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A Preacher's Kid Addresses the United Pentecostal Church, International

I am a 32-year-old male who wrote this letter in 1998, and originally intended to mail it to the UPCI headquarters. I later decided that it would be discarded by the first person to read it, therefore it was never mailed. Since five years have passed and I still feel strongly about every point in the letter, I have made the decision to post it anonymously. I still consider myself a Christian and I equate this letter to the one nailed on the church door by Martin Luther in 1517. Please keep in mind that I am not comparing myself to Martin Luther. My letter is not as eloquent and is addressed to a different church. However, the intent is the same, a shot across the bow or a wake-up call, whichever you prefer.

To the brethren of the United Pentecostal Church:

I have had this on my mind for some time and finally decided to write about it. I am sure this letter will be written off as biased and from someone with a bitter heart who will burn in everlasting hell. But unfortunately, there is no way to tiptoe around the subjects in this letter.

I am 27 years old and was raised in the United Pentecostal Church. My father is an ordained minister in this organization, and has been since before my birth. In my lifetime, as short as it has been so far, I have become numb to the hypocritical and judgmental attitudes of the majority of the people in the United Pentecostal Church. It is a quasi-political racket in which, curiously, minister's sons seem to be anointed to preach and eventually inherit churches from their fathers. In some circles, this would be called the legacy factor. Just to clarify, I have never felt the call to preach, but have observed countless others following in their father's footsteps. The success of an evangelist is not based on his ability to preach and set a humble example for others to follow. Instead, it is based on who they go hunting and fishing with on Saturdays, and who they go out to eat with after service on Sunday night.

My father has never been interested in material things and is totally devoted to doing the work of the Lord. I love my dad. He's not perfect, but I believe that in the eyes of God, he will be looked upon more favorably than someone who is greasing the right palm and moving around in the right crowd. I have grown tired of watching him go hungry and barely be able to make ends meet while working a full-time job and pastoring a small church. He also ends up putting what little money he has back into the church to keep it running. In recent years, most UPCI ministers have not built their churches from the ground up; the churches were built by their fathers or grandfathers and by the grace of God. They have merely stepped into the role as pastor when their father decided to retire, like passing on the family business. The "Fat Cat" preachers have lake houses, two or three cars, and usually a boat or two. Let us assume that God's word is true, that it is easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the gates of Heaven. If this is the case, then there is an extraordinary amount of preachers who had better be looking for some pretty big needles.

The tithing of ten percent of each church member's income to a single pastor should be modified, in my opinion. Ministers with small churches suffer and the ministers with larger churches end up living luxuriously. I don't believe that any minister can continue to be a good shepherd to his church when it becomes so large that 10% of the church's income is more than he could possibly need or want. It takes ten regular tithes payers for the pastor to be earning the average income of the members of his church. If you have 20 tithes payers, the pastor is now receiving an income that is double the average income of the members of his church.

The organization could actually serve a good purpose if it was to monitor the income of the churches. It would then be possible to redistribute the wealth from the ministers of the larger churches to the ministers who are struggling with smaller churches and are unable to make ends meet. My father has to struggle just to pay his dues each year to keep his ministerial license (which allows him the privilege of being a part of the UPC). I am definitely a conservative, and I believe in capitalism, but I don't believe preachers should be getting rich while pastoring churches. God and the church as a whole should be benefiting from the additional income, not greedy preachers who can never have enough money. Any minister who questions this logic was probably not "called" to preach for the right reasons.

Preachers seem to be like the gunslingers in the old West, available for the right price to the highest bidder. It is amazing how God's will changes for those preachers who have an opportunity to pastor a church with a larger income than the one they are currently pastoring. Whatever happened to preaching God's word to the people and let God worry about how much money you are going to make at the next revival? Is the church with a larger income more in need of salvation than the small church who cannot afford certain evangelist's requirements?

I am tired of watching preachers in custom-tailored suits and embroidered shirts shake my dad's hand and smile, then hear later what they have said about him behind his back. Why is gossip so prevalent in the UPC society? I believe it is because the people are so bored given that everything else is a sin and there's nothing left to do. That is what television is for, to keep idle minds busy from destroying other people's lives with their forked tongues.

