Many of you, along with me, have experienced growing discomfort with fund-raising methods used by Christian organizations. Because recent events concerning television evangelists are fresh on our minds, it is easy to single them out. But they are not alone. From the smallest local church to the largest parachurch organization, fund raising is under fire.

Yet, in spite of daily reminders to the contrary, most Christian fund raisers do their work with integrity. Consider, for example, the stellar financial record of the Billy Graham organization, the outstanding success of Christian colleges and universities, and the quiet work of Bible societies and missions agencies who have covered the globe with the Word of God. And for every pastor who seems overly concerned with money, a hundred eschew whatever material gains are afforded them. As God reminded Elijah, “I have yet seven thousand faithful Israelites who have not yet bowed the knee to Baal.”

We need also to be reminded that it is the sensitive conscience formed in part by Christian faith that has led to this outrage from the American public. The public is judging us by our own biblical standards—a testimony to the influence of the gospel.

The Old, Old Story

Yet the real tragedy is not the greed and aggrandizement of some Christian leaders. That is really old news. In the ancient church, traveling evangelists gladly preached whatever gospel their hearers liked, moving from congregation to congregation, and feeding upon the generosity and gratitude of Christian people. Eventually, churches laid down rules to control the greed of those who were fleecing the people of God. Martin Luther found it necessary to carry on a many-sided battle against the selling of ...

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