"...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

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Its Time to Know the Salaries

Why don't we know the salary and benefits package of Donald M. Brunson and family at FBC Jacksonville? What is the argument for keeping this information away from common folk? In almost every single area of public life, it is recognized that leadership compensation disclosure is an important aspect of the health of the organization - with the public watching, it makes it difficult for heads of organizations to take for themselves excessive salaries, or to grant special favors to friends and family.

Even our city government knows the importance of salary disclosure. Did you know all employees' salaries within any area of city government are made public? Click here and you can see a searchable database maintained by the Times Union containing the names, position, and salary of all public servants on the public payroll - not just the heads of agencies - EVERYONE'S salary is available.

Most churches don't hide salary information of the pastor and staff from the congregation. The average church of modest size is not afraid for the members to know the salaries of the pastor, as most pastors make about as much or less than their average congregants.

But the mega churches are about the only organization these days that refuses to give any information to its supporters and donors regarding the salary, bonus, and benefits package given to their pastor. Why is this? Of course I don't blame the pastors or the leadership of these mega churches - its primarily the fault of the congregations for not demanding it. City leaders in Jacksonville would probably never vote themselves to disclose all salaries - it is the people who demand such a thing.

What are they afraid of? Why don't we demand that this information be available upon request? If it was public knowledge what the total salary package of the Brunson family was, would it shame our church? Would the average church member still feel comfortable giving God's money to that church? If the church members knew the salary of the pastor, the pastor's wife, the pastor's son would they be embarrassed?

The Brunson's have been here two years. I see that under the leadership of Team Brunson very little has been accomplished that is innovative or new. Other than the depletion of our staff, the hiring of the Brunson family, the renovation of the ground floor for a pastor's suite, the Night to Stand for Israel, and some bylaw changes - and yes we moved the Sunday pm service from 6:00 pm to 6:10 pm - little else has changed. Pretty much the same as it was when the Brunson's arrived. Lots of complaining about people not wanting to change, but what change the pastor is referring to we're not quite sure because not much has changed.

But while our church has been pretty stagnant for the past two years, not so for Team Brunson! What a two year ride its been. Two weeks after arriving in town they accepted a $300,000 land gift from one of our donors, and they immediately began construction on a 6000 sf, 6 bed 4.5 bath house in an exclusive gated community - together with the land its assessed at just over a cool million. While they waited for construction to be completed, they lived rent free in a multi-million dollar condo on the Atlanatic Ocean an hour outside of Jacksonville - rent free of course. Within a year of arriving, their mansion was completed and they were moved from the ocean to the mansion. Not to mention the new pastor suite, and the staff position for their son Trey.

I think its time we know their salaries. I know it won't happen, and people will never demand it. But the people of FBC Jacksonville should demand it. How interesting would it be to have a majority of the congregation withhold the tithe and put a note in the tithe enveleope that says "we want full salary disclosre, then we will return the tithe." I wonder how long it would take? Or would the Brunson's leave before they were willing to have their compensation packages disclosed? This won't happen - the average church member I suppose is quite happy to see their pastor living large - maybe it makes them feel like they are in some way serving God to know they are helping "God's man" and his family live so comfortably.

While we will never know the Brunson's take...at least there are some leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention who do have enough integrity to let the world know what their salary, home allowance, travel allowance, and family salary packages - even the policy of their institution regarding earning of honoraria for outside speaking engagements and travel expenses. Ben Cole sent letters to the presidents of all our graduate seminaries and the majority of them submitted answers to the very detailed questions about how much of God's money makes its way into their pockets and their family member's pockets...not surprisingly, there is one who never responded to not even one single question - Paige Patterson.

You can read Ben Cole's reports on these seminary presidents here:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Thank You Pastors....

Well, another Pastor's Conference in the bag...we hope that all of the visiting pastor's and ministers had an uplifting time at the 2008 Pastor's Conference. A few highlights:

- Thank you Jim Whitmire and musicians - the music was great.

