Who can forget hearing the words from a frustrated parent: "Don't do as I do, do as I say". I heard that at least once from a parent - they were of course saying that sometimes even though they might occasionally break their own rule, please still follow my rules.
Well, when it comes to pastors, we certainly would expect that the very things they tell us not to do or to do from the pulpit, or that they would tell us to do or not to do in a famous book they have written, that they themselves would practice them in their own lives.
Apparently not so with Mac Brunson. Mac Brunson and James Bryant have a new book out entitled "The NEW Guidebook for Pastors". To everyone's shock and surprise, the Baptist Press gave it a glowing review earlier this year (click here to read it). And again to everyone's surprise, as pointed out by the BP author, this book is now required reading in four Southern Baptist seminaries and at Liberty University.
First Baptist Jacksonville members will remember this book - it was the "book manuscript" Mac was working on in the summer of 2006 shortly after coming to Jacksonville. It was the "book manuscript" that prevented him from preaching on at least two occasions on Sunday and Wednesday nights . He also told us how far behind he was and how much writing he had to do in a week's time to meet the publisher's deadline that he wasn't able to fully prepare his sermon. Well, this book is that manuscript.
As we wrap up the FBC Watchdog site and let FBC Jacksonville continue on its merry way with Mac Brunson at the helm launching churches in the burbs and a school downtown (I think they have that backwards - we have a wonderful church downtown and maybe we need a school in the burbs to reach people?), I thought it would be doing a service to FBC Jacksonville, and the Southern Baptist Convention overall whose future pastors are now reading this book, to point out that at least one of the authors of this book is asking them them to behave in ways he himself has not behaved. Readers of Mac's book can then determine for themselves - should we do as Mac says, or should we do as Mac does. Need to be "fair and balanced" you know, and see both sides of the story! And of course since FBC Jax members were paying Mac a hefty salary so he could write his book instead of meeting his pastoral responsibilities to preach (which he emphasizes is the pastor's FIRST priority, preaching - not writing books) so they deserve to know some of the "discrepancies" in the book as well. And maybe this will help the authors "clarify" a few things in the next print.
Am I bringing these up out of spite? Am I trying to hurt Mac Brunson? No. But these things in the book that I will point out are the very things about which I have blogged since last fall! These are the actions taken by our pastor and allowed by our lay leaders that I knew were wrong and harmful to our church, and I found it hard to believe that Mac himself didn't know they were wrong and harmful to our church. When I read Mac's book I then realized that HE HIMSELF knew these actions were wrong, as he wrote about them and cautioned pastors agains doing them.
We'll take a look first at this quote from the book, page 183 in the chapter "The Pastor and His Ethics":
"Some pastors unintentionally separate themselves from their people by living in executive houses and driving luxury cars. Billy Graham has lived in the same house and driven older cars for decades. He did not allow people to give him automobiles. He did not allow local committtes to furnish luxury automobiles for him during crusades. Guard against greed. It will do you in."
That is great advice for any pastor. It touches on several things: one is the pastor's lifestyle. If I read this correctly, Mac is saying that pastors should not live in "executive homes" - which is a strange use of words - I would take that to mean "large, expensive homes, like CEO executives might live in". This is a VERY odd thing to put in a pastor's guidebook. Most pastors, shall we say 99% or more - their problem is not living too high, its having enough money to meet their needs because they are pastoring small churches. So who is Mac addressing this to? This wisdom certainly has no application to a pastor of a small church earning say $35,000 per year salary, as he wouldn't be able to afford one NIGHT in an executive home. Here's the key: he's obvioiusly directing that statement to pastors WHO MAKE ENOUGH TO AFFORD AN EXECUTIVE HOME. So he is saying: "Even if you earn enough from generous church members in salary, and your preaching gigs around the country, and your book sales, don't live in an 'executive home' at a level way above your average church member." Or saying it another way: just because you can live large, doesn't mean you SHOULD live large.
Problem is, I would argue that Mac himself has separated himself from his congregation by living in an executive home. He lives in an exclusive, gated, private-golf-club subdivision where very rich executives live. By any objective standard his home is an "executive home" - it has 6 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, has a pool, and is appraised at over $1,000,000. That my friends is an "executive home". The home certainly would not be affordable by the average church member who is asked to give sacrificially - and more importantly - WILL IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE be asked to sacrifice even more for the new ministries and facility upgrades. So Mac is very correct in cautioning pastors about living in executive homes, as this has and will continue to be a problem in Mac's ministry. So do Mac's words apply to Mac and other mega pastors, or only apply to those bumbling, stumbling pastors who aren't good enough to make it to his level?
He mentions "driving luxury cars". That's interesting. Is he saying pastors shouldn't drive "luxury cars"? Is he saying when church members see their pastor and wife driving, oh say, a big black Lexus and a Jaguar that this can harm the pastor's ability to minister to his flock?
There is one other area that this excerpt touches on, and that is "gifts". He holds Billy Graham out as an example of how a pastor should avoid accepting gifts - that Billy Graham would not even allow people to give him automobiles. We'll address this one in the next article.
So to wrap it up, one has to ask the question: Why? Why would Mac say one thing in his book and then behave in a contradictory manner to the advice he gives others? I have my own thoughts on that, but I'll let you decide. Fair and balanced.