Earlier today, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram published a story with a statement from Gateway Church confirming the staff reductions I reported on Tuesday. According to the statement from Lawrence Swicegood, executive director of Gateway Media, the church is going to “prune” staff to prepare for growth. I suppose that is one way to look at it, although I also suppose that the staff to be pruned might see it differently.
The Star-Telegram report said that the church planned to reduce staff by 10-15% but gave no time frame. My sources maintain that the plan is to eventually cut as many as one-third of 900 positions.
The Star-Telegram article may have misstated Gateway’s financial status for 2016. As I read the annual report, it appears that Gateway experienced a deficit. More about that in a future post.
To me, a curious note is that the Star-Telegram said the church confirmed the staff layoffs but did not say what initial report had been confirmed. You can read that report first published here on Tuesday.
The fourth largest church in America is in the midst of what has been called a “pruning.” According to sources in a position to know, Gateway Church is in the midst of gradually laying off one-third of current staff. According to sources who wish to remain anonymous to avoid repercussions, Gateway leaders are downplaying the layoffs, calling them a “healthy pruning.” Without referring to the downsizing, Gateway is offering a resume writing workshop to help to those who have been “laid off or fired.”
While the classes will no doubt be helpful, it is worth asking: Why does a church which took in over $127-million in revenues in 2016 need to lay off staff? Gateway’s annual report for 2016 is below:
First of all, it is worth noting that Gateway is a massive enterprise with a fund balance of over $155-million. At first glance, I have a hard time understanding why Gateway makes their youth group pay for their mid-week pizza snack and is downsizing operational staff. Gateway has not responded to my questions about the matter.
Curiously, Gateway reports $13,123,084 in “non-operating expenses.” Non-operating expenses refer to funds spent not in keeping with an organization’s mission. As a non-profit, Gateway is supposed to spend donor funds on mission related purposes. If the non-operating expenditures were shown as a deduction from the “revenue over expenses-operations” as was Gateway’s practice in prior years (e.g., 2015), the statements would show a combined spending in excess of revenues (a net loss) of $9,617,522. It appears that Gateway altered their presentation to make the loss less obvious to statement readers. While non-operating expenses can refer to interest payments and other permitted purposes, it is fair to ask why there is no description of these expenses which comprise just over 10% of 2016 revenues.
Possible Non-operating Expenditures
During 2016, Gateway’s founder and Lead Pastor Robert Morris was a vocal supporter of the GOP and now serves on Donald Trump’s advisory committee. Gateway Church helped sponsor a inaugural ball for Donald Trump which took the Morris’ away from their annual January churchwide fast. At the same time, Gateway Church began charging the youth group for their weekly pizza snack at meetings. While the youth group paid for their pizza, the Robert and Mrs. Morris were spending Gateway’s funds on a pricey inaugural gala. With Trump winning the presidency in November, it seems likely that some of those sponsorship funds would have been committed from 2016 revenues. Listen to Tony Perkins thank the sponsors of the gala which celebrated “the great victory.”
In September 2016, Gateway sponsored and hosted a Solemn Assembly of Christian right pastors to pray for the nation. Although the event was a downsized version of the original plan (75,000 pastors in Cowboy stadium), the promotional video makes it clear that the event sought political change through a religious event. Is any of this political activity in Gateway’s non-operating expenses?
While the youth group kids in his church have to pay for their youth meeting refreshments, Robert Morris and Gateway Church co-sponsored one of the glitzy inaugural balls to celebrate the victory of Donald Trump. In a pre-recorded message played to his congregation inauguration weekend, Morris sounded a non-partisan tone. However, as we now know, the church co-sponsored an inaugural ball where Morris declared Donald Trump the “right guy” for president because the church came together in unity. Watch the message to Gateway Church:
Recall that Gateway Church founding pastor Robert Morris told his congregation two weeks ago that God wanted him to break the annual churchwide fast in order to eat the food served at Donald Trump’s inauguration. According to video served up by the Family Research Council, Morris did more than attend the festivities, he helped sponsor them. Gateway Church was one of nine sponsors of the Faith, Freedom and Future inaugural ball hosted by FRC’s Tony Perkins (Gateway Church, the only church involved, is circled in red below) in celebration of Donald Trump’s victory.
