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Old 05-29-2017, 06:30 PM   #1
JS
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Default Blatant contradictions

Hi,

I'm in the process of registering an account on the forum, but just couldn't wait to get a couple of things off my chest.

One thing that annoys me the most about the LC is how their words and actions are often blatantly contradictory. Just to give a few examples:

- they say they are all independent non-denominational local churches, and yet their entire service is based on a book full of bullet points written by Witness Lee, professionally published, and sent out to all the LCs around the world by what is effectively their mother church in Anaheim; and many of the more senior saints attend upwards of 4-5 international gatherings every single year

- the Coworkers preach all the time about how theological disagreements among brothers don't really matter and we should all be tolerant of each other's beliefs, and yet if you dare to question the all-mighty Prophets Nee and Lee you're basically dismissed as a heretic

- they preach that all those who profess a belief in Jesus Christ and the Triune God are genuinely our brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of how they pray or where they meet, and yet at the same time, if they don't attend the LC and buy into LSM's teachings they're considered to be living in sin


I'm actually curious, if someone who was in the Recovery longer could tell me, where do they get all their money from? Usually something that screams "cult" to me is when an organization demands excessive amounts of money from their members, but I've never seen this to be the case with the LC, which is one of the reasons I stuck with it for a while despite some reservations. They of course collect offerings like any other Christian group, but their collection boxes are quite discrete, they never make a big deal out of it, and one brother explained to me they make a point of letting people give anonymously and discretely so nobody feels compelled to give more than they can afford. I guess they make some money from book sales, but the prices mostly seem pretty reasonable, considering the relatively small scale of the print runs, they can't be making a fortune off book sales. And when they do charge for a training or something, it doesn't seem like it would be nearly enough to cover all the expenses. And yet somehow they have enough money to put on elaborate international conferences every year with no cost to enter, they fly their Coworkers from Anaheim all over the world, and they build multi-million dollar buildings to house their LCs. One brother recently explained to me that LSM had split out its real estate branch into a separate corporation to shield LSM from liability related to construction. I assume some of the people they call "coworkers", "elders", "responsible ones" or "serving ones" who serve in a LC full-time are also being compensated by LSM somehow? I just don't get how they can do it.


Sorry this turned into a bit of a rant :P

I've been reading your forum with great interest, very comforting I'm not the only one to ave gone through such an experience
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Old 05-30-2017, 09:45 AM   #2
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Default Re: Blatant contradictions

FYI I'm the one who posted as "JS" last night, my account is now active.

Sorry if what I posted sounded more like complaining than constructive criticism.
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Old 05-30-2017, 10:31 AM   #3
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I'm actually curious, if someone who was in the Recovery longer could tell me, where do they get all their money from?
Welcome to the forum Jake!

You are right about the numerous inconsistencies which exist. They have long troubled the rest of us too.

Much of LSM's money comes from member donations and training fees. You may have heard about a disastrous and illegal business failure called Daystar Motor Homes back in the 70's. In order to recover from their debts, LSM began to charge their members for their teachings, both live and by video. This greedy practice has continued for over 40 years. And let's make it clear that this fee is not a voluntary "donation" even though they may call it that.

Here is yet another blatant inconsistency for you. How can LSM continue to condemn all other ministries, often accusing them related to money, yet none of their accused charge money for their teachings.
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Old 05-30-2017, 04:47 PM   #4
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Default Re: Blatant contradictions

Jake,

The Living Stream d/b/a Living Stream Ministry is a non-profit organization, Tax Exempt Status 501(c)(3) which is required to file a Form 990 reporting its financial dealings to the IRS. Go to guidestar.org and create an account. Search for Living Stream. You will find the latest Form 990 for 2015 (also a few prior years.) It's a 57 page doc. I didn't want to post it as an attachment here when it's pretty easy to look at on guidestar.org. It's very interesting. There is a summary on page 1 that will tell you where the $15+ million in revenue for 2015 came from. Not in detail, but an interesting high level breakdown of revenue. At year-end 2015 net assets totaled $88+ million.

