But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. - Proverbs 4:18
On the occasion of Pastor John Piper preaching his final sermon as the senior pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, I take this opportunity to salute the man for his financial self-discipline. We need to learn the lesson this man preaches through the way he handles his money.
First, the back story.
Some time back, David and I co-authored a post revealing the huge amounts of money Reformed men pull in through their church salaries, conferences, speakers fees, sermon and video sales, book royalties, and the salaries they pay themselves through their nonprofit businesses. We spent time on Guidestar downloading and reviewing IRS 990s filed by various nonprofit businesses including Ligonier, Grace to You, Masters College and Seminary, Insight for Living, and Desiring God.
The Internal Revenue Service holds to a high doctrine of original sin. They take money and conflict of interest seriously, requiring nonprofits to file Form 990 which asks a whole host of questions the government believes should inform the giving of those inclined to support these nonprofit businesses. Here are some of the questions they ask:
If you support one of these ministries, you would do well to examine its IRS Form 990 carefully to see if they are Godly in their use of the Lord's money. For your convenience, at the bottom of this post we've provided the 990s for the nonprofit corporations owned by some of the most famous preachers. I've included a copy of Clearnote Fellowship's own 990 believing what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gnat.
Form 990 information is a matter of public record. So what to learn?
Most of these men have a household income of more than $400,000 per year: they are the wealthy who will bear the brunt of our civil servants' latest tax increase.
Let's drill down into one of the more popular Reformed luminaries:
A conservative estimate of this man's riches earned per year is $500,000, meaning every four years he takes in $2,000,000. This doesn't include the money he pays friends, relatives, and his son-in-law, nor his speaker fees and honoraria.
This business of Reformed preaching, speaking, and writing is lucrative, hence Rupert Murdoch's purchase of over 50 % of the Evangelical publishing business. The majority of Evangelical publishing is now a division of Murdoch's News Corporation.
Now then, back to John Piper and God bless him!
John votes himself no salary from his nonprofit, Desiring God Ministries.
In fact, unlike the others, John Piper doesn't own his nonprofit; his church does. Each year Bethlehem Baptist Church appoints the leadership of Desiring God Ministries. We challenge any of these other men to follow John's lead and place their nonprofit under the authority of their elders board. What an excellent example John is on this.
Then because Desiring God Ministries is under the authority of Bethlehem Baptist Church and John is an employee of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Desiring God Ministries has to put into the public record of their Form 990 how much money John is paid by Bethlehem Baptist each year. We see that John's 2010 church salary was $120,000.
Brothers, two things to note about this: first, it's unheard of that any of these men would allow their chuch salaries to be known, publicly; and second, this amount John receives is very, very low for a senior pastor of his position. But of course, John still has his royalties to live high on the hog from, right?
Next to Desiring God Ministries in Guidestars list of nonprofits is a foundation titled Desiring God Foundation. It has three officers: John Piper, Terry Kurschner, and Noel Piper and they don't pay themselves a penny from the foundation. They simply give money away.
How much and to whom? In 2010, Desiring God Foundation made the following grants:
Where did this money come from? Well, add it up and you'll find these gifts total $380,000 and the Pipers' foundation received income from John's advances and royalties during 2010 of $391,000.
Learn this lesson well, brothers and sisters in Christ: as John said recently in a Sunday evening sermon, he knows his own heart and he disciplines himself financially. Think about it: John and Noel use their royalties to fund a foundation that provides their church most of the salary they are paid each year. Then John turns around and gives his elders board the authority to govern Desiring God Ministries.
May God bless John and Noel Piper as they move into the next phase of their service to the Church.
* * *
(TB, w/thanks to the IRS)