When asked about the conviction of David Yonggi Cho, founder of world's largest Pentecostal congregation in South Korea, for embezzling $12 million from his church, popular pastor John Piper took the opportunity to warn pastors in the U.S. who might "love money," in a recent message.
"With every public dishonoring of Christ, every public dishonoring of His Word and His Gospel, and His Church, it makes me angry and it makes me sorrowful," said Piper in a recent episode of Ask Pastor John.
Yonggi Cho who pastors Yoido Full Gospel Church and oversees a network of churches numbering 800,000, was found guilty by a South Korean court for committing breach of trust and corruption amounting to $12 million, according to Yonhap News Agency. He received a suspended sentence of three years in prison with a five year probation and was ordered to pay a penalty of $4.7 million by Seoul Central District Court on Feb. 20.
One of Cho's sons, Hee-jun, who serves as secretary general of Yeongsan Christian Cultural Center and was a former chairman of Next Media, was sentenced to three years in prison.
"My response to this is really not to pile on any additional condemnation … but rather to try to respond for the rest of us in a way that tries to prevent these kinds of things," said Piper.
"I want pastors to keep watch on themselves. I have five pleas to pastors. My hope is that pastors will listen this and take this 68-year-old pastor's heart-aching that we not bring this kind of reproach on the name of Christ," he continued. He then listed five precautions pastors should take to avoid the sinful seduction of money.
1. Kill every desire to be rich and get rich
Don't want this. If you see the desire in your heart take aim at it with the words of Christ and the words of Paul and put it to death with a swift blow with the sword of the spirit. Jesus said how difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom. In other words don't want this.
2. Pastors, if you see your income starting to grow, set a governor on it
Keep away from accumulating more and more and communicating to your people that you lay up treasures on earth. One of the best ways to do this I think, is to grow the percentage of your giving. I'm not impressed with a pastor who gives 30 percent of a million dollar royalty check and keeps 70 percent of it to buy luxuries with. I've heard pastors boast that they give 30, 40 percent. I'm not even impressed with giving 90 percent of a $10 million royalty check and keeping a million dollars to play with. While you look like every other millionaire and think that you have done a virtuous thing. Money is insidiously deceptive. We've seen it over and over again and I'm pleading with pastors, be content with what the church pays you and give the rest away with joy and strategic wisdom.
3. Be totally transparent with your fellow elders about your sources of income
These elders should not be the wealthy powerful peers from outside the church. That is an unbiblical way to lead your flock. It has no biblical foundation and it communicates distrust for your local leaders and a kind of pride that you are above their local accountability. Let all the books of your income be open to any member of your church who asks the elders. Secrecy around money is deadly. It's a sign that something is not right so work to give your ministry the flavor, 'we're not like peddlers of God's word.'
4. Live simply to show that your treasure is in heaven and not on earth
Please don't write this off as pauper theology. There goes Piper again with his pauper theology. That is absolutely ridiculous. The kind of distortion that makes of what I'm saying is a sign of fear that what I'm saying just might be true.
Get a car that works; that gets you where you need to go. Get a car that doesn't break down on you every few months. I'm talking about a modest entertainment budget that doesn't eat out every night. I'm talking about a refreshing vacation, not an exorbitant one. I'm talking about clothes that are unremarkable and undistracting, both for not being shabby and not being brand driven. I'm talking about a home that accomplishes your family and ministry purposes leaning towards ordinary folks in your congregation, not the wealthiest.
5. Put in place a leadership structure of a plurality of elders
A council of elders on which you the pastor have one vote. You are a chief among equals…not by having veto power over everyone else.
"I'm so jealous of these things because I am jealous for the name of Christ. His name is being blasphemed Paul said … the name of God is being blasphemed because of you. 'You abhor idols and you rob temples.' That is hypocrisy to the core … that is happening today because of pastors who love money," Piper ended.