This Sunday Dr. Allen will be preaching at FBC Jacksonville in the absence of our pastor Mac Brunson who is on vacation. Our church has always been very fond of Dr. Allen's preaching and we look forward to having him at our church on Sunday. He is the Dean of the Southwestern Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas.
Dr. Allen preached a number of times in advance of Mac Brunson coming to our church in the spring of 2006. After we voted to call Team Brunson to our church, it took nearly two months for them to come to Jacksonville in which time we had a number of very high profile preachers "preparing the way" for Mac.
Those of us present back then will remember the theme of Dr. Allen's messages, that the cloud would move again for our church - according to Dr. Allen God was going to again begin moving in our midst once Mac came. Those 2 months between calling Mac and him actually arriving were great months of anticipation in our church. Most of the preachers devoted parts of their sermon to heap praise on our new pastor, and we were so hopeful.
Mac finally arrived in April 2006, and it didn't take long to see that maybe the cloud wasn't going anywhere too quickly. In fact after about a year, it seemed that the only cloud moving was the steam coming from Mac's head as he raked us over the coals. Instead of a pastor coming to love us and get busy ministering to our church and our community, it seemed like we were viewed more as a source of capital for the projects and promotion of Mac Brunson and a new market for the Brunson brand than we were a church in need of a loving shepherd to move us into the next generation.
Dr. Allen, Mac tells us that you are one of his closest friends, that you were Mac's prayer partner as he considered the call to come here. We know that perhaps you are getting one side of the story of his first 2 1/2 years, and we want you to know a few things as you come to preach to us:
- its been a rocky 2 1/2 years for our church to say the least. Although Mac has told you and Paige Patterson that he never got a honeymoon at our church, that is a lie so please don't believe that. Our church welcomed Mac with open arms, we prepared a lush office suite for him, put wife and son on staff, and he was given the reigns of our church. We introduced him to the community on Father's Day by renting our minor league baseball stadium. He had our full support. We even allowed him to bring his marketing consultant and put him on our payroll. There were some people alarmed over Mac using the NASB, but that was a small minority and that might be expected in a church that has used the KJV for decades. So we were behind Mac fully, but within the first few months he squandered the good will through his tepid effort at pastoring and preaching and his acceptance of land gifts and free rent at ocean front condos upon his arrival - made all the worse when we found out he counsels pastors in his pastor guidebook to NOT do the very things he did when he came to our church.
- Mac has likely told you that he has been opposed at every turn, that he has had a rough time for the last 2 years, we want you to know it has been EQUALLY as hard on us. Mac has preached hard. Not hard on sin, but hard on people. Not only have we had to deal with the departure of most of our staff in the first year and a half, but we've had to deal with Mac slandering us when preaching at other churches. We're used to pastors preaching the truth in love, but we're getting preaching of some truth, lots of history and legalism, and unhealthy does of pastoral anger. We're not used to it. He has told us that we are worshipping the past, that we are worshipping previous pastors. He hired one of our favorite "preacher boys" Jim Smyrl who many thought was Vines-esque when he served under Vines, but now Smyrl has followed Brunson in the style of hard-on-people preaching with very little love and even less wisdom. We've seen Smyrl transformed right before our eyes under the tutelage of Brunson.
- And we've had to deal with a pastor who seems to be a legalist. While he denounces legalism, and even declares that we are a "hotbed of legalism", he himself preaches legalism in the areas of service and giving in the church and church discipline. Our previous pastors did preach tithing, but they also balanced this with the New Testament principle of giving out of love for our Savior. But we don't get that from Mac.
So many of us are hurting. We feel like we've been brought an uncaring, self-serving preacher who wants to exert his will on the church. He changed our bylaws without even explaining why, and didn't even care enough to hold an honest vote on starting a school. We've been told that if we don't follow his lead and direction we are sinning.
We are praying Dr. Allen that you are bringing a message of hope to our church this Sunday. We've had Mac bring in preachers in his absence that also preached hard on us in defense of Mac - even our own former pastor Dr. Vines came in February 2007 and angrily preached to us about anonymous emails and people complaining about the pastor's salary - with the disgusting sight of the two men high-fiving each other on the platform after Vines declared about a troublesome church member "...I don't get paid enough to be yo pastor, bruther." Some laughed. Many of us cried at that sight.
We hope you aren't going to come in and judge us. We are a loving people. We aren't legalists. We want to follow a loving pastor-shepherd. We hope you can speak the truth to Brunson about his actions these first 2 1/2 years - and on Sunday we hope you can speak some love and truth to us.
After all, its been 2 1/2 years, and we are still waiting for the "cloud to move".