Thinkin’ Out Loud: Of Buzzards, Dead Flesh, Condominiums, Shysters And Other Things

By Lewis Willis

On Monday 2/7/83, Jim Bakker told a PTL studio audience at Heritage U.S.A. that he would not respond to reports currently circulating about his ministry. He said, “We can choose to accent the positive or we can choose to live like buzzards on dead flesh.” Jim, what occasions such colorful and dramatic eloquence? The answer is, Jim is in trouble again. In fact, it seems that most of the television evangelists are in trouble. Their absurd fund-raising schemes are getting considerable media coverage. The press is beginning to unmask these religious “Supermen” and folks are really going to be surprised when the real character of these unscrupulous con men is exposed. I seldom agree with the national press corporation but I applaud their efforts in this area and I would like to help them in the accomplishment of their mission as much as I can.

Why does Bakker want to accent the positive instead of living like a buzzard on dead flesh? The Akron Beacon Journal, 2/10/83, reported that the PTL Club has spent more than $440,000 (almost half a million dollars) since last October to gratify the materialistic whims of Bakker and his family. All of these expenditures occurred amid reports of a financial crisis at his ministry. On August 18, 1982, “Bakker took more than 5 minutes of air time to read a list of PTL’s overdue accounts.” With the sympathies of his audience sufficiently aroused, he made another of his daily appeals, begging his audience to send money.

According to the article, only 10 weeks prior to this, a PTL employee purchased a $375,000 oceanfront condominium “primarily for use by PTL president Jim Bakker, his wife, Tammy, and their two children.” The Highland Beach, Florida condo was purchased so the Bakker’s could “have a place in Florida where they could go and rest for a while. They go down there to get away from the hustle and bustle.” Millions of dollars have been spent to create “the hustle and bustle” from which they must now get away. What is another $375,000 of his listeners’ money to him anyway? Of course, I wonder what is wrong with the Holiday Inn? Four people could stay at a motel a bunch of nights for $375,000. Of course, the Holiday Inn won’t have $22,000 worth of floor-to-ceiling mirrors in the living room, dining room, master bedroom and hallways. Nor will the motel have an $8,000 parking place for his use! His new condo has both!

But that is not all! Bakker’s insatiable appetite for worldly things was not yet satisfied. PTL ordered $27,000 worth of equipment for Jim and Tammy to have new dressing rooms at Heritage U.S.A. “The adjoining dressing rooms, are to have 24-karat gold-plated plumbing fixtures . . . . The rooms are to feature an $11,678 sauna.” (Attention Brown Street Elders: Get with the program, fellas, and take care of the local preacher like you ought to be taking care of him.)

Bakker was still not satisfied! He wanted more. So, he and 10 others toured Europe and Israel at PTL expense. They flew from New York to London by Concord jet at a cost of $1,906 per person. He stayed in the presidential suite of Jerusalem’s King David Hotel where Anwar Sadat stayed during his peace mission to Israel. The cost: only $530 a night!

A representative of Mass Glass which installed the mirrors in the condominium, said Bakker’s agent “spent as if money were no object.” Even so, Bakker said, “We intend to be good stewards with God’s money.” Jim, the word is “spenders,” not “stewards.” I understand why he wants to “accent the positive.” Indeed, “live like buzzards on dead flesh”? Yes, sir, someone’s living like a “buzzard,” and he’s on the air in 200 major U.S. markets, plucking his listening audience out of millions of dollars, a good portion of which is being used to enable that “buzzard” to live like a king.

On Another Front

Meanwhile, television fans, did you hear what has happened on the south-40 where Rex Humbard does his number on his audience? This local dignitary continues to have his financial problems and his trouble with the press. On Tuesday, 2/8/83, The Akron Beacon Journal gave a financial update on Rex and his boys. The Humbard ministry “has had on-and-off financial woes for more than 10 years.” In 1972 an Ohio court ruled that his foundation illegally sold $12.5 million in securities. This debt was repaid by donations from his followers, “flowing in at the weekly rate of $160,000.” In 1979 he reported his ministry was $3.2 million in debt. His followers responded with $4 million. In a 1979 sermon, he said, “I’m facing a financial lion – bills that are trying to devour this ministry. Like Daniel, I need a miracle of deliverance. I don’t have the money to pay these bills.” Before concern and depression overcome you, “property records” indicate that “less than a year later” ole Rex bought him a $290,000 house and his son Donald purchased a $190,000 house. Poor guys! The BJ reports that since that time “the Humbard ministry has amassed another $2 million in debts.” However, “in that time, he and Rex Jr. have bought an additional $800,000 in property, county property records show.” Rex’s $290,000 house wasn’t good enough, so he went out and bought him a $450,000 house. He kept Rex Jr. in subjection, allowing him to purchase a new house, but only at a cost of $350,000. Poor kid! The article summarizes these materialistic exploits, saying, “While Humbard’s Worldwide Outreach Ministry has solicited money from the public. to solve financial problems, Humbard and his two sons, Rex Jr., 39, and Donald, 35, have purchased $1.4 million in property in the exclusive Quail Ridge Country Club community, Palm Beach County property records show.”

