Laying up treasures on earth

cribsLike many other apartment renters in the world, I spend a great deal of time coveting other people’s houses. Or homeownership in general. So this local religion story out of Detroit caught my eye. Reporter Doug Guthrie of The Detroit News wrote about a $3.65 million parsonage bought for a pastor, Ben Gibert, by his church.

The story begins in my least favorite way for religion stories: with a political angle. The hook for the story is that the town in which the home is located will lose $40,000 in property taxes since churches don’t pay taxes on churches or parsonages.

Not that such political tidbits aren’t interesting, but have you ever noticed how reporters use politics in most of their stories? I get the feeling that many reporters think that political solutions are the first resort rather than the last resort. I think I might notice this more than most East Coast reporters because it’s not quite as common in the West. In other words, you can have a dozen precious little girls get lost backpacking on the same trail and you wouldn’t hear too many people suggest a government solution. You may hear people suggest that children attend survival school.

Anyway, despite that quibble, I loved the story. Guthrie spoke to folks in town who were not pleased. But then he gives the church’s perspective:

Detroit World Outreach Church isn’t apologizing. In fact, members say the mansion is proof God has blessed them.

The 4,000-member church is part of a growing movement that preaches prosperity. Also known as “health and wealth” theology, the ideology preaches that God wants followers to do well, be healthy and have rewards — such as the $50,000 Cadillac Escalade the church bought the Giberts, who have four children.

Ben Gibert said God surrounds the faithful with beautiful things.

One of the leaders of his church agrees. “God’s empowerment is to make you have an abundant life,” said Elder Marvin Wilder, a lawyer and general counsel for the church.

“In this country we value rock stars, movie stars and athletes. They can have a lavish lifestyle, and a pastor who restores lives that were broken shouldn’t? When our value system elevates a man who can put a ball in a hole and not a man who does God’s work, something is wrong.”

Yeah! If Jesus lived in a mansion and had every worldly pleasure, why can’t we? Oh, wait . . .

Guthrie says prosperity theology was born in the 1950s (born is a strong word to use here) and that it’s popular with Joel Osteen and various other megachurch pastors. But he also quotes a scholar who points out that most Christian denominations oppose it.

The church goes on to say the parsonage is both a reward for the pastor and necessary for security. As the pastor says:

“I am an African-American man who became pastor of a multi-ethnic church. Some people don’t agree with that,” he said. “I have not received death threats, but people have followed my children to school.”

The sidebar listed the Bible verses used by supporters and detractors of prosperity theology. It actually worked well, although I think the risks of such sidebars are legion. My Lutheran people don’t really quote verses in isolation — we believe that Scripture interprets Scripture and that a lone verse is easily misinterpreted. While other Christian denominations might not have exactly the same view, I know that many do take a more complex approach than just pointing out verses out of context. In essence, a sidebar with a few verses from each side in a theological debate might be biased toward groups that use solitary verses to justify various teachings.

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  • http://www.geocities.com/hohjohn John L. Hoh, Jr.

    In the immortal words of King Solomon, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Prosperity theology came off the Mayflower with the Pilgrims. The early colonists believed that true believers were financially successful while the poor lacked faith.

    Of course Bible passages can be used the other way–even by any church member who opposed buying the house (I’m sure there must have been some detractors). “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head” comes to mind. The Old Testament is rife with social justice, not that the main point is social justice but that the injustice committed was the symptom of a deeper spiritual problem.

    Yes, Lutheran exegesis notes passages in context. Then again I know many pastors who do not have a seminary education, merely a Bible College education (if that–one man who called himself a “reverend” had an eighth-grade education but allegedly preached in a pulpit). It is only a step above bumper sticker/T-shirt theology. And a passage pulled from the roots of its context makes for a handy my-own-theological-principle teaching.

    And while there is nothing wrong with the expensive home for the pastor, is it possible that a lesser home, or a GM SUV, could have been purchased and the savings go to expand the ministry? I wonder how the “What Would Jesus Drive” crowd is reacting to the purchase of the Cadillac Escalade.

  • http://www.geocities.com/hohjohn John L. Hoh, Jr.

    One other matter–was Al Gore asked about the affect on the environment this home and SUV will have on the environment?
    :)

  • Dale

    I’m no fan of prosperity theology. However, in this instance the religion angle hides a racial and socio-economic subtext. I’m a conservative white guy, but I can definitely see why the members of the church might see this “controversy” as covert racism.

