What Makes a Pastor Steal Church Money?

Written by Raul Rivera on May 15, 2018 in Pastoral Helps

When you hear a story of a pastor who stole church money, do you find yourself wondering, “How could that happen?” or “What makes a pastor steal from his own church?”

It is easy to jump to conclusions and assume it is because of greed. Yet, if we are willing to take a closer look, we soon realize that the root cause goes much deeper than greed. 

After all, why would a pastor go against what he/she teaches to be true and then try to hide the behavior to perpetuate it? 

Such actions often begin with an unguarded heart.

In this blog, I want to give you four conditions every pastor should keep in mind in order to help guard his/her heart. Then I will provide you with a strategy which will help you to prevent moral bankruptcy.

Beware of the unguarded heart 

In both the business and church world, embezzlement is the most common crime committed. So, why is it that so many pastors continue to fall into this trap?

We could talk about the plethora of available statistics indicating that a majority of pastors are unhappy, depressed, and struggling in their marriage.

However, I do not think statistics such as those are at the root of the issue, nor do I believe a majority of pastors are unhappy in their calling or marriage.

Rather, I think some pastors end up stealing church money because they simply let their guard down.

It is easy to think, “That will never happen to me.”

Then something happens in life that affects us in a negative way, and afterward we allow ourselves to compromise just a little. And before we know it, it has gotten out of control.

Pastoring gets the attention of the enemy of your soul, and he will tempt you.

I have heard this sentiment uttered through countless conversations that I have had with pastors all across the country while at our conferences.

Therefore, you must be diligent to guard your heart.

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4 conditions every pastor should keep in mind for a guarded heart

1. Pastors often feel alone

Did you know that 7 out of 10 pastors claim they do not have someone that they can truly call a friend?

When a parishioner needs help, he calls the pastor. When the pastor needs help, he/she often has no one to turn to. 

During these times, pastors tend to go into a “cave” alone. Unlike Elijah, pastors do not usually have God encounters in those caves. 

Instead, because of the busyness in life and the demands of pastoring, a pastor usually tries to cope on his/her own.

(Recommended reading: "5 Ways for Pastors to Prevent Burnout")

2. Finding a false identity

Unfortunately, many pastors that start churches have a difficult time separating themselves and their identities from the church. 

Therefore, 100% of their soul is wrapped up in the church. In some instances, a pastor may believe that (like a person who starts a business) the church belongs to him/her.

Moreover, the pastor thinks that he/she can make decisions how he/she pleases, and no one can tell him/her what to do.

3. Financial frustrations that often accompany ministers

The unfortunate truth is that a vast majority of pastors are severely underpaid, and their spouses are never paid.

Regardless of what you hear on the news or read on the Internet, 9 out of 10 pastors are underpaid. 

Believe me when I say, and I am sure many of you reading can attest, that financial frustrations can weigh heavily on the hearts of many pastors.

As the years pass, many pastors feel the weight of seeing the life for which they once had great dreams succumbing to the concerns that come with the golden years, and there is no nest egg for retirement. That can be very depressing.

(Recommended reading: "How Much Should Churches Pay Pastors?")

4. A misplaced heart

I have met many pastors that spend 100% of their energy focused on growing their churches.

Yet, they speak very little of true discipleship, humble servanthood, and pastoral care. It is as though they are willing to do whatever it takes to see their churches grow, no matter the cost.

However, we must heed the prophetic word spoken by Joshua over Jericho, "He who rebuilds its foundations will do it at the cost of his firstborn son, and he who sets up its gates at the cost of his youngest son."

As we read later in the Scriptures, one man named Hiel of Bethel was up to the task. Wanting to rebuild Jericho so badly that he simply did not heed the warning, and as a result his two sons perished.

As a pastor friend that did not reach mega church status once said, "Thank You, Lord, for not giving me what I so dearly wanted.”

Preventing moral bankruptcy

While it never makes it right, at least you can see how certain circumstances of ministry can lead a pastor to moral bankruptcy. 

That is what happened to a pastor in Columbus, OH - He embezzled money from the church to fund a greater lifestyle. 

He claimed the money was used to better serve his church, so he purchased a boat and a pool for his house to share with the congregation. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it really happened.

I encourage you to establish pastoral accountability in your life with a group of individuals who will ask you the tough questions, who will love you and support you when you are struggling, and whom you completely trust.

If you have never done this before it might be difficult at first, but I promise you it will be totally worth it.

It is time to walk more fully in your calling

Now you know why so many pastors today are falling into moral bankruptcy. Any one of the four conditions can be the tipping point for many pastors. 

You may even identify with more than one of these conditions. However, be encouraged, because there is hope!

We serve a God who is hope Himself, and He has a wonderful journey for you that will fill you with hope regardless of how you feel today. 

Would you like to get a hold of some of that hope?

Well, I invite you to join us at one of our Ultimate Church Structure Conferences.

During this time, alongside other pastors and church leaders, you will receive instruction that will empower you to walk more fully in your calling as a pastor than you ever thought possible.

Click on the link below and register today!

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Raul Rivera

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