In November 2007, the Senate Finance Committee ordered ten leaders of church-based ministries to hand over their financial records by December 6, 2007, for an investigation it was launching. Many argue these renowned ministers' lavish lifestyles and prosperity teachings made them prime targets. Grammy-winning gospel great Donnie McClurkin, who also serves as pastor of the Perfecting Faith Church in Long Island, New York, shares his thoughts on the role of today's Black churches and its pastors in this dwindling economy.
As pastors, we have to link arms and have bipartisanships. The [Black] church has always been the face of the community. Now we have to take on the responsibility of becoming true servants to the people from all walks of life. I get so mad when I see these pimpin' preachers driving Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, flying around in their private jets, and making it seem like prosperity and money is the way of God when 90 percent of your congregation is on Section 8 or can't figure out how they are going to keep their lights on or feed their kids. I'm big on perception, and what would it look like for me to live so lavishly if the people in my church are struggling?
I've done great in gospel music, and only a few of us have accomplished what I have, and guess what? I live in the ‘hood, not some place on the outskirts of the ‘hood. There ain't no gate around my house; I have a white fence because the people I pastor live in that community. I have one vehicle and it's not a Mercedes, it's a Lincoln Navigator. I don't receive a dime—not an Abraham Lincoln copper coin—and haven't for the last seven-and-a-half years because I'm okay.
I've even had members ask me why I choose to live in the same neighborhood, and it's because I have to be able to relate. Do you think if Jesus was here on earth he'd be spending all his time in the church? No, he'd be out with the people who need him the most on the streets. People tell me how they want their pastor to be prosperous and I tell them I want the people to be prosperous. I've realized that just because you can go out and do something it doesn't mean it's the best thing to do.
If I wanted to buy a Phantom or Bentley I could and not hurt my pockets, but I'm okay with what I have. I can sing and work and I let all that money go back into the church so we can buy the delicatessen on the corner, or the house next door to make it state-of-the-art low-income housing. We've trained our people to put their leaders on pedestals, and some people want to live vicariously through their pastor and say, "My pastor has this and he's on television and so on," but then what do you have? How have you prospered and grown? So when I hear other pastors say, "My people take care of me," I'm thinking, But you're supposed to be taking care of the people. I just don't get it.
I don't have a church, but I do have a church that I pastor. I can't name something the Donnie McClurkin Temple because the people do not belong to me and if they did that would mean I have slaves. I am simply a vessel to deliver God's word. At the end of the day, it's God's church, not mine.
Check out Donnie McClurkin's latest album, "We All Are One," in stores now.
The views and opinions expressed are those of Donnie McClurkin and not ESSENCE.com's or ESSENCE magazine's.