"...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

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cults Can Have "Good" Theology

Its so unfortunate that Jim Smyrl has decided to go forward with publishing on the FBC Jax website his series of articles entitled "Catholic Cult". As I've blogged previously, those articles serve no useful purpose other than to anger our Catholic friends - many of whom only loosely associate with the Catholics and their doctrine but will be put off by the arrogance of a Baptist minister to label the Catholic church as a "cult", and even to be so arrogant as to call Catholic priests "cult leaders". The views Jim is espousing should either be put on his own website...or if he's honest and his purpose is genuinely to help educate Christians at FBC Jax so they may best witness to Catholics, then he should teach a class on this to interested people at the church. There is no bravery, Jim, in purposely and publicly offending the very people you are trying to reach with the gospel. Its actually very foolish. Shame on you, Jim.

But Jim Smyrl, the deep theologian that he is, is writing these articles from a pure theological standpoint. He is saying the Catholic doctrines are sufficiently different from scripture and from evangelical doctrines, that the Roman Catholic Church fits the definition of a cult - the definition of Danny Akin, president of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I could point out that using Akin's grid, there are some aspects of FBC Jax that are cultish. But I want to take a different tact.

What I'd like the members of FBC Jax to consider is that Smyrl's and Akin's definition of a cult is not the only definition. In fact, a church can be "cultish" in its practices, while having very good theology. Having good theology does NOT mean that a church is NOT a cult. What Jim is missing is that FBC Jax can have the purest, most right-on-target theology, but yet STILL be very cultish in its own practices.

Let's take two examples of "cults" that emerged in our city of Jacksonville, Florida - that resulted in incredible harm to real people.

Trinity Baptist Church

Trinity Baptist Church is a fundamental, independent Baptist church. If you ask Jim Smyrl about their theology, he would say they are right on, no problem, same theology for the most part as FBC Jacksonville. Use Akin's cult "grid", and they score very well. Yet, how is it that with the "right" theology, they managed to allow a serial pedophile pastor roam their campus for decades?

Here's the scary part: somehow, with all the right theology being taught, they had a church culture that made them blind to the fact that their pastor was destroying the lives of little boys and girls, and a church culture that put pressure on those that did know causing them to NOT STAND UP AND STOP IT. Did you hear that? With wonderful theology - all of it taught by the monster Bob Gray himself - the church had developed a culture which prevented those who did know that Bob Gray was doing things that were harmful to the church and to people, from doing anything about it.

How did this church get to the point where people couldn't see that a pastor taking boys and girls into his office for "private sessions" was wrong? How did this church with all the wonderful theology sink so low as to have an ordained minister, Tom Messer, feel that he could not expose the sins of the senior pastor? How did this church sink so low that when a teenager decided to finally come forward and expose the pastor's abuses that the leaders of the church ridiculed her and misled the congregation about the allegations?

Shiloh Baptist Church

The other example is the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. They too have very good theology. This church hired Darrell Gilyard in 1993 - Gilyard was mentored by Jerry Vines and Paige Patterson and trained at Criswell College. Gilyard had great theology. But Shiloh hired Gilyard in 1993 despite his known sexual abuses of church members in Texas and Oklahoma. He was KNOWN to have abused his power to seduce women in his church that came to him for counseling. Leaders of Shiloh were warned that Gilyard wasn't fit to be a pastor shortly after Gilyard arrived, but instead of throwing Gilyard out, they instead banned from the church property those who spoke up.

So Gilyard eventually, at some point during his 15 year tenure at Shiloh, continued his sexual abuse. He now is accused of fathering a child of one of his church members, and faces trial for attempting to seduce a teenage girl in his church with sexually explicit text messages.

How did Shiloh - led by a Criswell College trained, and Patterson and Vines mentored preacher...fall so far as to allow this monster to abuse their women? Why didn't they see it? Weren't there obvious signs? Didn't at least SOME know of his abuses?

The answer: both of these churches during these periods exhibited characteristics of a cult-like church. They placed their pastor on such a high pedestal - pastor worship perhaps - he was called "God's Man" and was therefore above being questioned and above being held to normal standards of accountability. The pastor "ruled" the church. At least in Gilyard's case he was given a huge amount of salary way above the average lifestyle of the church members, and his home was lavish and opulent - a sign that he is above the others, a king-type figure worthy of special privilege. These pastors had their way in the church, and people knew not to cross them. They had an inner circle of supporters that would protect the man from "attacks" or accusations. There was a pervasive culture at these churches that those who spoke ill of the preacher "man of God" was to speak against God.

So abusive churches can have good theology, but a rotten culture that allows an abusive preacher to thrive and commit his abuse. And this abuse might be sexual in nature...it might be financial...it might be spiritual.

