Unveiling ‘mega church’ money

When you say mega church preachers/bishops such as TD Jakes, Joel Osteen, Paula White and Creflo Dollar come to mind. Something that also comes to mind is their abundance of wealth and fame.Where does all of the tithe and offering money go? Why are the ministers living such lavish lifestyles and members of their congregation are barely getting by? Is all they do just for the television cameras or is it actually true and genuine praise? These are just a few of the questions that Senator Charles Grassley R-Iowa conjured up. Grassley is the top Republican on the Senate finance committee.

Sen. Grassley is investigating whether the mega churches are abusing their tax-exempt status. His first target is Minister Paula White’s, Without Walls International Church. Grassley is requesting that White (as well as all of the other church’s in the investigation) submit to his committee a detailed document sheet explaining how they spend their donations.

If White and five other mega church leaders, Rev. Kenneth Copeland of Newark, Tx; the Rev. Creflo Dollar, pastor of World Changers Ministry in College Park, Ga., and New York City; Benny Hinn, a televangelist based in Irving, Texas; Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.; and Joyce Meyer, a popular evangelist and author based in Fenton, Mo. fail to submit the detailed document, Grassley warned them that they may face congressional hearings or IRS scrutiny.

“I think it’d be wise for them to do it,” Grassley said at the Capitol. “I doubt if they’re legally bound. But you’re sure going to have to respond to the IRS. And wouldn’t you rather respond to Chuck Grassley than the IRS?”

Rumors are floating around that White and her now ex-husband and ministry cohort used their churches money to pay for their plastic surgery. Definitely not! We have not used our church’s money for our personal pleasures stated White. “A portion of our money, about .80 to .87 cents of each $1 we receive is put back into the community, and our church.

We feed the hungry, send thousands of inner city children to school with backpacks filled with school supplies every year, we give toys to all of the children whose parents are in prison,” said White.

White also stated that the financial breakdown of the money for Without Walls International Church are on the church’s website for public viewing. “We have nothing to hide,” said White.

The federal tax code prohibits using income and assets from tax-exempt organizations for personal gain. Unlike many other nonprofits, churches and ministries are not required to file Internal Revenue Service forms outlining their spending.

Without Walls International church was the first targeted and questioned due to the statements from insiders and whistle-blowers.

Dr. Creflo Dollar and his World’s Changers International Church is another one of Grassley’s targets. Grassley’s and critics’ concerns about Dollar are his Rolls Royce, his pricey residences in Atlanta and New York, and his use of a private jet.

“Jesus came to the ministry on a simple mule. Today’s ministers come in on a Jet,” said Grassley.

“Before entering the ministry I was a therapist. I also own my own business. I have been working for years. I learned how to invest and save my money,” said Dollar.

As with each minister, the use of their private jet comes up. “The private jet I use is owned by the church. It is necessary to accomplish the mission of our ministry,” stated Dollar.

These ministries do not go totally without paying taxes. They are only exempt from paying federal taxes. “We didn’t create the laws. This tax exempt law has been law for many years. Now that the church is growing larger, questions are being asked.

Is this the beginning of the end of the mega church?

The Associated Press and Wes Allison and Sherri Day, Times staff members, contributed to this story.