"...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

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Let's Talk Financial Accountability

As we wind up the month-long emphasis on stewardship, Mac Brunson will likely be preaching tomorrow (9/30) on your duty as a Christian to tithe, and to give above and beyond the tithe, and that you must give your entire tithe to the local church. He'll try several approaches: he'll use some testimonies of people who will tell you "I can't afford NOT to tithe", or that they've been blessed finanicially because they've tithed, and that therefore you must tithe if you want to be blessed. Maybe he'll try to guilt you into it, and even will explain that if you can't afford to tithe, maybe its because you haven't been tithing that you are suffering financially. He said this to the congregation Wednesday night.

One thing I doubt he will talk about is the responsibility the church has to be accountable to each and every giver on how the money they give is spent. In fact he'll tell you, as he has several other times recently, that you should give even if you have reservations on how the money is spent because its God's money, and its your obligation to give it to the church. However the church, like any other not-for-profit entity, has a moral responsibility to be accountable to its givers as to how finances are spent. We've seen many examples lately of mega churches misusing funds through extravagent pastor salaries (too many to mention), extravagent salaries paid to pastors' family members, misuse of church credit cards, shady land deals (Google "Frank Harber"), and other financial improprieties. Are we so arrogant as to think that we are above being taken advantage of like these other churches have?

Now that Mac Brunson has been at FBC Jax for 1 1/2 years, we know he and his wife make a huge salary of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year (sources put the number between $400k and $500k), the Brunsons were given free use of a multi-million dollar condo and were given a $300k piece of land upon their arrival in Jax. We can never find out how much they make, for if it were public knowledge there would be such outrage at the committees that approved this and at the pastor that giving would likely fall drastically. To make matters worse, since Mac arrived now there is even LESS detail given in the monthly budget reports given to the congregation in the monthly Wednesday "business meetings" on how the money is spent. We no longer can see a separate line item for salaries, for instance.

Church, THIS IS NO LONGER ACCEPTABLE. We may have been able to trust our previous leadership to do the right thing with little accountability to the congregation, but if we continue in this manner it is at our own peril. In the past you may have felt comfortable with our board of directors and lay committees to watch out for your interests and to hold the staff accountable, but this past couple of years of hiring Mac Brunson and family with huge salaries and perks and gifts, the departure of long term staff, and other questionable moves; this tells me that we perhaps can't trust the long-time lay leadership either. Our church has always been willing to be on the cutting edge of ministry. We've done things that pastors would come to the pastor's conference to hear how we did what we did. LET'S DO SOMETHING BOLD AND INNOVATIVE ON THE FINANCES FRONT TO MAKE SURE THAT WE ARE NOT BEING FLEECED NOW, AND THAT WE WILL NEVER, EVER BE FLEECED IN THE FUTURE.

What can we do?

1. Our church can join the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability (ECFA) and espouse its best practices. The ECFA has 7 standards of Responsible Stewardship (click here), and a host of "best practices" to be employed by its members to ensure that finances are used properly. Relativey few churches have become members of the ECFA - probably the only one you would recognize on the list is the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale (annual budget of about $24 million). Why will our church administration not want to do this? One reason is that the best practices require the members to submit salary information annually (among other financial statements) for review by the ECFA to ensure conformance with their financial standards.

2. Have real business meetings. We have always been so proud of our short business meetings on Wednesday, but as Mac says we shouldn't be tied to the past. These pseudo-business meetings are a tradition that Mac keeps because its convenient for him as it limits congregational oversight on money matters. He doesn't like the tradition of pastors wearing ties on Wednesday, but he loves the tradition of not giving the congregation any meaningful financial information, go figure. But let's do something very innovative...let's have real business meetings on a night other than Wednesday and give any interested member a chance to be present and ask questions of the pastor and finance and budget and personnel committes.

3. Look at how committee members are selected. Perhaps there needs to be more congregational input on the make up of important committees. I'm not even sure how these committee members are selected now, but the decisions that have been made in the past couple of years tells me we need "new blood" in this area too.

