Sunday, October 28, 2007
Mac I know you think you really answered your critics today by finally, FINALLY, announcing and explaining the Time to Stand to With Israel to your congregation this morning. You waited until 10 days before the event, hardly enough time to find a change of venue. Was this part of your strategy; or were you going to be totally silent about it except for these recalcitrant bloggers forcing your hand?
Only problem is you think we're a bunch of biblical idiots to give such a lame explanation for hosting this event. Sir, you forget sometimes that we've sat under the godliest of preachers for the past, oh 4 or 5 decades, and we see how dangerous this event is to the ministry of our church. We know that our faith, our Savior, comes from the Jewish faith, you didn't have to explain that today. And we know our Bible hasn't changed either - so you could have saved your breath there. The issue isn't our spiritual relationship to the Jews, the issue is the confusion this event will create in the minds of our community regarding the exclusivity of Jesus Christ to save the sinner, and the monies raised going to a Jewish hospital at which state-funded abortions are performed which is a slap in the face to those of us who are anti-abortion. These two facts make this the unwisest of your decisions since showing up in Jacksonville. This event is in no way the only means, and far from the best means to express our support for Israel - why can't you see that? If this is such a great idea, why are no other Southern Baptist Convention churches giving up their sanctuaries to hold these type of events? Somehow I just don't see you being the trend-setter in this area - I don't think Johnny Hunt or Ed Young (Sr. or Jr!) will be hosting such events anytime soon. These men have the wisdom to know what the mission of their church is and don't want to confuse their mission or their message in the minds of the people they are trying to reach. And they probably don't have "prominent" deacons that they consult when coming up with events to host. And they probably understand that there is little difference in the minds of people between "hosting" and "sponsoring"...they know that if its in our church sanctuary, and its on our website...its OUR event plain and simple.
This morning you failed to explain some very important things to your church. For instance, you said "we're hosting it not sponsoring it." OK, great. Why not sponsor it, and what would be wrong with sponsoring it? Do you think our community sees any difference between "hosting" and "sponsoring"? Its at our church, so its our event sir. Who is "sponsoring" it? Maybe the more relevant question is: WHO IS GOING TO BE TAKING THE OFFERING THAT IS GIVEN AND WHAT ASSURANCE DO WE HAVE THAT 100% OF THE FUNDS ARE GOING TO THE SAID CHARITY? The CEO and President of M-EDG has already himself said that he and no one associated with his company is sponsoring the event. What 501(c)3 charity will be claiming the monies raised as income, and where will these monies be disbursed? Would we not care where money raised in our sanctuary is going? Will 100% of the proceeds go to this hospital? You don't know do you, because some other 501(c)3 non-profit organization is going to take the funds, right?
Your arrogance in holding this event is breath taking. Your explanation this morning is so incredibly weak, as though you are COMPELLED to host this to show your support of Israel. Wow, we weren't born yesterday Mac! There are so many ways we can as a church lovingly support our Jewish friends - this event is not necessary to accomplish that task.
Perhaps just as breath-taking as your arrogance is the failure of the leadership in this church to stop an event that has absolutely no business being held in our church facilities. Not because we don't love the Jewish people, but because we know what our mission is, we love the people of Jacksonville and want a clear, consistent message to be sent regarding who Jesus Christ is, and we love unborn babies and don't want one single penny or one single hour of our staff's time to be spent on an event tied to abortion.
We're not going to let this one go...please people of FBC Jacksonville spread the word to those in our church who don't know what is happening. As Sheri said, knowledge is power.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
By all appearances, Mac Brunson is still going to host A Time To Stand With Israel in the First Baptist Church Jacksonville sanctuary on November 8. This event will be featuring Jewish speakers that have no interest whatsoever in furthering the gospel, and at which a "love offering" from Christians and others present will be sent to the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Firstly, let me say as I've said numerous times already, I am not opposed to this event. I am very pro-Israel, and I understand the scriptural truth that those who bless the Jewish nation will be blessed. I have no problem with a community holding an event to honor Jews or raise funds for Israel. I would very much support this event at a neutral site in Jacksonville. But I am very much against this event being hosted at our church for four basic reasons:
1. Holding this event in our church facility which will likely gain local media coverage, creating confusion in the minds of those we are trying to reach with the gospel about Jesus being their only hope for salvation. To host an event featuring, glorifying those who are expressly of a non-Christian religion, who expressly do NOT believe Jesus Christ is the only hope for mankind, WITHIN THE WALLS OF OUR CHURCH sends the wrong message to the very people we are trying to reach with the gospel through the ministries of our church. This is worse even than hosting a purely secular meeting of some kind; it is a meeting glorifying an expressly non-Christian religion. There is no doubt that praise will be heaped on our church and on our pastor by the local media on how loving and open and brave we are to host this event...but are we worried about gaining favor from the community or maintaining a clear, consistent testimony and message that says to Jacksonville: "Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and he is man's only hope of salvation and heaven."? Will not some in our city reason "gee, I thought that big church downtown has said for years that their Jesus is the only way to heaven, but they are having a service honoring the Jews who are definitely NOT Christian, so I guess things really HAVE changed at that "Jesus" church downtown.!" How sad to use our church facilities for an event that will dilute and confuse our message about Jesus that has been rock-solid for decades and decades.
