Robert Schuller Has Died

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110 Responses

  1. Babylon's Dread says:

    What a powerful study…

    Mega-church dollars
    Faith controversies
    What is the Gospel controversies
    Family faith and business conflict
    Embracing the culture with seeker friendly church
    The powerful use of testimony

    I changed my mind on Schuller more than I changed my socks.

  2. Michael says:

    The quintessential American evangelical celebrity…he sold people what they wanted to hear and they bought.
    When the celebrity faltered, the empire collapsed.

  3. @ BD

    My opinion on Schuller was also often in flux. I thought this quote from the article summed up why Schuller was such an enigma:

    “His message spoke to people in tough times,” Mouw said. “He was molding to the culture and, in some cases, he succeeded, and in other cases, he maybe lost the elements of traditional Christianity.”

    I was a youth pastor in the same denomination at Schuller in So Cal (Reformed Church in America), which meant I would see him occasionally at denominational gatherings.

  4. Schuller was extremely focused on the medium of communication, often to the detriment of a well-rounded Biblical message. I had a friend who dated one of his daughters once. When he came to pick her up, Arvella answered the door. Robert was in the living watching TV…a tape of himself at the Hour of Power. He was studying his own communication in order to improve his on-screen abilities.

  5. Charles says:

    Mixed emotions about his legacy,

    Did he present the gospel? Yes
    Did he profit from the gospel? Yes.
    Did he lead many to Christ? Yes.

    I saw his grandson on tv Sunday, carrying on his legacy in a much much smaller venue.

    King Solomon was right about so many things….

  6. Babylon's Dread says:

    **King Solomon was right about so many things….**

    It might be argued that King Solomon was without question the most enigmatic figure int he Old Testament. He was Schuller on steroids… gold, girls and guns to boot …

  7. Thanks for posting the Horton interview. It reminded me of a conversation I had with the youth pastor at Crystal Cathedral back in the 90s. We were talking about our upcoming Easter events, and he told me that the CC higher-ups had communicated to the staff not to put a lot of attention on the cross, but rather speak mainly of the resurrection. Essentially, the word was RS didn’t like a lot of talk about the blood. Which is very much in line with how Mormons I’ve know like to handle Easter.

  8. Alex says:

    He was everything that is wrong with Mega-Church Celebrity’ism that is hopefully on the decline now.

    I don’t think the excess and celebrity of even guys like Mark Driscoll, Franklin Graham, Greg Laurie, Raul Ries and so many others is what Jesus had in mind.

    If your pastor is getting “rich” as defined as being Top 5% of income….then you don’t have a “servant of God”…you have a savvy career-minded profiteer.

  9. Alex says:

    Top 5% across the US is $159,619 – $188,001 household income. Top 2% $300K. Top 1% $360K plus.

    Ries, Laurie, Graham, Driscoll, Coy (formerly) and many others are Top 1%.

    Many pastors well exceed this amount…and statistically in the US it is considered “rich” and compared to the rest of the World it is considered super-rich.

    The “church” has huge blind spots and all the carefully controlled narratives don’t really matter, it’s purely salesmanship and b.s. and the Gospel is largely used by many to simply build a family business and career. None of the rich “pastors” would do what they are doing if they couldn’t get rich from it. That is the God-honest troof.

  10. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    He wasn’t already dead?

    Around 1977 I checked his book Possibility Thinking out of our corporate library. It was the first time I ever gave Christianity a thought. He presented well.

  11. Alex says:

    If you are true “minister” of the Gospel and of Jesus Christ…ask yourself this question:

    Would you still do what you do and spend the time doing what you do as a “pastor” if you had to live like the 95% of the rest of us schmucks that you sponge money from?

    Would you even live like the bottom 50% of Americans?

    You wouldn’t see any big or even medium sized “servants of the Lord!” answer test to both of those questions.

    There is your “truth” and your true belief system of the supposed “servants of the Lord!”….

  12. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Alex – your pastor is probably in that top 5% total compensation … why do you support that?

  13. Charles says:

    Ah, the good old days:

    Acts 2:42-45
    “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”

    And Acts 4:32-35
    “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”

  14. gomergirl says:

    I thought he died a long time ago….

  15. Babylon's Dread says:


    Your income is determined by the market. So is mine. How do you want us to do it? I am not sure about your financial rant. Successful people make money in every field. Even in ministry there are those who are at the top 1% of their field. Tell me how you want that to be managed.

