Friday, September 25, 2009

IS God a Vending Machine?

Click here for the Audio Intro

"Thank you for tuning into today's broadcast and we are here to bless you and help you with your breakthrough. Just send your gift of $100.00 or more to our ministry and plant your seed of faith with us today and prepare for your miracle". Change the amount and change the appeal or the product, but it all boils down too send your gift first into some ministry by faith and wait and watch for God to give you what you need. It is a vending machine concept of God and it has polluted the hearts and minds of untold millions.

Where is the faith action of the ministry? Why are they not sending out free CD's, books and Dvd's without strings attached as their seed of faith to hungry and hurting people? This past week 3 people in two days came to our church office for a handout, but they had nothing in hand. In nine months I have filled gas tanks, bought food and given some personal cash to folks. The best one was the guy driving the Jaguar who forgot his wallet on the way to Jacksonville from Lakeland and ran out of gas on his way to the hospital where his 12 year old grandson was dead with his daughter waiting on him tog et there to grieve and comfort one another. It was a great and compelling story and I felt compelled to just give him personal money. So between my associate and I we gave him 20.00 cash to help him. He asked for our address because he was just borrowing it and would send it back. Well. it's been over 40 days now and I have not heard a word.

So this past week two people came in while I was in a meeting and both within 1 hour of each other. Then the third person came the next day and asked for a refrigerator. Yep you got it! This man said he took the bus from 30 minutes away going to different ministries looking for a Frig. I told him I did not have a frig to give him. Then he asked me to ask my congregation for one ( as if they were inside worshiping as we spoke). After I refused his appeals with no, no, no, he asked me what does our church do for people? In essence, what do we give people to help them?

These were good questions, but his assumption was that churches were suppose to be equipped for helping people with whatever they needed to solve their problems. If I had followed his desires to the end exactly as he requested I would have needed several hours time, resources and a truck to fulfill his request of "The church". Well, I did not have a frig or a truck or time to go figure it out at the moment. So he left shaking his head is disbelief that I could even consider myself a pastor representing a church without dropping everything to solve his problem.

Where did he get that kind of understanding of God from? Where happened to personal responsibility? Has Television evangelism and broadcasting assisted a culture to perceive that God is a vending machine? The man wanting a refrigerator expected, yet he had nothing to give and never offered any type of faith action like all the TV preachers expect. He just asked and did not receive.

I’ve been a believer since 1981. As a young man I was discipled in the Lord in a local church. It was in the local church that I was sanctified and filled with the Holy Spirit. It was in and through the local church that I received my call to ministry and was baptized and preached my first sermon. In those early years of my life I never really paid much attention as to why people were preaching on TV or even what they had to say or what they wanted. Today the airwaves are full of preachers of which I believe are mostly charlatans doing more damage to the cause of Christ while propagating a vending machine theology of God.

Lets define what a charlatan is before we move ahead to much more: a charlatan is a person practicing quackery or some similar confidence trick in order to obtain money, fame or other advantages via some form of pretence or deception.

In 2009 there are more programs on TV, radio, cable and satellite then I could ever possibly watch or consume. This does not even include the countless programs that are now broadcasting on the internet and radio.

The other day I was surfing the web and ended up on a website about prayer. It was an independent ministry with theological beliefs that included prosperity doctrines. From there I ended up on a directory of hundreds of other ministries with daily or weekly broadcasts. The next thing I knew some preacher was on my laptop screen using scriptures to tell me "the viewer" why I needed to send them money. The scriptural story was true and the preacher seemed genuine, but there was something about the whole process that just rubbed me wrong. It was a vending machine theology message. It was give and then you shall receive.

It was then that I realized this was one of many charlatans on the air/internet using God and scripture over the last 40 years that has appealed to peoples’ emotional and personal problems to get funds for their means whatever they maybe.

We must remind ourselves that giving money to the work of God must fit into scriptural guidelines. In every biblical account whenever anyone was releasing or giving tithes or offerings it was to the local ministry and community. It was all personal and accountable locally. The motive to give to God was obedience and generosity for God's glory not for ones return.

Over the years I have seen very few ministries that I can honestly say would fit the biblical mandate for giving money too. Regardless if they are TV, Radio or internet based, very few truly share a good message of hope without the expectation or desire for anything in return. They almost always ask for support to stay on and keep the ministry going and how your donation is SO NEEDED to continue. One of few I can recall that is so careful to never even ask or suggest giving is the Michael Guido Ministries out of Meter, Ga. Michael just passed away this year at about age 92 and was known for his TV and radio broadcast called “Seed from the Sower”. I personal meet Michael and heard his heart and story in the summer of 2007 while on sabbatical. He never asked for money as it was associated with the gospel. He only asked for prayer requests and the opportunity to help people find Christ.

I eventually signed up on his mailing list and once a month I still get a letter and materials for my spiritual growth and encouragement along with an envelop for any contribution I may desire to give to support his ministry with. There is never even a hint for a suggest amount either.

Regardless of how great a preacher someone is and or even how doctrinally sound they are, I am more convinced then ever that if that local preacher/ ministry is asking you for your money they are a modern day charlatan. I don’t care how many people attend their church or how many books they have written and sold or how many TV programs they have spoken on. I know this may sound harsh, but I am persuaded we have a lot of misguided professing ministers more concerned about getting funds into their own ministry then they are in giving away the message of hope and salvation without price.

Imagine a preacher just saying please request your free CD or DVD. Why are they asking for even a suggested donation? Can they not trust God to supply their needs as they give away the gospel and pay the cost for materials and shipping and handling? Where is the faith of those who are broadcasting the message of hope?

I know Michael Guido operated that way. I recall a story he told about how someone walked into his office and asked if they could write him a check and what his needs were. Since the man asked Michael he shared the need of the ministry. He said a few months later the man walked in and wrote a substantial check and went beyond the original need. Wow imagine that! He never asked for a thing, but just gave and gave and trusted God to meet the needs of the ministry. I am inspired by the life of Michael Guido and I am sickened by the hundreds of charlatans who keep asking for money and becoming even so bold to tell people how much to send.

The saddest part of today's broadcasted ministries is that they are appealing to listeners and viewers according to the needs of the flesh and turning the Holy Gospel message into a means of ungodly gain for self propagation in a day of great self centeredness.

Viewers beware! Everyone watching and listening should go through a criteria process before giving to any ministry. Here are questions you should review the next time you feel compelled to give to a broadcasting ministry.

1. Would my pastor and local church approve of this ministry I am drawn to give too? Why or Why not?

2. I am currently giving locally in obedience to scriptures to my local church without anything in return?

3. What does the broadcasted ministry offer you that your local home church does not?

4. Are you considering giving for what you hope will happen to you later?

5. Does the ministry release its financial records for accountability if requested?

In these last days we are warned in scriptures that many false prophets and false gospels will arise to deceive many. That day is here and many are being led away by charlatan vending machine preachers. Be careful and consider these things before you swallow anything coming at you on those polluted transmission waves.

1 comment:

Mark Hollingsworth said...

I truly enjoyed your message and your terminology "vending machine ministries." Thanks for sharing.