    Some of the nuances of this story are lost when it is reported outside of the Detroit area. Northville is one of the wealthiest of the Detroit suburbs, populated by well-heeled executives and professionals with a median home value of $554,900. Average per student expenditure by the Northville Schools is $10,198 . Detroit is one of the most segregated metropolitan area in the U.S., and Northville is an example of that: 88% of the population is white, and less than 2% is African American.
    In comparison, Redford Township, where the church is located, is a small working class suburb adjacent to Detroit. The median home value there is $104,800. The per student expenditure in the small South Redford School District is $8,580. Because of its proximity to Detroit, South Redford School District is more racially integrated, with approximately 60% white students and 40% African American. The student population of South Redford is considerably poorer than that of Northville: 26% are considered economically disadvantaged, compared to 3% of Northville students.

    Once you put the story in that perspective, the Northville residents’ whining about lost tax revenue is pretty obnoxious. Like:

    “I also have faith in God, but I don’t expect to live in such opulence,” said Evgenia Asimakis, a single mother of two who lives nearby and has trouble paying her property taxes.

    I know the area around Maybury State Park; its one of the nicest areas of Northville. If the lady has problems paying her property taxes, maybe she can move to Redford Township, or maybe even (gasp) Detroit. On the other hand, she could thank God that as a single mother of two she can afford own a house in Northville. Or this:

    Township Clerk Sue Hillebrand complained that Northville schools can ill afford to lose more revenue. She said she’s amazed by the church’s generosity.

    “They could buy a very, very nice home out here for half a million,” she said. “Can you imagine how many miracles you could perform, how many people you could help with the $3 million left over?”

    Well, actually, they can just buy an average house in Northville for that price, and I wonder what proportion of church’s budget goes to care for the poor, versus the proportion of the average Northville church budget.

    If the church built a house next to the church building in Redford, the tax revenue would be lost to the South Redford schools, which can ill-afford it.

    Unless Guthrie just moved to the area, he would know all of this; but he chooses instead to focus on the church’s theology. If Guthrie wanted to investigate the impact of prosperity theology, he should interview the parishioners of the church (who are most probably residents of Detroit) who struggle to make ends meet, but those people are poor, Black, and don’t read the Detroit News. So instead we get to hear the whining of the deprived citizens of Northville.

  • Brooklyn

    I think the story was great, well balanced, and brought attention to a problem that is deeper than most people that read the Detroit news are aware of. It is becoming far to commonplace for “ministers” to abuse the tax status of their churches to pay for their opulent lifestyles. They are living the high life while the hopeless and taxpayers finance it all. As a Christian I almost wish the tax laws would change, then maybe the greedy would go stalking elsewhere.

    As far as Northville goes, sure, a drive by the High School’s student parking lot would make an average person cringe with envy, but that is irrelevant. They will enjoy the city’s services free of charge and that is wrong (BTW, 1/2 million will buy a great big victorian estate in town in Northville).

    Yes, I have friends that say its all because he’s a brother but wrong is wrong. Maybe they should have went after the former pastor that was white.

  • Dale

    Brooklyn said:

    It is becoming far to commonplace for “ministers” to abuse the tax status of their churches to pay for their opulent lifestyles.

    You and I probably agree that a $4 million house isn’t appropriate, especially for a minister who serves in an area with widespread poverty; but I don’t think that the government’s loss of tax revenue is the primary issue. When it’s a community like Northville, I’m inclined to think they can afford it. The real issue is that prosperity theology embraces Mammon and its rewards, on full display in places like Northville.

    As a side note, there are limits to the opulent lifestyle before the IRS comes knocking at a minister’s door. From the IRS Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations:

    A minister who is furnished a parsonage may exclude from income the fair rental value of the parsonage, including utilities. However, the amount excluded cannot be more than the reasonable pay for the minister’s services.

    What’s “reasonable pay” depends on the applicable IRS regulations and tax court decisions. I would think (hope?) that the church looked into that issue before it saddled the minister with an income tax problem.

    They are living the high life while the hopeless and taxpayers finance it all.

    Again, I’m not too concerned about the taxpayers of Northville. If a Detroit congregation can afford a parsonage in Northville, that’s Northville’s tough luck.

    I think the hopeless are the real issue, and they are not part of Guthrie’s story. Where are the Detroit parishioners who can’t afford a house, let alone a $4 million house? What do they think about a minister serving in Detroit (the church is yards away from the city boundary) while living in privileged Northville? Do they think that tithing to their church will result in that kind of lifestyle? If wealth is a sign of blessing, do they think that they’ve been cursed?

    Instead Guthrie gives us quotes from the residents of wealthy Northville complaining about the extravagance of the minister’s house. Knowing what I know about the area, it sounds like a lot of whiny rich people.

    They will enjoy the city’s services free of charge and that is wrong

    Let’s talk context. The City of Detroit, in an effort to revitalize portions of the city, created “renaissance” zones where property taxes would be locked in at a low rate, so that rehabilitated properties wouldn’t be taxed for their full value for 12 years. Now thousands of suburbanites are moving to loft conversions in downtown Detroit–and they don’t have to pay for the city services (assuming that they receive any).

