Gerald Payne and his band of bandits claimed to accept money only from active Christians. Payne told his audiences that God had modernized the multiplication of the loaves and fishes miracle and asked him – Gerald Payne — to share the secret with them.
“Give, and it shall be given unto you.” Luke 6:38
Although the road meetings were ostensibly religious gatherings, the main point was to raise money for the Greater Ministries’ Ponzi program.
The audiences – and the sizes ranged from about a dozen to over a thousand people — were told that, apart from doubling their money, some of the profits from the program would go to feed the homeless, rehabilitate drug addicts, and support missionaries abroad.
The Greater Ministries pretenders preached that investing was a form of “religious expression,” a statement of faith in the power of God.
It was a compelling program. The Greater Ministries road show was a multi-act spectacle, blending gospel singing, charismatic preaching, with intensive sales pitches. “Elder”Don Hall or Patrick Talbert, would play emcee, with charming patter and scriptural citations. They brought a professional sound system.
Meetings were held in auditoriums, restaurants, hotel ballrooms. The meetings drew hundreds of people at an event. Attendees were entranced by firsthand accounts of cash stuffed into their mailboxes each month. They watched their neighbors stand up, praise God, and tell how much money they were making in the program.
“How many are in the faith plan, already?” Gerald Payne asked his audience. “Give yourselves a hand.”
Don Hall often walked right into the audience with his Bible and microphone.
“It’s just as simple as this,” Hall purred to a crowd of a few hundred, gesturing with his hands. “Put money in God’s hands, and God gives it back to you double.”
Hall would typically lead an audience in a group chant: “Give and it shall be given to you!” they would say over and again.
“If you want to start receivin’, y’all start givin’,” Hall yelled at his audience with a smile.
Part of a Greater Ministries pitch session was Hall describing how the “gifts” would be invested.
“What we do is take the monies that you give and ship it overseas, and we do what we call world trades with world banks, and we make 30 to 40 percent return on our money on each trade, ” Hall told them with a smile. “God has put in position a Gold mine here for you.”
Gerald Payne assured the audiences that his scheme would last.
“God said this plan will be around til he comes again. Praise God. Hallelujah,” Payne said to a crowd, wearing a cleric’s collar.
Patrick Talbert sometimes stressed the non-existent foreign assistance of the Greater Ministries work.
“We got 1,500 people we’re feeding every day in over there in Haiti,” Talbert lied to one group.
But the details didn’t seem to interest those who bought into the Greater Ministries dream. People made cash gifts to Greater Ministries, and expected to receive those gifts back – doubled – in 17 months.