INTEGRITY & Are Pastors Making Status Statements with Their Sartorial Splendor? A guest article by Tom Crenshaw.

My Leadership Thought for March 24, 2021 by Tom Crenshaw.

The other day l received an e-mail article from a good  friend. The headline intrigued me: “Preachers and their $5,000 sneakers: Why one man started an Instagram account showing churches’ wealth.”  

The article by Ben Kirby documents well known pastors whose names many would recognize (I choose not to mention them, but should you be interested, you can go to the link at the end of this message for the article). The story spoke of pastors wearing new designer suits in the $ 2,000’s, sporting $5,000 sneakers,  and $ 2,ooo crocodile belts. 

The writer simply asks, “How much is too much? Is it okay to get rich off of preaching about Jesus? Is it okay to be making twice as much as the medium income of your congregation?  Kirby  highlights a nationwide trend of pastors wearing oversized glasses, tight jeans and pricey kicks, who look  like they belonged at your local craft cocktail watering hole instead of church.”  

As one who does much of his clothes shopping at the Calico Cat and Monarch thrift stores, and who gladly welcomes his family’s hand me downs,  not because I am cheap, but because I never met a bargain that I didn’t like,  I was surprised by the lengths some well-known pastors would go to provide  statements of their status. 

My e-mail friend who sent me the article reminded me of the words of well-known evangelical speaker Tony Campolo who happened to be speaking at a church I was pastoring. I was excited to have him share the pulpit after having heard him at an outdoor Creation Festival in the early 90’s when his message on discipleship profoundly impacted my life. 

I  quickly discovered that inviting Tony to speak was a dangerous proposition; it doesn’t come without risk as  Tony is as unbridled as can be and you take your chances for you can never be sure who he is going to challenge, and yes, even offend. Tony has never been known to mince words when talking about the cost of discipleship.

Midway through the message, Tony asked. “If Jesus had been given $40,000 and was living in Haiti, would he have spent it on the purchase of  a new BMW? It was a penetrating question, designed to make some people extremely uncomfortable, and I am sure it did. I still remember wincing and slinking down behind the pulpit hoping to hide my eyes from the icy stares from some of our more wealthy church members. 

My friend remembered the message and reminded me of it, and the fact that I even invited him back for a second time a few years later.  I e-mailed these words back to him:  “Unfortunately, it is so true that there are well respected pastors who are milking their flocks……. Thanks for sending me the article and the reminder of Tony’s message. Don’t you ever go out and buy a new Beemer or a Mercedes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, that is, unless you want to be the subject in my next Leadership Thought.” 

The writer of Proverbs reminds us “Trust in your money and down you go! Trust in God and flourish as a tree!” No, the Bible is not suggesting it is wrong to have and enjoy wealth, but only that one needs to be careful how you use it, for wrongly used, it will destroy you. 

Pastor Rick Warren  writes in one of his recent  Pastors’ Newletters, “Money shows what you love most, (and) shows you what your trust most……….. There is a direct connection between maturity and money. There is a direct connection between God’s blessing in your life and what you do with your cash. Don’t miss the connection. How you handle money determines how much God can bless your life.” The bible says, “If you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own” (Luke 16 :11-12)? 

I know I may have lost some friends among those of you who own and drive new and expensive cars but having been to Haiti several times on mission trips I don’t apologize for the challenge. It is easy to wear WWJD bracelets on our wrists; it’s another thing to be good stewards of worldly wealth.  

I don’t begrudge any one for the money they make or how they choose to spend it. However, let me provide one last suggestion: “Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim with new wine” (Proverbs 3:9-10). 

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