I'm pointing you to the LSM because there is a difference between the Local Churches and the Living Stream Ministry. Long story short, the Local Churches have become virtual franchises of the LSM. Of course, they don't call them that. The Local Churches, at one time, were forced to purchase a standing order of books from the LSM to maintain their "franchise" status. That probably hasn't changed and if so would represent a continuing steady income source. Much of what follows is anecdotal from my memory. There are various threads on this forum which give you more details on all the questionable dealings of the LSM, et al.

Ohio may have more information on this, but there are a number of churches who could not afford to purchase property for meeting halls. The LSM purchased property for these "localities" and it would be reasonable to assume that the LSM is also a "landlord" for these properties collecting rent. I don't know if it's a "lease-purchase" or not.

Anaheim may be the "mother ship" but the LSM is in control.

In the '70's there were several wealthy doctors in California who were contributors. I believe these doctors were also brothers. I stayed in one of their homes during a ten-day "conference" a long time ago. No idea how many wealthy contributors exist.

Witness Lee's ministry belongs to him as his personal ministry, now his estate. The LSM is the family business. His two sons, now deceased, were heirs, and it is unknown to me who surviving heirs are and who legally runs the family business. The Form 990 has Benson Phillips in that position. Again, nothing to do with the Local Churches, except as noted above.

At one time WL secured a loan from the Church in Boston, a non-profit, under the leadership of Sal Benoit. This money found its way into the pockets of various foreign unincorporated "Christian" organizations, at least one of which was actually Lee and Samuel Chang (deceased) and maybe a couple more men doing business as these religious organizations and funneling money around. Eventually this money ended up in the aforementioned Daystar Motorhome business. Daystar was a "for profit" business. Somewhere on this forum is a link to a tape of a telephone conversation wherein Sal Benoit called Witness Lee and confronted him about this and it's alleged illegality. Smacks of money laundering and non-profit funding for-profit corporations. Lee eventually hung up on Sal, telling him it was none of his business. Since Sal had signed the original loan documents as CEO of The Church in Boston, it was indeed Sal's business. The loan was repaid. The whole thing is at least ethically questionable and possibly illegal.

Since the LSM is a non-profit, there are regulations which must be followed to maintain its non-profit status, including the required filing of Form 990.

So where does their money come from? Good question.
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Old 05-30-2017, 05:21 PM   #5
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Default Re: Blatant contradictions

I can't recall being excessively charged for anything in the local church.

Yes, pay for trainings, but they are optional, and there is always two or three free sessions open to everyone, and you get a good overview of everything then anyway. The cost is not exorbitant.

Other ways of getting money include saving money, volunteering, use of private resources where possible. For example, private homes used for meetings or meeting halls in affordable locations. A DIY attitude to most things.
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Old 05-30-2017, 07:02 PM   #6
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Default Re: Blatant contradictions

Nell, that's an interesting document, I notice several of the salaried officers were speakers at the memorial day conference.
Their highest-compensated contractor is Hiram Builders, which aligns with what a brother from Anaheim told me with regards to shielding LSM from liabilities.
Their high revenue from rent would seem to confirm the theory that they own some of the properties used by LCs...


Evangelical, yes, that's why I was confused about how they can put on such elaborate free conferences. Their book prices are all below what I'd expect to pay or such products, considering they pretty much have a monopoly on Lee and Nee publications, they could be charging much more if they wanted to.
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Old 05-30-2017, 11:09 PM   #7
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Nell, that's an interesting document, I notice several of the salaried officers were speakers at the memorial day conference.
Their highest-compensated contractor is Hiram Builders, which aligns with what a brother from Anaheim told me with regards to shielding LSM from liabilities.
Their high revenue from rent would seem to confirm the theory that they own some of the properties used by LCs...


