"...When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Matt 9:36

"Do not rob the poor, because he is poor... for the Lord will take up their case and plunder those who plunder them." Proverbs 22:22-23

Sunday, September 9, 2007

What Does "Worshipping the Past" Mean?

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.


He led.

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.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

You have a good point about our church always accepting of change. We always paid cash money for whatever we did if the change involved money. There were grumblers back then but pretty much we always got on board because we trusted our pastrs. I too would like to know what the pastor means about worshiping the pastors. He is accusing a great many in the church of idolary. I sense a great spirit of unity in our church right now that's been missing for some time so its somewhat hurtful to hear him say that many of us are worshipping the past. I'm not sure I undersand.

walt said...

It sounds like Mac is the biggest "complainer" of all. He is always complaining about complainers.

He also seems to be the one living in the past, which is to say he thinks FBC Jax is like Dallas. Dallas had Criswell and his legacy and indeed did seem to have some problems letting go of Criswell's leadership. But Mac does not have that problem. Vines left immediately, did not stay around like Criswell did for many years, and our history was not as "great" as Dallas'. Yet he continues to assume we are going to be just like Dallas. He may have been right about them, but he is wrong about us.

And like you said, even if he is right, so what? Stop complaining about it and lead on!

Thanks for your blog.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Walt - good points you make about Mac wanting to equate the two churches. It is ridiculous. Here Vines wisely left the scene to give Mac freedom to lead the church outside of his shadow. Unlike Dallas, Mrs. Lindsay is not trying to exert her influence on the direction of the church after the death of her husband. It just seems a shame that Mac honestly believes we are worshipping previous pastors, and that we worship the past because it just ain't so. If it is so and I'm wrong, Mac owes more of an explanation for his claims so that we can make the appropriate changes. Granted, we were a bit stagnant after Homer died, as Vines was nearing the end of his ministry and he didn't lead in many new initiatives other than briefly going to two services, beginning couples classes again, and the HDTV. But I can tell Mac this: his congregation was 100% behind him when he showed up. We were 100% behind a new conservative pastor coming in and leading us into the future and we DID expect changes. There weren't many dry eyes on that Sunday when he accepted the call to be our pastor. If something changed from then until now, he needs to look in the mirror more closely and point less at us.

former_member said...

Watchdog - didn't Mac say something about Dr. Lindsay has used this month/time of year for stewardship for many years and he was going to continue that?

Didn't he also use the Chest of Joash last year, even bringing out Homer's old chest that Sr. made for his toys?

That sure sounds like a guy looking to the past when it is convenient. He said the same thing about Lindsay Sr and Jr wanting to hire Jim Whitmire some decades ago and acting like that was justification for the hire. Would those guys hire Rick Stone today just because they wanted R.O Stone back then? His implication is those men would still want to hire Whitmire now if they could! Outrageous!

It seems if he thinks the past can help justify his actions he uses it. But if he feels the past is putting pressure on him or exposing his ineptitude in any way, he criticizes it.

My observation is this. He is a very insecure man with little consistency or credibility when it comes to leadership. So he surrounds himself with family and yes men.

I feel sorry for you folks that still go to church down there. I have found a church with real leadership that is not actually being run by the pastor's wife calling the shots behind the scenes.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

former member: your post is asking the same question I am asking which is "what does worshipping the past" mean? Is it when he hires Jim Whitmire 20 years after Homer tried to and then uses that as a partial reason for the hire? You're right, if that is not living in the past I don't know what is.

About the chest of joash...I assume he is holding on to that because he thinks it to be a good tradition.

But Mac had it right recently when he said (or maybe it was someone else): "All things new are not bad, and all things old are not good."

But I'm still curious: what is worshipping the past and what is NOT worshipping the past? I expect my preacher to tell me the honest truth about us if we are doing something wrong, but I expect him to give me enough detail so I can understand what he means.

walt said...