2. The funds raised at this event taken as a "love offering", will be sent to the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center (AHMC). Most people who are ardent supports of Israel don't know that the state of Israel pays for abortions for women that are under 18 or over 40, provided they meet some financial or medical hardship. Approximately 20,000 of these abortions are performed at the Israeli hospitals each year, including the AHMC. I'm not saying the AHMC is evil, or should be shut down; it is a legitimate hospital that does much good in research and providing medical services. I'll even say that it is deserving of Jews and supporters of Jews raising funds to support it. But the fact remains: on-demand abortions are performed at this institution and pro-life churches have no business using their name or their facilities to raise money for it. All abortions are wrong, and abortion is a blight in any country. But it is a particular social concern in Israel because of the disturbing imbalance between Jewish and Arab fertility rates within the nation of Israel, which abortion only serves to make worse. Already half a million Jewish babies in Israel have been aborted because of their state abortion policy. But regardless...a church, any church...any church opposed to the evil of abortion...certainly one of the flagship churches of the Southern Baptist Convention...should avoid even the appearance of evil and not host a fund raiser which will send money to a hospital at which abortions are performed! I have recently corresponded with a Jewish-Christian couple in Israel who have a ministry of saving unborn Jewish babies by meeting the needs of women in financial distress; they confirmed first hand the problem of abortion in Israel. When I explained that a fund raiser was being held at our church to give money to AHMC, they kindly expressed a hope that believers outside of Israel would be more discerning as to where they send their financial help to Israel. There are so many worthwhile ministries within Israel that are inline with our church's mission and values that its disturbing to see the monies go to the AHMC.
3. The circumstances and motives of this event and the selection of the AHMC as the sole recipient of the funds raised is very suspect. As I've written previously, the impetus behind this event appears to be a Dr. Michael Cohen, who is the head of the Galilean Institute, and the recently appointed head of the new company called Florida-Israel Biomedical Initiative (FIBI), owned by the Jacksonville-based M-EDG, LLC. The FIBI company was formed in June 2007 with a mission of "...[providing] a very well-suited marketing and distribution vehicle for the U.S. commercialization of Israel’s biomedical devices and products." Nothing at all wrong with that. But when the pastor makes the following statement in an email reply to a member questioning the reasons of this event: "A number of our most prominent deacons are a part of this group and support financially some interest in Israel...." What does that mean? Part of the rationale in hosting this is because some of our most "prominent" (read: "wealthy"?) have a financial interest in Israel? Does he mean they donate money to Israel? Does he mean that they have a financial interest in M-EDG or the FIBI? I'm no conspiracy theorist, but this just has the appearance that the decision to host this, the decision that the money is going to the AHMC and not some other equally worthy charity consistent with our church's mission, is done for reasons other than what is the best for the cause of Christ and for our church. I find no fault with Dr. Cohen or M-EDG; Dr. Cohen's list of credentials in business and philanthropy is impressive. But if this is common practice at our mega churches in the SBC, hosting fund raisers for non-Christian charities that our "prominent deacons" have an interest in, then please forgive me for being so alarmed. By the way, this is precisely the reason why it is unwise for a wealthy member of the church to give a $300,000 land gift to the new pastor upon his arrival, and doubly unwise for the pastor to accept it. The circumstances here, and his email statements to a member make it look as though the pastor is looking out for the interests of the wealthy deacons and not the best interest of the church at large. I thought that a pastor of a mega church carefully guarded his flock and the church to make sure all efforts, all resources, all activities of the church are laser-focused on furthering the gospel. I know that was the focus of Homer Lindsay, Jr. and Jerry Vines.
4. The lack of communication by our pastor to the congregation about this event makes it look as though he has something to hide about the event. A member has posted email responses from the pastor to his questions on why the event is being hosted, and the responses contradict information given on the website, and I suspect that one of the responses may be outright fallacious. In response to a question about his silence on this to his congregation he replied "I have mentioned it from the pulpit on several occasions. The deacons know about and support (sic). I am sorry you did not hear the several times I have talked about it." Still haven't talked to anyone at church who recalls when he explained it to us. The church at large first learned about this event was the week of October 12th while Mac Brunson was on a 2-week vacation, when it appeared on the church website scrolling announcement. He also made this statement in an email: "We are not supporting abortions at this hospital, it is a wing for orthopedics and the offering that is taken that night is going to come from the Jews and the medical community. I told them not to count on FBC taking an offering for them." This seemingly contradicts the church's own website that says the love offering will be taken from Christians out of obedience to Romans 15:27 to share our material blessings with the Jews (which is a misuse of scripture - this scripture refers to Paul giving to believing Jews). So which is it? Only the medical community and the Jews? Or are Christians going to be urged to give?
Well, that is what I have. Take your shots. Call me nosey. Call me a biblical slanderer. But deal with the information. I look at these facts and I see a pastor negligent in his duties to guard the church and keeping us on track to spread the gospel. I see this and I see factors other than "how can we get the gospel out to the world" influencing how decisions are made to hold events. This makes me further wonder - was this very lack of wise leadership displayed by our pastor the reasons many of our staff has fled in the past year? Questions, only more questions.
If you are a pastor who comes to FBC Jacksonville for the pastor's conference and are concerned about this information, I hope you will call or email Mac Brunson to express your disappointment and let him know you'll pass on the pastor's conference this year. You can still watch many of the services via the church live feed over the Internet and be blessed by the excellent line up of speakers, but keep your church's monies from going to a careless pastor.