Evangelical, yes, that's why I was confused about how they can put on such elaborate free conferences. Their book prices are all below what I'd expect to pay or such products, considering they pretty much have a monopoly on Lee and Nee publications, they could be charging much more if they wanted to.
When I think about it, $5 (approximately) for an 8 week devotional, every 8 weeks, multiplied by 1 million adherents worldwide, would bring in a hefty sum.
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Old 05-31-2017, 03:38 AM   #8
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When I think about it, $5 (approximately) for an 8 week devotional, every 8 weeks, multiplied by 1 million adherents worldwide, would bring in a hefty sum.
It took considerable and corrupt efforts over many years to convince all these adherents that they could not exist without your crummy devotionals.
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Old 05-31-2017, 07:04 AM   #9
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Default Re: Blatant contradictions

I've attended churches before which I would genuinely call non-denominational, and they are nothing like what goes on at the LCs. Generally services take place in someone's home, a community center or local school, or perhaps on a Sunday afternoon in space rented from a denominational church. They are totally independent from any kind of larger organization, and while they may sometimes hold joint events with other groups, or attend conferences, these are totally ad hoc relationships, not mediated by any larger organization.

At non-denominational churches, the only book used during services is the Bible, and usually it's a motley collection of worn-out Bibles in a variety of different translations, music usually comes printed off from the internet or displayed on a projector, or is even original music written or improvised by members, and prayers are said in the congregants' own words. There are certainly no standardized devotionals, hymnals, or specialized biblical translations, nor formulaic prayers based on outlines and "life studies".

LSM may claim they are just a publisher, but the proof is in the pudding: all the conferences are orchestrated either entirely by LSM or as a joint venture between LSM and a LC, LSM sets up a bookstore on the premises, they invite donations to defray their expenses, most of the speakers are on their payroll, and the LSM logo is featured prominently.
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Old 05-31-2017, 09:00 AM   #10
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Nell, that's an interesting document, I notice several of the salaried officers were speakers at the memorial day conference.
Their highest-compensated contractor is Hiram Builders, which aligns with what a brother from Anaheim told me with regards to shielding LSM from liabilities.
Their high revenue from rent would seem to confirm the theory that they own some of the properties used by LCs...

Evangelical, yes, that's why I was confused about how they can put on such elaborate free conferences. Their book prices are all below what I'd expect to pay or such products, considering they pretty much have a monopoly on Lee and Nee publications, they could be charging much more if they wanted to.
Also note, some of the publications being sold today are not the same as the ones I purchased as a first edition. For example, Elders Training #9 was edited from its original form which I owned. Years later, I cited a reference from ET#9 and was surprised to learn that there were two editions. The second one was significantly "toned down" from the one I owned, to the extent that my reference had been removed from the 2nd edition.

The LSM retranslated several books which were originally published by another publishing house. One such book I owned: "In 1972, Christian Literature Crusade published Spiritual Authority, based on messages given by Watchman Nee. In the front matter is this quote: "The contents of this volume comprise a series of messages which were delivered in Chinese by the author during a training period for workers held in Kuling Foochow, China, in 1948, and are now translated from the edited notes taken by some who attended that training." In 1988, the Living Stream Ministry published Authority and Submission from the same messages. By the titles of these two books, the differences in emphasis can be seen." In fact, the messages left out of Authority and Submission were as follows: The Character of Delegated Authorities, The Misuse of Authority and God's governmental Discipline, Delegated Authorities Must Be Under Authority, etc. (p. 350, The Thread of Gold, Jane Carole Anderson.)

So the purpose could be two-fold: selling more books that you already own, and reshaping the message of Watchman Nee, bringing his message out of balance related to the "authority" and the responsibility of the "authority."

So once again, a "new book" to purchase which you likely already owned. These are two books which I personally owned that were redone for public consumption which reshaped the message of the LSM...after the death of Witness Lee. Another revenue source. How many other examples exist? How many LSM publications were released again for purchase as "new and improved?"

Not only that, did Witness Lee approve these edited versions of his "ministry?" Is changing someone's books after their death, without author's approval, ethical? We KNOW Watchman Nee didn't approve the reshaping of Spiritual Authority implying that "Delegated Authorities" had no responsibility to maintain spiritual purity as precondition to act as God's representative, i.e., Moses' when he disobeyed God by striking the rock instead of speaking as God commanded him.

