|The Biblical Examiner
An Examination of Biblical Precepts Involved in Issues at Hand
GM main page:
97 MEM. O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. 98 Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts. 101 I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word. 102 I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me. 103 How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way (Ps. 119:97-104).Over the past year or so, I have been contacted by folks from this mailing list asking my opinion of a "gifting" program offered by Greater Ministries International (GMI). Those contacting me have either wanted information for their own benefit, or my opinion so they could pass it along to those who have asked them. More than one pastor has contacted me because he had been personally contacted with offers to get involved. Some of the church members or friends of at least two of those pastors who contacted me have "gifted" GM in the name of the pastors, and the pastors are even now receiving back "gifts" from GM. This pastor also has been approached to participate in the GM "gifting" program. I was urged to "gift" GM, and was promised fantastic returns on the "gift."
Greater Ministries of Tampa (Fla.), a subsidiary of Greater Miniseries, Inc., Grand Cayman, British West Indies, is making promises similar to those of New Era, and individuals are standing in line to give their money away. One meeting in Pennsylvania attracted over 700. Some Christians are particularly drawn to Greater Ministries because it does have some active ministries that donors can visit and see in action.Individuals are encouraged to make a "donation" to the organization. At the end of the first month, 10 percent of the "donation" is returned. This continues until all the money is returned and additional money is given. In some cases it adds up to double what the original "donation" was, if the donor redonates part or all of the returned funds.
...According to an article in the Lancaster, Pa., Intelligencer Journal, the state of Pennsylvania issued a cease-and-desist order against the organizer and Greater Ministries. Attorney Michael Byrne, who heads the Pennsylvania Security Commission's enforcement area, stated, "What they are offering is illegal in Pennsylvania. And if people are using the U.S. mail or other forms of shipping to send money across state lines or out of the country, they could be violating federal laws as well."
... This operation will only sustain itself until there are no more suckers willing to donate. It will then collapse.
A comment made by an investigator with the Pennsylvania Securities Commission is particularly troubling. He said his investigation points to the fact that in Pennsylvania, the Greater Ministries organization has targeted the Mennonite and Amish communities. (The Lancaster, Pa., Intelligencer Journal reported that GM, working from a Days Inn at Lancaster, collected F$500,000 from area Mennonites, ed.See http://www.securities.state.oh.us/HTMLpages/PressRelease/PonziArticle
What a pathetic commentary for a church that has Christian stewardship as a central part of its theology. You would think all of us should know better. Apparently we don't.1
According to Greater Miniseries church elder and spokesman, Patrick Henry Talbert, the GM church was incorporated in the Cayman Islands "about 9 years ago", but the church is not incorporated in the US. It is headquartered in Tampa, Florida (715 E. Bird St.). However, according to The Tampa Tribune,
Although Payne dates his ministry at 25 years, there is no evidence Greater Ministries existed prior to its 1992 incorporation. In his application for tax-exempt status, Payne told the IRS that Greater began as an unorganized group in 1991.He incorporated 1 John 4:4, Greater Inc., in 1991. Corporate records Payne submitted indicate it was established as a financial advising and planning business.2
The GM church has a "gifting" program, i.e., a person "gifts" the Greater Ministries church money, and then the GM church "gifts" (returns money) from that original "gift" back to the "gifter." The returns offered by GM church amounts to about 10% of the original gift per month. The GM church claims to invest the money in buying and selling treasury debts and home mortgages (at F$100 million at a time), among other things. The money earned from the GM church's "investments" in those debts are then "gifted" back to the original "gifters." Greater Ministries' term for this church program is "faith promise." Insisting that the church program is a "faith promise" program has thus far kept church officers out of reach of the state:
TAMPA -- The state controller isn't giving up efforts to regulate a local ministries' "gift" program as a security."Faith Promise," a fundraising program run by Greater Ministries International in Tampa, makes no guarantee of profit, the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland ruled Feb. 5. That means it is not a security and not subject to state oversight.
Two earlier, similar, programs, "Double your Blessings" and "Double Your Money," did promise the faithful their money would be doubled within 18 months in a program based on biblical passages, the court found.
THOSE WERE securities and would be under state scrutiny if still offered, the court said. It rejected state claims that Faith Promises is the same thing as its previous versions.3
... State officials and other investigators think the program and its two previous incarnations--"Double Your Money" and "Double Your Blessings" -- are Ponzi schemes. In such illegal investment schemes, early donors reap profits from participants who join in latter...