    Sorry, I can’t generate too much sympathy for Northville.

    (BTW, 1/2 million will buy a great big victorian estate in town in Northville).

    Nonetheless, the statistics I linked to state that a $500,000 house is less expensive than half of the houses in Northville. It’s commonplace. Meanwhile, the houses around the church sell for a little over $100,000. So I’m supposed to be concerned that the church is taking advantage of Northville? Why doesn’t Guthrie even mention the economic disparities at work here?

    Yes, I have friends that say its all because he’s a brother but wrong is wrong. Maybe they should have went after the former pastor that was white.

    As I said, I’m white and somewhat conservative, so I think I’m less likely to see a racial dimension to things, but I can see it in the way this story was, or wasn’t, covered. I think that does a disservice to the real issue, which is the validity of prosperity theology and its effect on the poor.

  • Nancy

    This story was first broadcast on television on the local Channel 7 Action News several weeks or more ago as one of the “Investigators” stories. The focus of the broadcast was more on the controversy (shock value) of a local pastor living lavishly on the dollars of his (practically in) Detroit congregation. (Stay tuned for more of this controversial story at 11…!) The segment contained only one very short interview of the township clerk who raised the tax issue for Northville Township, more as a side note. No Northville Township residents were interviewed. They interviewed parishoners, none of whom were aware of the location or size of their pastor’s new home. The reporter was filmed being (“dramatically”) ushered out of the church by the church staff when he began asking questions about the house and car. We viewers were also given plenty of shots both of the huge Northville spread and of the pastor’s original home in the even more exclusive village of Franklin – although they reported, in fairness, that that home was purchased by the pastor himself.

    Interesting to see the angles taken on broadcast vs print…

  • http://www.getreligion.org Chris Bolinger

    From Mollie: …have you ever noticed how reporters use politics in most of their stories? I get the feeling that many reporters think that political solutions are the first resort rather than the last resort. I think I might notice this more than most East Coast reporters because it’s not quite as common in the West.

    Yes. I have noticed. And I have mentioned it so many times on this board that I’m surprised that you (Fab Four) haven’t told me to shut up already.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    When reading a story like this in the media I think they should run at least some information about ministers or priests who live a completely different lifestyle to make a colorful and interesting comparison.
    For example Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston is a type Franciscan priest. And, although he has reached the highest level in the Catholic Church next to being pope, he lives in a few rooms in a modest recotory next to Holy Cross Cathedral in one of Boston’s multicultural as well as racially and economically mixed neighborhoods, the South End.
    The rectory is surrounded by two church sponsored schools, a church run home for the elderly and disabled, and a community center funded through Catholic charities.
    Whether it is the issue of whether global warming is caused by sun or Man or the issue of whether the Gospel is in the business of encouraging materialism or urging avoiding materialism’s greedy tentacles-it is helpful find specific examples that fairly illustrate opposite points of view in the same place instead of having to go on a reasearch hunt.
    Indeed, that sidebar giving quotes from the Bible was good. By reading them it helps show how important Tradition can be in sorting things out since sometimes taking passages in isolation can be very confusing and make some parts of the Bible appear self-contradictory.

  • Dale

    the pastor’s original home in the even more exclusive village of Franklin – although they reported, in fairness, that that home was purchased by the pastor himself.

    Yes, Franklin makes Northville look nouveau-riche. That also indicates that the pastor was making a lot of money before joining the ministry. From the church’s website:

    Pastor Gibert holds a B.A. in Mechanical Engineering from General Motors Institute, M.A. Science, and M.B.A. from Stanford University. He has 25 years of experience in the auto industry; and is one of only a handful of people in the world who have held top leadership positions in Automotive Manufacturing, Marketing, and Product Development for all of the big three.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he could manage a better lifestyle as an auto executive than a minister. They’re still making good money, even if the auto companies are borderline insolvent. This is the job description that I could find for him, dating from 2003:

    Benjamin A. Gibert DaimlerChrysler-Director Program Management Truck Platform Formerly Vehicle Program Director North American Division- Ford Motor Company

    For those outside of Detroit, that’s big time–he was up at the top of both Ford and Chrysler.

    So this story just doesn’t read as a greedy preacher fleecing a naive flock. Of course, that doesn’t stop Channel 7 or the Detroit News from playing it that way.

  • Dale

    I’ve found more things about Pastor Gibert that weren’t covered in the Detroit News article. He indeed is a dual-degree graduate of Stanford University (M.S.E/M.B.A.). The alumni website lists him here as admitted in 1989-1990. At one time he was the director of vehicle development for Mercury. I guess that didn’t keep him busy enough, because at the same time he started a disclpleship training program, Men of Valor.

