New Covenant Publications - A Counter Cult Ministry

 

$ $ $ $ $ $

Your God and Your Money




Most conservative Bible scholars would agree that tithing is Scriptural. But the International Churches of Christ (ICC, “Boston Movement”) goes way beyond this in what is expected of their members concerning their finances. While there is nothing wrong with letting a need be known or asking for contributions, the way in which the ICC has demanded the so-called “special contribution” has often resulted in disciples being pressured or coerced in their giving. Ed Powers, former Evangelist of the Indianapolis Church of Christ has taught:

“There are many things that go on and have gone on in this church that really aren't up to us; things such as our special missions contribution. And there was a time when we had a special missions contribution because we had the idea we wanted to do it, because we wanted to be involved in the missions. Today we have a special missions contribution because we are expected to have a special missions contribution. The amount that we give is not an amount that is decided upon by us, by the leaders of this church or by you, the members. But it is an amount that is decided upon by the folks who oversee us in LA. This year the amount is $254,000. That's the amount that we are responsible for. I had no input into that. We weren't asked. We were assigned a time period in which it must be given. And it is expected.

Our giving per member is monitored on a weekly basis, the expectation is that we should give $30.00 per member. And we don't do that. We average giving about $25.00 per member. When you figure in the diversity of this church, the number of teens that we have, the number of senior citizens and the number of single moms and the factors that factor in, that's what we give. And we feel pressure as leaders. We feel pressure about that -- because the expectation is that we should be giving $30.00 a week....

...2 Cor. 9:7 tells us very clearly how we are to give. It says, "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." Now that's right there, guys. And the third thing that I think hinders us from being out from under the legalism that has bound us and robbed us of our joy is the practice of giving by compulsion. The Bible clearly says here that giving is not to be done reluctantly or under compulsion. My question to you is this: how can we as individuals give not under compulsion when we, as an entire church collectively are compelled to give a random, specified amount? The point, guys, is not that we don't want to give to missions. This church gave to missions big time before it was ever expected or required. This church still wants to give that the gospel message can be preached around the world. But we can no longer, and the staff agrees with me on this, we can no longer give credence to the practice of giving by compulsion. You say, well how have we done it? This is one of those areas where I have really tried to protect this church. I get up here and I try to explain things, because we are given an amount to give. You know, we have to give 15 times our regular weekly contribution. We are responsible for that amount. We had nothing to do with setting it. That's what we have to send.

So what do we do?We come to you and say, "Pledge, tell us what you're going to give to special contribution. "And we add it all up and come up about $100,000 short. (laughter) And then what do we do? Well, we get all the leaders together and say, "Go back to your people, go back to them again and ask them -- tell them we're not there yet -- ask them: can you do better? Can you give more?" And so we go back and say, "Can you do better?" Some people say, "Yeah, I can do better." Others say, "No, I can't, it's all I can do." And so we add it all up again. And we're still about $75,000 short. So we say, look, go back one more time and tell your people that you have to give your goal as a mission team and you have not done your part yet. Go back, talk to them again and get in there and talk to those people, you know, who you think maybe they have not given as much as they should have given. Have a personal talk with them and try to see if they can give more. So the leaders go back, and the leaders hate this, but they go back reluctantly and they come back to you and they have a talk with you, "Can you do better?" So we add it all up again and now we're a little closer but we're still not there. So we go back and say, "O.K., since we're not there yet, we got to go out and have a yard sale, we gotta have a garage sale. How many of you can work out at the Indianapolis 500 booth? How many of you can do the Gus Macker Tournament?Because we've got to get there, we've got to get our goal. And so people sign up to do things that they really don't want to do. And they go out and they do these things and they sweat their brains and we come back and we're still not there. We're still about $50,000 short. So what do we do then? Well, then we say, "Well, let's all go out and have a walkathon." And go knock on the doors in our neighborhood and ask our friends and neighbors, you know, to give money to God's work. And so we go out and do that, we knock on doors. Then we go out and walk around in circles, you know, on Sunday afternoon. And finally, we scrounge together enough money to send out to LA to meet our obligation. ...And I can no longer condone that practice of giving by compulsion.” (From a sermon by Ed Powers to the Indianapolis ICC congregation, Feb. 27, 1994. A transcript of the entire sermon may be found at: http://www.reveal.org/library/stories/churches/indy/unityor.html