"The 'Faith Promises' agreement shifts any supposed expectations of profits' from Greater Ministries to a supreme deity," the court said in its Feb. 5 ruling.4
... But because Faith Promises make no guarantee of payment and cites a donor's faith as a measure of success, the court ruled the state had no business in it.5
"It's really very inappropriate for a state to come in and tell religious groups how they should believe and how they should raise money." Paul Johnson, Greater Ministries' attorney.6
It is, accordingly, easy to see why Greater Miniseries is dogmatic: its program is a church "faith promise, gifting" program; it is not an investment program--"you call our office and ask about the Greater Ministries investment program, and they will hang up on you." There are some obvious advantages of using the terms "faith promise" and "gift": First, no reporting to the IRS, a point emphasized by Talbert; second, no accountability as to how the funds are used; third, no ramifications if the funds are not "gifted" back by the church, for there is no promise of any return, another point emphasized by Talbert (the only documentation thus far offered for this church's gifting program is that "not one dime has been lost"); fourth, no public records need to be kept; and fifth, the courts admittedly have no jurisdiction over "gifts" to a church. However, in Indiana, incorporated churches are required in the annual reports to itemize ALL income and expenditures, including a list of who gave what. (Read the forms--copy of Indiana's annual report upon request.)
BANK ALERT: Yet another government agency is taking an interest in goings-on involving a controversial Tampa-based religious group.The federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has issued an "Unauthorized Banking Alert" regarding the Greater International Bank of Nauru, a mysterious entity headquartered on East Bird Street, Directly across from the Tampa Dog Track.
That location also happens to be the headquarters of Greater Ministries International Inc., a fundamentalist group headed by Gerald D. Payne that has been accused of running a Ponzi scheme and selling unregistered securities...
Greater Ministries is affiliated with the anti-Semitic Church of the Avenger, whose former leader, Charles Eidson, was convicted in 1993 of three counts of wire fraud.
However, Payne has denied that his organization's investment program is a scam and in at least one case has successfully fought regulators' attempts to shut the program down.
The purported Nauru bank handles some of Greater Ministries' accounts, including a credit card program.7
The GM church's claim to finance the church's "gifting" program from the debt trade gives us a very serious implication. Assuming that the Greater Miniseries church does indeed trade in debt, I find it unbelievable that men who have preached over the years that the international banking business is basic to the Babylonian system, get excited about making money from the international banking trade in debt. The GM church owns a bank and issues credit cards! Thus this church claims that it finances its operations from the debt traffic. How can the Bible be construed in any way to support such church activity? I heard Talbert say he had 25 saved at a meeting in Pennsylvania (he did not say where) just before he came to the local church where this presentation was given. (He was a very busy man, for the previous week he also was a speaker in a financial seminar in Las Vegas). He went on to say that his, and the GM church's, basic interest is "soul willing." However, do "spiritual" intentions justify raising finances in the slave market? The borrower is servant (slave, TWOT) to the lender (Pr. 22:7). Thus the Greater Ministries church deals in, promotes and profits from the international slave trade, debt. Accordingly, the Greater Ministries church is on the level of Babylon, trading in slaves, and souls of men (Rev. 18:13).
Having heard a GM presentation, this pastor must admit that the church's "gifting" program sounds extremely appealing. (I strongly urge those considering the GM "gifting" ministry to view the video of Talbert's presentation before a final decision is made. This is a small investment considering what GM is asking of the investor. See below for ordering information.)
Though there was never any Scriptural basis offered for the church's involvement in the debt trade, there were, and are, a great many testimonies of the GM church "gifting" the money back. Emotions run high as the program sounds "fool-proof." In fact, GM's representative, Patrick Henry Talbert, had enough "religious" jargon ("we love Jesus") in his presentation to convince even the hardest sceptics of the "pure" motives involved, e.g., a goal of the GM church is to see churches debt free within 18 months and Christians debt free. Terms were used in the presentation that delighted the audience, made up primarily of pastors: winning the lost; using the "gifts" back from the GM church to finance missionary endeavors; the GM church is very soul conscious (he continually emphasized that GM is a church); "we are involved in these things to help the local churches and stuff."
Talbert urged the pastors present to contact their people, and to invest their churches' mission funds in the GM church. And there were pastors excited to do so ("I'm going to call my people tonight"), though Talbert offered NO documentation for any of his claims.
Using "give and it shall be given," Talbert said:
You give a gift, and we basically take it off-shore. And we've been doing this for nine years and no one has ever lost a dime. And we multiply it back to the body of Christ. OK? ("OK," a term he used frequently, ed.) If you are a born again Christian and the Holy Spirit leads you to do it. We don't promise you nothin [sic]. We just say that nobody has lost a dime in 9 years, and we double everything... If you regift it, it will more than double...8The GM church supposedly entered the "trust business" to protect people's assets from the IRS. Talbert said that the GM church is not in the trust business (but he could teach "4 hours on trusts"), yet he claimed that his church is one of the top trust writers in the US--in a gathering if the 85 top trust writers in the US, Talbert claimed he was selected to sit on a 16 member board of trust writers.