All this said: Mac its still not too late to do the right thing. You still have time to tell the event organizers that the event will have to go to a neutral site and set things right with your congregation.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Let me say first how disappointed we are that Mac Brunson has not publicly addressed this fund raiser with his congregation, yet the church has this event prominently displayed on their scrolling announcement banner on the FBC Jax website. At best this is negligence on his part to pastor his sheep, and at worst its outright arrogance and disrespect for those he leads. He had ample opportunity to at least briefly explain the event, its purpose, how it fits with our church mission, and what the funds will be used for - he could have done it during either of the Sunday services, but did not. He could have done it through his "weekly" publication "Life Lines", but sadly his office staff hasn't had time to publish the weekly newsletter in over two months (but here's the version from August 17th). Those of you who say that we should call the pastor if we have questions about this event: hogwash. Any leader worth his salt knows that quality leadership includes keeping members of the organization abreast of important events, and "selling" new and innovative ideas. A leader must be the one to use all the power at his disposal to reach out to his followers with information. So we have no information from the pastor or staff on the rationale for this event and the date of this event is fast approaching.
Let's just suppose that our church believes holding fund raisers for Israel is an activity that fits within our church's mission, or spending our church resources for raising funds for the nation of Israel is part of our "core values", or that it fits within Jim Smyrl's "theology driven ministry" model. I have already stated that this activity clearly does NOT fit into any of these, and that in fact hosting such an event is counter-productive to our church accomplishing its mission, in that this event prominently features and even glorifies non-believers (non-believers specifically aligned with a non-Christian religion) and will likely cause confusion in the minds of those in Jacksonville that we are trying to reach with the biblical message that "Jesus is the only way to heaven". On these grounds alone our pastor needs to pull his offer of hosting this event at our church. It would best be held at a neutral, secular site.
But let's assume for the sake of argument that fund raisers for Israel fits with our mission of reaching the world for Jesus Christ. If so, then the next question to be pondered by serious pastors and lay leaders is: "What is the best way for a conservative, evangelical, Christian church to demonstrate its love for the Jewish people? In what way can we partner with our Jewish friends on an issue that is both pro-Christian and pro-Jew?"
One option might be to raise funds to give to a non-religious, secular, or government-funded organization that is doing good things on behalf of the Jews. One option here might be donating money to a hospital. Some others might be to giving money to some worthwhile military support organization that assists families of Israeli soldiers. Or perhaps to some Jewish children's home, or orphanage. Unfortunately, when you get down to it, probably the LEAST best of these secular options for a conservative, pro-life, evangelical Christian church to be involved in would be raising funds for a hospital. Why you ask? Because Israeli hospitals perform government-funded abortions at the rate of about 20,000 per year. Government funded. At the hospitals. The proposed fund raiser is for a trauma center at the hospital, but still - sending money raised at a Christian church to go a hospital at which abortions are performed- any mature, clear-thinking Christian of FBC Jax would have to agree that this is not the best fit.
So, money sent by a church to a trauma center in Israel - it might not be "bad" or "evil" (I think it is for reasons already stated, but I'm assuming it is not for discussion purposes). It might be classified as "good" - hospitals save lives, right?. BUT IS IT THE BEST? Are there other ways we can demonstrate our love for the Jewish people that is consistent with our church's mission?
The second option, and much better option, is so obvious that I'm embarrassed for our church leaders to even have to explain it. Abortion is a major social problem in Israel as statistics show a disturbing imbalance between Jewish and Arab fertility rates (average number of children born per woman) creating obvious concerns for this Jewish nation. The nation of Israel has already lost over half a million of its Jewish citizens to abortion. But there is a non-profit, non-government funded group in Israel that actively works to reduce the number of abortions in that country by meeting the physical and economic needs of women contemplating abortion. Over 90% of abortions in Israel are because of economic hardship, and by meeting the needs of these women during their time of "crisis" babies are saved. The name of this group is "Efrat". Their motto is "Saving the Lives of Jewish Children in Israel." Last year they saved 1806 babies from abortion.
Efrat receives no government funding, and they have extremely low overhead. Their annual budget is about 2 million dollars, and this allows them to save about 2000 babies per year. Take a moment and visit their U.S.A Website: http://www.friendsofefrat.org/ to learn about the work they are doing. View the video on this website. Listen to the testimonies of Jewish women who's babies were saved through this ministry. Listen to the words of the rabbis explaining the evil of abortion in their country and the good work done by Efrat.
Then ask the question: what should a fund raiser at FBC Jacksonville for the Jewish nation (if we must have one) go towards: a hospital where Jewish babies are aborted, or a non-profit organization that works to save babies. Note that I'm not asking this question of the advisory board for this event...sure, it might be in THEIR best interest to raise money for the hospital. But I'm asking the Christians at FBC Jacksonville...which is BEST?
When you answer that question, call or email the pastor to tell him "no", we don't want our church to have a fund raiser for the AHMC Medical Center. If our pastor believes an Israeli fund raiser is a worthwhile activity for our church, then let the money go to something that is directly consistent with our core values....or let the advisory committee take their fund raiser for the AHMC elsewhere.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Why is abortion a question? Am I being an alarmist in asking such a provocative question?