    So this man is 1) extremely bright; and 2)energetic. He also must be socially talented in order to survive the shark tank that is the American automotive industry. Does that mean he’s a pastor worth a $4 million house? Not necessarily, but it goes a long way towards explaining why the church might find it necessary to purchase a parsonage for him–it’s compensation that they can pay him tax-free, and I imagine that the church can’t begin to match the base salary that he received at Chrysler, his last employer.

    I think this brings up more interesting questions:

    1)Why would a talented African American businessman give up a successful career in the auto industry in order to pastor a shrinking megachurch in Detroit?

    2) Why did the church choose him as a head pastor, when he (apparently) has no formal seminary education? (If I’m not mistaken, this church is or was part of the Assemblies of God, which does not require a seminary degree for ordination).

    3) Why have two Detroit media outlets, the Detroit News and Channel 7, reported on the parsonage without discussing Gibert’s past position in the auto industry? There may be 3 or 4 million people in the Detroit metro area, but it’s still a company town, and while his house may be remarkable, his career change is arguably more remarkable.

  • Don Neuendorf

    I don’t know who Dale is, but I wish he were writing for the Detroit News. What is it with journalists who can miss so many interesting details in a story? Is it just that it’s so much easier to apply the stereotypical story template and let it go?

    If that’s what’s happening generally, then that explains the question so often raised on this blog about the annual Easter coverage “exposing” the resurrection, the annual Christmas coverage “exposing the truth” about the virgin birth, etc.

  • Dale

    One more thing, and I’ll shut up. Anyone who is tempted to shake his or her head over Pastor Gibert’s self-indulgences should check out the church where some of his peers worship: Kirk In the Hills Presbyterian Church in Bloomfield Hills. Bloomfield Hills is Detroit’s equivalent to Beverly Hills.

    Check out the history and the architecture sections. Here are some highlights:

    Kirk in the Hills is situated on a 40-acre setting on Island Lake. It is of gothic design and is patterned after the once-famous Melrose Abbey in Scotland that was built in the 13th century. . . . Set within beautiful landscaped gardens and grounds, the Kirk features scores of Christian symbols in wood, stone and stained glass, which create a unique worship environment that is both reverent and deeply religious. As a building, the Kirk is both a moving and imposing statement of Christian faith and a peaceful sanctuary for prayer and meditation. . . The Kirk House also contains an extensive collection of 16th and 17th century religous art

    It’s also a moving and imposing statement of the wealth created by the American auto industry during the 20th century. I’ve heard some amusing stories about the Kirk’s profligacy in the past, including church-funded European trips to acquire additions to the art collection. Apparently the Kirk is a bit more restrained now, but it still has the wherewithal for a church carilloneur:

    Dennis Curry is the Kirk’s carillonneur; he is presently also the president of the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America. In addition to performing regularly on the Kirk carillon, he maintains an active recital schedule in North America and Europe.

    There isn’t any information about the pastor’s compensation package (advertising that would be so gauche) or a parsonage, but I’d imagine that they’re quite respectable.

    So how much more do you think the Kirk and its members could contribute to reducing poverty in Detroit if they denied themselves a staff carilloneur and fresh flower arrangements in the sanctuary? Does Channel 7 and the Detroit News ambush the head pastor to make inquiries about staff compensation?

  • Brooklyn

    Dale,

    The church did not appoint Ben Gibert as pastor. The previous pastor made it his wishes that if anything happened to him that he would like Mr. Gibert to take the reigns. Previously, he directed the church offering. The church was once a part of the Assemblies of God, but are now accountable to no-one.

    I agree completely that the real issue is the fact that needs of the hopeless and needy that are being neglected while they are systematically being fleeced. But, none the less, the fact that any community is losing that much revenue because of an extravagant parsonage is newsworthy (Incidentally, there has also been a story regarding a consulate in Northville that was tax exempt). While the tax issue should be secondary, it also may draw attention from those that would otherwise dismiss this story as religious bickering. Maybe more questions will be raised as a result.

  • Brooklyn

    Dale,

    I disagree with any type of lavish and frivolous spending by a church rather than putting tax free dollars towards helping the needy (especially in Detroit where the need is great), but the key difference at Detroit World Outreach is that many members can hardly afford their own rent, let alone the mortgage on an Estate. Its taking from the poor to give to the rich.

  • Missy

    I just saw this story on the Fox News Channel, so now it’s a national story!

    I left DWO somewhere in 2004-5, when Bishop Wallace told us to pray for him for some type of deal to come through on a new, bigger home for him and his family (he had told us previously that he already owned the largest home in the city of Westland, so I don’t think he was actually roughing it). But at that time, the DWO church building itself was in horrible need of repair. Haggai 1:9 came to mind: “…”Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house..”. Bishop Wallace always told us to trust the Word above all else, and if he or anyone else spoke contrary, we were to rely on the Word anyway. So I did, and I left DWO! (In retrospect, I wish I had just prayed that God would reveal the truth back to him. I really did think he was a wonderful pastor in many ways.)