- Thank you Dr. Vines - for modeling for our pastor and those present how to be a man, stand up, and preach a bible sermon without having to put people down, or make silly points attempting to address critics (we know of late you have had some). You didn't come in with a chip on your shoulder, didn't come to further your own personal agendas, you didn't twist scripture to make certain points to people, you just preached the Word. You've reminded us what its like to hear a humble, happy, spirit-filled man of God just preach the Word to feed the sheep. We still would love to hear you take a public stand in favor of a sexual predator database, maybe you will do that at the convention this year.

- Thank you Jimmy Scroggins for an outstanding message on children and youth ministry integrity. Your passion for youth ministry is very evident. A great sermon. Ever consider coming back to Jacksonville? You're on our short list.

- Thank you Paige Patterson for preaching a great Bible lesson Sunday morning. We have thirsted for so long to hear good, solid, expository preaching that we soaked up your sermon like sponges. You too have more than your share of critics (including this writer) and could have come in here to push your agendas, answer your critics, and be the tough guy with a chip on your shoulder, but you showed grace and dignity and many were reminded what a great expositor you are. Not only that, you had one of the best lines of the conference: "If I believed one-tenth of what everyone writes about me, I wouldn't like me either."

- To our pastor Mac Brunson: Your sermon Sunday morning was embarrassing for many of us, but we were glad that the pastors present got to see for themselves what we have experienced the last couple of years. We again left another service scratching our heads, wondering:
  • how could our pastor actually stand in the pulpit and accuse SBC pastors that the reason people are blogging about pastors is because the pastors are attacking each other? When you got absolutely ZERO amens, you screamed its "truth under God"...in a house full of preachers when there is not one amen, probably what you said is NOT truth, no matter how loud you scream it is so. Most pastors that blog are not "ripping" pastors...take a close look and you'll see that the pastor's getting "ripped up one side and down the other" as you said, are the ones who are either making stupid decisions consistently, are not being open and transparent with their congregations in financial matters, are living extravagently with "God's money", or are sending sexually explicit text messages to little girls. Last time I looked, no one is "ripping into" Johnny Hunt, David Jeremiah, or Junior Hill.

  • for what earthly (or heavenly) reason would our pastor say: "...I have enough smarts, drive, and ambition that I could go anywhere and make a living..." Really? If so, why say it? How arrogant you must be to utter such a thing. As Jonathan Falwell said Friday night, any of his ability if he has it, comes from God. Imagine Jonathan Falwell saying such a thing...."I don't need your money, I have enough drive, smarts, and ambition...". I do defy you Mac to use your smarts, drive and ambition to find a job that would give you a $300,000 free gift of land, jobs for the family, etc. Arrogance with a capital "A".

  • how could you dare to drop the line that "no wonder our church members are stingy and won't give the tithe, when so many pastors are negotiating salaries like NBA players and CEO's" - talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Pastors present: we apologize on behalf of our pastor for such a stupid thing being said, by someone who lives in a million dollar + home, drives a BMW and Jaguar, and lives on a $300,000 tract of land given to him in a gated community backing up to a golf course. He says he didn't know his salary at FBC Jax until he told our search committee he was coming. Who cares, and what relevance is that? Let's use some logic to prove Mac doesn't know what he's talking about: the only pastors who MIGHT be negotiating NBA money are the mega church pastors; and can anyone tell me one single mega church that has any openness and transparency about what the pastor's salary is, or even more so does anyone know of churches who tell their members about how salaries are negotiated? That information is so closely guarded that NO MEMBERS but a very select few know anything about salaries or negotiations of salaries. Therefore Mac, you do NOT know what you are talking about...actually, if there is anything related to pastor salaries affecting people's giving, its what they SEE WITH THEIR OWN EYES: large million dollar homes, fancy cars, jobs for wives and sons, free gifts of land, use of condos rent free for a year. So do NOT tell anyone it has anything to do with pastors negotiating...its PASTOR'S LIFESTYLES WHICH REFLECT LAVISH SALARIES!!! Well, what about the other perks including the land and the ocean front condo - did you know about those? Besides, we don't believe you...you may not have known the actual salary number, but that doesn't mean you told them what you needed to make the deal.