I realize there is FAR more to the GM "gifting program" than what is outlined above, but the above is enough to identify GM's program.
I have found over the past 30 years of working with people, that, many times, where money and/or personal preferences are concerned, friendships and sound reason stop. Where money is concerned, many have a hard time with reality, and can become very defensive, even divisive. In some extreme cases, the love of money can lead folks to totally reject sound logic and the word of God. (See Pr. 15:27, 17:23, 29:4, Ecc. 7:7.) Pastors are not exempt. Over the years, my wife and I have dreadfully grieved over pastors who preached soundly from their pulpits, yet they completely forsook what they taught others when it came to personal applications. (See 2 Sam. 1:19-27. I must confess, moreover, that I am not immune from the aforementioned problem. Only God's merciful grace has kept me from some very serious errors and destructive involvements.)
From this pastor's knowledge of the situation, he has some very grave concerns about the GM church and its "gifting" program. (It is significant in my mind that they use the word, "gift." The gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous, Ex. 23:8, Dt. 16:19.) I will try to present the following concerns in an impartial manner, so the reader can draw his or her own conclusion.
I have also been offered Luke 6:38, give and it shall be given unto you, as Scriptural support for GM's "gifting" program. (2 Cor. 9:6 and Mk. 4:24 have also been used, particulary by GM in its earlier "Double Your Blessings" and "Double Your Money" promises.) However, I find it impossible to fit Luke 6:38 into the idea of giving money to a church, so that church can participate in the international banking system built on debt, in order to get finances to return to the original giver. (See 2 Pet. 3:16.) Moreover, I find it quite hypocritical that folks who have stood strongly against the international banking system (calling it the Babylonian banking system) in the past, now are using that system (if that church does indeed receive its income from buying and selling debts) to get out of debt.
Please take us off your mailing list. I can not believe the things you are doing....and you call yourself a Christian!! What business is it of yours. If you have not given to the GM Ministry than GREAT!!! But leave us alone, please. Why don't you spend your time leading people to the LORD instead of bad mouthing (the name of a Christian brother withheld by editor) and others. I'VE HAD IT WITH YOU AND YOU'RE KIND!!!!! PLEASE TAKE US OFF YOUR E-MAIL LIST, PLEASE. GM HAS REALLY HELPED OUR FAMILY....GET OUT OF DEBT, SEND KIDS TO A CHRISTIAN SCHOOL, ETC. SO PLEASE PLEASE STAY OUT OF OUR BUSINESS.When I wrote back challenging the person over where I even mentioned or implied the Christian brother, I received this response:
All is [sic] I can say is that every year we get those people at the conference that say buy gold and silver (this has occurred for the last 10 years). Now after all of these years, this investment is worth less than half of the original investment. These are the real thiefs. [sic] At least if GM is a Ponzi, which it may be, it still is a greater gifting program than Gold and Silver will ever be. I hope you never buy stock in Exxon because they own over 25,000 gas and oil reserves and I am sure you would want to visit each one to insure there claims are correct in their annual report.I found the response typical of those supporting the GM church: "It does not matter to me where the money comes from, as long as I get mine." Another e-mail response:
Do you have any new information on Greater Ministries International you can share with me? I understand since the last GMI message I received from you, the spokesman, "Patrick Henry", has been incarcerated for something unrelated to GMI. I just learned one of my coworkers is participating in the GMI gifting program. He is using it to "get out of the system", and, so far, he appears to be well on his way. He showed me his last monthly statement, which showed him receiving a 10% gift -- large enough to live on if he needed to. He is presently regifting his gifts so the compounding effect will provide a larger monthly gift when he really needs it. For his sake, I hope GMI lasts long enough for him to at least break even when he needs the gifts paid out. I don't want to see him get burned.The responses above are extremely disquieting: Professed Christians have no concern over the Scriptural basis of GM church's activities, as long as they get their share of the money. The folks apparently have no concern over where the funds might come from. Those to whom "It does not matter from where the funds come, as long as they get their money," must also say that their money can be invested in profitable abortion clinics, as long as they get their money back. Why restrict the investment of their money to the international slave (debt) trade? Such thinking is blatantly antichristian. It is the spirit of antichrist at work.
