In my judgement, one of the biggest ways that Kip's church* differs from Jesus' church of the first century is how it deals with money.
Kip's church is, and always has been, very money-focused. Money focused as in, constantly pressure all members to give more of it to the church. There is a weekly contribution to which members are "encouraged" to give 10-plus percent of their pre-tax income. Then a separate weekly offering for the poor. Then a once-or-more-per-year "Special Contribution" where members are sent out to fund-raise amounts expected to be 10-15x of their regular weekly contribution...
In my case, just before I left the church, and for the months and years leading up to that moment, I was giving just shy of 25% of my annual income per year to the church. That's a lot of money. Now multiply that by a few thousand members in current membership.
In the first-century church that Jesus established, church leaders did receive a salary from the church, it's true. However, it was a poverty-level income that just barely allowed them to scrape by. It was the same income that was provided to other needy members of the church, such as elderly, incomeless widows.
Fast-forward to today. That's a far cry from the income and lifestyle of leaders in Kip's church. "Ministry costs," that is, salary paid to the ministers, are by far the biggest expense in Kip's churches. Rental costs for meeting locations, while often cited when leaders are rallying for more contributions, are actually a relatively tiny part of the church's budget.
Critics have long pointed out that if the goal were truly to save the world, church leaders could live easily and comfortably on half of their current salaries, and then hire twice as many full-time church staff, basically doubling their effectiveness. While I have not discussed this possibility with Kip myself, it boggles the mind to think that he could be completely oblivious to this fact.
The church does not reveal exactly how much it pays its leaders (note: that is a huge red flag in itself) but the information that they begrudgingly provide as required by law is easy enough to decipher to get a pretty good idea. They divide ministry compensation up into categories so that the salary column looks as small as possible. Housing (called parsonage), expenses, health care, and misc, and maybe other columns that I am forgetting at the moment, are all separated out. But if you add them all together, and then divide that sum by the number of paid ministers, you start getting close. You should also keep in mind that higher-ranking ministers earn a but more than lower-ranking ministers.
By this method, I can responsibly estimate that Kip and Elena McKean together cost the church somewhere between $150,000 and $200,000 per year.
Which, for business leaders, would not be unreasonable.
And yet for the church Jesus established, completely, utterly out of line. But, as I explained earlier, Kip's church is a business before all else. Kip wants to set up a religious franchise, and of course the guy at the top of any successful franchise is always handsomely rewarded. Church publications have repeated many times the comparison of the church to Starbucks and other chain businesses.
Church representatives have used the argument that the leaders have high expenses, as Los Angeles is one of the most expensive cities to live in the US. This is true. But let me add a splash of reality to those assertions.
However as supposedly the one true church of Jesus Christ in modern day, that salary is easily four or five times larger than it reasonably should be.
While living in Los Angeles and attending the church, I managed to get by just fine while earning less than $40k a year, giving close to 25% of my income to the church, paying down thousands in student loans and saving up other thousands in my rainy day fund. (All without a penny of assistance from government, family, friends, or anyone else.)
So maybe you can understand why it's hard for me to understand why the church should relentlessly fundraise just to pay its leaders up to FIVE TIMES that amount for a household of half as many people (McKeans' two people to my four).
Maybe you can help me understand?