"...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, May 31, 2008

Pastor's Guidebook: "Do as I Say, Not as I Do" - Part 1

Who can forget hearing the words from a frustrated parent: "Don't do as I do, do as I say". I heard that at least once from a parent - they were of course saying that sometimes even though they might occasionally break their own rule, please still follow my rules.

Well, when it comes to pastors, we certainly would expect that the very things they tell us not to do or to do from the pulpit, or that they would tell us to do or not to do in a famous book they have written, that they themselves would practice them in their own lives.

Apparently not so with Mac Brunson. Mac Brunson and James Bryant have a new book out entitled "The NEW Guidebook for Pastors". To everyone's shock and surprise, the Baptist Press gave it a glowing review earlier this year (click here to read it). And again to everyone's surprise, as pointed out by the BP author, this book is now required reading in four Southern Baptist seminaries and at Liberty University.

First Baptist Jacksonville members will remember this book - it was the "book manuscript" Mac was working on in the summer of 2006 shortly after coming to Jacksonville. It was the "book manuscript" that prevented him from preaching on at least two occasions on Sunday and Wednesday nights . He also told us how far behind he was and how much writing he had to do in a week's time to meet the publisher's deadline that he wasn't able to fully prepare his sermon. Well, this book is that manuscript.

As we wrap up the FBC Watchdog site and let FBC Jacksonville continue on its merry way with Mac Brunson at the helm launching churches in the burbs and a school downtown (I think they have that backwards - we have a wonderful church downtown and maybe we need a school in the burbs to reach people?), I thought it would be doing a service to FBC Jacksonville, and the Southern Baptist Convention overall whose future pastors are now reading this book, to point out that at least one of the authors of this book is asking them them to behave in ways he himself has not behaved. Readers of Mac's book can then determine for themselves - should we do as Mac says, or should we do as Mac does. Need to be "fair and balanced" you know, and see both sides of the story! And of course since FBC Jax members were paying Mac a hefty salary so he could write his book instead of meeting his pastoral responsibilities to preach (which he emphasizes is the pastor's FIRST priority, preaching - not writing books) so they deserve to know some of the "discrepancies" in the book as well. And maybe this will help the authors "clarify" a few things in the next print.

Am I bringing these up out of spite? Am I trying to hurt Mac Brunson? No. But these things in the book that I will point out are the very things about which I have blogged since last fall! These are the actions taken by our pastor and allowed by our lay leaders that I knew were wrong and harmful to our church, and I found it hard to believe that Mac himself didn't know they were wrong and harmful to our church. When I read Mac's book I then realized that HE HIMSELF knew these actions were wrong, as he wrote about them and cautioned pastors agains doing them.

We'll take a look first at this quote from the book, page 183 in the chapter "The Pastor and His Ethics":

"Some pastors unintentionally separate themselves from their people by living in executive houses and driving luxury cars. Billy Graham has lived in the same house and driven older cars for decades. He did not allow people to give him automobiles. He did not allow local committtes to furnish luxury automobiles for him during crusades. Guard against greed. It will do you in."

That is great advice for any pastor. It touches on several things: one is the pastor's lifestyle. If I read this correctly, Mac is saying that pastors should not live in "executive homes" - which is a strange use of words - I would take that to mean "large, expensive homes, like CEO executives might live in". This is a VERY odd thing to put in a pastor's guidebook. Most pastors, shall we say 99% or more - their problem is not living too high, its having enough money to meet their needs because they are pastoring small churches. So who is Mac addressing this to? This wisdom certainly has no application to a pastor of a small church earning say $35,000 per year salary, as he wouldn't be able to afford one NIGHT in an executive home. Here's the key: he's obvioiusly directing that statement to pastors WHO MAKE ENOUGH TO AFFORD AN EXECUTIVE HOME. So he is saying: "Even if you earn enough from generous church members in salary, and your preaching gigs around the country, and your book sales, don't live in an 'executive home' at a level way above your average church member." Or saying it another way: just because you can live large, doesn't mean you SHOULD live large.

Problem is, I would argue that Mac himself has separated himself from his congregation by living in an executive home. He lives in an exclusive, gated, private-golf-club subdivision where very rich executives live. By any objective standard his home is an "executive home" - it has 6 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, has a pool, and is appraised at over $1,000,000. That my friends is an "executive home". The home certainly would not be affordable by the average church member who is asked to give sacrificially - and more importantly - WILL IN THE VERY NEAR FUTURE be asked to sacrifice even more for the new ministries and facility upgrades. So Mac is very correct in cautioning pastors about living in executive homes, as this has and will continue to be a problem in Mac's ministry. So do Mac's words apply to Mac and other mega pastors, or only apply to those bumbling, stumbling pastors who aren't good enough to make it to his level?

He mentions "driving luxury cars". That's interesting. Is he saying pastors shouldn't drive "luxury cars"? Is he saying when church members see their pastor and wife driving, oh say, a big black Lexus and a Jaguar that this can harm the pastor's ability to minister to his flock?

There is one other area that this excerpt touches on, and that is "gifts". He holds Billy Graham out as an example of how a pastor should avoid accepting gifts - that Billy Graham would not even allow people to give him automobiles. We'll address this one in the next article.

So to wrap it up, one has to ask the question: Why? Why would Mac say one thing in his book and then behave in a contradictory manner to the advice he gives others? I have my own thoughts on that, but I'll let you decide. Fair and balanced.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Are Satellites the Answer for FBC Jacksonville?

On Wednesday May 14th, Mac Brunson and Jim Smyrl unveiled their strategy for starting satellite churches in strategic locations in Jacksonville. I think it will be helpful as we near the end of new posts here at FBC Jax Watchdog to analyze and discuss this strategy here in this thread; this satellite strategy that Mac Brunson is embarking on to finally get our church growing again. My purpose here is to not slam this strategy and point out all its faults, but to get FBC Jax members to think more carefully about this strategy and the risks it presents to their church.

Let me begin by saying the following: I am not against FBC Jacksonville trying new approaches to ministry in order to fulfill our mission of reaching Jacksonville for Christ. As Jim Smyrl correctly pointed out a few Wednesday's ago, Homer Lindsay, Jr. did some very innovative things to bring people under the hearing of the gospel. So long as the new approaches don't compromise or undermine the biblical teachings of the church, and so long as they are consistent with the mission of the church, we should be open to try new approaches to ministry.

However, careful thought needs to be given before launching new ministries. Just because a certain ministry works for another church doesn't means it is the right move for our church. While it sounds good for Mac Brunson to express the attitude of "let's try it, why not, even if we fail at least we tried" when it comes to this satellite strategy...this I think ignores the possibility that some attempts at ministry could actually harm the church in the long run.