There seems to be a thought in "Christian" circles that believes the source of funds does not really matter to the Lord, as long as the funds are put to a "godly" use. Such thinking is in direct violation to God's law: Deuteronomy 23:18, clearly forbids ill-gotten gains from God's people and for God's service. Ill-gotten gains (e.g., the GM church's professed deep involvement in a banking system that is clearly based upon debt) have God's curse upon them. Though supported by professed Christians, there has been no Scriptural basis given for that church's activity, including its "gifting" program. Christians, of all people, are required to follow the Scriptural soundness of any activity as the number one requirement for all things. (1 Cor. 10:31.) There are few people reading this article who CANNOT quote 2 Timothy 3:16 (v. 17, unto all good works--if a work is not definable by God's word as good, then Christians must flee from it), yet many who can quote that verse seem to be unable (or unwilling) to apply it when it comes to money. The purpose of knowing the word of God is not simply so we can preach &/or teach it, but so we can do it. (Dt. 27:8-10, 29:29.)
A friend told me, "When greed gets 'em, it's worse than lust! Isa. 6:9." How right he is! There are men who profess to be the Lord's watchmen, yet rather than examining the Scriptural basis for the many things going around, they seem to be more interested in getting "their share":
9 All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest. 10 His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. 11 Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter (Isa. 56:9-11).Sad to say, those who ignore the Scriptural soundness of something will indeed get their share, but it will be their share of God's wrath against the children of disobedience (Col. 3:5-7). We are clearly told by God that when we fail to examine (and line up) every thought and action according to God's total word, we are in serious danger of being influenced to go in a false way (Ps. 119:104). (See also, Ps. 19:11, 119:97-104, 119:130, Pr. 6:23, Eph. 4:14, Heb. 4:12. Pr. 15:10 & 31 are interesting). Failure to ask for wisdom and advice, and seriously seek it out so one can follow the final authority of the word of God concerning the rightness or wrongness of actions, particularly where money is concerned, has very serious consequences, e.g.,
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses (1 Tim. 6:6-12. See also, Eph. 4:23-27, 6:10-18, Ja. 4:7--submission to God's word delivers one from the snare of the devil--and 1 Pet. 5:8, 9. Proverbs makes it clear that those who will have God's wisdom in any situation must seek that wisdom from his word as one would seek hid treasure).The deceivers of this world, desiring to make an easy dollar, are well aware of the snare presented by an easy money offer. Every person with Adam's fallen nature is susceptible to the snare of easy money, and all of us have Adam's natural inclination toward covetousness (which is idolatry, Col. 3:5). In the devil's snare, doctrine is ignored, and the simple are easily caught in the trap when they do not examine and follow the Scriptural soundness of an offer:
Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple (Rom. 16:17, 18. Note the contrast between sound doctrine and the fair speeches that separate the simple from his money. See Pro 14:15, 18, 22:3, 27:12).As I have tried to confront various people over the Scriptural soundness of the GM church and its activities, the only thing I have been offered is, "Not a dime has been lost."Any unwillingness to face the Scriptures over the anything must be seen of bad news. The refusal to Scripturally address the situation indicates to me that we are in for some very difficult times. I am sure I will present some of my personal study in Joshua 9 later, but for now, let me just give some quotes I found during my enquiry into the passage (vv. 1, 2). The following are comments on Joshua's taking of Ai (Joshua 8:3-22):
Before God destroys the wicked, He first gives them up to a spirit of madness. (Pink.) Some observe it as a remarkable instance of the power of God in making men blind to their own interest, and the things that belong to their peace, the he wist not that there were liers in wait against him. Those are most in danger who are least aware that they are so... They flee before us as at the first. See how the prosperity of fools destroys them and hardens them to their ruin. (MH.)Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded (Pr. 13:13). The simple inherit folly: but the prudent are crowned with knowledge (Pr. 14:18). Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief (Pr. 28:14--hardeneth against God's word; mischief, distress, misery, injury, calamity, adversity, etc.). Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple (Rom. 16:17, 18, simple--"fearing no evil from others, distrusting no one [Thayer]", i.e., those who believe everything they hear are clearly open to deception). Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world (1 Jn. 4:1, try the spirits according to the word of God).
Then came Jeremiah from Tophet, whither the LORD had sent him to prophesy; and he stood in the court of the LORD'S house; and said to all the people, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will bring upon this city and upon all her towns all the evil that I have pronounced against it, because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words (Jer. 19:14, 15).
Thus it is a sure sign of God's judgment when people refuse to face the reality of what they are doing. However, even more serious--it is a sign of God's judgment upon his people when they refuse to face or are unable to face the Scriptural reality of their actions. But God is merciful, and he continually stretches out his hand for those who will repent of their sins of rejecting his word, Neh. 9:17, Isa. 5:25, 9:12ff, 10:4. He also tells us that he does nothing without sending a warning to repent: Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets (Am. 3:7). Accordingly, those who are destroyed in the enemy's snare (of easy money) are without excuse.
