The misuse of the tithe and offerings!

The thrust of the gospel is not about believers living for Christ or working for Christ which has been and is the mentality of the religious environment. The effectiveness of such a concept has fallen far short of caring out the commission of Christ to "go into all the world and preach the gospel, making disciples of all nations". The working for Christ syndrome contributes to the reason that some 90% of the finances flowing into the coffers of religious organizations is consumed by selfish expenditures on man invented projects, and on keeping the religious wheels in motion.

The Toronto Star investigation revealed the following!

After worshiping at the Prayer Palace this morning, Hyacinthe Houghron will, as she does every second Sunday, stuff her tired green minivan with a small feast: six coolers of homemade soup, a mountain of sandwiches, cakes and sweets.

Loaded down with second-hand clothes pulled from the ceiling-high piles in her hair salon, she'll give out the goods to homeless people on downtown Toronto's grittiest streets.

Missions like this aren't cheap for people like her and other volunteers at the church. "We're poor folks," says Houghron, describing the majority of the 3,000-strong congregation who attend the spaceship-shaped church at Hwy. 400 and Finch Ave.

The hairdresser scrapes together $600 of her own money each month to keep up the program because the Prayer Palace – one of Canada's largest evangelical churches – stopped running it five years ago. Other charitable works, like a promised orphanage in Brazil, either dried up or never materialized.

Meanwhile, the three white pastors – Paul Melnichuk and his 40-year-old twin sons, Tim and Tom – lead lavish lives in contrast to the mainly working-class black families that make up the bulk of the church.

Between them, the pastors have amassed a real estate fortune worth about $12 million. Each owns a multi-million-dollar country estate north of Toronto (Tim's is worth as much as $5.5 million), they share a Florida vacation villa, and the pastors and their wives drive luxurious cars – among them a Porsche Cayenne SUV, a Lexus RX 330 SUV and a Mercedes-Benz CLK 320 convertible.
 However, a continuing Star investigation into Canadian charities has found the church devotes little money to charitable work. In fact, the church's most recent financial statements show that only $9,443 was spent on "benevolent and charity" activities in 2005. The church's annual "missions" fluctuate between $500 and $36,704 in the past few years.

The Star was unable to get access to the Prayer Palace's internal documents, and so could not determine if money donated by congregants went into the pastors' houses.

During sermons the pastors exhort worshippers to give generously if they want the Lord's blessing. "What's half a million dollars to a congregation like this? Peanuts," 72-year-old Pastor Paul thundered one recent Sunday morning, asking members to help fund an "evangelical explosion" in Toronto. In another sermon, he said: "Abraham received wealth, blessing and prosperity – not because he worked, but because he believed in a God that was bigger than the economy."

Asked how the pastors could afford their lifestyle, Prayer Palace officials responded that the question "is not related to charities."

In his sermons, Pastor Paul works hard to convey to his flock the notion that he and his family are simple people who shop at discount stores. However, the Star found that the three pastors' houses are extravagantly appointed. Tim's King City house boasts nine-metre ceilings, a state-of-the-art, nine-seat home cinema, Italian onyx floors and a five-car garage, and was recently put on the market for $5.5 million.

What's more, Pastor Paul and his twins fly to family reunions in a helicopter, and they frequently travel to their Florida vacation villa, which was built last year.

Church financial documents show a number of items related to the family's recent flurry of activity in the U.S. Those include a $1-million transfer of Prayer Palace funds to a "Florida mission" during the same time the pastors built a Spanish-style waterfront home there and bought a small church.

In researching this story, the Star interviewed more than three dozen current and former church members, contractors who worked on the Prayer Palace and other Melnichuk building projects, and other family associates.

The church's most devout followers say that if wealth ends up in the pastors' hands, it's because God sees fit. Still, in looking at the church construction and several of Melnichuk's personal house-building projects that overlapped it, the Star found the lines between the two often blurred.

For example, as the church prepared to turn sod on the $27-million Prayer Palace, Melnichuk had a construction company pave his own driveway instead of paying the full cost of renting space on church property for storing equipment. Also, a valuable strip of Prayer Palace land was sold to a company connected to the Melnichuks.

The church's financial documents raise numerous questions. Total salaries for the pastors and other staff (it's unclear how many are paid) was listed on Prayer Palace documents as more than $1 million in 2005, the last year reported, up from about $750,000 two years earlier. The most recent documents show one salary of more than $119,000 – likely that of Pastor Paul – and three salaries between $80,000 and $119,000.

In addition, Prayer Palace financial statements show "housing allowances" of more than $125,000, but the documents don't specify the recipients.

The documents also show annual vehicle and travel expenses have doubled in the past two years, jumping to more than $175,000. The original cost of the vehicles in the Prayer Palace fleet is over $500,000. Documents obtained by the Star show the red Mercedes convertible is registered to the Canadian church but kept at the pastor's Florida villa.

The Star found the pastors and their wives also drive, besides the Lexus and Porsche SUVs, an Audi A6S sedan, BMW 7 Series and 3 Series sedans, a Lincoln LS and Towncar, and a red, oversized Dodge pickup. The Lexus is also kept in Florida.

Folks what is your gut reaction to such misuse of the gospel that Jesus gave His life for? Is it any wonder that much of the religious world will hear..."depart from me I never knew you".

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