"...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

Thursday, January 22, 2009

FBC Jax 2007 By-Law Changes - Part 2

In this 2nd article on the bylaw changes of November 28, 2007 the Watchdog will review changes made to several committees, and the offices of Deacons and Trustees. The Watchdog is attempting to provide useful information to the members regarding the church bylaw changes of 2007, since the pastor and the lay leaders chose to remain silent before a vote was asked for on Wednesday, November 28, 2007. The Watchdog blogged about this vote here and here back in December 2007, calling on the church to rescind these changes until they are explained to the church.

Granted, announcements were made several weeks in advance in the church bulletin that bylaw changes were being proposed, and members were told they could view them in the library and email questions. However, since bylaw changes have to be voted on by the membership, one would think it a prudent step for someone - either the pastor or perhaps president of the trustees - to characterize the nature and purpose of the changes before asking the congregation to vote on them. We hope that the deacons who apparently did vote unanimously to approve the changes the night before the church vote - were given full explanations on the changes, and that questions were asked at that time.

So why write about the bylaws here? Some of the changes in the bylaws are fine and probably very prudent - and some most members wouldn't care to know about. But here is the Watchdog's point, and the reason for these articles on the bylaws:

Included in the November 27, 2007 bylaw modifications were changes to the conditions of church membership, creation of a discipline committee and discipline process by which church discipline could be carried out against members, revokation of certain members' rights, and revokation of the congregation's right to call for a special business meeting of the church. If those portions of the changes to the bylaws don't require a loving, humble, pastor to stand in front of his people to explain the nature and purpose of such changes, then there is nothing that Mac ever needs to explain to us. Just give he and Deb the rest of Team Brunson total control of the church to do as they wish.

If you want to listen to the 11/28/07 business meeting where the vote was called for, click here.

Finance Committee Dissolved

The December 2007 bylaw changes dissolved the finance committee and moved those responsbilities to the "Trustees" of the church (see below). Most SBC churches have a "finance committee" that is responsible to attend to the financial matters of the church. In our church it was a standing deacon committee. They were responsible for the disbursing of all funds, and were responsible to furnish Deacons and the members a detailed financial report each month and at the close of the year. So we don't have a personnel committee from the deacons overseeing the personnel matters, and we no longer have a finance committee of deacons overseeing the financial matters of the church. Very interesting.

Board of Trustees Expanded from 11 to 17

The Board of Trustees was expanded from 11 to 17 members, and this is what necessitated a change to the Articles of Incorporation that were voted on the same night as the bylaws.

The selection of Trustees was defined in the new bylaws as "...nominated by the Pastor, with the advice of the Chairman of Deacons and Vice-Chair of Deacons. The trustees shall be elected annually by the Church..." So they are nominated by the Pastor only. The previous bylaws were silent on how trustees were nominated. The are hand-picked by the pastor, and the congregation votes up or down on the entire board at once.

Role of Board of Trustees Expanded

There now is a statement in the new bylaws that says: "It shall be the responsibility of the Trustees to manage the legal and financial affairs of the church" ...and then goes on to describe what those responsibilities are, which include the responsiblities given to the Finance Committee before the bylaws were changed.

So they are no longer just a body from whom the officers of the church are chosen to sign legal documents when necessary...they are to manage the legal and financial affairs of the church. A role that was partially vested in the Deacon body through the finance committee.

Trustees are now responsible for annually hiring an independent auditor of the church financial records, not the Finance Committee.

Approving Non-Budgedted Expenditures

The previous bylaws stated: "Any disbursements that exceed $25,000 and is not a regularly budgeted item shall be presented to the church for approval."

Under the new bylaws, the Trustees can vote and approve non-budgeted expenditures up to $50,000 - a quorum of trustees is 50%, so anywhere from 5 people to 10 people (including the pastor) can vote to spend up to $50,000 of money on non-budgeted expenditures. Any expenditures over $50,000 still have to come to the church.

Approving Expenses

The bylaws now require the appropriate "Executive Pastor" to approve all "checks and contracts obligating the Church" for their respective ministries. That seems to be a very reasonable change. Makes perfect sense.

