"...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, July 29, 2008

Sutton Ousted at Two Rivers: Lessons for Brunson and FBC Jax - Part 1

One of the most shocking stories thus far in 2008 in the SBC is the rapid demise of Dr. Jerry Sutton at Two-Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. This past Sunday, the church overwhelming approved an "early retirement" package valued at $314,000 to move beyond the fiasco that unfolded at that church over the past few years.

This story should send shockwaves through the SBC, particularly to those pastors at large to mega sized churches that operate with very little accountability and openness and transparency to their members - like Mac Brunson. I will not go into specific commentary in this article on what I believe these lessons are; I first want to just share information with the FBC Jax members to read to become more familiar with the chain of events that led to Sutton's inability to continue to lead his church. The story involves questions of financial accountability, pastor's salary, getting answers to financial questions, church discipline against those seeking the answers, and expelling of church members seeking those answers. Sutton won a few battles, but he lost the ultimate war - and so did his church. Sutton was not caught in open sin, had very high morals and integrity - but the manner in which information was shared or not shared, and how he treated those with legitimate questions and concerns, ultimately led to most everyone at the church agreeing his ability to lead the church was seriously eroded.

What makes his relatively sudden departure from Two Rivers so remarkable is that just two years ago Sutton was almost elected as president of the SBC! He was the conservative-resurrgence crowd favorite to win the presidency in 2006 (after serving two terms as SBC vice president), but was defeated by Frank Page of South Carolina. Sutton was very popular at his church, and enjoyed a 22 year tenure as pastor, and was incredibly well-connected to the leaders of the SBC many of whom he pastored - now he is out of a job, the church is straddled with paying him a huge severance, and their church must now start the rebuilding process after a very public, ugly church fight.

Later this week I will post what I think the lessons are from Two Rivers that need to be gleaned by Mac Brunson, our lay leaders, and the FBC Jax congregation at large. But for now I hope that my readers will do some research to see just what happened at this church, and think about the application of this mess to our own church's situation.

Watchdog's Blog from May on Two Rivers - this was made just after the "recalcintrants" were kicked out of the church by Sutton.

TwoRiversInfo.org - the website of the "recalcitrants" who demanded financial accountability at Two Rivers. You will see here the questions the church members had over the church's handling of finances.


Baptist Press Article on the Early Retirement - contains interesting quotes from Sutton's letter to his congregation about the vote and his recognition that he must leave for the church's own good.





Florida Baptist Witness October 2007 Article About Church Vote to Affirm Sutton - this shows just how far and fast Sutton fell from grace.

Part 2....specific lessons from this story for FBC Jax...later in the week. Some questions to consider: In hindsight, do you think Jerry Sutton would handle things differently when first questioned about church finances? If he had it to do over again, would Jerry Sutton still seek the ouster of these church members? Did removal of the "recalcitrants" free the church to move forward? Who or what was the problem at Two Rivers - was it troublesome, meddling church members wanting questions answered, or was it the church leadership's failure to respond appropriately to the questions?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mac Delivers a Great Sermon on a Difficult Subject

Mac Brunson gave one of his best sermons Sunday night July 27th. He dealt with the subject of the sin of homosexuality. Certainly not a topic that many preachers today want to deal with, but he took it head on, preaching out of Romans 2.

I won't comment much on it, other than to say it is definitely worth listening to. He will likely have it posted on his 501(c)3 website www.inlight.org by Tuesday.

Mac didn't waiver one bit on the sin of homosexuality, describing how we arrived at the position we are today where the society is embracing this sin as normal, what this says about our nation's relationship to God. I had never heard this said before, but Mac said that throughout the bible homosexuality is a "signal sin" - that when this sin becomes prevalent and accepted in a culture it shows just how depraved the society has gotten, and that God has to some degree removed his hands from the situation.

But Mac at the end of the sermon, did an incredible job of preaching about man's response should be to the sin itself - that is what a person who struggles in this area should do. It really was a classic - a preacher trying to encourage his people to fight, to wage war against all sin in their lives through the Holy Spirit.

Excellent sermon Mac. Keep 'em coming.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Nobody Knows the Trouble Mac's Seen...

Just a few clips from Sunday 7/20, in the evening service.

Clip #1: Here Mac announces how he can determine the attitude of mom and dad based on spending a few minutes with a teenager. Listen to this clip. So if you have a rebellious teenager, keep him/her away from the Brunsons else Mac will assume you're filling your teenager with "garbage". Oh, notice that Mac explains how important, how contagious attitude is - all the while why he does with an arrogant, angry attitude. Priceless.