Similar to high school, the UPC has cliques of "pretty people". These are the people who have managed to have successful careers, and dress and act the right way. There are scores of good "country folk" who struggle to put meals on the table and provide for their families. These people would not even consider going to one of the larger UPC churches due to the intimidation factor in the shark pool. These people who typically lead a simple life and sometimes have social and emotional issues normally end up in a church similar to my father's. My observation is that there are a greater percentage of people with emotional or social problems in these small country churches. This also inspires the "pretty people" to drive farther out of town to a church with people who look and act like they do, thus depriving more income from the local church. These people need to be ministered to as much as the "pretty people", but unfortunately a church of people barely making a living cannot support a full-time pastor. My father has forsaken a secular career and works 40 or more hours a week at whatever job he can find to support his family and to keep the lights on at the church. He is further hindered by not being able to work on Sundays, so that he can pastor his church. After working all day, he still finds time to visit the sick and elderly in the community. For those of you thinking, "That is why we have a
Home Missions program", you should look more closely at that program.

Churches which have been in existence for several years, regardless of their size, are exempt from the Home Missions program. There are many churches in small communities around the country which have been in existence for years, but have always struggled just to keep the lights on. This is due to the fact that a lot of the smaller communities do not have enough primary wage earners (those people with careers instead of jobs) to support a church. I am also excluding suburbs where it is common for people to commute as far as 40 miles each way into the city for their career.

I also recall foreign missionaries coming to our church asking for donations for their foreign work. They would show slideshows of the conditions in whichever third world country they were working in. In the slides, they would always seem to show their new passenger van, or new washer and dryer that were paid for by the donations from the various churches in the USA. I support what they are doing overseas, but I believe that there are plenty of areas within our own country which could benefit from support from the UPC. I always thought it ironic that we would be giving money for these foreign missionaries to have new cars and new appliances for their foreign work. My family never had a new washer and dryer until I grew up and bought them one myself.

If we were to follow every rule which I have heard a UPC preacher shout over the pulpit, there is not a single one of us who would make it to Heaven. I cannot believe that hair length on women is such an issue, when gossiping and gluttony are equal sins in God's eyes. Seldom is there any mention of these issues. When someone walks into a Pentecostal church to worship and they do not fit the stereotypical mold of a "child of God", they are looked upon with pity and everyone prays that they will be saved that night, judging only from their outward appearance. In reality, that person with some "flaw" in their outward appearance might actually be more right with God than the people who are judging them. We are taught in Sunday School not to judge people, but it is something that everyone seems to do anyway. Like speeding, it does not seem to be as wrong because everyone else is doing it, even though the bible tells us to obey the laws of the land.

Another issue on my heart is the career. It seems that too often, the teenagers and young married couples are not taught a good work ethic. We were never encouraged to go to college, unless it was Bible College. Everyone seems to be so focused on the "hereafter" that they are ignoring what they could be doing in the "here and now" to make their life more pleasant and livable for themselves and for God. The attitude seems to be, just get a job so you'll have money to go out to eat after church. If the job conflicts with any church activity, it is goodbye job, hello special offering for Brother or Sister John Doe. They have fallen on hard times and are unable to make ends meet. In the real world bible college does not count for a whole lot when you are trying to get a job to sustain your family. A lot of church members seem to have the attitude that if their boss will not let them off work with two days notice to go to Camp meeting for a week, then evidently God does not want them to have that job. I have watched people in this situation quit their jobs and trust that God will find them another one. Extra-curricular church activities should not come before work. In my humble opinion God is obviously more important than work or family, but work and family should be more important than church. Both the church and your family need your support to continue to thrive, which places work at a higher importance than church. Otherwise, churches will fall to the ground because there will not be anyone there to provide the funds necessary to keep them running.

There are good and bad things on television. Television is considered wrong because of the bad things. Are there not good and bad magazines? Are there not good and bad radio stations? Are there not good and bad telephone numbers to call? By the UPC logic against television (or any monitor or VCR with a built-in tuner as per the UPCI ministerial handbook) should not all magazines, newspapers, radio stations, telephones, etc. be bad? Where do you draw the line? I believe the saints should be able to make some decisions themselves about what is right and wrong. Otherwise, nothing will be right and everything will be wrong.

Sincerely,

A United Pentecostal Ordained Minister's son……. AKA a Preacher's kid
 


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