"...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

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Danger of Unchecked Pastoral Power

Last Saturday SBC pastor Wade Burleson wrote an article at his blog about leadership and used Ted Haggard's moral failures as a back drop. What I took away from Wade's article is this: lay leaders do much harm to their churches and ministries, and even do great harm to the pastors themselves, when they give pastors virtually full control of a church, within a system designed for minimum accountability, and very little transparency and openness with the members.

I would say the potential for harm is even greater when we hire a new pastor that has no track record with the lay leaders and the congregation. It makes virtually no sense at all to concentrate power over a mega church and its staff and ministries in one man that is a virtual UNKNOWN to the congregation. I believe this is perhaps our biggest mistake as a church during our pastoral transition after Vines.

Too bad our trustees - most of whom are learned business men and lawyers and leaders - didn't have the foresight to see potential problems of our pastor-led system with a new pastor. We failed to make some important bylaw changes to reduce the power of the new pastor...which would make sense given that he was an UNKNOWN. As we shall see starting tomorrow as we look at the bylaw changes at FBC Jax from December 2007, not only did we give the same power and control of our church to Mac Brunson that our very seasoned and trusted pastors had, but we actually gave him MORE POWER, LESS ACCOUNTABILITY in the bylaw changes of December 2007...while not even making sure the most faithful and trusted members understood the changes and how they impacted their church and their church membership. Shameful. Shameful.

Now I'm sure Burleson didn't have Team Brunson and our lay leadership in mind when he wrote his article, but boy it sure fits our situation and the leadership of Mac Brunson. By the way, Burleson, contrary to slanderous remarks made to our church staff by a certain FBC Jax staff member at our church who has served with Burleson at the IMB...he IS a solid, bible inerrancy conservative SBC pastor...who happened to fall out of favor with the SBC big wigs for using his blog to hold the IMB accountable for decisions he believed were harmful to the SBC. Its a story too long to tell here, but his blog is probably the most read blog in the SBC and a definite must read.

Here are some excerpts from his article cut and pasted here. Please see if any of these statements could or might apply to Team Brunson:

From WADE BURLESON's January 10 blog article:

"We Christians should take an honest look at what it is we think qualifies a person to lead."

"We have pastors who bully those who question them,... and other actions that lead me to believe we have a God-complex among some of our leaders."

Nothing more "bullying" than issuing trespass warnings to suspected bloggers and their wives. Ask the members - there is a aire of fear at the church, that those who question the leadership will be singled out or asked to leave. This entire blog is about the "bullying" and intimidation of Mac Brunson from the pulpit.

"This false sense of moral invincibility has led to a climate where transparency, honesty, and personal integrity are no longer a part of our corporate faith."

Amen. We have to realize that our leaders need accountability. For instance, Mac loves his family so much, he is such a wonderful husband and father (I mean that sincerely), that if not checked he may use his position as pastor to give ALL of them jobs at our church. That is a "weakness" that he has that needs to be checked through some system of accountability like most other churches have through a personnel committee and perhaps a nepotism policy.

"Had people known of his [Haggard's] struggles, they could have held him accountable. Had people had the sense that their leader was fallible, they might have never given him such unbridled freedom and authority."

I think admiting one's mistakes to the congregation would be a starting point. When a lie is told, apologize. When you blasted us to a group in North Carolina, explain your words or apologize. Its OK Mac to let us know you've done something wrong or hurtful.

"The problem with organized Christianity is not the gospel. The problem with organized Christianity is that too many Christians have forgotten that leaders are fallible."

"Yet, in my mind,the true gospel is only strengthened when Christian leaders lose their public sense of absolute authority and spiritual perfection. Anybody who presumes to talk on behalf of God should remember that the treasure we possess (the gospel) is carried in fragile, clay jars."

"The lust for power and absolute authority, the lust for fleshly gratification and paralyzing materialism, and the lust for personal recognition and praise are all inner demons that every SBC pastor and leader faces. The only way to prevent leaders from acting out on such temptations is to realize that these sins are common to fallen man, to never bestow absolute authority or unbridled freedom on any man, and to resist the idea that any Christian leader is beyond being questioned."

