Exposing the “Sunday Morning Stickup”.

The secular media sees it, but sadly some segments of the Christian community just don’t see it.

A lot of people attending ‘ministries’ like Hillsong, C3 Church, City Harvest Church Singapore, New Creation Church Singapore, Yoido Full Gospel Church, Saddleback Church, Northpoint Community Church, to name a few, just do not get it.

People in these movements simply refuse to see that they are being financially fleeced by con artists, all in the name of ‘Jesus’.roll of money

CNN recently did a fantastic article exposing this ‘Sunday morning stick up’. To all our readers, notice who appears to be educating Christians about their Jesus and His Apostles. It’s the secular media! Why are they the ones pointing out what is wrong with the church? And this is to our shame. Does secular media understand the scriptures better than the very popular pseudo ‘Apostles’ and  ‘Prophets’ that plague our television screens (and fill the Christian bookstores with their false teaching)?

How passing the plate becomes the ‘Sunday morning stickup’

Story highlights

  • Pastors and churches routinely manipulate people to give, some say.
  • One church leader calls offerings the “Sunday morning stickup”.
  • Some religious leaders say tithing is not mandatory for Christians.

(CNN)-David Lee had just opened his wallet for two successive offerings at a church one Sunday morning when a pastor walked onto the pulpit to pass on a request.

“You all going to think I’m crazy, but God says give again,” the pastor said.

The congregation rose from their seats to march to the front as the church organist played a soothing melody. As they dropped off their offerings at the altar, the pastor urged them on with, “God says give everything; don’t hold nothing back.”

The organist then picked up the tempo, and the pastor shouted, “God says run!” The offering ended with people surging toward the altar like music fans rushing a concert stage.

“It was pandemonium. They weren’t just giving money, but shoes, watches and diamond rings,” Lee says. “There were people dropping alligator shoes on the altar.”

Were these people cheerful or gullible givers? For Lee, a church elder who spent 30 years marketing and selling church products, they were victims of the “Sunday morning stickup” — his term for manipulative tactics pastors and churches use to get your money.

“They bypassed their common sense,” says Lee, author of “Sunday Morning Stickup,” which examines church giving. “One lady took off her wedding ring and dropped it of on the altar. That’s how charged the atmosphere was. People got caught up.”

People widely condemned an Atlanta megachurch pastor who asked his church to buy him a $65 million private jet. Yet there is no condemnation for countless church leaders across America who have turned the Sunday morning offering into a form of spiritual abuse, Lee and other church leaders say.

If a pastor or church leader has ever told you that the Bible commands Christians to tithe or give 10% of their income; hit you up for multiple offerings during one service; made you march up front to give; asked you to donate to a mysterious “building fund” or give a “first-fruit” offering; or even given special recognition to big givers in your congregation, Lee and other pastors have a message for you:

You are getting played.

These rituals, they say, violate New Testament teachings about how and why people should give.

Quibbling over how churches collect money may seem trivial. But the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century was sparked, in part, by outrage over how the Roman Catholic Church collected money.

Church leaders sold everything from “indulgences” to people who wanted their sins pardoned to holy relics of dubious value. And researchers say that today’s surge in “nones,” or Americans who claim no religious affiliation, is driven by people who complain that religions organizations are too concerned with money and power.

No wonder the Apostle Paul, who built the first Christian churches, refused to take money from his followers, one pastor noted. Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 9:15-18 that he would only “present the gospel free of charge.” He supported himself as a tent maker.

“Saint Paul refused to take money because he didn’t want to be influenced by it. He wanted to be able to proclaim the gospel,” says the Rev. Dave Albertson, pastor of Living Grace Lutheran Church in Maryland, who has written about the evolution of giving in the American church.

Contemporary churches, though, are not just spiritual enterprises; they are businesses. They have budgets, staff, building repairs — they need cash and converts. And when the cash gets tight, some go into Sunday stickup mode by deploying three tactics.

No. 1: The myth of the mandatory tithe

Here’s a challenge for all the Bible sleuths out there: Find a New Testament passage that explicitly declares that all Christians must tithe, or give 10% of their income.

You won’t find it because it doesn’t exist, says Lee.

While Christians are commanded to be generous, there are “absolutely no references in the New Testament church of anyone ever paying tithes, ” he writes in his book “Sunday Morning Stickup.”

But mandatory tithing is the cornerstone of many churches’ teaching on giving. It’s not unusual for them to provide special offering slots or envelopes for tithers.

What Lee says could virtually get him stoned in some churches.

“That’s ignorant; that’s absolutely not true,” says the Rev. Timothy McDonald, senior pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta.

“Jesus never condemned tithing,” says McDonald, who says he’s a regular tither. “He supported tithing.”

A preacher could argue that Christians are commanded to give more than their tithes, McDonald says. He referred to the second chapter of Acts, verse 44-45, when the first Christians embraced what some might call communism by “selling their property and possessions and sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.”

“The early church, they did more than tithe,” McDonald says. “They sold everything they had.”

Lee acknowledges that there are four references to tithing in the New Testament: Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42, Luke 18:12 and Hebrews 7:4-9. But none of those passages suggest a predetermined percentage of giving for Christians, and no money exchanges hands in any of them, he says.

Tithing is an Old Testament prescription for Jews, not a rule for Christians, he says.

“Jesus came to release us from the law; we are no longer bound by it,” Lee says. Tithing is “not required.”

It’s has become such a sacred duty in some churches, though, that members can’t enjoy certain benefits unless they do it, says Tyrone Jacques, a former Church of God in Christ pastor and founder of PimpPreacher.com, an online website devoted to exposing pastors who prey on congregations.

The pastor of one church refused to eulogize a 93-year-old woman who was a member of his church for years because she had stopped tithing, Jacques says. When he called the pastor to ask why, he said the pastor replied: “Membership has its privileges.” (That same pastor wouldn’t return calls to CNN about the incident).