Another matter is the the multitude of lawsuits brought by the LSM. It's unknown how much money, if any, was actually collected in settlements, but that is a possible revenue source.
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Old 05-31-2017, 09:52 AM   #11
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Another matter is the the multitude of lawsuits brought by the LSM. It's unknown how much money, if any, was actually collected in settlements, but that is a possible revenue source.
I'm sure this has been noted on the forum before, but according to 1 Cor. 6, the right thing to do when a disagreement arises between believers, is to resolve it amongst each other, never to take it to the courts. As vs. 7 says, it is actually preferable to simply live with having been wronged and without compensation, rather than seek restitution from your brother through a secular court system.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 1 Cor. 6:1-8
"When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!"
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Old 05-31-2017, 11:24 AM   #12
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I'm sure this has been noted on the forum before, but according to 1 Cor. 6, the right thing to do when a disagreement arises between believers, is to resolve it amongst each other, never to take it to the courts. As vs. 7 says, it is actually preferable to simply live with having been wronged and without compensation, rather than seek restitution from your brother through a secular court system.
They sidestep this plain instruction with their claims to "appeal to Caesar" as Paul did in Acts 25.11.

They have become one of the most litigious sects around.
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Old 05-31-2017, 11:31 AM   #13
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I'm sure this has been noted on the forum before, but according to 1 Cor. 6, the right thing to do when a disagreement arises between believers, is to resolve it amongst each other, never to take it to the courts. As vs. 7 says, it is actually preferable to simply live with having been wronged and without compensation, rather than seek restitution from your brother through a secular court system.
You are correct and correct. Taking your brother to court is sin. Of course, the LSM excuse was when Paul appealed to Caesar in Acts. However, Paul didn't file a lawsuit for money.

It seems the pattern for the LSM is that the commands in the Bible don't apply to them and down at the bottom of the pile is greed.

So let's summarize their possible past and present revenue sources (in no particular priority):
1. Book sales
2. Franchise fees (mandatory book sales?)
3. Repackaging existing books for secondary market sales and reshaping Lee and Nee's "minitries".
4. Training fees (do the churches who send someone to the FTT pay the expenses of the trainee?)
5. Rent and/or lease from the Churches
6. Salaries of staff/workers (hirelings?)
7. For-profit business affiliations (Daystar, tennis rackets, Balanced Way vitamins)
8. Lawsuit revenue, if any.
9. Corporate sponsorships (wealthy contributors)
10. Tithes and offerings.

What else? Of course this is based on observations and historical observation.

Someone else may have more information.
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Old 05-31-2017, 11:43 AM   #14
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LSM's main source of revenue is rent from commercial tenants (including a couple of for-profit colleges) at its "Anaheim Palms Corporate Center" property, the $32,000,000 cost of which was paid for by donations. The same goes for the Taiwan Gospel Bookroom, which leases out the majority of its Hsin-Ji Building skyscraper in Taipei to Citibank.
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Old 05-31-2017, 11:47 AM   #15
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Witness Lee's ministry belongs to him as his personal ministry, now his estate. The LSM is the family business. His two sons, now deceased, were heirs, and it is unknown to me who surviving heirs are and who legally runs the family business.
My thoughts exactly Nell. A family business operating as a non-profit. Although Philip Lin in Sacrifice and Sail On has a different spin on it.
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Old 05-31-2017, 12:00 PM   #16
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LSM's main source of revenue is rent from commercial tenants (including a couple of for-profit colleges) at its "Anaheim Palms Corporate Center" property, the $32,000,000 cost of which was paid for by donations. The same goes for the Taiwan Gospel Bookroom, which leases out the majority of its Hsin-Ji Building skyscraper in Taipei to Citibank.
I remember this was the plan, announced when we were dunned repeatedly for the Taipei skyscraper and the Anaheim complex(es). Real estate would be developed, leased out, with profits going to "the gospel move", i.e. outreach and expansion of LSM/LC organisational activity.