The leadership of our church will give you a hundred reasons why these three are not practical. Very few mega churches have done the first two, but the point is that SOME HAVE. If the ECFA is not the way to go, then let our church take the lead in being financially accountable in some other manner that would pave the way for other churches to follow suit.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

More Guilt Trips and Scare Tactics...

Mac again last night took time out to try to scare his congregation into tithing. After the Jim Smyrl sermon, he held up an envelope given by an elderly person for the chest of Joash - she wanted to the be first to give her committment for the chest. He commented that a number of people have told him that they can't tithe until things get better, or they get out of debt...then Mac said that is probably why some of us are in the mess we are in, because we're not tithing.

Church, don't be scared into tithing 10% of your income to FBC Jax. If you feel led of the Lord to do so, then do so. It is not a scriptural requirement for Christians to tithe. Give out of the abundance with which God has blessed you as a token of your love for the Lord. But if you're going through tough times right now, or are in serious financial debt, or you can't make ends meet, don't tithe. If you feel the church is being a poor steward of the finances by giving $400k+ to Team Brunson each year, don't tithe and feel perfectly free to give to other worthwhile ministries that are better stewards of finances. The church will never tell you this, because they have huge salaries and expenses and are under immense pressure to get the giving to go up. They want to preach to us about how we should be willing to accept change (which we're STILL not sure what the "changes" are except larger pastor salaries and no ties on Wednesday night), but they themselves still want to operate the finances in secret in a day and time when openness and transparency of financial matters is the norm.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

FBC Jax Pastor's Conference 2008

From the FBC Jax website, it looks like things are coming together for the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference next February. There is a link to the pastor's conference website at http://www.fbcjax.com/. A pretty impressive list of speakers Mac has assembled. Noticably missing is Steve Gaines from Bellevue; but Steve's wife Donna Gaines is a keynote speaker for the women's conference. There are some blank speaking slots on the schedule, so methinks Gaines will be a late add to the agenda but they just didn't want his mug on the brochure for obvious reasons. Mac does address "staff changes" in his opening letter to potential attendees - but only to mention that he has Jim Whitmire on staff to provide great music.

Its also interesting to note that this year it looks like he has added "Florida Baptist Convention Seminars" in addition to the typical ministry sessions led by staff members at FBC Jax. The ministry sessions will be without a number of key staff that have left since the the last Pastors Conference: Rodney Brooks, Lewis Howard, Bob Barton, Doug Pigg, and possibly Calvin Carr - although Barton and Pigg may have been gone by last conference.

Church members, one of the questions that was asked on a prior Jax blog and never answered, is what happens to revenue generated from the registration fees paid by the attendees? We know that the conference is a tremendous expense in terms of lay labor and direct expenses to FBC Jax, but in the income statements of the church budget we don't see (and have never seen as long as I can remember) a line item for this income. So far as we can tell from the budget documents registration income doesn't hit the FBC Jax books. Last year attendance was way off, but assuming that 4000 people attend, and they are paying the $125 fee, that is $500,000. I'm sure the conference speakers are paid handsomely for their time and their expenses, but does the excess money go toward offsetting the direct budget expenses of the church for hosting the conference? Is there a separate corporation outside of FBC Jax that receives and dispenses this money? Does anyone know? Does anybody care? What about hourly staff expenses for hosting the conference - are these paid for out of the regular church budget, and if so does any of the registration fee revenue get transferred to the church to offset these expenses? Promotional materials are these paid out of the church budget? How would a church member find out this information?

As a member sitting under Mac Brunson's preaching the past year, I find it disingenous in his opening letter where he says to potential attendees that we are a loving and friendly congregation...just this past Sunday he told us to not to treat unsaved people like we do people in the church (it was directed to us, not the "church" at large). But of course it makes him look good to tell the attendees in his brochure how great we are...but attendees if you listen to his sermons you'll see that we are an unloving, complaining, and stuck in the past congregation.

More thoughts on the Pastor's Conference later...and some rememberences of the "highlights" from last year's conference.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Abusing One's Power and Position

When Mac and Debbie arrived in Jacksonville last year, I found it just a bit "odd" that their son's wedding was so heavily promoted in our church. There were receptions at the church, a money tree, notices passed to Sunday School announcing the money tree and reception and requests for fresh baked goods. This all caused a check in my spirit...after all, we were not hiring Trey Brunson I thought, we were hiring Mac Brunson....then it all became clear when Trey was found to be on the payroll of the church.

