(Series: "Christian Greed")

HOT TOPICS for (TV shows, Internet shows, etc.). These topics are the passion of Bernie Dehler. Please comment and let us know your opinion on these short articles.

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Bernie Dehler is the Executive Director of To learn more about Bernie and the ministry, click here.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Greed: Case Study in Good: NW Medical Teams

by Bernie Dehler

Philippians 3:17-18 (Apostle Paul writing:)
Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.

Summary: NW Medical Teams is a role-model for other Christian ministries in two ways: serving others as our Lord taught us, and financial accountability as a nonprofit corporation.

Paul was an example worth following. Look at how he lived his life. But who can we observe as a role-model for Christian nonprofit corporations/ministries? I think I found one: NW Medical Teams.

Personally, I'm motivated to preach and defend the Gospel (I'm an "apologist" at heart), so I have a tendency to do what looks like "arguing" to some people. I've often thought, is this what God wants me to do? On a mission trip with Compassion International, I had an epiphany: more important than talking, our Lord wants us to do good works. This came as a result of also reflecting on Matt. 5:14-16, where Jesus told us to let our light shine, doing our good works among men so that they may praise our Father in heaven. While I still feel compelled to do the work of an Evangelist or Apologist, I also want to be involved with the "hands-on doing good works in the name of God" stuff.

This is where NW Medical Teams comes in. That's exactly what they do, according to their published mission:

"Northwest Medical Teams is a non-profit, humanitarian aid relief/development organization whose mission is to demonstrate the love of Christ to people affected by disaster, conflict and poverty. We do this by sending volunteer response teams, distributing humanitarian aid and by providing community development. "

It sounds to me like the famous words from Francis of Assisi: " "Preach the Gospel at all times, and use words if necessary."

When it comes to executive compensation, this organization really looks like a role-model. I've stated elsewhere that I think a top salary should be about $150K. This organization pays under that, around $119K for the top. This is very good news. (I would have guessed it would be much more because this organization deals with medical professionals who are usually highly paid.)

I have never donated to NW Medical Teams. After conducting these reviews, I plan on dropping some of the ministries I have supported and pick up them up. I don't know everything about this organization, but from what I've seen, they are going real good, even obeying the Scripture command to be "beyond reproach" (1 Tim. 3:2). I have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot more of this organization, as it grows in prosperity due to it's righteous approach in serving "the least of these" (Matt. 25:40) and being accountable to the public.

Note: I have no relationship with NW Medical Teams at all. No one paid me to say this, or even knows that I'm writing this. Most of my knowledge of them comes from word-of-mouth from others who have worked with them (regarding their good works), and from their form 990 tax return.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Greed: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

By Bernie Dehler
Matthew 25:21 (Jesus Talking)
"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'"
The Bible is clear that we are to be good stewards of our resources (time, treasure, and talent). In a parable (Mt. 25:14-30), our Lord Jesus taught us about how God has given each of us various degrees of resources. We will be held accountable for what we do with them.

Regarding our money, we have choices to spend it on pleasure, profit, or for the Kingdom of God. If we spend it for the purpose of Kingdom building, then we also have the responsibility to know that the organization that we are supporting is living up to its mission, and is behaving responsibly. It turns out that nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporations are required by law to make their form 990 tax returns available to the public (however, Churches, denominations, and religious orders are exempt from filing a tax return).

I looked into a few that claim to be Christian Ministries. In my opinion, here is a summary of some of the "good, the bad, and the ugly." For this article, I will be looking just at the aspect of executive compensation, as this in itself may be a reason to disqualify some "ministries." I will also be mentioning only some of the larger well-know organizations.

The best place to find the tax returns for any nonprofit is at, if you know the nonprofit name exactly or have their Federal EIN number. This is a free service.


First the Good. These are a pleasure to report. I would like to offer three. Click on their name to view their actual form 990 tax return.
-- Focus on the Family. Various Christian topics and Christian education. Dr. Dobson receives $0 in salary (evidently, he lives off of the royalties of many of his books). He is the Chairman of the Board and works full-time for the ministry.
-- NW Medical Teams. Doing good works (especially medical assistance) in the name of Christ. A great role-model for very reasonable executive salaries. I think this is the best role-model I've seen from the very large nonprofit Christian organizations.
-- Compassion International. Relieving children that live in poverty. They even post their form 990 tax return on their website.


This is disappointing for me to report. These ministries do great work, but the executives seem to take advantage of their organization by getting paid too much.
-- BGEA (Billy Graham, $445K per year)
-- Samaritan's Purse ( Franklin Graham, $358K per year)
-- Christian Research Institute (Hank Hanegraaff $280K per year, not including unknown (very large) income from royalties paid directly to him from ministry-produced and ministry-advertised materials. His wife, Kathy, also is the 3rd highest paid emploiyee, at $130K, which is twice as much as their seminary-educated staff members.)


While the BAD get too much in executive pay, the following ones are outrageous.
-- Global Evangelism Television (John Hagee, $900K per year; that's $430 per hour!)
-- Trinity broadcasting Network (TBN- Paul ($403K) & Jan ($361K) Crouch)
-- World Church (Benny Hinn). His pay is unknown since he is employed by a "church," but estimates range from $500-$1 million per year (story). Personally I think it's a scandal for his operation to be organized as a "church." I think it should be regarded as a parachurch organization (not church) since his contributors don't "attend" his church (if he were a parachurch organization, he would be required by law to report his form 990 tax return).


It's good to find out as much information as possible about the ministries that you support with your time, treasure, and talent. Most likely, what you will find will both disgust and encourage you. The end result is knowing the ministries, that you partner with, better. By checking, you will encourage these ministries to be more accountable for their actions. Gone are the days when you could just "trust" those who claimed to be working for God (if those days ever existed).

For a parting positive note: the more I look at these tax returns, the more I am impressed with NW Medical Teams (mentioned above). They really stand out as a beautiful role-model, financially and in their work of serving others:

Matthew 5:16 (Jesus Talking)
In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.