Since 1977 abortion has been legal in Israel, and depending on the woman's circumstances it may be funded by the government. The goverment has established 41 "abortion committees" around the country in public and private hospitals within Israel, to whom women make application when in need of an abortion. These committees will consist of a physician whose in obstetrics and gynecology; a family doctor or psychiatrist or internist or gynecologist; and a social worker. Law requires at least one woman must be present on each committee. "In 1999, 19,674 applications out of 20,581 were approved (96%) and 18,785 pregnancies were terminated. In addition, 16,000 abortions were illegally performed in private doctors' clinics." (ref: http://www.silentvoices.org/abortion.html)
Is it not reasonable for a Christian to ask of their pastor that is using the church to hold an event to raise funds for a hospital located in a foreign country that allows state-funded abortions, whether the hospital is one of the places where state-funded abortions (or any abortions) are performed? Is not this question of extra importance when the sponsor of the event is NOT a Christian group, but is in fact a for-profit corporation? Can the pastor even know with any certainty the answer to such a question about abortion at the hosptial? If he cannot, would it not be the wise thing to avoid using our resources to raise money for a hospital in such a country? And if he STILL decides to host the event, should he not explain his motives to his congregation for holding such an event?
But here's a few more questions that perhaps Trey and Debbie Brunson and the crack pastor's office suite can help Mac find answers to. Or perhaps some of the lay leaders who are afraid to question Mac Brunson will take these questions to Mac:
1. Is it possible that we have invited a non-Christian, private corporation to raise funds for a secular hospital in Tel Aviv where abortions are performed? It is well known that abortion is state funded in Israel, and every year approximately 20,000 abortions are performed in and paid by the state of Israel. Maybe Trey or Debbie will read this absract of research done at the AHMC that explains research done on women who have had late term abortions. After you read this article Trey or Debbie, call Mike Cohen of M-EDG and explain to him that our church has always taken a stand against abortion and we don't think it a good idea to raise funds where abortions are performed.
2. Why would our pastor choose to speak at a fund raiser for a hospital where abortions are performed, let alone OFFER OUR CHURCH SANTUARY UP TO HOST SUCH AN EVENT? At this research abstract by doctors of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the AHMC:
"..None of the women in the study group, admitted after late abortion or Caesarean section, was found to have residual trophoblastic tissue as confirmed by histological examination. Even though our department is a referral centre for late abortions (13–24 weeks of gestation), performed by the method of dilatation and evacuation (500 per year), only two women in the study group were admitted after late abortion (2.9%), and actually none of them had retained trophoblastic tissue, as confirmed by histological examination. A reasonable explanation for such uneventful outcome might be due to the use of a large number of laminarias, causing the uterine cervix to become ripened and dilated satisfactorily and possibly because late abortions are performed only by expert clinicians whereas early abortions are done mainly by residents, and not always using laminaria..."
When will the people of FBC Jax begin to get concerned?
Friday, October 19, 2007
The stated purpose of this event is to gather Christians and Jews together to demonstrate support of the nation of Israel, rallying Christians to show financial support of the Jewish nation (Romans 15:27), and to raise a "love offering" for the "Trauma and Rehabilitation Center" of the well-known Assaf Harofeh Medical Center. That's right church: our church's name and our pastor are using our facilities to RAISE FUNDS FOR A HOSPITAL IN ISRAEL. Not that he needs to tell you, or explain it to you so that you can understand WHY that is a wise use of our facilities. Hear me, I'm not saying that this is something we certainly should NOT do. I have not done all the research myself. But is this not such a signficant event, a departure from what we normally use our church buildings for (spreading the gospel and evangelizing in the name of Jesus Christ) that our pastor should.....yes.....EXPLAIN THIS TO US BEFORE ITS PUT ON THE WEBSITE AND LEAVING US SCRATCHING OUR HEADS? WHERE IS THE LEADERSHIP OF OUR PASTOR? DOES HE JUST RUN OFF AND DECIDE TO USE OUR CHURCH FACILITIES AND CHANGE THE FOCUS OF OUR CHURCH AS HE SEES FIT AND DOESN'T NEED TO EXPLAIN THIS TO US?
Why would anyone be opposed to such a meeting at our church facilities, you ask? Aren't we to support the nation of Israel? Sure, but some logical questions that might want to be addressed by our pastor, if he feels led:
- is not the goal of our church to evangelize and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ? Does this include evangelizing and spreading the message that Jesus Christ is the messiah? John Hagee explains that the CUFI events specifically are not meant to evangelize our Jewish friends (and we assume the same would be true for this very similar event), but to "bring Christians and Jews together in a municipal auditorium...and to present a message of hope, a message of appreciation from Christians to Jews for the Jewish Contribution to Christianity...there is nothing said or done in that service that targets Jews for conversion or trying to bring them into the church and the total purpose of the "Night to Honor Israel" is to raise funds to benefit orphans, to bring Jewish people from around the world to Israel who wish to emmigrate to Israel, to help build absorption centers where the Jewish people coming from around the world can learn the Hebrew language and be taught a trade, to giving to hospitals and to organizations throughout the state of Israel that benefit the Jewish people. We have given millions of dollars over 25 years and brought over 12,000 people to Israel..." (Hagee interview on NPR, 9/18/06)
- Why are we using our church facilities and our financial resources trying to raise funds for the nation of Israel? How does this fit into our church mission?
- Does not hosting and sponsoring such an event at our church perhaps confuse the lost world in understanding our mission and our message that Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven? Could or should this have been hosted at a "neutral" site in Jacksonville so as to not confuse Jacksonville as to the mission and purpose of our church?
- Are Jews saved or are they lost? Rev. Marcus Allen, Jr. preached a great sermon just Wednesday night and explained that all people without Jesus Christ are headed to a devil's hell....does this include our Jewish friends; do they need to accept Jesus Christ? If so, are we not doing them a disservice to invite them to our church, and not tell them about Christ?