So the very first thing I must tell those who enquire of me (or challenge my concerns) about the Greater Ministries church's "gifting" program is, "What is the Biblical basis (i.e., sound doctrine) of that church's activities?"
I am told that the GM church generates the funds to support its "faith promise" program from the international exchanges of currencies and their constantly fluctuating values. These exchanges involve multiplied millions of dollars at a time (actually, billions of dollars--so I am told by those far more familiar with the international exchange than I). GM claims to unite with others to combine their resources to make those transactions. The reader may find it strange that there are those who have stood loud and hard against the international banking system, claiming their stand was required by Scripture, yet now seem very willing to participate in the very "peak" of the banking system--the international trade of debt. ("But, we are taking from the wicked, and using it in God's work." [Isa. 60:16, 61:6, both very strong post-mil passages.] But, is the GM church carrying out its scriptural mandate? Does it matter to the Lord how the funds are acquired?)
Our gold mine we just got, we, we, ah, we thought there was something else in it besides gold. We checked it out, and there just happened to be platinum. We had more platinum than we do gold. All right? ("All right?" a term he used very frequently, ed.) So God just blesses that way. It will make us a billion dollars this year. One gold mine alone. We have over 200 of them. God has blessed us because of our giving. All right? We don't give away any money. We teach you to give, so you can get it the same way we got it... God wants to bless his people.9
However, many people are accepting GM's claims at face value, and "gifting" their life's work and savings into the GM "gifting" program. This pastor heard from a pastor friend of one man in Florida who sold his very prosperous construction business to "gift" all the sale money into the GM church's "gifting" program. After the contractor "gifted" some of the sale money (about F$20,000) to the GM church, he sought advice from the pastor. Another man, more local, reportedly "gifted" F$50,000, and is even now in the process of selling everything so he can "gift" another F$25,000. There are reports that GM representatives encourage "gifters" to sell their businesses, liquidate other investments, etc., and gift everything to the GM church. GM representatives have asked, "What other opportunity can give you this kind of return?" Urging people to throw caution to the wind in such a reckless fashion only adds to this pastor's serious concerns about the GM program.
Note the charges against the GM church officials--they are not the usual charges brought against those who are not PC:
TAMPA -- They decry a federal investigation into their church-based gift program, yet at least five Greater Ministries International officials have either criminal records or civil judgments involving scams.10Gerald Payne, founder and president of the Greater Ministries church, served 39 days of a four-month sentence in jail for his 1979 conviction for lying to a New York City grand jury investigating a bankruptcy fraud involving a Payne employer, D.H. Overmyer Co. Inc. He pleaded guilty to 12 counts of lying to the grand jury.11
Charles Eidson--Gerald Payne has acknowledged that Charles Eidson is under the GM "umbrella" (though it is denied that Eidson has any authority in GM). Eidson is the founder of the Tampa Freedom Center, now directly affiliated with Greater Ministries. Eidson is also the founder and pastor of Church of the Avenger, well-known in the area as a white supremacist organization. Payne has acknowledged that the Church of the Avenger is directly under the Greater Ministries "umbrella."
No doubt virtually anyone of a patriotic leaning today can be unjustly labeled as a racist, but Rev. Eidson's detractors appear to be well-justified in categorizing him as such--his racial slurs are legendary, and his preaching most colorful. But now we are told that he is a new man! Eidson claims to have renounced his former bigotry: "If a wall-kissing Jew came in here today, I'd hug his neck."12
"Charles Eidson, who moved to his Tampa Freedom Center into Greater Miniseries headquarters, is appealing his 1993 conviction and six-year prison sentence for violating the federal Clean Water Act by dumping motor oil into storm sewers feeding into Tampa Bay. He told customers he had an oil recycling business."13
"James Maber, who incorporated an early version of Greater Ministries with Payne, was sentenced to five years' probation in 1985 after pleading no contest and being found guilty of running a Ponzi scheme."14
Patrick Henry Talbert and Norman Lower--these two principals in the GM church were recently arrested and indicted on 42 criminal counts. Talbert's bail was set at $105,000 and Lower's at $75,000 (I understand that Lower now free on bond, 1/1/98). Charges include alleged racketeering and multiple grand theft charges stemming from an alleged scam known as DTA Trust. DTA was allegedly used as a front to operate both Down Town Auto and Diversified Telecommunications Agency. A Florida Department of Law Enforcement statement alleges that Talbert and Lower absconded with $280,000 that they used for personal purposes, put other amounts into personal accounts and gave some other amounts to relatives. One elderly couple allegedly lost over $100,000. It was not until 1994 that DTA collapsed, and Florida law enforcement agents started investigating. It took over three years before they made their arrests. Talbert and Lower face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.15
The word of God clearly tells us how to avoid being such victims, and those who ignore God's warnings will assuredly be victims. (Ex. 18:21, Ps. 119:36, Jer. 6:13, Ez. 33:31, Col. 3:5, 1 Thes. 2:5, etc.)