Let's consider first some trends of satellite church ministry:

1. The number of churches moving to satellite or "multi-campus" models have exploded in the past 5 years. National Public Radio (NPR) did a very informative piece on multi-site churches a few years ago that is worth listening to. Click here to listen. This story gives some facts about the explosive growth of multi-campus ministries since the year 2000.

2. Most, nearly all, multi-campus "satellite" ministries are born out of necessity - they are churches experiencing very rapid growth, and because of worship space or parking constraints, they simply have no choice but to set up additional locations to accommodate the crowds. They are not by-and-large started as a means to achieve growth (I've not found any such examples in my research - although I suppose its possible), but they are started as a natural outflow of rapid growth already occurring! Read this article from the Star Tribute (Minneapolis) that highlights several churches in their area that have gone "multi-campus" and I think you'll see this is true.

3. Most, nearly all, of the satellite churches are those of the non-denominational persuasion, or if they are affiliated with a denomination, that affiliation is not part of their name. For example, Andy Stanley's church, Northpoint Community Church, one of the fastest growing churches today and successful at the multi-campus concept, is non-denominational. Ed Young, Jr's church on the other hand, Fellowship Church I believe is still affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention (if not they started out as Southern Baptist but changed their name to accommodate their "seeker friendly" approach to ministry), but the word "baptist" is not in their name or any where on their website. Some familiar churches in our area that are non-denominational and so far at least moderately successful in the multi-campus efforts are Mandarin Christian Church (now called "Christ's Church") and also "Celebration Church".

4. Most, nearly all, of the churches utilizing satellites are those that one could easily classify as "seeker friendly". They feature more modern worship styles, modern music, and perhaps more "liberal" or "hip" preaching styles - maybe the more "historical" context of Mac's sermons fit this mold.

5. Multi-campus churches hold services in a variety of ways: some use live video feeds for the preaching, some record the pastor's messages and play it back at the satellite while the music and worship time is led by live. Others utilize a "regional pastor" or they rotate ministers through the satellites. Some of the satellite churches have different worship styles to match the demographics of its region, or to provide variety to reach different demographic groups in the same city with different versions of the church "brand".

So that I think summarizes satellite churches. If I'm wrong, or there is more to add, chime in.

So this leads one to ask the following questions - questions I certainly hope Jim Smyrl and his crack education staff and the A-Group are considering as they plan this satellite launch next April in St. John's County.

1. Is there any evidence that suggests this satellite concept will work for a Baptist church, especially one that already has a brand image of being stuffy, conservative, rich, and judgemental? Are we patterning our move to satellite after another mega Baptist church that has had success in satellite?

2. Forget for a moment whether any stagnant, mega, conservative, non-seeker friendly, denomination-affiliated churches have had success with satellites...maybe the more pertinent question is: what makes us think that a downtown, centrally-located Baptist church in a fast-growing metropolitan area, a church with above average facilities, plenty of space, plenty of convenient parking, excellent ministries for all ages, a modern worship center and children's building...that has been mostly stagnant for 10 years in its growth...is suddenly going to see growth by starting a satellite ministry? Does this mean our location is why we've been stagnant? If so, what took us so long to figure this out? Or are there other underlying problems or "issues" that need to be addressed? What are these other issues, and how are we addressing them?

3. Is our stagnant growth a function of us not "modernizing" our worship to becoming more "seeker friendly"? Or is it also the antics of our new pastor and current lay leaders that have turned people off to our brand? Maybe the common thread of fast growing churches utilizing satellites IS the seeker friendly model. If this is the case, are we willing to modernize our worship and change our brand image to be more "attractive" to the lost? If we haven't been up to this point, will we go seeker friendly at the satellites? If we do need to go more "seeker friendly" to reach a younger generation, why have we not in the two years Mac has been here tried starting a "seeker friendly" worship service on Saturday night or Sunday morning to perhaps try to reach a younger generation and begin moving in this direction? Space or even cost certainly is not an issue. Mac can't claim that we would oppose it, as the church has followed in lock step with all of Mac's other ideas, so why would he not have started a contemporary service like the one started in Dallas?

Some of the posters here have been discussing how Mac is trying to lead us to "Purpose Driven". I tend to agree with that assessment now, and I can't say that I blame him. Either he needs to lead us in that direction, moving our church to staying faithful to the preaching of truth while offering a more modern style of worship to reach a younger generation, while teaching us why and being respectful and gentle and to those who might not like it, or he needs to not do it. Right now it feels like our church is stuck in the middle. We have a pastor who wants to move us in that direction to reach a younger generation, but senses that there will be opposition so instead he complains that we are stuck in the past and have "legalist lists". Get over it Mac - there will be some opposition no doubt - but LEAD. Just LEAD in love. And I'll add: this is why this blog was started: to get Mac to address the concerns that the congregants have over his actions the first year PRECISELY SO HE CAN LEAD US TO WHERE WE NEED TO GO!

So will the satellite strategy work for FBC Jax? I honestly have my doubts but mostly that's because I don't see a precedent for a stagnant mega church achieving growth by satellites - and of course I have doubts about Mac's ability to lead the church successfully until he comes clean and clears up issues raised on this blog with his congregation. So really there are other issues behind why our church is stagnant that are not going to be solved by satellites; our problem is not that we just aren't "where the people are". The current strategy for launching the St. John's County satellite is to start home groups, home churches to meeting on Sunday nights, then use these converts and home church leaders to start a satellite. That's fine, but if that strategy works, why not invite these home church converts downtown to join us for an awesome God-honoring worship service? Our stagnant growth might have to do with Mac and his questionable leadership or even his pulpit behavior the first two years; it might have to do with our worship style, it might have more to do with our church "being stuck in the past" as Mac says. Whatever happens, I do wish FBC Jax well in their quest to grow through satellites, but something tells me: we need to have a clear strategy to start reaching people more effectively downtown, through evangelism, expository preaching, perhaps offering more diverse worship style alternatives downtown, being more involved in city youth ministry and concerts....in short building momentum in our current location, before we start looking at satellites elsewhere. And we are fools if we think a school is the primary way to reach young people in our city as Mac has told us. So Mac, address the problems downtown where our church has been hugely successful in the past, then we can start talking about satellites.

As I said yesterday in the comments section of the previous article, I will be winding this blog down by mid June. Doesn't mean the site is going to be "taken down" or removed, just that I believe its time for me to stop blogging for the foreseeable future after I make my last three or four posts, with one grand finale that you won't want to miss. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The "Remaking" of the FBC Jax "Brand"...