This is so true today more than ever. We see this right in front of our eyes at FBC Jax.

"The SBC church, institution or agency that believes the "leader" is beyond simple accountability will find that leader has the capability to ruin the organization. When and if that happens, the fault will reside not only with the leader, but those laymen who were unable to see that a lack of transparency is the first indication that something is wrong."

Exactly. An unchekced leader has the capacity to ruin an organization, and if it happens, the blame falls not just on him, but the laymen, the churchmen, who didn't stop it.

AMEN and AMEN!

The Watchdog has been saying virtually the same thing for months on this blog. As I said Wade may not have had Team Brunson in mind when he wrote that article, but if the shoe fits...

Do any of you lay leaders at FBC Jax get it? Do you realize what you have done by changing those by-laws and giving full authority and power to Team Brunson (which means Mac, Deb, Trey, and Maurilio) with no real accountability or transparency? Do you think you've done them or our church any favors in this?

I pray that some of you staff and lay leaders will read this blog and wake up.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good article, Dog. The sad thing is if you read the comments on Wade's blog, you will see that the majority of readers missed Wade's point. The article was about the dangers of giving unchecked authority to pastors and the abuses that can result when there is little or no transparency and accountability. Yet, most blog commenters focused only on Haggard personally and his sin of homosexual relations with a prostitute.

Wade's blog applies to Mac Brunson and the lay leaders that have empowered him, just as much as it applies to Haggard's situation.

The article is about bullies in the pulpit and pastoral abuse and how it happens, NOT about Haggard and homosexuality.

FBC Jax needs to make some changes about how it is run...IMMEDIATELY. Before a scandal hits, or we are millions in debt.

Anonymous said...

Watchdog,

Thanks for the AMEN's to yourself... twice.

What was it you said about Mac amening himself?

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Good one, Anon. The Watchdog has learned from the best over the last 3 years on how to Amen one's self!

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Readers - looks like Trey has picked up a few more sponsors for the PC 2009:

BibleSoft

Compassion International

Institute of Creation Research

Gone from the list of sponsors is the Billy Graham Evangelical Association.

So this is good news, as the promotions money is beginning to build. Many thanks to the A-Group, Conexus of Atlanta, and Trey Brunson for being able to raise money "God's way" at our Pastor's conference through selling of promotions and advertising. At this point, Trey has probably covered his salary for the year, but we think it will take quite a few more sponsorships to pay for his salary AND the fees charged by the A-Group and Conexus for the marketing and promotions fees. But we have total confidence in Trey's abilities to keep those promotions wheels running at FBC Jax!

The Watchdog will keep a running scorecard estimate of how much we've raised through our promotional efforts. This is significant, as this money raised is "gravy"...its money raised that doesn't really cost us anything other than the fees paid to the consultants...its just selling something that costs us nothing: that is the eyes and ears of our attendees.

Amen!

Anonymous said...

"Let Me Tell You Something"

At Brunson's first Deacon meeting he said he wanted a $20 Million building program. Why? Who in the world would ask a church for such a huge amount of money? Mac Brunson had to have a reason for this request. Was this his idea or was it Maurilio's idea?

"Let Me Tell You Something"

As a new pastor you do not say Deacons, I want you, your families and church members to give me 20 million or we are going to go into debt for the 20 million. Who in the world has the utter audacity to DEMAND THAT?

"Let Me Tell You Something"

Well Mac tell us something. Tell us who's idea this was and what was the reason. Was this just another control technique. Get the church in a building program as soon as possible to secure your job for another FIVE YEARS. Get the church members so wrapped up in the building program that they lose sight of the PURPOSE DRIVEN program that you are building.

Maybe at the Pastors Conference you will tell the pastors what is going on here. You won't tell us!

Thy Peace said...