Tony Perkins gave a shout-out to each sponsor.
I don’t know what it cost to sponsor the formal affair but, in my opinion, that money could have gone to a more important purpose.
Like most youth groups, Gateway Church serves food during youth meetings. For adolescents, food is a draw since they always seem to be hungry. At the same time, many such groups attract teens who might not eat well at home. At one time, like most churches I know, Gateway Church served food at no cost to the youth group attenders. Now, to help “steward” church funds, teens have to pay $2 for their pizza. Since teens have to pay, this means some kids can’t eat because they really can’t afford it. Thus, Gateway Church is actually soliciting church members for donations to help buy pizza for needy youth group kids. This news comes from one of Gateway’s youth pastors:
In this season, 60% of students showing up on Wednesday nights at Gateway NRH come from families who do not attend Gateway or another church. We’re reaching our community!
We’ve served pizza on these evenings for many years, not for hype, but to be helpful. To ensure we steward our budget well as we grow, we’ve started charging $2 per plate (two slices of pizza, desert and a bottle of water).
$2 a week seems small to most of us, but it is not possible for some families. I’m okay with giving “free” pizza to those in need, but there’s little lasting value in a freebee.
A student hearing, “Somebody at Gateway cared enough to buy this FOR YOU” is way more meaningful than, “Just take this; it’s free tonight.”
If you would like to purchase one or more pizza tickets for us to bless students with, email us at studentsNRH@gatewaypeople and we’ll send you instructions for either a cash or card purchase.
I know one way Gateway could “steward” the budget better.
It seems to me that pizza for needy kids should be easy for a church that can afford to co-sponsor a presidential gala. Tickets sold for $450/person and rooms at the Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill (where the ball was held) were $1000/night with a four night minimum. This was no pizza party.
According to the youth pastor, a donation to the pizza fund shows caring for those needy students. What does it show that Gateway’s leaders lavishly spend tithes and offerings to celebrate a Trump victory but can’t spring for pizza?
C’mon Gateway, your donors have already given their tithes and offerings. Can’t the kids have some pizza on the House of God?
Is there trouble in paradise?
Watch (and read about) Mark Driscoll talk about tithing and first fruits.
As of now, Robert Morris provides wise counsel and is on the governing board of Driscoll’s The Trinity Church. Morris believes not tithing to the church is like stealing from God and will lead to the non-tither being cursed. He considers his Blessed Life teaching on tithing to be critical to the Christian life.
Driscoll says on this video is that there is no particular percentage one is required to give. He also said one is not required to give to the church. Driscoll said his family once gave to pay a single mom’s legal bills as a part of their giving.
As it stands, Robert Morris is serving on the governing board of a church where curses are possible because the people are being taught there is no required 10%.
This teaching is tied into Morris’ Christology. He believes Jesus is God’s tithe and because of that, you have to give your 10% to the church before you pay your mortgage or pay any other bills. Watch:
Bring the tithe to the church…
Watch below as Morris in 2011 says that money not given first to God is cursed. He promises a money back guarantee on this teaching. He adds that he is tired of hearing about broken families and lost jobs because they don’t tithe. Apparently, The Trinity Church congregation is at risk if they follow Driscoll’s teaching.
Not tithing is like stealing and opens the door to demons, according to Morris.
The school that God asked Gateway Church pastor Robert Morris to host is having a rough patch. According to the most recent board of directors report, the school has lost three branch locations since 2015 and may close another (Olathe, KS) very soon.
Currently, on TKU’s website, Morris promotes the multi-campus model and claims that TKU will expand the number of locations by 2018.
The school boasts that plans call for “20 or more campuses worldwide by 2018.” However, a review of the recent board report paints a different picture. Most students attend the Southlake campus with significant declines in number of credit hours at most campus locations. Three locations have left TKU since 2015 (see the locations in dark grey below).
According to the report, no documentation exists for the Hong Kong campus and the NZ campus is under review. Olathe is being reviewed to determine if it is “feasible to continue.”