Some churches deny nontithing members other privileges as well, Jacques says.

“You have churches that if you cannot contribute financially you cannot be in church leadership or you can’t be part of the choir,” Jacques says.

No. 2: Elevating the biggest givers

There is no record of Jesus taking an offering. According to the eighth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus was financially supported by a group of women who were among his earliest disciples. Yet he did prescribe rules for giving: quietly and anonymously.

In the sixth chapter of Matthew, Jesus told his followers “do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets” when giving to the poor. He said that people should give “in secret” and should be careful “not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them.”

Go into many churches on a Sunday morning, though, and there’s nothing quiet or secret about the way people give. The offering time has been transformed into theater.

The choir stands to sing a rousing hymn. People participate in “wave offerings” by joyously wave their offering envelopes in the air. Preachers, barking out encouragement from the pulpit, exhort people to give back “God’s money.” The experience is communal and loud — nothing secret about it.

The pressure to give is enormous, Lee says. In many churches, smiling ushers beckon people to march up front to deposit their offerings. Someone who has no money to give is left to sit alone in the pew for all the church to see.

It’s give or be shamed, Lee says.

“There’s no scriptural model for it,” he says of the ritual of marching up front. “It doesn’t exist in the Bible. It’s just another form of control and manipulation.”

Another form of manipulation is giving VIP treatment to a church’s biggest givers.

Jacques, founder of PreacherPimp.com, says he belonged to churches where the first rows were reserved for the biggest givers. He says he’s even seen churches section off those front-row pews with velvet ropes. The message: Big givers have their privileges.

“The most coveted area in the church is the circle around the pastor,” Jacques says. “The way you get into that space, you pay to get into it. You have to pay to play.”

Paying for status is nothing new for American churches. In the 19th century, some American churches raised money by renting out pews or offering public subscription lists, says Albertson, the Lutheran pastor. Affluent people would pledge big sums to get on the lists.

“That list would be publicized,” Albertson says. “It gave you social standing.”

It still does. At one Southern California church where Albertson worked, he says, the senior pastor invited the biggest givers to stand before the church and explain how their generosity had strengthened their faith.

“It irritated people in the congregation,” Albertson says. “They picked people who were able to give a lot of money because they had decent jobs. It seemed like there was a comparison going on: We’re going to value the bigger givers more than the smaller givers.”

Sometimes people are induced to give not by a person, but by a building.

Lee says he’s seen churches relentlessly goad members to donate to the construction of lavish buildings that become more of a monument to a pastor’s ego than a place to worship and to serve the needy.

“If you have a $40 million building that’s filled with people who don’t have life insurance and are struggling to make ends meet, the priorities are mixed up,” he says.

The pressure of conspicuous giving annoyed one pastor so much that he took a bold gamble. He stopped holding offerings.

The Rev. Dennis Sawyer was pastoring a small church in the coastal town of Hammond, Oregon, when he persuaded church leaders to abandon the Sunday morning offering. He based his appeal on 1 Corinthians 16, where the Apostle Paul asked members of a church to “set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income,” so that “when I come no collections will have to be made.”

Sawyer’s church mounted offering boxes in the foyer and held services without offerings for six weeks. Initially, the offerings plummeted. Then something strange happened after about a month — the offerings surged. The church membership grew as the collection plate disappeared, Sawyer says. Church members said visitors loved coming to the church, he says.

“People wanted to come up and check out a church that didn’t take the offering; it put us on the map,” says Sawyer, who wrote about his experience in, “Why We Stopped Passing the Offering Plate.”

While he was successful, Sawyer hasn’t been able to persuade other churches to follow his example. There are many churchgoers who prefer being pressured to give, he says.

“There’s a whole group of people who like authority and structure and people telling them what to do,” Sawyer says. “They feel secure in that environment.”

No. 3: Distorting two popular scriptures

In the language of sports, it’s called a “go-to” move. Say a NBA player desperately needs to score in overtime. He will have a go-to move that always works when his team needs it.

Pastors who are trying to raise money have two go-to scriptures: The “will a man rob God” passage from book of Malachi in the Old Testament; and the story of Jesus and the poor widow.

But guess what? Most pastors completely distort the meaning of both stories, some say.

Consider the “will a man rob God” from the third chapter in Malachi. The prophet declares that withholding tithes and offerings invites divine punishment because the stingy person is robbing God.

But Jacques, editor of PimpPreacher.com, says Malachi declared that God was angry at Israel’s priests, not ordinary people, for withholding offerings. The real thieves were greedy priests, but pastors have turned the scripture into a blanket condemnation of people who don’t give enough, he says.

“Unless they read the whole chapter, they won’t know,” Jacques says.

Cunning pastors “scripture hop,” he says, bombarding parishioners with isolated scriptures to induce them to give more.

“If you’re going to get money from people, you can’t preach the whole chapter,” Jacques says. “Never ever preach the whole chapter.”

Then there is the story of the Widow’s Mite in Mark 12:41-44. In this story, Jesus is watching rich people throw large amounts of money into the Temple’s treasury in Jerusalem when he spots a poor widow dropping “two mites,” or a bronze or copper coin into the treasury. He praises the woman because he says the rich people “gave out of their wealth, but she, out of her poverty, put in everything — all she had to live on.”

The message is clear right? Even if you can’t pay your electric bill, God says give all you have. But Albertson, the Lutheran pastor, says that pastors often miss the story’s meaning. Jesus wasn’t telling people to give all they have to the church: He was condemning the financial corruption of the religious system of his day for exploiting the poor widow’s generosity.

Consider the context, he says.

Just moments earlier in the story, Jesus had scolded religious leaders in Jerusalem for “devouring” widows’ houses to maintain their social status. As he watches rich people ostentatiously drop money into the treasury, Jesus warns his disciples that the great temple would be torn down.

