Saturday, February 3, 2018


The headline of the article in The Grapevine/THE ROOT reads, “It’s Over for Russell Simmons; Oprah Has Excommunicated Him.”  My immediate response is, “No, she has not excommunicated him.”  Checkout the article here.  The writer of the article, Monique Judge, assumes that Oprah has replaced Jesus.  Or she assumes that Oprah is the head or founder of a religion and has the authority to kick people out.  All Oprah did was make her book, The Wisdom of Sundays, into a kind of Jefferson Bible.  The new edition will exclude Russell Simmons and his contribution.  If there is something in it that she wants to take out or change, she can do that.  It is her book.
From what or from where is Russell Simmons excommunicated?  Yes, what he was accused of is despicable.  But, what Ms. Judge doesn’t realize is, many of us are Christians and we pray, forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  Depending on the situation, for some, forgiveness takes a long time.  But, unforgiveable is not what we believe.
From a Christian viewpoint, Oprah has not replaced Jesus.  There are many who believe she has.  She has plenty of followers.  Everything she does is deliberate and well thought out.  Sunday is the day of worship for most Christians.  It is The Lord’s Day.  Oprah’s disciples tune in to her Super Soul Sunday television show religiously on Oprah’s cable channel, OWN.  Her audience also includes folks who just need a little inspiration, encouragement and positive reinforcement.  Hers is not a religion and she doesn’t claim that it is.
Pool/Getty Images
Russell Simmons messed up royally.  So, did, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Mario Batali, Matt Lauer, Garrison Keilor, Charlie Rose, John Conyers Jr., Al Franken, Steve Wynn, David Copperfield, James Franco, Tavis Smiley, King David (2 Samuel 11) and on and on.  The list is much longer than you realize.  A friend of mine, The Rev. Richard Hong, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Englewood (NJ), suggested the hashtag #himtoo?  That was my exclamation when Charlie Rose’s name hit the news.  Him too?  I hear Christians say what these men did is unforgiveable.  I’m going to stick my neck out and say it is not unforgiveable.
Jesus said in Matthew 12:31 (NRSV), Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”  They will even be forgiven for the seven deadly sins of, lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.  If you repent and believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ and ask God for forgiveness, your sins are forgiven, and a new life has begun.  That declaration is made every Sunday during Christian worship services.
    Although I am against capital punishment, I believe that people who are guilty of the crimes of which they are accused must deal with the consequences of the law of the land.  So, I will close with this question: Can I forgive you for what you did to me or to a member of my family and still testify against you in a court of law?  <><

Sunday, October 8, 2017


This is Chapter 2 of my book
GIVING TIME: Dramatically Improve Church and Personal Finances and Raise the Level of Generosity
May be purchased at your favorite bookseller like
Barnes & Noble or Amazon or my website


You and Your Church
You and Secondary Income
Four Types of Church Givers & You

Are you a Pastor, Senior Pastor, Associate Pastor, Executive Pastor, Interim Pastor, Transitional Pastor, Lay Pastor, Temporary Pastor?  Are you ordained, commissioned, licensed or recognized as pastor by the congregation?  This chapter is for you.  If you are not (yet) a Pastor, read this chapter anyway so that you will be ready when you get the call.

You and Your Church

When negotiating compensation with a church don’t sell yourself short.  They should consider your education, years of experience and any special skills you will use at the church.  Determine how many hours you are expected to work.  Time for sermon and bible study preparation must be considered.  Negotiate for benefits such as pension, deferred compensation, health, dental, life and long-term-care insurance … vacation, study leave and mental health breaks.  In addition to salary and housing allowance, ask for Social Security Offset.  What’s that?  Although you receive a W-2 as a church employee for income tax purposes, you are self-employed for Social Security/Medicare purposes (and all other non-salaried compensation), and must pay self-employment tax a/k/a Social Security plus Medicare at 12.40% + 2.90% = 15.3%.  That’s double what employees pay. The church secretary, for example, pays 7.65% through payroll deduction and the church pays 7.65%.  Ask the church to split the 15.3% cost with you.  But note: any such compensation is subject to income tax.  Some denominations include this in their compensation guidelines.

When your church or denomination offers benefits, such as, pension, health and dental insurance, life insurance, and supplemental retirement savings like, 403(b) and deferred compensation, take advantage of them.  There are usually cost savings with such plans compared to acquiring them on your own.  A former colleague specialized in deferred compensation packages for mega church pastors.  For example, a package may include salary continuation to the surviving family for five years if the pastor died while still employed by the church.  Speak with a benefits specialist who understands clergy benefits.

