When Ministries Become Big Business

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fred-deruvo-dir

There is something afoot in America and throughout the world that has actually been going on for quite some time.  Unfortunately, most within the visible Church seem completely unaware of it.

People take the time to look to leaders of ministries – whether they are church or para-church organizations – to give them the Word of God.  They want to be spoon-fed and told what they should believe.  They want to trust in what they are hearing.  They look up to the people in the pulpits and heads of large ministries and trust that what they hear those people say is the truth, so help them God.

But there is a problem; a huge problem.  Too many within Christendom do not think for themselves and in fact, they do not want to think for themselves.  They only open their Bibles on Sundays or when they attend some conference on the Bible or the End Times.  When they return home, they toss the Bible back on the shelf, waiting until the following Sunday or for that approaching convention before taking it down again.

Too many within Christendom prefer to feel good about their faith, in spite of what is happening throughout the world, including America.  It has become too burdensome to read the Bible to gain insight and wisdom.  It’s far easier to trust in the viewpoints of others as they tell it.  We want to go through life laughing and feeling good and so we naturally seek out those who will provide us what we seek.  We see this phenomenon not only occurring within churches, but within para-church ministries.  People look up to the pastors and leaders as if they are the final arbiters of truth and realism.

Added to this problem, we see that there are any numbers of ministries today that have grown to become super-sized.  By that I mean, they have become businesses; big business.  They began small, depending upon the Lord to show them the way.  After awhile, they began to “gain respect” within the visible Church.  They then grew into something far larger than what they had started out being and now there seems to be no turning back.  In fact, the very thought of it to them means a falling away because success within Christendom – like in the world – is often measured in size of ministry, not actual numbers of people who turn to the Lord for salvation.  We forget that there were many times that people actually turned away from Jesus.  If we judged His ministry on the basis of the way we judge ministries today, we would say He was indeed a complete failure at times.  Yet, spiritually speaking, we know this is the furthest thing from the truth.

In other words, at least some of these ministries have ceased to be ministries per se and have become huge non-profit businesses.  They still think and act as though they are merely ministries, yet in many cases, it is clear that their motivation is no longer relegated to the realm of ministering to people and certainly not ministering to the Lord or bringing glory to His Name.  They are far more concerned with the bottom line.  What sells?  How can they make a larger return on their investment, whether the investment is in books, videos, music, or speaking engagements?

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The decisions many of these ministries make are based solely on dollars and sense, though they would very likely deny that.  The questions asked are questions like, what will bring in the best return for our investment?  That is not a question a Christian asks.  It is a question a corporation asks.  The excuses are given that they must have a return on their investment in order to further the kingdom of God as if God needs money in order to save people.

But just a quick look at the type of man who Jesus called to be among His apostles tells us that He had a far higher concern than simply marketing Himself.  Had He been concerned about getting the most for His investment, He likely would have gone with some of the Pharisees.  After all, they were already well-known among people and either hated or highly respected for the position they held in the community.

Jesus was not concerned about adding any of those men to His ranks.  If they came to Him with the desire to follow Him, that’s one thing, but He was not about to add any Pharisees or other religious leaders to His small band of men that changed the world.  Can you imagine what would have happened had He done so?  Of course, He did not nor ever would have added any of them simply because of what they believed and what they stood for, as well as their own view of self-importance they carried.

Paul is exceedingly clear that the time just prior to the beginnings of what is called The Tribulation in Scripture, the world will see and experience a great falling away.  This apostasy is inevitable.  It will happen and it is now happening.  It references a time in which people will no longer care about the truth and prefer lies instead.  These lies tickle their ears.  “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,” (2 Timothy 4:3).  This is the major factor in precipitating this falling away from the truth.

This is how Paul describes it:

“Do not let anyone deceive you in any way, for it shall not come unless the rebellion takes place first and the man of sin, who is destined for destruction, is revealed,” 2 Thessalonians 2:3.  The word “rebellion” here is translated from the Greek that literally means to apostasize, or fall away from the truth.  This is tragic and too often, it doesn’t happen over night, but over time.  That it happens at all is the tragic part.

Why does it happen?  Apart from the aforementioned quest for dollars, there are other reasons, but they all eventually point back to the dollar simply because they are derivatives of it.  Once ministries grow in size, they often begin hiring people.  The more they grow, the more people they need to have on-board because of the variety of responsibilities that have become part of running such a large organization.

