When Pastors Go Bad

ImageYou’ve probably read or heard about the No-tipping Pastor story by now. If not, it’s fairly simple: a pastor goes into a local Applebee’s with a large party. Because they have over eight people, an automatic 18% gratuity is added to each patron’s bill. The spendthrift pastor scratches out the automatic tip, adds “an emphatic zero” on the additional tip line, and scrawls the words, “I give God 10%; why do you get 18?” on the ticket before signing “Pastor” above her name.

The waitress borrowed the phone of co-worker Chelsea Welch, took a picture of the receipt, and posted it to Reddit. It went viral, ending up on Yahoo!’s news crawl.

I read that story yesterday, and was offended by the pastor’s behavior. It’s hard enough getting respect as a member of the clergy these days; having one of our own spit on the brand doesn’t really help.

But the story gets even worse.

Chances are you’ve heard that the offending cheapskate, Pastor Alois Bell, from Truth in the World Deliverance Ministries, compounded her stingy error by calling the Applebee’s and complaining about the receipt being posted. The manager of Applebee’s apologized to Pastor Bell for violating her right to privacy and fired Chelsea Welch.

That’s right: Chelsea, who did nothing other than loan a co-worker her phone, got sacked.

God bless America.

Today, this story is all over the internet. People are taking sides, and Bell now claims that she left a six dollar cash tip on the table. And in the link above, she says the automatic gratuity was charged to her card anyway. To add just a dash more bizarro to the story, when you Google her church, you get a link to this website, and this is all you see:


I especially like the Luke 6:38 quote right next to the picture that got Ms. Welch fired.

The site might be a fake, something put together in this cynical and ironic internet age to jab at the faux paus of the religious. That wouldn’t surprise me. Neither would it stun me for the site to be 100% authentic and utterly tone-deaf. Quite frankly, religious folks do stupid stuff like this all the time.

This story irked me, because after I read it on Yahoo! there were immediate links to it on my Facebook wall. Some were Christians lamenting the story; others were atheists asking if this was what Jesus would do. As a pastor, it just bothered me to no end that I felt on the defensive about my calling and vocation, even though no one suggested a correlation. In fact, most people just jumped on the “Christians are crappy tippers in general” bandwagon, and, after polling my Facebook friends, I had several who responded that during their time as servers, they hated Sunday shifts because the Christians who came in after church were routinely the worst tippers.

I know I have seen my fair share of the church crowd horribly mistreat servers by berating them, demanding excessive attention, and just in general being really, really hard to please. Seeing that kind of behavior often enough is what sparked my wife and I to make it a principle that, when dining out, the server gets 20% from us. Period.

And that’s 20% in money, not in Gospel tracts or special “prayer of blessings”. We actually give them money for their labor, even if it’s not the great. Because you never know why a server is having an off-night; it could be that they’re overworked, or stressed, or worried about things at home. My cousin worked as a waitress at a local Buffalo’s that we visit from time to time, and I can tell you that when you see the waitstaff as people who have lives, the fact that they don’t get the sweet tea to you within thirty-five seconds isn’t that big a deal.

Sure, I have my moments where I feel entitled. I have rolled my eyes, or let out a huffy sigh of displeasure at the fact that my chicken sandwich, meticulously ordered with medium buffalo sauce, no lettuce, no tomato, no mayonaise, french fries that are hot and crispy, with the bleu-cheese dressing on the side and swiss cheese added to the sandwich for a tangy contrast, came with the buffalo sauce on the side and the bleu-cheese dressing on the bun. I have my moments when I’m in the mood to be pampered, and I unfairly expect a waiter or waitress to make me temporarily feel like the Earl of Fife. I think we all do.

And I’ve certainly had instances when the service was so horrific that I dropped the tip to 15%, but that’s usually the nuclear option, reserved for instances such as when the waitperson looks at me after I ask for a refill and tells me to “quit drinking so much. I’ve got stuff to do.”

But to shaft someone on the gratuity, and then not only leave a snarky, unkind note, but sign the note with a flourished “Pastor”?

Never crossed my mind, and here’s why: I’m supposed to set an example in action and speech to the people around me (see  Timothy 4:12, 16). I don’t have to be perfect, but when I do make a mistake I have to own up to it, confess it, and model repentance. That means that I have to walk in the Spirit of Christ, with humility and accountability.

It also means I don’t call Applebee’s and complain that my error in judgment turned into an international embarrassment that I want erased, and now. I don’t get someone fired for my mistake. I take the heat, make it a point to adhere closer to the teachings of my Savior, and quietly spend the rest of my days being a blessing to those that serve me food.

Because if anyone on the planet should understand that the “worker is worth his wages” it’s a pastor (Matthew 10:10).

Believe it or not, the title pastor doesn’t automatically mean the person carrying the title is good. Bad pastors abound. And the cure for them is the same as it is for everyone else: conviction, confession, repentance.

Here’s hoping Pastor Bell keeps that in mind the next time she decides to head out for a bite.

6 thoughts on “When Pastors Go Bad

  1. I think a great reply to his question on the reciept is…okay who are you that you keep 90% of what God has given you all to yourself. If you are so Holy and righteous why do you keep so much wealth whilst others suffer.

    Idiots like this are the reason that I don’t let people call me pastor or reverend. Where is Jesus in the tone of his receipt. If Bell left six dollars cash, then why not simply write cash in the tip line, or quietly take it up with the manager instead of being a horse’s behind. Perhaps more reading of the Bible is in store instead of ripping pages out of it, for man does not live by bread alone. She should dine on ashes and repent and get this person their job back. If she truly is a Christian, then her recourse should be to provide for the one she has now injured.

    The point is to shine a light, not burn the world.


  2. The blog snarky faith blogged about this yesterday:http://stuartdelony.com/2013/01/31/cheap-pastors/. I’ll copy what I posted there:
    “I did some research and it looks like for the most likely happened. We need to lift up this pastor in prayer and pray he surrenders to God for any healing that is needed. What he wrote clearly comes from pain. Jesus had a reciprocal relationship with his disciples. He prayed for them (John 17) and he asked them for prayer in the garden(Matt 26). It’s not an excuse but it’s that there is hierarchy in responsibility for God but we are all just vessels of God. When we set out to obey God the enemy comes in to steal kill and destroy. We need each other that’s why Solomon said two are better than one (Eccl 4). I hope every Christian prays for this pastor and all end time leaders.”


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