    And if minister’s incomes are to be controlled what about yours. And if ministers are gaining money illicitly what about you?

    How are guns and goods freely bought more righteous than money freely given?

    Your money argument may sound coherent to you but it sounds like you are condemning people who are no different than yourself to me.

  16. Captain Kevin says:

    Possibility Thinking AND the Bible. That’s where it all started, and that’s where Schuller went wrong, IMO.

    Let’s pray for his family and followers (what’s left of them), first that they will know the real Jesus, and that He would meet them in their grief.

  17. Jim says:

    I doubt that Alex tells people that they are robbing God if they come to his store and don’t make a purchase.

  18. Babylon's Dread says:


    Agreed so what?

    No one is using Alex’s guns to force people to church and if the statistics tell us anything they tell us that about 5% of church going people tithe … If people fear God over the tithe it is not evident and the line about robbing God is pretty ineffective.

    Churches are free association, giving is freewill giving…

    I tell people if they cannot give joyfully to keep it… I want them to give and spend with happiness.

  19. Em says:

    ahh money – as a newlywed i got far more satisfaction out of making the money and the month come out even than i ever have gotten spending it on stuff – but i’ve never reached the point where the prospect of more month than money doesn’t trouble me – a lot – so i still press on toward the mark…
    don’t know how God feels about fat cat shepherds of His sheep, but we will find out, eh? … or maybe not …

  20. Babylon's Dread says:


    I actually agree that there is a valid critique of money and ministry. I am just challenging them to flesh it out rather than rant about it as if you have moral high ground.

    What is it that the critique is asking for?

    And as per usual I simply point out that this is a market economy and I wonder what they want to replace it with.

    Exploitation is always to be challenged. Define it. Tell me when I am a worthless shepherd and when I am honorable. At what point do I become righteous? When you give me a measurement expect me to challenge it

  21. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I believe that the pastor can and should be paid well AND have no access to the church funds .. not even as a co signer.

  22. Charles says:

    If half of your congregation is doing all they can to make ends meet and skipping meals so their children can eat, and the pastor is driving by on his $25,000 Harley Davidson after service then there is a problem with that church.

    If a good portion of your congregation is unemployed and the line at your food pantry is longer and longer each week and you are spending thousands on lighting and makeup and sound etc, then there is a problem.

    If the staff of your church is “donating” its time and the other half is paid a little over $10.00 an hour and you are pulling in six figures, you shouldn’t be preaching about tithing.

  23. Alex says:

    Dread said, “Your money argument may sound coherent to you but it sounds like you are condemning people who are no different than yourself to me.”

    You are equating “Church” and “Ministry” with a for-profit enterprise that is very upfront about the terms of the profit-making in a very secular and non-religious context.

    If Church is really a For-Profit Business…then you and I agree, there is no difference.

  24. Alex says:

    Why should a “Minister” who makes over $100K per year remain Tax Exempt?

  25. Alex says:

    I guess I would be fine with Churches admitting what they argue they really are…Careers, Businesses, Corporations, just another legitimate money-making Business appealing to “the free Market”…

    I think they should have to pay taxes like most everyone else who makes a profit.

  26. Babylon's Dread says:

    Donations to church are tax exempt

    Pastor’s salaries are not

  27. Babylon's Dread says:

    As you know the NFL is a non-profit

    chasing the issue of non-profits and salaries is a hunt for Sasquatch

  28. Alex says:

    Pastor’s don’t pay income tax to my knowledge. They also get housing allowance and all sorts of other write-offs/tax exemptions that the regular Businessman doesn’t get.

    The NFL is as bad as Churches who are supposedly “non-profit”

  29. Babylon's Dread says:

    And Charles,

    That whole analogy is sand… anyone can make a straw man.

    Free association alone makes that argument worthless

    Make a moral argument .. fine… but tell me the so what?

    You hate them? Ok You want them to collapse? Fine, You want them dead? They are dying and you can spit on their graves like is being done here.

    If you do not like free market religion … leave it.

  30. Alex says:

    “chasing the issue of non-profits and salaries is a hunt for Sasquatch”

    It’s a needed Reform…and one that might get corrected in future generations.

  31. Babylon's Dread says:


    I am a pastor and I pay income tax.
    Paying this week as a matter of fact
    There are exemptions that are very nice
    But income tax is required and paid.