- On the last evening our pastor then dared to give his son credit for raising $100,000 for the conference, and used that as an opportunity to tell everyone what his son makes as Director of Special Projects ($50,000). Trey raised it? No, praise God that some generous members donated the money...that's the story. Never in all my years have I heard a pastor publicly exposing a man's salary from the pulpit, and certainly NEVER, EVER have I heard a pastor ascribe the raising of funds in a church to a man's efforts...never. Why do that to your son, to proclaim to the church and pastors what Trey makes? Maybe this is a trend - that you're going to slowly let us know what everyone makes? Let's go straight to Deb and yourself...how does that $100,000 that Trey raised compare to your salary? To Deb's?

Well pastor's, perhaps we'll see you next year. If you want to express your comments to FBC Jax about the conference (good or bad), feel free to do that here if you like...several church staff members are daily readers of this blog. We hope that you enjoyed the "Team Building" theme of this year's conference...even though as you have seen, the only "Team Building" going on at FBC Jax these days is the building up of "Team Brunson". Next year's theme? Maybe you have some suggestions...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Mac Strikes Back...

The questions many had coming into today's sermon were: will Mac come in and preach a loving, Bible based message, one that challenges pastors to reach higher and higher in their ministry, one that is a bit tough but mixed with enough love and compassion to steer people and pastors to Jesus? Or would he use this as an opportunity to vindicate himself from charges made in the blogosphere, even once again striking out at others as the reasons for his difficulties?

Well, unfortunately, it was the latter.

Not too much sheep beating today, but lots of shepard beating.

Just some random thoughts:

- at one point Mac was overstating the importance that pastors have on their congregations, that pastors need to not be angry, humble, must be holy...because the people they pastor need an example. Yes, I agree, its great for pastors to model the Christ life by being humble, Godly, walking with Jesus...but when he says: "If we won't be the examples for our people, WHO WILL?" Evereyone present likely had the same answer to the rhetorical question: "Maybe Jesus?"

- Mac really got on the pastors, and said that the reason people in our convention are tearing into Pastors (insert: "Mac Brunson") on blogs is because the pastors themselves are tearing into each other on the Internet, and because the lay people are so easily led astray we are doing the same. I thought Paige Patterson said the "recalcitrants" were the result of the devil trying to bring down "the man of God"...now Mac is saying the recalcitrants giving him and Paige a hard time is because we're following the pastors who themselves are blogging - who Mac said are "angry", "bitter", and "jealous", and a few other adjectives. I think the blogs are a symptom of the arrogance of people like Paige Patterson and Mac Brunson. But Mac can't look at himself as having caused his troubles, he has to look to outside factors and blame others.

- What was the name of God that Mac was preaching about today? I must have missed that part of the sermon.

- Then Mac had the absolute brazen cahoonas to say something like, "No wonder our people aren't trusting God with their tithes, when they see pastors negotiating salaries like CEO's or NBA superstars!" Now who on earth is he talking about? Are there many or any pastors in attendance in the crowd of 9000 that have negotiated NBA money from their churches? In fact, Mac Brunson likely is THE highest paid of any pastor present in the entire building this morning...he likely lives in the largest and most expensive house of ANY of the pastors present...likely is the only one who has wife and son on staff without having their staff positions posted...likely is the only one who was given and accepted a $300,000 piece of property upon coming on staff...likely is the only one who has lived in an ocean-front, 3000 square foot, multi-million dollar condo for one year rent free....and he has the unmitigated gall to mention "CEO and NBA salaries" as a major problem in our convention? I thought the problem, as Jerry Vines said last year was that there are too many preachers who have to beg for a $500 salary increase? Pastors, if hearing Mac Brunson utter those words doesn't show you what he is all about, then nothing will. OK, so he says he didn't know what they were going to pay him when he said "yes" to FBC Jax...but did his wife know the salary? Did he know about the land gift? Did he know that they would put his wife and son on staff right away?

