Richard Exley Ministries

How Does a Pastor Become an Embezzler?
Posted on October 08, 2009

Corruption is as old as the human race and none of us is immune. If we do not guard our hearts at all times and practice absolute integrity in all things, even the smallest matters, we risk falling prey. One of the most heartbreaking examples of a good man who fell into corruption involves a former staff member of a Bible Church in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. He went to jail for embezzling almost $42,000 from the church over a six-year period. When I first learned of his crime I remember thinking, How could a minister do such a thing?

I was tempted to conclude that he was an aberration, an impostor, an evil man masquerading as a minister. Such a conclusion made his sinful dishonest easier to explain and it made it less likely that I might be capable of the same thing or something similar. Unfortunately it doesn’t fit the facts.

More likely he was a sincere man. No better and no worse than the rest of us. Somewhere along the way he took a wrong turn. Probably it seemed insignificant at the time. Perhaps he padded his expense account or hedged on his income tax return. Or maybe he was short of cash and “borrowed” from church funds until payday. He intended to pay it back, but somehow he never got around to doing it. After a while it was easier just to pretend it had never happened.

Category: Perils of Power

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The Deadly Descent
Posted on February 19, 2009

My heart is heavy as I prepare to write today’s blog. A national official in our denomination has resigned after confessing to having an inappropriate relationship with a member of the opposite sex, although there appears to have been no sexual misconduct. Unfortunately, he is just the last in a long line of colleagues and friends who have fallen prey to temptation and disqualified themselves for ministry, at least for a time.

Of course it is not just ministers who are susceptible to sexual temptation, we all are. And no one is more vulnerable than the man or woman who thinks it could never happen to them. The apostle Paul warns us about over confidence when he writes, “...if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

God is faithful to provide a way of escape, but we must act quickly. When we are first tempted the way of escape is broad and easy to find, but the longer we delay the narrower it becomes. We can still escape but the risks of yielding to temptation increase exponentially moment by moment. If you fail to take preventative action at the first hint of sexual temptation, you will nearly always succumb.  Not necessarily immediately, but in the end.

Category: Perils of Power

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Ray and Patsy
Posted on June 04, 2008

The biggest challenge in my spiritual walk has been pride; or to put it more bluntly – arrogance. Considering how modest have been my achievements you may find that a bit of a stretch. Experience, however, has taught me that success has only a small part to play in a person’s susceptibility to this particular temptation. Even underachievers can find themselves beset with a disproportionate sense of self-importance. What makes pride so deadly is the fact that the arrogant person is usually unaware of his arrogance. He can spot it in a heartbeat in others but he’s blind to it in himself – at least that’s the way it was for me.

Two experiences from my past serve as a case in point. When I served as the senior pastor of Christian Chapel the congregation honored Brenda and me each year on Pastor Appreciation Day. Parishioners sent us cards and letters and some even gave us small gifts. One year a lady brought me a small casting of a man washing another man’s feet. To this day I treasure this gift and it sits in a prominent place in my study but I never bothered to learn that woman’s name. I didn’t give it a thought at the time but now my thoughtlessness reeks of arrogance. I can only shake my head when I realize that I was so full of myself that I didn’t have time to learn her name. Even worse is the fact that I didn’t recognize the sad state of my soul.  

The second experience is even more telling. One night Brenda and I were driving out of the church parking lot following the evening service when we spotted Ray and Patsy standing on the sidewalk in front of the church. Everyone else had gone so I stopped and rolled down my window. In response to my questions they informed me that they had ridden a bus to church but had no way to get back home as the buses had stopped running at this late hour. I offered to drive them and they gratefully accepted.

Category: Perils of Power

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Is material prosperity a legitimate spiritual goal?
Posted on November 28, 2007

 Earlier this week Richard Roberts was forced to resign as President of Oral Roberts University amidst allegations and lawsuits alleging financial improprieties. Although I am grieved by what is happening I am not surprised. When we emphasize the wrong things it is only a matter of time until we reap what we have sowed. For nearly three decades Charismatic ministers have been preaching prosperity and it is finally catching up with us. We have developed an attitude of entitlement. It is our ministry and the assets are ours to do with as we see fit with only our conscience to guide us.

That's a precarious place to be in and few of us can manage it. Over the years I have observed a deadly progression.  We start out accepting the "perks" that go with our position.  Then we expect them, then we demand them and finally we abuse them.

Is this what happened at ORU? It would appear so, especially if the allegations of a stable of horses for the Roberts' girls and a $39,000 shopping spree for Lindsey Roberts on the University's tab are any indication of what really happened. This does not make Richard and Lindsey bad people but it certainly makes them misguided ones. With the University $52 million in debt and the campus desperately in need of repairs frugality would seem to be in order.

Where did we go wrong -- not just Richard Roberts but the Charismatic church as a whole?

1) It was a mistake to make giving a means to an end rather than an act of worship. The Bible does not teach us to give in order to get but as an act of obedience.

2) It was a mistake to teach people to be "need" centered in their giving rather than God centered. While we should be sensitive to the "need" our giving should be prompted by the Spirit not simply by a perceived need. Spirit directed giving will minimize our vulnerability to manipulation.

3) It was a mistake to make prosperity a goal.  The Bible clearly teaches that prosperity is a consequence and not a goal. "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matt. 6:33).

4) It was a mistake to teach God's people to believe for material things or to concern themselves about them. Jesus said, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear...For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them" (Matt. 6:25, 32).

Please note two things. First, Jesus said it was the pagans who run after material things. In other words it is pagans who are concerned about material things, not Christians. If we are striving (that is using our faith to believe for) material things what does that say about us?

Secondly, Jesus says that our heavenly Father knows that we need material things in order to survive so we don't need to concern ourselves about them. "Consider how the lilies grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!" (Luke 12:27-28).

The reason the Bible is filled with so many verses about divine provision is not to make us materialistic but to assure us of the Father's unwavering concern.  He has repeatedly promised to take care of us so we don't need to concern ourselves about such things.  We can focus our faith and our prayers on more important matters.

 A few days ago I was channel surfing through the religious channels when I heard a high profile minister brag that he had purchased a private plane "out of his pocket." He went on to say that it was capable of flying at altitudes of 43,000 feet and had a maximum speed of 550 mph. Without blushing he continued to brag about the buildings and properties he owned and that he was in the top 3% of all taxpayers in the United States.

He's obviously a financial genius and by all accounts a generous man but what grieves me it that he has replaced the gospel of Jesus Christ with the gospel of prosperity. In the early years of his ministry he was one of the most effective evangelists I have ever heard. Thousands of people came to Christ under his ministry. Unfortunately I haven't heard him preach Jesus in years and he is just one of a multitude of Charismatic ministers who apparently "...think that godliness is a means to financial gain" (1 Tim. 6:5).

Even the most cursory perusal of "Christian" television will reveal an inordinate emphasis on prosperity. Should you happen to tune in during one of the annual Share-A-Thons prosperity is virtually all you will hear. Apparently it is the most effective way to get viewers to give. Promise them a "hundred fold" return and the phone lines light up.

The question I am wrestling with is not whether it works or not but is it Christian.  Or to put it another way, "Is material prosperity a legitimate spiritual goal?"

I hardly think so. The apostle Paul writes, "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction...Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness" (1 Tim. 6:9-11).

Category: Perils of Power

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