He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him (Pr. 28:22).
However, the guilt or innocence of Talbert and Lower of these alleged crimes is not the primary issue that should concern us at the present time. Nor is the source of GM church's money an issue, though this pastor finds it quite disconcerting. Particular disconcerting is that professed Bible believing Christians do not care from where the GM church gets its money, as long as they get theirs.
Second, those who might consider "investing" in GM should do their home work. Do not take the emotions of the moment and the testimony of "I have received my share" for God's stamp of approval. Check The Tampa Tribune web site (FN 2); check with The Tampa Tribune's Michael Fechter who has done the research, and who can document all he has said concerning GM's activities; check the video tapes that are floating around of the GM presentations from all over the country, and just use common sense as you hear GM's claims. Order the video mentioned in this article. A.W. Pink, commmenting on Joshua 9:7 and Israel's legue with the Gibeonites, said:
Third, they did not immediately and impulsively grant their request, but voiced the language of distrust. It is those very things which made the sequel graver. It pays to be wary, yea, suspicious of imposters, if we are not to be deceived by glib tongues. "Put not your trust in princes" (Psalm cxlvi, 3), and in a day like ours, "Take ye heed every one of his neighbour, and trust ye not in any brother" (Jer. ix, 4). We are sure to suffer if we disregard such warnings.16
Israel did not invistigate the Gibeonites' claims, took them at their word, and thus clearly violated the law of God. (Ex. 23:32.) People are "gifting" tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars without doing any research. I will have to admit, it is indeed a "faith promise," for the average "gifter" seems to be "gifting" with no factual basis (documentation) of GM's claims; rather, they are giving their life's savings away based on "faith," i.e, only the words of those who say, "I have gotten my share," "Not a dime has been lost," or "We own 200 gold mines." One of the things that makes the GM "faith promise" offer so appealing is that GM can point to actual activities of involvement, e.g., buying and selling real estate. However, those activities do not change the Scriptural requirement for the Believer to investigate. The question is not "Will I get my money back?" The question that every Believer will be required by God to answer is "Is it Scriptural?"
Fourth, Christians must not view wealth as their own, to do with as they please. Wealth is provided by God, and it must always be used in accord with his total word. (Dt. 8:17, 18, Ps. 127:1. Pr. 13:11, is interesting. See also, 1 Cor. 10:24.)
Fifth, this pastor has been astonished over the number of Christians, including pastors, who, though they have professed a willingness to live and die by the word of God, appear willing to overlook or ignore the Scriptural basis for the Greather Ministries International church and its activities, seemingly, as long as they get their share of the loot. The clear implication seems to be that the word of God does not apply in this instance; rather, it is up to each individual to make up his or her own mind whether or not to participate in the GM program. (See Dt. 12:8, 13:18, Jud. 17:6, 21:25, 1 Kin. 14:8, Pr. 12:15 and Pr. 21:2--Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.)
The issue must be, "Is Greater Ministries a Godly and honest church and ministry that is founded on and functions in accord with the total of God's word?" If it is, then let someone come forward with the Scriptures to support what the Greater Ministries church proposes to be and to do. As Christians, we must keep our attention on the primary issue.
Christians, think things through! examine God's word, pray, and assume that Gods' word is true--all men are fallen sinners, and the natural inclination is not toward honesty, hard work, God and godly activity. The natural inclination is to "Do unto others as you have the chance," and "Give me my share." (Rom. 3:10-18.)
Those who are snared by the hope of quick and easy money are victims of their own covetousness. No child of Adam is exempt. Beware!!
Dear reader, I have tried to present the facts as impartially as possible. All the statements above, except the e-mail notes, were made in a public meeting or taken from news paper articles. Please draw your own conclusions based upon the word of God.
By His Sovereign Grace Alone
See the Intellegencer Journal article at:
2 The Tampa Tribune, 8/25/97. Gerald Payne is Greater Ministries church's founder and president. [http://www.tampatrib.com] Michael Fechter, the reporter who has been writing about GM, said he was again going to urge The Tampa Tribune to post his GM articles on their web site. He said that every time he does an article on GM, he receives several calls for more information. By the time you receive this mailing, his GM articles may be posted. A check with the Florida Corporations Office shows that Greater Miniseries International, Inc. was incorporated 03/22/1993 and the corporation was dissolved, 10/06/1997. See [http://www.dos.state.fl.us].
