take away the money and watch them flee when a
wolf comes! Most of them won’t minister if there’s no salary in it for
them. That is because they are serving God and Mammon and no one can do
both. You can’t serve God “in the ministry” and also “do ministry for the
purpose of profession.” These two concepts, biblically speaking, are
severely opposed.

It appears that Jesus’ command to not tell anyone what you are giving
strictly applies. Your opinion appears to clearly violate the command of
Jesus.

In your article, you suggest that a person’s giving record helps the pastor
determine whether or not there’s a problem in his life. Again, you show
that you do not know the Scriptures. Remember, Jesus said it was the
Pharisee who boasted about his giving (tithing) and that Pharisee (not
unlike the nosey pastor) believed he was doing pretty good before God. But
it was the non-tithing sinner that Jesus said was justified because of his
heart before the Father. You see bro, this is what no pastor can gage! By
your logic, you would have chastised the tax-collector and presumed that he
was not right with God, while you likely would have never even suspected the
Pharisee because of his external appearance of godliness.

Luke 18:12-14 – “I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” But
the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven,
but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I tell you
that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For
everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will
be exalted.

Brother, there is no giving roster on earth that can tell you a true giver
from a Pharisee. My father was not one who was wealthy in life. He also
did not give a tithe to the church he attended (though I am quite sure he
gave as he felt led and could afford to). A church roster might suggest to
a nosey pastor that my father wasn’t a giver, but I lived in the same house
with my father. I watched his life! I watched him minister to people he
walked in relationship with every day, while most pastors were sitting on
their duffs in a fancy office reading books and preparing sermons (to talk
about what they rarely, if ever, actually do in daily life – but order
everyone else to).

I am sorry to be so blunt, but I hope it will pierce through to your heart
brother, there is nothing anyone who speaks such foolish nonsense as you
have in that article, can convince me that my father was not a giver. Our
house was always filled with people. Dad (and mom) frequently took in
people that were struggling and gave them room and board and ministered to
them. Dad often even gave them work in his small drywall business. He’d
help them with their cars when they broke down… He’d visit them when they
were sick… He walked the walk! We also had many great times around the
piano, singing and laughing and sharing fellowship with visitors. Dad led
tons of people to the Lord and would give the shirt off his back for just
about anyone. He always had faith in God’s ability to provide and God
always did provide. When my father died, the testimony to the effect of his
life was that hundreds of people came to the memorial service. People I did
not even know walked up to tell me how my father helped them. One widow
lady told us how my father worked extra jobs to support her family in
addition to ours when her husband died (leaving her with two children to
feed). I never knew this until the memorial service. My dad never
announced it!

Brother, I am infuriated at your foolishness! You demonstrate that you know
nothing concerning true giving. You should repent! My father’s example
(and there are many others like his) demonstrate the gross error of your
assumptions.

But most importantly SCRIPTURE stands in opposition to your statements!

Forgive my sharp words, but please hear the heartbeat of this message! I do
not apologize for the truth. If you desire to be a true shepherd, get off
your throne and give it back to the ONE Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

My His grace be will you and His Spirit convict and counsel you,
Dave

________________________

PASTOR, DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR PEOPLE GIVE?

Article Author: Rev. Gary Langness
ELCA Pastor
Stewardship Leader
Theme: Stewardship Leadership
Updated: 8/7/2002
© Gary Langness

“There are a variety of reasons I think the pastor should know what the
people are giving but none more important than to help our people know the
joy of giving with great generosity and responding to the mission that Jesus
Christ has set before each of our congregations.”

——————————————————————————–

As often as I have discussed stewardship with a group of pastors, the
question comes up, “Do you know what your people give?”

My answer is an emphatic “YES!” Some folks have suggested that to know what
your people give could influence your relationship with your people. Others
have simply said they did not want to know, it was not their business.

I choose to know for several reasons. One’s personal stewardship is directly
related to one’s spiritual life. It is one thing to talk about faith in
Jesus, it is another to commit one’s total life to Christ, and that includes
everything that has been entrusted to your care by God.

Knowing what people give also puts the pastor in the position of being aware
of changes in the life of people. If giving levels fall, it might signal
that something else is going on in that household. Sickness, loss of job,
going from two incomes to one, retirement, financial reverses, a
dissatisfaction with the mission and ministry of the congregation or a
number of other possibilities. By being aware of what is happening, the
pastor can visit with the individual or couple to see what is going on and
to offer the appropriate pastoral care.

Some people choose to talk a lot but do very little to financially support
Christ’s mission through the life of the congregation. I have often found
that many people would like to have others think they are significant givers
when in fact they simply wish to have their way in the life of the
congregation while allowing others to provide the resources. This situation
calls for a pastoral visit for the purpose of exploring the meaning of a
joyful giving response to God.

It is important to know who the good stewards are in the life of the
congregation. I want good stewards on the stewardship committee to be sure,
but I also want them in leadership positions throughout the congregation. I
have discovered that being a good steward has little to do with one’s
wealth. Over and over again I find that the faithful stewards are those who
are of modest means, but who have learned to give in a sacrificial manner
over the years. Most often these people give generously, talk about it very
little, if at all, and give encouragement to the leadership of the
congregation to be faithful in mission.

Knowing what people give allows the pastor the opportunity to have varying
discussions with people. It is one thing to speak of giving to one who gives
nothing, quite another to one who is growing in their giving and yet another
to one who has given the same amount for the past twenty years. Each year I
send a letter to a particular group of people with a specific request for
their response to our mission. Each year it is a different group of folks.
One year it will be to those who have given nothing the past year, the next
it might be to those who are in the upper 5% of the congregation, the next
year to those who are in the middle. You must know what they are doing in
order to invite them to grow in their response.

There are a variety of reasons I think the pastor should know what the
people are giving but none more important than to help our people know the
joy of giving with great generosity and responding to the mission that Jesus
Christ has set before each of our congregations.

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