Benchmark Church and the Sunk Costs of Supporting Greg Locke

I hung up the phone with Benjamin Blankenship on Sunday night agitated. Blankenship is the pastor of Benchmark Church in Oliver Springs, TN. This Thursday he is to feature the disgraced preacher Greg Locke as a headline speaker at the revival services at his church. I informed Blankenship that Locke was divorcing his wife against her will, that she was living in a women’s shelter, that Locke had sent her profane and abusive texts, and that I had sat down with her last week for an interview in which she admitted that her husband had hit her.

With great urgency, I tried to warn a supposed shepherd about letting a proven wolf into his pulpit for a revival service. After listening to Blankenship deflect and bloviate for nearly a half hour, we finally came down to brass tacks, Blankenship would be allowing Locke to preach the revival service. I wish I could say that I was shocked but I wasn’t. I’ve seen this before, all too many times. Benchmark Church is putting a disgraced preacher and an accused wife beater in its pulpit.  

From Jimmy Swaggart to Egrun Caner and Clayton Jennings to Greg Locke, charlatan and wolf preachers seem to retain at least some number of supporters no matter how badly they behave and no matter what evidence mounts up against them. It seems inexplicable but my theory is that this phenomenon comes down to a matter of refusing to recognize sunk costs.

Investopedia defines a “sunk cost” as follows:

a cost that has already been incurred and thus cannot be recovered. A sunk cost differs from other, future costs that a business may face, such as inventory costs or R&D expenses, because it has already happened. Sunk costs are independent of any event that may occur in the future.

In other words, a sunk cost is money that’s already been spent and can’t be recovered. They are quite the funny thing in the business world. Despite the continuing and sure failure of a project, a company will continue to sink money into its operation. This is economically unwise but there is a psychological factor that keeps failing projects going; for the company to end the project, it’s managers must admit they were wrong to undertake it in the first place…and admitting fault, especially expensive and long-term fault, is something that is very hard to do. So, companies continue to feed and train dogs that just won’t hunt. Unfortunately, this type of psychological over-commitment is not limited to the business world.

Think of it in terms of dating. How many incompatible couples are still together because a boyfriend doesn’t want to admit he has wasted hundreds of dollars at Applebee’s and Carmike Cinemas taking out a girl he doesn’t really want to marry? How many incompatible couples are still together because a girlfriend thought she could change a man when she started dating him but has failed to do so after years of trying? She fails and fails and yet she is still with him, trying to change him, and spending every Friday night with him at Applebee’s and Carmike Cinemas.

The same thing happens with consumers, too. People don’t want to admit they’ve made a bad purchase after putting stock in a slick advertising pitch. It is here where American consumerism and American preaching collide. Preachers become commodities and when well-meaning Christians begin to support and donate to celebrity preachers, they don’t want to admit they made a mistake if it comes out that he’s a charlatan, a phony, or wife abuser.

Take the case of Greg Locke.

Did you think he was bold?

Did you appreciate his stance on Target and Starbucks?

Did you appreciate his political stances?

Did you appreciate that he’s not afraid to be politically incorrect in a country ever more hostile to Christianity?

Did you share his videos?

Did you argue against the atheists and pagans who attacked him online?

Did you send him money?

Did you join his church?

Well, he called his wife a “deceitful b!*ch”. He demeaned her for her weight. He lied to the whole world and said he was divorced when he really wasn’t (he actually filed for divorce saying “I am a divorced pastor”). The elders of his church left. His wife is in a women’s shelter. His wife told me, on tape, that he’d hit her and spit in her face. There’s the matter of dating his church secretary. Despite all of this, people still go to his church! People still defend him on social media!

Why? Maybe it’s a sunk cost and they don’t want to believe he’s wrong. Do you think, just maybe, you were unwise to support him? Do you think you can stop doing it now?  Wise up, quit going to Applebee’s with Greg Locke.

A Pastor’s Profile

Benjamin Blankenship seemed like a nice guy to me when we talked on the phone. He was smooth-talker, maybe a little too smooth. Frankly, I don’t think he has any place in the pulpit of a church, scheduling revival services. It’s men like Benjamin Blankenship who allow men like Greg Locke to continue to make a living as a preacher one love offering at a time.

Perhaps, all that matters to some is that Greg Locke can draw a crowd.  How ironic it is that a place called “Benchmark” church is going to be the first church to host Locke after it has been definitively proven that Locke fails to live up to the benchmark for being a pastor. Just keep marking them. Mark Greg Locke. Mark Benjamin Blankenship.
…And don’t let your sunk costs sink you and your gospel witness. The lost world is watching.
[Contributed by: Seth Dunn]

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

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Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
Member of the Evangelical Theological Society
Certified Public Accountant

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