Continuing some thoughts about the satellite ministry concept and the FBC Jax "brand".

From a marketing perspective we can say that our "brand" - the "FBC Jax brand" - has lost market share BIG TIME. The population in metro Jax is growing fast, and thus our stagnation means we've gotten a smaller and smaller slice of an expanding pie. Other churches have come in and seen growth in numbers and in locations in the past 10 years while FBC Jax has been mostly stagnant in worship attendance and Sunday School attendance.

Certainly since Mac arrived, we've tried to re-make our brand somewhat and give it wider appeal (maybe what some would call PD), but the changes have been mostly superficial - we tried the kids dropping robes in choir, we had our choir members wear pastels for a sermon series, we feminized the ushers for a few weeks making them wear aprons (some just a bit too "snug"), tried more contemporary music (but not too much), we've had Jim Smyrl "boldly" stand in the pulpit Wednesday without a tie and criticize those who didn't like that he didn't have a tie - why we even have our deacons "tieless" on Wednesday nights! We even brought in a preacher who was more "redneck" like Jacksonville - we were told he drives a pick-up, eats Krispy Kreme, carries his own groceries, and picks his teeth with business cards. All somewhat moderate attempts at remaking our brand image.

But the sad thing is this: what little changes we've made to our brand to perhaps give it wider appeal and maybe to undo the image that the unchurched in Jax have had of us as being overly-strict, a group of Christian that blindly-follow-the-bossy-preacher, a church more interested in money than souls, a church for movers and shakers....it turns out that the actions of the pastor and our lay leaders (and the exposure of these actions by nosey bloggers) during Brunson's first two years have served perhaps to negate these changes and ironically have actually served to PERPETUATE the image of the "old brand" of FBC Jax! Those who have been members for a long time have heard so many of the stereotypes of our church: that its only for the rich and powerful, that the more money you give the closer you can sit to the front (yes, I've had serious people ask me that in years gone by), that to join the church you have to submit your tax returns, you had to agree to sign a pledge that you would agree to tithe, that Homer Lindsay was like the Bakkers and Swaggerts building the church to make himself rich and build "shrines" to himself (who can forget the "Homer Dome" comments), and even that our church bought up all the "liquor licenses" to try to dry out Duval County in the 1970's and 1980's. Oddly enough, the past two years have served to CONFIRM some of these wrong stereotypes in the minds of our "market" rather than shatter them.

Now comes Mac Brunson - a new day, right? He'll be the one to lead us to shatter these old stereotypes of our church, to make the necessary changes to show Jacksonville what we're REALLY all about. Unfortunately what our church was NOT but was thought to be, has now turned on us and we NOW are what we WERE NOT but the city wrongly thought we were (might have to read that again). The city sees the new pastor not driving a pickup, but he and wife are driving luxury automobiles. They see him not coming into town to roll up his sleeves and get to work winning the lost, but he came here to live on Amelia Island in a luxury multi-million dollar beach front condo his first year. During the first year when Jacksonville was sizing the new preacher up to see what he's all about, the city finds out that perhaps part of his "calling" here to Jax included a $307,000 land gift given by one of our church members. The city sees a man start building a million dollar mansion within WEEKS of moving to Jacksonville. The city now sees that part of the deal was jobs for wife and son with no stated ministry responsibility, which looks like so many of the televangelists that turn people off! They see him sign up for duty on the crime prevention steering committee, but blow off all but 2 of 7 meetings. Those that are listening to him on TV hear a man screaming about people not bringing bibles, preaching the tithe as doctrine and a requirement for God's blessings...and the city says: SAME OLD FIRST BAPTIST JACKSONVILLE. Angry preacher, going to tell me that I have to give 10%, all the while he's getting rich off the deal, and wants me to dig deep. They're hearing that he ram-rodded bylaw changes through creating a discipline committee without any explanation...and oh yes even less detail now on the financial matters. Why he even saw fit to build a new office suite for $100k in the prime location of our church property - the new children's building. Our "market" looks at this and says No thanks, looks like its not a "new day" at FBC Jax like the A-Group logo says - instead in the minds of our market, its "the same old day" down at the old church.

This is the frustration Mac has faced. He and the A-Group knew to get FBC Jax back growing again the "brand" was going to need some modernization. But Mac has sensed opposition to many of the modernization techniques that he knows are necessary. Some changes have been made, but other changes have been resisted. He has resorted to blaming his congregation.
So what to do? 1. Spend $500,000 to start a school that has a brand name that carries lots of baggage, and 2. Start satellite churches even though our growth is stagnant and we have plenty of excess capacity in our downtown location.

Part 3 tomorrow I'll discuss in more detail the phenomena of church satellites.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Satellite Brand Extension: "God's Will" or "The Long Bomb"?

For the next few articles I will share my thoughts on the new satellite strategy unveiled last Wednesday by Smyrl and Brunson. Before you reject my analysis because its unspiritual and ignores what "our awesome God can do" and before you say "But God can do things way beyond what you can imagine" - keep in mind that this strategy I'm analyzing was birthed by Mac and his crack church MARKETING firm the A-Group when Mac was in Dallas, using, well, basic marketing principles they are known for. So I'm going to examine this strategy from the same business marketing principles from which it was birthed, at the risk of sounding unspiritual.

First of all, I'm not saying that the strategy won't work, and I in fact hope it DOES work - and I acknowledge it MAY work. But before one throws all their support behind the satellite ministry as a means of reaching people for Christ (meaning growing the church), let's do a sober review of the past two years:

1. Mac's first two years have yielded very little "growth". The "cloud" hasn't moved as we had hoped and as Mac's "John the Baptist" David Allen predicted it would when Mac arrived. No one can know for certain why, but we can't ignore the fact we hoped Mac was the man who would lead us to a brighter future - and no doubt, NO DOUBT, the search committee and trustees thought this too, else they would not have pursued Mac so vigorously, giving him all that he was given to come here from FBC Dallas. Given the tenacity of the search committee in trying to get Mac to come, the gifts and perks and family jobs it took to get him here, now the lack of growth, and his abuses since coming here, all should cause serious Christians to wonder if Mac is God's man to lead us in ANY direction.

2. And Mac should not blame us. We did everything we could to help Mac lead us into the future. From the gifts to help ease the transition, to agreeing to put his family on staff, the free use of a condo, etc. we tried to assist. We rolled Mac out to the community at the Sermon on the Mound on Father's Day 2006 (which Mac called a huge success in his pastor's guide book). Why even Times Union religion reporter Jeff Brumley trumpeted to the community Mac as the pick-up-drivin', Krispy Kreme - eatin', business card tooth pickin', good ole boy redneck preacher coming to Jax that would be a perfect blend of Homer and Jerry Vines (which I guess we now know it means if you add the value of Vines' and Lindsay's homes you almost get to the value of Mac's home).