  32. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Actually I would back a bill, or whatever that took away all tax exemptions for all charitable giving.
    See if people still give to have the big concert hall built and have it named after them. Red Cross, Children’s Hospital — all of it – if you give don’t do it for the tax write off.

  33. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    But then I would be for lowering tax brackets as the offset.

  34. Alex says:

    What exemptions do you get that other Businessmen don’t get?

    Housing Allowance is a biggie (and includes a lot of expenses), what else?

  35. Babylon's Dread says:


    Churches can give ministers allowances for continuing education.. I think you have that, for insurance, your business pays that, the big one is that ministers can take an exemption from social security taxes but will not receive benefits.

    I know what running a business is like and hiding money from the tax monster in a business is easier than hiding a ghost.

    I don’t want to hear any whining from a business man over loopholes and such.

    Maybe you overlooked the multinational corporations that are paying no taxes

  36. Alex says:

    “Churches” don’t pay property taxes and they get capital gains tax exemptions as well.

    Yet, you compare yourself to a for-profit business…just like me.

  37. Alex says:

    Dread, you are the one who compared yourself to a free market Business and Corporation…and you won’t find any disagreement with me on that matter.

  38. Babylon's Dread says:

    NO I do not

    I am just answering your question by pointing out that you have no moral high ground on this matter

  39. Alex says:

    Would you continue to minister if you didn’t make any money at it? Would you go bi-vocational and pay your bills through a non-church business and donate the rest of your time to “ministry” without compensation?

  40. Babylon's Dread says:

    Tax exemption doesn’t cost that much money because it is not owed.

    Further, it produces an economy that helps everyone

  41. Alex says:

    “NO I do not”

    But you said, “Alex,

    Your income is determined by the market. So is mine. How do you want us to do it? I am not sure about your financial rant. Successful people make money in every field. Even in ministry there are those who are at the top 1% of their field. Tell me how you want that to be managed.

    And if minister’s incomes are to be controlled what about yours. And if ministers are gaining money illicitly what about you?

    How are guns and goods freely bought more righteous than money freely given?

    Your money argument may sound coherent to you but it sounds like you are condemning people who are no different than yourself to me.”

    ^^^ That up there sounds like you are comparing yourself to my Business…am I wrong?

  42. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Alex – be the test monkey – rally your church to stop paying the pastor.

  43. Alex says:

    “Alex – be the test monkey – rally your church to stop paying the pastor.”

    My pastor lives a middle class lifestyle and makes well under $100K.

  44. Alex says:

    “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world”–The Bible.

  45. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “My pastor lives a middle class lifestyle and makes well under $100K.”

    That’s what he tells you, but you have established over the years that you cannot trust a CC pastor. Something about when their lips move they are lying.

    Besides, under $100K is too much – how much do the wife (probably the women’s ministry leader) and any of the kids (probably in the graphics department) earn?

  46. Babylon's Dread says:


    Church is a business… a non-profit business

    Oh well

  47. Alex says:

    “Church is a business… a non-profit business”

    By technicality, but not in Truth.

    Church is very much a for-profit business and like you seemed to claim further up the thread in appealing to my business as comparable…it should not be “non-profit” in many cases.

    Hopefully that will change over time.

  48. Alex says:

    MLD, I’m talking the Eagle Christian Church pastor.

    And, I believe Bob Caldwell when he says he makes under $100K…even though he could command a lot more in “the free market” of Church Inc. b/c of the size of his Franchise. I don’t think he’d like to my face…but maybe you’re right.

  49. Alex says:

    “lie to my face” above.

  50. Alex says:

    ..well, I guess he could have, Chuck Smith lied to my face, no problem, about him not knowing about Affiliation Agreements

  51. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    eh, who cares about rich pastors – today is Maundy Thursday

    Good article by Donovan Reilly – a Lutheran pastor.

  52. Em says:

    there is a case made that Christ’s execution was on a Wednesday – something to do with Friday being an extra sabbath? and that He resurrected on Saturday night, not Sunday… i guess that actual date is significant to God, but does He really care about our getting the date right as much as the reason for it … ? …

    the Crystal Cathedral really knew how to throw an Easter Sunday Service – always wished i’d gone to one… poor Robert Schuller, he got carried away and then he got carried away again

    heard this one? most folks go to church 3 times in their lives – the first time they get water thrown at them, the second, rice is thrown at them and the last time dirt is thrown at them… oh well, i’d never heard it

  53. Shaun says:

    Alex –

    A pastor pays income tax and they pay double Social Security (because the IRS sees them as self employed the church does not have to kick in their half). The only exemption I get as a pastor is housing allowance (others are available, but they are not usually worth the effort of proving it), but that is true of anyone who gets a housing allowance – it was the same when I was military. I sent a fat check to the IRS this year because I estimated poorly.