Another thing to bear in mind, posted earlier on this forum, is that there are some deep-pocketed donors. One LSM/LC family gave $350 million to their alma mater, and the family real-estate business bought $250 million of real estate around the same university, and members of the family were reportedly quite active with on-campus recruiting there. So the assumption is that they were probably paying the campus recruiters, the "full-timers serving on campus".

(And didn't Witness Lee tell us that his Asian work, pre-USA days, was supported for a decade by a single rich Philippine businessman?)

Another source of revenue is free labor. People volunteer to work in the printing department, in book distribution, in sales, and the profits per item from sales is increased. (I guess as a registered non-profit that per-item revenue over cost has a different term).
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Old 05-31-2017, 12:34 PM   #17
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You are correct and correct. Taking your brother to court is sin. Of course, the LSM excuse was when Paul appealed to Caesar in Acts. However, Paul didn't file a lawsuit for money.
That's exactly right.

Paul appealed to Caesar in criminal court.

All of LSM's lawsuits, however, were in civil court.

Huge difference, which all loyalists are conveniently overlooking.
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Old 05-31-2017, 01:32 PM   #18
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They sidestep this plain instruction with their claims to "appeal to Caesar" as Paul did in Acts 25.11.
What they ignore in that particular passage is that it was not the Jews that Paul was fighting. It was the Romans. They arrested him as being the center of an uprising. He appealed against that charge, not against the Jews that were otherwise so much trouble. And not against the Christian Jews which are not necessarily stated as involved in any way at all.
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Old 06-01-2017, 07:24 AM   #19
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4. Training fees (do the churches who send someone to the FTT pay the expenses of the trainee?)
It seems to vary, I've met saints who paid for everything on their own, and others who were either sponsored by a locality, or a private donor. Tuition isn't terribly expensive, but I guess if they own their own property, and they may get a lot of volunteer labor to run the place, it could still yield a profit...
Quote:
5. Rent and/or lease from the Churches
They recently sold off their Manhattan meeting hall, which must have been worth tens of millions. Not sure if it was owned by LSM, the Church in New York, or jointly.
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What else?
Their subsidiary "Hiram Builders" is interesting to look at...ostensibly it is to shield LSM from liability when building meeting halls, but they're a private company, so who knows that they could be doing.
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Old 06-01-2017, 11:50 AM   #20
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Another source of revenue is free labor. People volunteer to work in the printing department, in book distribution, in sales, and the profits per item from sales is increased. (I guess as a registered non-profit that per-item revenue over cost has a different term).
Free labor on building projects. Many brothers I know are skilled whether in carpentry or laying tile and to give labor free of charge????
Comes down to personal choice. Going back 40 years when the Ball Road building was built. Many brothers gave their skilled labor thinking it was strictly for the Church in Anaheim and not for LSM. When the Bellevue locality expanded their meeting hall in the late 90's, many nights I gave my unskilled labor. It's a matter of principle when labor is given for a church versus a Christian publishing organization.
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Old 06-05-2017, 06:06 PM   #21
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I'm actually curious, if someone who was in the Recovery longer could tell me, where do they get all their money from? Usually something that screams "cult" to me is when an organization demands excessive amounts of money from their members, but I've never seen this to be the case with the LC, which is one of the reasons I stuck with it for a while despite some reservations.
Hey Jake, I'm just registered too.

I was in the church for a decade, and am an FTT grad. The offering box is very discrete, donations are given anonymously (i.e. you do an automatic payment online or put it in the box after the meeting when no one is looking).

Sometimes however the Morning Revival book (like 'Daily Bread' but with the ministry) will go through the topic of mammon and giving. The focus is more on the giving for the sake of your heart, but still, there's like a months worth of devotional content right there telling you you need to give more. They repeat this every now and again, I went through it several times over the years.

I don't really see this as being particularly bad though. Donations are still anonymous, no one knows how much you're giving. It's between you and the Lord, like it should be. There's just a little education and encouragement to set you on the right track.
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