This not only applies to ministries, but also to publishers of Christian books.  Too often, books are published by Christian book publishers based not on content, but on name recognition.  Think of some of the well-known authors that are alive today and it goes without saying that the next book they write will automatically become published simply because of who they are, not necessarily what they stand for within Christian circles.  Too many books today that are on the best seller’s list are nothing more than spiritual pabulum.  They appeal to people because they tickle people’s ears and nothing more.  The end result is that the person reading the book feels good, but since they are not learning the truth of Scripture, that’s all that happens and that is unfortunately, very fleeting.  People who live to have their ears tickled must constantly be looking for other sources that will continue tickling.

The Bible doesn’t tickle.  It causes growth; true growth.  Sometimes the path to growth is painful, but it is always worth it.

Consider bookstores that sell Christian-related materials.  The same applies to them that applies to some of these mega-ministries mentioned above.  Why?  Because these bookstores are a business, first and foremost.  Go into most Christian-type bookstores and you will see books of all sorts (though of late, you seem to see fewer and fewer critical commentaries and far more fluff), but you will often see far more than just books.  

Whether it’s “New Testa-MINTS” or other schlocky candy and items for sale, the truth seems to be that with many businesses that claim to be somehow connected with Christianity, the bottom line is that profits need to be made.  In some sense, we understand this when we are talking about businesses that begin as such and remain that way, though there is still something very odd about it.  I also find it fascinating when I go to bookstores that sell books by well-known authors who tend to disagree with one another.  In matters of doctrine, both authors cannot be correct, yet that store will stock the books because each author has his or her own set of followers and the store knows that those books will often fly off the shelves.

It’s a bit more difficult to appreciate a ministry that seems to grow so large it has little recourse than to move toward ecumenism or some other aptly known “ism” that simply means the ministry has now gone off the path toward apostasy.  There is nothing wrong with getting along with people.  There is something drastically wrong with compromising solid beliefs in exchange for something that smacks of apostasy, all in the name of “getting along.”  We are seeing this at alarming rates; churches who wind up embracing something questionable at best because it seems to be the most expedient thing to do to remain “alive” and “growing.”  Jesus would have none of that and neither did Paul.  When Peter tried that in the book of Acts, Paul stepped right in to lovingly confront Peter and to let him know in no uncertain terms that his compromising was simply wrong (cf. Galatians 2:11).  Paul didn’t mince words with Peter, trying to save his feelings.  He did what was necessary to keep truth afloat.

Ask yourself the question that if Jesus were physically present with us in this world today, how do you believe He would react to many of these ministries/businesses that exist in His Name?  Would He appear on the TBN network for instance?  Would He hobnob with people who had questionable stances, doctrinally?  Would He fear the Roman Catholic Church or Islam, or other large religious organizations?

Would Jesus purchase and own a Christian bookstore? Would He do His best to build His ministry so that it got so large that it resembled a Fortune 500 company?

Look, do we really need to ask these questions? The truth of the matter is that judging by how Jesus lived while He physically traveled this earth, it is obvious that He never marketed Himself.  The Holy Spirit did that.  Jesus never went out of His way to find donors for His ministry.  He never hired anyone or made them officers on His ministry’s board of directors.

This is part of the big problem today with ministries.  Living in the United States, and under the tax laws of same, I started a non-profit ministry and did so under the guidelines of the IRS.  This is the law of the land and while I realize that some of my brothers and sisters in Christ reject this idea, that’s up to them.  They have their reasons and for them, those reasons are good.  I’m concerned only with myself and my life before God.

I went with a non-profit because it seemed like the right thing to do in a land governed by the tax code.  It allows people to donate to Study-Grow-Know Ministries if they feel so led to do just that and receive a legal notification from me each year that their donations were received and they have a right to a tax deduction.

One of the questions that I had to answer while filling out all the paperwork for the IRS was whether or not anyone in Study-Grow-Know Ministries would be on the payroll.  The answer is a resounding NO. I have no plans to pay myself or anyone associated with my board or this ministry and I clearly stated that on the application.  Any and all money that is taken in through donations is used for the direct purchase of radio time and publishing our books.  That’s it.  No one gets paid.  There is no 401k set up for either me or my wife or anyone else connected to the ministry.  There is no expense account to dip into.  My wife and I work outside this ministry, which provides us with money to live.

Some might ask, why do I need a board of directors?  Isn’t the fact that God is overseeing the ministry good enough by itself? In some ways, yes, of course it is, however, there is nothing wrong with having a group of other Christians (hand-picked by me) to be on the board so that I can go to them for advise if necessary.  It forces me to be accountable; humanly accountable.