    Churches are tax exempt – as are all non-profit organizations (including planned parenthood and the NFL).

  54. Steve Wright says:

    To add to Shaun’s point, housing allowance is NOT exempt from that double Social Security/Medicare tax. So there is a 15.30% tax on housing allowance too.

    Housing allowance IS limited to the actual expenses spent for housing or the fair rental value in the area whichever is LESS.

    So unless the pastor is working a second job, or receiving a (taxable) salary from the church, he is going to be 15.30% in the hole right out of the gate.

    And housing allowance must be voted on in advance before the year starts – by the Board of Directors – so if during the year there is unexpected housing expenses like a leaky roof or broken water heater – those repairs have to come out of fully taxable salary (double taxed on FICA as mentioned)

  55. Never knew Robert, never saw him in person.

    But what I do know from my own personal experience is that his hospitality at his church far surpassed the hospitality of the church that I attended when I came to Christ.

    At my church strangers were questioned and followed by security if they came on the grounds when there were no services.

    In Robert’s church I and my friends were greeted as guests and told to enjoy our visit and were allowed to sit around and talk for as long as we wanted too.

    That never changed year after year we were treated as honored guests in their house.

    But in my own church it was always suspicion and locked doors.

    Hebrews 13:2
    Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

    The Staff of Chrystal Chedral had always been incredibly hospitable.

    And not the Chatolics have show us the exactl same incredible hospitality when we stop in to have our informal visits together.

    One friend comes down from Washington and a few others from far off places.

    We can always count on meeting at Roberts old facilities and being treated very well.

    I could only wish that the church I grew up in were the same, but it is far from hospital, so we never even think about meeting together there.

    And angels?

  56. Erunner says:

    I heard Robert Schuller passed away. We live close to the Crystal Cathedral and took a tour when they were still building it. We attended a wedding there.

    It was understood for the most part that RS was a false teacher for any number of reasons. His relationship with God is not for me to determine.

    It was sad to see the ministry crumble in such a sad and public way. Family members at odds with one another is always tough to see.

    I hope God moves in their midst during this difficult time.

  57. My spell checker got me. “And now the Chatholics…”

  58. Bob Sweat says:

    In 1971, I attended Schuller’s Institute for Successful Church Growth. I must say, I was Schullerized. I was young, right out of college, looking to be a church superstar! So glad I failed, and the “feel good gospel” too! 🙂

  59. brian says:

    Charles correctly observed

    “Mixed emotions about his legacy,

    Did he present the gospel? Yes
    Did he profit from the gospel? Yes.
    Did he lead many to Christ? Yes.”

    My understanding for the most part not counting everyone but just this aspect of the industry I reworded it a bit

    Did he present the Gospel? irrelevant

    Did he lead many to Christ? even more irrelevant

    Did he profit from the Gospel? YES and that is good, always. Where he sinned and I do not know of God can even forgive this, he lost his ability to continue to make revenue.

  60. brian says:

    I do have this personal experience I was in a deeply troubling situation, sick family, loss of several close people, physical health issues and money issues. I am sure I had all this and then some coming and dont deny that. I was online looking for a prayer website I could post on for some prayer. It took me about five hours to get over loathing every single breath I ever took having admitted what I count a very vile sin, needing, anything for any reason for even a moment. I ran across a chat room with some people who worked for the Crystal cathedral I posted a hello and a wonderful helpful conversation filled me with hope and even a bit of love for myself. I did abruptly stop the conversation when I realized it had reached such a sin level. But they were a comfort to me for those moments. I do hope that sin is not held against the Pastor or his family.

  61. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “…and the “feel good gospel” too!”

    Schuller’s problem wasn’t that he presented a ‘feel good’ gospel – it’s that he tried to present a ‘feel good’ law.

  62. London says:

    One of my favorite college memories was going to CA on a band trip and attending services at Crystal Cathedral. Our band director was Christian and took whomever wanted to go that Sunday.
    Still remembering seeing the building move apart to let the sunlight in.

