The Ministry Money Train: Getting On or Off?

David Yonggi Cho, founder of the world’s largest megachurch was convicted in February 2014 of embezzling the equivalent of US $12 million. After 50 years of ministry, the 78 year old South Korean pastor of more than 1 million members was accused of using church money to buy stocks from his son at an inflated price. Cho said he was trying to help his son out of a tight spot.1


The purpose of citing Cho’s story is to illustrate that greed can topple the best of the best, who seem to have no other flaw. For him and so many other preachers, trouble comes when they begin to view themselves as owners, instead of stewards on the ministry money train.

Our concern in this article is not to criticize Cho or any other gospel minister. Neither is it to downplay the need for purposeful gospel ministries. It is to warn the misguided people who fuel the “prosperity-pimping” gospel money train,3 on which their leaders take the express ride to heaven-on-earth.


The Need for Individual Responsibility

Everyone has the right to give their money to whatever causes they choose; but it is foolish to part with money irresponsibly under the guise of obeying God. Many devout believers are committed to the Biblical tithing system which requires one-tenth of their earnings to be returned to God for ministry use. Even so, they can make the effort to find a church with a system of accountability.

On a weekly basis, so-called ministries are beginning in our neighborhoods, and people we know are being asked to fund them with free-will offerings. While we cannot see the hearts of these ministers, we are not obligated to support everybody’s passion, especially if we have doubts.

Besides, why does our regular,sacrificial giving not include the needy among our own families? We are primarily responsible for them.

Three Ministry Situations to Avoid

It is God-fearing and dutiful to invest in church ministries, but not without responsibility. Here are three clues which can help steer us away from unworthy causes. If any of these situations are characteristic of a new or existing ministry, not only should we not get on the money train, we should be brave enough to say why.

  • (1) One-Person Leadership

It is alright for a person to solicit financial help; it is not alright to make the giver believe that he or she is donating to a ministry if the money is for personal use. If someone feels a divine calling to a ministry, he or she needs a start-up ministry team before a start-up collection.4

When approached by a single person to make a ministry donation, suggest that the person becomes part of a team that is already established. Some people organize ministries with the intent of being the sole conductor on the money train.

It is irresponsible to fund a new or existing ministry with one person in complete control.

  • (ii) No Money, No Service

The owner of a restaurant offers to share with his customers a message God revealed to him. Those interested are solicited for their email addresses.

He follows up with an invitation to a group meeting at his restaurant and a reasonably priced ticket for the event. The notice informs would-be attendees that the cost includes an all you can eat buffet. Sorry; no opportunity to hear the testimony without paying for the food. It is a package deal.

People are free to grow their businesses however they want. Still, if someone wants to sell food, why marry it to a testimony? Why use the testimony as the bait? There is room for much speculation on events like these.

If in order to hear a message from God, the hearer has to pay for something else, what is the real reason for the money?

  • (iii) Everything for Profit

The church pastor embarks on a weight loss program. His congregation cheers him on as he announces his weekly progress. When he gets to his desired goal, he records his journey on a set of DVDs and offers them for sale to his members.

His weight loss does not qualify the pastor to guide other people in their weight loss efforts. Some members will buy whatever the pastor sells because they are in the habit of supporting him in his many efforts to make profit on their sense of obligation.

They feed the pastor’s greed when they buy products they do not need, just because he recommends it. They allow him up to write books, record music, create other products which are often substandard for lack of expertise. The media criticizes him for making profit on his members, which he really should not; but how many mansions and helicopters does a preacher need to own before the members realize that someone in the pew needs shoes?

On or Off the Ministry Money Train?

Will you stay on the train despite irresponsibility by some leaders?

See results without voting

Five Good Reasons to Give

Some of the largest churches in America major in prosperity giving. The criticism they receive is mostly for the large gap in the standard of living between the leaders and followers. The folly of the vulnerable followers underscores our need to give to the ministries we consider worthy. Here are five common sense reasons (among others) to give.

  • (i) Giving reminds us that we are stewards not owners of God’s Providence.
  • (ii) Giving helps us overcome selfishness and greed.
  • (iii) Giving is one way to help bear the burden for those who do not have to give.
  • (iv) We get a sense of joy and usefulness when we give to ministries which follow Scriptural guidelines.
  • (v) God’s love is demonstrated in His giving; He requires us to follow His example.

We do not doubt the significance of ministry, but we must be wise and responsible in our support. We have the right to get off when the money train makes detours. We also have the right to air our opinions for the benefit of all.


