I was going to comment on the whole Steven Furtick house controversy. (Summary: Pastor of a mega church & author of multiple best selling books builds an obscenely large house that is legally in the name of a trust managed by one of the elders but allegedly requests for financial transparency have been denied.)
But basically all I have to say on the matter is that I DO think that financial transparency for a church and it’s leaders is vital. Perhaps I’m spoiled by our home church that puts financial information in the welcome packet for visitors – including pastors’ salaries. I don’t know how common of a practice that is. However, I DO feel that if you embrace the role of a public figure and/or leader, you also have a responsibility to be more transparent than some might consider comfortable. It’s not a comfortable or easy role. Whether you’re a Rick Warren or a Steven Furtick, you have a unique opportunity to positively influence those who look to you as an example and for guidance. Leading means being an example and that’s difficult to do without transparency. (If we get really down to it, I think all Christians should probably be transparent, with finances especially, if asked. Just most of us will never be asked!)
Ultimately, it’s not really my business how this pastor – or any pastor – spends their money. I understand the controversy. But that’s a matter between him and God, as are all matters. I can be outraged by behavior all I want but in the end, I’m only accountable for MY actions and habits and life.
What this little incident did though was give me an opportunity to have a short but (hopefully) meaningful conversation with one of the boys. He was rather concerned and extremely disappointed. His comment was “I hope he’s going to show everyone up by announcing it’s actually for a ministry project, not just for his family. He’s my FAVORITE PASTOR. I LIKE HIM SO MUCH. Why would he do this?” See, the idea of this man building an unnecessarily large & luxurious home was abhorrent to him. He feels it’s unnecessary and gluttonous (can that be used for possessions?) and just….It just made him uncomfortable. And it made him uncomfortable because he has this guy on a pedestal. And so I was able to point out how human heroes will always disappoint us. (The right) Role models are good. I highly encourage our boys to engage in relationships with trusted mentors. But. But. They’re human. And when you forget that and start moving them to idol status, the crash when they screw up is going to be that much worse. There’s more disappointment & less grace. More judgement and less understanding.
It makes me take a step back and wonder – who do I idolize? Who do I have on a pedestal? Are my role models upstanding examples in my own life that can pour into me, be transparent with me? Or are they an imagined persona of a distant person that could never live up to those expectations anyway?