To be generous, perhaps these changes were made not so much as to change how the church is run, but to make the bylaws an accurate representation of how the church was already being run, even perhaps prior to Brunson arriving. But if that is the case, why not explain it to the people who are present on Wednesday night to vote? Why can't the Pastor demonstrate leadership in this area by giving some explanations?

From what we have seen of Mac in his first 3 years, perhaps the bylaw changes was a power grab on his part. As I will discuss later, part of the changes were to avoid conflicts as were observed at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Also these changes effectively secure Mac's position as pastor and make it impossible for a congregation to fire the pastor - as we shall see it is now only possible if the Trustees decided to remove him - and as we know the Pastor picks the Trustees! He has concentrated power to run the church within the body of Trustees that he selects. His board can decide to spend up to $50,000 of church funds not budgeted...which makes me wonder how we approved to spend money on the INSP network program as a church since that expenditure was certainly NOT in the approved budget, and by Mac's own admission was more than $100,000.

Bottom line: Mac has done enough, and treated us in such a manner since coming here that I don't trust him to change the bylaws as he did, and I don't think he has earned enough trust that would cause us to make any bylaw changes that concentrates power into those that are his close buddies on the Board of Trustees.

In the next few articles, the Watchdog will present issues in the bylaw changes that involve how business meetings are called, how church discipline is carried out, and what "right" members have forfeited to become members of the church under the new bylaws. The Watchdog has more to say as well regarding the function of deacons in the church in light of Mac's intimidating statements to deacons about being "worriers" and that they are not to be "businessmen". These I think will be of more concern to many members that the issues above, and certainly issues that the Pastor should have explained to his people before asking for a vote.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

ha ha - more like First Baptist JACKEDUP-VILLE!

The sad thing is, these sheeple will continue to pack the sanctuary and even worse, continue giving money to this criminal. Duh! I am an EX-FBC Dallas member by the way. Left for the same reasons that are now your reality.

James said...

WD,

First Jax has always operated under the authority of the Pastor/s. Dr.'s Lindsay Sr. and Jr. had the final say in any and all major decisions. Dr. Lindsay Jr. and Dr. Vines had the same authority, but you can bet that ultimately what Dr. Lindsay Jr. decided was the final verdict. Dr. Vines may have take taken his hands off of some of that authority, but make no mistake, when it came right down to it, the "leadership" allowed Vines to have free reign. All Dr. Brunson is doing or has done is : 1.) get the same authority in clear print, 2.) rearranged some of the protocol 3.) disbanded a committee that did nothing more than rubberstamp a budget that the Pastor constructed in the first place. Whether you like it or not or relaize it or not, in most large and mega-churches, the Pastor proposes the yearly budget, and then shows it to the "proper" leadership (finance, budget, trustees, etc.) who add their names to the cover letter, and then it is given to the people to approve. That is just how it works today.

I am not criticizing you, but it is not going to change at Jax no matter how much you blog about it. Dr. Brunson is at the helm of your ship, and things will be done his way. It worked for the Lindsay's, Lindsay Jr. and Vines, and it will continue to work with Brunson.

Dr. Brunson has done nothing much different than the previous Pastors, he has just been more vocal and authoritative about it.

Just sayin,

JH

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

James - sure, I acknowledged what you are saying: that the bylaw changes regarding the finance committee and trustees MIGHT have been to make the bylaws consistent with how the church was already being run, even before he came. However, the clandestine fashion makes people (including me) suspicious of motives.

However, just a few comments:

- if what you say is true, then Brunson could have stood just before the vote was taken and said what you said. He could have given a 60 second explanation and Amened himself.

- You say that the finance committee was just rubberstamping...ok, but now the rubberstamping is done by his trustees, still a problem...and are you saying that Tom Stimler is a rubber-stamper and just does what the pastor says? That's not good. I hope the Trustee/Treasure (Stimler) and the others Trustees/Asst Treasures are not rubber stampers, as I hope they are looking out for the best interests of the church and not the pastor.