3. We had hopes...we thought once we got the new preacher in that he would come in and work hard and lead us in a new direction. But that didn't happen. Mac was preoccupied his first year getting the land gift inked, staying at the beach an hour away from the city he was called to minister to, starting construction of his new million dollar home, finishing his book manuscript, traveling around the country preaching...in fact we never heard from Mac about his "vision" for the church until he had been here almost a year. No hurry in setting a course for the future - although he was in a HUGE hurry to get the house started, the pastor's suite constructed, getting wife and son on staff - no need waiting for God to move in those areas, after all those were priorities his first year, not getting us moving again in reaching Jacksonville.

And don't you know Mac is frustrated. Mac has seen no growth at our church his first two years - we've lost huge market share for our brand as the city has grown but our church has been stagnant. He no doubt blames us, the "dry dead bones", the "hotbed of legalism", the "worshipping the past" and "worshipping previous pastors" and "comfortable in our sin and in our compromise"...and he JUST can't get all of us to bring our BIIIBLES....for some reason Paige Patterson thinks Mac never got a honeymoon (hmmm, how would he believe that lie that unless Mac told him?). He's spent the last year in so many ways blaming the recalcitrants to cover for his lack of leadership now that things are not going well in Jax. Maybe he's worried that FBC Jax will be the case study for those reading his book "how churches die" (which by the way is mostly focused on church members and how they cause a church to die - not on preachers - does that surprise you?)

So one has to ask: Is this satellite strategy his "long bomb" in an attempt to save his ministry at our church? Maybe it is. If it fails, no sweat he'll be off to another church or ministry (probably a seminary to teach or to be a president) and we'll be stuck holding the bag and the bills. If it succeeds, he will write a book - because as I'll point out in the next article, his strategy is indeed very novel - never been attempted before (as I'll explain, so hold your horses), and if it is successful it will indeed be a move of God's hand!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Just WHERE and in WHAT DIRECTION are We Going?

The recent posts about purpose driven are very interesting. While I don't believe Mac is making a conscious move toward making us purpose driven, there are many aspects of what we are doing that move us in that direction. I have absolutely no doubt whatsoever, that Mac and Jim Smyrl believe they have a unique church ministry model that is different from all the rest, called "Theology Driven Ministry". I won't even delve into what that is (as I'm not certain what it is even though I'm fairly smart and sat in on the sermons last summer), but its a Jim Smyrl creation, and he preached about it last summer.

But here's my point: firstly, Mac can't lead his church anywhere, until he starts being honest with his congregation and getting some things straight about his first two years. I hate to go over my "list" again of his abuses, as I know how much he dislikes "lists" especially those rascally "legalistic lists" as he called them - which I take it to mean lists like: 1. Don't accept large gifts as the head of the 501(c)3 organization from donors of the 501(c)3 organizations (if for no other reason you're own personal credibility - and the fact that a certain Senator from Iowa doesn't like them - and oh yes, because your book to pastors cautions against them); 2. Don't put family members on staff, reporting to you, with no stated ministry responsibilities - this is called "nepotism". 3. Don't show favoritism to influential members by using our facilities for Jewish hospital fundraisers at the request of certain "influential deacons" and producing commercials for display during sermons for relatives of the man who gave you the very large land gift (if for no other reason than you tell other pastors not to do that in your book).

Those readers of this blog that are concerned over the PD movement in our church might be interested to hear Smyrl's take on this: he views Brunson as being attacked by Satan for wanting to move our church forward, and then dares to point back to Homer Lindsay as one who himself was innovative in starting new ministries and therefore to oppose Mac Brunson is an affront on the memory of Homer Lindsay (listen to yourself: Clip 1 and Clip 2). But the point Jim misses is that the opposition Mac faces is NOT primarily from those who don't want change at the church (as evidenced that Mac has gotten everything he has asked for so far with virtually NO opposition from the plebe), its from people who don't like the things Mac has done that we KNOW Homer Lindsay would not ever have done (the gift, the $100k office suite in our new building dedicated to serving families, children, and new believers); THAT kind of change we don't like. I can't say categorically that Homer would not have ever started satellites - I CAN say he wouldn't have built a $100k office suite for himself his wife and his dogs, and that he would not have approved a new preacher in town accepting a quarter of a million dollar gift from one of our donors or putting a video highlighting his sons business in the middle of his gospel sermon), and I think I'm safe to say that Homer would not have approved taking church funds to start a school which is primarily NOT about spreading the gospel (still might be a good idea, and maybe worthy of raising funds specifically for, but not funds given to the church for church ministry).

My second point: Mac is all over the place. He preaches things that are so confusing, sometimes contradictory to things he's said previously. He reprimands the church not over things that we know what he's talking about (like "sin"), but things that are not sin, or he disguises what he's talking about, which can be dangerous. And he has conducted himself in a way that will make it hard for him to lead a satellite ministry. For example:

- he preaches in an angry fashion most of the time. Hearing Mac every week its hard to tell if its always been thus, or if he is slowly moving in this direction. Listen to this beaut as he reprimands, then condescendingly tells us what a "novel" idea it is to bring a Bible to church and read it - this just one week after he had us all hold our Bibles in the air and there were literally thousands of Bibles - except for the mom who came straight from her hospital shift and didn't have hers, and maybe some people who have theirs on a handlheld device, and oh yes, that visitor from north St. John's county who came to see what church was all about and doesn't own one. These antics in the pulpit are NOT consistent with purpose driven. I'm pretty sure Lifeway's researchshows that "unchurched" people in the burbs typically don't want to be yelled at over whether they remembered to bring their bible to church - especially over video conferencing in a satellite church.

- his leadership is just plain confusing. He says even simple things as illustrations that don't make sense (his comment about a baby reflecting the atmosphere in which he is placed - he was 180 deg off on that). He chose to reprimand us for not witnessing door to door, but yet one of his MAIN reasons for starting a school was that door to door evangelism doesn't work because no one is home, thus a school is absolutely necessary. So which is it, go knocking on doors, or don't knock on doors because no one is home. Click on these two hyperlinks to listen: No one is home anymore and Koreans must witness for us.

