A news report came out today that Pastor Tarkington (see picture at left - he, like Brunson, is a SWBTS grad) has refused a $600,000 gift to his church from Robert Powell, who recently won $6 million in the Florida Lotto and attempted to give a tithe to Tarkington's church.
Tarkington is not speaking publicly about his refusal of the gift, at least not yet, but what an example Tarkington is setting for pastors when it comes to gifts. Perhaps Tarkington believes it would be a poor testimony for his church to accept a gift that was generated by the vice of gambling. Perhaps Tarkington has preached to his congregation that playing the lotto is not wise and Christians should avoid it - and accepting the gift would make him look like a hypocrite. Tarkington knows that the potential....just the potential....of bad press by accepting "lotto money" just wasn't worth it. So he refused the gift. Wow. Now that's a testimony. That's integrity.
Contrast Pastor Tarkington with Mac Brunson. As I have written about numerous times here on this blog (here and here), Mac Brunson accepted a $300,000 land gift from one of the donors of his church, FBC Jacksonville, just three weeks after Brunson was hired. When this blog called Mac out on this and said he had no business accepting a gift from one of the church members, especially just weeks after Mac was hired and given a generous salary and benefit package by the congregation, Mac's supporters have said repeatedly that the gift was God's blessing on "God's man", that it was a private matter. To make matters worse and raising even more suspicion, about a year or so after the gift was given, Mac aired a commercial for the business of the sons of the man who gave him the gift - right in the middle of his sermon.
Too bad Mac didn't have the integrity of Pastor Tarkington when he was faced with the decision to accept or not accept the $300,000 land gift. Too bad he didn't realize that people would learn that in his textbook for pastors that he cautions pastors against accepting large gifts and he would be viewed as a hypocrite if he himself took a large gift. Sure, the local media hasn't reported on Mac's gift...not yet...but if and when they do, he'll have to a bit of explaining to do as why he accepted the gift, why he did it when he tells others to not do it....why the deed says "for love and affection" when he barely knew the giver...and why he never told his congregation about the gift. So many answers he'll have to give, and when it hits the press it will set FBC Jacksonville back a few more decades when people again accuse FBC Jax being a church of rich, money-hungry fat cats. Too bad Mac couldn't see that the problems the gift is causing him now in his ability to lead the church, and WILL cause him when the media shines light on it.
Jim Smyrl preached tonight about how America is becoming a "post-Christian nation", and that perhaps in the next generation churches will be turned into bars or coffee houses as in Europe. Jim says people in America are becoming less interested in church and Christianity - and he likes to blame this on stuck-in-the-past Christians, traditionalists, legalists - you know, those crusty old church members who like the preacher to wear a tie. Maybe one of the contributors to this problem too, Jim, is pastors like Mac who seem hell bent on using their people and their position and their power to enrich themselves and their family. When people see a preacher earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, putting family on staff, accepting $300,000 land gifts from his church donors on the side, driving luxury cars and using God's money for building luxury office suites and putting himself on national TV...maybe THAT is one of the major problems in Christendom today Jim Smyrl. The lost seeing men like Mac using Christianity to gather riches unto themselves while calling others to sacrificially give. Its not just complacent church members that are the problem Jim - its preachers among your own ranks that are hurting the church.
But thank goodness for the David Tarkington's out there...that still can look at a gift and rightly judge the wisdom of accepting or not accepting it. His decision to turn the $600k down probably wasn't easy, some in his church will no doubt tell him all the good he could have done with it...some might even call him a "legalist", a "traditionalist", and a "fundamentalist" for not accepting it. As I've written before, Mac could have used his influence on the giver to encourage him to give the gift to the church, as a down payment on the school, to perhaps serve as a seed to encourage others to sacrificially give - but he didn't. But Pastor Tarkington, you advanced the cause of Christ in your decision to refuse the gift. Good for you and good for your church.
Too bad Mac couldn't do the same.