How do three men accumulate such a fortune? Humbard said he used his salary to purchase real estate from which he drew a profit, “leveraging our investments whenever the market permits.” He said, “If a person is able to go out and use the brains God gave him to make more money from his salary and live in a better place, I say that’s great.” To indicate what a nice guy he is, the salaries of the family “are determined through FPC&C, a Chicago consultant firm.” Apparently, the intent in using a consulting firm to set salaries is to elimination opposition. However, there is one similarity between Humbard’s ministry and the consulting firm – they both are spending somebody else’s money. And, they are g-e-n-e-r-o-u-s! If you don’t believe me, ask the city of Cleveland what they think of the number the consultants did on that city regarding their school system. The only undetermined factor here is just how large a salary do these men draw? “The Humbard’s would not reveal their salaries.” I can understand that. If in 10 years I had drawn enough salary to amass $1.4 million in property, I think I’d try to keep the amount of my salary secret as well. Just accent the positive and refuse “to live like buzzards on dead flesh.” Just keep begging and crying to your listening audience and stick it to `em! The dummies won’t know and Rex ain’t tellin’.

Don’t Forget Oral!

Meanwhile, out West, in the blue Oklahoma television sky, called the City of Faith, Oral Roberts continues to draw his much deserved attention. From all over the country, newspapers continue to report his “conversation” with God. You know the one I mean – the one where God has selected him to find a cure for cancer and told him to collect $240 from every gullible listener who believes his lie. The following cartoon by Bob Taylor of the Dallas Times Herald, appeared in the Dover, Ohio Times, 1/30/83. Obviously, as long as the Lord has friends like Oral Roberts, He doesn’t need any enemies.

I wrote to Oral, 1/25/83, calling his attention to the fact that there was a lot of skepticism about whether he had actually talked with God. I suggested that since he was building 110 floors of technical facilities, that he should submit himself to a technical test – a lie-detector test which would establish, beyond all dispute, that he was telling the truth. He honored me with the following personal letter. Please note his observance of the passover regarding that suggestion.

Dear Brother Willis,

I appreciate your writing and sharing your concerns with me concerning the publicity we have recently received.

Brother Willis, opposition is nothing new to us. We’ve had it throughout our whole ministry. And I have learned long ago God does not want me to strike back. I have always tried to keep my mind totally on the tasks God gives me to do. And I cannot do that if I involve myself in debates and denials about the negative publicity we receive.

I believe the work we do speaks for itself, Brother Willis, and must trust the Holy Spirit to show people what is and is not true. I further believe the work of this ministry will continue beyond my lifetime – and yours. I believe it will stretch into every generation to come. And by that time, any words written or spoken against us today will have no influence. Indeed, they will have no remembrance.

We are what we are in God and no distorted publication or media report can change it. Yes, we are human, but God knows our record and “no weapon formed against us will prosper” (Isaiah 54:17). We have that assurance.

Do keep us in your prayers. Satan is throwing everything against us he can find. And I believe its because he knows that God is getting ready to do something for the healing of mankind through ORU and the City of Faith that he must try anything to stop it. And if it were not for God, he could. But we are doing what God has commanded us to do so we just have to pray, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Thank you again for your concern and for taking the time to write. May God richly bless your life.


(Signed) Oral Roberts

This wonderful “servant of God” continues to be assaulted by Satan. However, his noble spirit enables him to lovingly respond, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” I wonder who he really thinks he’s kidding! In a letter to the editor (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 1/24/83), a reader, Jennie Shantery, observed about Roberts’ latest fund-raiser, “be realistic – Roberts is also a businessman.” To which I add, A-M-E-N!

Now Let’s Hear From The Great Jerry Falwell!!

Falwell was interviewed on The Cable News Network program, TAKE TWO, 1/31/83. Remember, he is the fellow who fleeced his listeners out of $19 million recently. Interestingly, he was asked what he thought of the so-called faith healers on T.V. He responded, “Some of them, such as Ernest Angely and others are shysters.” That’s about as close to “the pot calling the kettle black” as I have ever seen. Falwell thinks Angely and the others are shysters. They probably think Falwell is a shyster. In the great “Who Is A Shyster Debate?” I uncharacteristically, agree with both sides.


The unrestrained greed of these men is bad enough. And, when one considers they are all false teachers, it gets even worse. The Name and Cause of the Lord is submitted to great ridicule by these imposters. The harm is immeasurable. Paul said concerning such: “Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake” (Tit. 1:11). I will go to great lengths in speaking in opposition to such men. The world must know that the Brown Street Church finds them as abhorrent as it does.

Guardian of Truth XXVII: 10, pp. 298-300
May 19, 1983