- he preached against "legalistic lists" two weeks ago saying emphatically that "you and your legalism, and your legalistic lists are NOT spiritual, they are spiritually dead." He never once defined what this list is, or what might be on these lists - but did say "everyone has their own list", and "I'm always amazed that everything on someone's list is something they've already conquered." But again, he carelessly throws this terminology around but doesn't give examples, and worse doesn't bother to differentiate between "legalistic lists", and people that have multiple strong convictions about certain moral issues that could, well, be written down on a list. Am I "legalistic" because I don't drink, and I teach my kids that its best for them not to drink? He claims to want to help families, but that kind of carelessness can hurt when a teenager rarely hears the preacher talk directly about moral issues but then knocks "legalistic lists" without explaining the difference between "legalism" and "convictions". Dangerous and careless I tell you. And Mac has his own lists that he pushes on us, like requiring people to bring their Bibles and yelling at them if they don't, tithing or you won't be blessed by God - so don't tell us about lists Mac.

- last Wednesday he and Jim Smyrl made a strong case that people in the burbs we are trying to reach won't come downtown to church - some have hardly ever BEEN downtown they pointed out. But one of his primary justifications for starting a school with $500,000 THAT WAS DONATED BY PEOPLE FOR THE MINISTRY OF THE CHURCH (the vote for which was held UNANNOUNCED at a Wednesday night business meeting) was that door to door evangelism was dead and to reach our city we MUST have a school to reach people. So the logic is: if people don't want to come downtown for church on Sundays, what makes us think that they WILL come 5 days a week to drop their kids off at our school DOWNTOWN? The answer is obvious: a school is NOT primarily a ministry to reach the lost. We know that. He knows that. And that's not say that we should not start a school. But to justify using CHURCH FUNDS given for CHURCH MINISTRY he needed to paint it as a primary evangelistic tool of the church.

Lastly, on the purpose driven model and satellites - his goal with the satellites is for him to extend the FBC Jax brand, and I will go out on a limb and say its to grow HIS BRAND. Why do I say that? Well, when he unveiled his vision in February 2007 on satellites, he said specifically that the satellites would be places where they could watch the services via live feed, or until we get the live feed, he would drive from satellite to satellite to preach multiple times per day. That's great, but from what I've seen of Mac Brunson, his shtick of history lessons, mixed with some bible and a weekly dose of condescension and reprimands just won't go over well in the burbs..especially from a man who lives in a million dollar home far from their neighborhood, on a piece of property donated by a wealthy member of the church - this serves to feed their suspicion that church and religion is all about numbers and dollars and millionaire preachers. So those of you who are starting the in home churches, be sure to be honest with those you do get to come to your home church that the end goal is to get them to a satellite to watch live video feeds of the downtown preacher. Or perhaps consider your calling more carefully - if you believe the Lord is calling you to start a FBC Jax satellite home church (a huge investment of your time and resources) carefully consider if the Lord is not calling you instead to link with a more local fellowship closer to your home that you can partner with to reach your neighbors.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Brunson and Smyrl Reveal "Satellite" Strategy

Last night during the Wednesday night service Jim Smyrl and Mac Brunson revealed the strategy for extending the First Baptist Church Jacksonville brand into St. John's County. Mac's vision that he unveiled in February 2007 included satellite churches, and last night how this will be accomplished was laid out to the church.

The FBC Jacksonville brand extension into St. John's county will be accomplished by recruiting church members to start "in home bible studies" in strategic locations. These in home bible studies will run from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm on Sunday nights, and will be limited to only 6 FBC Jax members in attendance. The goal of these FBC Jax members will be to invite unchurched members to come their homes on Sunday nights for "home church". Child care will be provided in the home as well.

Jim Smyrl gave a presentation on the three demographic categories of unchurched people we will try to reach, using information I believe was from Lifeway.

Mac Brunson emphasized that these are NOT going to be church "cell groups" where church members get together; these are specifically designed to reach unchurched people. Jim Smyrl added that church members that expressed a desire to attend one of these home churches out of convenience would be told "NO" that they are only for the unchurched.

Some unique aspects of this strategy:

- the members who volunteer will be trained, and all bible study materials will come from the church so that the church knows what is being taught, and any and all church members who are involved in hosting will undergo the same background checks as we have in place at church for those caring for children.

- the homes of these members will be visited and inspected by church staff, particularly making sure they are places suitable for the home church, paying particular attention to safety issues for children who may come to the home church.

- they will meet every Sunday from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, functioning like an "extended Sunday School class" allowing for fellowship time, and bible teaching including the gospel.

Then at some point in 2009, the "converts" from this strategy and the church home points will come together for a celebration service at a new satellite site in the geographic area. This will not be a church plant, but an integral part of the FBC Jacksonville church.

At the conclusion Mac declared that there would be no vote on this strategy, saying "the day we take a vote on whether to do evangelism will be the day Homer Lindsay, Jr. comes out of the grave"....I have no idea the infatuation that he has with Homer rolling around in the grave or coming out of the grave.

If you're interested in being a part of this new, unique strategy of brand extension evangelism, contact Jim Smyrl.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Two Rivers Baptist Church - Lessons for FBC Jax?

FBC Jax members - if there is anything about Mac Brunson and his inner circle that concerns you: whether it be his occasional abusive preaching style, how he talks about us to other churches, how he made significant church bylaws changes with absolutely NO explanation, how he put his wife and son on staff after he came and to this day there is no communication to the congregation as to what specific ministries they are responsible for; or maybe its the spending of $100,000 on the pastor's suite before he even arrived, or the $307K land gift for love and affection, or the wedding reception for his son, or his generally lavish lifestyle - if ANY of those facts concern you, I recommend you carefully review what has happened at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

This is the church pastored by Jerry Sutton - Sutton was a nominee for SBC president back in 2006 - he was the favorite of the big shots in the SBC, and authored the book 'The Conservative Resurgence", but he still lost big to Frank Page anyway.

Here's the summary of what has transpired of late at the church: On Sunday May 12th, 77 long-time, faithful members were kicked out of the fellowship, as they demanded to see church financial records - including expense and salary records. They were concerned that church monies had been spent on the pastor's daughter's wedding reception, and other irregularities. Access to these records was not granted, and they decided to file a lawsuit last year to grant them access to these records that they believed they had the right to inspect under Tennessee law. The suit was dismissed, although the judge did grant access to some records, but still questions remain unanswered by Sutton. Fast forward to May 4th, 2008: a vote was held to ex-"communicate" or remove from the fellowship, the 77 members who inquired about the finances. However, perhaps the Lord intervened, and miraculously, the effort to remove them failed by a very close vote. This did not stop the pastor. He then took matters into his own hands, and since the 77 members being voted on were allowed to vote on the motion, the pastor on May 11th, at the conclusion of the service, held a "show of hands" vote on whether those 77 votes should count. The motion to not count those 77 votes passed, and the members were then kicked out of their church home. Never mind that the church bylaws specifically state that all members are allowed to vote on all motions before the church.

