The danger with mega churches like Living Word in Forest Park

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By Tom Holmes

Contributing Reporter / Religion Blogger

Did you hear about the scandal that may be brewing surrounding the Rev. Eddie Long, the pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church with 25,000 members in Atlanta?  He has been accused of molesting four male members of his church when they were boys.  To be fair, the charges of the alleged victims have not been proven to be true, so we should assume Rev. Long is innocent until proven otherwise.

 

What I want to focus on is the Achilles’ heel of these mega churches.  But first, the following is copied and pasted from the church’s web site:

 

"New Birth has entered the new millennium stronger than ever with over 25,000 members. Called to Conquer, a new book by Bishop Long, hits the scene in the year 2000. New Birth moved into a magnificent new place of worship, the New Birth Cathedral in spring 2001. The $50 million dollar complex seats 10,000 people and contains administrative offices, a library, a 1700-square foot bookstore, a computer lab, a kitchen, audio and video studios, a nursery and more. New Birth sponsors various programs and events that minister to people locally, nationally and internationally. Thousands have discovered their destinies due to the continual sacrifice of Senior Pastor Bishop Eddie L. Long, a man after God's own heart. To God be the glory!" 


The category of mega church which New Birth falls into includes the following characteristics:

1. The congregation’s ministry tends to focus on one person, the pastor.

2. The pastor wields enormous authority and power.

3. The pastor acts as a CEO and chooses the board of directors who decisions re. governance.

4. The message preached by the pastor is PROSPERITY, i.e. if you give your life to Christ and obey him, you will prosper.


The Achilles’ heel is accountability.  Much like the CEOs of Lehman Brothers and AIG, the man at the top makes the decisions and the stakeholders have to trust that he his making those decisions with their best interest in mind.  That’s why, in almost all cases, the pastors of these mega churches are charismatic folks who are capable projecting an image to thousands of people in one auditorium that they are trustworthy.

 

There’s very little transparency in these organizations.  To function as a staff member in a congregation like New Birth, you have to be OK living under the authority of the boss.  And, when the boss retires or dies, the organization hits a crisis.

 

Bill Winston, the pastor of Living Word Christian Center in Forest Park, runs in the same circles that Pastor Long runs in.  When the news of Long’s problems hit the news, the reporter mention Creflo Dollar and T.D. Jakes as ministers with a similar profile as that of Long.  Both pastors have spoken at Living Word many times.

 

I’m not implying that there is a hint of scandal at Living Word.  As far as I know, Bill Winston is a man of integrity.  But, as I’ve watched Living Word grow from just twelve members twenty years ago to 15,000 today, I’ve watched him consolidate power at the top of his organizations.

 

Whenever I’ve called Living Word to get information for a story over the years, the person to whom I’m talking always has to check it out with Pastor Winston.

 
So identified is Living Word with Bill Winston that many of the programs there are referred to as coming from Bill Winston Ministries rather than from Living Word.


The advantage of that kind of authoritarian organizational structure is that it is efficient.  Decisions get made and things get done.  The disadvantage is that when the leader stumbles, the whole organization falls and gets broken bones and bruises.


I know several intelligent, competent, educated people who belong to Living Word.  They trust their pastor completely.  For their sake, I hope there continues to be no scandal at Living Word.  My worry is that Bill Winston shares the same sinful human nature as I have, and I wouldn’t trust myself with that much power.

Reader Comments

23 Comments - Add Your Comment

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Carl from West Bloomfield  

Posted: October 23rd, 2014 7:26 PM

Jesus saves not people. We may lead people to Christ but God sets up the circumstances. We can not take credit or give credit for that. We can not focus on the men or woman, but Christ. That keeps us and them grounded. Jesus never stood on a hill and touted himself. When God gets the glory it keeps us humble.