    Anyway, I do not know whether the home that Bishop Wallace spoke of is the same as that which was purchased for Gibert. But I highly doubt whether the church membership was consulted on such a purchase! For the seven or years I attended DWO, I had never heard of anyone proposing that the church itself purchase a home for Wallace, and Wallace was basically adored and almost idolized by the church membership. If they didn’t feel “led” to purchase a home for him, their pastor of 10 or so years, why on earth would they want to buy a mansion for Gibert, who was apparently already living in a spectacular home, from what he told us, as a result of his career in the auto industry?

    To me, that is the outrage of this story. I highly doubt whether the church membership knew that their tithes and offerings were going to fund the purchase of this mansion for the Giberts. And I really feel that God had already blessed the Giberts with his previous successful career and anything purchased as a result thereof. Why would they even want any additional material wealth? How much more blessing will they want in the future?

    But a secondary issue is that I believe tax exemptions for “parsonages” were probably written to help the poor man of God who could not afford to pay such taxes, and/or to “pay back” the church due to the church’s contribution to the community. The problem is, the community in which the “parsonage” is located is not helped at all by Gibert; his church may be benefitting people miles away, in Redford and Detroit! Why didn’t he move there? Although many people do commute from far away to attend DWO, the majority of the attendees (and their money) are from right there in Redford/Detroit area!

  • Dale

    The previous pastor made it his wishes that if anything happened to him that he would like Mr. Gibert to take the reigns.

    You can’t bequeath the leadership of a voluntary association, like a church, with a will. Do you mean that the previous pastor recommended to the board of elders that Mr. Gibert be appointed to replace him? That still requires the action of the board.

    I agree completely that the real issue is the fact that needs of the hopeless and needy that are being neglected while they are systematically being fleeced.

    I don’t know that’s true, and the Detroit News’ story doesn’t give me real facts to support that idea. While, given the location of the church, I would expect that some of the congregation would be poor, it’s also true that Mr. Gibert was a member of the congregation when he was a senior executive at Ford and Chrysler, so it’s not unreasonable to think that there are other congregants who are wealthy. I don’t know who provides the bulk of finances of the church, and I’m sure they’re not going to divulge that information to the public.

    it also may draw attention from those that would otherwise dismiss this story as religious bickering.

    Well, that’s not the way it struck me. My reaction was “Northville can’t afford a $40,000 tax exemption? Gimme a break! And who are they to criticize someone’s extravagant lifestyle?”

  • Dale

    Hi, Missy!

    Thanks for contributing; the only thing I know about DWO is what’s been reported in the press. I have my own prejudices against prosperity teaching, but what you’ve said supports them.

    Although many people do commute from far away to attend DWO, the majority of the attendees (and their money) are from right there in Redford/Detroit area!

    I wondered about that–another bit of information that the Detroit News could have included in the story. In all fairness, Northville is somewhat closer to the church than Franklin–that is, if you must live in an upscale community.

    And I really feel that God had already blessed the Giberts with his previous successful career and anything purchased as a result thereof. Why would they even want any additional material wealth? How much more blessing will they want in the future?

    As long as the church teaches its members that God rewards righteousness with material wealth, they’re always going to want more of it; if they don’t get more, they’ll wonder what they did wrong.

    I hope the Detroit media will be more motivated to report fully about DWO and prosperity theology, rather than the bogus issue of property tax exemptions in poor old Northville.

  • Missy

    I may be wrong on specifics, but this is my general recollection of DWO’s history:

    In about 1994-5, Jack Wallace and his family came to Detroit from Phoenix, and Wallace became pastor of the Fairlane Assembly of God located in Dearborn Heights. At some point later, he changed the name of the church to Detroit World Outreach. The church then bought the former Temple Baptist Church building there in Redford, and in around 2001-2, they church voted, at Wallace’s urging, to separate from the Assemblies of God, because he did not want to be subject to their hierarchy.

    Gibert was some sort of an associate pastor there while Wallace was alive, but he did that part time as he worked full time as a vice president at Ford, and then later at Chrysler. He really was a great preacher and I learned a lot from him at the time (he preached when Wallace was out of town). When Wallace died, I remember some other associate pastor telling me that they definitely had a line of succession in place, and that it would be announced soon. Within a week or so of Wallace’s death, Gibert was named senior pastor. I got the impression that it was Wallace and his wife who decided on Gibert.

    I liked Gibert as a substitute pastor, because he seemed to preach practical, life application-type sermons that would help us succeed. But this style was not appropriate for a senior, full time pastor, in my opinion, as I felt like I was back in business school when listening to his sermons. While he does incorporate Biblical principles in with him business-oriented sermons (that’s my take on them, anyway), I just felt his messages lacked spiritually and focus on God. So I left that church.