OK, I've probably overlooked a lot in that one paragraph summary of what has transpired. But thankfully, churches like ours have a full record of what has transpired, on the Internet.

You can do your own Internet research, so here are some links for you to visit and read:

1. Read the series of articles at Baptist Press that have to do with Two Rivers. Click here for the list of these.

2. The "dissenters" who are demanding openness and accountability from their church leadership have a website - click here. Visit their website, and notice some of the questions they have of their church leadership, which they have not received answers to.

Just a few things that concern me over events at that church as they relate to our own church:

- the chain of events that has now blown up at Two Rivers into a move by the pastor to kick out long-term members of the church started with some questions that members had in 2006 about spending and personnel decisions at the church. Suppose Sutton just answered the questions. OK, maybe there was some embarrassing information. Maybe even some spending improprieties. Would answering the questions honestly, openly, quickly, humbly have been better in hind sight knowing now what has transpired? Some of the questions were concerning using church funds for personal expenditures of the pastor and his family. Any of this sound familiar?

- the pastor's response to questions regarding salaries, expenditures, etc could have been a move to more openness, more accountability to the people of the church - but instead questions were not answered. Since the pastor was stonewalling information, someone dared to sue the church to exercise what they believed were their rights as members to know details on how money was being spent, and the members who participated in the lawsuit are viewed as the recalcitrants. While our church has not gone that route yet, there are more than 77 people gravely concerned over the decisions of our pastor the past 2 years - and our pastor takes every opportunity he can, and so does Jim Smyrl, to cast a negative light on those who attempt to hold the pastor accountable. While Brunson and his supporters make the issue that his critics are seeking to be "anonymous", Two Rivers shows the issue is not one of anonymity - questions will NOT be answered whether its b y anonymous recalcitrant bloggers or 77 members with their names on letters. And of course its easier to expel members once they put their names on a letter. So don't be fooled by the pastor whining about anonymous emails or bloggers. That won't change anything except maybe invite a very public lawsuit.

- The Two Rivers dispute shows the importance of a church's bylaws. You'll notice as you read about Two Rivers that one of the issues related to expelling these people from the church is what the church bylaws have to say about church membership, church discipline, and pastoral authority. Is it a coincidence that as the lawsuit was unfolding last year at Two Rivers that our pastor, Mac Brunson, clandestinely changed OUR church bylaws to give himself more power, to define how church conflict is handled (which can affect the rights of members to gain access to financial information), and the formation of discipline committee? Why would the pastor make these significant bylaw changes without explaining them in any fashion to his congregation? Why would he not give members copies of the new bylaws before the vote?

Its a shame, but these mega church pastors refuse to move into the 21st century when it comes to church finances and accountability to the people who are giving the money. Is there any wonder that mega churches in the Southern Baptist Convention are on the decline, as admitted by SBC president Frank Page recently? While the trend of mega church pastors in the past 20 years has been to accumulate huge wealth for themselves and their families, and while they keep preaching the need to be willing to change methods and styles to reach a new generation, they ignore the need to be completely accountable to all donors of their churches as to how the money is spent. Pastors like Mac Brunson (who sometimes appear to be CEO wannabes) love to look to the business community for examples on how to run their organizations, how to use the latest marketing and advertising gimmicks to attract people to their church, but one lesson they refuse to learn from business and government is the importance of complete financial transparency. One need only look at the trends in government and corporate governance to know that less accountability and openness as it relates to finances is actually harmful to an organization in the long run - hiding executive salaries from the members is to the advantage solely of the executive, but it does not serve the mission of the organization. It might allow mega church pastors to accumulate more wealth and enjoy more perks for themselves and their families, and it might allow them to serve the interests of the close inner circle of supporters, but it is harmful to the church as a whole. One need only look at Two Rivers and First Baptist Church Jacksonville to see this.

So what can church members do? Well, Two Rivers shows one thing: no matter how ugly the dispute might get, mega church leaders will NOT let church members know how the money is being spent. Period. It will not happen. It took a lawsuit at Two Rivers, and all that did was cause the church members to be expelled as recalcitrants. While our mega church pastors look to corporate America for the latest marketing trends on how to attract new members, the members would do well to learn a business lesson also: corporate America only listens to you as far as it effects their pocketbooks. So, if you have any doubt that your church is spending money on pastor wedding receptions, huge salaries for pastor and family, perks galore, your pastor is accepting huge personal gifts from donors of the church, then my friends and brothers and sisters, there is only ONE way you can "request" and be heard when it comes to more openness regarding church finances: that is with your pocketbook. Churches often ask us to "boycott" companies who take actions that we disagree with as Christians. Why, because they realize that a drop in profits will get the shareholders and leaders attention. I would humbly suggest we do the same. We need to stop our giving (not "to God", but to FBC Jax) until the leadership is more open with all receipts and expenditures: and answers questions about the pastoral transition that involved hundreds of thousands of dollars of gifts, perks, and even conversion of valuable ministry building space to a personal office suite. No ugly litigation needed, no blogging needed, nothing but a simple drop in receipts will force the leadership to respond to their donors. The alternative? Just keep giving more and more every time a "special offering" is asked for to further Mac's personal ministry, keep giving your "tithes and offerings", and let Team Brunson spend the $14 million dollars how they see fit. Would you send $1000.00 to someone who assured you he would give $1 to the local food bank? Or to someone who thanked you, told you they loved you, and then kept asking you for more and never gave you any accounting. Would you "trust God to deal with the man" or would you use your God given mental abilities to demand an accounting? Please pray about what God would have you do... We already know what Team Brunson would have you do.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Pastor's Office Suite - $100,000 "Investment" in God's Kingdom

A few Sunday nights ago Mac Brunson complimented FBC Jax on how well FBC Jax has made the transition from "legend pastor to a red-neck preacher" in the "Vines to Brunson" transition. Something tells me Deerwood doesn't have too many red-necks in their million dollar homes driving jaguars and BMWs. Don't think "Deerwood and BMWs and Jaquars" are part of Jeff Foxworthy's "you might be a redneck if..." routine. And by the way, I'm still looking for the pick-up truck that Ergun Caner told us Mac drives.

This particular sermon had many Mac-isms we'll look at later, but in the beginning of this sermon, Brunson went on to say how the rest of the convention is watching the FBC Jax transition over the last 2 years, and pastors and churches all over the country are marveled at how well it was done. Brunson said he and Vines should write a book about how to do it, its gone so well. Of course he pointed out how FBC Dallas flubbed their transition from Criswell until Mac came to the rescue.