I found it odd too that the Mac Brunson photos running on our website after he was voted for included an entire family shot, inclusive of his married daughter and husband who didn't live in Jacksonville. Just a bit odd, I thought. I was concerned that pastor might be using his position to promote his family. Someone has told me the new birthday cards from the pastor that go out to members INCLUDE THE WHOLE CLAN. Is not it appropriate to ask WHY? Why is his daughter and son in law from Kentucky on the card wishing members in FBC Jax a happy birthday?

Now yesterday we get the next episode: his grandbaby is dedicated at the church. I know that I will be attacked as being heartless and cruel for saying this: but why is HIS grandbaby dedicated at the church, on a special day in the morning, when the parents aren't even members? Should now our other seniors invite their grandbaby's down to the big church in Jacksonville to be dedicated? Isn't the dedication service a dedication of the parents to the Lord, and the church to the family to help them, thus for members of the church? Why did Mac do this? Please don't tell me the Brunson's spent church funds to fly the whole clan down for the service! And why Mac take a swipe at your high school families in the middle of the dedication saying that so many in the church expect the youth pastor to raise their kids - who are you referring to? The church in general, or those of us who are concerned about the departure of Calvin Carr? To throw that barb in there with no context, in the middle of your grandbaby's dedication is nuts.

Then the ordination service of his son in law. I know you say we have an ordination committee...but we don't know this man from any one. Why did you choose to have a special ordination service and hijack the senior revival meeting so you could do this? Can others in our service have a special ordination service for their out-of-town relatives?

Come on church, WAKE UP! This is the TEAM BRUNSON show glorifying their family, and its getting a little tiresome. Let's get back to expository preaching of the word, and worshipping Jesus Christ and not personalities. Mac has told us so many times that church is NOT about personalities, but yet at every turn HE HIMSELF ACTS LIKE HE IS THE ROCK STAR OF THE CHURCH. I'm glad that he loves his family and is proud of them, but that doesn't mean that we are too. We have our own families that we are proud of, but we don't have the luxury of doing all the things he does out in the open with them. Its just getting a bit too much, and I wish someone in a position of leadership or power would have the guts to speak up. Maybe its you Jim Whitmire...maybe the Lord brought you here as an elderstatesman to help Mac out.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Gimmicks

From the church bulletin:

"Pastor Brunson began the Making Your Life Count series this past Sunday. As we are learning how to clear out the clutter and find meaning during these next few weeks, we would like to see how God is changing lives. We have provided blank Post-It notes so that you can write how you are going to implement changes in your own life...Once you have written down what God has placed on your heart, take the Post-It note and stick it on one of the three "Making Your Life Count" calendars on the 2nd floor of the Main auditorium. Please no names, we would like these to be anonymous, simply to serve as an encouragement and a reminder of how God is changing us a church body. Thank you for your participation, and we look forward to the responses."

What is this all about? Sounds very corny to me, not sure what the purpose or benefit of such a thing. What do you think?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Are We Being "Plundered"?

Three recent events at our church in September:


1. This past Sunday night Johnny Hunt preached a sermon that was about how much he loves Jesus, and therefore because he loves Jesus then how much money he gives to so many ministries. He talked numbers and percentages about what he gives - if he could have he would have given himself a standing ovation. I think he was trying to say that his listeners should love Jesus as much as he does, and then we would be giving large portions of our incomes to the Lord's work like HE does. I've been a Christian for many, many years, and I've heard thousands of sermons by hundreds of preachers. That was the most self-serving, egotistical, absolutely disgusting sermon I've ever heard. It took everything I had to not get up and walk out. There were others that felt the same way I'm sure. His message to FBC Jax and to NAME missionaries: fall in love with Jesus (like Johnny has), and you TOO will want to give most of what you have "to the Lord". If you want to see his sermon, go to the http://www.bellevue.org/ site, to their sermon archives and you can see the same exact sermon that he preached at Bellevue on August 29th...[we don't archive our sermons yet; perhaps we can take up an offering this Sunday night to get our services archived on the Internet]


2. Right before Johnny preached, while the high schoolers were in their place in the loft and orchestra pit, Mac felt the need to mention that he and other staff were agonizing over the budget and that they would be cutting off "reward trips" for the young people. He said he wanted to see who wanted to serve the Lord not for rewards, but out of committment. Although he said it in passing, it did seem as though it was because of a tightness of the budget; although it could have been just a stewardship decision.