What should worry the members of FBC Jacksonville is that we now are developing a similar culture that will enable an abusive pastor to thrive! We have allowed Mac Brunson to come here and enrich himself and his family. In a highly unethical act (despite what Mac's defenders say) Mac accepted a $300,000 land gift from one of the church's donors, and he now lives in a million dollar home which is way above the average church member's lifestyle. Mac is "God's man" and we are not to question his ethics and his mean style of preaching.

Mac was allowed to put his wife and son on staff with no stated ministry responsibilities. We constructed a huge library and office suite for he and his wife and his dogs in the most prime space on our campus - the "king's quarters". Our bylaws have been changed allowing Mac to essentially rule the church by granting him sole authority to nominate trustees, and allowing him to select the financial trustees, and preventing the congregation from calling for a vote on his position. And a culture is emerging where those who question the pastor's decisions, or dare to express concern over his leadership...they are labeled as troublemakers and are accused by the pastor as not trusting Jesus. There is even less disclosure now of how church funds are spent, and our church is apparently more interested in raising funds to put the pastor on nationwide TV than we are fixing the roof in our preschool building and other basic maintenance items. Mac regularly preaches as one who is being attacked and persecuted, and he uses manipulative preaching of the word to get his people to have sympathy on him and support his plans. Mac preaches in a condescending, angry tone week after week, as evidence that he is in charge and can act however he pleases. We now watch as he sells advertising space at our pastor's conference.

So that is where FBC Jax is at. An abusive pastor, and an inability of the leadership of the church - trustees and deacons - to do anything about it. Mac is in charge, and you either get on board and shut up, or you are considered "dead weight" and they want you gone. This spells trouble for FBC Jax in the future.

Catholics are a "cult"? I guess we'll wait for Jim to "educate" us all over the next week. But the Catholics might not be the only ones who fit a definition of "cult".

13 comments:

Thy Peace said...

I would encourage Pastor Jim Smyrl to open up his blog (fbcjax official blogs) to comments. Currently you have to be registered to enter comments, but there seems to be no place to register. It looks like fbcjax is using wordpress and it's hosted on Maurilio's servers or a web server hosting company. Maybe Maurilio is slacking here. Maybe they should redirect their web development efforts from glitzy videos and flash to some substance, as in opening up comments on blog posts. Also while they are at it, can they make the fonts readable on their blogs? They are too small. Of course I could use my browser to enlarge the fonts, but the defaults should not be so small.

If they do not open up comments, then all Pastor Jim Smyrl is doing is preaching one way in the blogs. I would strongly encourage him to interact with the bloggers. And this would also educate bloggers about the thinking behind Pastor Jim Smyrl and fbcjax leadership.

If only we can get Pastor Mac to do blogs.

It's all about communication. But please do not follow the route of Maurilio and do twittering. That might be too hard on fbcjax.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

We couldn't afford Mac to do blogs. That would take too much of Trey's and Honey's time. :)

Anonymous said...

A note from some "Dead Weight":
PSEUDO: Sham, feigned,spurious,
false.
Jim is a pseudo intellectual. Actually he is an amatuer. Especially when compared to "great" Bible preacher/teachers throughout history. He "studies" others and his "version of his Bible", (as Mac says) to be dangerous. If I had to depend on Mac or Jim to tell me what my Bible says, I would be in a world of hurt. They are truly spiritually dangerous. Jim's aim, it appears, is to TRY to impress others with what he doesn't know. At this he is succeeding.
When one does more harm in a "ministry", such as Smyrl, Brunson, and others are doing, that is truly dangerous. Not only to themselves, as God will judge them, but to the sheep that follow them.
I wonder if Brunson is tired of taking all of the "heat" and has thrown Jim out there with this TDM and Catholic controversy to get the heat off of himself for awhile. And Jim thought it was because he (Jim) is such a scholar.
At present, it is my "theology driven opinion, (my Bible), that the real cult oriented, divisive, pseudo intelligentsia, brand building, opportunist are the SBC and FBCJ in particular.

Anonymous said...

The real theology driven ministry is just plain preaching the Gospel from God's word, with the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the preachers ministry. It takes a CALLED man of God with this Holy Spirit anointing. The Holy Spirit speakes to the heart of man and does the convicting. Not the angry self absorbed man in the pulpit demanding to be the authority. God and His word are the Authority! It's that definition that is the key to minisrty today, not the latest gimmicks, titles, types of ministry that "preachers"(?) today use to advance their "brand" as intellectuals. Just preach the Word boys, IF you are truly called. Stop trying to take the place of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus shunned the Scribes and Pharisees. They also demanded to be the "authorities". Woe unto them and woe unto you who do the same.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post summarizing the abuses and explaining why they are so dangerous to a church. Accountability and transparency could fix most of the major concerns with Team Brunson. Yet, this is what they fight the hardest and make such special efforts to prevent.