In the United States, all religious non-profits must have a board of directors, but to see some of the people that are on some of these boards of these giant ministries, the question becomes why was that person chosen to be on a board for a ministry that supposedly represents Jesus Christ?  It’s a very good question and one that prompts sincere soul-searching, or at least should, for the ministry in question.

I know some religious (even Christian) non-profits that have politicians on their boards.  Others have individuals who have clearly strayed away from the true gospel of Jesus Christ and have embraced a form of ecumenism.  One can only be left to wonder why, in some cases, there is a need to have such “big name” celebrities on a board, if not for contacts and marketing purposes, as if God is completely unable to provide for that ministry, if in fact, it is His ministry in the first place?

There are too many ministries today that have become extremely large and have little choice anymore but to stay the course, even if that means getting into bed with the latest ecumenical flavor of the month.  They have bills to pay, salaries to provide for, and the idea of not being able to hop a plane to attend the latest religious convention is not something they wish to deal with, so they continue to play it safe.  They would prefer to offend as few as possible and try to please as many people as they can because it is important to keep those donations coming in.  I don’t see that in Scripture, do you?  It did not seem to be something Jesus concerned Himself with, though I’m sure He spent much time in quiet, private prayer about it.

What many seem unaware of is that Paul speaks of a falling away that will (and is) occur, as previously mentioned.  It is a surety and something that can neither be denied or ignored.  It’s happening and it is unfortunate to see some of the “big names” within Christendom leading the way toward rebellion.  The stage is being set for the Antichrist to make his appearance.  There’s certainly some time yet, because according to the birth pangs that must occur prior to the beginning of the Tribulation, we still need to see six of them before the Tribulation begins.  Only three have occurred.

We need to see the Northern Invasion spoken of by the prophet Ezekiel (38-39).  This attempted invasion will be led by Gog of Magog and together with a number of other nations that surround Israel from all directions, the attempted invasion of Israel will begin.  When these armies reach the Mountains of Israel, God will step in and take care of the problem.  Why?  For the sake of His Name.  Ezekiel makes it CLEAR that God defends Israel not because of Israel, but because of His own precious and holy Name.

After this attempted invasion occurs and is soundly routed, we will need to see the next birth pang; a one-world government.  That’s coming too.  How do I know? Because it says so in Daniel 7:23-24.  This final Gentile kingdom will engulf the entire world.  Daniel is not simply seeing the “known” world, but he is being told about what will affect the entire world.  The world will become one.

There are people who are completely unable to see what is happening in the United States and throughout the world, even though it is right under their noses.  We are quickly moving toward a coalesced one-world government.  It will happen because God’s Word says it will happen! People can deny it all they want, but the truth is there for anyone who cares to notice.

Once we get to the one-world government stage, we see the emergence of the “ten toes” spoken of in Daniel 7:24a.  It makes sense that the one-world kingdom would be broken down into ten manageable sections after becoming one, with one individual overseeing that portion.

By the way, if you think this is far-fetched, the infamous group, the Club of Rome took the entire world and broke it up into ten sections some years ago.  Go ahead and do a search on it and you’ll very likely find a copy of the same document that I found.  Question: why would any “club” need to spend their time breaking the world up into ten parts?  Plans for the future maybe?

Once we get to this ten section stage, that is the time we will see the Antichrist begin his ascent to his throne.  This would be the perfect time because he will now see exactly who stands in his way and it is a matter of getting rid of some of them (three to be exact) in order to cause the remaining seven to fall in line.

The Antichrist’s rise to power is foretold in Daniel 7:24b and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3.  He is at first the eleventh little horn and after getting rid of three other rulers, becomes the eighth.

Because of the current darkness of the days and times, it is very likely that the individual the Bible refers to as the Antichrist is alive at this very moment.  Who he is in of no consequence right now and his identity will not be known until he rises to the top of the heap after the one-world government is divided into ten manageable sizes.  Then his secret identity will be revealed to the world, just as Paul notes in 2 Thessalonians 2 states.  Of course, the world will not recognize him as the Antichrist.  On the contrary, they will see him as savior instead.  He will not only sweet talk his way into the hearts of millions of people the world over, but he will sweet talk his way into the hearts of the leaders of the Jewish state representing the ninth and final birth pang; the signing of the 7-year covenant with Israel and her surrounding enemies.  He will somehow be able to do what no one before him was ever able to accomplish.  There will be “peace” on paper with Israel and in the Middle East.

This is the event that kicks off the Tribulation because it will be at that point that Israel will have literally sold her soul to the devil and God will have reached the end of his patience.

We are living in dangerous times, very likely what the Bible calls, the End Times.  Paul said this to Timothy, in his second letter to his protegé:

“But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth,” (2 Timothy 3:1-7).