3. This month is stewardship month where Mac is talking about stewardship of our time, talents, and money. He will be talking about giving your money to the Lord's work, through the FBC Jax. He will likely use video testimonies. He will point you to scripture to convince you to give more of your money to the church. The church marketing firm the A-Group is likely helping Mac put together the some messages and video presentations and gimmicks to help you see that more of your family's money needs to leave your pocket and go into the church accounts...."for the Lord" of course.


Does all of this ever leave you wondering if you're being "plundered" by a spiritual leader who is a millionaire who likes the high-life rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous in our town and convention, trying to get you to give more of your money for their own gain? Their gain in building a bigger church, hiring more of their friends and family, and more of their own ego? Do you ever feel like a sheered sheep when you're told that he wants to see who will serve not for rewards, when he and his wife are receiving HUGE rewards via outrageous salaries and perks? You're told by preachers in your beloved church pulpit that you need to love Jesus and if you did you'd give more, that too many are serving for rewards and not committment, and things are tight and we need to cut some areas and or course you need to give more.

If you have been feeling like this in recent days, take a look at the following article. You won't agree with everything written, I sure don't. But some of what he says fits perfectly at our church. Please, don't read this if you are easily offended by reading views that challenge long-held religious beliefs concerning tithing. But in the light of recent events at our church over the past year and a half, I'm leaning toward the "plundered" view and will govern myself accordingly in the stewardship of my money and what I give to the church.

Click here for the article.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

We Don't Care if You Don't Wear a Tie Jim

Tonight Jim Smyrl preached the Wednesday night sermon without a tie. He had slacks, a sport coat, and a white collared shirt. He looked very handsome and most would consider him to be very neatly dressed, more so than 90% of the congregation there to hear him.

I don't care if Jim Smyrl preaches without a tie. I really don't. In fact, I don't know anyone at FBC Jax that would be upset that the preacher didn't wear a tie. Especially on a Wednesday night. Whether he wears a tie is up to him, and to his pastor for whom he works.

But to show you how out of touch these guys (our pastors and staff) are with their congregation, Jim Smyrl commented in his sermon that there were probably many people present in the congregation who would be more concerned about him not wearing a tie, than they would the lost man at their office. Now I don't doubt for a minute there's someone in a congregation of several thousand that might be offended that the preacher didn't have a tie. But the numbers are so small why bother mentioning it? And is my spiritual maturity defined by whether or not I prefer the pastor to have a tie or not have a tie?

Go ahead Mac and Jim Smyrl and believe that your congregation is stuck on things like ties, colors of carpets, and other items of "tradition". We're not. Believe me, we're not. We are a more traditional church, but we've never been afraid of change if change means reaching the lost.

Gentlemen, if you are sensing resistance from your congregation in the direction you feel the Lord leading the church, its not because of ties on Wedesday. Its much more serious matters than that, things we've discussed here on this blog.

Since you mentioned the budget, pastor....

Pastor Mac Brunson, this past Sunday you mentioned to your FBC Jacksonville church family and your high schoolers in the choir loft that you are carefully reviewing our church budget. That is good. We are glad that you and others are carefully reviewing the church budget; in fact you didn't need to tell us, we assumed you were doing it already. Out of the many budget items you are undoubtedly reviewing, you felt the need to comment Sunday night that you believe it not a good investment of resources to send the kids on reward trips. Thanks for telling us. Since you brought up the "budget" and one of the areas we need to cut, let's talk about one other budget item.

Church, how much would your pastor have to make in salary before you would be concerned that it was not a wise use of church resources? I know, "Pastor salary is a private matter and nobody's business." you say. Yes we have committees that determine this sort of thing and they take care of it on our behalf....keep in mind committees NOT chosen by you and me, average church members, but committees chosen by who?