- Fund raisers for Jewish hospital...sounds like a noble cause. What other fund raisers can we use our church buildings for? Are there not some very worthwhile charitable organizations in the United States that could benefit from us holding a fund raiser, that would be more in line with the New Testament teaching to care for the poor, feed the hungry, care for widows, etc?
- What do you say Mac to those who are concerned about Israel's abortion policy? The Israel government does allow state-funded abortions - are we sure we aren't giving money directly or indirectly to a nation or hospital at which medical practices such as abortion or RU-486 dispensing is performed?
Church, I hope that the sponsoring of this event at our church at least causes you to be somewhat concerned...unless the church is being reimbursed from the funds raised at the event to offset the cost of hosting this event, your tithes and offerings that were given to further the gospel of 0ur Lord Jesus Christ have been offered up by Mac Brunson to support the nation of Israel - not that the nation of Israel should not be supported by Christians, but is that what you gave your tithes and offerings for at FBC Jacksonville? I am in no way anti-Israel, and I'm not even saying that this event is wrong or bad. But it sure does raise some questions for me...what about you?
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Furthermore, Mac Brunson has not kept the congregation posted on the progress in starting this school, except to mention in his sermon on September 30th to say that many people on a committee were working toward opening the school in the Fall of 2008. If the start-up of this school is going to be paid for from the budget of the church, Mac would do very well to take occasion in making announcements every so often on Sunday mornings about the progress made in the school start-up. One brief mention in a sermon in 7 months time doesn't cut it.
Mac probably doesn't know this, but the thought of quite a few "common folk" in the congregation is that this school will not be helping any but the very rich in our congregation, and perhaps will reach as a ministry some of the very rich in our community. If the tuition costs will be anything similar to the First Baptist Academy in Dallas, the tuition cost will range from $9000 to $10,000 for one student. Survey the families at FBC Jacksonville who might be able to afford this tuition, or even half of it...there won't be very many in our congregation.
Mac very much believes in "church marketing" as he uses the "A-Group" church marketing firm; so one would hope that the starting point in the FBC Jax school project was first doing the necessary research answering the questions:
1. Is a Christian school needed in Jacksonville? Is there an expected lack of space in the current Christian schools serving this area?
2. How much demand is there in the Jax metro area for a Christian school located downtown?
3. How many members will be able to take advantage of the school?
4. What will the cost of this school be during the start-up and what financial effect will this have on other ministries in the church?
The question of: SHOULD FBC JACKSONVILLE BE IN THE BUSINESS OF CHRISTIAN EDUCATION is one that needs to be seriously considered by wise men and women who are familiar with Jacksonville education, Christian education, and who have no preconceived bias TOWARD starting a school. Its very reasonable that Mac would want a Christian school at FBC Jax. He had one at Dallas. He believes very much in Christian education. But its not his dollars that will be financing it, it will be "God's money" donated by members of the church. So we certainly hope that before we launch into starting a Christian school we first have done the research to make sure it makes sense in every way for our church to move in this direction.
OK, I'll cut to the chase: after observing Mac Brunson over the past year, I don't trust his judgement alone in making the decision to start a school at our church. I hope that serious men and women have not just started planning for the school, but that they first debated the concept and studied market research to see if its even a worthwhile project. If so, can the congregation be told? Church, please speak up and don't be silent any longer if you share similar concerns. Yes, the pastor complains about emails, but that is the only way to let them know.
P.S. Keeping the congregation informed on status of projects, direction of the church, special events, is definitely not a strong suit of Team Brunson. The "LifeLines" weekly publication hasn't been published in over 2 months (and the old version is still posted on the website!). As I said we have heard almost nothing about the school, and now we see that our church is sponsoring a major Pro-Israel fund-raising event for a hospital in Israel....that might be a fine idea, but why does the church only find out about these things from the church website? For a church and pastor that uses a church marketing company, you would think we would do a better job of communicating to the members of the church.
Monday, October 15, 2007
When the issues raised on this blog are viewed in light of these other church scandals, the questions asked here don't seem so out of line. In fact if there are reasonable explanations for issues raised on this blog, it most certainly is in the best interest of the church and its leaders to be very forthcoming with answers to the congregation to show that First Baptist Jacksonville has nothing in common with these other pastors and churches when it comes to finances and land deals.
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...".
Friday, October 12, 2007
As the Richard Roberts' scandal at ORU is gaining national attention, its interesting to note that some of the allegations made against the Roberts' are somewhat similar to those that have been discussed here on this blog regarding Mac Brunson and family. One thing is sure about the mess at ORU: until the fired professors filed a lawsuit and the lawsuit was reported on by the press Richard Roberts was not going to address the questions. Certainly no lowly, disgruntled, "recalcitrant" professors, and for sure no lowly demonic "recalcitrant" blogger has the power to cause Richard Roberts to start answering questions. But after the press reported on the allegations, holy cow Richard Roberts couldn't drive his Lexus fast enough to get to chapel service to address the allegations and announce he was launching a full investigation (and of course attack the motives of the professors filing the lawsuit). Gee, why such a change of heart now Richard on providing answers to those who have been asking questions?
Any chance FBC Jax leadership will find a way to provide answers to these questions BEFORE the press starts asking questions and reporting on unrest at FBC Jax? Not a chance. Despite media reporting on the mega church problems on at Bellevue and Two Rivers, despite even lawsuits by church members, information is not forthcoming to answer questions about how money is spent at these churches. Despite Mac and the staff telling us how important it is that WE be willing to accept change, when it comes to openness and accountability to the givers of the money it will always be "business as usual".