Faye Morris from Houston  

Posted: September 19th, 2014 9:46 AM

God says touch not my annointed and do my prophet no harm . Please people, if we have nothing good to say about annointed men and women of God don't say nothing. We always hear about the bad; Bishop Long molested 4 boys, my heart go out to them but how many souls did he save or lives changed in his ministry? Gifts and calling come without repentance. And I love Pastor Winston, he is annointed;his message is not a prosperity message. His message is a KINGDOM MESSAGE! How to live an abundant life.

Cindy from Forest Park  

Posted: September 18th, 2014 10:13 AM

I love pastor Winston, but do think he dwells too much on faith and prosperity. The center focus is not Jesus. There's no strong emphasized preaching on repentance, hell and heaven, the cross, blood and redemption, etc. Yes he hints on these, but the messages gravitate back to prosperity and faith. Too much marketing, business, money focus, etc. Most churches don't wait on the Holy Spirit anymore or enter into prolonged prayer to know Gods will for their congregations. Just copycats.

Winter Skye from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: September 12th, 2014 11:36 AM

Water seeks its own level. There are no victims--only volunteers...Tat sat.

Roderick Bozeman from Garland  

Posted: September 12th, 2014 11:19 AM

I don't know Pastor Winston, but I do know this, any church, or any other organization for that matter, that has been in existence for 20 years or any significant period of time and hasn't grown, there IS a problem with that church and it's leadership. If a person is doing the work on God, his ministry and/or church should grow. Just about everywhere Jesus went there were multitudes or mega churches.

Just a comment from Oak Park  

Posted: September 11th, 2014 1:06 PM

God is in the community. If this group has a good person to lead the community, it could work even if only for a while. My experience is that it is not about an individual leader's ego or personality but what the leader may inspire in the group. And leaders are only human beings, struggling and learning like most of us aspire to. Blessings. Stay strong.

Min. Kelvin Engram from Forest Park   

Posted: September 11th, 2014 12:26 PM

God called my Pastor Dr.Winston to head this church ( theocracy not democracy ) One voice ,Gods through him for this assignment and others are taught ,to hear Gods voice so they can receive their own assignment - I wouldn't compare the integrity or accusations of all newspapers because of ones unproven accusation ,so why would you even mention some of our spiritual leaders because of their growth success -each Pastor 's mission has positively affected millions -unlike your article ! W/Love

Pastor G-Dub from Riverdale  

Posted: August 7th, 2014 5:07 PM

Stop hating on God's Elect.

Pastor G-Dub from Riverdale  

Posted: August 7th, 2014 4:47 PM

Dr. Winston is a man of God who has integrity and proof that if God be for him, then can't a man stand against him. This is my Pastor. I follow after his faith as he follows after Christ. God has given him a mouth and wisdom that his adversaries can not gainsay nor resist. Why don't all you doubters and unbelievers stop putting your mouth on God's anointed and get in the book yourselves and get you some proof. How can you say you love God and hate your brother, you Hypocrites...

Sybil Proctor from Chicago  

Posted: May 18th, 2014 1:31 PM

Isaiah 55:17 "No weapon that is formed against thee (Dr. Winston) shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn." Additionally, I Ch 16:22 "Touch not mine anointed and do my prophets no harm." God is the Head of Living Word Christian Center and Dr Winston has been set there to be the earthly leader to teach and preach the Word of God and conduct kingdom business. There can only be one leader regardless of the size of the church.

Helen Adair from Forest Park, Il   

Posted: February 25th, 2014 1:41 AM

I came to this church by invitation. I was a born again Christian already, a year later became a member, I believe the pastor is a man of integrity and lives by the word of God, he has at no time ever mislead or misguided any person in this ministry. Also we are always instructed to lead Christian lives and treat others with love, kindness, respect even if not reciprocated, we are taught to live and act as Christian at all times read, pray, mediate on the word of God daily.

melody from chicago   

Posted: February 15th, 2014 1:11 AM

Melody Boykin Pastor Winston is a man of god and integrity. I encountered god 7 years ago, took the foundation classes to learn scriptures and became an active member and started applying the word of god. you must try the spirit by the spirit in order to know the false prophets from the god sent.