3 The Tampa Tribune, 2/21/97. Emph. theirs. A call to Greater Ministries (1-813-963-1390) confirmed that "Greater" does indeed own gold mines. However, when asked to present any kind of locations or documentation, I was told that "Greater" is a faith ministry, and I must enter into it by faith; therefore, they NEVER provide any documentation for their claims. If I had any questions, I was told, I should contact a particular local pastor who "knows all about" Greater Ministries. I tried to gather some information about "Greater," but was cut very short. It was clear that the man at "Greater" was NOT going to discuss Greater Ministries nor their claims any further. So the conversation ended with a promise they would send me a packet of material.
4 Ibid, 2/15/97.
5 Ibid, 8/25/97.
6 Ibid, 2/15/97)
7 Tampa Bay Business Journal, 10/6/97.
8 From Patrick Henery Talbert's presentation. I urge the reader to obtain the video tape of the presentation, which has the above words at the very end. The video is available for a 15.00 contribution, audio for a 5.00 contribution: Video, 19th Judicial District, 2711 South East Street, Indianapolis, Indiana.
9 GM's CEO, Gerald Payne also confirmed that GM owns 200 gold mines in the United States. When Payne was later asked by several pastors to furnish names and locations of several mines, the story about the gold mines was suddenly changed. Now word has it that GM denies owning any gold mines. A friend of this pastor called GM, asking them about the gold mines. He was told that GM uses lasers to mine the gold. When the friend started questioning GM about the mines and mining operations, he was told that it was evident he was a "doubter," so they were not interested in his investment. The 200 gold mine claim, to this pastor, seems to chang to which ever way the wind is blowing at the time.
10 The Tampa Tribune, 8/25/97.
11 Ibid, 2/15/97.
13 Ibid, 8/25/97. The appeal opens thusly: "United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit. No. 94-2330. UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Charles A. EIDSON, Sandra A. Eidson, Defendants-Appellants. March 31, 1997. Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. (No. 92-00094-CR-T-25(A), Lee P. Gagliardi, Visiting Judge. Before ANDERSON, Circuit Judge, and KRAVITCH and HENDERSON, Senior Circuit Judges. KRAVITCH, Senior Circuit Judge:"
14 The Tampa Tribune, 8/25/97
15 "2 accused of bilking the elderly." The Tampa Tribune.
16 A.W. Pink, Joshua, 244.
|Ponzi or Pyramid||
Ponzi schemes are pyramidal in nature, but are they the same thing as a pyramid scheme? No, they are not, and here is why.
Ponzi schemes are investment frauds that share some characteristics of pyramid schemes but also have some different dynamics. A requirement of a Ponzi scheme is the promotion of what starts out to be, or appears to be, a real investment opportunity. It often involves the development of a valuable resource such as oil, gas, minerals or real estate. And what is being promoted often actually exists. The promoter does own a mine, or does own investment property. Where the resource actually exists, the promoter has grossly overvalued its worth. Other times, the asset or resource which is the basis for the investment opportunity is totally a figment of the promoter's imagination. In either scenario, the promoter convinces investors that the asset can be further developed with more capital, and the promoter will share the profits with the investors.
Early on, substantial dividends are paid out to the investors. The representation is that these dividends are "profits" coming from the successful development of the investment assets. What is actually happening is that the promoter is merely returning a portion of the investors money to them. These early and substantial dividends produce two results. The early investors increase their share of the operation, and additional investors are attracted to the scheme. The process of paying dividends continues and more investors come forward until the fraud is uncovered or the promoter absconds with the investment proceeds.
Not all Ponzi schemes start out as frauds. Sometimes a promoter in good faith really believes the asset will prove profitable. Investment money comes in, but the returns are disappointing. To avoid loss of investor confidence lies are circulated and dividends paid. More money comes in and the possibility of millions of dollars of losses occurs but for the truth being told early.
The traditional method of dealing with Ponzi schemes in the U.S. is under the Securities Laws, including the Securities Acts of 1933, the Federal Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and state securities laws, (sometimes referred to as Blue Sky Laws). They are not pyramids however, and the pyramid laws we routinely associate with the regulation of multi-level marketing companies do not apply. There are several distinctions between Ponzi schemes and pyramid selling schemes.