As clergy, you have access to special tax favored situations, such as, housing allowance, participation in a 403(b)(9), and others.  With the 403(b)(9), you can defer income tax until retirement and never have to pay self-employment tax on the amount you contribute to the plan.  During retirement, you may not have to pay income tax on withdrawals if you can justify them as housing allowance and you are not using the Roth Option during accumulation.  Learn the differences between Traditional and Roth options in chapter 9.

Housing Allowance (HA) is a tax benefit available to clergy.  It is also one of the least understood clergy benefits.  According to, it is simply a portion of a clergy person’s compensation that is so designated in advance by the minister’s employing church.  It benefits the clergy person because the HA is excluded from federal income tax.  However, it is not exempt from self-employment tax.  The employer, by official recorded action, simply splits off part of the salary and designates it “housing allowance.”  It cannot be more than the fair rental value of the house (furnished plus actual utilities), and must actually be spent on “providing a home.”  There are many resources available that describe what is eligible and what is not, based mostly on case law.  (See references below to Hammar’s tax guide).  Also, although pastors pay self-employment (Social Security/Medicare) tax they are issued a form W-2 by the employing church and not a 1099-MISC.  Although reporting housing allowance is not required, some churches choose to report and designate it (clergy housing allowance) in Box 14 of the W-2 (which is labeled “other”) as a courtesy to the pastor.

Housing Equity Allowance: Clergy who live in church-owned housing don’t have the opportunity to benefit from building equity in their homes that is available to those who own their homes.  This affects their ability to buy a home for retirement.  For that reason, some churches will pay into an account to assist their pastor in this area.  Check with a clergy compensation specialist for more information.  Through you will find lots of information on this subject.

I urge you to take your tax questions and have your income tax return prepared by someone who thoroughly understands clergy taxes.  One of the best resources is, the Richard R. Hammar – Church & Clergy Tax Guide.  It has what you need to know and more.  Hire a consultant to assist you with negotiating your employment contract if you are new to all of this.

You and Secondary Income

Is the church unable to give you a well-deserved raise?  Have there been hints at reducing the church’s expenses by cutting back on your benefits, reimbursements or … your salary and housing allowance?  Unless there is a dramatic change in the church’s income, those things may come to fruition.  The way pastors are compensated varies from church to church and/or denomination to denomination.

Many pastors create passive and active secondary income.  If you love to write, magazines and blogs are looking for articles.  You can write a book or a series of books.  Have you thought about publishing your sermons?  Do you have any specialized training?  How about conflict resolution?  Are you a retreat leader?  A friend of mine who is a halftime pastor also leads retreats for other churches and parachurch organizations.  Another pastor I know is in real estate sales.  Is there room on your calendar to teach at a local college or seminary?  How about coaching or consulting.  There are many ways you can supplement your income with music.  The list is as long, as your imagination is active.  The church and your family might take up so much of your time that there is no room for anything else.  Talk to a colleague who is doing it successfully.

When you are approached about leading a retreat, coaching or consulting, the first words out of your mouth should be, “My fee is $_____.”  Don’t be bashful about telling people your fee.  You may have heard of people, like Reverend Donnie McClurkin and Bishop T. D. Jakes, who are pastors but don’t take a salary from their church.  They have other income.  McClurkin is a successful gospel recording artist, performer, television and radio show host.  Jakes is a successful author and produces movies and television programs.  Yes, they are high profile but this can be done at any level.  A pastor I met recently is also a host on a Christian cable television station and interviewer on a cable talk show.  Even though you may earn secondary income, you should not allow your church to pay you less than you are worth.  Insist on an annual performance review so that the church and you know your effectiveness.


"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."  - Matthew 10:16

If you are a solo pastor, senior pastor or lead pastor, avoid being hired as part-time.  Some churches offer three-quarter-time, half-time or even less.  It’s because they think they can’t afford to pay more.  There is no such thing as a pastor working part-time.  Part-time is only in the amount of money you are paid.  It’s not in the time you put in as a pastor.  Be assertive.  But, if they really can’t afford full-time and you know God is calling you there, go.

