In the introduction to the book Faith-Based Fraud, author Warren Cole Smith, president of MinistryWatch, asks an important question: “Why do faith-based frauds continue to recur?”
Smith documents the massive increase in independent, non-denominational churches in America, the toxic spread of the prosperity gospel and a decline in financial transparency in both churches and ministries.
Smith notes that bad theology leads to corrupt behavior: “faith-based fraud is almost always predictable, and bad theology is that predictor.”
Throughout the book, Smith skillfully interweaves stories and commentary to explain how ponzi schemes operate and book authors buy their way onto The New York Times Bestseller List.
As a journalist at World Magazine, Smith investigated pastor Mark Driscoll’s use of church funds to purchase 11,000 copies of his book Real Marriage. Smith’s investigation of Todd Bentley’s alleged healings is also retold in Faith-Based Fraud.
Another story told is how the Foundation for New Era Philanthropy’s founder John Bennett fraudulently raised millions of dollars from Christian institutions by claiming anonymous donors would match their donations.
Smith interviewed Albert Meyer, the curious part-time professor at Spring Arbor College that uncovered Bennett’s fraud by asking questions. Smith writes, “And those questions amount to little more than, ‘Where did the money come from?’ and ‘Where did it go?’”
Christians should not be afraid to ask questions of religious leaders. Jesus set an example for us by questioning his disciples. After Judas arrived with the Roman soldiers to arrest the Messiah, Jesus said, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”
Faith-Based Fraud is available in paperback and Kindle digital format.
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