“Now he watches a widow get devoured — she is giving everything to a religious institution that he has already shown is not worthy of her,” Albertson writes in an essay, “Rethinking the Widow’s Mite.”

“This is not a heartwarming story of a generous giver,” he says. “This is a heartbreaking story of exploitation.”

Some pastors don’t just distort a scriptural passage. They misuse scriptural phrases — such as the “first fruit offering.”

First fruit offerings were agricultural offerings that the Israelites gave to God in the Old Testament, says Lee, of “Sunday Morning Stickup.” Yet some pastors invoke that phrase to tell people that God commands them to give the “first fruits” of their financial bounty, which could mean someone giving everything from the first check of the year to the first check one received after a job promotion.

“It’s a misapplication of scripture,” Lee says. “They encourage individuals that before they pay their bills, before they buy their groceries or do anything with their finances, many of them say ‘You have to take care of God first.’ ”

If pastors and churches are so cunning when asking for money, what can stop the manipulation? One pastor says technology may be the answer.

The collection plate, the symbol of the offering, is going the way of VHS videos.

The church is on the verge of a digital revolution in giving, says Albertson, the Lutheran pastor. More people are donating through online bank accounts and credit card swipes, he wrote in an essay, “What Will the End of the Offering Plate Mean for Christian Worship.”

“Nobody carries money in their wallets anymore,” Albertson says. “There’s a big movement up ahead of shifting over to various online giving platforms and digital platforms.”

Still, Albertson is not so sure that this digital revolution will end the practice of pastors shaking down congregations for money.

“Religious leaders will find a way to use guilt somehow,” he says.

Some say that using guilt isn’t bad. Shouldn’t people be shamed if they’re not generous? But how and why someone should be generous — perhaps that’s ultimately up to the person in the pew.

So when the organist hits those celestial chords to signal offering time or a smiling usher beckons you out of your pew, ask yourself:

Am I about to freely give — or is this a Sunday morning stick up?

Source: By John Blake, How passing the plate becomes the ‘Sunday morning stickup’, CNN, http://edition.cnn.com/2015/06/14/us/sunday-stickup/index.html, http://edition.cnn.com/2015/06/14/us/sunday-stickup/index.html, Published 14/06/2016. (Accessed 05/01/2016.)

45 comments

  1. Truth2Freedom

    Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.

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  2. Read up on Hebrews 7 and 8. Abraham gave a tenth of all he had captured in battle to the priest Melchizedek, who blessed him. This tenth is later referred to as a tithe in that same chapter 7. Additionally, it’s alluded to that Melchizedek is THE High Priest, aka Jesus himself. So that’s a response to why we know a tenth is a tithe. But I agree with the sentiment that people have exploited this concept in the past.

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    • “Read up on Hebrews 7 and 8.”
      You’ve missed the entire point of Hebrews 7.
      The letter to the Hebrews on numerous occasions was pointing out how Jesus was a greater ‘David’, ‘Moses’ and in this case Milchezedek (although the similarities are amazing). The writer was making the point that there were law in the Jewish Torah that helped preserve the earthly, perishable priesthood. The writer was audacious enough to make the claim that the ‘rules have changed’ since Christ has established his eternal, imperishable priesthood. This signifies the abolishing of the tithe – because that too sustains the perishable priesthood. However, a tithe is not needed to sustain an imperishable priesthood. Rather telling us to tithe – Paul the Apostle looks at the spirit of the law and tells people to not ‘muzzle the ox’ and ‘give cheerfully’. In other words, be financially fair with those in need who are doing the work of God.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Romans 11:16 also explains the purifying aspect of giving a fraction–in this case, a firstfruits offering. Malachi 3:9 (NIV) says “You are under a curse–your whole nation–because you are robbing me.” So it’s debatable whether the subject was JUST priests. Nevertheless, in verse 10 God shows that offerings aren’t simply a do-it-because-you’ll-be punished ordeal. Shame to pastors who exploit offerings, but I believe it’s also sad if Christians don’t see that “robbing God” by withholding your tithes is robbing yourself of blessings. In an ideal situation, offerings and tithes should go to the building of the church and its efforts to save others, not simply the pockets of leaders.

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    • “Romans 11:16 also explains the purifying aspect of giving a fraction”
      Context. Context. Context. Is Paul in Romans 11 instructing or teaching us how to give a tithe?

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    • I wasn’t implying that he was. I was merely showing that even in the new testament, Paul shows the power of a fraction. I’m not implying that tithing should be seen as mandatory. What I am trying to convey is that honest offering and tithing is not without blessing.

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    • “but I believe it’s also sad if Christians don’t see that “robbing God” by withholding your tithes is robbing yourself of blessings”
      Do you realise that in this statement you just confessed to holding the heretical prosperity gospel/theology?

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    • If you are fully capable of tithing (e.g. your bills are paid), and you feel blessed by the church you attend, why not? I definitely don’t agree that you should tithe do/die or hell will come for you. But because it’s natural to jump from one extreme to the other, I’m also weary of a possible implication that one shouldn’t tithe at all. That might not be what you are saying, so perhaps I have made unsubstantial assumptions. But that was a vibe I got.

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    • Lester

      “but I believe it’s also sad if Christians don’t see that “robbing God” by WITHHOLDING YOUR TITHES”

      Benjamin, thanks for letting us know that you are still under the Law, however the rest of us are now under Grace.

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    • Lester

      “but I believe it’s also sad if Christians don’t see that “robbing God” by withholding YOUR TITHES”

      Ok Benjamin, thanks for letting us know you are still under the Law, however the rest of us are now under Grace….

      Word of Faithers tend to make for a very guilty-laden Body of Christ, that’s enslaved to many O.T. ordinances. You create a bunch of paralyzed Christians running around in fear for missing a mark that does not exist anymore.

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    • So are you implying that because something is no longer a law, it can’t hinder your reception of a blessing? Because as Christians, God doesn’t force us to do anything. He doesn’t need our offering. Our acts and commitment are not for Him; they’re just ways of moving us closer to Him.