Clip #2: More than any preacher I've heard, Mac seems to want to tell his congregation on a regular basis how tough it is to be pastor of his church. No question pastors have pressures...but I mean to hear Mac describe his lot you'd think that he bears the weight of the free world on his shoulders. Its tiring Mac - just do your job, and quit telling us how we don't have a clue what we would do if we pastored the church. We do have an idea of things we would NOT do that you have done.

Mac says something in the clip that is very curious, and doesn't really make sense: "I can tell you something...its a position [FBC Jax pastor] where the weight of temptation is greater than anything you can imagine. You don't know, you don't have a clue." That is odd; "weight of temptation"? Whatever does he mean? Temptation to do what? Accept large gifts, put wife and son on staff, hold Israeli fundraisers, change bylaws with no explanations to the congregation? I guess Mac sure didn't hold up under those temptations, he gave in to every one!

Mac says in the quote that he has to "deal with more criticism in 30 minutes than you can handle in 6 months." Mac let me tell you something - the more you speak as though you know what life is like for the average person in your church the more painfully obvious it is that you don't have a clue. You don't understand that the pressures and criticism you face are likely nothing like the pressure the average working stiff in your congregation faces. Most people at work face intense competition from peers, demanding customers, supervisors who are pushing harder and harder, companies cutting back jobs and salaries from a troubled economy, and a paycheck shrinking as life's expenses increase without much of a raise if any. No one at work tells Joe Blow that they're "God's man"...they don't get to choose their supervisors...they don't have people lining up to give them free gifts, and they work in companies with strict nepotism rules forbidding them to hire their family members in their same office, and alas they must leave Fido at home. So PLEASE quit your bellyaching to us Mac about how hard things are; most of the pressure you feel now is likely you're own doing, the result of poor decisions you've made as pastor that you've never attempted to explain or apologize for. Your bellyaching falls on deaf ears - you have your family working with you, you have a lavish office suite with your wife, secretary, and dogs in the office. You rub elbows with the rich and powerful at Deerwood in your million dollar home and even though you abuse your congregation week after week people still love you and worship you. So you have a few recalcitrants giving you a hard time week after week about your poor leadership. Get over it. You have the keys to the church, and a flock of gullible sheep that will follow you anywhere.

Life ain't that bad Mac. But maybe as you say at FBC Jax you're in the "place of preparation" for something bigger. We could only hope.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Sheri Klouda's Response to Patterson and Brunson

Below is the response of Dr. Sheri Klouda, in its entirety, that I received this afternoon. At right is her picture that she has allowed me to post. Many of you who have stayed up with her case maybe don't know what she looks like - she is not just a name in a news article or in a blog - I am glad we can show her picture. She is writing this in response to Mac Brunson's sermon Sunday night, and to clarify things said on this blog and other blogs.

Before posting her response, a few comments are in order.

This blog is primarily about FBC Jax and the pastorship of Dr. Donald "Mac" Brunson. Has been, always will be. The issue of "Sheri Klouda vs. SWBTS and Paige Patterson" has made its way to my blog because of the decision of Mac Brunson himself. On Sunday July 13th, in the Sunday evening service at First Baptist Church Jacksonville, to the good people of FBC Jax Mac Brunson either maliciously lied, or careless perpetuated a lie told to him by Paige Patterson's attorney during a "trip to Greece", about Sheri Klouda's testimony in her case and her views of her case as it pertains to scripture in 1 Corinthians 6. I blogged about this here; and click here for audio of the clip where Mac perpetuates the lie.

Those of you who are familiar with Sheri Klouda's case through the baptist news agencies and the blogosphere will read in her own words below her story contradicting stories told about a supposed job offer made by Paige Patterson; even one anonymous blogger here who blamed her hardships suffered from this lawsuit on Dr. Klouda herself for not taking a similar job offered by Patterson. And she of course explains her real views of her case in light of 1 Corinthians 6 and other relevant scripture - which shows how Mac Brunson completely misrepresented her views.

Finally, I can say I was absolutely sickened to read her testimony of how she was wronged by Paige Patterson and the subsequent suffering her family has had to endure. And now to read her own words confirming the lies that have been told about her dismissal, and now to know that our own pastor, Donald McCall Brunson has decided to insert himself into this and use his influence and power, and the prestige associated with our church name, to further perpetuate lies about this good woman, I am OUTRAGED. Shame on you Mac Brunson. Its clear that Dr. Klouda harbors no animosity toward the people involved, but feels the need to set the records straight.

Here is her response:

To All of Those Who Have Responded:

I would first like to mention that the court documents for the Klouda/Patterson depositions are publicly available in Fort Worth, should anyone wish to look at them, which should support my claims.

I would like to put some rumors to rest, if I may.

