"...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, June 20, 2008

Was FBC Jax Secretly Converted to a Form of "Elder Led" Governance?

Update 6/20/08: Click here to read a story about an arrogant mega church pastor who converted to elder rule so he can have his way, so that he doesn't have to build consensus on his ideas or have to deal with church members to get his way. Ironic this same arrogant mega church pastor is also launching a satellite ministry to broadcast his sermons. Sound familiar?
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The people of First Baptist Church should be concerned. They should be very concerned.

One of the hot topics around the SBC is church governance. Our church, as have most SBC churches been historically, has always been "congregation led". That is we believe in the priesthood of the believer, and that major decisions of the church are brought to the congregation for a vote. We have more been committee-led of course, but the committees are determined by the congregation. Yes, we've had strong, very strong pastoral leadership, but our bylaws officially recognized the power of the congregation.

Why is this important? Suppose the congregation determines the pastor is unfit for service for some moral failing. How is he removed? The church membership can call for a special business meeting, and take a vote on the pastor. That's just one very important reason why a church should be "congregation led".

Unfortunately, on November 28, 2007, Mac Brunson presided over a special business meeting that modified our bylaws. The entire business meeting can be listened to here. You will notice that there is not one single mention of the changes to be voted on, and no discussion is asked for. Making matters worse, the bylaws changes were NOT widely disseminated prior to the meeting, but instead serial-numbered copies were put in the library for inspection and were not allowed to be copied or removed from the library. Thus only a very small number of people read these changes.

As you'll hear in the business meeting, there were two motions voted on: one was the change of the bylaws, the other was a change to the articles of incorporation increasing the maximum number of trustees to accommodate the changes in the bylaws. As I said ZERO explanation of the nature or substance of the bylaw changes, but the changes to the articles were read verbatim. Clever move.

What were the changes to the bylaws? The membership doesn't know because they are closely guarded. We can't get copies. We have posters here at this blog who have viewed them and tell us the changes include the following:

- a discipline committee was formed, with its members nominated by the pastor

- the finance committee was dissolved, and its members, at least some of them, were made trustees

- the requirement for the unbudgeted expenses above $25,000 to be approved by the church was removed

- the pastor nominates (not the congregation) the board of trustees of the church, and the church votes on his nominees in one motion not individually

- the pastor makes committee appointments

- provision allowing the congregation to call a special business meeting was removed. Special business meetings called by the congregation must be approved by the Board of Trustees (which as I said are nominated by the pastor)

If the above is true - and I have not read the bylaws so I can't confirm this - but these can be confirmed or refuted if someone would provide a copy of the bylaws for all the members to look at - then basically the rights that our congregation had to govern the church have been taken away and given to the Pastor, and HIS group of Trustees that are nominated by him and him alone. This my friends, might not be called "elder rule", but it sure smells like it - is our Board of Trustees a cleverly disguised group of "elders" selected by Mac Brunson to rule the church?

That is scary. I called on this blog here for Mac to rescind the bylaw changes and first inform and educate the church on what the changes are, and why they are necessary, then let the church vote AGAIN, once they have all the information. That of course will never happen. But what we can do is let the people read their church's bylaws. Many churches (including Calvin Carr's in Gainesville) actually hyperlink to their bylaws from the church website.

Perhaps those of you out there in the Baptist blogosphere will spread the word about what Mac did to our church last December - changing our bylaws to change our form of church governance and didn't have the honesty and integrity to tell us and explain it to us. I have heard from a reliable source that the Florida Times Union is working on some sort of story about First Baptist Jacksonville for their June 29th edition - will they dare to include in their story the many unanswered questions that have arisen thus far in the Mac Brunson regime - or will it just be another Brumley "puff piece" to tell everyone how Mac Brunson is a skilled orator and drives a pick-up? When will the press ask him about the bylaw changes he ramrodded? When will they ask him about the wisdom in taking a $300,000 land gift from one of our donors to enrich himself just days after arriving here? When will they ask him about the nepotism?

My offer stands: if some member will obtain a copy of the bylaws and scan them and email them to me, I'll make them available here for all of the members to read. I'm waiting.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

WD: Your info so far is correct. As has been stated before, the pastor appoints the trustees, the trustees appoint the deacons with pastor approval, and recomendations. You ARE trustee (elder) led!! The only one with an power is the pastor!!! The trustees and deacons can and WILL do NOTHING unless the pastor approves it. The pastor has TOTAL control. The congregation is only allowed to bring their money to pay for this debacle.

