REV. IKE WAS NOT A CROOK…But Your Pastor May Be (in a well meaning, sincere kind of way), Robbing Yo
That got your attention, didn’t it? A good headline should do that—the meat of the matter is in the body of the text.
Rev. Ike was not a crook, but your pastor may be robbing you. Not intentionally and not in the way you may be thinking. The sensationalist trope of the shady pastor fleecing the flock is rare, and generally quickly exposed. Most pastors are honest, ethical, and have a real heart for their churches, but many of those honest, ethical pastors are robbing their flocks none-the-less. More on that in a moment. First the top of the headline. Rev. Ike was not a crook, nor was he a false prophet. He was exactly what he purported himself to be—a Science of Mind teacher that believed in, practiced, and taught prosperity.
As a young preacher I listened to Ike on KSKY, in Dallas, and the super-power stations out of Mexico, XEG, and XERF. He garnered attention with his unabashed assertions of, “You can’t lose with the stuff I use,” and, “You need to use your mind power to get green power.” Having gotten people’s attention he showed them what he did and how he did it. When he spoke of “mind power,” he wasn’t just speaking of the mainstream Science of Mind teachings that were the basis for his belief system, because he also taught his followers how to use common sense principles to prosper, and, while you may not agree with the Science of Mind philosophy, (it does leave much to be desired!), he didn’t pretend to be other than that. Ergo, he was not a false prophet. Neither did he hide his wealth from his followers. He took great glee in telling them that they were spending a thousand dollars a week on his clothes. Outrageous?!? Absolutely! On so many levels that I don’t have time, or space to cover them, but honest none-the-less. And his people had the option of continuing to support him, and his fleet of Rolls Royce automobiles, or not. Most chose to, because they were reaping the benefits of his positive approach to prosperity. I never followed Rev. Ike, but I could perfectly imitate him, (along with David Epley, R.W. Schambach, Kenneth Hagin, James B. Rector, and all of the other radio preachers that we listened in those days). Little did I know that I would one day have dinner with Rev. Ike.
I was speaking in Miami, for the late, great, Dwight Parret. He mentioned that he was thinking about doing some writing for Rev. Ike, and I mentioned that I would like to meet him. The next evening, he had arranged for us to meet Ike at an over the top Rococo-Baroque gilt and velvet wall papered restaurant in North Miami. Ike was a gracious, loquacious host, free with his sources, and with his time. He also insisted on paying for dinner—a dinner that was over the top! We all said good night at the end of the meal, and that was that. I could have pursued the relationship, but honestly, he didn’t add anything to my understanding of prosperity—if anything, (in Texas they say that if it’s a fact it’s not a brag), I have a broader understanding, and I’m certainly a lot more balanced! But it was a memorable moment.
So, Rev. Ike was not a crook, nor was he a false prophet, because he presented himself just as he was. But what about the second half of the headline, “Your pastor may be robbing you?” If he or she isn’t teaching prosperity principles, he or she is, at least, robbing you of God’s promises for your prosperity.
The late great Doyle Hart was controversial. He wore a diamond ring that was described as, “needing three men to carry it.” He drove a Rolls Royce before anyone in ministry drove a Rolls. He was Pentecostal, flamboyant, but he loved his church and he loved his people. Doyle famously said, “People call me a crook because I teach people to tithe, give offerings, and tell them how to prosper. Who’s a bigger crook? Me, or those pastors that take peoples tithes and offerings and tell them that God wants them to be poor?” Makes you want to go “Hmmm?!?” Doyle was an astute businessman who made a great deal of his money through his various business ventures. When the neighborhood his church was in took an economic down turn he brought in semi’s loaded with food for his people every month. He drove that Rolls Royce ‘til he went on to be with Jesus—amortized out it was probably a cheaper ride than a new Chevy every three years. And his people prospered because of his teaching.
We were in a big recession. It was the late Seventies, early Eighties, inflation was running rampant, ten percent was a good interest rate, unemployment was ten percent, and in the inner-city area where our church was located unemployment was twenty-five percent—tough times. During that time, I held a meeting for a large church in what was, at the time, the richest county in America. As we drove down the street the pastor of the church where I was speaking asked me, “Has this recession affected your church’s income as much as it has ours?” Then he volunteered that their income was off by twenty-five percent, and they were struggling. I thought about it for a moment and said, “No, actually we’re up from last year.” The conversation aroused my curiosity, so when I returned home, I started asking our folk how they were doing given the dire economic situation of our area. They all had a story. More than a story, most of them had a testimony. They were laid off, but had a side hustle. Their place of employment closed and they started a business. They were drawing unemployment, union benefits, and working part-time jobs. They were prospering when they shouldn’t have been. And they all attributed their prosperity to the positive, practical, prosperity preaching that I often shared on Sunday morning. Makes you want to go “Hmmm?!?” again
When you join me “Behind The Door,” I’m going sharing a theology of prosperity. I’ll tell you why pastors have me come to their churches to teach their people how to prosper—because, truth is, you can’t teach what you don’t know, and many well-meaning, sincere, spiritual leaders simply don’t know how to prosper, or are uncomfortable teaching prosperity, for fear of being labeled a prosperity preacher. (Side Note—A church member once critically said, “All you ever preach is prosperity.” As a keeper of copious notes, I have over seventy notebooks, and two brief cases of what I have preached over the past forty years in Ohio. I went through them to verify or refute her claim. It was about ten general messages to every prosperity message—about a tithe!) But first,
Before we go “Behind The Door,” let me encourage you to prosper by sowing a seed into this ministry. “Seedtime and Harvest,” isn’t all there is to prosperity, (and if that’s all someone is teaching they are really not teaching prosperity), but it is the first step. And, if history proves itself again, you will find that you will prosper as you support this ministry. So, sow what you want to reap, then join me “Behind The Door.”