First, I was never offered another permanent position with the same salary and benefits. The only position I was offered was temporary, and would only last until my pending dismissal in December of 2006. I begged Dr. Patterson to find a place for me at the seminary several times, and I would have taken anything I was offered, given my husband's rapidly declining health and the need to financially support my family. I was desperate. We just bought a home based on the premise that I was hired on tenure track and would be given the same opportunities as other professors to apply and achieve tenure. My daughter was already in high school, and all of my family, including my elderly grandparents, parents and my siblings all reside in the area. There is no document related to this new position, nor was anything ever produced to support this claim.

Second, Paige Patterson testified that several students came to him complaining that I was "teaching the Bible," soon after he decided he would eventually terminate me. However, he took no notes, has no records, no emails, and does not know the names of the students that accused me of this.

Third, I was hired for the teaching position by the board of trustees, who felt that I was qualified to undertake these responsibilities. It was only a year after Paige became president that he decided to begin the process of eliminating my role, stating that I was unqualified to teach only because of my gender. As far as I can see, you cannot have it both ways.

Fourth,the case was dismissed not because the facts were disputed, but on the basis of the separation of church and state. In other words, the deposition makes it quite clear what the grounds of my dismissal were, and they had nothing to do with my performance. In addition, the role of a faculty member in a seminary is considered to fall under a ministerial exception, consequently, the law views me as a "minister." Ironically, I was dismissed because as a woman, I was not "qualified to be a minister." Paige did not mind taking advantage of that judgment even though he states categorically that I am not qualified to be a "minister."

While it is true that the lawyer had me read I Corinthians 6, I responded that "it appears to suggest that one should avoid bringing suit against another believer," however, I clarified this by explaining that this declaration assumes the wronging party will do the right thing to the one accusing him, or that other believers will compel the wrongdoer to respond appropriately. In addition, the Old Testament, which is part of our Bible, institutes and discusses at length judges, courts, and suits as stipulations approved by God and put in place to protect the individual in a believing community from harm by another. The Bible constantly addresses powerful people taking advantage of those who are less powerful Not only did I go to Dr. Patterson and ask him to treat me fairly several times, since I did nothing to deserve losing my job, and in fact, was serving in that role by the approval of the board and those in authority, but other believers went to him on my behalf to try and obtain justice and grace. I was asked if I knew that there were church mediation places set up specifically for the purpose of resolving these matters between believers, and I acknowledged that if I had known that option was available, I would have tried that approach. While I do not know Pastor Brunson personally, and I have never met the man, even though I taught junior high Sunday School for five years, he or anyone else (a deacon, an administrator, somebody who would care?) from FBD never advised me or discussed what happened to me, or counseled me as to what to do. No one in my own church came forward once when my husband was ill, or expressed any concern about out situation at all apart from a few of the adults who taught junior high.

As a result of Dr. Patterson's unilateral decision, we lost all of the equity in our house and sold it for less than we paid for it since we couldn't afford the payments any longer. I lost all of my years towards tenure, some of my life insurance, retirement for two years, and took a reduction in pay equivalent to $15,000 a year. My husband lost his job of 12 years, and took a job that paid half of what he received in Dallas. His heart condition is inoperable (he had another heart attack in November), and he needs a defibrillator put in to restart his heart when he suffers heart attacks. We are still trying to pay off those medical bills so that he can get the procedure done before he has a major attack. He must either apply for early retirement (at the reduced amount) or try to apply for disability, which takes approximately 808 days in Indiana before approval. He will have no life insurance, and we will have even less income. We of course, have no money to buy a home since we lost all of our equity in the Dallas sale. We are already going month to month, and I am very concerned about how to proceed. Somehow by the grace of God and his provision we will make it. I hardly think this constitutes "whining," and I did not "refuse" any position at the seminary.

Finally, I just want to reaffirm, I am still Southern Baptist at heart, and I harbor no hard feelings towards anyone involved.

Blessings in Christ,

Sheri Klouda
----------------------------
FBC Jax Members and other Watchdog readers: if you feel led to donate money to help the Klouda's, Pastor Wade Burleson has already set up a benevolence fund where 100% of all recepits will be given to the Klouda's, and your gift will be tax deductible. Send your gifts to:
Emmanuel Baptist Church
2505 West Garriott
Enid, Oklahoma 73703
Designate your gift "Sheri Klouda Fund". FBC Jax, let's not be defined by what Mac Brunson SAYS, but by what we, the people of FBC Jax, DO. Let's show real Christian love and help the Klouda's.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mac a "Historian"? More Evidence of his Difficulty Telling the Truth

This past Sunday, once again we were treated to the historical exaggerations and misrepresentations of Mac Brunson. Its hard to believe that this is coming from the "holy desk" of First Baptist Jacksonville, once the flagship church of the Southern Baptist Convention where the Bible was faithfully preached and care was taken to proclaim TRUTH. Mac uses the sacred desk to tell a lie about one of his own sheep, perhaps to help bolster the image of his friend Paige Patterson among those at FBC Jax. He now I think has demonstrated that he has a harder time dealing with historical facts than Hillary Clinton - and like Clinton he thinks that just because he says something we're all going to believe it is so.