Learn everything you can about the church’s financial situation.  Learn everything you can about the property.  Are there any structural issues?  Are there any liens of the property?  Is the church being sued?  Ask to see the financial statements, budget and auditor’s report.  Are bills paid on time?  Is there an endowment?  If yes, does the church draw from it regularly?  Why?  There will be more about the church budget in Chapter 3.

Women: Avoid being short changed when it comes to getting paid what you are worth.  I heard someone say, “We couldn’t afford a male pastor so we hired a female.”  Some people in our churches have the audacity to be gender biased when it comes to paying women pastors and assigning duties.

Women should apply for solo or senior pastor positions.  We have noticed that some churches tend to only offer female clergy the associate pastor positions.  When I was on the CREDO team that conducted conferences for pastors, I recall that of the 17 women clergy at one of the conferences, 16 of them were associate pastors to male senior pastors.  Only one was a solo pastor.  Women must be assertive.  Demonstrate your value. 

Become a generosity preacher.  Avoid becoming a prosperity preacher, also known as a pulpit pimp.  When the focus is on money and financial reward, sometimes that causes people to move their thinking in the direction of prosperity.  The next thing you know you’ll be buying a Rolls Royce for you and one your spouse.  And you will find scripture to justify using church funds for the purchase.  Keep humility, generosity and obedience in the forefront of your ministry.  Members can sniff out wrong motives.

Lastly, let your own giving be cheerful and sacrificial.

Four Types of Church Givers and You

Now, I am going to present you with some challenges.  The first involves members and friends of the church who give money.  Here are four types of financial givers:
  1.  High Capacity Givers - Those who give  out their assets or net worth regularly ... wealthy people.
  2.  Consistent Givers - Those who give out of their income regularly.
  3.  First-Time Givers - Those who never gave to this church before.  First-time givers are not necessarily first-time visitors.  They may have belonged to this next group.
  4.  Non-Givers - Those who attend regularly but never give.  I prefer to call them Not Yet Givers.  "... and we'll understand it better, by and by."  We need for them to understand it better right now.  They worship regularly.  They even serve on committees.  But they are not financial givers.

Some of my pastor friends and folks in the pews, are going to freak out with this next suggestion.  Pastors need to know who in the congregation are the high capacity givers and how much they give.  Yikes!  And Pastors need to know who are the first-time givers.  Pastors need to know who is responsible for the church’s income.  Just as the pastor needs to know who in the congregation is disruptive, gossiping, is a negative force; the pastor needs to know who are the positive forces in the church.  That includes, “Who gives the big bucks?”  “But, what people give, is none of the pastor’s business.”  Yes, it is!  In addition to pastoring the church, you are CEO of a business enterprise.  The difference is God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit chair your Board of Directors.  You know just about everything else about your members, don’t you?  “Be sure to know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds.” – Proverbs 27:23

Ask the bookkeeper, confidentially of course, to tell you who are the high capacity givers.  Let the bookkeeper know that this is just between the two of you.  Ask also for the names and contact information of the first-time givers.  Explain your purpose if you feel you need to.  This gets the bookkeeper working with you.  You won’t have to always ask.  You will receive the necessary information in a timely fashion.

High Capacity Givers:
As mention above, these are people who give out of their assets or have much higher than middle class income.  They may be business owners, professionals like doctors, successful lawyers and corporate executives.  They may be wealthy through family inheritance.  Sometimes that is coupled with business ownership.  They may be wealthy through their own frugality.  Homeownership and a 401(k) plan have made millionaires of some people (We will talk more about that in chapter 7).  High capacity givers may be able to offer advice regarding church finances simply because of the business they are in.

If they are successful in business, they are up on the latest technology and will be advocates for digital and recurring giving.  Being in business, they see the value.  Find ways to thank them.  When seeking their advice, you should offer to visit them for lunch or breakfast at or near their place of business.  It would be appropriate to bring a gift, like a book or something useful.  When I was working in the financial services industry, I found that business owners appreciated breakfast meetings more than lunch meetings.  It’s at the beginning of the work day rather than interruptive in the middle of the day.

Sometimes you can avoid a special fund-raising campaign by asking the high capacity givers to fund a costly item.  Or maybe a couple of them can take care of a special situation.  I have seen this happen first hand.  Should something like this occur at your church, find a special way to say, “Thank you.”  If you are thinking about new strategies for the church, run it by the high capacity givers.  They would appreciate being sought out for advice, and given an opportunity, to weigh in on something important to the church without being on the board.  Gather small groups of them for a networking lunch.  It may be worth their while to know each other and interact business to business.