  63. Alex says:

    Shaun, Steve, both your responses are factual from what I can determine online.

    Again, I think the NFL should be for-profit.

    Do either of you have a problem with a pastor making Top 5% money and sometimes much more?

  64. brian says:

    “Do either of you have a problem with a pastor making Top 5% money and sometimes much more?”

    In some circles if they are not they are in abject sin and God will punish them with a divine vengeance. But I dont think most Christians that follow Christ think that, look at many of the fine pastors here, they do it for the love of Christ and His church. At least that is how I see it and if that does not warrant me eternal punishment I dont know what should.

  65. brian says:

    “Schuller’s problem wasn’t that he presented a ‘feel good’ gospel – it’s that he tried to present a ‘feel good’ law.” Actually his problem was the same MD problem was, bad PR advice and having to many family on the payroll.

  66. Alex says:

    I’m guessing I won’t get a response to that question above…but if I asked for an opinion about Gay Marriage…I’m sure I’d get a pretty vigorous one from those guys.

  67. For some reason Alex, I have the feeling when the early first Obama administration was talking about setting the top tier tax bracket at $250,000 family income, you were probably one of Idaho’s loudest voices claiming $250K as middle income and once again the neo libs were stripping the middle class.

    Why do you care what other churches pay their pastors? Aren’t you concerned that both your pastors earn in the top 10% – that they make more than 90% of the American population?

    As I said earlier, I think pastors can and should be paid well, but have no access to the church funds. Check your pastors and see if they get to touch the money — mine does not.

  68. Steve Wright says:

    Alex, I’m not going to hop into the Delorean.

    My views about pastoral compensation are known here, and I have offered a detailed breakdown of how pastoral compensation is taxed multiple times when the subject is brought up here… by you and to you…multiple times.

    Maybe Shaun will bite on the gay marriage bait for you….

    goad away

  69. Steve Wright says:

    have no access to the church funds.
    I don’t either MLD. I can’t sign a check and certainly have no church credit card.

    That’s my choice.

  70. Shaun says:

    I would be uncomfortable making that much Alex. I am paid better than most Calvary Pastors I know, but less than most major denominational pastors.

  71. Alex says:

    Thanks for proving me wrong on that one 🙂

  72. Alex says:

    I really believe it is morally wrong for a “servant of Jesus” to get rich from the Gospel…even Top 5% rich.

    If Jesus is real and if there is any truth to the Jesus Narrative and the Gospel etc, there are some things that are just wrong and that is one of them IMO.

  73. Although not required by anyone, we have a matrix we use through several Lutheran services to determine pay scales. We hire pastors, ministry directors, staff, teachers, some called and some contracted.

    We take into consideration, length of service, education along with performance for all positions.
    So for example our pastor has 35 years in the ministry, 24 yrs at our church and has a doctorate. Our associate pastor has 25 yrs in the ministry, has pastored 3 or 4 churches and has held several positions at the district level around the country. He has an MDiv (a dime a dozen degree)

    The school principal has an Masters in some educational field and has been the principal at a couple of other schools.

    So, we matrix people out to determine salary. Do other here know how their church determines pay?

  74. Shaun says:

    MLD – we use a similar deal that we purchased from NACBA (?) to set our salaries.

  75. Pineapple Head says:

    I will confirm what Shaun and Steve wrote above about pastors and taxes.

    I don’t sign church checks.

    I do use a church issued credit card.

  76. Francisco Nunez says:

    My senior pastor does not draw a salary at all by choice so that others serving in the church can be blessed. He gets to serve because he loves the flock.

    Although there are many good shepherds who are bi vocational and thereby have tent making ministries, we cannot deny that we do have our share of hirelings across denominational lines(those who would quit in a heartbeat but can’t because they need the income) there are quite a number of shepherds who do not draw a salary by choice or who have to tent make and are not in it for the money and live by faith. May God bless them and keep them.

  77. Steve Wright says:

    Stats show pastors will either leave on their own, or be replaced by their Board on average in about four years. I am sure money is a factor much of the time (on either end) and the matrix numbers I guess would help.

    Certainly many pastors, who have never worked or been educated for anything else, stay in ministry each year because they need the paycheck.

  78. Steve Wright says:

    Certainly many pastors, who have never worked or been educated for anything else, stay in ministry each year because they need the paycheck.
    Stats show this number at 50-57% depending on the survey.