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    • “they’re just ways of moving us closer to Him. ”
      So if we don’t tithe, does that mean we are not moving “closer to Him”? Are you “closer to Him” than we are?

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    • “Ways” implies that there is more than one way. Nothing I do, nothing I can ever do, is for God. I can act becasue of God, with the love of God, but nothing I do is FOR Him because He’s God. He doesn’t need it. When I fast, I’m moving myself closer to Him, not the other way around. When I put Him first in my finances, or relationships, or whatever, the same rule applies. My spiritual life doesn’t include comparison to others. If I don’t tithe or fast, I don’t tithe or fast. But those are opportunities for me to align myself closer with God’s will. He has asked His children to give and bless others, and He has asked us to master ourselves and put Him first in our lives.

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    • We have no problem with Christians blessing others.

      We do have a problem when leaders insist that you must give to God otherwise you’re doing something wrong.

      This is what Brian Houston and Bobbie Houston teach because they are greedy for people’s money. And because this is a core doctrine of Hillsong, it will eventually affect the Hillsong you attend. We have a hunch it is already there since they preach tithing. The fact that it is mentioned is an indication that they are peddling the concept of “carrying a form of godliness through the worldly gain” under the guise of their popular slogan “blessed to be a blessing”. Are they using the words”flourish” or “thrive” in replacement of the word “prosperity”?

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    • I hope you can take a minute to step back and see yourself. You sound pretty bitter towards these organizations. I’m a natural skeptic but I recently joined this church and have seen them live what they preach. You call it greedy for people’s money. I see that money directly being put into the implementation of services where people are getting saved. We should be weary of exploitation, but not at the expense of demonizing people who are simply humans. So might Houston use guilt-inducing language? Sure. Can I judge his character for that? I’m not on this planet to judge. But the Hillsong I’ve experienced goes out if its way weekly to make sure people don’t feel guilty about giving.

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    • “You sound pretty bitter towards these organizations.”
      For sending people to hell? God, through the writing of the Apostle Paul calls such men like Stephen Furtick dogs. Would you accuse God of being ‘bitter’?

      We’re not claiming to be God in the slightest – but we do take the faith given to us serious.

      The issue at the core is an individuals salvation, not the size of one’s ministry.

      “We should be weary of exploitation, but not at the expense of demonizing people who are simply humans.”

      Furtick is human? Is he not the Messiah that Perry Noble preached about at Furtick’s Code Orange revival? He can’t be “simply human” if he presents such divine messianic authority.

      “I’m not on this planet to judge.”
      Then how can you call yourself a Christian if the Holy Spirit in you calls you to judge, discern, rebuke, correct and so on? What are you preaching to people? What are you reading to believe such rubbish?

      “But the Hillsong I’ve experienced”
      Key word: “experienced”. How about actually opening up the bible and comparing what they actually say to the scriptures? That is the only way you know they are telling you the truth or lying about God and lying to you.

      “… goes out if its way weekly to make sure people don’t feel guilty about giving.”
      They are going out of their “way weekly” because they realise that their message is not Christian – thus people will feel guilty about giving. They’re simply hiding it better. Just pull apart what they are saying. The guilt is still there because it is reinforce that if you don’t give then you’re not really being a Christian. They insist that giving is what a Christian is ALL about and that giving is the Christian’s identity. That is a partly true.

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    • Let’s slow down a bit. Are you implying they’re coming people to hell for not giving tithes? Because even if we WERE operating according to the robbing God idea, that claim would still be false.
      If you intensely generalize entire groups and organizations based on evidence that you are subjectively interpreting, then yes I’d call that better.
      I’m not discussing Furtick or disagreeing with a lack of integrity amongst certain “Christian” leaders. What I AM saying is non of us are perfect and if there ARE leaders who are leading people astray unintentionally, then I would rather pray for them than demonize them, since God is the one who ultimately condemns.
      I’d appreciate it if you’d chill with insulting my intelligence though. I’m a highly rational being with a large BS detector, so naturally I only follow what lines up with scripture. Have you been to an entire Hillsong service? You seem very quick to claim with certainty what’s going on in the hearts of BOTH preachers and congregation. Like I said, they go out of their way to negate the guilt of giving, because so many churches make it about giving.
      “They insist that giving is what a Christian is ALL about”…I have literally. Never. Experienced that sentiment at Hillsong. Especially not about money. Any mention of financial giving is spoken about during offering time and the whole thing lasts 5 minutes max. Any other mention of giving is about service. So I would say chill a bit. Skepticism doesn’t include omniscient, absolute claims about people’s integrity and hearts.

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    • Lester

      “What I AM saying is non of us are perfect and if there ARE leaders who are leading people astray unintentionally, then I would rather pray for them than demonize them”

      I don’t care what YOU ARE saying. I care what PAUL SAID. Ephesians 5:11. Romans 16:17.

      “I’m not discussing Furtick”

      That’s funny, because Brian Houston is. Brian Houston had him at Hillsong Conference in both 2012 & 2014.

      “I’m a highly rational being with a large BS detector, so naturally I only follow what lines up with scripture.”

      The batteries must have died in your ‘large BS detector’, and your lines seem to be blurred.

      “Like I said, they go out of their way to negate the guilt of giving, because so many churches make it about giving.”

      No. They push giving 24/7. Are you asleep, head in the sand, or just busy gawking at the ladies in the Hillsong Silent Night video?

      “Especially not about money. Any mention of financial giving is spoken about during offering time and the whole thing lasts 5 minutes max.”

      Except when Brian Houston dedicates a few months out of his life to write books on the topic, like “YOU NEED MORE MONEY!!!” Did you read that book? Wow, what passion that spiritual giant has! Where’s my copy? I think I need to reread it again and get all fired up for the Kingdom of Mammon!