I found some comments/statements related to Debbie Brunson and Mac at Wade's site:

Commendation for the 2007 Nominating Committee
"(3). The pastor and layperson who served on the Nominating Committee from Florida initially nominated to serve on the International Mission Board the Florida Committee on Committees member who had nominated them to serve on the Nominating Committee. This is a violation of bylaws, and though it was not initially caught, we should give thanks to the the excellent staff of the Executive Committee for discovering the bylaw violation and the Nominating Committee for correcting it. I'm sure the initial oversight was innocent, as well as what happened next, which may have just slipped by the notice of the entire committee.

Out of the hundreds of thousands of Southern Baptists in Florida who have never served on a board, the two Florida Nominating Committee members, a pastor and a female doctor, nominated Debbie Brunson to replace their initial recommendation which did not meet the guidelines . Debbie is a vivacious, charming lady who loves the Lord and is a wonderful pastor's wife at First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Florida. Yet Debbie has already served over a three year term on the IMB. The bylaws also state that a person must reside within a state for an entire year before they can serve on an SBC board. Debbie and her husband Mac have been at FBC Jacksonville, Florida for a year - sympathetic with Landmark tenets.


Also please check out the comments in that article about questions on Debbie.
----------------------------------------------
The Many Faces of the SBC: A Conference on Baptist Identity

Please check the comments section of this post:
Wade Burleson said...
Thanks johnjaxthebaptist for your kind words.

I would be pleased if you were to ask your pastor about a 'speaking slot' in next year's conference.

Let me know how he responds.

:)


P.S. Next time you see Mac's wife, Debbie, let her know I said hello.
Wed Jan 03, 06:45:00 PM 2007

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Trey just hasn't gone far enough to pull in more profits for the pastor's conference.

If he charges 75 bucks for a badge, why not charge to hear the choir sing, which is why many folks attend, not to listen to all the pastors that parade across the stage.

Get'em Trey.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:10 Since you were there and heard this request:

1. Did anyone ask why $20M
2. Was there a date certain
3. Were questions allowed
4. Did Mac answer any questions
5. Was any suprise shown
6. Was $20M brought up again since
7. Was a committee formed
8. Did Chairman make any comments
9. Whose in charge of spending it
10.Is all the money for downtown

The reason for these comments are that the budget is around $12-14M per year. This is the entire amount raised in 1 1/2 years without taking into consideration the expenditures. To raise this additional amount is a MAJOR undertaking particularly during a recession and possible depression.
Maybe the $20M is off the table

Anonymous said...

Question? How long did it take FBCD to raise $55M? Anyone from Dallas got that information and what is the total membership? Thanks.

Thy Peace said...

"To raise this additional amount is a MAJOR undertaking particularly during a recession and possible depression.
Maybe the $20M is off the table"


I do not know anything about the inner working of fbcjax leadership. But from listening to some of Pastor Mac's sermons, I think they will go ahead with this plan.

Why is that?

The leadership is into NOT doubting, NOT worrying and NOT questioning. Also it seems to flow from the top down. They make decisions a priori and then they want the sheep to follow.

So Economic Depression will not stop this project.

Maybe, just maybe reality will intrude in to their plans. If it does, then they will see the wisdom in Lindsay's on how they raised the money for their Capital Expenditure Projects.

Thy Peace said...

An Issue Worth Addressing: The Problem of Authoritianism in the Conservative Pulpits of America

"Yet, Mark is quoted in the article as saying something that I find quite disturbing. After the New York Times makes it known Driscoll has little patience for dissent, the newspaper writes that in 2007, two church elders protested a plan to reorganize Mars Hill Church. The elders, according to the newspaper, felt the reorganization consolidated power in the hands of Driscoll and his closest aides, giving to the pastor too much authority and control. Driscoll told the congregation that he asked advice on how to handle stubborn subordinates from a “mixed martial artist and Ultimate Fighter, good guy” who attends Mars Hill.

“His answer was brilliant," reported the pastor. “He said, ‘I break their nose.'"

The New York Times goes on to report that when one of the renegade elders refused to repent, the church leadership ordered members to shun him. One member complained on an online message board and instantly found his membership privileges suspended. Pastor Mark Driscoll then gives to the New York Times the money quote that ought to send a shiver up the spine of every member of an evangelical, conservative church in America. Pastor Driscoll said:

“They are sinning through questioning."