And the blog does exactly the opposite. It brings these things out into the open for discussion.

Thanks Watchdog!

Jerry Gerber, aka Voice of Reason

Anonymous said...

Who does Jim Smyrl work for? Mac Brunson!

Guarddog, we remember Jim before he left to get his Docterate. He neither wrote like he is writing now nor preached like he is preaching now. As I recall Jim always wore a tie when he preached and we all loved his preaching and we loved him.

So what happened?

We know that Dr. Danny Akin doesn't write or talk like Jim is writing or talking now. From the PHD guys that I have known over the years none of them acted like Jim is acting now. As far as I know, Jim didn't take a course in MAJOR USE OF THESAURUS IN SPEACH AND WRITING while attending Southeastern Baptist Seminary. So what happened?

This change in character must have been required by Mac Brunson. Mac does not preach doctrine from the pulpit. Mac being the good Rick Warren Sheep that he is must have told Jim to do all of the heavy stuff. Mac must have said Jim you teach all of the doctrine, I won't, and by the way don't wear a tie and dress down. Later on when we have the satelites Jim, you can even wear geans that have holes in the knees. Yep Jim, you do all the contemporary stuff too. Mac must require Jim to act like he is acting. What do you think Guarddog?

Jim do not act like a Pharisee. Don't be" so heavenly righteous that you are no earthly good".

We still love you Jim but you are stretching our fellowship.

Anonymous said...

Smyrl's Catholic cult series has also gotten some attention here:

www.thebigdaddyweave.com

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Anon 12:40

I'm not sure how to explain this transformation of Jim Smyrl. Its probably a combination of Mac and Jim's seminary training, combined perhaps with his experience at the church he pastored before coming here. Don't hear Jim talk much about his former church...maybe they could tell us a thing or two about Jim's theology.

I would like to make a prediction about the "South" satellite campus. I believe it will be very well attended from the beginning. The auditorium at the school where services will be held seats 500, and this new satellite site will be the unofficial "contemporary" service of FBC Jax attracting most of Trey's "outer fringe" class or whatever they call it. I predict the South Campus will be one of Trey's special projects, and they will have the praise band and a much more laid back, contemporary style of worship. I believe you will see a wide range of preachers or "speakers"....and that you will see Trey as one of the "speakers", along with Marcus Allen and the Pearl (in jeans and a leather jacket maybe!!). Vegas has the "over/under" on weeks before Trey preaches at the South Campus at "8". There is no question whatsoever that Trey will be groomed to be a co-pastor with Mac, and we will all pay for the tuition of any further education.

Thy Peace said...

Two good posts on SBC acting like cults:

The Southern Baptist Convention Is Not a Cult: We Just Sometimes Act Like We Are

Are We Southern Baptists Becoming a Benign Cult? The Danger of Casually Dismissing Scripture When Defining 'True' Christianity

Christa Brown said...

Similar to the dynamics of families with alcoholism, co-dependence often causes many church members to turn a blind-eye and cover-up the grievous wrongs of their religious leaders. It has virtually nothing to do with theology. The church-members' co-dependent behavior allows them to maintain their own myth of security, safety, and belonging, and to avoid the uncomfortable conflict that would arise if such things were brought out in the open. This extremely common dynamic of human behavior -- and of group behavior -- is why their must be some outside mechanism of accountability when serious allegations are raised against a religious leader.

gabriella422001 said...

Why do you want to have Jim Smyrl open up the comments section on his blog? So he can tell everybody how stupid and wrong they are? So he can make people feel worse about themselves? So he can let you know that if you ever have a question about anything he says or anyone else says you will be BANNED FOR LIFE from FBC Jax? So he can let you know if you are a dirty Catholic you won't walk the streets of gold like the "loving" people of the southern baptist community? That everybody will be singing southern gospel in heaven and eating fried chicken and wearing bow ties and eating krispy kremes and driving lexusus (how do you pluralize THAT word) and telling a little white lie every now and then? That in heaven only people who can afford three thousand trips to europe a year and live in a fancy mansion and go to an expensive school and especially BELIEVE EXACTLY LIKE JIM SMYRL will be allowed in the pearly gates?
Uh, I don't mean to sound bitter today, its just that i AM...any contact with anyone from FBC JAX right now seems to make me that way. So everyone have a nice thanksgiving and i am going to do my best to forget about the southern baptist church on my holiday or it won't be a holiday. PFTTTTTT to the whole thing. (i hate white lies)

Anonymous said...

GO GABRIELLA: DITTO, DITTO, DITTO>

Anonymous said...

Listen to 88.7 Monday-Friday at 4:30 to see what we took for granted and now so desperatly need