  79. Alex says:

    The Jesus I know personally….would be much more upset with the “ministers/pastors” who claim his name getting rich to the tune of $100K and well above per year….than he would with homosexuals.

    The only time we really see Jesus really pissed in the Gospels was toward the very rich and powerful religious leaders. The regular folks and sinners? Not so much.

    Not sure who the Jesus is that most seem to worship in Evangelicalism…but he sure seems a lot different than the Jesus I worship.

  80. Alex says:

    Maybe mainstream Evangelicalism and those who support celebrity/rich pastors are the ones worshipping a “different Jesus”….food for thought.

  81. Francisco Nunez says:

    Steve those stats are quite disturbing yet accurate.

    In my opinion this is why an organic approach to ministry allows for those who are not called to have the opportunity to find another vocation that is for them while also allowing those who truly are called by Christ to shepherd His flock and continue as under shepherds. Nothing against denominations but I’ve seen too many freshly minted M,Div folks fresh out of seminary(over and over again) move from church to church every few years. One of the distinctives of an organic approach to ministry is if you are not called……… you’ll fail quickly. I would also say that nothing stunts the spiritual health of a local church than when it is being led by somebody who doesn’t want to lead it and worse by the enabling done by the local board/denomination in maintaining such situation on artificial life support. I want to clarify that success in the local church is not measured by the man made ABC”s of church metrics(Attendance, Baptisms, and Cash balances) but by transformed lives.

    On a favorable note, we’re seeing the big seminaries realizing that reaching out to those who don’t have seminary training as now an important part of their ministry. I’m personally blessed by the online courses being offered to those who are not able to go to seminary. The online seminary resources Michael shared this week for example have been a big blessing.

    Lastly I lift up those brothers leading small churches faithfully who often don’t know how they are going to pay next months rent yet God sustains them and the flock they shepherd.

  82. Shaun says:

    Alex – Jesus didn’t have to deal with media and the internet. I am sure if Jesus was asked if he thought homosexuality was a sin he would say yes, and it would be on Facebook, and CNN within a few minutes and then he would be accused of being a bigot and he would be boycotted immediately, and an anti-Jesus blog would be created. If Jesus was asked if he thought paying a pastor $100,000 was sin he probably would say the love of money is the root of all evil, and that would not end up on CNN, but the only ones who would put it on Facebook would be Christians.

    My point is the political climate today does not allow, certain views to be expressed and even simple comments are taken to the extreme when reported. I spoke in a legislative committee meeting where I was allowed 60 seconds to make my statement, not much time for nuance – I said historic Christianity and all major religions have always seen homosexuality as a sinful act. When I finished one the legislators apologized to the room that they had to hear someone as hateful as me. The next day in the local newspaper I was called a Pharisee and part of the brood of vipers by a local columnist. And yet, I have relatives and friends who are homosexuals, and people who attend Calvary Chapel who are homosexual whom I have taken to lunch for the purpose of expressing my love for them. Not one of those who was angry at me tried to speak to me and get the whole story – they just didn’t like the undeniable message of scripture.

  83. Jeff Sheckstein says:


    Perhaps I can lend some clarity to the pastor icome and taxation issue.f

    First, under IRS Regs. As clarified by the Warren tax court opinion, a pastor can, in effect, declare as a parsonage almost all expenses associated with a home, including mortgage payments (not just interest) , property taxes, insurance, any and all utilities, all maintenance and repairs, association dues and, subject to certain restrictions, many capital improvements (such as new roof). This far exceeds what a typical taxpayer can deduct, and generally can range from 35% to 55/60% of a pastor’s total income.

    In addition, a pastor can within I beleive 30-90 days of his ordination, opt out of social security, thereby saving the soc. Sec. Tax up to $98,000, I believe, in gross icome that a typical taxpayer is liable for. While it can be said the pastor loses out on ss benefits, nonetheless he gets the use of his ss monies now as opposed to well in the future..for living, investment or otherwise.

    Lastly, a pastor make make use of a device called a Rabbi Trust, which allows the pastor to defer federal and state taxation in an unlimited amount each yeapr (assuming the sum is declared in advance of the given year). The typical taxpayer is limited to AiRA, ROTH or 401 deductions. Pastors who make over $125k to $150k use the rabbi trust to shield significant sums of income (church, honorariums, book royalties, IP royalties, investment income) from taxation, all the while investing the pricipal of the trust income tax free. I have done 2 and seen its benefits?

