Relying on court documents and sources from Bob Larson Ministries (BLM), the World article by Jay Grelen and Doug LeBlanc paint a picture of a high-living man who is concerned with donations, not with helping hurting people.
Much of World's financial information about Larson came from records filed during his 1991 divorce from Kathryn, his wife of 23 years. An affidavit of his financial affairs filed with the court showed that Larson reported $403,310 in income for 1990.
The court records also showed that Larson donates $1,339 per month to charities -- roughly four percent of his reported income.
At the time of the divorce, the Larsons owned five pieces of real estate worth $539,200, plus $4,000 worth of porcelain, $13,000 in ivory, $8,000 in crystal and china, nearly $8,000 in carvings, $6,575 in jewelry, $3,000 in paintings, more than $4,000 in rugs, and $8,000 in taxidermy.
At the time of the divorce, the marital assets of the Larsons' were valued at $1.4 million.
In 1991, Bob Larson Ministries provided its namesake an expense account of $76,300 -- an amount World notes is more than Billy Graham's salary.
Even more troubling than Larson's personal wealth are former employee's tales of the obsession with finances in the ministry.
World spoke with Charlene Erickson, who worked in BLM's donor services before resigning last August. She said that callers who dialed the ministry's toll-free "Communicator Club" line were told to call the "Compassion Connection's Hope Line," a toll-call to a line that is open only 20 hours a week. "We weren't allowed to talk to them, because it was an 800 line," she said. "We would be reprimanded if we were caught counseling. It cost the ministry money."
Erickson and other former operators told World that on more than one occasion, supervisors who felt an operator was taking too long with a call would insist that the ministry employee hang up on the distraught caller. "I hated that part of the job, hanging up on someone who was suicidal," Erickson said.
A former BLM employee said the ministry had made an "art form" out of raising money. A computer screen keeps Larson up-to-date on donation while he's on the air, and on slow days Larson instructs operators to contact income-generating victims from previous shows. More than once, according to World, Larson then told his audience that God prompted the person to call.
World also reported that Larson lied about giving up the "medical profession to enter the ministry" -- according to Larson's college records he dropped out after about two years, and never enrolled in medical school.
Larson refused to be interviewed by World for their article. But a statement he released said he was the victim of "an incredibly vicious attack" directed by a local atheist. Larson called World's investigation "a vicious article quoting disgruntled and discharged ex-employees who have invented stories and lies."
Larson added, "Their false allegations are so numerous and ridiculous they do not warrant a serious response."
NChristians Criticizing Christians: Can It Be Biblical?@ NBy Bob and Gretchen Passantino@
Mike Warnke, whose lucractive career careened through four marriages and more than one affair, says God will judge "Cornerstone" magazine for printing a report disproving his ex-satanic high priest "testimony" and exposing his moral lapses.
Healing movement televangelist Benny Hinn says that god will attack CRI president Hank Hanegraaff and his family because he criticizes Hinn and his Faith movement colleagues.
Lauren Stratford's supporters charge Bob and Gretchen Passantino as agents of Satan because we published evidence that Stratford's best-selling testimony of satanic ritual abuse was false.
When it comes to Christian criticizing Christians, the battle lines are drawn. But are the lines biblical? It is wrong to publicly evaluate the teachings of a Christian pastor, expose the immorality of a Christian leaders, or tell the truth about a popular Christian media figure?
Evangelicals warn people about the false teachings and practices of the cults, which claim compatibility with Christianity and yet deny cardinal Christian doctrine. Our standard is truth and our judge is Scripture. Yet when apologists turn to false teachings within the Christian church, some evangelicals apply a different standard. Frequently heard objections include, "Jesus said it's wrong to judge," and "Criticism is unloving and divisive."
Christians who voice these protests fail their own test - they criticize and judge other Christians for criticizing and judging other Christians. Furthermore, these critics fail to understand that without such scrutiny, Christians are misled into heresy and duped by those whose public ministries promote false teachings and/or hide private immoral behavior. Careful, biblical criticism expressed true Christians love and affords essential safeguards to faith.
Good discernment and moral accountability should be practiced among believers. The Old Testament established this pattern. Instructions concerning false prophets in Deuteronomy 13:1-5 assume the prophet arises from the congregation of Israel. People are admonished to banish idolatry from their families: "If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend..." (v.6). Deuteronomy 13 instructs the Israelites how to practice good discernment within their communities: "You must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly." If the community is idolatrous, it must be dealt with publicly (v.14). Psalm 50:18 states that one who sees a crime and doesn't report it has moral culpability.
The New Testament continues the theme of good discernment within the believing community, most notably when the Bereans test Paul's teachings (Acts 17:11) and the Thessalonians are commanded to test all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). Judgment is not excluded, but unrighteous judgment is. Jesus declared, "Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment." (John 7:24).
Jesus expelled the money changers from the temple, denounced the Pharisees and scribes, and rebuked the teachers of the law. He reprimanded Peter in front of the other disciples (Matthew 16:22-23). Paul followed Jesus' example, naming false teachers in the church (2 Timothy 2:14-19) and openly criticizing Peter (Galatians 2:11,14).
When immorality occurs in the church (Titus 1:15-16), the Bible says to deal with it truthfully and constructively. The procedure for public leaders caught in false teaching or immorality is for them to be rebuked publicly "so that the others may take warning" (1 Timothy 5:20). A congregation member who sins privately against another Christian is not to be exposed publicly unless he (or she) persists in sin, in which case he is to be rebuked before the church and we are to "treat him as you would a pagan or tax collector" (Matthew 18:15-17). Paul followed this procedure concerning the Christian who persisted in sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 5:3-12), and affirmed that judgment belongs to the church.
Christian leaders are accountable to God's people, whom the leaders serve, and should be "above reproach," "respectable," and "able to teach" (1 Timothy 3:2). A Christia [file truncated]