Almost 600 sincere disciples in Indianapolis agreed with Ed Powers (and the Scriptures) on this and several other issues. Leaders of the Indianapolis Church of Christ desired to meet with Kip McKean to discuss these issues. Roger Hendricks and Ed Powers even offered to buy Kip’s plane ticket to come to Indianapolis to meet with them, to study these things out, and to seek to come to unity. But read What Happened? and The Truth About What Happened in Indianapolis to see how Kip and other ICC leaders treated the disciples at Indianapolis. While it may not have been the experience of all ICC members, many people who recently left the ICC also testify of pressure and compulsion being used to get the “special contribution”. ICC leaders seem to have an over preoccupation with people’s money. World Sector Leader Marty Fuqua has taught:

“As I looked at the West sector, it was made up of the weak and the weird. I said, `Listen, if you’re a white-collar person, don’t you ever bring in another blue-collar person. You reach out to white collar people. If you’re a blue-collar person, don’t you come in here with someone who doesn’t have a job. You reach out to blue-collar or white-collar.” (Marty Fuqua, “The Cutting Edge,” Boston Leadership Conference, Aug. 92)

Does Scripture teach that salvation is only for people who have jobs? Did Jesus teach His disciples to preach the Gospel only to specific economic classes of people? Does God discriminate or show favoritism? (Js 2:1-9) Daniel Ang, former leader in the London Church of Christ says,

“I disagree with the way they are ...manipulating people to give the money. For example when I was in the group, for all the seven years I was with them, they would always teach me to teach people that before they can be baptized we’ve got to talk to them about their money.” (Daniel Ang as interviewed in the TV News Documentary “Newsnight”, BBC/London, 10/05/93)

Steve Peregrim was a member of the Boston Church of Christ for five years. He says,

“When I first joined they wanted to see my checkbook, to go over my credit statements, to go over my bills, what I made. ...They used a Scripture that adds up to saying that you needed to be a good steward of God’s money, when in fact what it was was they would redesign your accounting system so that they would get their share and they could control how you spent your money.”(Steve Peregrim, WCVB/Boston, “Evening News”, 04/18/93)

WCVB/Boston “Evening News” reported:

“It’s not the mandatory 10% tithing nor the periodic special contributions - 15, 20 times the regular giving that upsets former members, it’s the brow- beating, the attitude that no excuses will be accepted when it comes to money. It all adds up, many say, to a non-stop harangue.” In the same News program Steve Peregrim goes on to say, “They will disavow any kind of forcing action. But what do you call it when you go to somebody and you keep pounding on them and pounding on them, telling them they’re not doing God’s will.”  (WCVB/Boston, “Evening News”, 04/18/93)

“Secondly, we give the contribution in the discipleship group. You say, ‘Well, won’t everybody see what’s happening?’  Mmmhmm. Mmmhmm! And we make sure they give their tithe. You say, ‘Why do you do that?’  Because the Bible says in Malachi 3, if you don’t tithe you’re robbing God. And we don’t want anybody to go to hell cause they didn’t, they robbed God. You say, ‘That’s awful hard-line.’ You bet your booties it’s hard-line. Someone doesn’t give, we ask why. We know who didn’t give by the end of the discipleship group. Questions are asked. We have almost a hundred percent giving in our church. Someone doesn’t give, they’ve got some attitudes.” (Kip McKean, Malachi: God’s Radical Demand for Remaining Radical, Manila World Leadership Conference, 1994)

Kip McKean teaches that tithing and giving of contributions is to be monitored by church leaders. This in spite of the fact that Jesus taught that giving is supposed to be a personal matter between a person and God. (Mt 6:1-4) Besides, you can’t keep people from going to hell because you MAKE (force) them to do something. If their heart is not there it won’t matter. God judges the heart of a person.(1Ch 28:9, Jer 17:10, Pv 17:3, Mt 5:28, Lk 16:15, 1Thess 2:4, Rev 2:23) And if you are “making sure” people tithe, by whatever methods being used, then, of course, you will have almost 100% giving. But again, what does it matter if it is being done under compulsion.

