"...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

Friday, May 30, 2008

Are Satellites the Answer for FBC Jacksonville?

On Wednesday May 14th, Mac Brunson and Jim Smyrl unveiled their strategy for starting satellite churches in strategic locations in Jacksonville. I think it will be helpful as we near the end of new posts here at FBC Jax Watchdog to analyze and discuss this strategy here in this thread; this satellite strategy that Mac Brunson is embarking on to finally get our church growing again. My purpose here is to not slam this strategy and point out all its faults, but to get FBC Jax members to think more carefully about this strategy and the risks it presents to their church.

Let me begin by saying the following: I am not against FBC Jacksonville trying new approaches to ministry in order to fulfill our mission of reaching Jacksonville for Christ. As Jim Smyrl correctly pointed out a few Wednesday's ago, Homer Lindsay, Jr. did some very innovative things to bring people under the hearing of the gospel. So long as the new approaches don't compromise or undermine the biblical teachings of the church, and so long as they are consistent with the mission of the church, we should be open to try new approaches to ministry.

However, careful thought needs to be given before launching new ministries. Just because a certain ministry works for another church doesn't means it is the right move for our church. While it sounds good for Mac Brunson to express the attitude of "let's try it, why not, even if we fail at least we tried" when it comes to this satellite strategy...this I think ignores the possibility that some attempts at ministry could actually harm the church in the long run.

Let's consider first some trends of satellite church ministry:

1. The number of churches moving to satellite or "multi-campus" models have exploded in the past 5 years. National Public Radio (NPR) did a very informative piece on multi-site churches a few years ago that is worth listening to. Click here to listen. This story gives some facts about the explosive growth of multi-campus ministries since the year 2000.

2. Most, nearly all, multi-campus "satellite" ministries are born out of necessity - they are churches experiencing very rapid growth, and because of worship space or parking constraints, they simply have no choice but to set up additional locations to accommodate the crowds. They are not by-and-large started as a means to achieve growth (I've not found any such examples in my research - although I suppose its possible), but they are started as a natural outflow of rapid growth already occurring! Read this article from the Star Tribute (Minneapolis) that highlights several churches in their area that have gone "multi-campus" and I think you'll see this is true.

3. Most, nearly all, of the satellite churches are those of the non-denominational persuasion, or if they are affiliated with a denomination, that affiliation is not part of their name. For example, Andy Stanley's church, Northpoint Community Church, one of the fastest growing churches today and successful at the multi-campus concept, is non-denominational. Ed Young, Jr's church on the other hand, Fellowship Church I believe is still affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (if not they started out as Southern Baptist but changed their name to accommodate their "seeker friendly" approach to ministry), but the word "baptist" is not in their name or any where on their website. Some familiar churches in our area that are non-denominational and so far at least moderately successful in the multi-campus efforts are Mandarin Christian Church (now called "Christ's Church") and also "Celebration Church".

4. Most, nearly all, of the churches utilizing satellites are those that one could easily classify as "seeker friendly". They feature more modern worship styles, modern music, and perhaps more "liberal" or "hip" preaching styles - maybe the more "historical" context of Mac's sermons fit this mold.

5. Multi-campus churches hold services in a variety of ways: some use live video feeds for the preaching, some record the pastor's messages and play it back at the satellite while the music and worship time is led by live. Others utilize a "regional pastor" or they rotate ministers through the satellites. Some of the satellite churches have different worship styles to match the demographics of its region, or to provide variety to reach different demographic groups in the same city with different versions of the church "brand".

So that I think summarizes satellite churches. If I'm wrong, or there is more to add, chime in.

So this leads one to ask the following questions - questions I certainly hope Jim Smyrl and his crack education staff and the A-Group are considering as they plan this satellite launch next April in St. John's County.

1. Is there any evidence that suggests this satellite concept will work for a Baptist church, especially one that already has a brand image of being stuffy, conservative, rich, and judgemental? Are we patterning our move to satellite after another mega Baptist church that has had success in satellite?

2. Forget for a moment whether any stagnant, mega, conservative, non-seeker friendly, denomination-affiliated churches have had success with satellites...maybe the more pertinent question is: what makes us think that a downtown, centrally-located Baptist church in a fast-growing metropolitan area, a church with above average facilities, plenty of space, plenty of convenient parking, excellent ministries for all ages, a modern worship center and children's building...that has been mostly stagnant for 10 years in its growth...is suddenly going to see growth by starting a satellite ministry? Does this mean our location is why we've been stagnant? If so, what took us so long to figure this out? Or are there other underlying problems or "issues" that need to be addressed? What are these other issues, and how are we addressing them?