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  4. It is a shame that the secular media has to call out the church. Thank the Lord that I am not in a church like this. I had a friend who had been a pastor’s wife and they had offering boxes in the foyer of the church and they never lacked.

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  5. Yes, I support gullley’s example of non-pressured offerings. I only responded to this post because I attend Hillsong Copenhagen and experience weekly the lack of pressure on tithes and offerings (despite the con artist claim made in the beginning). Our pastors stress that giving is not a requirement, but if you are part of the family and you feel blessed, feel free to bless the church so those resources can go into blessing others (e.g. starting an extension service in Malmo, Sweeden).

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    • “Our pastors stress that giving is not a requirement…”

      Okay. If that’s true, what do you think of these statements?

      “Well, if we want to prosper, and we want all the right things to prosper in our life, by all means! I’ve personally, (and this is a big statement, and I know I’ve said it before), but personally, I don’t think you can be in the will of God and not put Him first in your finances. I think I make some people mad when I say it, but I actually believe it. I actually believe that you can’t be right with God if you don’t get that basic right. That foundation right.”

      “… I want to encourage you with your giving this morning, because that’s what it’s about. Malachi 3 says, bring the tithe and offering, bring it into the house of God that there might be food in my house. And in context it’s saying when you withhold or draw back you actually rob God, well we don’t rob God because we can’t rob God, but we rob His heart for the earth…”

      “The truth is when you actually think about it, the message of giving in like manner is also foolishness to those who are perishing but to us is the power of God.”

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    • I’m guessing these are quotes from Hillsong pastors? These comments are leading/encouraging people to give, yes, but they don’t come across as forcing. Technically, you can’t be in the will of God and not put Him first in everything, whether it be finances, relationships, etc. Giving is a basic request from God to all Christians. You’re a blessing so you can bless others. But no one can or should force you to do anything, because coercion or force misses the point. The power comes from acting first and foremost
      with the love of God.

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  6. Are you doing something wrong if you don’t give tithes? Maybe. Maybe not. I can’t say either way. Are you doing something wrong if God isn’t the first priority in your life? Yep. So as long as God is my first priority in everything, including finances, I trust that the Spirit will guide my hand, regardless of what a person in front of a podium might say.

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    • “Are you doing something wrong if you don’t give tithes? Maybe. Maybe not. I can’t say either way.”
      Then read your bible to find out rather hide behind postmodern obfuscation games.

      “Are you doing something wrong if God isn’t the first priority in your life?”

      That is not what Brian Houston said. Stop twisting his words to justify his blatant sin. What he linked God to was money – which is THE prosperity heresy. Why is it that Hillsong members have no problem twisting people’s words?

      “I trust that the Spirit will guide my hand, regardless of what a person in front of a podium might say.”
      Wake up call: you don’t trust the Holy Spirit.

      If you did, you would know your bible and realise that Hillsong does not reflect Christ, his teachings or His church. The Holy Spirit will actually call you out. It is clear you ignore His God-breathed Word and that you elevate Hillsong above the Holy Spirit. Why are you doing this?

      And please – prove us wrong. Go find a Brian Houston sermon and test everything he says to the scriptures. Read the scriptures in context and see if Brian Houston is really making the effort to communicate accurately what God is saying in the scriptures. It is really not that hard.

      We know primary school students who can discern the error of Brian’s error. So what we are asking you should not be a hard request. We do it all the time.

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    • I can’t be twisting Houston’s words because I’m not speaking for about him. I’m telling you what I experience as a member of Hillsong Copenhagen. I’ve heard one Brian Houston sermon and I can’t even remember anything that might have been said about money, except that God never gives you an opportunity without the resources to go the distance. I would encourage you to step out of whatever spite you might have for an individual person and see something bigger than him, for starters. I don’t need to discuss how much my prayer and scripture life has gone through the roof in the month or so I’ve been with them. They care about people. They preach about reaching people. Taking care of people. They do this on stage and behind closed doors. I know this because I work on their team, behind those closed doors. I would encourage you to pause on the condescending tone you have in regards to my spiritual life and reassess what claims you can validly make with the evidence you have. Because the ones you have already made are unsubstantiated, although thought provoking.

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    • Is a long narrative full of subjective experience supposed to be a final critique? Most of writer’s views are very much a matter of preference, although I do agree with some points. The biggest thing that I felt tension with however was his assertion that there was no family. I’ve come from a small Nigerian church (a branch of an international Nigerian church) where everyone knew each other, so I know what it means to feel like you’re at home. I’ve been surprised with how much I’ve felt that same feeling at Hillsong Copenhagen, especially because of the connect groups. Hillsong definitely has features worth criticizing, and when I think of them I bring them up to some of the leaders and volunteers. But to try to make blanket generalizations and demonize an entire organization because of a bad experience or some style you disagree with is hardly justifiable. I find anyone who lacks skepticism suspicious, but I find anyone who goes out of their way to be skeptical equally suspicious. But you’ve made your points. Is Hillsong deserving of serious critique? Yea. Are they deserving of condescending claims about their integrity and spiritual life? Probably not. Do they actually bear good fruit? Well, people are saved across the world every week so I’d say that’s a good step. But since we’re both speaking subjectively at this point, can we accurately judge the ENTIRE organization? Nope. But I’ll keep my critical thinking hat on, just for you.
      Cheers, Team KingdomKnight

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    • We’re hearing a lot about your “subjective experience”, Benjamin. Can we accurately judge the ENTIRE organization? Biblically, yes we can.

      Elizabeth gives a very good interview here.

      http://www.piratechristian.com/fightingforthefaith/2015/7/the-power-of-the-pulse?rq=hillsong

      Cheers, Team ChurchWatch.

