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"Mega-churches," have made religion a big business.

"Mega-churches," have made religion a big business.

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news journal staff

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Money is the root of all evil.

The traditional Christian church service features singing of gospel songs, a preacher vigorously spouting hellfire and brimstone in the name of salvation, and inevitably the passing of the offering plate.

Last week, Pastor Creflo Dollar, an Atlanta-based televangelist and founder of the non-denominational World Changers Church International, caused quite a stir by passing an offering plate of epic proportions to his congregation.

Generally speaking, money raised by churches from the offering plate goes toward various expenses incurred such as the pastor’s salary.

Reverend Dollar, set about collecting the hefty sum of $65 million from his many followers, not to put toward missionary work or the building of new churches, but to buy a brand new airplane.

Dollar has since canceled his appeal for funds from his congregation after heavy backlash. Most wondered the same thing: why would a pastor need a $65 million private jet?

The simple answer is quite surprising. Organized religion in America has become big business. So much so, that the traditional Sunday services have given way to events that more resemble rock concerts than church services.

Gone are the days of friends and neighbors standing side-by-side and singing old-time gospel hymns to the accompaniment of an organ or piano.

Now raucous crowds fill standing room only stadiums, such as Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Lead by Pastor Joel Osteen, who has become quite famous in his own right, Lakewood averages an astounding 43,500 people in attendance each week, not to mention the untold numbers watching from home as Lakewood services are now nationally broadcast.

Every weekend similar, if not quite as large, congregations gather together in so-called “mega-churches.”

Mostly non-denominational, mega-churches have seen attendance numbers explode over the last several years even while attendance at more traditional, smaller services decline in membership.

Perhaps one way to explain the increase in popularity with mega-churches is the style in which the services are conducted. The music and presentation of the services are decidedly more modern. A more modern approach appeals to a younger crowd, naturally leading to larger crowds. Services are more focused on entertainment than they are on scripture.

Then there’s the money.

“Money makes the world go ‘round,” and naturally where there are huge crowds there will be large sums of money. This is why it’s not uncommon for well-known televangelists to also be millionaires.

Here’s the breakdown of Osteen and Dollar’s net-worth; Olsteen leads the way with $40 million, while Dollar trails with a modest $27 million.

Religion is big business in America, with mega-churches bringing in an average of around $6.5 million per year. Factor in the money from sales of self-help books and DVDs, billions of dollars are generated.

It seems that the people behind these mega-churches have lost sight of the principles they were founded on. How often do you hear of missionary work in impoverished countries, or right here at home? Instead, we hear about extravagant expenses on private jets, massive mansions, or television and book deals that generate even more revenue.

What we see now is the embarrassment of riches and excess that America has become. This is not a reflection of religion itself or the leaders of the various churches or their congregations. America is about the pursuit, acquisition, and spending of money to the extreme.

Unfortunately the power of money has now crossed over into the one area where it truly should not matter. Sure the mega-churches and their followers help those in need some, but in the grand scheme of things, what is done is merely a drop in the bucket when compared to what could be done to help the ones who need it the most.

The ironically named Creflo Dollar is not the first leader of a mega-church to spend extravagantly, nor will he be the last. On the surface raising money for a jet to travel the world doing missionary work and spreading the word of God, is a fantastic thing, and if Dollar’s pursuit of his namesake is his ultimate goal, then more power to him.

But, odds are there is more to this than meets the eye. Imagine how many other better ways $65 million could be spent. The good that, that large amount of money could do, literally knows no bounds.

Religion has become a big business, and unfortunately all about the money. Until things change, our country will continue to spiral downward, away from the moral high-ground America once proudly occupied.



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1 Timothy 6:10