3. Is our stagnant growth a function of us not "modernizing" our worship to becoming more "seeker friendly"? Or is it also the antics of our new pastor and current lay leaders that have turned people off to our brand? Maybe the common thread of fast growing churches utilizing satellites IS the seeker friendly model. If this is the case, are we willing to modernize our worship and change our brand image to be more "attractive" to the lost? If we haven't been up to this point, will we go seeker friendly at the satellites? If we do need to go more "seeker friendly" to reach a younger generation, why have we not in the two years Mac has been here tried starting a "seeker friendly" worship service on Saturday night or Sunday morning to perhaps try to reach a younger generation and begin moving in this direction? Space or even cost certainly is not an issue. Mac can't claim that we would oppose it, as the church has followed in lock step with all of Mac's other ideas, so why would he not have started a contemporary service like the one started in Dallas?

Some of the posters here have been discussing how Mac is trying to lead us to "Purpose Driven". I tend to agree with that assessment now, and I can't say that I blame him. Either he needs to lead us in that direction, moving our church to staying faithful to the preaching of truth while offering a more modern style of worship to reach a younger generation, while teaching us why and being respectful and gentle and to those who might not like it, or he needs to not do it. Right now it feels like our church is stuck in the middle. We have a pastor who wants to move us in that direction to reach a younger generation, but senses that there will be opposition so instead he complains that we are stuck in the past and have "legalist lists". Get over it Mac - there will be some opposition no doubt - but LEAD. Just LEAD in love. And I'll add: this is why this blog was started: to get Mac to address the concerns that the congregants have over his actions the first year PRECISELY SO HE CAN LEAD US TO WHERE WE NEED TO GO!

So will the satellite strategy work for FBC Jax? I honestly have my doubts but mostly that's because I don't see a precedent for a stagnant mega church achieving growth by satellites - and of course I have doubts about Mac's ability to lead the church successfully until he comes clean and clears up issues raised on this blog with his congregation. So really there are other issues behind why our church is stagnant that are not going to be solved by satellites; our problem is not that we just aren't "where the people are". The current strategy for launching the St. John's County satellite is to start home groups, home churches to meeting on Sunday nights, then use these converts and home church leaders to start a satellite. That's fine, but if that strategy works, why not invite these home church converts downtown to join us for an awesome God-honoring worship service? Our stagnant growth might have to do with Mac and his questionable leadership or even his pulpit behavior the first two years; it might have to do with our worship style, it might have more to do with our church "being stuck in the past" as Mac says. Whatever happens, I do wish FBC Jax well in their quest to grow through satellites, but something tells me: we need to have a clear strategy to start reaching people more effectively downtown, through evangelism, expository preaching, perhaps offering more diverse worship style alternatives downtown, being more involved in city youth ministry and concerts....in short building momentum in our current location, before we start looking at satellites elsewhere. And we are fools if we think a school is the primary way to reach young people in our city as Mac has told us. So Mac, address the problems downtown where our church has been hugely successful in the past, then we can start talking about satellites.

As I said yesterday in the comments section of the previous article, I will be winding this blog down by mid June. Doesn't mean the site is going to be "taken down" or removed, just that I believe its time for me to stop blogging for the foreseeable future after I make my last three or four posts, with one grand finale that you won't want to miss. Stay tuned.

16 comments:

Robert L. Peeples said...

It would be funny if the grand finale was the Watchdog telling us who he is! ;0)

Just kidding, that probably will never happen unless he is in court.

I am eager to read the grand finale but as I think about it, a grand finale just makes this blog seem like some sort of entertainment show rather than a serious forum for our church.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Hi Robert - "grand finale" not in the sense of entertainment value, as this blog is certainly not here for anyone's entertainment and you know it (why do your posts seem to have a different tone than the nice private emails you write me). The final post will be just a wrap up - a summary - and one final (and futile - I am a realist) attempt to get FBC Jax and other mega rock-star led churches who enrich their pastors while not releasing any detailed financial information to the donors - to finally wake up and realize that perhaps ONE of the reasons they are in decline (read the Florida Baptist Witness - Frank Page admitted that SBC mega churches are in serious decline and are NOT the future of the SBC) is that people are wising up to their antics of preaching tithing, and sacrifice, and to not be greedy and materialistic, yet the money is spent in a way that cannot standup to detailed scrutiny by the average giver. In a society where people are used to having access to all sorts of information - churches cannot expect people to give without full transparency and accountability to the givers.