Sunday night Mac Brunson preached a sermon on church discipline from 1 Corinthians. In the first 2 minutes of his sermon, Mac commented on 1 Corinthians 6, where Paul describes one of the problems of the church in Corinth being that of legal disputes between believers. While not the central verse of his message, Mac said this was an example of just how low the Corinthian church had sunk - that Christians were suing Christians.

But as only Mac can do, he had to take it one step further. Without giving any names he explained that in our Southern Baptist Convention we had a "famous lawsuit" where "one Christian was suing another Christian and an instutition". Mac was referring to the case of "Dr. Sheri Klouda vs. SWBTS and Paige Patterson". Sheri Klouda was a seminary professor hired by the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) trustees in 2002 prior to Paige Patterson taking over as SWBTS president in 2003. Paige Patterson eventually told Sheri Klouda she would not be recommended for tenure as she was not suitable to be a professor of theology because of her gender, and scripture forbade her from teaching men. This ultimately resulted in Sheri Klouda bringing a lawsuit against Paige Patterson and SWBTS for gender discrimination. My intent here is not to argue whether the lawsuit did or did not violate precepts in 1 Cor 6, but to point out a lie that Mac perpetuated from the pulpit about Sheri Klouda. But if interested, click here for a good overview of the entire case, written by Wade Burleson. If you do just a little bit of research on this you'll see that Dr. Klouda and her family suffered terribly from this entire ordeal. She is now a professor at Taylor University in Indiana.

But back to Mac's sermon. Mac said Sunday night that the lawyer that tried the case (actually the defendant's lawyer) traveled with him to Greece recently, and Mac says the following (click here to listen to the audio yourself):

"He [the defense attorney] had this person [Sheri Klouda] sit in the witness chair, he gave that person a copy of God's word, and had that person open it to the 6th chapter of 1st Corinthians and he had that person read that [scripture] into the record and he [the defense attorney] asked that person 'now in the light of God's word were you wrong to bring this lawsuit?', and on the record they [Sheri Klouda] admitted they were wrong to bring the lawsuit"

Only one problem. That's a lie. That totally misrepresents Sheri Klouda's testimony in the case. She did NOT admit she was wrong to bring the lawsuit. As anyone who followed the case knows, Sheri Klouda has stated in her testimony in the court and outside the court that the conditions of the situation warranted her taking legal action as she did and that it was not a violation of 1 Cor 6. Its also safe to say that she did not lose the case on the material facts but the court's unwillingness to intervene in church or religious disputes.

Very interesting that Mac chose to lie about this. He didn't have to - the fabrication he told, even if true, wouldn't have shed any light on lawsuits and believers - the lie was completely gratuitous. He could have made his point and used the Klouda case as an example of 1 Cor 6 lawsuits - even saying that he thought Sheri Klouda was wrong in bringing the lawsuit. Many people hold that position. But no, he had to go further. People post here wanting to know my motives - what are Mac's motives in telling a lie about Sheri Klouda and misrepresenting her testimony? Could it be that by telling this story in the fashion he did that it makes Sheri Klouda look less of a Christian (bringing a lawsuit against Patterson then supposedly admitting on the witness stand that she was wrong?) and helps to put Paige Patterson in better light? Would we dare call that slander to use his pulpit to say this about Sheri Klouda?

You say "Mac was just telling us what the lawyer told him." OK, but did Mac pick up the phone and talk to Sheri Klouda as he prepared his sermon to make sure that the lawyer was right and that Sheri had admitted on the witness stand that she was wrong? Why wouldn't he check his facts? For crying out loud, Mac Brunson was Sheri Klouda's pastor when he was at FBC Dallas - wouldn't that alone make him want to get the story straight and make sure that he doesn't malign Sheri Klouda?

There you have it FBC Jax. Yet another example of careless preaching, by an arrogant out-of-control preacher who has a problem telling the truth. And this time Mac's lie maligned one of his own sheep from FBC Dallas to throw a bone to one of his buddies. Sick.

But no one at FBC Jax seems to care. Mac is "God's man". He can do and say as he pleases.

Sorry, but I still say: the King has no clothes on. And it ain't a pretty sight.

"Semi-Infant" Baptisms - Should We Baptize Children Under Age 12?

