What Makes a Pastor Steal Church Money?

How-to-Steal-Money-from-an-ATMHave you ever asked yourself why a pastor would steal church money?  Seriously! If you look at this question with a magnifying glass it is not as simple as the pastor just being greedy.  It goes much deeper than that.  Why would a pastor go against everything that he knows and teaches to be true, deliberately violate those truths, and then try to hide it to perpetuate his behavior?  In the business world and in the church the most common crime committed is embezzlement.  Why is it that many pastors are now falling into this sin in larger numbers?

Let me give you some statistics* about the life of many pastors today.  This may help you better understand why stealing church money is on the rise.

  • A little over 80% of pastors and their spouses currently or frequently struggle with discouragement, disappointment or depression.
  • More than 40% of pastors feel they lead lives that are too busy and they often feel guilt over it because their children are the ones who suffer most.
  • The majority of pastors feel the church, or the way that they “did church”, has had a negative impact of their families.
  • 40% of pastors experience serious conflicts with a parishioner on a monthly basis.

(*These statistics were taken from  George Barna and James Dobson)

It is a wonder you have persevered

But why?  Let’s face it:  Pastoring gets the attention of the enemy of your soul and he will resist you.  You, in turn, must be diligent to guard your soul.  What does that have to do with stealing money from the church?  It has a lot to do with it.  You see, these statistics simply set the table.  As we travel deeper into the heart of the matter, we see an even greater need for pastors to be on guard; other conditions make it easier for pastors to fall into temptation.  Here are four that when combined with the above-mentioned statistics can cause “even the elect” to break.

1.     7 out of 10 pastors claim that they do not have someone that they truly call a friend.*  When a parishioner needs help, he calls the pastor.  When the pastor needs help, he goes into a cave.  Unlike Elijah, pastors do not usually have God encounters in those caves.  Instead, because of the busyness of life and the demands of pastoring, a pastor usually tries to cope in his natural self.

2.     False identity:  Unfortunately, many pastors that start churches have a difficult time separating themselves and their identities from their church.  Therefore, 100% of their soul is wrapped up in the church.  In some cases they believe that, like a man who starts a business, the church (or business side of church) is theirs and they make decisions how they please and no one can tell them what to do.

3.    The vast majority of pastors are severely underpaid and their spouses are never paid:  Regardless of what you hear on the news or read on the Internet, more than 9 out of 10 pastors are underpaid and if you consider the number of hours that their spouses contribute, it is borderline indentured servitude.  Believe me, this weighs on pastors’ hearts.  As the years pass, they feel the weight of seeing the life for which they once had great dreams succumbing to the concerns that come with the golden years, and there is no nest egg for retirement.  That can be very depressing.

4.    A misplaced heart:  I have met many pastors that spend 100% of their energy focused on growing their churches.  Yet they speak very little of true discipleship, humble servant hood and pastoral care.  It seems that they want growth and it does not matter how it happens.  Like the prophetic word spoken by Joshua over Jericho, “He who rebuilds its foundations will do it at the cost of his firstborn son, and he who sets up its gates at the cost of his youngest son.”  As we read later in the Scriptures, one man named Hiel of Bethel was up to the task.  Wanting to rebuild Jericho so badly that he simply did not heed the warning of the cost, he built…but his two sons perished.  As a pastor friend that did not reach mega church status once told me, “Thank You, Lord, for not giving me what I so dearly wanted.”

So to sum up the four conditions; they are loneliness, false identity, frustration over finances, and a misplaced heart.

Headed to moral bankruptcy

While it never makes it right, at least you can see how the circumstances of ministry can play a role in taking a pastor to moral bankruptcy.  That is what happened to a Columbus, OH pastor who embezzled money from the church to fund a better lifestyle.  He claimed that the money was used so that he could better serve his church, so he purchased a boat and a pool for his house; all to share with the congregation and better serve them.  I know!  It sounds ridiculous.  But it really happened.  The four conditions combined with the statistics can lead anyone to moral bankruptcy, making stealing church money look like it was something God wanted.

Now we know

Now you know why so many pastors today are falling into moral bankruptcy.  Any one of the four conditions can be the tipping point for many pastors.  You may even indentify with more than one of these.  Be encouraged; there is hope.

We serve a God who is hope Himself and He has a wonderful journey for you that will fill you with that hope regardless of how you feel today.  Would you like to get a hold of some of that hope?  OK!

A man’s hope is in his expectation.  Here is a list of what you can expect from God your Father.

1.     God is pleased with you for just being you:  Yes, He really finds pleasure in who you are and what you do.  He manages and deals with your shortcomings, sins and misunderstandings of who He is, but He does it with joy because He knows what it will do to you.

2.     If God called you to pastor, He still wants you to pastor:  Many leaders think that because they feel morally and/or spiritually bankrupt, that they should step down, when in fact it is the best time to humble themselves before the Lord and go through a rebuilding process.  A good perspective is to know that a pastor is still a sheep.  He simply is the one that wears the bell around his neck.

He has already provided a “1 Corinthians 10:13 answer” for you. Use the resources He gave you to build firewalls that protect you and others from the temptation of embezzlement:  The Lord is pleased when leaders guard their souls and those of others by investing in firewalls that make sinning harder to do.  Why not take the time to learn and get educated on how to create policies and procedures to ensure that church funds and assets never get embezzled?

Inspired by Raul Rivera

Thank you for visiting our blog.  We pray something today has inspired you to continue seeking that which is good always in Jesus name.  God continue to bless you and keep you in His love and care…

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