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  7. Do you know what bothers me about these comments……. as soon as anyone expresses a statement about any of these mega churches (et al) out comes the “You sound so bitter ” card. It is nauseating….. why is it so difficult for those involved to stick to the issue and to refrain from acting like little children with comments like “you sound so bitter”, “what do you have a personal grudge against …..” etc. Heaven help those who continue to keep blocking their ears to what’s being exposed. Get your eyes off the golden calf and back on to the WORD OF GOD! And not the version preached by the wolves in these churches but the unadulterated WORD OF GOD. You will survive without your Sunday morning entertainment and if you need assistance once you leave the cult (because you WILL be shunned!!!) there will be people waiting to offer assistance. There are many praying for all caught up in this.

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    • Christ is King

      I am afraid many of the “You sound so bitter ” card type of comments come from Tares who will never know the difference between the True Gospel and false gospels.

      Like

    • Yes, in that particular moment it sounded like bitterness because of the condescending tones being used and the unwillingness to even accept the possibility of a different perspective. The author of this post was generalizing all of hillsong. I was providing a current insider look at what I experience weekly at my own hillsong branch. My experiences–literally the things I have been hearing and seeing and participating in–have been inconsistent with the claims made in this article. When someone insists on attacking on the integrity of an ENTIRE organization in the face of contrary evidence because of observations that partially support his argument, then yes, that sounds bitter. And by bitter, I’m implying less focus on trying to arrive at the truth together, and more focus on trying to impose your views and make large unsubstantiated claims on some kind of quasi-level of righteous indignation. But since I’ve seen that this forum has been less about discussion and more about argument, I’ve decided to drop out.

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    • Do you know of Dr. Albert Mohler Benjamin? He is the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Are you a millennial by any chance?

      “It’s a prosperity movement for the millennials, in which the polyester and middle-class associations of Oral Roberts have given way to ripped jeans and sophisticated rock music,” said Mohler Jr. to NY Times. “What has made Hillsong distinctive is a minimization of the actual content of the Gospel, and a far more diffuse presentation of spirituality.”

      Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/r-albert-mohler-jr-calls-hillsong-a-prosperity-movement-that-waters-down-the-gospel-126183/#5ad8rLd3p5COIzJP.99

      http://pulpitandpen.org/2016/03/17/why-hillsong-music-is-dangerous-for-your-church/

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    • Ahhhh. Thank you for those links. I think I’m starting to understand the situation. I found the tone of the latter link to be very leading and one-sided, I can see where the debate lies. Have you heard of Reach Records? People have made some similar arguments against the new direction they have taken with their music. Yes, to answer your question, I am a millennial. Yes, I think Hillsong music is easier to consume by a younger audience. Yes, I think that is something worth critiquing (Hillsong CPH has 3 services, 2 Am and 1 pm. The Am services are 70% 30 yr olds and older, whereas the Pm service is younger, so I’ve found that to be a decent compromise). What a lot of this sounds like is a debate I’ve been witnessing in the Christian world regarding the method in which an organization goes about reaching people. From my inside view (I’m a volunteer), the pastors stress that Hillsong is a come as you are church. They get upset because they hate when people don’t even “let a person progress on their journey”, so condemning at the first sign of sin. A recent sermon stressed that your position in the journey doesn’t matter as much as your direction, and if your direction is pointed to Christ, we’re making progress.

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  8. These are the two camps I’ve witnessed: be strict and unwavering in pointing out sinful error and practice vs the baby steps, Love them first camp. In terms of the music, I’ve personally felt blessed by many songs, especially Oceans. However, even I have gone to a service and felt like everything was going through the motions. But our pastor Thomas actually emphasizes the danger of losing awe in God and going through the emotions. Actually, the authentic, and God-fearing nature of that pastor is probably the main reason I’ve invested in that church. They focus on what’s right before they focus on what’s wrong, which may be a strategic to response to millennials, who are turned off by what they perceive to be very judgmental, hypocritical Christians. So the Hillsong motto is people first. The love of God first, before anything else. Get the big decisions right and the rest will start to fix itself. It’s definitely a strategy with potential flaws, but it’s a strategy nonetheless, just like the more “conservative” perspective expressed in that second link. And I’ve seen the genuine authenticity within that strategy. The Bible is still used heavily, and the congregation is challenged to stay planted in the church even when they are confronted by scripture that challenges their behavior.

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    • thinker

      From a Gen Xer to a Millennial: doesn’t it insult your intelligence to be so mollycoddled? A (normal IQ) grownup who’s always being treated like a baby is not someone to be envied or admired. They’re either being taken for a fool or really are a fool.

      You ARE loving your neighbour by telling them ALL of God’s truths. It will repel false converts who come for ooey-gooey feelings only, and it will make Christians mature. e.g. When someone becomes a true Christian they will NOT continue to love their sins they now learn God hates. They will experience a inner battle to fight against their sins instead. It is UNloving to tiptoe around what needs to be said. Sins need to be named and exposed, using the bible to defeat them.

      If Millennials all demand such cotton wool treatment how on earth are you going to defend yourself when Satan’s attacks eventually come upon yourselves? No knowledge of God’s Word equals no power. How will.you fight against sin if personal feelings are your only compass (because no preacher has the guts to tell you what is painfully obvious to many people- even non-Christians who haven’t read the bible)?

      It really is time to stop using the neutral word “behaviour”. Use the three letter word that the bible uses for what God condemns instead – SIN. Spiritual soldiers need to be grownups and use grownup words.