In the May 2016 president’s report, it is clear that the administrative staff want to move away from multiple campuses:
First, I (along with the administrative staff) have concluded that it would be in the school’s best interest to pivot away from the directive to establish teaching locations on (at least 30) mega-church campuses. The past three years have provided us with ample evidence to conclude that this labor intensive, complicated, expensive plan is not producing the kind of results we had hoped (see Teaching Locations Map on page 46).
Additionally, we have experienced some significant setbacks in our campus extension efforts. For instance, one year ago we were operating on 10 extension sites around the country with two other locations approved and preparing to launch. However, at the end of this academic year, for various reasons, we are positioned to go into the next academic year with only 7 sites in operation (none larger than 60 students) and neither “approved” location willing to move forward (see Teaching Locations Map on page 46).
Second, these “setbacks” have contributed to our resolve to pivot away from this campus expansion model and embrace instead a two-pronged strategy that emphasizes the intensifying efforts to build a healthy, dynamic home campus with over 1,000 resident student by 2022.
In the April 2016 executive committee minutes, one of four challenges was to change the multi-campus model.
With most campuses in decline, it hard to understand how TKU (or Gateway University as it will soon be known) gets to 20 campuses by 2018. In fact, it appears that the board is going to move away from that approach altogether because at least five of the campuses are stagnant and creating a drain on TKU’s limited resources.
To be fair to TKU, enrollment is up to 747 total students (502 FTE) which represents a 55% increase over five years. However, the promise of a growing multi-location system appears to have faded without prospective students’ knowledge.
Current students who cannot transfer may be left without a clear way forward. Since TKU is not regionally accredited, their credits won’t transfer to accredited schools.
I wonder if campus coordinators are aware that they will be closed down. The ethical thing to do would be to discourage any new enrollments since those students won’t have a future at the regional campus.
What this will probably mean for Gateway Church is a greater burden on their budget since the school now relies on a $1/year lease of facilities as well as cash donations to TKU. Since everything is moving to Southlake, the expenses for a residential campus will no doubt require a greater commitment from the church.
He did this last year too. One of Mark Driscoll’s friends and benefactors, Robert Morris believes he can speak conception to infertile couples. Listen to part of the sermon actually delivered yesterday:
This is a transcript of the first view minutes. Near the end of the prayer, Morris “speaks conception” to infertile couples (at about 4:00 in this clip).
I do wanna pray over a specific group of ladies. I do this nearly every Mother’s Day. Um, and that is, if you want to have a child. And the reason I do this is for some reason God has blessed this prayer when I pray it. And I don’t even know why or understand it.
I was getting my hair cut a while back in a specific, where I get my hair cut, and, um, they, there was this lady who I overheard talking about miscarriages and not being able to have a child and she’d been praying for, I think, 12 or 13 years or something. And I just got so burdened so we, I, just went over to her and she got up at the same time I got up and I said, ‘I’m sorry to overhear your conversation but I’m pastor of a church, and would you mind if I pray for you?’ And so I prayed for her right there in the salon. And, um, um, she uh, started coming to the church. She got saved. Her family got saved. And, uh, her husband, and they started coming to small group and she had a baby.
And, uh, so, and what’s amazing is, I was getting my haircut there again today, and we were talking about that and they said, ‘uh, Robert, we, we have people that ask to get their haircut in that wing (hand motion towards wing) of the salon – that are trying to have a baby. And they get pregnant! And then we’ve had employees that say, ‘can I transfer to that wing (more jerking hand motions towards wing) of the salon?’ And they get pregnant so um. So, uh, I’m gonna pray for you now. You don’t have to get your hair cut there. It is a good place, but….
I offer this without much comment on the stories of pregnancies being influenced by where in the hair salon Morris — pastor of the third largest church in America — sat to get his hair cut.
However, these stories and the rest of the sermon is about hearing from God in dreams and the ability to do miracles. Those outside evangelcalism wanting to understand the diversity under that label should make a distinction between evangelicals who believe such things happen frequently and those who don’t.
As the Iowa primary approaches, Ted Cruz is facing criticism from rivals over his lack of tithing as indicated by tax returns for 2007-2010 disclosed when he ran for Senate. The Cruz family reported donations which amounted to about 1% of their income.