Corporations, and even government agencies have realized that total transparency in executive salaries and spending of funds is absolutely necessary for the long term health of the organization and its mission. Unfortunately, to their detriment, Southern Baptist mega churches just don't get it and never will - at least not this latest bunch of mega pastors that have taken over for the men who built the ministries - but hey - maybe satellite's in St. Johns and Clay County will be the cure for our ills!

Anonymous said...

I would be happy to tell you of my experience as a long time FBC Dallas member. I do not have an email for you.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

FBC Dallas - feel free to share it here, or you can email at fbcjaxwatchdog@gmail.com.

Over the months of this blog some FBC Dallas members, both pro and anti Brunson has posted here.

As I wrap up this blog, the one thing that is curious to me is his comment at the 2005 Southern Baptist Convention Pastor's Conference - when he was still at Dallas - about how 2004 was absolutely THE worst year of all of his years of ministry, that if he had a "crack" open up that would allow him to go anywhere else he would have taken it - then joked how he thought about trying "crack", and that "crack" had done wonders for Ergun Caner (strange joke for sure - typical Mac popping off and saying something crazy)...but just how bad were things in Dallas in 2004 that would cause him to publicly say that? What was so bad? Did this have anything to do with the battles over the demolition of an older building and construction of the Criswell Center? Any light you can shed there would be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I am amazed at this blog. My wife and I attended FBC Dallas for a few years before moving south of Dallas and moving churches closer to our home.

In my time at FBC Dallas, I found Mac to be an unbelievable Bible pastor. His sermons were scripture filled, full of emotion, and down to earth.

I was not aware of what Dr. Brunson made at FBC Dallas nor did I care. I am sure he was compensated well. FBC Dallas is pretty big-time.

What I can say though is that you sir need to examine your life and your beliefs in the Bible if you believe you are right by bashing the man and his family. You are to uplift your Church, the Staff (Pastor included), and support them to further the Great Commission.

I am saddened to read your posts and hope that your Church continues to grow dispite the fact that Satan seems to have gotten a hold of you and is trying to bring down the ministry of that Chruch.

Anonymous said...

FBC mutt,

Well as your time draws to an end I know you will be back sooner rather than later. You can't leave this drama and chaos behind it is who you have become. You will say it is because of more "abuses" but I know the truth. And way deep inside I believe you could see it as well if you only had self reflection. You have a sharp mind but it is zeroed in on other people you can not control . . . so now what? And a blog is the best you came up with? Na you can do better!

Robert does not speak for me. I do not hold you or your drones dear to me. I have no hatred but . . . I stay away from people like ya'll.

Good luck in finding your new church . . . please :)

Drones hang in there . . .another spin doctor will rise up out of the weeds soon!

By Grace,
Brett Blankenship

LOT said...

Hey Brett the spin Dr.is none other than Mac Brunson.Please mix in some scripture ref.for your emotional sensless diatribes(or are you scripturally ill-literate).Watchdog there's only one thing that Brett has said that makes sense; LEAVE!!!![Gen.19:17 remember Lot]If you don't,imagine a Church full of Brett's; those are the kinds of Biblically ignorant people that are drawn to purpose driven.

Anonymous said...

Little,

Purpose Driven isn't for me thank you. I'll stay Christ Driven irregardless of your actions, Brunson's actions or FBC Jax. do you have that ability, it is a wonderful feeling to not let humans control your beliefs. I strive everyday to let God guide my life. Not FBC, Brunson or drones like yourself . . . does it make sense to you? Just rehtorical no need to answer, I know your response (thats why I nick named you guys drones)

You want scripture . . . your not going to listen but one of my favorites is Proverbs 3:5-6. you know allow him to direct your path . . .and this is where he brought you? not to a new and fresh church? One that allows you to serve him without any distractions?

If I was as hand cuffed as you are emotionally I would already be gone. But see my Heavenly Father is the only words that carry weight with me. You and your dribble is nothing but a breeze . . . blow away drone :)

One thing i agree with is not wanting a church full of me. See i need all kinds striving to be more Christ like. I want those around me that are focused on building up . . .not tearing down II Corinthians 13: 9-10. OK now don't disappoint me with spinning my scripture . . . just let it sink in.

By Grace,
Brett Blankenship

IT IS WRITTEN said...

Watchdog I fully agree with Lot with exception to the insults.You will be better off leaving it is only going to get worse[2Thes.2:1-3].

Anonymous said...

Here's one for you!