    Bottom line, and contrary to Steve’s and Shaun’s “takes” on the issue, pastors have conferred on them tax benefits far beyond those extended to people like you and i.

  84. Jeff Sheckstein says:

    I have tried to present an economics picture alone and do recognize that most churchrs cannot afford to fully meet their pastors’s living needs. Recognizing this reality, a case certainly and should be made for a policy codied in our tax laws granting pastors prferences due to his service and circumstances as well as his contribution with his church to the public welfare and good.

  85. Jeff Sheckstein says:

    Personaaly, I think there should be a cap on these pastor’s tax deduction and deferment benefits, say a fixed sum based upon the general geographic location that the pastor lives in. In soCal, i would think a $100k cap in gross income would work.

  86. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I wonder when Alex goes to his political meetings to speak or rub shoulders if he makes that same claim – if you make $100,000 you are the rich.

  87. Bob says:

    “And yet, I have relatives and friends who are homosexuals, and people who attend Calvary Chapel who are homosexual whom I have taken to lunch for the purpose of expressing my love for them. ”

    Here is what I hear:

    “Homosexuals are not the same as me.”

    Here is what I know:

    Men are born men and women are born women.

    What I see in my friends, family and acquaintances are people.

    What really burns me though are men who dump their covenant wives and families so they can be “happy.” Sometimes it’s another woman and occasionally it’s another man or even a hobby.

    I have literally heard from both men and women, “God wants me to be happy!”

    And the justification of deviant behavior gets a root and grows.

    He said while happily typing away.

  88. Steve Wright says:

    Bottom line, and contrary to Steve’s and Shaun’s “takes” on the issue, pastors have conferred on them tax benefits far beyond those extended to people like you and i.
    I never said there are not tax benefits. Don’t think Shaun did either. Shame on you.

    Yes, a pastor can opt out of social security and “avoid” those taxes and lose those benefits when needed. Are you one that advises this as wise? I sure hope not! These pages have regularly criticized all those CC pastors who did so in the past.

    So if not, then where is the benefit?

    Because if you don’t opt out, then as we said and you avoided saying, we pay DOUBLE, at the self-employment rate. And that rate IS applied to housing allowance – but can’t be paid from housing allowance monies. So a taxable salary is needed to pay the taxes on not just that salary but the housing allowance. After my first two years of no salary I began to receive a little income and I designated it all housing allowance as it was less than my actual expenses. However, to pay the 15.3% tax on the housing, I had to reduce the housing by that percentage (a little more actually) declare it as taxable salary (and pay the 15.3% on it too) to have what was left withheld to pay the tax on the housing allowance.

    Yes, housing allowance is a nice tax benefit from the income tax side. However, you also omit that it must be voted on before the year, can’t be adjusted during the year, and can’t exceed the fair rental value plus utilities of a similarly furnished residence. There are limits too.

    I also find your description of the rabbi’s trust misleading, or at least lacking some key details. For starters, they are not unique to just pastors (or rabbis). In addition, the average person with wealth who may not be able to participate can accomplish much of the same with his employer through the use of universal life insurance. That’s my world, Jeff for 20 years. In fact, at every seminar the rabbis trust is taught in the same session as the universal life, deferred comp strategies.

    I did chuckle at the idea of 401ks somehow being “limited” in how much income can be deferred for the average guy. That’s still a pretty big number as you know. Yeah, there are contribution limits, but unlike the rabbi trust where the church still has control, the employee has total ownership and can transfer his 401K elsewhere upon leaving one job for another. And a rabbis trust’s assets can be taken by the creditors of the church should they arise one day.

    Pros and cons in both situations. While housing is used by most pastors, I doubt any meaningful percentage use rabbis trusts. And while housing is only for pastors, rabbis trusts are not

  89. Alex says:

    Thanks Sheck, as usual it’s good to get the truth of the matter…and you are a truth-teller, which is always appreciated.

    I agree, pastors who aren’t getting rich off of Jesus…I’m fine with the tax breaks b/c it allows their church’s to save money to use for really helping folks.

    The pastors who get rich off of Jesus who are working the system should pay taxes like other for-profit businesses.

  90. Alex says:

    I hold the same opinion for other ‘non-profits”…the NFL is a ridiculous example of working the System.