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
But tonight Marcus laid it on a little bit too thick when he took time out of his service to announce to the congregation that we have "the very best pastor in America". Said it twice, I believe. He then went on to say that he is an awesome preacher who really "shucks the corn" when he preaches, and his "depth of knowledge and insight into history" just adds so much to his sermons....but that's not what makes him such a great pastor. Its because Mac is such an incredible, humble "servant"...and went on to give three examples of why Mac is such a "servant":
1. Mac had all his staff over to his house for dinner recently; and then the deacons on a separate occaision. Mac wore an apron and he was the "server" filling cups, picking up dishes. Why that 'ole Mac Brunson...what a SERVANT he is to be picking up the dishes and filling cups at his million dollar home. Brings tears to my eyes really. Seriously, does that reflect as to what kind of a biblical "servant" Mac is or is not? I have guests over and wear an apron and pick up the dishes
2. Mac heard on the radio that a man in Jacksonville had lost his wife and Mac "immediately rushed" over to the man's house to minister to him and Mac eventually conducted the man's wife's funeral.
3. Mac went and got a cooler, filled it with ice (yes, Mac got the cooler and ice himself according to Marcus!), and handed out bottled water to the marchers against violence who were marching downtown, telling each person "Jesus loves you".
The audience did offer applause, but it was not enthusiastic...what I call "scant" and "oh yeah, we better clap" kind of applause.
Marcus, Mac might or might not be a biblical servant...but I don't think your examples show either way.
Monday, October 8, 2007
"....I think that you'd agree with me that is what a sermon ought to be...he took us to the text...he brought some things to our attention that I never noticed before, and that blesses my soul. And he did it with passion, he illustrated it cogently, and furthermore it was ever syllable true. Thank you so very much. Thank you Mac for a magnificent message and challenge today, and uh, he's going to have to go pretty quick but he'll be here for just a few minutes if you want to come by quickly and, uh tell him you love him and promise him you'll be praying for him. Unbelievable, he had not been at First Baptist Church Jacksonville for even two months, until recalicantrants started on him, and uh, unbelievable to me that anyone would do that, you know used to (sic) you got a honeymoon period in a church, uh, everybody said that we'll wait at least until he makes 5 mistakes before we kill him, and uh, so, that has not been the case in Jacksonville and yet God is blessing wonderfully in that ministry. You say 'why does that happen?', I'll tell you why it happens, because the devil knows that he has to stop the man of God, if he possibly can. You can expect the devil to attack, that's what's happening to him. I want him (Mac) to see something, he's our graduate here, I want to know how many of you here will wave a hand at Mac Brunson and say 'Dr. Brunson, you can count on me, I'm going to pray for you, I'm going to ask God to bless that ministry in Jacksonville.' Will you just do that? ...we promise we will do that sweet brother, don't grow weary in well-doing, and we will pray for you."
Well, Dr. Patterson, we used to think you loved FBC Jacksonville. I don't think a man would say such a thing about a church - equating our treatment of our pastor to wanting to "kill" him, unless he first confirmed those things to be true. So in light of your remarks I thought I would set the record straight for you and more importantly for the many SWBTS students that heard your remarks in chapel and that we know are regular readers of this blog.
1. You proclaim that "recalcitrants" started on Mac "not even two months after he got here". Most FBC Jax members can tell you this is just not so. Our church voted unanimously for him, we eagerly awaited his arrival, and we openly and warmingly embraced Mac and his family into our congregation when he arrived. There may have been those who didn't like his use of the NASB over the KJV and they might have sent him some emails, but that is it. To say that recalcitrants started attacking him right away is so very wrong. I would challenge Mac to tell his congregation how recalcitrants at his church started on him shortly after his arrival. Care to explain that to us Mac?
2. You proclaim sir that Mac didn't get a honeymoon period at FBC Jax. That is a lie. Either you knowingly lied or Mac lied to you and you repeated the lie to hundreds of your students. Any of the SWBTS students could only wish that they receive 1/10th of the "honeymoon" at one of their churches like Mac received at FBC Jax. Let's look at the facts:
- The church completed a very expensive renovation of the ground floor children's building to convert it into an office suite for the Brunsons. Attendees at the Pastor's Conference will remember Mac taking the seminary students to his office so they could "tour" his study and 15 foot ceilings and grand book cases and massive book collection? The church renovated this office space, which was formerly a large conference/meeting room, for Mac and Debbie and their secretary BEFORE THEY EVER ARRIVED.
- The search committee graciously agreed to allow Mac to keep his speaking and travel commitments he had already scheduled for 2006 before he accepted the call to Jacksonville. As a result Mac traveled quite a bit during 2006, often times not telling the congregation when he would or would not be preaching
- Mac and Debbie were given a full 2 months "vacation" with pay between the time we voted Mac to be pastor, and when he finally arrived in Jacksonville. This is more than the customary 1 month period given to new pastors. The church paid speaking fees and travel expenses during this 2 month period for some very high profile preachers to fill the gap and pave the way for Mac, most of them telling us how great Mac was going to be.
- Mac and Debbie were given free use of a mult-million dollar, ocean-front condominium on Amelia Island for almost a full year waiting for their 5000+ square foot house to be built on the property they were gifted (see next item)
- Mac and Debbie were given a 0.5 acre property in a high-end, exclusive gated community, backing up to a golfcourse fairway. The market value of this property is currently $307,000. Construction of their home began just a few months after they arrived in Jacksonville and has since been completed.
