Paying to pray in Frankton stacks up

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The God business is going well at Queenstown’s pay-to-pray church. 

Recent financials from Frankton’s City Impact Church show tithes climbed 16 per cent to $282,089 including GST in the December 2012 year. 

City Impact national trustee Paul Tankard of Kelvin Heights says there are 140-150 worshippers. 

The average tithe per person – including non-earners – equals about $36 weekly. 

The church, mirroring City Impact’s national network and other branch churches, operates as a charitable trust – annual accounts are public. 

Including Queenstown, City Impact’s five churches collected $7,169,100 in tithes during 2013. 

National gross income totalled $11.9 million and “earnings before interest and depreciation” climbed 39 per cent to $1.5m. 

As a registered charity, City Impact doesn’t pay tax. 

Tankard takes issue with Mountain Scene previously calling tithes “a 10 per cent worship tax” – a description he dislikes. 

“What sort of impression does that give? People give out of a generous heart because they’ve accepted the gospel and the teachings of Christ,” he says. 

Mountain Scene: Are some churchgoers strapped and can’t pay? 

“Certainly there are people who struggle financially,” Tankard admits. “Parishioners are all encouraged to tithe but there’s no compulsion.” 

Tithing is “a biblical teaching and principle”, he says, a principle that City Impact pastors do not share – because they’re paid a salary. 

Fifteen years ago, Tankard helped Queenstown’s New Life church morph into the City Impact network established by former New Life pastors Peter and Bev Mortlock. 

The Auckland-based Mortlocks now drive City Impact, whose church has a $4.6m rateable value. 

“Pastors Peter and Bev have a wonderful mandate to preach the gospel,” Tankard says. 

The Queenstowner believes Mountain Scene has painted a false picture of City Impact. 

“I do, yes – that we’re after people’s money,” Tankard says. 

“A good local church is the most unrecognised force for good in the community.”