A former member of the London Church of Christ reported:

“When we’d meet in mid-week...we knew exactly what each person was giving and what each individual was expected to give. And as a treasurer I had to make sure that money was taken in. And the leader would come to me at the end of the evening and see - had we met our goal. And if we hadn’t then I had to call all the Bible Group Leaders together and ask them to foot the shortfall from their own pocket. And if there was still a shortfall, myself and my fellow treasurer we had to dip into our pockets and make up the goal.” (BBC/London, “Newsnight”, 10/05/93)

The following is an excerpt from the article Additional Quotes in which Kip McKean, concerning “special contributions”, is quoted as saying:

“The first year we got there we wanted to be self supporting. January, with 154 disciples, I had to go to the church and say, ‘Let’s give a 25 times contribution’. We wanted to start a Latin ministry that May. We had to give a 3 times contribution. That fall we had to give a 20 times contribution to Manila. The people that were there January one of 1990, that year in special contributions alone had to give a FORTY-EIGHT TIMES CONTRIBUTION!!! (Kip McKean, Malachi: God’s Radical Demand for Remaining Radical, Manila World Leadership Conference, 1994)

“When the first special contribution came, Al, wanting God to know his heart, and with the need for world missions, sold his house. Just like in the Bible, Acts 2, Acts 4. But today we’re not selling houses, we’re buying them. Now if you’re buying a house, how you going to ask someone to sell theirs for a special missions contribution?” (Kip McKean, Malachi: God’s Radical Demand for Remaining Radical, Manila World Leadership Conference, 1994)

And in reference to his view of giving (and living) sacrificially, Kip stated, in this very same speech, “Our problem is, we don’t want to demand it of ourselves and so we don’t want to demand it of the people.” (Kip McKean, ibid)   Where does Scripture teach that the leaders of a church have the right or the authority to demand specified amounts, in reference to contributions, from it’s members? Where does Scripture teach that leaders of a church have the right to be asking anyone to “sell” their house for a special contribution? And where does Paul ever say that he had to ask a congregation to give a 25 times contribution, or that a congregation had to give a 48 times contribution?NOTE: a 48 times contribution means 48 times a congregation’s normal tithe.

The underlying pressure and manipulation placed on the members of the ICC to give beyond their tithe, and sometimes beyond their means is subtle and calculating as is evident in the following quote from a book written by Gordon Ferguson, elder, evangelist and teacher in the Boston Church. Mind you, these are side notes of a chapter on the subject of the prostitute riding the beast in the book of Revelation.

“How important are material possessions to you? How important is comfort and ease of life-style? Do you have the same attitude toward these things as God does? How willing would you be to sacrifice your present life-style if doing so would further the spread of the kingdom? How sensitive are you to appeals for increased contributions in the church? Do you need help with your heart in these matters? Will you ask for it?” (Gordon Ferguson, Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, Discipleship Publications International, 1996, p 140)

First of all, what does any of this have to do with the prostitute in Revelation?! Secondly, I find it appalling that someone in the leadership would ask these questions of the ordinary members, when many in the leadership (according to the following quotes) are living life-styles of “comfort” and “ease”.

“Back in the early days of Boston, young interns under my charge, they’d always be borrowing cars. Right, Frank? Now we own two and sometimes three cars.” (Kip McKean, Malachi: God’s Radical Demand for Remaining Radical, Manila World Leadership Conference, 1994)

“Back in the early days of the ministry, I used to pay our young interns $700 a month. And Bob and I thought we were being very generous. That’s about $8,000 a year....Now we’ve got evangelists making $80,000 and you are not grateful or happy for what you have.You don’t have enough!” (Kip McKean, ibid)

Proof of leadership lifestyles (at least the value of their homes and affluent areas in which they live) can be verified, as they are a matter of public record. Such information can be easily obtained by visiting the Tax Assessor’s office of the city in which the house is located, or by checking real-estate publications that have a recent sales section. One needs only the address, the date of purchase, and the current issue at the time the house was sold. The following are three examples of this, obtained from the Boston area.


