The Prayer Palace

March 7, 2007 at 8:29 pm 1 comment

 Have you noticed that suddenly around Easter and Christmas that religious articles crop up in the mainstream media? The big one right now is the discovery of the Jesus family tomb. Vision TV moved up their screening of the film to March 6th to take advantage of the hype. But there is another story that has my prayer stole in a twist.

The Sunday March 4 edition of the Toronto Star had front page coverage of the pastors of the Prayer Palace and their grandiose lifestyles. The Star exposes the multimillion dollar mansions and luxury vehicles of pastor Paul Melnichuk and his twin sons, pastors Tim and Tom Melnichuk. The tone of the article is the alleged diversion and misappropriation of funds from their outreach missions.

 

Read the Toronto Star article here

http://www.thestar.com/article/187986

If the allegation proves correct it is certainly a shame for the trusting congregants. Unfortunately a number of churches have been down that road before. Jimmy Baker comes to mind and consequently his ministry collapsed and the law extracted its worldly penalty. If there has been any legal wrong doing, I’m sure the Melnichuks will suffer a similar fate. However, there is a larger issue here for me.

A major lesson that I take from the bible is that of eschewing wealth. Jesus chose an acetic lifestyle which he demonstrated during his ministry. He told followers that foxes have holes and birds have nests, but he had nowhere to lay his head. He roamed around on foot and relied on strangers to supply his needs. The wealthy young man that came to Jesus desiring to be a follower was told to first go and divest himself of his wealth. The young man was very sad because he could not do it. Virtually all of us are caught in that same trap. Materialism is the order of the day. Jesus knew the worship of wealth displaced the worship of the Spirit. The Melnichuk’s error is eagerly pursuing wealth and in fact preaching to their flock to follow suit. This past Sunday, according to the Star, the congregation heard that people should not be happy living in an apartment; they should desire to own the building!

Read the Toronto Star article here

http://www.thestar.com/article/188204

This seems to be at odds with Jesus’ teachings. Now, I know there are many wealthy people that donate large sums annually for very worthy causes. There are those too on the lower rungs of life’s ladder who donate a great portion of their meager resources. I am reminded of the story of the widow’s mite where Jesus watched rich people dropping large amounts into the temple offering box. Then a poor widow came along and quietly dropped in her two coins. Jesus told the disciples, “I tell you that this poor widow put more in the offering box that all the others. For the others put in what they had to spare of their riches; but she, poor as she is, put in all she had – she gave all she had to live on.” (Mark 12:41-44). This lesson was reinforced when Jesus reminded the disciples that he had sent them out with no purse, bag or shoes, yet they lacked nothing. Wealth wasn’t necessary. The Spirit provided their basic needs.

Mahatma Gandhi was able to practice this in life. Initially he was caught up in the materialistic lifestyle. He attended law school in England and tried the finer clothing and dining as befits a person of that station of life. He disliked the food and was uncomfortable in the suits and shirts. He eventually abandoned that life and cast off what wealth he had. He found that a major impediment to living a spiritual life had been removed. What he lacked in material wealth, he gained in spiritual wealth.

The shame of the Prayer Palace story is that there are many people in that congregation we would class as poor who are giving generously of their resources much like the widow. I’m sure they are experiencing spiritual wealth. At worst, the pastors are allegedly taking advantage of the congregation’s generosity for the sole thrill of increasing their material wealth while reducing the Spirit to a tool to achieve that end. At the very best the pastors are putting worldly wealth ahead of eternal spiritual richness contrary to Jesus’ teaching. As Tomas Merton said, “A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.”

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

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Entry filed under: Wrestling With God.

Spong ‘n Me You Are Forgiven

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. thelordisone  |  January 20, 2008 at 1:10 am

    In recent news US senator Chuck Grassley requsted the financial records of six televangelists; Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, Paula and Randy White, Eddie Long and Kenneth Copeland Ministries. This was a brilliant move and although many protested, so far only two of them have replied, Joyce Meyer handed in documents and Kenneth Copeland has not fully complied. As a result of this, Hinn, Hilliard and Dollar have lost their regent status at ORU. We all are aware of the recent scandals with Richard and Lindsay Roberts at Oral Roberts University. Why is it in the US they have to resign but in Canada they just “lawyer up” hire a PR firm and “cook the books?”
    It is high time we saw a little financial accountability in Canada. Does Revenue Canada even care?
    The Melnichuks are getting away with abuse of power and should be stripped of their tax exempt status. What they are running is a business on the backs of the poor. To whom much is given, much is required. They set up shop repeatedly in the poorest, crime infested, gang-ridden areas of the city and instead of pulling the youth up, they are draining the financial resources from the main bread winners of families on the poverty line to fill their own pockets. Instead of that money going into education, job training or just back into the community…it goes into Paul Melnichuks’ skidoo, Tom Melnichuks’ helipad or Tim Melnichuks’ chateau…Due to the article they changed their websites and decided to give their congrgation turkeys this Christmas…to shut them up perhaps. I don’t think anything will come out of the article. If anything were to happen it would have appened already. They are abusing the disenfranchised, unwanted and marginalized people in society that have no power and are wearing blinders. No one apparently cares what happens to them. They don’t care what happens to themselves either. How sad! They are waiting for the whole thing to blow over. They will get away with it and there will be no justice. They are like whitewashed graves that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead people’s bones and every kind of impurity.

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