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    • The church where most of my spiritual life was raised in was a Pentecostal Nigerian church that was of coursed led by people who thought much like you do. Your perspective is the perspective I was conditioned with since birth. There is validity in some of your points. But as a psychology student, I’ve noticed that Gen Xers fail to understand the motivational workings behind Millennials. Much of this need for coddling that you refer to is indeed a result of the paradoxical tension between the way we were raised, what we were taught, and the cliff that has awaited us after we have followed those teachings by heart. Like I said, my Hillsong branch challenges us in scripture constantly. Does our pastor come out and yell that you’re a sinner if you’re gay? No. I believe the audience already knows this. But will he find ways to crack at you little by little until God is the undisputed head of your life? Yes. Will he judge fornication and idolatry (which may be easier to come at head on that homosexuality)? Yes. It’s not simply a coddling routine. People in my generation live with scars they don’t know how to deal with, scars given to them by churches, by the very people who profess God, because Christians have had a tendency to inflate scripture with personal views and preference. So would you rather rebuke a young sinner and guarantee they never return, or welcome a fellow broken human and show them love until their love for God trumps whatever sin they may have been holding on to? Again, I grew up in the palm of your worldiview. I consumed it. Until one day, I saw that every time I tried to bring someone closer to God, I pushed them farther away. Until the day I sat in church, why is it that all we hear about are rules, what you shouldn’t do, and constant negativity, and never any real empowerment? Nothing that shows you how to truly fear AND love God, for the very sake of it rather than for some consequence or something. Churches like Hillsong have provided that for people. I’ve only been at their church 2 months, and I’ve been strong in my faith before them, but I cannot lie. My genuine devotion to God in my personal life, the intensity and consistency with which I read the scriptures, the very blog I have created that allows me to have these debates and express my poetry (kingdomknight.co)–it has all stemmed from the growth I’ve experienced since being in that church.

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    • Sadly scratching itching ears will always be more pleasing Benjamin. And Hillsong’s influence in Africa only adds to the world-wide modern day downgrade. One of our favorite preachers has quite a bit to say about that:

      http://www.conradmbewe.com/2013/07/why-is-charismatic-movement-thriving-in.html

      http://www.conradmbewe.com/2012/10/our-criminal-evangelical-silence.htm

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    • I think your links only confirm my previous qualms with some of the churches I grew up in. It was all about your sin and what’s wrong with you and stuff that’s blocking you and not about actively seeking Christ. In psychology we call that an avoidance vs approach goal orientation dichotomy. I disagree with the first article’s blanket assertion that certain religious practices, however dubious they might seem, “don’t lead to heaven.” Accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior leads to heaven, regardless of what kind of way you think you need to pray. I have never believed I’ve needed a man of God to bring me breakthrough. God is already in me. This is a theme in my poetry. And while you call it scratching ears, I call it keeping them in the door. I don’t think older generations and conservative thinkers fully understand the damage that’s been caused by religion, which is different than the faith. We convict, we do not condemn. We teach, we do not demand. God doesn’t force us to change, he invites us to, because he loves us. And the closer we bring ourselves to that love, the more we actually change. This does not happen by pointing put everything wrong with a person. Prosperity sermons aren’t my favorite thing on the world, but there is nothing wrong with them in themselves. There is nothing wrong with encouraging (not demanding) giving when that giving is going to bless someone else. You ask for more so you can give more. When greed is present, then there’s a problem. And while I can’t speak for other branches, the Hillsong that I’ve experienced does not have a greed problem. If anything, the Spirit convicted me of being overly skeptical because I saw just how genuine their (volunteers) service and love for building the church and giving to others was. It was like seeing healing all around me, instead of grumpiness, and pain, and guilt, and it was unusual. I’m not saying Hillsong is perfect or it has gone without mistakes. But this feels very much like a liberal v conservative debate. Each side prioritizes something different and BOTH are necessary for building his Kingdom. I cherish balance. We are not of the world, but we ARE in it, to be a light that both teaches and empowers.

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    • “I think…” “I feel…”
      That’s your problem right there. You consider yourself more highly than god and put your opinions above the Word of God. You’re essentially practising your own religion and despise the teachings of God. Let me quote what you’ve said:

      “I don’t think older generations and conservative thinkers fully understand the damage that’s been caused by religion, which is different than the faith.”

      The older generations actually know the faith and you’re accusing them of being unfaithful. The damage the old generation caused was their inability to be vocal and active against the false teaching which you so happily swallow.

      “We convict, we do not condemn.”
      Except if you’re Benjamin Raji. You just condemned the older generations for being “religiious”.

      “But this feels very much like a liberal v conservative debate.”
      Of course you would think that. You’re a liberal. We just hold to the scriptures – so you’d view us ‘conservative’.

      “Each side prioritizes something different”
      We prioritize the word of God. You prioritize yourself. See the problem?

      “and BOTH are necessary for building his Kingdom.”
      Nope. Christ is the builder – we are called to merely plant and water – God does the watering. Read your bible.

      “We teach, we do not demand.”
      Said a Hillsong Apologist who’s cult demands Christianity change or die. Hypocrite.

      “God doesn’t force us to change, he invites us to, because he loves us.”
      Can you explain the God of the Apostle Paul who you claim to love and serve?

      “And the closer we bring ourselves to that love, the more we actually change.”
      No gospel. No cross. Only “change”.

      If this is an example of the “Christ” light you are bringing to the world, then you have not light in you but darkness. You really need to take Jesus and your faith more seriously. Hillsong flourishes because of people like you who do not know what Christianity is.

      We implore you to read and study the Word of God for yourself. What you have said only confirms you are not on the narrow road. Is your salvation not serious?