Albert Baird (Elder and teacher)
758 Maryland Ave
El Segundo, Ca.
Rents home / assessed value: $365,512


Cory Blackwell (Super Region Leader)
5424 W 61st Street
Los Angeles, Ca.
Purchased: 8/97    price: $385,000


Gordon Ferguson (Congregational Elder, teacher)
27 Hitching Post Drive
Walpole, Ma.
Purchased: 4/30/96    price: $235,000


Robert Gempel (World Sector leader, HOPE Worldwide)
713 Woodcrest Circle
Radnor, Pa.
Purchased: 1992    price: $412,500


Kevin McDaniel (Super Region Leader)
6 Harbell Street
Lexington, Ma.
Purchased: 4/29/96    price: $242,000


Douglas Arthur (Super Region Leader)
1201 Old Stable Road
McLean, Va.
Purchased: 5/8/97    price: $470,000


Douglas Arthur also owns a second home (9406 Vernon Drive, Great Falls, Va.) purchased in 1993 for $290,000. And these are just a few examples. Further information on the real estate holdings of ICC leadership (and the International Churches of Christ), please read our article entitled Leadership Lifestyles of the ICC.

According to what Kip is saying in the previous two quotes, and according to the information that is easily accessible to anyone who really wants to know the truth, Gordon Ferguson should be putting his questions to the leadership. It appears that material possessions, comfort, and ease of life-style are very important to them (buying houses [from 1990 to 1997] in excess of $200,000, owning two and three cars, evangelists making $80,000 a year in 1994). And according to Kip, some of them are not satisfied with what they do have. It seems that those who are living sacrificially are the ordinary members who live communally (sometimes as many as 10 people in an apartment).

While there are disciples who are well off, financially, many are not so fortunate. Many of these are student members who, already on tight budgets and struggling to make ends meet, are put under even more financial pressure by constant demands from the ICC.

Calvin Kwan was the Sector Administrator for the Campus Sector in Long Beach, California. One of his responsibilities as Sector Administrator was collecting contributions from student members. Through doing this he got to know many of these members personally and, at the request of leaders, helped many of them to budget their finances, etc. Mr. Kwan became concerned with the condition in which some of these student disciples live (especially in contrast to the leaders). Some were eating only one meal a day because that is all they could afford. Others were not able to take classes or buy books for classes. Still others were doing poorly in school because they could not afford to buy things like eyeglasses, etc., etc. He discussed with leaders the need of the church to spend more of its resources in helping meet the legitimate needs of some of its members.

One reason Mr. Kwan recently left was this contrast he witnessed between lifestyles of some of the leaders and the sacrificial (and financially struggling) lifestyles of many regular members, and the leaders lack of willingness to help those members who were truly in need. See his story on the Internet at http://www.reveal.org/library/stories/people/ckwan.html He may be reached at calvin@reveal.org

Many people have had similar experiences and have made similar observations through the years. In their television documentary on the ICC, “Newsnight” reported:

“Humility isn’t the first word which springs to mind when describing where the Church of Christ’s shepherd lives. Just 200 yards from the Pacific in California’s exclusive Manhattan Beach is the home from which spiritual guru Kip McKean runs his multi-million pound empire. It’s not a mansion but in this part of town houses are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. International leaders say the church rather than personal wealth is the main motivation. But they certainly aren’t sacrificing as much as their followers think they are. In 1990 members were told the average full-time leader earns 161 pounds a week, 644 pounds a month. But this internal wages document [video of document shown on TV screen] shows some were paid many times more than that. One Evangelist for instance received a total of 3,250 pounds gross a month. The church says there was no intention to deceive. But there are other hidden extras too. This tropical island was used for an expensive Leaders’ Conference and holiday. The top men have also received large amounts in expenses and advances, almost 13,000 pounds in one case.”   (BBC/London, “Newsnight”, 10/05/93)

In the spring of 98 Kip Mckean moved into a new home, a roomy condominium in highly affluent Pacific Palisades, California. The condo was purchased by the ICC for $480,000.00! According to Al Baird (elder and spokesperson for the ICC) it was purchased as a parsonage for the lead evangelist of the LA church. He also stated in a published article to ICC members that “To a college student or a single adult or someone not familiar with LA real estate prices, it may sound expensive; but that is just what real estate costs in West LA and many other parts of LA”. This is true IF you are speaking of real estate in posh, affluent areas such as Pacific Palisades or Brentwood, where many celebrities and movie stars live. But there are many areas of LA where $480,000.00 is not by any means the norm for real-estate. This statement made by leadership is misleading. This is quite verifiable by checking real estate publications for the LA and surrounding areas. I would be curious to find out what percentage of the membership in LA live in affluent areas such as Pacific Palisades, or own homes valued in excess of $400,000.00

Al Baird also stated that, “the McKeans pay fair-market-value rent.” What he did not say is that the McKeans also receive a nice housing allowance with which to pay that rent. According to an ex-leader of the ICC, Rick Bauer, those in leadership receive housing allowances, travel, entertainment, and other allowances which often doubles the total compensation package. So not only did the cost of the condominium come out of the contributions and tithing of the members, so does the housing allowance which pays the rent. Sounds like a sweet deal to me.

