Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Gotchyaa By Steven Stiles

Dr. Stiles, pastor and seminary teacher, is concerned about wolves in sheep's clothing. He recognizes that Christians are to show compassion to those in need. The Bible clearly requires it. In today's society, he says, “offering help can be complex and on occasion dangerous.” (20) It is difficult to know if the need is genuine or if it is part of a scam.
Stiles reviews the typical responses to benevolence requests and evaluates them. “When it comes to giving, our big challenge is to discern what God wants us to do in an evil world.” (27)
It is important, he says, for churches to follow a carefully made set of rules. There should be an application process in place to discourage “hit and run” people.
“Con artists have countless strategies for exploiting the church...” (43) He identifies The Intentional Con, The Unintentional Con, and The Opportunistic Con, describing the skilled manipulators. It is not possible to spot the competent ones. It is best to stay on guard.
Christians are often targeted because they want to be generous, hospitable, and compassionate. (70) He tells how prisoners scam Christians and how “evangelists” can scam whole congregations.
He gives directions as to how to deal with cons, how to outwit them. He also gives several tips on how to protect yourself, your credit cards, etc.

The writing style is a little different in this book. Stiles interweaves a fictional story of Bud and Teresa, a couple out to scam the church, with reflections and instructions as to how to deal with people like them. I would have preferred to not have had the fiction part of the book. It was odd at times and, I felt, detracted from the overall message.
This was not an encouraging book to read. I would rather believe that every person coming through the church door expressing a need is telling the truth. However, having been a deacon in my church, I came across those who tried to get as much as they could out of the “system.” We found that filling out paper work helped identify those who were not truly in the need they claimed.
I think the best use of this book would be for the pastor or chair of the deacons to read it and then pass on the necessary information on to those who need to know.

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I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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