Ludie said...

I'm just a lay business leader, so I can't really speak for or as a pastor. But any leader in any position, even my own, will always have their share of criticism. You simply can't make everyone happy all the time. In my career, I have chosen only to respond to criticism directed specifically to me, not about me, and certainly not anonymously. I understand you may, as you've blogged, have trouble gaining a one on one audience with your Pastor, though I tend to doubt, given the overall tone of this blogged you've tried really hard. But at the very least, I would have to believe your "call" on your pastor to do anything, might get a bit more of his ear if you had the courage to identify yourself, as opposed to hiding behind a blog screen name. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure all of your assumptions of the bylaws are all correct. But I know enough to say this: while we as a church deferred to our strong pastoral leadership as you called it for many decades, our followship was freely offered to the pastor, it wasn't coerced. He didn't demand it, didn't change the bylaws to get it, he just got it through being a servant leader, and through faithfulness over many years.

We are in a different day. Mac likes respect as he has preached about. And men will do crazy things when they don't get it (listen to sermon on 6/8). Well, his "crazy thing" when he didn't get respect right away was to change the bylaws and make himself more powerful in our church. He has assumed the power in the church that we once freely gave to the pastor.

What really makes this sad is that this wasn't done "secretly" as you say. Trustees approved it. And hundreds of deacons approved it. Hardly secret. So if your list of changes to the bylaws is correct, don't blame Brunson. Blame the trustees and the deacons for rubber stamping it and not demanding full disclosure to the congregation. Not one single solitary deacon voted "no" on the bylaw changes.

Anonymous said...

WD - I read the article linked to and these two points jumped out at me as being identical to some concerns I have:

(1)"But what has put the burr under my saddle about Pine Lake is their decision to open up campuses around Jackson where people can meet in off site locations to watch Chip Henderson preach on television. Chip Henderson is a good preacher, maybe even a great one. But the notion of a Southern Baptist church having campuses offends my sense of propriety to the edge. And for a Pastor to think his preaching and his methodology is so great that he buys property around town to open branch campuses of his church is downright arrogant."

(2)Pine Lake is opening up a satellite campus in my home town of Clinton. And you know what; nobody at Pine Lake called any of the Southern Baptist churches in Clinton to discuss this with them. And that discussion shouldn’t’ have been about permission, but about need and if there was a need, we should have all joined in to meet that need with the goal of yet another independent Southern Baptist Church ministering to the needs of its members, not the ego of its pastor.

Brandton Wood -GA said...

As a SBC Church Planter, I would simply ask that you focus on the mission of Christ... to seek and save the lost. Cease compromising your church's witness for the cause of Christ by continuing to complain about these issues. In-fighting seems to be a baptist trademark and it gets us no where in building the Kingdom of God. If you can't support the leadership and the direction of your church, then leave it and let them do what they do best. You'll be happier for it and less pot-stirring and more caring for the lost will make an eternity of difference for the lost souls growing by the millions every year.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Robert - then we're even. You've wasted much more of OUR time making us read your posts.

Just kidding. :)

Sort of.

Robert L. Peeples said...

Dear Watchdog,

I did not make you guys read my posts. You did. Your the blog administrator so blame yourself for wasting your readers time.

Watchdog, I am curious as to what your grand finale was. Could it have been your hypocrisy article that you wrote?

Another thing. You act like our church has become a dictatorship. What gives? Our church is still congregationally led. And the bylaws are there for everyone to read them. You have nothing to complain about.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Excellent Robert - if the bylaws are "there" as you say (whereever "there" is) perhaps you can get a copy and send them to me and I'll post them here. Thanks!

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

And I apologize to everyone for saying we're not congregationally led anymore. I should have checked with Robert and he would have cleared that up before I posted this article.

Anonymous said...

"Was FBC Jax Secretly Converted to a Form of "Elder Led" Governance?"

The answer is No.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Great. Then let's share the bylaws with everyone. In fact the A-Group could hyperlink them on our website for everyone to read them. It would be great, let's see the old bylaws, and compare them to the new.

RM said...

If what you are saying is true then you aren't elder led. You are pastor/trustee led with most of the authority resting in the pastor. According to 501(c)3 rules the trustees are not empowered to do the things you are saying. They are basically empowered to sign legal documents for the church and that's it.