    As I mentioned in my earlier post, I just feel bad for the remaining members of DWO, because there is NO WAY this church’s membership would think up the idea to buy their preacher a home that is most likely worth more than the church building itself (for those of you from outside the area, the church is NOT located in a wealthy area, and it is an old building in need of major renovation). I am pretty sure the people, if they agreed to such a purchase, were talked into it by the distortion of Scripture. This is not right. Again, Haggai 1:9, as I cited in my earlier post.

  • Brooklyn

    I attended that church for many years and became quite caught up in things. The bottom line is that they seem to attract a lot of people that want to believe they will hit the jackpot from heaven if they keep giving and demand money to come to them – the prosperity message. Who wouldn’t want to believe it?? Especially when you have little or no hope to begin with (or, are greedy). Those without the benefit of a good education, access to opportunity or mentoring find an answer.

    Its true that the prosperity message is gaining more acceptance by middle class Christians but it holds the most sway with those that can’t afford it. I watched too many people sacrifice only to become turned off and dejected and finally I had to quit making excuses for the church I loved. I encourage you to go for yourself and check things out if you are curious. You will find a handful of wealthy people (and some that try to appear wealthy/blessed). But to my personal experience, the members that I spent time with and whose homes I visited had a hard time keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table and didn’t exactly live in the best part of town.

    Unfortunately, the world at large holds ministers up to a higher standard than the church. It is assumed that they should be more modest in their lifestyle and put others interests above their own, as they should. I don’t care how the majority of people in Northville live and don’t despise them, although I choose differently. From where I stand I have seen this article do something in people I know to make them stand back and question their belief in the prosperity movement, to which I am very, very grateful.

  • Missy

    Brooklyn, I’m just curious. Do you think there is any way in the world that the church’s membership either came up with the idea, or approves of the idea, of buying this $4 million home for Pastor Gibert? As I’ve mentioned, I think this is the last thing on earth these people would do, and if they didn’t do so for Bishop Wallace, why on earth would they do so for Gibert? Again, I am upset to think that Gibert thinks he needs a house that is worth more than the church building (God’s house) itself!

    I’m just curious as to your opinion, if you care to respond.

  • Brooklyn

    I am hesitant to say what I “think”, but I would doubt that the membership came up with the idea. Some members I know of were surprised, upset. Others I know act defensive but don’t have any answers. If I went by past experience I would have to say that many have justified it in their minds by now and approve of it.

  • Dale

    I attended that church for many years and became quite caught up in things.

    O.K., now I can see things from your perspective a bit more. It wasn’t clear that you had attended the church.

    The bottom line is that they seem to attract a lot of people that want to believe they will hit the jackpot from heaven if they keep giving and demand money to come to them – the prosperity message.

    That’s what I find problematic (and what the Detroit News didn’t cover adequately).

    I watched too many people sacrifice only to become turned off and dejected and finally I had to quit making excuses for the church I loved.

    Sadly, that’s what I would expect. The issue isn’t the size or price of Gibert’s house, but the message that it sends to members of the congregation who, for whatever reason, aren’t equipped to be “successful” as society defines the term. There’s nothing shameful or wrong about being poor (or rich, for that matter). Everyone has an equal place in the Kingdom of God, no matter his or her financial circumstances. For a church to teach that God “blesses” all Christians with material wealth is to deny that truth–it implies that those who don’t have wealth aren’t loved by God. At least from my reading of scripture, Jesus taught that the opposite might be true: that wealth creates dangerous temptation.

    I think the Detroit News completely missed those people that you’re talking about–those who were hurt by the over-emphasis/obsession with wealth.

    I don’t care how the majority of people in Northville live and don’t despise them, although I choose differently.

    I grew up in West Bloomfield, which ain’t exactly poverty-stricken, so if anything, I’m like those people in Northville, and I feel more comfortable criticizing their double standards. If they’re offended by ostentatious displays of wealth, they need to take a second look at what goes on around them.

    From where I stand I have seen this article do something in people I know to make them stand back and question their belief in the prosperity movement, to which I am very, very grateful.

    Good!! I just think the Detroit News focussed on the wrong part of the story.

  • Rachel

    As a person that currently attends this church it seems like A LOT OF YOU GUYS have the story ALL wrong.