Some Christians who have spoken quite favorably of Cruz believe God requires Christians to give 10% to the church. For instance Gateway Church pastor Robert Morris has preached that Christians are cursed if they don’t tithe (see the video at the end of the post) and Gateway Church doesn’t allow non-tithers to volunteer. In late December, Morris attended a meeting in Texas along with other evangelicals for a meet and greet with Cruz, arranged by David Barton, the head of one of Cruz’s Super PACs.
Presumably, Cruz would not be allowed to volunteer at Gateway. If he is cursed, as Morris teaches, what kind of curses might Cruz bring to the White House?
To my knowledge, Morris has not endorsed Cruz and I reference his teaching because Cruz’s lack of tithing might matter to evangelicals who believe Morris’ teaching is correct.
Some Christians believe tithing was an Old Testament requirement but that Christians are not under that law. It may be that Cruz’s low level of giving would register but the effect might be less extreme.
Video of Morris describing Ted Cruz:
Robert Morris on the curse of not tithing.
More on tithing. Morris says at 17:14 that non-tithers are arrogant and have opened themselves up to demons.
The ten top posts during 2015 are as follows with the most popular first:
1. Open Letter to Gateway Church Pastor Robert Morris from a Former Member of Mars Hill Church – This was posted on November 2, 2014 but remained popular throughout 2015. Driscoll recently joined Jimmy Evans as a director to form The Trinity Church in Phoenix.
2. Former Chief Financial Officer at Turning Point Claims David Jeremiah Used Questionable Methods to Secure a Spot on Best Seller Lists – This story about David Jeremiah’s questionable tactics from a former insider was a scoop but not one which stuck to Jeremiah like a similar scandal did to Mark Driscoll.
3. Hillsong’s Brian Houston Interviewed Mark and Grace Driscoll After All (VIDEO) (AUDIO) – First, he said he would interview Driscoll, then he said he wouldn’t, then Brian Houston aired an interview with Mark and Grace Driscoll. It was great theatre but didn’t draw good reviews from former Mars Hill leavers.
4. A major study of child abuse and homosexuality revisited – This post from 2009 is one of the most popular articles in the history of the blog. In it, I demonstrate a key mistake in a journal article often used to link homosexuality and child abuse.
5. Southern Baptists Say Enough to Perry Noble and NewSpring Church – I am surprised that this post got so much attention.
6. Gospel for Asia Faces Allegations of Misconduct; GFA Board Investigation Found No Wrongdoing – The GFA story received the most attention from me this year.
7. Pastor of Willow Creek Presbyterian Says Church Reaction to Hiring Tullian Tchividjian is “Overwhelmingly Positive” – I briefly covered Tullian Tchividjian’s comeback as a development minister at a PCA church in FL.
8. A Few Thoughts on The Village Church Controversy – Village Church’s leadership apologized for their response to a young woman who sought a divorce from her husband who had admitted having child porn.
9. Hillsong Founder Brian Houston Issues Statement On Mark Driscoll at the Hillsong 2015 Conference – Mark Driscoll’s return to the spotlight garnered much reader attention.
10. Gospel for Asia’s K.P. Yohannan and the Ring Kissing Ritual – While the financial scandals were of interest to readers, this article ranked higher than the money problems.
To fully capture activity on the blog, one should consider the Gospel for Asia scandals (Patheos considered my coverage as a part of one of their top ten Evangelical stories of 2015).
It has been a good year and I thank my readers and those who support the blog with their comments and regular visits.
World magazine reported on October 17 that half of Teen Mania’s independent board members resigned. I am linking to World’s coverage of TM as an alert to readers that the former high flying ministry is in free fall. TM continues to break commitments and is going deeper into debt to various groups, some of whom are suing.
Top Ten Charities in trouble; note that TM is #5.
I am not sure why anyone would want to be involved with TM after seeing this in 2011:
Part two and part three are available on You Tube.
This is required reading as well.
I don’t care how much good TM claims to do (e.g., Acquire the Fire is for the most a big pep rally for God), the mistreatment of teens that is glorified by TM in the msnbc documentary is enough to shut the whole thing down.
Despite light coming to the situation, some groups continue to stand by TM. One such group is Gateway Church and The Kings University.
TKU actually gives academic credit for TM’s Honor Academy. This should be an embarrassment for TKU.
Robert Morris endorses TM, as does K.P. Yohannan.