But just humor me a bit: really now, since Mac brought up the budget Sunday night....how much salary would your pastor and his wife have to be earning from the church budget (tithes and offerings), before you would consider it an unwise use of church funds? Is it $175,000? $200,000? $300,000? $400,000? $450,000? What about $500,000? What is your number that you would feel uncomfortable with? What "gifts and perks" would have to be given to the pastor in addition to salary that would make you uncomfortable? Remember church member , you are the steward of everything God has blessed you with. Do you not feel that you are responsible for ensuring your tithes and offerings are used wisely by decision makers in your church? You have been told by this pastor and will be in the next few weeks that you are just responsible for BRINGING the tithe, and that this is obedience is all God expects, and you are to give the tithe regardless of how it is spent. "Hogwash" as my daddy used to say. We should always be concerned, and we should be increasingly concerned about finances as we see OTHER areas that we are concerned about. It stands to reason that leaders making unwise decisions in other areas of the church will likely make unwise decisions in finances.

On the basis of reliable sources, we know what the pastor makes in salary from the church budget. Its an obscene amount. Its not a "double portion" for "double honor"...its much more than that. We know what was promised the pastor when he came. Its obscene by any standard of an average sensible member of the church.

So as the pastor preaches on stewardship this month, be thinking of what number YOU would have to hear before you would be upset at your finance, personnel, and pastor search committees....then stay tuned....and get your "Chest of Joash" card ready so you can increase your giving this coming year to compensate for the pastor's salary.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"A Word from the Lord" or "Peddlin' Sermons"?

Preachers are known to recycle their sermons; its understandable...those of you who have sat under Jerry Vines and Homer Lindsay for many years heard the same text preached multiple times by the same preacher, the same basic outline of the sermon. There were times when Jerry Vines would preach and I'd see his name and date in my Bible margins from 3 or 5 or even 10 year prior when he preached the same text, same basic message and outline. But Jerry Vines always changed and modernized and fit the sermon that he preached years ago to fit the current day.

But there is something strange when a visiting preacher delivers the same sermon to your church, that he delivered to another church, just a few days prior. Especially when they claim at the beginning of the sermon to have a "special word" for the church. I suppose an evangelist might do this that is preaching evangelistic sermons...but there's something about it that makes me wonder if the preacher is delivering a word from the Lord, or is he is peddling a sermon. Is it a fresh word from the Lord or is it his latest "single" that he is taking out on the road to perform and impress the churches with?

What am I talking about? Johnny Hunt preached the same exact message on loving Jesus and giving to Jesus on Sunday night 9/16 at the close of the NAME conference as he did 2 weeks prior on a Wednesday night at Bellevue Baptist Church. Same message. Same opening. Same illustrations. Same "ad-lib" comments (which weren't so ad lib). The only difference was he took more time at Jax to explain in more detail how much money he gives to the Lord.

Of course Mac did the same thing last summer, when he went unannounced to Atlanta and preach the Sunday morning service at Johnny Hunt's anniversary service at the FBC Woodstock. Mac preached the same sermon there, with some minor changes, that he preached to his own congregation the Sunday morning before! So I wonder: when Mac prepared that sermon was it for Johnny but he figured he'd try it out on us first, or was it for us and he recycled it for Johnny's anniversary?

Fresh word from the Lord for the church? Or is it peddling of sermons for honoraria?

I'll let you decide.

P.S. Those of you who missed Johnny Hunt's sermon Sunday at FBC Jax won't be able to listen to it online, because FBC Jax doesn't archive even the audio of sermons on the church website, let alone the video. What an absolute waste of resources when we have the millions of dollars of media equipment and Internet resources that we don't make our services available, archived, on the Internet. Granted we do the live feed, but the reach would be much further if we archived. You can listen to audio of Mac's sermons on his own website, but that is all, and they aren't archived or dated. When will we will start archiving sermons on our church website? Was this an agreement with Mac when he was hired that we wouldn't archive any sermons, that only sermons made available on the Internet would be ones he chooses to make available on his own website? Why can't Jim Smyrl's Wednesday night sermons be archived on the FBC Jax Website? Churches with 1/20th of the budget we have archive video of their services for crying out loud! How big of a church do we need to be, how much budget do we need to have before we'll start at least putting archived audio on the church website of all our services? But if you want to hear Johnny Hunt's sermon that he preached at FBC Jax last Sunday, not a problem....Bellevue did archive it...when he preached it at their church 2 weeks prior.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

We Want People to Serve Not for Rewards...