Below is a hyperlink to an interesting article by David Rogers, son of the late Dr. Adrian Rogers, regarding the rising trend in the SBC of what David calls "semi-infant" baptisms - baptisms of young children and even toddlers.

David is a proponent of postponing young people's baptism until after they reach the age of 12. This article is particularly timely given that this week is "Vacation Bible School" and there will be plenty of parents considering whether to allow their children who make professions of faith to be baptised.

Perhaps this article might be helpful to a parent during this week of Vacation Bible School.

David Rogers article on Semi-Infant Baptism

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Support NAME Missions: Buy Alabaster Jars

Today, approximately 10 minutes before the beginning of the morning service, Mac Brunson came to the platform holding an alabaster jar similar to the one at right. He said that two men in our church went on a mission trip to the north African, Middle East (NAME) region some time back and had the idea to start an alabaster import business.

He then showed a 4 minute video of these men describing their business venture, how they arrived at the idea, and what its purpose is.

After the video, Mac says that these men are importing alabaster from this region so that they can return the profits to mission work at the NAME. And Mac said "100% of the money you spend on purchasing the alabaster goes right back into mission work in that region". Yes, he did say that. That is hardly possible, I assume he means 100% of the profits. Which means its a not-for-profit venture. We shall see.

Interestingly, Mac's ace marketing consultant "The A Group" may have some involvement, since on Maurilio's twitter account are these two entries showing he flew to Jacksonville on June 19th to meet these two men: Interesting, it seems that more and more of our church time and resources go into promoting private business enterprises and interests of a select few people in our church. We had the "Time to Stand With Israel" at the insistence of certain influential deacons who have business interests there. Then we had the video commercial displayed during a sermon promoting the home building business owned by the two sons of the developer who donated the $307,000 tract of land to Mac Brunson where he built his million dollar home. And we know that we pay large sums of money to Nashville church marketing guru Maurilio Amorim for our website and other promotional and marketing services. Now two guys with an alabaster business that perhaps our church marketing guru is also involved in. How sad it all is. But to say anything about it and to make people aware of it on a blog, is apparently one of the worst sins that a Christian can commit according to Jim Smyrl on Wednesday, and as we'll likely hear from Mac tonight as he speaks about church discipline.

On an unrelated note: how much of God's money given by God's faithful saints at FBC Jax was used to re-do Maurilio's bathroom in Nashville so he could have a six-head shower that he completed on June 21st, as he "twittered" about on June 21st?


Click here to see Maurilio's six-head shower.

Six-head showers for Maurilio Amorim and million dollar homes for the preacher: Ain't God GOOD?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Week 2: Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Welcome to week 2 of the "Independence from Mac Brunson" month, as we have pegged the month of July. One of the aspects of the abuses of Mac Brunson that I wish to highlight this week is the expenditure of our tithes and offerings on an out of town marketing firm called The "A-Group". I blogged about our use of the A-Group several months ago here.

Apparently Maurilio Amorim, the owner of the A-Group, was in Jacksonville today, as he blogged (actually he "blogs" and "twitters" - "twitters" is a way to blog in small real-time snippets throughout the day) that he was flying to Jacksonville, and having lunch at the Deerwood Country Club. Don't know if he was meeting Mac Brunson and discussing FBC Jax business, but I can't imagine Maurilio has too many clients that live in Jacksonville at Deerwood Country club.


But the fact that Maurilio is in town just reminds us of one huge difference since Mac came to FBC Jax. Apparently our staff of over 20 God-called, full-time, seminary-trained (most of them) ministers are not enough for us to develop our own church growth strategies. Do we really need to be paying a very wealthy church marketing executive who lives in Nashville to be helping us plot our church course?

Sorry Jim Smyrl to engage in "idle chatter" here...but people of FBC Jax do you want to know where your tithes and offerings are going? As we saw tonight we have to collect nickels and dimes and dollar bills at the conclusion of our service to gather up the money to help the poor African-American church rebuild across town because we don't have money in the budget apparently to help them...but by golly gee whiz we have plenty of money to pay Maurilio to be our marketing consultant.

I don't fault Maurilio one bit, and none of this is meant as a criticism of him in any way. He operates a profitable business that apparently is in high demand, and he is a Christian and by all appearances operates with high morals and ethics. But those of you at FBC Jax who don't like to think of your tithes and offerings going to an out-of-town marketing firm might be interested to know what kind of a lifestyle you help support when we pay the A-Group to be our marketing firm.