    Pastor Ben SAVED that church. As most churches, when the set man dies the church dies also. Pastor Ben SAVED IT! The church before wasn’t the best representation of God’s kingdom as it should but that never mattered to me I was there for the amazing word from bishop. Now since he is pastor the church building has more then double in value with all the renovations pastor Ben has done. (Stage, lobby, bathrooms, bookstore, café, YOUTH BUILDING)

    You guys really don’t understand what he lived like or what he was doing before. He gave up a job where he was at top of the list and he gave it ALL UP because GOD SAID SO!! I don’t know how spiritually mature you guys are but for me that’s enough. I appalled this man of god that is willing to give up his career and take a risk with his family for working for the kingdom! As Christians I would think you guys might be able to see that the enemy (Media TV News Internet) has “tricked” us to believe that a Man of God shouldn’t live a best life as possible. They our outside the box looking in. When you are reborn you should see this stuff right off the bat! We all are apart of the body of Christ and should be able to understand w/o jumping to conclusions on what’s going on!

    He is preaching an amazing kingdom message now and he stated a year ago that stuff like this “persecution” and “HATIN” lol was going to happen and people were going to talk about us! Here it is happening hahaha. With blessing and righteousness comes persecution. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10) This scripture is coming to past like no other lol we are growing in size and the DWO family is STILL giving and STILL blessing our man of god! What’s you sow you shall also reap!

    As far as giving to the poor, do you know how much Pastor Ben and DWO sows into other people and their ministries? I mean as far as giving personal cars and money and homes. Or what about the people that are members who need finical help and how the church will work with that person and help them? NO YOU DON’T! The media doesn’t tell you that stuff now do they! The media doesn’t say how DWO sowed into the Katrina Relief Fund through Pastor Tommy Barnet and The L.A. Dream Center. The media also doesn’t say how we have a metro church in Southwest Detroit and how we are one of the biggest givers in food to the poor in Michigan? No they don’t because again the enemy doesn’t want you to know that! I know people are going to have their opinions and personal beliefs but before you jump to conclusions on a subject try to hear from someone that knows instead of bashing the man of god (your brother) why not pray that God gives the church and Pastor Ben godly wisdom in all the things we do?

    What the media didn’t say?

    As far as the house goes the house next door to Pastor Ben’s home Bishop prophesied and said was going to be his home and Pastor Ben was going to live in the house he is in now. Sounds like god working there! But again the media didn’t say that now do they?

    Also is it me or sneaking a camera into God’s house means you have no respect for God? I mean please have enough respect for the Lord watch people as the write their checks out. Are you that shallow?

    I hope you guys instead of dropping insults come and visit DWO now with a different mind and come as a person wanting to be a hearer of the word and not someone trying to see if he stills people’s money!

    I love my church and boldly will stand for it. If you have any questions just reply!

  • Rachel

    Wow i just re-read my statement and I had a lot of grammatical errors. Using the wrong usage of words opps I guess typing in ten minutes that happens lol…

    Why we we don’t say everything we do because of this…

    “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” —Matthew 6:3-4

    btw if anyone has ever seen Northville Highschool or Library you can clearly see that the city isn’t missing a DIME!

  • Missy

    Hi Rachel,

    Please refer to my posts (#15 and #18, above).

    As stated above, I left the church when the Bishop had us pray for a new home for himself and his family. As you’ll recall, the DWO church building itself (remember the ladies room on the first floor?) was in HORRIBLE need of repair, and I couldn’t believe he wanted us to pray for a better home for himself while God’s home (the church building) was such a wreck. PLEASE READ HAGGAI 1:9, WHERE GOD TELL US EXACTLY HOW HE FEELS ON THE MATTER!

    I’m glad Pastor Ben has done some upgrading, but I’ve seen the church on TV recently and the sanctuary still has that horrible linoleum and very old blue seating. Sorry, but I cannot see how Ben could POSSIBLY justify getting a new home for himself and his family while God’s home STILL needs so many upgrades. And Gibert wasn’t exactly roughing it in a 7,000 sq. ft. home in Franklin. It was probably better than most people could possibly dream of, and God has already blessed him abundantly with that home and the job which allowed him his riches. How much more blessing does he need? And what part of “do not accumulate riches here on earth” does he not understand? Sure, God wants us to prosper, but his who is he trying to impressive with such a mega crib?

    Bishop always told us to trust the Word above any preacher, any book, etc. And when he himself deviated from that Word (see Haggai 1:9 (Today’s New International Version):
    “…”Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house…”), I knew I should leave.

    Preachers such as Creflo Dollar and other “prosperity” preachers all have big homes, but they bought those homes AFTER building beautiful, extravagant church buildings FIRST. Plus, Creflo et al make lots of $ on books that they sell, so maybe it was that money, not the church’s, that was spent to purchase their homes. Anyway, they FIRST built beautiful church buildings, and then went on to obtain mansions for themselves.

    And Bishop always used to slam Brad Powell for moving Temple Baptist out to Plymouth, accusing him of deserting the poor in Redford and Detroit. Now you tell us that he himself wanted to live out there in Northville in the mansion next door? God help us!

    And finally, Rachel, I just wonder whether the DWO memebership actually knew (and approved) of the purchase of this mansion.

