Today, June 21, 2008, FBC Jacksonville is launching the initial stage of its "satellite" ministry into St. John's County, the county bordering Jacksonville's Duval County to the south. This is the county experiencing rapid population growth, and this growth just so happens to be - lucky for FBC Jax - rich white people! FBC Jacksonville has decided that there are not enough churches currently in this area ministering, or the ones that are there and view this area as their mission field aren't doing a good enough job. So what is needed? A church plant with a new pastor to minister to people's needs in that area? Of course not - what' s needed is a place where people can come to get some of Mac Brunson's teaching!
The first stage of FBC Jacksonville moving south begins TODAY, as the training sessions begin for approximately 30 couples who will be hosting "in home churches" or "in home Bible studies" in the St. Johns County area from 6:00 to 8:00 pm on Sunday evenings, beginning very soon after these couples complete their weekend training sessions. These will be viewed by the church as extensions of FBC Jacksonville - according to Mac even the homes themselves will be inspected by our crack staff of executive pastors and staff members to ensure the home is suitable and safe (hope we've updated our church insurance policy to include coverage at these people's homes!). According to Mac even child care will be provided in the homes during the 2 hour "home bible study".
Then, here's the kicker - once our team of 30 couples has built up their in home churches, guess what - we're going to move them over to a new St. Johns "satellite campus", perhaps to be called "First Baptist Jax South Branch" to be opened up Easter morning 2009! Yes, that's right! These people that we get into our "home churches" will eventually be told:
"Yes, getting you into my home to study the bible these past few months was part of a well thought-out scheme we started early in 2007 to allow my pastor to start a satellite church in this area. Satellite churches are like a branch of a bank, or a McDonald's franchise, or a Starbucks coffee shop. Just like you may be getting a new Bank of America branch here in your area to make it more convenient for you, well you're getting an "FBC Jax Branch Church" in your area, and you know what, congratulations, you've just won a genuine Majorca pearl necklace, and membership in a new SATELLITE CHURCH!
You see my pastor and his marketing firm decided that since this area of town didn't have any good churches or decent pastors who knew enough of the Bible (and history) to reach you, and since not enough people were coming downtown to hear him preach, that we could start a "satellite church". He told us when he cast his "Vision" for this satellite church that to start he would drive to the satellites and preach live until we get the live video feed from the "mother church". I know you like this in-home bible study we have, but this was just a ploy to get you moved over to the satellite so you could watch Mac on a video screen, and we could pass what we call an "offering plate". But until we get the live feed going (those are VERY expensive you know, so we'll be holding a "special offering" at the satellite to pay for it but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it) he'll drive from his modest home in Deerwood to preach to, er I mean minister to us on Sundays.
What's that? Will we be a stand-alone church? No, not really. Our preacher is not legalistic except in the area of tithing (and anonymous emails), so you'll hear sermons about how you need to give 10% of your income to receive God's blessings, and that 10% will go straight to the church downtown. But don't worry, they're really good stewards of the money downtown. Although we can't see any detail whatsoever in how its spent by our trustees, TRUST ME, we don't spend money on lavishness, so don't worry about that. No money goes to enriching the pastor and allowing him to live a lavish life style. We'll be great stewards of your money that you drop in the offering plate. In fact, we'll be doing you a favor, since this satellite will be a real money loser when it starts until we indoctrinate you and the others with the idea of "tithing"...then when we get the revenue flowing from this satellite, we will be able to launch another one somewhere. So, welcome to the FBC Jax family! Oh, and by the way, if you have any questions about the church, don't send any anonymous emails, the pastor HATES those."
Sorry for the cynical view, but I'm very skeptical when it comes to the motives and means of Mac Brunson and his inner circle of decision makers. Just a few remarks, and then you can comment as you wish on this topic:
- Did Mac reach out to the other churches who are in this area and let them know of his intentions, and maybe see what their long-term strategies are for reaching this area of our metroplex? Or does Mac know precisely that what God wants is a FBC Jax down there irrespective of what other churches are doing?
- When Mac cast the vision it was all about how we were going to get his excellent sermons down there to the satellites - he could drive he said because he doesn't mind preaching multiple times a day, until we get the live feed. Does St. John's County really need Mac Brunson sermons - live or feed?
- Mac told us last fall that the way to reach our city was to start a school - that "knocking on doors doesn't work anymore". So to butter us up for his Wednesday night unannounced vote to take $500,000 from our church funds to start a school, Mac told us that a FBC Jax school is a MUST to reach people. OK, so where do we start the school? Downtown where apparently no one likes to come to church because we are building a satellite church! So if its to reach people why are we putting it downtown, since the growth (and the people with the money) is to the south? And we already have an excellent church facility downtown - with many needed renovations and upgrades - but we are now focused on spending money for a satellite church and a school. So the logic is: build a church downtown to reach people where we know it will be hard and expensive for them to drive to every day - and we'll start a new church out in the suburbs so these people don't have to drive downtown to the excellent church we already have. Sorry, but my brain doesn't compute all of that. What it does mean is we all better DIG DEEP...we need half a million for the school, and we'll need big bucks to start our FBC Jax South Branch in St. John's county. And then the capital fund raising program for our local campus can't be too far behind.
- I do want to remind everyone that Mac cast the same vision for FBC Dallas - starting satellites - but he left and it died on the vine. I guess God wanted Dallas to build satellites so long as Mac was there, but when he left suddenly God wasn't in it anymore.
Seriously though - I hope that our 30 trained lay people starting these in home churches are open and honest with those that they bring into their home about the ultimate purpose - that is for FBC Jax to expand its brand into St. John's county.