David Smith  

Posted: January 30th, 2014 1:51 PM

God Loves You. He wants us to be led by the Holy Spirit and to hear from those who are led by the Spirit of God. Paul clearly explained in 1Cr 14:23 what should take place in a large gathering of the church. See how Paul's instruction contrasts to what goes on now-a-days. Remember, God is a loving Father and He loves you.

David Smith  

Posted: January 30th, 2014 1:28 PM

Bill Winston appears to be unlearned or fearful of the fact that God loves him. God is a good and loving Father (Abba). The Marriages would be stronger if leaders would do as instructed in Titus 2: 1?. "That they (older women) may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed." ?obedient to their own husbands? God loves you

Alvin Brooks from Chicago  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 7:14 AM

I stumbled up on Living Word Christian Center on wjys looking for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. After 2 months under this ministry faith began to come. Lord have mercy I heard a voice deep down in my Spirit,and it said this is where I Jehovah God want you to be Spiritually fed. I knew someway somehow I had to get there. I live on the South side of Chicago no car no money but a strong thirst for Christ 21 yrs.later married, born again filled with the Holy Ghost. God's Good

Londra from Glenwood  

Posted: September 8th, 2013 8:00 PM

Get a notion? Living word like many successful other religious institutions is a BUSINESS...don't hate..join this church and get a notion..and be blessed

bankalchemist  

Posted: April 25th, 2013 8:54 AM

if you miss an Sunday then don't feel lost just tune into Amos & Andy reruns and watch The Knights of the Mystic Sea preform their magic.

sarah  

Posted: February 17th, 2013 2:42 AM

Funny....drival. "material gain" is your god. Hiding behind your perception is ......your false god

Bill from Melrose Park South  

Posted: February 16th, 2013 7:45 PM

Funny. The God I try to listen to- it's not always easy- tells me to trust Him no matter what. To accept the blessings and the trials as I go through a "fallen world." To use Him to live above life's circumstances. Other people think God is only there to grant their every wish. That the proof of God's love is in material gain. Must be another Bible they're reading.

sarah  

Posted: February 16th, 2013 7:12 PM

He is a fraud. He is a salesman. He knows it and knows I know it too. He manipulates. Jesus would not let eskimos buy ice from him. Praise the lord, do not praise him. Have a blessed day.

aminah from chicago  

Posted: May 9th, 2012 8:13 AM

U guys are just blind. I am 32yrsrs old and was doing some of everything a few months ago. Once I got baptized there , and stayed in my bible, also went weeklly ( sometimes twice a week) all type of revalation happenen to me. And all I gotta say is 1 night with the king was enough to turn me ALL THEY WAY around. So Bill winston is doing something right. ! As ffar as I'm concern he has along life ahead of him.

Charles Pickens from Claymont, Delaware  

Posted: December 18th, 2011 3:05 PM

My family was distroy by one of Bill Winston agents at Faith victory Christian Center because I refuse to join this cult; My now ex- wife has become brainwash and have lost custody of our sons; they continue to inflick damages against me because I have filed charges against this cult. The so call pastor would not even show up in the Superiour Court of Delaware even after the Judge wrote him a personal letter; these pastors are using and brainwashing their members just like jim Jones did.

Leslie Cain from Chicago  

Posted: November 16th, 2011 6:27 PM

Im a member of Living Word coming from a very Catholic upbringing in Ohio. Pastor Winston is a man of integrity and order. He follows the word of God in how he manages his ministries. Like God, being Lord over all. Pastor is leader of the ministry. God is the one holding him accountable. Wouldnt it be interesting if more christians followed the word of God in their businesses? AND he is doing what men of God to grow the church! A Christian's job to be fishers of men.

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