In a time of rapid development, some Chinese feel the pull to get rich quick and easily fall prey to financial cons and scams. Church leaders must be on guard against these financial scams as they even infiltrate some churches.
In this article from Gospel Times, a preacher from Henan province shares about how financial scams have rocked the reputation of some churches. Further, he argues for the importance of confronting scams and controversies in the church rather than covering them up for the sake of “face.”
The Church’s Finance Manager Is Caught in a Marketing Scam—What Should I Do?
Recently, I have received phone call after phone call from believers who are all raising the same issue. A sister from the church finance team has taken them to listen to an infomercial sales pitch on “all-curing water.” At these sales meetings, lots of respectable guest speakers present testimonials. The guest speakers all say that previously they or their family member had some illness or other, and they went to such-and-such a hospital and spent all their savings. They had no hope left. Just at that moment when they were entirely dejected, someone got in touch with them—and when they knew about this “all-curing water,” at first they absolutely didn’t believe it. But unexpectedly, when they tried it as a last resort in hope against all hope, it cured the illness.
In any case, these sales meetings are very enticing. The people testifying all look so well put together. On the one hand they are sharing a testimonial about being sick and getting cured, and on the other hand they are telling you and everyone else the legend of how they got rich quick selling this “all-curing water.” After these people have finished sharing their testimonials, there will be audience members who throw their money at them, and carry the “all-curing water making machines” home in their arms.
As soon as I heard about this, I knew there was something fishy about it. If this “all-curing water” really could cure any disease, our present-day hospitals would have shut their gates a long time ago. Such an obvious con is a habitual ploy by these marketing schemes. They have plenty of persuasive sayings to get people into their membership: “diamond members can get top-level ‘all-curing water;’” “if you spend this much money you can rise up the ranks and get super-powerful ‘all-curing water.’”
Really, anyone looking in from the outside can see right away that this is a scam. But why are there still so many people willing to be scammed?
In fact, this is using people’s worldly desires to cause mischief. Because, if you have a desire for money, other people then have a way to use your worldly desire to swindle you out of your money.
Strictly speaking, it is not wrong to want to make money, but people’s worldly desire means that they hope to get rich quick; and those con artists just happen to have people giving testimonials showing that it is possible to get rich quick. If only you invest so much money now, you can be just like them with a fancy car, looking great from top to toe! If you don’t make your move right now, you are really missing out—quick, get on board, make money! It’s really a pretty good song they sing.
I ask the church members, “What’s your plan?” They say, “Quick, get a bowl of cold water and dump it over our heads! We have all had the impulse to buy this stuff, but the key point is that we are clear this thing is a scam, and we still want to buy it—so we are asking you. If you don’t stop us, we will buy a load of the machines and then sell the ‘water’ to get rich!”
I think it’s quite funny, but I still advise them not to buy the products and also not to add to their sales because this thing is obviously fake. No matter if it is sold to people inside the church or to those outside the church, it is bad; there is the likelihood that, because of this matter, the church will experience divisions and many people’s witness will be compromised.
Hoping to solve the problem, the co-workers of our church’s admin team found out which member was dragging people off to these sales meetings. Although we earnestly exhorted her not to go to these meetings any more, she carried on as before, and with all her might defended herself saying she had sold this water to someone and it had cured their cancer, cured such-and-such a person’s hemiplegia, cured someone else’s high blood pressure.
Clearly, she has already been thoroughly ensnared in these lies. Why do I call these lies? Because right now in her own family she has someone who is in hospital, sick with cancer. Every day in our church we pray for this family member of hers. If this “water” can cure cancer, why doesn’t she give it to her family member to drink? Putting it another way, if this family member has been drinking this “water” for many years, how come they were still diagnosed with cancer?
You will never be able to rouse someone who is only pretending to sleep. Since this person refused to repent, we could not be polite any more. When the church committee had discussed this, we ended her church accounting role. In such cases, we could only wait until they come to their senses by themselves. If the church does not act, then inside the church there will be people who will believe in the products she promotes because of her position as a church accountant—and then lots of people will spend tens of thousands of dollars buying these “super-powerful all-curing water machines” and taking them home. In the end, these people’s family members will come and find the church, and the church will have to pay the cost.
It’s not that there is no antecedent for this kind of thing. The church in the town next to ours is like this: a member originally came to their church and was very zealous. Every church meeting, they drove up in an expensive car. Afterwards, everyone came to know that this person worked for some club or other, and was a manager of some department there. When she had been a part of the church for some time, she began to encourage everyone to invest in her club. The returns would be beyond imagining—for example, if someone invested 100,000 dollars, after a year they would make several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Lots of brothers and sisters stopped listening to church sermons and started to go to her club and listen to the investment classes there instead. Many people handed over their money—a few thousand here, tens of thousands there—and sat at home waiting to get rich.
After this, suddenly one morning, people went to the club’s premises and found them empty. There was nothing there. Furthermore, that church member was nowhere to be seen. Everyone eventually realized they had been conned. Finally, when the matter was reported to the police, nothing could be done. Those greedy church members’ relatives came and surrounded the entrance to the church, saying it was a Christian who had swindled them out of their money. The church leaders repeatedly explained that this matter had nothing to do with the church—it was not organized by the church. But the people who had been taken advantage of would not listen to reason or relent. Afterwards, the church in that place fell into decline: if someone in a family believed in Jesus, the men of that family would beat the women, and so no-one dared go to church.
In this case, our church decided at the time we had to decisively and immediately put a stop to that person’s service in the church and afterwards assess the situation to see whether it was necessary to notify the whole church and alert everyone. Otherwise church members would join the “investment group” because of their trust in the church, and when their finances were jeopardized, they would end up bringing shame to the church.
I feel that the responsibilities of a preacher are many. We have to be aware of what’s going on in the world and voice concerns about the current situation; we cannot simply bury our heads in the Scriptures and not bother about what this world is like and the problems that believers will come across. There are many believers who are naïve. When preaching, I must apply biblical truth to reality, and communicate the powerful message for this generation.
From what I know, many churches are too embarrassed to reprimand people who do such outrageous things because they love to save “face.” Such churches are always preaching a message that can neither hurt nor cause discomfort—they are useless when it comes to providing warnings.
Concerning this issue, I have personally asked many brothers and sisters about their response to the information they gave me about this sister. Although they said what they thought about it, and all agreed that this was not right, but because they were bound to frequently come across this person, they were too embarrassed to address the issue face-to-face with her. Furthermore, they unceasingly advised me, “You absolutely must not tell the church member that this information is from me.” I believe that this is a kind of “diseased love” within the church. This kind of “love” will not speak about any kind of doctrine or principles. It only speaks of “face”, and does not have the righteousness of God in it.
Frequently, the preacher standing in the pulpit has forgotten that “speaking words of truth” and “preaching the truth” are the requirements the Lord has for his disciples. The pulpit is the wellspring of truth for the church. If a problem cannot be expounded from the pulpit, that pulpit should have been demolished long ago—for what use is there in keeping it? It is just like a watchtower—if the guards on duty discover a problem, but don’t dare to raise the alarm or aren’t willing to say anything, isn’t it better to knock down the tower? What is it even guarding against?
When the church faces evil matters, it must abide by the principle of sorting them out. It must not haphazardly cover them up. Covering up a problem is not a method of resolving it. It is only hiding the problem—the problem is still there. When facing a marketing scam, the church must certainly not let down its guard, but must treat it seriously, because this thing concerns the life and death of the church.
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