As I already mentioned, Maurilio "twitters". This means throughout the day he posts about his life - where he goes, where he flies to, where he vacations, where he eats, what shows he goes to, etc. If you visit his "twitter" site at: http://twitter.com/maurilio you will be able to see that he lives pretty well. Activities that he gets to engage in:

- vacations in Las Vegas
- stays at the Palazzo resort
- enjoys private Kineses work outs at the Canyon Spa and Gym
- dines on French food at the Paris Hotel
- spends $100 dollars for steaks at his hotel
- goes to the Blue Man Group show
- spends $700 for tickets to the Cirque De Soleil show.

All of this and more is on full display at his blog and twitter site, so I'm not attempting to expose anything, and not being critical of Maurilio. Just wanting people at FBC Jax to know that our pastor deems this marketing firm to be an absolute essential part of our church strategy.

Just how much money do we spend on the A-Group? Is that money well spent? Just what have we gotten from them that has helped us win a soul to Christ? What have they done for us that our own staff or even local firms here in Jax couldn't have done for us? Call me old fashioned, call me a recalcitrant and a trouble maker (and Smyrl may call me a boiling, festering cancer), but the thought that we need to hire a jet-setting marketing executive in Nashville to help us with strategies to reach our city for Christ is completely foreign to me. I wonder where like-minded men of FBC Jax are that know better.

I guess what makes it even more disgusting to me is just the brazenness of it all. Mac likely had lunch with Maurilio at Deerwood Country Club today, and we likely picking up the tab for the lunch and the Maurilio's travel expenses - and Maurilio's precious executive consulting time - and then Mac drives across town to ask us to throw some dollars in a bucket to buy electrical supplies for the church across town because we can't put it in the budget. I wonder how much would have been put in the bucket if we had first given money to the African American church and asked people to drop some dollars in the bucket for Maurilio's consulting time.

So again: if you don't think its wise to use God's money to pay executive marketing firms, there is only one way you will make a difference: that is stop giving to the church that is deciding to spend God's money in this manner.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Mac's Illustrations: Poor Sermon Prep or Intentional Fibs?

It is enough for our church to deal with in that Team Brunson is using our church to build their own wealth and brand, while on Sunday mornings he continues to preach as a bully and is rude and arrogant and hypocritical. That's bad enough.

But when the man is using illustrations put forth as historical facts in the middle of his sermon, that are not true, it just becomes too much to bear. Mac's shtick in preaching is that he is a well-read man and even perhaps a "historian". Yet when one does a cursory check of his two primary historical illustrations on Sunday 7/6, at best his illustrations are a far stretch from the truth and at worst are pure fabrications.

A "Jewish Banker" and a "French Officer"

Let's take his first one: a story of a "Jewish banker" named Moses Rothschild, and a "French Officer" in the French Revolution. Mac tells the story as though recounting the details of history, that a "French Officer" had to flee persecution during the French Revolution and he gave his fortune to a "Jewish banker" for safe keeping and didn't get a "receipt". The "Jewish banker" took the money for him, invested it, and then returned it to the "French Officer" after the Revolution and explained why he returned it: "To my profession my name is attached". Mac then said the "French Officer" went around telling people he had found an honest banker, and because this "Jewish banker", named Moses Rothschild had honesty and integrity, he went on to start the largest bank in Europe. [You can listen to this illustration by clicking here; it is a 3 megabyte file, so you might have to wait; or you can go to Mac's website at http://www.inlight.org to listen to it.]

Well, several problems with Mac's "historical" illustration. Firstly, it was not Moses Rothschild, it was Mayer Rothschild (Moses was Mayer's father). Secondly, the "French Officer" was not some person Rothschild didn't know, he was a man representing Prince William of Hanau, who Rothschild had cultivated a relationship with and had already benefited financially from prior to the French revolution. Some historians say that Prince William's fortune was ill-gotten, but we won't go there. But about returning the fortune back to Prince William, which is the moral of Mac's story: even the Jewish Encyclopedia acknowledges that it was "legend" that the money was returned by Rothschild. Well-known economic historian Niall Ferguson calls the entire story that Mac used a "myth" that never happened. I challenge Mac Brunson to give a credible historical reference that says he gave the money back to Prince William. Also, if Rothschild did, to say that this is what catapulted the Rothschild's to be the largest bank in Europe is ludicrous. Its just not in the history books that way - some even say Rothschild embezzled the money from Prince William. I challenge people to do their own historical research on this, and you'll see that Mac took extreme liberty (to be kind) with this historical event to make an illustration.

"Fred the Christian Mechanic"

The second illustration by Mac is his story of the Toronto car mechanic, "Fred", who several years ago was honest enough to not cheat a news reporter doing an undercover story on auto mechanics. According to Mac, the reporter went to "Fred's" shop with a spark plug wire disconnected making the car run very rough, and "Fred" looked at it, put the plug back on, closed the hood, and didn't charge the reporter. When asked why he was so honest, Mac quotes Fred as saying: "I believe God created everything there is...and Jesus Christ his Son came and died on a cross for me to forgive my sins, and rose again to give me eternal life. I'm not a preacher, I'm not a missionary, I'm just a mechanic. But everything I do as a witness and worship unto God." Mac says the newspaper had a headline the next day: "Fred the Mechanic: All to God's Glory". [Click here to listen to the illustration.]