But did we really do the transition well? By what standard would we say that it has gone well? Oh, we haven't seen a fall-off of attendance, and our budget receipts are steady, sure. Other than the fact that Mac is still here, other than the fact that the transition has been a smashing success personally for "Team Brunson", I don't see how it has gone "well" for the church as a whole. As pointed out on this blog certainly the antics of our lay leaders and Mac Brunson are NOT a model for other churches to follow - there's plenty more to be learned of what NOT to do in a mega church transition than what TO do. This is one of the purposes I hope this blog serves, is that other mega churches look at how we brought Mac in here, how abuses occured unchecked, and that other churches put protections in place to prevent what has happened at our church from happening to them.

More evidence of this terrible transition is when one looks at the conversion of the ground floor Children's Building conference to a personal office suite and library for "Team Brunson". Here's the record from the City of Jacksonville building permit database on this renovation:

Project: Renovations Pastor's office buildout
Business Name: First Baptist Church
Business Type: Religious
Project Address: 600 N. Main St., No. 100, between West Ashley and West Beaver streets
Zip Code: 32202
Entry Date: 3/21/2006
Square Footage: 3,633
Value: $96,750

We spent nearly $100,000 to convert 3633 square feet of the most prime space on our campus to a personal suite for the Brunsons. I mean the average church member doesn't have a HOUSE that large, inclusive of the garage and back porch! How smart was that? Look at the date...the permit was entered 3/21/06, which means that the design for this change had to begin around the time we voted to bring "Team Brunson" to Jax. Was this a requirement for him to come? Whose idea was this?

Why do we ask this? Easy: how in the world could anyone in our staff or lay leadership justify this expenditure and transfer of prime space use in our church? One would think that some clear-thinking member of the finance committee, or one of the staff members of our church involved with facilities management, or certainly one of the trustees, would have had the nerve to stand and say: "Wait a minute! Before we transfer all 3600 square feet of the most prime space on our campus at a cost of $100,000 of God's money, and more than that the opportunity cost of not having that space available in the future for ministry, SHOULDN'T WE AT LEAST WAIT UNTIL THE MAN HAS A CHANCE TO GET BOOTS ON THE GROUND, ASSESS OUR FACILITIES NEEDS AND STRENGTHS, AND COMPARE THOSE WITH ANTICIPATED MINISTRY NEEDS OF THE FUTURE?"

Anyone involved in the transition of leadership in a large organization knows that when undergoing major leadership transition, large expenditures that are not essential to the mission of the organization should be "frozen"...don't spend any unnecessary money, don't commit any valuable resources until the new leadership is in place, can assess the situation and determine the direction of the organization. But noooooo......we had to go and spend $100k to make sure the Brunsons had an office suite FROM DAY 1. In the most prime spot on our campus. That's arrogant. That's an abuse and outright misuse of God's money.

Under what possible scenario, other than a lapse of judgement on the part of lay leadership, or as a demand on the part of the Brunsons for their coming to Jax, would we see a project such as this begin before Mac Brunson arrives to assess our facilities needs as a church?

Fast forward 1 1/2 years, and there is Mac holding a vote to start a school that will be housed in the Children's Building. Where would the ideal spot be for the headmaster and administrative staff? Why of course the ground floor of the Children's Building....nope, sorry, Team Brunson already has already occupied that space. And what in tarnations costs $100,000 in converting that space? Sure, some partition walls, maybe new carpeting...but $100k, my gosh, I'm afraid to find out. Think I'm crazy? A legalist? A slanderer or troublemaker? Let's take a look at a quote from Jim Smyrl in his article "Politics and the Pew" available at his website for his 501(c) 3 ministry organization "Loyal Heart Ministries, Inc." (http://www.loyalheartministries.com/)" In this article Jim parallels wasteful spending on "pastor salaries and staff sabbaticals" to what he considers wasteful spending on children and youth and music ministries.

"...let us look to our own spending of Kingdom funds. The next time you pay to be spiritually nourished by entertaining music ministers, write a check for Jesus cruises, sign over property for the aesthetic pleasures of our children, or fund a mountain top excursion for your teens, make sure you are holding yourself to a higher standard than those who manage our national [government] resources. They will give an account of what they wasted by our standards at the poll. We will give an account of what we wasted by Jesus' standards at the judgment."

Couldn't have said it better myself Jim.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Pastors Unhurt By Economy Slowdown...

Jeff Brumley, religion writer for the Florida Times Union, had an interesting article last Thursday about how the slowdown in the economy has hurt the giving of parishioners of churches around town. Click here for his article.

I found his article headline and sub-headlines interesting:

Offering plates take hit in lean economy

TITHES: Parishioners cut back on their giving to buy gas and food.

MINISTRIES CUT BACK: Less money coming in, but more are in need.

Although Brumley didn't differentiate in his article between large and small churches, a quick review of how the pastors of the areas larger churches are living, including Mac Brunson, would suggest that the weak economy might be affecting their church's giving and their ministries, but not certainly not the pastors' lifestyle.

Looking at the home values of some of the areas most popular churches and ministries reveals that a number of pastors are "living large" in homes well above the average parishioner.

Here are the "Top 5" home values of local pastors...for all but Gilyard and Brunson I have left the names off...I'll let Brumley or someone else publish those:

1. $1,600,00 - Pastor of Mandarin area church

2. $1,100,000 - Pastor of local church and TV minister

3. $1,030,000 - Mac Brunson, Pastor of FBC Jacksonville

4. $992,000 - Pastor of historic Baptist church

5. $724,000 - Darrel Gilyard, former Shiloh Pastor

All but FBC Jax are predominantly African American churches.

All but Mac Brunson have lengthy tenures at their church of 10 years or more. Mac began construction of his home just weeks after he arrived in Jacksonville in 2006, on the $300,000 1/2 acre lot given to Mac just weeks after he took the helm of FBC Jax.

The only Southern Baptist Convention church in the list is Mac Brunson at $1.03 million.

Two of these top 5 churches have pastors or former pastors serving on Mayor Peyton's crime prevention steering committee, both have woeful attendance records at the committee meetings of less than 30%.

The other pastors of rather large local churches, some of them multi-campus, some even that are on TV in the local market, are in the $500k and below range.