Consistent Givers:
Those who give out of their income are what we call the meat and potatoes people.  These are the people who keep the church stable and the people you count on.  They are, too often, the forgotten majority.  We have heard people say, “Oh, there is no need to say thank you.”  YES THERE IS.  “Thank you, ______.  I appreciate what you did.”  That is music to a person’s ears.  It is like a grateful hug.  It is a welcomed, cool breeze on a hot sweltering night.  It’s money in the bank.  Be consistent in saying thank you to the consistent givers.  They are the ones in whom you will notice increased or decreased giving when either begins to trend.  High capacity givers are gravy on your meat and potatoes.

First-Time Givers:
They never gave to this church before this past Sunday.  They may or may not be first time visitors.  They have been sitting in the pew for weeks.  They may have been sitting in the pew for years.  They brought you their problems and sought your advice.  When the bookkeeper gives you the name and contact information of a first-time giver, send that person or family a “Thank you” note immediately.  People like to be acknowledged and thanked.  First-time givers also need encouragement.  Let them know in which other areas they might serve the church.  First-time givers are potential volunteers now that they have taken this giant step.

Here is an interesting tidbit.  Volunteers tend to give more than people who don't volunteer.  Increased  giving, and increase in the number of volunteers are tied to church growth.  As the church grows, the number of volunteers grow and giving increases.  Remember that.

Non-Givers are Not-Yet-Givers:
This may be a revelation to some, but, they do exist.  I mentioned in chapter 1, according to ChurchMag, 33% to 50% of church members report that they give nothing at all to the church.  I’ve seen other statistics that say it’s 25% to 30%.  Non-Givers have been attending your church for many years.  Like Jesus, we need to look upon them with compassion.  Think of them as on their way to becoming First-Time Givers.  You know their faces and their names.  They sit on church committees.  You recognize them in the supermarket and you greet each other with a smile.  The blog, SeedTime (, lists the following 8 Reason People Don’t Give to Church:
     1.  Don’t Have a Church Home
     2.  Don’t Understand the Concept of Giving
     3.  Not Committed to the Mission/Vision of the Church
     4.  Bad Church Experience
     5.  Don’t Agree with How Finances are Managed
     6.  Unemployed
     7.  Support Other Ministries
     8.  Think Others Will Do It

Sometimes members may disagree with a controversial decision the church has made and are withholding funds in quiet protest.  Some do not know what God’s word teaches about giving and generosity.  So, they do not organize their budget properly.  We will discuss that in chapter 5, Managing Your Income & Getting a Grip on Your Expenses.

Don’t let church finances become a preoccupation.  As pastor, you have a lot on your plate.  Find the right person to be the Champion of Financial Strategy.  That’s not the treasurer.  The treasurer is the manager and has enough on his or her plate.  The champion and church treasurer, together with the finance committee, get the job done.  Plan, with the finance committee, stewardship committee or others, how the congregation will be educated about cheerful giving based on God’s word.  That group should read and understand this chapter.  Think about these, pastor, when you prepare your next sermon and especially your sermon on giving.  Talk to them like the sample Giving Talk in chapter 1.

Are there members of your congregation who have the talent and expertise to prepare giving talks and the technical know how to teach and help educate the congregation to become computer savvy, or provide financial literacy education?  We will look at more of this in chapter 3.

Before you move on, jot down how you feel right now and action you plan to take because you read this chapter.  Transfer the following to your “To Do” list.

I will make adjustments to my church compensation and benefits: __________________

I will derive secondary income from: _____________________

Action I will take regarding the Four types of givers:

·      High Capacity Givers ________________________

·      Consistent Givers ___________________________

·      First-Time Givers ___________________________

·      Not-Yet-Givers _____________________________

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Two Blacks, Five Cops Dead in Three Days. Why?

Do you have the answer or solution to the madness?  “We have to listen to each other.”  “We need healing.”  “The Black community needs to trust the police.”  “The police need to be retrained.”  Those are just some of the solutions we hear; we’ve heard them before.

I am a seventy-three-year-old Black American male and I’ve been hearing the same crap all of my life.  And the police keep proving to me that I should not, cannot, must not trust a white police officer.  If I do, I am putting my life in danger.  My son will be fifty years’ old this year.  I have prayed every day since the day he was born that he would not be harmed by a white police officer.  Every Black parent has prayed that prayer including Black police officers who are parents.