The pyramid scheme involves a person making an investment for the right to receive compensation for finding and introducing other participants into the scheme. There is a clear understanding among the participants that the success of the opportunity is dependent upon attracting additional participants.. This is different from the expectations of the Ponzi scheme participant who believes the investment is dependent upon the successful development of a productive asset such as a mine or real estate complex. Pyramids must fail because, by their nature, they depend upon endless exponential growth to succeed. Ponzi schemes must fail because the underlying asset upon which the investment was based either never existed, or was grossly overvalued. Pyramid schemes require active participants who bring in more participants. Ponzi schemes can flourish even with passive investors without any responsibility to promote the opportunity. Pyramid scheme participants "go for the gold" by attracting others to the scheme. Ponzi scheme participants "go for the gold" by increasing their investment and hopefully their share of the profits from the successful development of the productive asset.
The author is indebted to John Brown, Senior Manager of Government Affairs at Amway, for developing these distinctions and articulating them clearly and often.
Gerald P. Nehra is an MLM Specialist Private Practice Attorney. He is one of only a few attorneys nationwide whose practice is devoted exclusively to direct selling and multi-level marketing issues. His 25 years of legal experience includes 9 years at Amway Corporation where he was Director of the Legal Division. He can be reached at 1710 Beach Street, Muskegon, MI 49441, 616-755-3800, 616-755-4700 FAX. Credentials and Billing Information are available through Fax-on-Demand at 803-548-3299, ext. 3088, and E-Mail Auto Responder at MLMAtty@memo.net. His E-Mail Address is MLMAtty@aol.com
Permission is hereby granted to duplicate this article, AS LONG AS the biographical information above is included. (This is found at
"Try the most compelling sermon resource in America today. Risk free," said the envelope. Inside were persuasive reasons why I, as a pastor, should order sermon material from the pictured, "ratty looking," long-haired, newly announced dean of a certain theological school.
"Select Sermon Club," said the second envelope. Inside was an appeal for me to be added to 13,000 churches now using this immaculately appearing man's sermon material. Glorious promises were offered so that our small "Congregation will Grow," as I learn how to "Reveal the Deeper Truths of Scripture," among other things. Just use my Visa/MasterCard, and all my worries about sermon preparation will be over. I will then be able to peruse my busy schedule.
What, may I be so foolish to ask, is to be the schedule of a busy pastor? Is it not primary study, preparation and prayer? (Cf. Acts 6.) In fact, there is something seriously wrong with a pastor who does not enjoy spending (and does not spend) multiplied hundreds of hours studying God's word. The man who does not find the word of God more satisfying than eating physical food has no business in the "ministry." He should find something he enjoys doing, for pastoring/teaching is not his calling from God, and he will face God with the blood of many on his hands.
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach... (1 Tim. 3:2.)Apt to teach; who has a considerable store of knowledge; is capable of interpreting the Scripture to the edification of others; is able to explain, lay open, and illustrate the truths of the Gospel, and defend them, and refute error; and who is not only able, but ready and willing, to communicate to others what he knows; and who likewise has utterance of speech, the gift of elocution and can convey his ideas of things in plain and easy language, in apt and acceptable words; for otherwise it signifies not what a man knows, unless he has a faculty of communicating it to others, to their understanding and advantage. (Gill, Online Bible.)
Apt to teach does not mean I am able to take another's material, though I may do so at times (and I do), and make it my own. Thus the many advertisements this pastor, along with multitudes of other pastors, receives are appealing to those who are unqualified to be pastors. They should be selling used cars or vacuum cleaners. (Now, don't get mad if you sell either or both. I could use either or both.)
Fourteen years ago when we first came to Linden, we lived in the church parsonage. A few years ago, however, because of our two girls, we rented an extremely small house eight miles out in the country. Behind the parsonage's back yard and across the alley is the Methodist parsonage. The United Methodist pastor at that time, they have had several more since then, openly stated that being a pastor was better than selling vacuum cleaners, which he did before he decided to become a pastor. He openly admitted that he was in the "ministry" because it was better than what he had been doing. He has since been transferred by the United Methodist to bigger and better things. I understand the man who followed him was a good man who took a Scriptural stand, but he moved the choir chairs without checking with the board, and he was forced to leave.
It appears that the major qualification of our day to be a pastor/teacher is to be able to attract a crowd, preach loud, work with the young people and raise money.
I am certainly not against using the material of others, but those who must depend upon the work of others to "Reveal the Deeper Truths of Scripture," are clearly unqualified to be a pastor/teacher, an instructor in the God's word.
Check our web site for messages we have presented here at Linden Baptist Church. There will be plenty of ideas freely offered for your use, the same as I receive and use ideas from others.
By His Sovereign Grace Alone