Serial The Anointed: 6. Most Luxurious Church Building

Serial The Anointed: 6. Most Luxurious Church Building December 16, 2023

A silhouette of a man lifting his hands in worship against a backdrop of an evening sky. Next to this man are the words: "The Anointed - a faith-based serial."
Follow along with this thrilling serial about the highs and lows of Pastor John.

It’s 2008. The Joy congregation is opening a new church building, and I’ve been invited to the event.

On the industrial outskirts of New York, the Joy congregation has constructed a new edifice. The entire project cost 28 million dollars, but what they now have is one of the most progressive church buildings in New York, with a hall that can accommodate ten thousand people. The leadership from the evangelical and charismatic communities across the country has been invited to the grand opening, myself included. Senior Pastor Michael from the Life Church in Colorado, which Joy is affiliated with, will be performing the inauguration. I hesitate, but my curiosity gets the better of me. I have to see this!

I’m not usually impressed by buildings, but this one is truly exceptional. We’re greeted by congregation members who guide us in groups of ten through the facility. The main entrance is made entirely of marble. In the foyer, which easily fits eight hundred people, there’s a Starbucks-like restaurant where you can dine. There’s also a huge bookstore, possibly the largest evangelical bookstore in the country. I visit dozens of offices, a children’s play area that rivals indoor playgrounds, a teen café that has it all.

“We approach the power center of the church: the offices of Pastors John and Abigail. The opulence is palpable.”

We pass through several children’s areas and then reach a side entrance. There, a secretary sits behind a splendid oak desk. We’re nearing the church’s nerve center. We walk down a corridor and enter the offices of Pastors John and Abigail, reminiscent of the executive suite of a large corporation. The luxury and sense of power are overwhelming.

The tour continues. We see television studios, a recording studio, dressing rooms, and the director’s room. Then we arrive at the doors of the grand hall. I catch my breath subconsciously. The hall is vast, filled with thousands of plush red seats. But what immediately catches my eye is the waterfall to the left of the stage. Water cascades from fifteen meters up into a large glass tank suspended two meters above the ground. The wall beside the waterfall is made of rocks, from which the water appears to spring naturally. The tank, approximately three meters square and one and a half meters tall, is entered from the stage via a staircase through the rocks. Large fish swim in the tank. The whole setup seems lifted straight from a subtropical swimming pool or a theme park. I’m impressed, especially when our guide mentions that this is the church’s baptismal pool, used monthly for baptizing about fifty people.

The stage itself is massive. Behind it hangs a screen twenty meters wide and ten meters tall, composed of billions of pixels, making projectors unnecessary. It reminds me of the screens I’ve seen at a U2 concert, though I didn’t know they could be this large.

“There’s a lift in the stage for the praise band to ascend and descend. Looking up, I see hundreds of lights. It feels like I’m at a professional concert.”

Our guide moves on. The stage has a lift for the praise band to rise up for performances and descend during sermons. I look up and see hundreds of lights. She tells us they can put on a light show that rivals any pop concert. Each service employs twenty technicians and a crew of nine cameramen, including one on a large crane that can sweep the entire stage. Technicians bustle about, preparing for the opening service starting in half an hour. Our guide concludes the tour, thanks us for coming, and suggests we find seats in the grand hall. I reserve a spot for myself and quickly grab a cappuccino from the restaurant.

The service starts precisely on time. The lights dim and we’re welcomed with an impressive light show. The stage fills with smoke as the band ascends and starts playing popular worship songs from the Colorado church. The imagery on the large screen is razor-sharp. The technicians employ computer graphics to enhance the visuals. Everything has a ‘wow’ factor—it feels like I’m at a professional concert. After a few songs, the band descends and the hall darkens completely.

“God has appointed them as leaders over the States and calls us to come under their anointing.”

Two large spotlights switch on. To cheers and applause, John and Abigail walk hand in hand onto the stage, looking radiant. Abigail is in an exquisite dress that must have cost thousands of dollars, while John is sharply dressed. They warmly welcome everyone. The band rises again as Pastor Michael from America takes the stage. He expresses his admiration for Pastors John and Abigail, convinced of their national calling and that they are a good shelter under which to stand. God has designated them as leaders over this country, and he urges us to stand under their anointing. I’m reminded of an umbrella full of holes—you’re going to get wet regardless. It brings to mind the apostolic controversy from a few years back.

Pastor Michael invites John and Abigail to share about their new ministry. The Joy congregation has acquired broadcasting rights for a local television station. The Joy services are now aired every Sunday morning from nine to eleven. John informs us that ten of thousands watch every Sunday morning and they plan to broadcast nationwide.

Pastor Michael encourages us to stand, not only to pray for Pastors John and Abigail but to recognize and financially invest in the significant national roles God has given them. He speaks on this for a quarter of an hour, after which automatic debit forms are distributed. You can tick the amount you wish to give, starting at a hundred dollars and increasing to 250, 500, 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 euros. We’re given two minutes to decide before the collection buckets come around. On closer inspection, I notice the forms are for monthly donations, not one-time gifts. Well…

“What does a move of God cost you? The Lord wants to hear rustling, not jingling.”

I don’t fill out the form but instead put it in my pocket, dropping a few dollars into the bucket. I hear little jingling in the hall. During his fundraising speech, Pastor Michael challenged us not to insult God by giving mere coins. He refers to an Old Testament passage where King David knew God was moving by the rustling in the mulberry trees – not jingling, but rustling. “God is moving here today. Let’s not greet Him with the sound of jingling, but with the sound of rustling. We insult God if we shortchange Him with our coins. A move of God should cost you something. Who wants to see God move in the States?”

A large part of the audience cheers loudly. “Today, I want to hear the rustling of promises of five hundred and a thousand dollars. God wants to move, but it must cost us something. What are you willing to let a move of God cost you?” He leaves a pause. “Do you want to be the one to block a move of God because it shouldn’t cost you anything? Do you want to be the one to prevent God from moving? Let’s greet Him with rustling! The Lord is here. He’s ready to move. I can already hear the rustling.”

I suspect tens of thousands, maybe even a hundred thousand euros will be raised today. How much will go towards Pastor Michael’s expenses? I’d rather not know… Pastor Michael calls us to stand again and pray with him for these two wonderful people. I don’t feel like praying. I feel manipulated. I want to leave…




Read some background articles on why Evangelical leaders fall: 



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Matt Vlaardingerbroek, a former seasoned church planter and pastor in Holland’s inner cities, brings Bible stories to life through ventriloquism and magic. He’s authored three books, and founded, providing over 1,500 innovative Sunday school activities worldwide.


About Matt Vlaardingerbroek
At 52, I’ve worn many hats. For 14 years, I have been a church planter in one of Holland’s tough inner-city estates and served as a pastor, deeply immersing myself in community life. I have authored three Christian books and am a regular columnist for the Netherlands’ premier Christian website. A role close to my heart is that of a Christian children’s artist. Using ventriloquism and magic, I breathe life into Bible stories, sharing God’s tales in schools and churches. My creative streak also led to, a rich resource offering over 1,500 Sunday school activities. This platform aids children’s workers, teachers, and parents globally in imparting Biblical lessons to youngsters You can read more about the author here.

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