Do you suppose if the economy gets much worse it will be harder for parishioners to stroke their weekly check, knowing that while they are getting the squeeze, their pastors are living large?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

REVISED AGAIN: The Brunson-Collins-Holland Link

UPDATE: Here is link to audio of Mac's sermon where he included a commercial for the Collins Homebuilders in the middle of his March 16, 2008 sermon. Its about 5 MB, so might take a minute to download. Notice after his very emotional description of Jesus in the Garden, and how Jesus trusted God when God's plan didn't make sense at the time, Mac transitions into the current day example of trusting God in how the Collins boys decided to close their sales offices on Sundays. You'll of course only hear the audio of the commercial here, but it was a very professional piece that was done - I guess by our own media resources at the church, but very nicely done and edited. Again, this company is owned by the sons of the man who gifted Mac Brunson the $307,000 lot in Deerwood. Not saying this is quid-pro-quo...just giving you the facts and I'll let YOU decide. Since Mac included this commercial smack dab in the middle of his sermon, it was broadcast in the local Jacksonville TV market the following Sunday in HD on TV-12.

Thank you to poster "Ghost" for the following article on the infamous $307,000 "land gift" that our pastor accepted just weeks after arriving in Jacksonville ...those of you visiting this site for the first time, let me get you caught up before you read the "Ghost Post" article below on this gift.

Just weeks after arriving to Jacksonville to be our new pastor, Mac Brunson, accepted a land gift worth $307,000 - a 1/2 acre plot located in exclusive, gated development known as "Deerwood" in Jacksonville, Florida. Here is a link to the property record in the City of Jacksonville property appraisor website. The home and land is valued at over $1 million, making Mac one of the most lavish-living pastors in Jacksonville. This land gift was never disclosed and explained to the congregation, and questions of who on the search committee knew of this gift offer and when Mac Brunson knew of this gift still remain.

When did Mac accept this land gift? Mac preached his first sermon as pastor of FBC Jacksonville on April 9, 2006. The deed for the land transfer was executed on May 1, 2006, just 3 weeks after the Brunsons arrived in Jacksonville. The deed shows that the gift was given for "love and affection". Click here to see the deed for yourself. The construction on their 5200 square foot, 6 bedroom 4.5 bath home began in July 2006.

Now for the Ghost article:

-----------------------------------

Perhaps some of the confusion comes from people not knowing who J.D. Collins is. For those of you who do not know, J.D. Collins is a local real estate developer who is very powerful in the City of Jacksonville. He has a very long track record of giving money to politicians in Jacksonville and throughout the state. J.D. Collins has over 20 Corporations through which he donates money to political campaigns. Campaign contributions can be searched through at the State of Florida Campaign Web Site or the City of Jacksonville Campaign Reports . I will not bother to list all of J.D. Collins' corporations but they all are listed under the address 3840 Crown Point Road Suite A ,Jacksonville, FL 32257.

For those of you who do not wish to search through contributions I have searched through many of them myself and will list his political contributions from the last election cycle for the City of Jacksonville. In the 2007 election cycle J.D. Collins made the following political donations to candidates in Jacksonville:

Mayor John Peyton-$10,000

Supervisor of Elections,Jerry Holland-$15,000

City Councilman At Large Group 1, Ronnie Fussell-$10,000

Candidate for City Council at Large Group 2, Jay Jabour-$7,500

Candidate for City Council At Large Group 3, Stephen Joost-$5,000

City Councilman at Large Group 4, Kevin Hyde-$5,000

City Councilwoman At Large Group 5, Glorious Johnson-$1,000

Candidates for City Council District 1:Clay Yarborough-$1,500 Cheryl Grymes-$1,000

City Councilman District 3, Richard Clark-$5,000

Candidates for City Council District 4:George Banks-$500

Don Redman-$7,000

City Councilman District 5, Art Shad-$5,000

Candidates for City Council District 6: Jack Webb-$1,500, Sean Richard-$4,000

Candidate for City Council District 7, Johnny Gaffney-$1,500

Candidate for City Council District 8, E. Denise Lee-$5,000

Candidate for City Council District, Warren Jones-$1,000

Candidate for City Council District10, Mia Jones-$2,500

Candidates for City Council District 11:Ray Holt-$1,000, Mike Saylor-$1,000

City Councilman District 12, Daniel Davis-$10,000

City Councilman District 13, Art Graham-$5,000

City Councilman District 14, Michael Corrigan-$5,000

You may say, what does this have to do with our church? While I apologize for the long listI wanted to make a point that J.D. Collins has a long history (this is only from one election cycle!) of making donations to people to whom he wants something in return. There is no correlation in his giving in regard to political party/ideology as he gave generously to Democrats Johnny Gaffney, Mia Jones, Denise Lee, and Warren Jones (when Warren had a Republican opponent). He even in FOUR RACES gave money to multiple candidates in the SAME RACE to ensure that he had his bases covered no matter who won (see Council Districts 1, 4, 6, and 11).

So, Robert, you claim that this land gift to Pastor Brunson was a "gift from the Lord." I ask, were these donations of over 100,000 dollars to local candidates in one election cycle also gifts from the Lord? I personally don't see how anyone could claim that over 100,000 dollars in political donations is a gift from the Lord. What makes the gift to Mac any different? How do the Brunson supporters know that Mac is not expected to give J.D. Collins something in return, just as he expects every politician at City Hall to be indebted to him? We have already seen a commercial played during the morning service advertising for Collins...what's next? Could new buildings or building improvements contracted through J.D. Collins be far off?

Also, I found another very interesting tidbit when I Googled J.D. Collins name. We all know that it was Jacksonville's Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland was one of three church members who leaked to the media that Mac Brunson was going to be our new pastor. I discovered a Folio Weekly article from 2000 that states: “J.D. Collins is more than just another powerful developer to Jacksonville City Councilman Jerry Holland. He’s an underwriter. Not only does Collins help pay Holland’s mortgage (his wife, Beverly Holland, is an executive officer in more than 12 Collins corporations, and Holland himself used to work for Collins), but the powerful builder also subsidized a fair chunk of Holland’s council bid in 1998. Collins, through his numerous businesses, gave 18 donations of $500 each - $9,000 - to Holland’s campaign coffers.”

This shows a link between Jerry Holland and J.D. Collins that I did not know existed. How did Jerry Holland know that Mac Brunson was coming to FBC? Could it be that he found out through his wife who works for J.D. Collins because the J.D. Collins land deal was what enticed Mac Brunson to come to Jacksonville in the first place? So again the question First Baptist Church of Jacksonville deserves an answer to is Did Mac Brunson know about this $300,000 land gift before he accepted the job as Pastor of First Baptist Church Jacksonville? This is a question that our church deserves an answer to, and yes Robert we will keep on "whining and griping" until it is eventually answered.