- Mac's wife and son were put on paid staff - most in the congregation don't know if this was agreed upon by the search committee as a condition of hiring, or if Mac did it after he came. But obviously the lay committees approved this, representing yet another expression of love for Mac and family. To this day the congregation still has not been told what their official area of ministry responsibilities are.
- The church paid tens of thousands of dollars to rent the Jacksonville minor league baseball stadium to hold a "Sermon on the Mound" event on Sunday evening of Father's Day 2006...this was our chance to introduce Mac to the community. We invited our friends and family members to come here the new preacher, along with Dennis Swanberg at the ball park.
- The church embraced the Brunson family, as evidenced by the wedding reception held at the church by the deacons and church body at large for Mac's son Trey and his new wife just weeks after Mac arrived in Jacksonville.
I realize these are mostly monetary expressions of love, but anyone that was here during Mac's first 6 months will tell you that indeed there WAS a honeymoon period between FBC Jax and Mac and Debbie when they arrived, and it is to an extent still occuring! The crowds have grown on Sunday morning, people are being saved, giving is up, our church is following Mac's lead in the area of missions - how could it be described as though the church wanted to "kill" Mac and that he had no honeymoon? The evil "recalcitrants" started in on Mac around January 2007, but only after our long-time staffers started leaving, and some church members began to see a lack of leadership on Mac's part after 8 months of him being pastor, and as the things above and other things came to light as possible abuses by Mac and/or the lay leadership.
3. Lastly Paige Patterson you were not honest about your explanation as to why this sort of thing happens to pastors. You attributed these "recalcitrant" attacks to the workings of the devil trying to "stop the man of God." That is dangerous theology Dr. Patterson, and you know it and you spread it to your students who will be preachers in SBC churches some day. Mega church pastors who are not open and transparent with their congregations, who earn CEO-salaries, who put their families on staff, who have standards of living much, much higher than the average church member are open to much scrutiny these days as people view these types of actions as potential abuses of money and power. Sure, pastors are subject to unwarranted attacks by "recalcitrants" but not all the time when questions are raised about a pastor is it the work of the devil. When people dared expose Bob Gray at Trinity Baptist Church for the monster he was, the accusers were labeled troublemakers and heretics - how dare they raise questions about "the man of God". As Mac says: See also "Frank Harber in Texas" and "Bob Reccord at NAMB" those who brought their abuses to light also were viewed as instruments of the devil by defenders.
I wonder Dr. Patterson if you would ever have dared to say something like this about FBC Jacksonville in the presence of Dr. Homer Lindsay, Jr. I think not...Dr. Lindsay wouldn't stand for someone to say something like this about his church. Now we're left wondering why Mac would travel to SWBTS and stand idly by why you uttered those words about the church that treated him and his family so well upon his arrival. Perhaps its another of Mac's attempts to paint himself as the victim.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
The chest of Joash service each year really is a call to stewardship - for members of the church to show themselves to be good stewards of their money and make a pledge for the on-going ministry of the church. It can be said the pledging of our gifts is also an act or demonstration of accountability - the church member is declaring what they will be able to give, they sign the card as an indication they are willing to be held accountable.
Just as the membership is called to stewardship and accountability - so also the church leadership must be called to demonstrate stewardship of the money they are given, and they must be accountable to the congregation for how it is spent to further God's kingdom. And proving themselves to be accountable is not just on the Sunday before the Chest of Joash Sunday having some pastor from New Orleans stand so our pastor can arrogantly boast: "WE PAY THAT GUY'S SALARY, SEE THAT GUY, WE PAY HIS SALARY" (which is probably about 1/10 of Mac's annual income tax), nor is it just trotting out Pastor Daniel Jones to boast about how Trey "negotiated" a great deal for air conditioners for his church...these don't prove the church to be good stewards...its too little, and too late.
The church leadership needs to be accountable to the congregation. Mac Brunson in his sermon last Sunday did make an attempt to explain in what ways the church is a good steward, but there are still some major questions that need to be answered by the leadership - not just Mac Brunson but lay leadership as well.
1. Why did the church arrange for a $250,000 piece of land (now valued at over $300,000) to be gifted to Mac Brunson and Debbie Brunson upon their arrival in Jacksonville? This is for all to see on the city of Jacksonville website...the previous owner of this property "sold" it to Mac and Debbie Brunson for $10 and for "love and affection" (its in the city records that can be looked up at the property appraisors website at http://www.coj.net/). The transaction was completed exactly two weeks after their arrival in Jacksonville. This subject has come up before on other websites, and the only answer given by someone in lay leadership is that it was a "personal" gift to Mac and that his private dealings are nobody's business. Oh really? So the church had NOTHING to do with this gift? A member or friend of the church felt called, on his/her own, with no compelling by anyone at the church to give a quarter of a million dollars to the new pastor coming to Jacksonville? Can the church leadership assure us that no church funds were paid to the giver of this land, or no favors were granted in return for this property? Also, why did the church arrange for the Brunsons to live rent free in a multi-million dollar ocean-front condominium on Amelia Island? If this was a free and clear gift from a member, was the Brunson's relocation package adjusted accordingly? Were any church funds used to compensate the owner of this condominimum for their generosity? Did the church pay for any of the resulting Brunson income taxes generated from these "gifts"? Were these treated as income to the Brunsons or just "gifts"? There have been other mega church scandals in the SBC involving land deals, and nothing less than open, full disclosure of the circumstances surrounding these gifts will do.