To think they are responsible for selecting deacons is even scarier.

I think its time for WD to come public and meet with the deacons or trustees or whoever and get this all out in the open. Its not going to get any better with all this secrecy.

In fact, if the secrecy keeps up and you actually have a discipline committee then I imagine some people are fixing to get voted out of the church.

Kool-Aid Drinker said...

Mr. Watchdog blogger sir,

Words like suppose, perhaps and "if the above is true" are words and phrases that exhibit little or no credibility. You want real answers, then pose real facts and logical questions with a real identity instead of proposing false accusations to promote your recalcitrant agenda.

You start off titling your thread: "Was FBC Jax Secretly Converted to a Form of "Elder Led" Governance?"

Here in this title, you ask a simple question. No firm fact or explanation. Just pure uncertainty.

Then, you go and say this: "Perhaps those of you out there in the Baptist blogosphere will spread the word about what Mac did to our church last December - changing our bylaws to change our form of church governance and didn't have the honesty and integrity to tell us and explain it to us."

So, we go from a title asking a question without knowing for fact the answer. Then, later in the thread you ask bloggers to spread the word that Pastor Brunson did indeed change the bylaws to change the form of governance.

First, you start off by asking did this happen. Then you conclude that it did happen and for others to spread it like wildfire. In one thread, how can you go from not true to true?

Credibility lacketh thereof.


RM-You can forget the Watchdog going public. That chance of that happening is the same as Satan repenting and getting saved.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Kool Aid Drinker:

Great points.

Try analyzing your pastor's words and actions with the same scrutiny you do mine, and you'll see he suffers from a crediblity issue as well.

Thanks for the little dig equating me to Satan. Very Christian of you sir.

Now...let's talk about the issue, which is not the Watchdog. Its about the bylaws. Let's get the bylaws to the members of the church so they know what they voted on last December.

Anonymous said...

Still no defense from anyone about the acceptance of a $307K piece of land given to the pastor by J.D. Collins only three weeks after Mac arrived in town? Still no defense of nepotism? Still no defense of the way the by-laws were changed without discussion or explanation? Still no defense of why the pastor cancels services and cancels the visitors reception, and leaves for the SBC convention during the invitation? Still no explanation of why he converted that conference room and brings his dogs to work? Still no defense of how he writes one thing in his book and then does the opposite? No wonder we are referred to as "sheep" in the bible. Gladly and blindly and silently giving our fleece to those in authority over us.

And if any of the sheep question anything, let's call them satan and scrutinize what they write and say and do. God will deal with the pastor, but WE must deal with the Watchdog. No wonder Mac doubts any of you are reading your bibles.

Anonymous said...

Watchdog: Ask yourself these questions. Why were the bylaws changed? Whose idea was it that they needed updating?

1. What authority do the trustees have relative to hiring and firing of anyone?

2. What authority does the pastor have in hiring and firing?

3. Who controls the finances?

4. Who is in control of what Missions are accomplished?

5. Who is in control of church cells?

6. Who is in control of church planting?

7. Who is in control of providing for a co-pastor?

8. Who decides to spend funds on future expansion?

9. Who decides to sell off church properties?

10. Who is it that holds anyone accountable to the congregation?

11. Who is in charge of the church discipline committee?

If you can get any of these questions answered then maybe, then just maybe you will know in what direction the church is headed.

A. If the congregation makes the decisions then it is congregational authority. But they actually have to be involved.

B. If the trustees make all or most of these decisions then it is then a trustee run organization.

C. If the pastor makes all or most of the decisions then it is a PASTOR led organization.

Its that simple. Its not the government where no one, yes, I said no one knows. There are so many loopholes within government that groups of people cannot tell you what's in the Constitution. Its whatever they want it to say, you know up to interpretation. Then they get the Supreme Court decide and then they change what everyone thought was the interpretation. It's kinda like asking an attorney a question of law and he will answer you are you for or against it?

The more the people know about their organization the better their knowledge of what and how to deal with who. The when and why are never answered if they the people are kept in the dark.

Its like having $5 per gallon gasoine. There is one group that says its the speculators, then their is another who says its the oil producing countries, and then theres the other one that its the big oil companies. You can't get to the bottom of it and they (whoever it is)just KEEP THE PRICES GOING UP AND UP. THE PEOPLE HAVE NO CONTROL THEY JUST PAY SORT OF LIKE A CHURCH.