  • Rachel

    Missy, Bishop is not Pastor Ben! Pastor Ben didn’t ask for us to pray for his house but but he did say he was looking for a new home because his kids and wife were being followed. BUT the news didn’t tell you that did they?…

    Also Pastor Ben didn’t slam Brad Powell so you can use that in your defense…

    Those blue seats? DON’T MAKE THE CHURCH! Because the seats are blue and ugly doesn’t stop you from getting fed with the word? If your paying so much attention to the seats there might be something wrong with you. Maybe Bishop wasn’t right for asking for yall to pray for “stuff” I don’t know I wasn’t there and I didn’t hear him say it or what context he said it in. (he could of been asking you guys to pray for that God gives him wisdom idk I wasn’t there.)

    Also, they will be re-doing the whole sanctuary soon this year! (including those blue seats)

    btw what the heck is a prosperity preacher? Prosperity means growth and it has been labeled and connected with money so people think every time someone says prosperity they mean money.. What about health, and spiritual growth?

    So what is prosperity preacher? A man/woman of god that doesn’t want to live broke busted and disgusted, a man/woman of god that has a understanding of how he/she should live i.e. righteous and holy and loving? Or a man/woman of god that doesn’t live check to check like 64%+ of Michigan? I’m sorry you can stay in that poverty mentality with a negative confession if you want to but DWO CHOOSES NOT TO PARTICIPATE! :)

    Let me ask you something WHO WANTS TO BE POOR?!?!?
    You know people that have never been poor always talk about being against prosperity but they don’t really know what’s it’s like to be poor. Some of my family has but I HAVE BEEN BLESSED to not have to figure out what that feels like. Ask anyone homeless/poor person do they want to have a prosperous/growing life and I’m sure they will say yes!

    God is against a lot things the poor does. Like Laziness/Slothfulness.

    Sis, don’t bring up Creflo if you don’t know his past and present situations with money… You don’t know how his church bases the money on paying him/salary or his side business (real estate, books, going to other cities to minister) nor do you know any other pastors i.e. Pastor Ben.

    Some Rockers and Some Rappers do a show which people HAVE TO pay to go see! They promote living bad lives (sinfulness). At the end of a nickelback and eminem show no one’s life changes for the best in the right direction but at the end of EVERY SINGLE SERVICE AT DWO you see people’s lives being changed face’s being filled with tears. So he has to be doing something good.

    You don’t want your money to go towards the church? THEN don’t give. DWO is giving church and have been since bishop she Pastor Ben hasn’t brain washed anyway! No one forces you to give. Missy you really need to understand the principle of giving! You give for grace on your life. (pick up some of Pastor Ben’s teachings)

    This man can’t have a house for changing peoples lives with a word of god but jay-z can make 1– million dollars a yr for telling people how to live sinful?!?!

    Last Sunday he stated at the end of the year he will give up his whole salary… and live off of what the members of the church bless him with. Does that make you happier?

    Also remember people the CHURCH OWNS THE HOUSE NOT HIM! IF HE MESSES UP HE’S OUT AND THE NEXT PERSON GETS IT!

    Missy and any other person that is reading this I really suggest you come to the church and just see for yourself.

  • Rachel

    God has already blessed him abundantly with that home and the job which allowed him his riches. How much more blessing does he need?

    1 Corinthians 2:9
    But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

    Sounds like your really just bluntly HATING! Why not be proud for your brother in the lord and say “Praise God It will be me”

  • Missy

    Rachel, I appreciated your response until you accused me of hating. Very nice.

    FYI, I attended that church for seven years, and was faithful in my tithes, offerings, “gifts” and donations. DWO people have been out to my house to pick up furniture and appliances, and I gave tons of clothing away each year at Fashion Share. I even went out to purchase many things for the ladies, and borrowed on credit card debt to make sure that I gave at least 10% of my income to that church each year (I know I shouldn’t have done so, but I was that committed to the church). And I gave monetary gifts to specific pastors at the church on a regular basis. So I certainly don’t need any lecture from you on hating DWO!

    But I asked you your take on Haggai 1 – the entire chapter speaks to God’s house, and that we are to make it’s construction and maintenance a priority! Not the preacher’s house, but God’s house! Please read that chapter first, and focus on verse 9, and then get back to me, OK?

    And could you also answer my other question? Again, I am just curious as to how DWO members, many of whom live fairly impoverished lives in Redford and Detroit, feel about their preacher living in a mega crib out in the suburbs. Did they approve of this, or were they even told in advance?

    Believe it or not, I just spent a good deal of time praying to God for the Giberts, and for me. If I am wrong, I pray that God reveal Scripture to me to let me know. And if they are wrong, I pray that He reveal His Scripture to them.

  • Rachel

    praise god sister that’s the thing you should of done from the start! Why would you after 7years? Were you not connected?


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