There has been much media reporting and assumptions around the case. One article declares that 30 of the Yoido Church elders held a press conference in November 2013 to allege that Senior Pastor David Yonggi Cho and his family funnelled off hundreds of billions from church donations. Many Cho family/church business deals are highlighted. (english.hani.co.kr)
Another article by a long-term family friend of the Cho's states that Cho's eldest son had been a prodigal son who's "scandalised life has been an embarrassment to his family and the church." The article indicates that Yonggi Cho trusted his son and elders with a stock-related scheme, and didn't read the many pages of documents which were prepared for him to sign. (charismanews.com)
John Piper (founder of desiringGod.org) on his segment 'Ask Pastor John', says his response to this is "not to pile on with any additional condemnation of David Yonggi Cho, but rather try to respond for the rest of us in a way that prevents this kind of thing as much as possible."
Paul says in Galatians Chapter 6 Verse 1, "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted."
The call from John Piper is for Pastors to keep watch on themselves so as not to bring reproach on the name of Christ. He has five points and comments on the points for Pastors to consider. I would suggest these are also relevant for any leader or person within a Christian setting, who is in a position of trust with others' money. And perhaps serve as a warning and to help them set up parameters to protect themselves, their church (or organisation) and the name of Christ.
1. Kill every desire to be rich and get rich
Don't want this. If you see the desire in your heart take aim at it with the words of Christ and the words of Paul and put it to death with a swift blow with the sword of the spirit. Jesus said how difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom. In other words don't want this.
2. Pastors - if you see your income starting to grow, set a governor on it
Keep away from accumulating more and more and communicating to your people that you lay up treasures on earth. One of the best ways to do this, is to grow the percentage of your giving. I'm not impressed with pastors who gives 30 percent of a million dollar royalty check and keeps 70 percent of it to buy luxuries with. I've heard pastors boast that they give 30, 40 percent. Money is insidiously deceptive. We've seen it over and over again and I'm pleading with pastors, be content with what the church pays you and give the rest away with joy and strategic wisdom.
3. Be totally transparent with your fellow elders about your sources of income
These elders should not be the wealthy powerful peers or friends from outside the church. That is an unbiblical way to lead your flock. It has no biblical foundation and it communicates distrust for your local leaders and a kind of pride that you are above their local accountability. Let all the books of your income be open to any member of your church who asks the elders. Secrecy around money is deadly. It's a sign that something is not right.
4. Live simply and model to your people that your treasure is in heaven and not on earth
Please don't write this off as pauper theology. That is absolutely ridiculous. The kind of distortion that makes of what I'm saying is a sign of fear; that what I'm saying just might be true. Get a car that works; and gets you where you need to go. I'm talking about a modest entertainment budget that doesn't eat out every night. I'm talking about a refreshing vacation, not an exorbitant one. I'm talking about clothes that are unremarkable and non-distracting, both for not being shabby and not being brand driven. I'm talking about a home that accomplishes your family and ministry purposes leaning towards ordinary folks in your congregation, not the wealthiest.
5. Put in place a leadership structure of a counsel of elders
A council of elders on which you, the pastor, have one vote. You are a chief among equals, not by having veto power over everything your lay people say.
"That is hypocrisy to the core…that is happening today because of pastors who love money....Oh for every Pastor to be ready to cut off his hand before he uses it to bring reproach on the name of Jesus by grasping for money." Piper concluded.
At the very worst, Pastors who don't heed Piper's advice, could end up in the kind of predicament that David Yonggi Cho and his son have found themselves in. At the very least Pastors could run the risk of finding themselves out of touch with their congregations.
Belinda Croft has been writing for Press Service International since 2010. She lives in Melbourne with her husband Russell and their two sons. Her passion for understanding the things of God in simple ways, social justice and news issues influence her writing style.
Belinda Croft's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/belinda-croft.html