Jhn 17:21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, [art] in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

Lot, please post how this blog serves the Word of God. Any other takers? I'd love to see an answer to this question....how does this blog serve the preceeding verse? And how does the world percieve Christians when they come across a blog like this?

If your answers begin with the assumption of "Pastor's abuses" I'll just laugh and move on as I'm not being abused and am a congregant. I've asked every question posted and recieved more than satisfactory answers, as have many. Typically, when I approach a staff member, I learn facts which clearly demonstrate the level of falsehoods ( I know you don't like to hear lies and gossip, as that is sin) this blog contains.

But alas, the Cyber Enquirer has been fun!

Anonymous said...

Let us see now. We don't want to change any of our core values or standards. Dr Lindsay would not allow anyone to preach from the pulpit from any bible other than the KJV. Is that a standard? Now you can have any bible and it is OK! There is no strong visitation program. Is that a core value? We are moving quickly to ecumenism. The evidence is all around us. There is no concerted effort to preach about Jesus. Only passingly preach the GOSPEL. Maybe once a month. A watered down scriptual message. Maybe you see something that I don't see. Maybe you don't want to see what the Lord sees. I love you guys. But you need to open your eyes.

Anonymous said...

Mega Church problems. Bobby Welsh left FBC Daytona. The new PURPOSE DRIVEN pastor was kicked out. Adrian Rogers died and the new Purpose Driven preacher has all kinds of problems. Dr. Vines retired at FBCJAX. The new pastor Mac Brunson "under the radar" brought in the Purpose Driven foundation for the church and the members don't even know or care.

Anonymous said...

"And how does the world percieve Christians when they come across a blog like this?" (posted by anon 8:35 pm)

The 'world' with which I have contact is very impressed when the church allows questions; discussion; thinking. It shows them that we listen to the body and care about others and their perceptions.

The 'world' is NOT impressed by a pastor whose life indicates a love of money and wealth and also lacks full transparency which all non-profits, organizations, schools, etc. are quick to offer and make readily available.

A Christian leader's life must be above reproach in the world's eyes and I need that encouragement in my own.

Before the blog ends, could someone from among the defenders offer a clear explanation of the ethics behind the pastor's lifestyle and lack of transparency?

IT IS WRITTEN said...

Let's see(1)Lack of transparency(secrecy.2Cor.4:2);(2)Love of money(covetousness 1Tim.3:3c;1 Pet.5:2;2Pet.2:2a;Jude 11);(3)Watered down sermons drifing from exalting Christ (Apostasy Acts 20:29-31;2Thes.2:3;2Pet:2:3a);(4)Abusive condesending language during sermons(1Pet.5:3;3John 9-10);(5)Purpose driven philosophy being instituted(Rom.12:2).Watchdog again I say FBC IS DONE and for you to flee[Gen.19-17;2Cor.6:17]If things get better return.

Anonymous said...

It Is "What?",

Wow you used alot of scripture . . .you must be smart :)

The problem is there are holes in most of your arguments.

Your first scripture is dealing with cunning ways concerning the scripture, not transparency in the business side of church this blog complains about

Love of money? Because he has some? Other than that you really can't speak for him (nor can I). I mean challenge the perception and I get it (I don't agree but I get it)

Watered down sermons? Come on, lol, you must not sit under his teaching. OK there is history, Vines used stories, Lindsay used spur of the moment ribbing . . . its just a style difference relax. Make no mistake he teaches God's word . . .

Can you try and say "it appears" he is trying to institute PD ideology in the church? You would at least be able to stand on your opinion but to claim it definately is happening makes you lose my attention . . .

FBC is done? OK maybe done for some, might even be done for some of the long time members, could even say might never be where it was. You almost sound glad to proclaim this (wannabe) prophetic statement.

But just because you claim it, does not make it so . . . you are drowned out by the thousands that enjoy the fellowship and teaching in this church.

You are what I have a problem with throughout this blog . . .not opposing views but blind statements that you want everyone to take as fact. The fact is only God knows where this church will be in five years. I may not be here and this church may dwindle, I can accept that. But it may flourish and be the light house we all want it to be.

If you can not accept both of these arguments as possibilities you are truly not looking for solutions and you fall into drone status!

OK talking to you, i was reminded I have to go pull weeds out of my garden . . . thanks!

By Grace,
Brett Blanekenship

Anonymous said...

Two thoughts:
1. The church has actually been in decline or stagnant for over 10 years. Check the attendance records.

2. Highview Baptist Church, Louisville, Kentucky does satelitte campuses with an openly Baptist name. Very successfully, actually.