With Atlanta quickly becoming a megachurch Mecca, it’s not surprising that two of the six preachers under Senate investigation are from Atlanta. Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa wants to look into their finances because of the extravagant lifestyles they lead. The lifestyle alone couldn’t possibly be the only basis for this type of investigation. The real issue is tax evasion. Are pastors using the tax protection given to churches by the government to finance their personal lifestyles?
When you look at pastors such as Bishop Long, who was a successful businessman before he took over leadership at New Birth, how do you determine where his lifestyle crosses the line? A Bentley and a private jet may seem “extravagant” to someone working a regular job, but to say Donald Trump, maybe not. Extravagance is relative.
I remember reading an article on Bishop Long about a year ago, where again, his lifestyle was under the microscope. The article had a negative spin and talked about the money he was making, the car he was driving, the home in which he lived. At the bottom of the article (the part that most people don’t read), it explained how most of the money he made was from speaking engagements outside of the church, the car he drove was on loan from a Bentley dealership and the house he lived in didn’t belong to him. So while on the surface people equated his lifestyle with the money he was getting directly from the church, it wasn’t so.
My issue with the investigation is who determines how much is enough? We don’t have a problem with actors making $1 million dollars per episode for what they do. We don’t have a problem with rappers raking in $1 million for a concert. So is it necessarily wrong for a pastor to make that kind of money? I say no. If a church with 1,000 members can afford to pay their pastor a nice salary, what would you expect from a congregation of 25,000?