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Ponzi Schemes and Multilevel Marketing in the Church

Cheryl is a licensed/ordained gospel preacher who operates two outreach ministries.


Beginning with the tithes and offerings

Charles Ponzi swindled investors out of over 20 million dollars by promising them a huge return on their capital. He paid the first investors with the money from subsequent contributors and made himself very wealthy. No one else prospered as he did. Since that time this pyramid scheme that was named for the man who started it, has made its way into many Christian ministries. Charles Ponzi at least made an attempt to pay his first investors but in these churches, the spiritual leaders take all. I was part of several churches and two outreach ministries that emphasized the curse of Malachi chapter 3. Practically every week giving 10 percent was drilled into our heads. As the one church progressed, congregants asked why the promised blessings from tithing were not showing up. We then began hearing from the pulpit that we had to tithe and also give an additional offering. The phrase we were taught was: “Tithing is a debt you owe, an offering is a seed you sow. Sometime later, the pastor told the congregation that an offering should be equal to your tithe or greater. So at this point of the multilevel marketing scheme, please consider, what I realized in hindsight. Someone making say $1,000 monthly may be giving what they chose, let’s say for the sake of argument $50.00 a month. If they complied with what was being taught from this pulpit they would now be giving a $100.00 tithe plus a hundred dollar offering. This parishioner would be giving an additional $150.00 monthly, a total of $200.00, not because they chose to, but because it was taught.


Buying protection from the mob

The book and movie The Godfather reveal how Don Corleone was given various gifts from people so they would be under his protection. I realize that some preachers operate with this mob boss mentality when I researched a popular prosperity teaching Bishop. On his website, it was stated that he would give spiritual covering to other preachers under the following conditions. You must first send him $50.00,to join his club, then pay him $100.00 annually and also give him a monthly donation of your choice. There were a little over 1100 people who had joined this organization at the time.. Do the math and multiply it by at least a decade of this charade and this man was raking in millions just by having people join his organization. This is the ultimate Ponzi scheme and multilevel marketing ploy.

There are also churches that in addition to tithes and offerings they push sowing seeds. This means that on random occasions, you are supposed to give your pastor extra money. This can be done by putting it in his hand, leaving it in the box on his office door, or laying money at the front of the church near the altar. Increasing ministries are teaching that in order for God to bless you, that you must give this additional money to your spiritual leader. It is as if they believe you can buy favor from the Lord the same way people purchase mob protection.

This is also done with outreach ministries. If you connect your ministry or church to a larger organization, they expect you to partner with them and give a specific sum of money each year. If you do not comply they will disconnect the fellowship with you and if they licensed you or gave you ordination papers they revoke them. Malachi chapter three is often quoted to make churchgoers, as well as those in fellowship with other ministries, believe they owe at least 10 percent to whomever they are connected with or face a curse. Please research this matter in your leisure and you will find that Malachi was written to the priests. These spiritual leaders were using the tithe money for themselves. I have found nowhere in the Holy Scriptures that New Testament believers are supposed to give 10 percent or be cursed., New American Standard Bible 2 Corinthians 9:7 says this for modern-day believers.
Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.


Hawking their wares

Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple because they were selling merchandise and making His Father's house a den of thieves. Preachers today hawk their wars with no shame, in their own church and when they preach for other congregations. They set up tables and from the pulpit beg parishioners to purchase their CDs, books, and videos. All the while they preach about a supernatural overflow of blessings from the Lord, but they continue to rob those in the pew just like the children's tale Stone Soup.

In this story, a beggar asked a woman for a meal, and she said she had no food. He told her if she had a pot of water, he could make a meal from a stone. He asked for various food items one by one and before long had tricked the woman out of what she had in her cupboard. She excitedly told her neighbors that she now knew how to make delicious soup from a stone, but every ingredient had come from her own storehouse and she did not even realize it. Church members whose leaders come up with additional methods to extract money from them will say God has blessed their pastor but if you take away all the extra that they themselves are giving they will realize that God is not doing anything but they the members are giving the riches.

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Exceeding, abundantly and above

Another way to increase streams of income is to have guest preachers come to the church and tell the congregation that "God says" there is $20,000.00 in the house. The speaker will say that there are 10 people who can give the pastor $1,000 each and wait for those individuals to bring the money to him. Next, he will say the Lord revealed that 20 congregants can give $500.00 each. The amount will keep dropping until parishioners are told to empty the change in their pockets. These special offerings ensure that the pastor has a continuous flow of money that is above and beyond his salary.

In addition, some churches ask television viewers to partner with them, rather than the budget the money they already have for media ministry. There are those who utilize the first fruit offering. Whenever you get a raise, you give the first increased paycheck to your pastor as your priest. In the Bible, first fruits were given to the priests because they lived in the temple and had no way of earning money. It was their livelihood. A modern-day American minister is not a Levitical priest. If he is obtaining a salary from the congregation there is no need for this additional income.

So let us put all of this in perspective. The average American churchgoer works 40 hours a week and lives on whatever salary their job provides. If they desire extra income they must work overtime or take on a second job. The preachers who use the multilevel marketing ploys supplement their income without lifting a finger. They get a salary, seeds sown, the money at the altar, first fruits, money raised by guest preachers, selling merchandise, and what comes from ministry partners and television viewers. They have at least six different ways to fleece the flock and say they worked principles and God blessed them. That’s what makes It a PonzI/ Multilevel marketing scheme.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Cheryl E Preston


Cheryl E Preston (author) from Roanoke on July 26, 2019:

Yes true but sometimes s hood churches go bad

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on July 26, 2019:

I think you have to choose a church carefully. I would not attend a church that is totally focused on money. I like 2 Corinthians 9:7 verse as each person can decide for themselves what to give the church. I think you wrote an extraordinary article about this issue.

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