- By the way...why wait until TODAY in front of thousands of pastors to make that claim that he didn't know his salary at FBC Jax until he said yes to our search committee? Mac, you've had bloggers and emailers on your case for over a year about the salary, land and huge house, and he could have lovingly explained that to his congregation, telling them how much he loves and appreciates the generosity of his church in so abundantly meeting the needs of he and his family, and that he trusted God to care for his needs and never attempted to negotiate his salary. No, he doesn't want to say that to his congregation, he wants to brag to his fellow pastors - none of which really care or will be blessed by that because NONE of them can relate to the extravagance of Mac's salary and lifestyle! If you stand today to tell the pastors that, why didn't you tell us that a year ago?

Well pastors, you got just a glimpse of what we have gotten for pretty much two years now...Mac Brunson lashing out at his listeners blaming them for the ills in the church. Most of us know the difference between being "lovingly corrected and chastised" by a pastor's sermon, and being beaten up by a pastor who is mad as hell.

Only this time it was the shepards and not the sheep who had to bear the brunt of Mac's tongue lashings.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Paige Patterson: Farewell Dear Sir

Tomorrow morning we will all get to hear Dr. Paige Patterson preach at 9:00 am at the 2008 Pastor's Conference. Once a man many of us at FBC Jax respected and admired, now most of us see him for who he is. This will likely be the last time in our pulpit he will stand.

I just want to remind everyone at FBC Jax that Dr. Paige Patterson in March 2007 after Mac Brunson preached chapel at SWBTS, Patterson stood before his student body and told them that poor Mac had been attacked by recalcitrants at FBC Jax since he arrived at our church, and that Mac never had a honeymoon at FBC Jax. Poor Mac. He only came here and lived in a multi-million dollar ocean front condo his first year rent free, signed a deed purchasing a $300,000 piece of land for $100 within 2 weeks of his arrival, had a lavish office suite renovated for he and his office staff ...and was given a salary allowing him to immediately start construction on a mansion in a gated community on a fairway. Gee, let's raise our hands and see who is willing to pray for poor ole Mac.

Yet Paige Patterson decided to paint the picture of poor Mac needing prayer by the SWBTS students because he was being unfairly attacked by "recalcitrants". To make it even more disgusting, Paige explained the reason why Dr. Brunson was being attacked: BECAUSE THE DEVIL IS TRYING TO BRING DOWN GOD'S MAN....WHY OF COURSE! Never mind the truth, let's just blame any criticism, any quesitons that are raised...blame it all on the devil and his recalcitrant bloggers.

Why do I rehash this once AGAIN? Well, what Paige Patterson did last March by lying about Mac being attacked by the devil (the "bad bloggers" as Mac said last night in his prayer) since he arrived at Jax (which is a lie...Mac was met with open loving arms by his congregation...it wasn't until his actions were found out that people started raising questions...about 10 months after he was hired), its apparent that he did the same kind of thing with Darrell Gilyard back when Gilyard was first accused of having sex with 25 women at the Concorde Church in Dallas, pastored by the late Rev. E.K. Bailey.

Go read the email from a Criswell College student who was on campus at the time Gilyard was there. The email is posted here at Tiffany Croft's blog. How Paige Patterson handled the very FIRST Darrel Gilyard accusations sounds an awful lot like how he handled the allegations made about Mac Brunson...forget the facts...let's just tell the seminary students that its the devil who is attacking the pastor. No wonder we have so many baptist pastors who are getting into trouble...seminary presidents are telling them that anytime they get questioned, any time allegations are raised, just blame it on the DEVIL!!

I predict this will be Paige Patterson's last year at the conference, so you might want to see him this last time! This time next year the Klouda case will have been settled or tried, tens of millions of SBC cooperate program funds will have been given to Sherri Klouda (and rightly so) because of Paige Patterson's arrogance...and hopefully the SWBTS board will be shamed into doing what they should have done already: send Paige Patterson packing.

Will we see Paige at the conference next year? Yes, but hopefully only in the audience after he has paid is $250 registration fee.