This is a description of what people will become.  Friends, we are seeing this today and it is not simply affecting or infecting non-Christians, but it seems clear enough that it is becoming just as integrated into the visible Church.

There are simply too many churches and ministries that appear to have come off their original moorings.  At this point, I’m not interested in naming names.  I would prefer people do their own research and believe me, the research is out there and it is not hard to find for the person who truly wishes to find it.

Too many are giving way to the enemy of our souls these days.  We are focusing on the wrong thing, instead of realizing that our war is not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities in heavenly places.  Many are falling prey to this type of thinking and it is doing irreparable harm to many.

In 2 Peter 3:3-7, Peter warns his readers of this:

“Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.”

Folks, this sentiment is not merely being stated by those in the world.  It is happening in the visible Church.  I know people – and you probably do as well – that mock the idea of the physical return of Jesus, yet they call themselves Christians.  It almost seems as though the bigger a ministry or church gets, the more difficult it is for them to stay the course! It seems they have to spend more of their time trying to figure out how to remain large so that they will not lose what they have gained.  In doing so, they eventually start watering down the Word, and becoming complicit with people who are anti-Bible from the start.

Folks, I hear from people all the time how difficult it is for them to find a church that preaches the Bible.  Many have resorted to joining other believers in homes for Bible study, fellowship, and encouragement.

Too many churches do not care.  Too many ministries are looking to the bottom line.  How is it possible to serve God while constantly considering the profit margin?  It isn’t.

I believe that God is calling His people – His true Church – to come out from among them and be prepared for a time when things get worse than they are presently.  I’m not saying to turn your back on your local church! If you are in a church where the Bible is believed and taught, the Lord has truly blessed you.  You need to pray constantly for your church’s leadership so that they will not fall into temptation and begin looking at bottom line, instead of God’s Word to light the way.  Stay put!

There is a good deal that is happening today and Christians must be alert to it.  Admittedly, it is easy to become sidetracked with politics, or other concerns like safety in society, considering the hateful rhetoric that is being spewed from any number of sources these days.  It is too easy to focus on the individuals who are spewing, as opposed to recognizing the power that is behind those people.  I could name names and provide examples, but the crux of the problem lies not with those people but with the Dark Lord and his minions who constantly work to tear this world and its citizens down.  That is the real problem, not the people who wind up doing Satan’s bidding.

Too many within the visible Church are concerned about their 401ks, feeling good about all things, and simply wanting to enjoy life.  We have to move on from that.  We have to get beyond it because if we do not, it will be our undoing; our downfall.

Be willing to stand against error wherever you find it.  Be willing to stop buying someone’s books or materials simply because they are well-known if they are getting off the authentic path and leading you away from truth down the path toward apostasy.

In many countries throughout Europe and Africa, Christians are being persecuted as never before in recent history.  They are being jailed, abused, and even killed because of the hope they have in Jesus Christ.  Evil people are being used, but the ultimate source is the same that it has always been:  Satan.

I read recently where three men were killed in Turkey.  Two were converts from Islam to Christianity and one was a Christian missionary from Germany.  Five Muslim men pretending they wanted to know more about Christianity befriended these Christian men.  One day, they went to their offices and simply slaughtered them, slitting their throats.  The Muslims had been pretending all along until such a time as was convenient for them to murder three Christians.  We could get angry at the Muslim men, but the truth of the matter is that this evil is what they’ve been taught to believe is truth!  They are lost and need our prayers.

I’m not relaying this story to get people up in arms.  In fact, the wives of the Christian men came out and publicly forgave the Muslim men for what they did.  Their young children, while they miss their fathers, know that they now live with Jesus.  They know that their fathers were martyred for the cause of Jesus Christ.  The actions of the martyred men and their families speaks loudly, far more than words can accomplish.  Who knows, but maybe these actions will eventually be the precipitating factor that brings at least some of these Muslim men to the Lord.

The powers that exist behind these terrible acts of murder will continue to push people to do what they want them to do.  One day, the Power that restrains these diabolical spirit beings (demons) will move aside and when that happens, hell’s demons will empty out wreaking havoc on the denizens of this planet.

Folks, this is starting to happen.  We are seeing it from all sides.  Do you see it?  Are you concerned for the lost? In a day and age when too many ministries have become too large for their own good, we need to focus more and more on introducing the lost to Jesus.  It is as simple as that.  Don’t become part of the problem.  Be part of the solution and the only solution that truly saves is Jesus.

fred-deruvo-dir

By Fred DeRuvo

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