Watchdog - here is an excerpt from Pastor Paul Burleson on another blog (nothing to do with FBC Jax) which Mac Brunson and the yes men of FBC Jax may be wise to consider:

Paul Burleson wrote: "First, "I can also tell you MOST problems in the Church and in society exist only because of there [sic] ampification by a few.."

I could not disagree more forcefully than I do. The problems of racism, child abuse, sexual abuse, spousal abuse, and a myriad of other problems that have been confronted in our present day, both in society and the Church, were there, albeit under cover, in benign decades such as the fifties, and were not confronted. When someone did say something they were hushed up as trouble makers, told they were lying, or generally told to submit to someone who was their spiritual authority. I dare say in whatever church you're a part of now there are a multitude of these kinds of problems. There, yet hidden. I trust when brought to the light they will be dealt with graciously and biblically, protecting the victims and correcting the evil doers. As I said, there have been those few who became courageous enough to be vocal. They were/are often maligned for doing so but the problems were/are not often addressed.

It is a known fact that churches, families, mariages, even Conventions will be only as healthy as they are willing to do away with secrecy. Someone said you have to learn to dance with family skeletons to learn to be a real family. That means they've got to come out of the closet. No one likes it. It's hard, dirty work. But health demands it. I don’t think the problem is really the ones who call attention to what’s there. It’s those who do the deeds in question and those who say nothing about it.

Forty years of pastoring have taught me that and any other pastor can testify to it also I’m sure.

Forty-eight years of a marriage that has become a wonderful thing because of a wife who refused to NOT speak the truth in love and, by being willing to do so, helped to ultimately bring about a truly biblical relationship. This shows it is possible to work through ugly stuff even in a marriage to the wonderful also. There was some dirty work needed by both of us to get to wonderful. When I hear a couple say we've never argued, I want to see which one died the day after their wedding. We must never think the wonderful comes without the dirt.

Paul knew it was necessary for the Corinthians, the Galatians, Timothy and Ephesus to face and honestly deal with their dirt. Some might have wished he's just tell them how his missionary trip went, but there were other things needed. That work kind of dirty work may very well be needed in the SBC. Many of us believe it is.

Much of what I’m saying is out of fifty yeas of battling the enemy and discovering that often times we are our own worst enemy and will remain so unless we face our problems and issues with courage and integrity. I believe that is being done by many who are/will pay a price that has always been paid by those who are willing to champion the causes that need correcting." END QUOTE OF PAUL BURLESON

Watchdog - The man has learned a lot in his many years of ministry. No arrogance, no anger, just wisdom. Maybe Debbie or Trey will read this post and consider it and pass it on to Mac. Maybe the chairs of some of our committees will also read it and get convicted to speak out. You may need to put it on the front page for them to see it?

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

walt: yes, that is good stuff...I have been thinking long and hard about what Mac Brunson said about how many in our church are worshipping previous pastors. Two thoughts came to mind that I'll share in a future post:

1. Our problem is not worshipping previous pastors...our problem is more of a tendancy to worship the pastor in charge. I mean that to say we in a sense worshipped Lindsay and Vines in the amount of control and power given to them to run the church. It just so happens that our pastors, the Lindsays and Vines, were very good stewards of this power. But look at Trinity: they gave Bob Gray the same power and he was a monster and abused his power in the worst way.

2. Some may be living in and longing for the past, but that's not "previous pastor worship"...that's, um...living in the past. Pastor worship is more of what we tend to do in giving the pastor unbridled control over major decisions, large salary to pastor and family, large gifts of land and beachfront condo use, etc. THAT is more of pastor worship than what Mac described Sunday night. Pretty ironic if you ask me that he is complaining about pastor worship...when he's the man...

Anonymous said...

Trinity still hasn't learned their lesson. They are doing the same thing all over again with the current pastor.

Once the church is handed over to those with a cult like mentality...it is way too late to do anything about it.

Sad to say, the time will come when you just have to leave and shake the dust off your feet.