Hey Mac...since you want to see how many of our high schoolers will serve without having to entice them with reward trips...will you agree not to take any church money to pay for your trips to preach elsewhere and to go on your mission trips with Trey? If you could let us know before we vote on the budget that would be great. Will you agree to give your honoraria back to the church, since we're paying your salary?

I vote a 50% pay cut for Team Brunson...we want to see what pastors are here not for "rewards" but because they really want to serve the Lord. How long would they stay if we cut their salary by 50%?

FBC Jax, please wake up.

Friday, September 14, 2007

"Worshipping Pastors"

The more I've thought of Mac Brunson's comments concerning how FBC Jax and FBC Dallas biggest problem is that they are worshipping previous pastors, the more bizzarre his comments seem to be. I'm sickened that he mischaracterizes his congregations in this way (listen to the recording at Mac's website and you'll see there was scant and delayed applause. His congregation was stunned to hear their pastor say this about them). But Mac makes it a habit of giving his congregations tongue lashings and scoldings - the Dallas members warned us of this - so this kind of thing is not unexpected. But here's the worst part of his comments: not only are we not worshipping previous pastors, he has completely missed the problem that most mega churches DO have today: that is the problem of churches worshipping the current pastors!! We're worshipping previous pastors Mac? Come on...that might be living in the past but its not pastor worship.



Look around the SBC today...what you see in recent days are scandals involving mega church pastors who have been lavished with huge CEO salaries and perks, jobs for family members, scandalous land deals, followed up by intimidation of members who attempt to call out these abuses...we see also pastors who are being found to be molestors who operated in secrecy abusing children....even pastors who cover up for other ministers who are abusing children so they can keep a hold on their power....and the Catholic church - we all know that story. What is the root cause of these scandals? How do these abuses occur? When God's people put their total trust in human beings....what we can call pastor worship.

Has FBC Jax been guilty of pastor worship in years gone by? Perhaps we have to some degree in the sense that our congregation has vested so much power in the previous pastors enabling them to do as they pleased in areas of ministry, hiring/firing, expenditures; complete control in most areas of church business. We have adored our previous pastors, no question, maybe even to the point of pastor worship. Our previous pastors, thank God did not abuse their power, and time has proven that their leadership was very Godly. But still to vest so much power in one man is akin to "pastor worship".

So our concern should not be that we are currently worshipping previous pastors, but our concern should be directed at our present worship of Mac himself. How ironic: while Mac is thinking we are worshipping Dr. Vines and Dr. Lindsay and Rev Howard, perhaps the truth is instead we are worshipping Mac Brunson. Have we given Team Brunson too much power before we've even gotten to know he and his wife? Do they have the freedom now to do as they please with little oversight by mature godly men and women on committees? Are we discerning enough to call him on unwise personnel decisions or fostering a climate in which our previous ministers want to leave? Are the lay people on personnel and finance committees more interested in being good stewards of God's money and church than they are rubbing elbows with a millionaire pastor and his wife? Is not arranging for a pastor to receive $250,000 piece of land upon his arrival in town a sort of pastor worship? Is it pastor and pastor family worship to allow him to hire his family members with little accountability to the congregation? Is it a form of pastor worship to throw huge salaries at the pastor and his wife to entice them to come to our church? Is it a form of pastor worship to give the pastor free rent at a multi-million dollar ocean-front condominimum for a year while waiting for construction of their multi-million dollar home in a gated community? Are these perks just the tip of the iceberg and would we be even more flabbergasted if we knew the total package and perks our pastor search committee threw at them?

