As reported by the Christian Post, John Piper recently had some very thoughtful observations in light of David Yonggi Cho’s conviction for embezzling $12 million from his church in Seoul. Cho, the founder of the world’s largest church, was recently sentenced to three years in prison for acts that included taking donations and borrowing huge sums from his church that he had no intention of repaying. In his daily interview Ask Pastor John, Piper stated that stories like Cho’s are bad for Christianity, noting “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.” Piper went on to offer a number of thoughtful recommendations for how churches and pastors can keep from falling into the same temptations that felled Cho.
Piper advised that all pastors try to put to death any desire in their hearts for wealth. As a way to ensure that such desires do not get out of check, he recommended that pastors be transparent about all sources of income with the church’s elders, or to anyone else in the church who asks. He advised:
I plead with pastors to be totally transparent with your fellow elders. … 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.”
To avoid some of the temptations of wealth, he also recommended that the church not be ruled by worldly successful elders, which sends the wrong message. And the pastor should be only one of a number of elders and should have just one vote — not a veto on the congregation.
Finally, Piper told pastors to live simply:
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.
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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.
We think Piper’s advice is very wise. Listening to his entire interview (only 9 minutes) is well worth the time.