2. We've already mentioned numerous times that the salaries of Team Brunson are quite extravagent and that if known to the congregation most would consider it not a wise use of our resources to be paying them upwards of 10 times the salary of the average family in the church. Mac told the congregation Sunday that an independent firm conducted a salary review of our church to make sure that our staff salaries are consistent with other like-size churches, that "bands" of salary ranges have been established to ensure we stay within reason. Did Debbie and Mac's salary together count as "pastor" salary in this analysis? Or did they split up Mac's salary with Debbie so that his number would look better and fall more neatly into the senior pastor band? I know and most members know of ladies in our church who serve as lay persons and spend many, many hours in our church each week, just as much if not more than Debbie Brunson and they earn ZERO salary while their husband's salary is 1/10th of Mac's. Are other staff member's wives serving in the church earning a large salary like Debbie Brunson? Why not? What are Debbie Brunson's ministerial responsbilities? What are son Trey's official ministerial responsibilities? If the salaries are not excessive; if the salaries would not be a concern to the congregation as Mac said on Sunday, then release the results of the independent study of church salaries. Do these new bands developed by this consultant (was it the A-Group?) have anything to do with the rapid staff departures over the past year as staff members were placed in bands with ranges beneath their current salaries?
3. Why do we use "Word for You Today" (http://www.wordforyoutoday.com/) as our daily devotional? This at first appears to be the most trivial of all possible points, but it does raise serious questions - especially when we see our Pastor on their "testimonial" page, using our church name to tout the benefits of this authorless devotional (gee, if anonymous emails are bad, wouldn't anonymous devotionals be worse?). Word for You Today is a non-denominational, for-profit daily devotional, purposely authorless so that churches who purchase it can provide it to their congregations as though it comes from the pastor. Let's refresh some memories: the first months that Mac came to FBC Jax he proclaimed he would be emailing devotionals written by him to the church membership. We even had visitors at special events write their emails on the back so we could be sure to send them Mac's devotional. This never happened, but we started using Word for You Today on the FBC Jax website. Why are we subscribing to a for-profit company's devotionals when there are numerous FREE, reputable, well-know daily devotionals, to which we could link (that don't hide the identify of their contributors or editors). If FBC Jax is not paying ZERO for providing Word for You Today on our website, we are paying too much. All of this makes me wonder: is Mac one of the paid contributors to this devotional? Or is he paid for his testimonial?
The church leadership wants YOU to be accountable. Fine. The leadership wants YOU to prove yourself to be a good steward of your money by pledging it to the church and signing your name. Great. But is the church leadership willing to be accountable to the givers of the money and to show themselves to be good stewards? Think about that before you decide to drop your card into the chest this Sunday.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
1. All, and I mean ALL, male leadership are no longer wearing ties. No ushers, no deacons, no pastors, no one in any leadership position. No one. And the youth leaders are wearing khakis and a thin brown t-shirt.
2. A good number of the women in the church that used to wear dresses and skirts are now wearing pants.
I really don't care what people wear to church.
But its very obvious that an edict went out to the leadership of the church: NO TIES ON WEDNESDAY FOR MALE LEADERSHIP. Or they got the hint from Jim Smyrl preaching about ties.
But if it wasn't an edict from the pastor of "NO MORE TIES", wouldn't logic be that some WOULD wear ties while others didn't?
What's so wrong with ties on Wednesday that would cause the pastor to tell the leadership of our church to not wear them anymore.
Things get more bizarre by the week.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Mac introduced Pastor Jones to the FBC Jacksonville congregation because our church has decided to help him with some of the rebuilding process; we have garnered the support of several businesses to buy some air conditioning units and perhaps some other things as well. Mac of course is to be commended for reaching out to the community in this fashion to help Pastor Jones and his church.
When Mac introduced Pastor Jones he described how the events were set into motion to help this ministry: Mac's son Trey saw a news article about this man's church and his struggle to rebuild, and brought it to Mac's attention, and then they (Mac and Trey) decided to help them out. According to Mac, Trey then sprung into action and "negotiated" to get reduced pricing on the air conditioning units to be purchased by FBC Jax. Mac then called out and volunteered several men in the congregation to go "door to door" with Pastor Jones to invite people to his church.
As I said, that is good. By all appearances this seems to be a worthwhile ministry to Pastor Jones on the part of FBC Jax. The only reason I bring this up here on the blog is this: the way Mac explained the events leading up to the decision to help this church, this seemed to be somewhat of an "impulse" giving decision. Other than Mac and Trey deciding that this was a worthwhile investment of our church's time and money, did our church do its due diligence into examining this ministry and making sure our involvement is worthwhile? This does remind me of the hot water that Steve Gaines got himself into at Bellevue when he decided to donate a sum of money from the Bellevue church to a local non-Baptist church that had been damaged. Upon further investigation this church was found to be very liberal, had a woman pastor, was a church that took a strong pro-abortion position, and many members at Bellevue were irate that a decision to donate money from the church coffers could be made by the pastor with little lay oversight and no due diligence.
So the question is: how did we arrive at the decision to give to this church, and not other churches (some of them our Southern Baptist brethren) that perhaps also might need our assistance? Did serious-minded men look into this pastor and his church and their doctrinal stances to make sure that it is a worthwhile investment of our time and money (sorry, this question DOES need to be asked!)? Did we have this planned in our budget (as Mac said our giving should be "planned" and not "impulse")? Why are we volunteering our lay people to go help him knock on doors to help him build his church? Why did Mac decide to announce this when he did, bringing the man up to the platform?