Huh?

The Bible tells us that true leadership is found through men who are courageous enough to be questioned. Jesus said that real leaders are servants, not masters. The incredible notion that a member of a church should be shunned, persecuted or disciplined for simply asking questions of the pastor has more in common than the cultic practices of Jim Jones than the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Let me be clear. Those kind of pastors - pastors that advocate an authoritianism inherent in the pulpit, that stifle any and all dissent from the members of their congregations, that humiliate and denigrate the members who for the sake of conscience ask questions - could very well be considered great expositors of the Word of God and doctrinally orthodox. Yet those pastors display a character that is the antithesis of the character of Christ, an ironhandedness that is the opposite of genuine grace, and a disposition that should cause their congregations to realize that their pastors are but one step away from falling over the precipice of moral failure in terms of their church ministries or personal lives.

The problem in conservative pulpits of America is not a denial of the Word of God, the problem in conservative pulipits of America is the preacher acts as if his words are the Word of God."

Thy Peace said...

Mega Churches that have satellites:

Current Mars Hill Locations

HighView Baptist

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Mac is funny...he screams at us about the ways that Lindsay and Vines taught us to stay out of debt and tithe...he screams:

"WE GOT DA TAPES. WE GOT DA CD'S TA PROVE IT"

Another example of how he loves to live in the past if it suits HIS purposes, but blasts us if we bring up how we used to do things.

I wonder what they found on "da tapes" and "da CDs" about how we funded capital projects in the past. I can assure you we didn't fork over HUGE FEES to consultants in Nashville to tell us what we needed to do. The pastors cast a vision to EVERYONE...not just to their favorite 210 people...then they asked EVERYONE to pray...then they asked EVERYONE to give.

And how did we know it was God's will, the vision that is? Not because Lindsay or Vines SAID it, but because we GAVE the money over time and we looked and the money was in the bank! You do not need to hire a consulting firm in Nashville to "promote" the plan...don't need videos...don't need slick marketing pieces to get the people to give! You need a humble, godly pastor to EXPLAIN to everyone what the plan is, and then wait for the people to give! Now, THAT, Mac, is "cutting edge". Ain't nobody doin' that these days!

The shame is that the method used by Mac now is certainly NOT "cutting edge". First of all it is wasteful as it has unnecessary "overhead" in the form of consulting fees paid to the A-Group (which, again, benefits Mac, because Maurilio is a close personal friend of the family, a 3rd son...ask those who were at Trey's wedding...again, a reason NOT to let a new pastor rule the church because he will bring a personal friend who is his marketing consultant). But this is what every other run-of-the-mill church has done for decades that needs a building program. They hire a church capital fund raising firm! Pay them a fee to help you "raise" the money, or at least to obtain "committments" or "pledges" from the members that can be used to then borrow the money!

So: cast the vision. Leave out the marketing consultants. Ask people to pray and give. Don't beat them up and guilt trip 'em. That is how we used to do it.

And guess what:

WE GOT DA CD'S MAC! That is how we did it!

Thy Peace said...

WD and Readers, I posted a comment on Wade's blog here, about fbcjax watchdog.

Anonymous said...

Watchdog - don't know if you're the one who was put out of the church or not with the trespass papers, but in case you're not at church tonight I did want you to know just how compassionate Pastor Brunson is toward you - at least in his own mind.

He told us tonight that "putting people out da church" through church discipline is an act of compassion, to help people (I suppose nasty people like you and your wife who deserve to be "put out da church") miss the sweet, sweet fellowship and want to come back into the wonderful beautiful fellowship...that is "if they're even saved" he said.

So if you're the one banned from the church and if you're the one who got served the trespass papers, then maybe you could tell us: did the serving of the trespass papers make you miss the fellowship of FBC Jacksonville? Do you just yearn to come back to the church that threw you out of the church and your wife and prohibited you from seeing your kid sing in the choir? How does Mac's compassion make you and your family feel? Can't you just feel the love from Mac, Watchdog?