BROOKLYN (Workers World Today) – Once upon a time across the American landscape, Sunday mornings would be the designated day of the week when families would put on their Sunday best and together go to their neighborhood church. The priest would personally greet each member of his small congregation. Today, in the year 2019, the same parishioners are witnessing a dramatic metamorphosis within the perimeters of that same church.
According to Karl A. Grosvenor, in his book, It’s Not for Sale, an amazingly well-researched analytical book, “Ministers now are acquiring football stadiums in which to conduct their services…use inspirational speaking and preaching…hoping audience members will become… regular financial contributors …televangelists own summer and winter homes, luxury cars, yachts, and private jets.” This certainly is not the stereotypical image of your typical minister; as you can see, televangelism is a very lucrative business indeed. Just flip on the TV and see the gargantuan number of men and women mesmerized by these charismatic preachers. There is something morally questionable about the population of today’s preachers, these televangelists who simultaneously encourage these men and women to accept God in their lives while simultaneously becoming so affluent.
Grosvenor, who I interviewed on Writers’ Café Radio Show, has opened our minds, hearts, and eyes to a shocking and disturbing reality that has dawned in today’s religious community—mega-churches that have amassed huge fortunes while their parishioners are still suffering from a plethora of woes that plague our society. One can only speculate on why the church is not helping to alleviate their suffering. Is it because they are only interested in lining their bank accounts? “Show me a televangelist who lives in a rented apartment or owns a modest…home and one car and I will show a person dedicated to the work of God and the spiritual needs of the people.” But this is not the home environment of these televangelists.
Instead of just passing the donation plate in the pews, that fundraising function has been replaced by that universal money machine, the ATM, that is strategically positioned within the lobbies of some churches. An illustration in his book vividly shows a photo of a pre-televangelist elderly couple, who with bowed heads, pass a tin plate with dollar bills scattered about. I doubt very much if hundred-dollar bills are scattered about. If you attend a service and apologetically say you have no money, the ATM will lend a helping hand and remember, this universal money machine “does not dispense small change.” These churches expedite the donation process by facilitating the process whereby we can part with money with ease since we usually don’t carry cash in our wallets.
Should church interiors be dominated by ATMs that you usually see positioned near the cash register in the local supermarket? We buy food in the supermarket– we should not be buying spiritual guidance. “It relegates the church as a place of business rather than a place of worship…If what they are selling represents the truth who can determine its cost or value? Can the truth really be bought or sold?”
Generously interspersed throughout the book are biblical passages that demonstrate Grosvenor’s exemplary knowledge of the Bible and cements in the reader’s mind, the questionable modus operandi of televangelists.
The agenda for those mega-churches today no longer resembles the churches we recall from our younger days. ”Gone are hymnbooks and congregational singing; in are jumbo screens.”
Alluding to a page of the Bible: “During Jesus’ ministry…He performed many miracles. He raised the dead, healed the sick, caused the lame to walk and made the blind to see but never did He impose any requirement.” Today you want to be healed; a drop in the donation plate is a prerequisite. Again, another biblical allusion. “In the Bible, we read of that instance when wealth took preeminence over worship. ‘And Jesus went into the temple of God and cast out all [of] them that sold…in the temple and overthrew the table to the money changers. And said unto them “It is written my house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves (Matt. 21:12-13 KJV). Yet this is the scenario of the mega-churches.
“The Book of Malachi explains the basic principle of the tithe. The tithe (tenth) was a small part of the harvest that was required to be given as…an offering to God—not for His personal use but for the benefit of others.” Today the tithe is in fact used for the personal use of who? The ministers. Grosvenor offers an instance when one of these mega- preachers audaciously appealed to his congregation for $65,000 for a new jet. Why? He justified his request in this fashion: “so he could continue doing God’s work around the world.” What happened to booking a flight on a more affordable and less luxurious mode of air travel? In another sermon, the same preacher scolded female parishioners about their lack of tithing. ”You are walking in here wearing your…stylish dresses while not paying your tithes. That is God’s money you are spending.” Do you think these women rose in unison and walked out? According to Grosvenor ,tithes are not meant to be a burden on anyone. Tithes should be given …as …appreciation for all the blessings God has bestowed on us.”
Grosvenor astutely observed that “the apostle Paul expressed a quality that I find lacking in many evangelists today. Paul was aware that his followers were willing to provide him with assistance but because of their own inadequacies did not always find that possible. Yet, Paul continued his mission without complaining.” Are the ministers in mega-churches so understanding?
Grosvenor poses a very important question. ”With so many…televangelists providing services on television and in stadiums, why is there so much hatred and violence in the country… preachers seem to be more interested in tithes than in the spiritual, psychological and physical condition of their listeners.”
His cover photo says it all—a Bible horizontally lays on a table alongside a zigzag pile of coins and the epigraph that opens his book— “buy the truth and sell it not”. (Proverbs)
I Love this book! It’s an easy well thought-out read. It addresses many of the questions and conversations we have all had concerning many of the Televangelists, especially those of the Word of Faith movement. Those that prey on the gullible and the unlearned of God’s word.
This book is a well-written exposé of those self-serving Televangelists who divert hard-earned church tithes and offerings into their own pockets, indulging in extreme luxury instead of using the money to spread the word of God, which, as the author so aptly states, “it’s not for sale”.
Marilyn Silverman is a writer, assistant editor of Caribbean American Weekly, host of Writers Cafe Radio Show, and Panelist (How to market and promote your book: Inaugural Black Book Expo, New York).