Well, this account that Mac gave us is not about "Fred", but Cecil "Red" Brenton, and it occurred in Toronto in 1972. But according to the Toronto Star, there is no record of the speech that Mac said "Fred" gave the reporter. Instead, the Toronto Star says: "Brenton fixed the minor problem, charged nothing and said simply 'I'm a Christian.'" That's what the newspaper reported: that Red Brenton said "I'm a Christian". In a subsequent Toronto Star article, Red Brenton said, "I'm not used to all this publicity. I am a Christian man, a Catholic, but I didn't mean I'm a fanatic or anything." While it is nice to think a "Fred" who is a mechanic gave a gospel presentation to the reporter when asked why he didn't rip him off, it just didn't happen that way.

Now I leave open the possibility that I'm wrong, and Mac Brunson has access to historical documents and news articles that I don't. But I doubt it. So one has to wonder, where does he get these illustrations? Was it careless sermon prep, and he plucked these illustrations out of an illustration book or off a sermon prep website? Or did he know the historical facts and decided to fudge the facts to suit his purposes. Hillary Clinton tried this on several occasions this past year - and she found out people don't like it when leaders fib about historical events. We don't tolerate it in political candidates, why should we have to tolerate it with a preacher of the gospel? Isn't this a simple matter of integrity? Those of you who are pastors that read this blog, is this what they teach in seminary in sermon prep classes? Is it OK to fib on historical facts if the fib contains the gospel message or some important biblical truth?

Well, we know Jerry Vines, arguably one of the premier experts on expository sermon preparation in the SBC, doesn't advocate using these kinds of illustrations. On pages 132-134 of his book "A Practical Guide to Sermon Preparation", which Mac undoubtedly has in his personal library, Vines says the following regarding illustrations in sermons: "Your illustration will be a good one if it is believable...If you are making up an illustration, say so...The preacher should be mindful of certain cautions in his use of illustrations. First, be sure your illustrations are true. If you are making up an illustration, let it be known at the appropriate time."

This all points to one inescapable truth that we hope Mac will learn: its best to just expositorially preach the Bible, get most of your main illustrations FROM THE BIBLE itself, and never use half-truths and fabrications of historical events in your sermons. Mac has now lost credibility with his listeners in any historical references he makes - we won't know if he's telling us historical facts, or using his reputation as a historian to make us believe some half-baked illustration is historically correct when its not. Excuse me while I go check the facts in his Abraham Lincoln sermon last week.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Reminder: July is Independence from Mac Brunson Month!

Watchdog readers: just a reminder that the month of July is the month for the people of FBC Jax to show the lay leaders and pastor that we are sorely disappointed in their poor leadership at our church, and that we demand our pastor be held accountable for his abuses at our church and that things begin to change. Sunday July 6th is the first Sunday of July, and we implore all people at FBC Jax who believe Mac Brunson and our lay leaders have taken our church seriously off course, to stop giving their tithes and offerings to the church. Here is the last paragraph of our decree posted last week.:

Now therefore until the pastor and/or the church lay leadership begin to address these concerns, including public explanation of the bylaw changes enacted in December 2007, and until the pastor begins to display the humble servant-leadership as portrayed in the New Testament, our tithes and offerings will be given to other worthwhile Christian purposes that will meet people's needs and further the gospel. We do not feel compelled by scripture to continue to financially support the ministry of FBC Jacksonville as continued giving to the church is to condone the past practices and encourage even more abuses in the future.

Be it decreed this, the 25th day of June, in the year 2008.


I hope that enough Christians will join us to make a difference.

Friday, July 4, 2008

An Explanation Why the Secrecy of the Land Gift

An interesting development last night on our blog. Anonymous blogger "47" who has suddenly appeared here and has been more than cordial in his attempt to give answers to questions raised here offered an explanation as to why Mac Brunson COULD NOT announce the receipt of a $300,000 land gift given to him just weeks after he took the helm at FBC Jax..

I immediately called the explanation (politely) "horse dung". Then within minutes an anonymous attorney familiar with tax consequences of gifts given between employees of 501(c)3 religious organizations and shareholders, gave some clarification to 47's explanation.