In addition, for the last few years, up through the end of this school year (98-99), Kip has been sending his three children to an exclusive private school in the affluent area of Brentwood. The name of the school is Brentwood Academy. Tuition for this last year was $12,800.00 per student. This brings the total cost of Kips’ children’s education to $50,000.00 per year.

We are not saying that it is “illegal” to buy large expensive homes, or to live in highly affluent areas - but it is highly unethical and hypocritical for leaders to continually call and expect the rank and file members to live financially sacrificial lives while they, themselves, are doing the complete opposite.

Ironically, the following two quotes are from an article in a weekly bulletin issued by the South Florida church of the ICC in February of 95, entitled “Your God and Your Money $$$”.

“The religious and secular leaders of the world are consumed with money, comfort, and aesthetics. Many are turned off to the true God because of their misuse and greed.”

“Our personal use of money displays the heart behind the choices. The same is true with churches. You can tell what they value by where their money goes.”

Responding to the accusations of hypocritical living by leadership, Al Baird stated, “Earlier last year we commissioned an independent law firm in Washington DC who specializes in non-profit groups to do a study on our salary and benefits package for all our US employees”. Upon completion of that study, the law firm, Gammon & Grange, P.C., issued a letter to the ICC stating,

“We compared the 1997 compensation of all 1445 U.S. employees of the ICC affiliates to compensation provided for comparable positions in similar organizations, using ICC job classifications, job descriptions, and total compensation. Based on this comparison, the compensation of the ICC affiliate employees appears overall to be fair and reasonable.”

Why is the ICC comparing itself to secular and religious organizations which they, themselves, have labeled as “consumed with money, comfort, and aesthetics”? In short, they are comparing the compensation of those in the “Kingdom” (“God’s modern day movement”) to the compensation of those in the world. To the world, the compensation paid to ICC leadership does seem fair and reasonable. But, again, these are the same people that the ICC labels as “consumed with money, comfort, and aesthetics”. It is also ironic to see the ICC comparing itself to other churches (in the world) when some in ICC leadership teach the opposite.

“Our job is not to compare ourselves to other churches, our job is to compare ourselves to the standard of the word of God. And when we don’t measure up to the standard of the word of God, we see something is wrong and we’ve got to get the spiritual help and training and discipleship that we need to really get things turned around.” (John Hafer, Getting Tied In, Oahu Church of Christ Aug 30, 1998)

Does Kip’s salary and lifestyle measure up to the standard of the word of God? Do the salaries and lifestyles of others in leadership measure up to the standard of the word of God? If the ICC leadership is so proud of the findings of the law firm, and if the salaries of leadership are indeed “fair and reasonable”, why aren’t their salaries, and the different allowances which they receive beyond their salaries, published to the ordinary members. Kip McKean has stated,

“The financial books and how we spend our money are open to any member at any time.” (Kip McKean, Revolution Through Restoration, UpsideDown Magazine, April 92, p 13)

Let Kip to be a man of his word. According to the laws that govern how churches are to operate, the ICC is required to disclose to members, upon request, all details pertaining to compensation packages of all those in leadership. This includes individual salaries, expense accounts, housing allowances, clothing allowances, car allowances, entertainment and travel allowances, etc. Failure to do so not only violates the law, it makes Kip out to be a liar.

And if it is true that “Our personal use of money displays the heart behind the choices”, then what does the ICC leadership’s personal use of money display about their hearts? You owe it to yourself to find out.

for more information contact New Covenant Publications at our e-mail address: or write to: New Covenant Publications, P.O. Box 167, Radio City Station, NY NY

 

Copyright © 1999 New Covenant Publications