What happened this time?  On Tuesday, July 5, 2016, two white cops confronted a Black man, Mr. Alton Sterling, who is selling CDs outside of a convenience store.  They had gotten a report that Mr. Sterling was carrying a gun.  They wrestled him to the ground, pulled out their own guns and shot him, killing him.  They then took Mr. Sterling’s gun out of his pocket.  What?  You mean the gun wasn’t in his hand threatening them?  No.  It was in his pocket.  His hands were outside of his pocket.  They did this in front of many witnesses, some of whom videoed the incident.

What else happened?  On Wednesday, June 6, 2016, a white cop pulled over a Black driver, Mr. Philando Castile, and his family for a busted tail light.  Then Mr. Castile informed the cop that he has a permit to carry a fire arm.  He thought it was the right thing to do.  If the cop sees a gun he might shoot.  Mr. Castile also informs the cop that he is reaching for his wallet to get his identification.  The cop shot Mr. Castile killing him.  The cop kept his gun trained on Mr. Castile while he lay dying.  “I feared for my life.”  That is the “go to” statement all cops have to say.  It works every time.

Then what happened?  On Thursday, July 7, 2016, Mr. Micah Xavier Johnson, a Black man said, “I am tired of this crap.”  He shot fourteen people, two civilians and twelve cops, killing five of the cops.  They took Mr. Johnson out with a robot armed with a bomb.  Good.  He had the wrong answer.  We all pray there will not be a copycat.

The conversation from commentators and spokes persons is about healing the communities.  The news media aired special reports on the incidents.  “We have to listen to each other” and “Cops need to go into the communities and get to know the people and the people need to get to know the cops.”  To that I say, “B*%)s#!t.”

If I, a Black man who is not a cop, shoot and kill someone in front of witnesses I will be arrested.  I will be handcuffed and paraded in front of cameras in the “perp walk.”  My picture would be all over television and websites.  It could have been self-defense but I’ll be arrested first and they will try to sort things out later.

When a cop shoots and kills a Black person in front of witnesses he is not arrested.  He is not handcuffed.  He or they are ushered out of sight.  We are told later that they were placed on desk duty.  It will be a day or two before we even see their picture or know their names.

Cops are treated differently when they commit a crime.  That has to change.  It won’t change because the prosecutor will not be vigorous in getting an indictment or conviction.  The prosecutors and the police work together to get convictions.  The prosecutor needs the police.

Even when the prosecutor appears to be sincere, I believe there is something in his or her subconscious mind that prevents a vigorous prosecution.  It’s Justice Tempered with Mercy for the cops and Justice Tempered with Enmity for all others.  Everyone should be treated the same.

What white America doesn’t see are the thousands of incidents when white cops beat the “you know what” out of us in the precincts, in the streets and in the back of squad cars.  If nobody dies, it doesn’t make the news.  Not all cops condone such behavior but because of the Blue Wall of Silence, the so called good cops look the other way.  Looking the other way makes all cops, bad cops.  They may as well participate in the bad behavior alongside the bad cops.

We don’t need to talk to each other.  We need to change the perception of what happens immediately following an incident.  Good cops must speak out against bad cops.

Do you have friends who are cops?  Look them in the eye and ask these two questions,
·      “What side of the Blue Wall of Silence do you stand?”
·      “If you saw something wrong would you say something right?”

I have three questions for you:
1.   How come these situations rarely happens between White cops and other minorities or even other Whites?
2.   How come these situations rarely happens between Black cops and anyone else?
3.  Do you know how much racist crap Black cops must take from white cops for their own safety?

Incidents like what happened to Mr. Sterling and Mr. Philando will happened again.  We will be outraged again.  There are two things that must happen in order for things to change:
·      Good cops need to cross the Blue Wall of Silence and say something.
·      All cops and all civilians must be treated the same when suspected of a crime.

We know those two things will never happen.  Therefore, things will NEVER change.  Black people will continue to die at the hands of white cops until Jesus comes.

Realizing that times change, I believe Jesus would advocate for self-defense.  That’s probably why Jesus said the following in Luke 22:35-38, Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.
He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.  It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That’s enough!” he replied.

Get your exegetical juices flowing on that.  God be with us all.  <><