Those in attendance Sunday night at church got to hear Mac Brunson of First Baptist Jacksonville "pour [his] heart out" as he put it to his congregation regarding the greatest burden he has for our church, and for First Baptist Dallas, and for all mega churches. He laid it on the line...he told us what our problem is in his view. He seemed very sincere when he said it, and he said it in a loving tone. I have no doubt he means what he said. Since he felt the need to mention FBC Dallas, perhaps this diagnosis will help his successor at FBC Dallas.
Here is the "doc's" diagnosis: According to Mac many people in both congregations are "worshipping the past" and have taken our eyes off Jesus. He said we need to honor the past, but not worship it. He said that churches like FBC Jax and Dallas have so much, that we can't be "broken"...we have so many programs, so much money, so many ministers, so many buildings, that we think too highly of ourselves and therefore can't be "broken" and a church that is too proud of its past to be broken can't be used of God (no scripture reference given). He said that many of us are worshipping "previous pastors, previous ministers of education, previous music ministers". He did say it lovingly though. You can hear it for yourself at Mac's website as soon as they post the sermon: http://www.inlight.org/.
Maybe he's right, that there are some people at FBC Jax focused too much on the past and the way things used to be done. Maybe some people at FBC Jax still can't get over their love for the Lindsays and for Vines and for Rodney Brooks, and for the KJV and for the hymns and for everything else that we've always done and the way we've done it.
But I ask: SO WHAT?
No doubt Lindsay and Vines were bombarded with complaints and resistance about everything new they tried during their ministries: be it busing kids downtown to church on Sundays in the 70s, or the construction of the very expensive, solid poured-concrete RLA in the 80s, or the starting of the men's ministry, or the construction of parking garages ("the Lord's money to build parking garages?") or the construction of the new 9200 seat auditorium with those GIANT screens (which weren't so giant after all!), or the beginning of adult couples classes, or changing the name of "Sunday School" to something more modern, or changing "Training Union" to "CLU" or use of mass media outlets for advertising, or moving to two morning services and then later back to one, or the construction of skating rink and food bar, or raising a million dollars for a Russian church, or building a new state-of-the-art Children's building, or converting our TV equipment to HDTV, etc, etc...and we can continue this list into the Mac Brunson era: redesigning the RLA for the youth and smaller venues, making significant changes to the auditorium to accomodate our seniors, partnering with the Y for a health club, a much needed greater emphasis on missions, or starting a K-12 school - all which were embraced by the majority of the congregation by the way as evidenced by the fact WE PAID CASH...point is: Our church has ALWAYS been on the cutting edge of new ministries, never afraid to try new things and even pay for them cash. There were complainers and resisters to change back then, but they were certainly not in the majority.
In fact what made FBC Jacksonville so unique was that we always embraced new methods, but never changed or watered-down the message like other churches who changed their methods!
Knowing there are always resisters to change, is Mac then saying there is an UNUSUAL level of resistance to change that HE is trying to implement? Or does he not want ANY resistance at all? If he is sensing an unusual resistance to change...does it mean there is a problem with the congregation who has always embraced new ideas, or a problem with the new pastor? Or are the ideas no good and a discerning church is opposing them? I honestly don't know. It seems to me that the congregation is fully behind Mac Brunson so I don't know why he said this.
But what does a leader do when he faces some opposition when change needs to occur?
What did Lindsay do? Its not complicated. He was a simple man.
Lindsay explained what we were going to do and he told us why he felt the Lord leading in that direction. He never sought to manipulate us; he expositorially preached the word and told us what he felt the Lord was calling us to do. He didn't regularly complain about complainers. He knew that if God was in the change, and if he explained it to God's people, they would give and the money would be raised and we'd pay for it as we went. He didn't have to give us a guilt trip, or tell us that we were stuck in the past, because we never were. We were faithfully following our pastors' lead.
Now I can't be exactly sure why Mac is claiming we are worshipping the past. Maybe you folks in Dallas are, but it seems like under Mac you tried lots of innovative methods to reach people including the new Criswell Center to reach a younger generation. Is it because of too many emails complaining are coming in? Is it that giving is dropping off? What is it that makes him think we are worshipping previous pastors? People complaining that many of the pastoral staff have left? I honestly know of very few people in the church looking to and stuck in the past. But he didn't really explain, so we can't be sure. It can't be that his congregation is not supporting his "vision" presented earlier this year; it was by all accounts widely embraced by staff, deacons, and congregation.
All we can be sure is that poor Mac has had to put up now with TWO churches worshipping the past. Poor Mac. Bad luck, he's two for two.
But what I do know is we are still FBC Jacksonville. Most of our long-time ministers are gone, but the core group of believers is still here! We're still committed to following our pastor if he leads us into doing God's will for us. NEVER has our church been stuck in the past...if he is facing mounting opposition, is it US or is it HIM that is the problem, because we've always been a people ready to move to the future as God leads.