1. Moon, Ruth: Christianity Today-Gleanings, Founder of World's Largest Megachurch Convicted of Embezzling $12 Million, February 24, 2014

2. Yung, Dr Hwa: CyberJournal for Pentecostal-Charismatic Research, Missiological Implications of Dr. David Yonggi Cho's Theology, (visited March 12, 2014)

3. Bartholomew, Richard: Talk to Action, Prosperity Gospel: Pastor Decries "Prosperity-Pimping" September 16,2006

4. Gladden, Steve:, 10 Things to Think About Before Starting a Small Groups Ministry, ( visited March 12,2014)

© 2014 Dora Isaac Weithers

More by this Author


Jodah profile image

Jodah 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

Great hub MsDora. There are honest churches and ministers out there, but too many become greedy and are ripping off their parishoners and the poor. It needs exposing like this hub has done. Voted up.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Jodah, I appreciate you being an early bird and encouraging me as I start my day. Thank you.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

you know Msdora, sometimes I just miss the good old days when our donations to local churches went back into the neighborhood. They raised money for flailing families, play grounds, clean up events and so much more.. now a days.. I don't know what they do with the money after bills are paid... :( getting off in Shelton

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

It is so sad when even a pastor or church leader is tempted, but they are only human. There are so many wonderful churches who are truly devoted to ministries to glorify God. I will always support ministries, but there should be checks and balances in place to ensure the money is going to what it should no doubt.

Up and more and sharing

God bless,

Faith Reaper

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

This is a great article. Generally for a ministry we support we give our time. If there is something we want/need we are happy to buy it from a ministry/er. If we attend we donate. I have definitely left churches over the issues you mention. I view blind tithing as martyrdom for no good cause.

DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Great writing here and this problem is found in many churches I have seen such issues in the local church.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

I loved the title of this article. Very clever and very interesting....greed....the root of all evil? I doubt it, but it has to be in the top five for sure.

Linda Compton profile image

Linda Compton 2 years ago from The Land of Enchantment

Thank you, MsDora for a thoughtful, clear, well-reasoned hub with excellent examples and helpful balance.

Bless your wise and generous heart, L.

word55 profile image

word55 2 years ago from Chicago

Hi MsDora, it is discouraging and disheartening when I hear of such greediness. However, tithing a tenth of earnings to the Lord, for promoting the ministry, according to the Bible is appropriate. A tither shall receive an outpouring of blessings described in the Bible book of Malachi 3.

Purpose Embraced profile image

Purpose Embraced 2 years ago from Jamaica

Thanks for a very balanced article MsDora. A timely reminder that we are to be good stewards of the resources that God blesses us with.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Frank, I hear you. These days, the preachers want international fame, so they get involved in international outreach and neglect the neighborhood. Too bad.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Faith, your perspective is wise. Thank you for your levelheaded outlook.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Eric, individual responsibility is what it will take to offset the disasters. I appreciate your input.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Devika, despite the problems, I hope we can find worthy ministries after we seek divine guidance.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Bill, thank you for affirming the title. This article is partly the result of your persistence that one can make a difference.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Linda, thank you for your kind comment. I appreciate all your words,but especially "balance."

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Word, my article points out the Biblical mandate for tithing; I will never discourage that. My emphasis is responsibility even for returning the tithe. Thanks for your input.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Purpose Embraced, thank you very crisp and accurate summary. I appreciate you.

RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 2 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

A very timely article, MsDora. I think Pastor Cho's story is such a warning to ministers on how easy it is to begin to have a sense of personal entitlement concerning the money God allows to flow through their ministries.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Ron, thank you for commenting. Stewards, not owners, are who we all are.

lifegate profile image

lifegate 2 years ago from Pleasant Gap, PA

Wow MsDora! Straight on target, but you'd never hear a message like that from most TV preachers. I don't listen much to those on the TY or radio largely because of what you say, but I don't think I have ever heard anybody on TV ever speak about the other side of the issue. Most of the time it's money as usual, not Christ who is our life. Thanks for hammering it home in a very honest and sensitive way.

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graceinus 2 years ago from those of the Ekklesia

I believe the best example of a ministry is Jesus Christ ministry. You can sure bet Jesus Christ did not require tithings or any from of money to flow through His ministry. How can anyone truly believe that Christ TRUE church even requires money in order to exist. Do christian really believe the Christ church need money of any amount. ANYONE can minister the gospel for free at no cost to anyone. Ministries now days use tithing is an excuse to take money from the blind. Tithings is not even a NT requirement. But ministers will use this excuse to milk their members of their so called churches.