RM said...

Kool-aid,

Satan can't get saved but at least the thought was there.

I have read this blog for quite some time and find a lot of what WD says to be disturbing at best. If what he says is true, then your church is in a lot of trouble.

I have been a pastor for many many years and I can assure you that no credible pastor is going to listen to or answer someone who is not willing to sign their real name to their questions. Like all pastors, I have gotten anonymous emails and letters--and my secretary usually throws them in the trash without opening them and before I even see them.

The bottom line is this: you have to be willing to share your real name if you are demanding openness and transparency from your church and its leadership. What's good for the goose is good for the gander...

Good luck with this fiasco. I hope you get it all ironed out real soon because you do have a great church.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

RM: I really do respect you and do value your input here.

But when you say:

"The bottom line is this: you have to be willing to share your real name if you are demanding openness and transparency from your church and its leadership. What's good for the goose is good for the gander..."

as though the next step would be if I would just be open and tell everyone my name is just nonsense. My anonymit is a complete non issue. As though if I proclaimed who I am, that this would be the first step for openness and transparency. The only thing that would do is get people to my front door that have been emailing me privately, it would get me yanked before the discipline committee, and there guess what: STILL NO OPENNESS FROM THE PASTOR. See "Two Rivers Baptist Church".

So I just can't believe people are still posting here about the anonymity thing.

And D who emailed me today: I love you brother, but the pastor and those close to him don't owe me personally any answers. I won't have lunch with anyone. I don't want a lunch. I have a lunch. They owe the church answers. They really do.

Anonymous said...

ELDERS!!!: This wouldn't be a Presbyterian influence would it? Don't we already have Presbyterian Sunday School material, taught by "facilitators"?

Anonymous said...

Watchdog, I have a question for you. I'm fairly sure that under Robert's Rules of Order you could speak at the business meetings in debate as to the motions. You can even propose your own motions and amendments.

So, why don't you do that?

Anonymous said...

WD: Have these people not heard the church now has a dicipline comm. and it exists for everyone but them. I don't think it is in your or our best interest to reveal identities. These people suggest sure dismissal from the church. Maybe that's what they want. They should know by now your not going to do that and offer other helpful info,like tell the preacher to answer the question, publish the bylaws for ALL to read. Others have sent signed E-mails, written signed letters, only to get trite answers. Even others have had meetings with NO answers. Their attitude is if your not for them, then you are against them. You will be marked, and unless you like being shunned, you'll leave. Get rid of the dissenters (Purpose Driven policy).

Anonymous said...

Pastor Led_

FBCJ is pastor led. Who do you think brought this PURPOSE DRIVEN stuff into our church? It wasn't the trustees or deacons. It was the Brunson team! The trustees haven't changed the church they have just rubber stamped the Brunson transition plan. The trustees do not originate anything.

Now the bylaws strenghthen the control of the pastor. When you gain that much control the pastor can demand loyalty. If he gets any opposition he yells, the resistors are against me and God. Now who is going against that? Not the trustees! WELL THERE ARE SOME WE KNOW WHO MIGHT.

By the way, we haven't established if any of these SUPPORTERS are against the PURPOSE DRIVEN movement; or if they even know anything about it.

What say you?

Anonymous said...

Preach Jesus:

In the book of Acts we read over and over that the preachers were to preach Jesus. Why is it that these PD preachers do not head this word? I know that Rick Warren tells them not to scare the unchurched away, but men the preachers are called of God. Mac Brunson could turn the PD movement upside down and become the one who would set this country back on track. We know he has a good heart but he is greatly misled.

The SBC knows that the PD movement is removing resistors from their churches. The SBC church membership IS decreasing. When are the leaders in the SBC going to FESS UP? This movement is not preaching Jesus it is destroying churches. The baptisms are going down because they REFUSE TO PREACH JESUS.

Dr. B, when are you going to turn this thing around?

Anonymous said...

Watchdog,

First time commentor:

Elder ruled churches was the history of the church not the exception. Elder's are ordained much like pastors and in-fact are held to the same standards as a pastor. In essence they are pastors and the pastor also is an elder. Nothing wrong with it at all biblically becasue you find them in the New Testament Church. A trustee board is nothing like Elders. Trustee's make business decisions only Elders make spiritual and business decisions and they must be worthy of the calling. Trustee sounds too corporate for a church.