Here is the salient portion of the attorney's explanation:

The gift was given from one "shareholder" of an organization to another "shareholder" of the organization. This, in and of itself, is absolutely harmless. Where it gets sticky is the fact that it was a "shareholder" giving a gift to an employee of the organization. Had Dr. Brunson announced that there was a member of the church, or "shareholder" in the organization, that had given him a substantially sized gift, the responsibilities that go along with that gift, would have then fallen on the whole organization. According to the churches 501(c)3, the announcing of such gift would be viewed as, or considered by law, as an employee associating the organization with the gift, therefore incurring tax consequences for the organization by the terms of the 501(c)3's Excess Benefit Transactions. Basically, had the deal been announced publicly, the government would have seen an employee who received a gift from a "shareholder" passing his tax responsibilities to the organization, having them pay his taxes.

Basically, had the deal been announced publicly, the government would have seen an employee who received a gift from a "shareholder" passing his tax responsibilities to the organization, having them pay his taxes.

Interesting explanation. I don't believe it. If I understand 47, Mac Brunson WOULD HAVE told us, perhaps he WANTED TO tell us about this incredible blessing of God...but doggone it those pesky IRS rules actually prevented him from doing so because tax consequences would have been incurred. It was in our best interest NOT to know!

As 47 said, answering these questions only leads to more questions. Here they are:

1. 47 I will assume you are a staff or family member that has close access to Mac Brunson. So, can you tell us the decision to not announce the gift was a conscious decision made at the time the gift was accepted? Did Mac WANT TO tell us, but shoot he just couldn't for our own good?

2. Is it really possible that the tax consequences to the church of this gift could be swayed by just a man explaining the nature of a gift, of expressing thanks, or just sharing the fact that a gift was given? Is that possible? Don't the facts surrounding the details of the gift: the relationship between the giver and receiver, the size of the gift, the timing of it in relation to his employment date, etc...don't the facts of the gift trump whether a man opens his mouth to announce a gift?

3. Approximately 18 months after the gift was given, in the middle of Mac's sermon he aired a professionally produced commercial for a business owned by the sons of the giver of the $300k land gift. Does this have any tax consequences to the IRS as how the gift is viewed?

And finally: regardless of the answers to these questions and whether "47" and the "anon attorney" are right or not...doesn't this all just stink? Couldn't the gift have been refused, or directed to the church so the church could best decide how the gift is used?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Times Union: What Investigative Work!!

Well, Jacksonville's local newspaper cracked one of the most perplexing problems facing churches today, especially at FBC Jacksonville! Times Union report Jeff Brumley has done an incredible investigative piece and uncovered the following about FBC Jacksonville and other SBC churches:

Actual attendance is often much different than membership.

Yep, that's right, this is the sub-headline in Brumley's June 30th piece about how...get this...our actual attendance is much lower than our membership numbers! Now how is that for news about FBC Jax! While the pastor at Jacksonville's largest church - which just so happens to be run by some of the most influential people in Jacksonville including politicians, a judge, and a candidate for judge - has accepted a $300,000 gift from one of its members violating an ethical standard that would exist in any profit or non-profit corporation setting and has put wife and son on staff and whose numbers are plummeting - Brumley has a story about our membership numbers. Gee, that is some late breaking news for sure!

It would be nice if our local media would do their job and actually go and ask Mac Brunson about the ethical standard he used in accepting the land gift. Its a little harder for Team Brunson to refuse answering media questions than questions asked of anonymous emailers or coward bloggers. Was the land gift truly a gift according to IRS standards? Maybe ask Mac about the wisdom of putting wife and son on staff with no stated ministerial responsibilities. How about the glaring differences between his own actions and ethics in his book used in SBC seminaries to train pastors? Maybe a story about nepotism in our local mega churches? What about the bylaw changes made at FBC Jax that hardly anyone in the congregation understood, but were asked to vote on last December? Did FBC Jax have its method of church governance changed? Why was a discipline committee begun? And many more questions that require answers - nope, need to first look into that gap between membership and attendance numbers.

This Brumley story is more proof that there is a valid use for blogs. When the large media outlets ignore an obvious story for whatever motives they might have, blogs do provide a way for light to be shown on newsworthy facts. Bloggers were responsible for exposing the Dan Rather lies about President Bush's military service when national news outlets ignored the story. So while Brumley writes about membership numbers and the "blazing oratory" of Mac Brunson and his penchant for Krispy Kremes and driving pick-ups, this blog will continue to expose the abuses of Mac Brunson at FBC Jax.

And one minor detail Jeff: not sure where the "up to 3000" attendance figure came from for Wednesday nights at FBC Jax, but I think you have an extra zero stuck in there. Wednesday night attendance has fallen greatly as has Sunday night - mostly because people don't know who is preaching, if there will be preaching, and if it will be a bible study or a history lesson.