RonElFran- I totally disagree with you. God does not allow for moneies to flow through ANY ministries let alone one like "Pastor Cho's". This is a work of satan. This is a lie. Ministries like Christ minstry should and always will be for free. If pastors, ministers, bishops or so called decans need money for selfsupport then they should look for a job and support themselves. And any ministry that accept money to support itself is not a true ministry.

There is no cost in any form to spread the true gospel but false ministries (which is 99.9% of them) will put a price on it every time. And it make me sick.

Ms Dora-I understand to a point what you're trying to do here, however. it's not the individual christians responsibility to support, with money, ANY churches or ministries. Or their so called clergy.

The true Church of Christ does not need nor require money.

Have a good day.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Bill, thank you for your encouragement. True, some get caught up in increasing the money, instead of feeding the flock.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

GraceInUs, thank you for sharing your views. I appreciate your input.

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sheilamyers 2 years ago

Thanks fro providing examples of the ways people will dupe us into handing over money that's not going to go where it should - into the pastor's pocket instead of real church ministry. Ok ... maybe you didn't say it that way, but it's my interpretation. For your poll, I answered I never supported ministry and never will; however, that was because it was only the closest to my way. I don't give money to the big televagelists and mega-churches. Even on the smaller scale, I usually don't give to the general "church fund" whatever that means to the church. I prefer to designate my money to be used to help the "needy" families who are members of the church and I know, with the church I give to, they will use it for that purpose.

Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

I am working on an article along these lines MsDora and I certainly agree with all your points and you have done a great attractive outline. Nothing turns me off a preacher quicker than the money minded ones.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Sheila, thank you for voting and explaining your take on the issue. You handle your giving responsibly as you should. Thanks for sharing.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Jackie, are we the illustration for"great minds think alike?" Looking forward to your article.

FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

This was an eye-opening hub. How sad that ministers would betray the trust of their flock in this way.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Flourish, seems that every good thing, including ministry, has counterfeit. We still have to live responsibly in our giving. Thank you for weighing in.

Verily Prime profile image

Verily Prime 2 years ago from New York

Sister, I give most of my charity money to ministries... not to support the preachers per se - but for the Gospel to be spread to the four corners of the world, so as to enable and to fulfill the Lord's Great Commission - we cannot depend on others to do it.. yet, it is a grave trespass to 'Mammonize' the Gospel of Christ Jesus!

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ignugent17 2 years ago

Very honest hub MsDora. It is sad to see these things happening using God to have money.

We can really identify a good religion if we can see service even they are not forcing the members to give.

Giving is important to help the church in spreading the good news.

Thanks for sharing. ;-)

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Verily Prime, thank you for sharing. Knowing the purpose of our giving, which you clearly stated, should help us to give responsibly.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Ignugent, that's the whole issue. We have to give no matter what. Thank you for your participation.

creation56 2 years ago

Great read and good advice!

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Creation, thanks for your affirmation. You know important it is for us to make our giving count where it should.

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

Great hub MsDora, over here in England we don't tend to have those type of ministrys that we see on tv from America. I often wonder why people are so interested in them to be honest, I prefer a small church and a vicar that is local, but yes it is terrible when they do this, and I do give to my local vicarage when we go to church, I tend to trust him, nell

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Nell, thank you for letting us know how it is in your country. It seems that the English are smarter. Local pastors in local churches stand a better chance of being honest.

Janellegems profile image

Janellegems 2 years ago from North Carolina

Awesome hub!!! I am glad you took time to address the money issue in churches today. I have come across a number of them where I live in Virginia. It is very heartbreaking to see this going on. Thanks for showing us the real reasons to give and how to identify when ministries are using money for their own purposes, instead of God's. Voted up.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Janelle, thank you for your input. I think these people are everywhere and might be on the increase. They prey on the superstition of those who think that they could give away their money in return for a breakthrough from hard times.

CraftytotheCore profile image

CraftytotheCore 2 years ago

This is an excellent article and hopefully beneficial to someone who might be otherwise deceived.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thank you,Crafty. I pray the same.

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Missy Dora, i gave up preaching in a formal sense. I do no like religion. I love God. I need your wisdom. Help me.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 2 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Eric, Jesus stated (John 3: 34, 35) that the proof of our love for God is that we love one another the way He loves us. The proof is not in our preaching, so you do not have to preach to demonstrate your love for God.

When we end our affiliation with prescribed religion, and continue to let the love of God control our lives, we end up with the basics of true religion (described in James 1: 26, 27). These actions are more effective than any pulpit sermon.

From what you write, it is clear that you know how to love. Keep on loving with the love that you receive from God.

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