  91. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I don’t know how everyone else does housing allowances but at our church it is not ‘above and beyond’ salary,
    If we offer our pastor a salary, say $80K, the pastor can designate a percentage of that as ‘housing allowance’ and gain whatever benefits there may be. But it is NOT, we will give you $80K and an additional $20K for housing allowance.

  92. Jeff Sheckstein says:

    Steve, dont disagree with what you said, but remember that a parsonage allowance does, in effect, reduce your net taxable income; thereby driving your self employment tax % down to the bottom rungs.

    I appreciate your recognizing the tax benefits you have, and as I mentioned above are right and are good public policy. It was not my intent to mischaraterize what you said, but it seemed you thought the benefits were not significant over and above the typical taxpayer. We both know that is not true.

    The only issue I have with your discussion on rabbi trusts is that like being God’s “chosen,” it should have been restricted to just rabbis and jews.

    Lastly, why is Shecky Greene not enshrined in the Comedy Hall of Fame. Dad…i miss you so.

  93. Steve Wright says:

    Exactly MLD. A compensation number is derived and then a portion of that is housing – and yes, for the tax benefit. Of course.

    Bottom line…ALL of this is easily found on the internet for anyone who really cares for the education. I have tried to be as accurate as possible in my explanation and only chipped in to clarify when I read “Pastor’s don’t pay income tax to my knowledge. They also get housing allowance and all sorts of other write-offs/tax exemptions that the regular Businessman doesn’t get.”

    So rather than argue on this holy weekend – anyone so inclined can google away. Going to the actual IRS website is my suggestion.

  94. Steve Wright says:

    Thanks Jeff.

    Not sure what you mean by driving down one’s self employment tax percentage since that is a flat rate on every dollar…just double what the average employee pays….15.3% is 15.3% on both housing and salary.

    But like I said, I’m done with the back and forth.


  95. Jeff Sheckstein says:

    Alex, to ” work the system,” one needs attorneys, which can be a very good. Merely from a “right to life” perspective this can be seen as a very good thing. Else the phony economic recovery with its attendant “no new jobs” aspect, would be far less impactful in our lives if 10’s of thoupsands of new attorney jobs were not added to it in past years. Nnot to mention the increase in community organizer jobs.

  96. Jeff Sheckstein says:

    Steve, as a side note, how is John doing?

  97. Erunner says:

    Jeff, did Robert Schuller have a son named John?

  98. Jeff Sheckstein says:


    Really don’t know. The Schuller’s stole a yiddish word for their last name so I never associated with them. For you goyum out there, Schule” translated to English means “synagogue.” Robert should have renamed himself “Robert Church.”

  99. Erunner says:

    Then who are you talking about?

  100. Jeff Sheckstein says:

    I think he went by the name “Dead Man Walking” or something like that.

  101. Erunner says:

    I knew that Jeff. I just can’t believe you’d sink so low as to go there.

  102. Jeff Sheckstein says:

    What in God’s name are you talking about. I knew his wife went home…did something happen with John? Ive been out of Calif. for 4 years.

  103. Michael says:


    Jeff is probably unaware of the issues between John and CCLE.
    John and Steve have a strained relationship as do John and myself.
    John moved to Northern California.

  104. Jeff Sheckstein says:

    Never knew. Thanks for clarifying the matter. John and I were at issue in the first year of Murrieta although his beef was really with Chuck. Despite his judging us wrongly in the matter, he was always polite and civil, although we disagreed upon much in the final analysis. With Debbie passing, i was hoping he was doing well as I knew his health too was poor. Just assumed Steve would know him well. sorry Eruuner.

    Nontheless I do wish him the best although we were adversaries ina loose description, he is still my brother in the Lord.

  105. Erunner says:

    My apologies Jeff. I thought you were aware of what is pretty common knowledge around here. Please forgive me for thinking the worst about you in this situation.

    Michael, John is a FB friend so I’ve been able to keep up with how he’s doing. I’m sorry for going where I did.

  106. Jeff Sheckstein says:

    Erunner, if you thought the worst about me, then there a hundreds of actions and events in which it is aptly done. I deserve it. No qualms with dat one.

  107. Erunner says:

    Thanks Jeff!

  108. Steve Wright says:

    Jeff, as active as you are in the blogosphere, that you were not aware is a good testimony to the many fine people of CCLE, as well as to Michael and his grace, as well as to many of the fine people in this blog family.

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