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    • I don’t see a point in continuing this discussion. The fact that you use blanket claims and assertive character judgments doesn’t actually make them accuarate…I hope you know that. I just see no point in defending my faith or stance to someone who clearly has actually missed the entire point of Christianity. Saying that I consider myself more highly than God (when all I’ve said is what God’s Word tells us to do) doesn’t actual validate your claim. It just makes you sound condescending and ignorant of the ways your condescending attitude towards the world continues to not only discourage people from Christ, but even make current Christians from the church. I will take your advice and continue to take my faith more seriously. I would advise you to take your pride more seriously. Don’t claim to prioritize the word of God when you prioritize a mere segment of it. The church I’ve served teaches scriptural doctrine in its entirety, and the strategy for getting people to even listen to the scriptures in the first place is to show them love first. Since, you know, that’s what God is. We don’t self-righteously flaunt around our pride as we throw stones at broken people who are seeking a love that only God can fill. “No gospel. No cross. Only ‘change’. Homie have you read a Bible, outside of the time you spend as “church watcher”? The gospel is THE catalyst for change. The cross is the only reason for changing. And both only exist because of Christ, who is Love, and as the supreme ethic, that is the first thing people must see in a Christian heart. Not stones. Not silly character judgments without facts. Not silly generalizations about entire organizations. Definitely not silly cult-like vision that tries to condemn everyone that doesn’t abide by a narrow, quasi-Biblical understanding of how to be truly Christian. I grew up in a church that sounds a lot like you. Now I’m briefly attending Hillsong. Ask me how many times someone gave their life for Christ at my old church? Better yet, guess how many times the “Christians” in our church actually prioritized God as THE priority in their life? Compare that to the lives that get saved weekly where I now go to church. The difference is Christ-like behavior, compassion, wisdom. Not arrogant, pseudo-theological omniscience. When you see evil you throw stones and run away. When I see evil, I pray, I teach, I stay and be the catalyst for the change that only God can produce in a person’s life. That is why this conversation is no longer worth my attention. But I’ll keep you, all the proclaimed con-artist churches, Hillsong, and all of us ungodly millenials in my prayers. Ciao.

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    • We want to commend you for your efforts here:

      “When I see evil, I pray, I teach, I stay and be the catalyst for the change that only God can produce in a person’s life.”

      We actually encourage people who are in Hillsong leadership who have come to see the truth (or become a Christian), to stay in their positions to be an agent of change. Sadly, these types of people find it difficult to remain in such environments when there is such brazen opposition the simple gospel message.

      So it does sound like your time will come when you will have to make the hard decision to leave for Christ’s namesake.

      Now for the rest of your comment, you have done a fantastic job typically stereotyping us the way Hillsong often portrays their critics. So – tick! You intolerance for actual historic Christianity is very noticeable. We are faithfully and earnestly hoping that Christians like yourself take your faith seriously and contend earnestly for the faith.

      And we are questioning where you are at spiritually because you are showing the signs of being a classic proselyte of Hillsong – not of Jesus Christ.

      Your rant just then publicly exposed some serious flaws in your Christian confession. When you see evil – you defend it when instead the bible instructs us to contend earnestly for the faith, once and for all delivered to the saints. Now to claim that Hillsong in it’s entirety us evil is a blanket statement – in saying that, not all people in Hillsong are evil. There are sheep in the goatpen.

      Nevertheless Hillsong are promoting evil people who promote evil teachings that blaspheme God, promote apostasy and increase the wicked leaven in the visible church. That is what this site has continually monitored and exposed . The lies, the scandals and the deception is unending in Hillsong. It’s systemic.

      And just like the cults, you have been programmed to continually pick up mangled bible verses and phrases and use them to silence and bully Christians to submit to the Hillsong way (“first thing people must see in a Christian heart. Not stones”; “When you see evil you throw stones and run away”).

      “Saying that I consider myself more highly than God”

      We were simply highlighting the obvious. Christians do not elevate their experience above God’s Word. You did. And that’s very dangerous to do.

      In fact, someone today from churchwatcher asked a Hillsonger what the gospel was. Their response?

      “To me, the gospel is…”

      Do you know how often we hear that? Can you see the error in that statement? And do you know how many Hillsong members don’t even say anything about the cross, the atonement, sins, forgiveness, wrath of God, etc?

      “We don’t self-righteously flaunt around our pride”

      Hillsong is notorious for this. It’s called false humility – just listen to Brian Houston being interviewed, tune in to one of his sermons or read one of his books. Pride is often in Hillsong language. They want members to be “proud” and often flatter people to make them feel they are the best in the world, far and above other churches. Both Brian and Bobbie Houston teach people to flaunt their successes in such a way that other people (including Christians) envy them. Just read some of their books.

      If you see Hillsong as a mission field, go for it. You have our blessings and support to help share the gospel who do not know it. If you see it as a place to worship with “like-minded” people, then it’s just a matter of time before that Hillsong church will becoming just as bad as Brian Houston’s church.

      Like

    • thinker

      Benjamin, as a psychology student you should also know it is unwise to jump to conclusions. I am a parent of two Millennials. Pop psychology child-rearing books taught my generation “praise not punishment” and “high self-esteem ultimate goal” . We’ve reaped what we’ve sown – a generation unable to take correction and unable to start task/ complete task without praise. A generation where tolerance is the ultimate virtue, and telling a person directly “what you’re doing is wrong” is personal abuse and traumatizing to inner self-worth.

      Preaching against a sin *without* attacking the sinner can take considerable insight and compassion, that’s why hardly anybody should be allowed to preach. Preaching needs to be very carefully to avoid either extreme. Yes abusive churches have done serious damage to some Christians. Modern churches have rightfully tried to remove what was not constructive e.g. focusing on hair length and hemlines.

      Churches like Hillsong have gone to the other extreme and put “hate the sin AND love the sinner” in the too hard basket. “Love your neighbour” does not mean “never do/ say anything that might hurt someone’s feelings”. They are killing you with kindness. Young Christians who are only ever fed yummy food (encouragement, God always loves you ) and never yucky vegetables (this is sin, why it’s sin and how God will help you overcome it) are spiritually malnourished and will be very weak as a.result. You need both to get strong in the Lord.

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    • Christ is King

      “Prosperity sermons aren’t my favorite thing on the world, but there is nothing wrong with them in themselves.”

      Actually, the fact that they are not biblical, makes them completely wrong.

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    • Christ is King

      Prosperity sermons have got to go:

      2 cor 10:5 —

      “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”

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  9. alford

    “I don’t need to discuss how much my prayer and scripture life has gone through the roof in the month or so I’ve been with them.”

    Benjamin, You don’t need to discuss it, because we can see you are filled with PRIDE and DECEPTION.

    Like

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