As the Trinity Baptist Church Jacksonville scandal (pastored by Tom Messer) unfolded over the past few years, one question has and still to this day haunts me: How could a church that stands on the Word of God, that is so conservative, that is so missions-minded, that was so much like FBC Jax....let a pastor abuse them and take them down such a dark road? How did the men of that church not see the obvious signs that there were problems? How did the women of the church not detect that he was abusing his power? What were they thinking when the signs became more obvious that something was wrong with the leadership of their pastor? Its easy: they worshipped Bob Gray and it blinded them to obvious signs that something was wrong. To make matters even worse they still have the pastor in the pulpit WHO HAD AT LEAST SOME KNOWLEDGE of what this monster was doing, yet he was too gutless to call him out and prevent even more abuse - in fact sent him to Germany where he very well might have abused more children. We've got to realize that in this day pastor worship is not looking to the past and longing for the days of a beloved pastor (although that can be a problem)...but pastor worship is much more sinister than that: it is giving blind trust to a pastor to do as he pleases in the congregation with few checks and balances.

So Mac there is no worship or total trust in previous pastors among your congregation. The concern that some of us have are that perhaps there are too many in FBC Jax willing to worship Mac Brunson.

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.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Replacement for Calvin Carr

It looks almost certain that Calvin Carr will be departing FBC Jax after many years of faithful service. I hope that no one underestimates the loss that his departure represents to our church. Losing Calvin Carr and Rodney Brooks in the same year is a tremendous blow. What is extremely troublesome is that there seems to be some at the church saying that perhaps its time for some new blood, new ideas, and that perhaps Calvin's departure is not so bad, perhaps it was time to go. Our church needs to wake up...this is absolute hogwash! Calvin Carr's record speaks for itself. While so many youth ministries in our city are lowering standards and looking and acting more like watered-down night club meetings than Christ-honoring discipleship programs, Calvin stayed the course and held the standard high for our youth. Do you want to know the loss Calvin represents to our church? Just ask other ministers and pastors around Jacksonville who will tell you what a man of God Calvin is and how he was a blessing to our city.

But what's done is done, and now we look to the future and wish Calvin the best. God is indeed sovereign. But we as a church must realize that the great loss Calvin's departure represents demands that we be absolutely committed to finding the best man we can to next fill the role of high school pastor. We need to do a search on par with the search for a new pastor. This is no small task. Hiring a summer intern won't do. Hiring a pastor's family member will not suffice. I implore all high school parents to contact the pastor's office and the personnel committee to voice your opinion that the personnel committee be very involved in the search process, that multiple candidates be interviewed, and that the selection not be driven by just the pastor's office suite and rubber-stamped by the personnel committee. My greatest fear is that the pastor will not do an all out search for the best man to serve as high school pastor but will instead appoint a family member or a best buddy to the position without looking at outside candidates.

Please high school parents...demand that we find THE best youth minister we can for our high schoolers...please, personnel committee: DO YOUR JOB AND DON'T BE A RUBBER STAMPER COMMITTEE. You are lay people who don't have to go along with whatever the pastor brings to you...if you believe that we haven't looked at enough candidates, don't approve the pastor's recommendation. The pastor's office or personnel committe should gather input from parents of middle schoolers and high schoolers on what they are looking for in a high school pastor for their children and what kind of high school youth program they want. Please, let's not leave this decision solely to Team Brunson.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Crime Rose Last Year After Day of Prayer

Despite the FBC Jax website's claim that "crime fell by 40% in the 2nd half of 2006" because of the Day of Faith prayer rally, crime actually rose in Jacksonville in the 2nd half of 2006, it did not fall. I'm not trying to steal any credit away from God or diminish the power of prayer, just wanting to tell the facts - and wonder why someone within the church feels the need to not give the whole picture...is it to persuade those who don't think the Day of Faith is a good idea? What message does this give to the non-believers who look at the website and realize the church is playing games with numbers to convince people that "prayer really works"...prayer DOES work, but when a person decides they need to help God out and lie about the numbers to deceive people into thinking that prayer changed something that it did not change, more harm is done than good.

Here's the facts...

