As Christians, We are Encouraged to Give Generously to the Church. But, Do You Really Know How Your Church Is Spending Those Dollars? Rusty Leonard, a Devout Christian, Decided to Find Out.....
Televangelism is a huge. There are literally hundreds of Pastors preaching from pulpits all around the world, and each one of them actively encourages their parishioners to give generously.
As Christians, we are taught to tithe - give 10% of our income to the Lord. This is an honorable and respectable practice. But, as Christians, we should be diligent in making certain that the Churchs we are giving to are being good stewards of the monies they receive.
Rusty Leonard, a devout Christian, worked for Templeton Investments for over a decade as a high-powered money manager. When he left that position he was in charge of over $3.5 billion dollars, and was being paid a 7 figure income.
He left at what he describes as a "calling from God" to open MinistryWatch.com. Having given millions to Christian ministries and charities over the years, he and his wife Carol decided to dig a bit deeper into the finances of these Christian organizations.
Now in charge of investing monies from wealthy clients wishing to give to companies and ministries that he has deemed to be "Christian Friendly" he has investigated hundreds of ministries.
What he has discovered about some is disheartening.
They asked Christian ministries and charities to reveal their finances. At first it was tough going, since, he says, "nobody had ever held them to account from an independent perspective. So they were totally freaked out by it."
Many said no, others threatened to sue. Leonard wasn't intimidated. He says his attitude was "bring it on. And you know, frankly, they like to threaten that, but they don't actually like to do it. Because if they did it, they would raise the awareness of the whole problem to a higher level."
Charities are legally required to report their finances, however Ministries are generally exempt. Leonard feels that they should be "morally responsible" to report. As a result, Ministrywatch criticizes 28 Christian groups, including some of the most successful televangelists in America, all for having little or no financial transparency. You can view the list here.
Mr. Leonard states that the ministries contained in this list, in refusing to open up their books and share with the public just where their contributions are being spent, present a huge "red flag".
"Nobody should donate to any of those ministries. There's no point in donating to a ministry that wants to take your money but not tell you a thing about how they're gonna spend that money. It doesn't mean that they're doing anything wrong, but it's a very high probability that something is wrong there."
Case in point. The popular Kenneth Copeland of Copeland Ministries recently asked his parishioners to help raise $20 Million to purchase a new jet. Copeland promised that the plane "will never, ever be used as long as it is in our care, for anything other than what is becoming to you, Lord Jesus."
Flight records revealed that the Copeland jet, on its way to an evangelical seminar in Australia last October, made a two-day layover in Maui. Then it was on to the Fiji islands for another stop.
After seven days in Australia, the Copeland's headed to Honolulu for another three days of what they called "eating and rest."
Last December, amid other evangelical stops, the jet made the first of two trips to a Colorado airport, just a few miles away from Steamboat Springs Ski Resort.
And, finally, there was a flight to southwest Texas to a hunting ranch where the Copelands have bagged exotic game over the years. You can click here for the full story on the Copeland investigation.
Some of the battles that Leonard fights with Ministry groups such as this are straining. There are times he just wants to quit. The personal attacks he receives are difficult to bear. But, whenever he considers walking away he is reminded that the Lord called him to be here. That what he is doing is an important and valuable service to all of his fellow Christians that want to be certain they are doing good with their contributions.
"It was tough, it was hard. And it really was upsetting. It was negative and I really didn't want to do it anymore, but then the Lord kind of called us in to say 'no, I put you in this spot for this very reason.'" MinistryWatch now receives upwards of 4000 hits per day, and is respected enough throughout the religious community that ministries are approaching him, asking to be reviewed and placed on his list.
At the moment there is a backlog of 500 ministries that are waiting to be added, but Leonard just doesn't have the resources available to accomplish that yet.
After spending $2 Million of his own finances, he is poorer today than he was. But he is far richer for what he has accomplished.
"I've gone seven years without earning a salary now. So it's a whole different scenario, but I am more joyful and happy than I was before."
I praise this man for what he is doing. I am an avid watcher of In Touch Ministries with Charles Stanley, as well as John Hagee and his Cornerstone Church. I was very happy to have checked on both of these ministries on the site and find that they had received good grades.
I think it is important that we, as Christians, make sure we know who we are promoting and further enabling when we "tithe".
Wouldn't you agree?