Back in November of last year Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) sent letters for financial information from six of the countless mega-church television preachers. The senator was widely portrayed as persecuting these millionaire preachers. The offended preachers surrounded their auditors with lawyers and let the senators, IRS and anyone interested know that they were not responding to such insolent questions.

The deadline for the televangelists to honor Sen. Grassley’s request was Dec. 6. All he was seeking was any possibility of alleged donator abuse in their programs. Here it is nearly February and the game of cat and mouse goes on. Give but don’t expect to know how the gift is used.

Sad story after sad story is the heritage of most of these televangelists. One single mom said she was fleeced for over 12 years by a TV preacher. “When I think of the times my electricity got turned off because I tithed and gave instead of paying my bills, I could scream. I was told to NOT pay my bills, but to tithe first and believe God for the money for my bills … when my electricity was turned off I was told I had no faith.”

Another wrote they were told: “Just send $65, and within 90 days God will turn my life around.”

Becoming debt free like that is a pipe dream. It is the crassest form of false advertising to a public that is barely holding things together. Perhaps before giving, viewers should ask for a written guarantee.

Why is so much of this kind of thing situated in Texas? Down south Rick Godwin is pushing famed TV evangelist John Hagee off the front pages of the San Antonio Express-News. Godwin is pastor and CEO of the San Antonio Eagle’s Nest Christian Fellowship.

Godwin, like too many of the mega-church leaders, does not believe in transparency, especially when it comes to the offering plate. The Eagle’s Nest is in the process of building a $36 million church in north San Antonio. He travels in a private jet and pays visiting preachers $12,000 for an appearance.

When church members sought information on how their offerings were used at the Eagle’s Nest, they were told to have faith and all would be well. They were informed it was not their affair. Some of these folks are wisely now looking for a church that is open in all its dealings as a church should be.

The Christ I read about in the New Testament preached self-sacrifice and humility. He ministered to society’s outcasts, the lepers and prostitutes. He overturned the crooked money-changers table in the Temple.

I don’t think Jesus would wear a Rolex or drive a Bentley. He was up front in his dealings with the masses as he was with the disciples. He was not putting on a show or trying to impress anyone. Kings, high priests or paupers were the same to him. He loved them all. And a majority never understood what it was all about.

While not having all the answers, I do know that probably the most misunderstood and misrepresented person to walk this earth was that man from Nazareth. His was a personal message, to be dealt with respect and transparency.

Britt Towery is a former missionary in China who writes for the Brownwood Bulletin in Brownwood, Texas.

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