The overall crime index in Duval County for the first half of 2006 was 25,930 which rose to 27,542 in the 2nd half of 2006 which is a 6% rise. Yes, murders did fall from 71 to 44 in the 2nd half of 2006 (a 38% decrease - this must be where their 40% number comes from)...but 44 murders is no accomplishment given the numbers from previous years and given the high murder rate again this year. All other crime categories other than murder rose in the 2nd half of 2006: forcible rape (30% increase), robbery (24% increase), aggravated assault (rose by 4%), burglary (rose by 16%), larceny (rose by 4%)....oh, and praise the Lord we did see motor vehicle thefts fall by 7% - thank God for that, especially for those preachers and their wives driving such expensive cars. If God and prayer gets the credit for these stats, do we conclude that God cares only about murders and cars and not about rapes and aggravated assaults?

Sure, have the Day of Faith rally and let the Christians, Jews and Muslims all pray to their Gods (gods) this Saturday at FBC Jax that God will indeed lower the crime rate...but please let the stats, and God, speak for themselves.

Source: http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/FSAC/UCR/index.asp

Help Wanted: Lifeline's Editor

Perhaps we need more staff in the Pastor's suite...the Lifeline's "weekly publication" hasn't been published in over two weeks...it took about a year for anything like a weekly newsletter or email to begin being published from the Team Brunson Pastor Suite, and now they can't manage to even get it out on a weekly basis. Must be all those emails that are tying them up and keeping them busy...or trips to Dallas and Louisville...maybe we could farm this out to the A-Group...

Monday, September 3, 2007

Not Living Up to Expectations in Jacksonville...

He came to Jacksonville not long ago, replacing a great leader before him. We all heard how great he was going to be. He was the handpicked successor to follow a much beloved legend. The expectations were high - perhaps he would lead us to even greater heights! But alas, it has not been so. We all were so happy when we heard he was coming to Jacksonville; it was a happy day when he arrived. We trusted our leadership that they knew what they were doing when they handed him the reigns of this organization...we trusted them that they did their homework and looked at all possible options and picked the best man for the job, to replace a leader who had done so much for our city and for the organization.

Then we noticed that he seemed to like to complain about how rough he had it, making himself out to be a victim when the first bit of criticism came his way. Maybe he became enamored with all the praise he received coming to Jacksonville and thought he could just coast. Maybe it was all that money that was thrown at him...maybe he started to believe everything that people said about how great he was going to be! Maybe we gave up too much to get him here to Jacksonville. Yes, we have all been patient with him...waiting for him to rise to the potential that he promised us and that others told us about. We even passed on some others that we could have taken - maybe not as well known but certainly we knew they had potential as well.

Its taken a long time for some to realize he wasn't all that everyone told us he would be. Of course the everyday guy on the street saw this way before those who selected him did; what took them so long? The people never really seemed to take to his style of leadership, and he just plain 'ole didn't live up to the expectations.

Who is this person, you ask? Isn't it obvious?

So long Byron Leftwich!

There's something we like about a person earning the top spot through dedication and hard work; people like to get behind that kind of a leader. David Garrard certainly has shown himself to be a capable commander. He has handled himself well in adversity, didn't complain when people complained about him, he has been man enough to recognize his shortcomings and failures, and worked hard to make himself better. But on the other hand, people tend to be wary of "knighted" leaders; those who are dubbed "the leader" before they've earned their stripes with those they are leading - as in Byron Leftwich. Perhaps there is a higher standard expected of someone who comes in new, following a legend. We expect them to be a bit more humble, come in working a little bit harder, coming in to serve and prove themselves worthy before reaping all the money and the trappings that the position might well deserve..and certainly we don't expect them to look out for themselves first, but to instead look out for the best of the organization they are leading.

And you thought I was talking about.....shame on you! But as the saying goes, "if the shoe fits...".

Reverend Carr - We Love You and Wish You the Best!

Reverend Carr...we wish you all the best if you indeed are going to be called as pastor in another church. Needless to say those of us who have come to love you and appreciate your leadership will miss you greatly! Thank you for all you have invested in the lives of our high schoolers! Many of us prayed that you might grow into an area of greater responsibility in our church, but let's just see what the future holds for you and for our great church!