- As I said in the previous article, it made no sense to keep the bylaws the same as we had under Vines and Lindsay when we brought a new guy in that was a relatively unknown to our congregation, let alone grant him MORE power through the bylaws. My guess is that Mac and his "Team" were smart enough to make sure that they had the same power as Vines and Lindsay to hire/fire as they please, could appoint their trustees, etc, etc. Bad move, in my opinion. If giving a pastor that much power is a good way to run a mega church, ease the new guy into that as he proves himself over time to be a faithful, humble pastor. Don't stick him Day 1 into the position with the same power as Vines and Lindsay, else the new guy might start firing people and hiring family and friends and consultants.

- I don't believe you that "most mega churches" have budgets made up by the pastor and rubber stamped. I hope not. The money is so huge, and there is such potential for a pastor to use money to further his own brand and that of his family, that there must be some honest checks and balances that will hold the pastor accountable. I don't even think that Brunson is doing it the way you are suggesting, as my understanding he has garnered input from his executive staff and below on the budgets.

- I acknowledge that some of his bylaw changes might have been prudent, but should have been explained. HOWEVER, there are changes made to the bylaws that I haven't yet discussed which are NOT merely administrative changes to reflect the reality of the church operation. These were changes that affect members and the terms of their membership!! These required an explanation from a loving pastor who respects his sheep enough to tell them what he is doing to them.

Anonymous said...

James,

The pastor does not have and never had the final say. The church does. Just because the church votes with the pastor does not change that.

James said...

WD,

I understand what you are saying, and I am not saying that Dr. Brunson or the other Pastor's were right or wrong- or the leadership was right or wrong for that matter. I think that Dr. Brunson has just been a lot more vocal about his authority and his style of leading. Certainly he should/could have given some explanation about the change in by-laws.

In regards to the Pastor formulating the budget, I believe you would be surprised at how many mega-church Pastors actually sit down and sketch it out themselves. If not that, they have a very, very influential say in it. It happens a great deal. I am sure if you were able to talk to the Executive Pastors of 10 of the leading SBC churches in America, and you were to inquire about how the budget is formulated and what role the Pastor plays in it, 7 out of 10 would concede that the Pastor writes the budget- IF they would be willing to admit it. I know I can speak with 100% confidence concerning some of this (you understand).

Anyway, I am praying for a spirit of harmony and unity at the great First Baptist- one of my favorite churches in the world.

JH

Anonymous said...

James - assuming that what you say is true, then what is the problem at FBC Jax? There would never have been any problem or any blog if in fact Mac just retained and used the same power that Lindsay and Vines used. And if in fact this is just the reality of mega churches, why is Mac the only one with a blog dogging his every move?

The answers to those questions have to do with Team Brunson. Everyone was behind him when he came, loving him and in full support. Then it started...remodeling the children's building first priority for his luxury office suites, not showing up for weeks after being hired, living on exclusive Amelia Island over an hour from the church, hiring the wife and son, promoting the Holy Land trips, working on his book deal, dismissing most of the staff, and accepting a $307K land gift to build his million dollar home on...all while finishing a book saying NOT to do those things. Then, when simply emailed about some concerns, he had Vines come in and spit at his former congregation of 23 years. Those things, my friend, taken as a whole, crippled Brunson's ability to lead. Later acts such as the changing of the by-laws, relying on the A-group to market the church, and his angry abusive preaching style and lies from the pulpit, is what brought on the blogs. In other words, he could have taken and done all that he is doing and gotten away with it (like all other megas except for Steve Gaines and Jerry Sutton) without a blog ever being needed, except the man is such a P-R-I-C-K and arrogant jerk, that he invites oppositon. He can't just take our money, and let us treat him like a King, but he has to be angry, critical and abusive to us too. In short, the man is an ASS and many of us see it and since he wants to abuse his position to enrich his family brand, we will call it like we see it.

And if he hides behind some yes men punks and bullies, then we will comment on that too. It is a no win situation for everyone... except Team Brunson!

Just my thoughts. :0)

Anonymous said...

To Anon 4:53 - AMEN BRUTHA!

Anonymous said...

Brunson will never be a Homer Lindsay... bylaws or no bylaws. Also to say that the church had no say so in matters is not entirely correct. Vines wanted Condos and suggested "studies" to be done, as to cost. Even circulated in the congregation what types of accouterments (marble sinks, wood floors, etc.) people might want if they bought one of the condos. This was not to come to pass, as the leadership and church were not for it. So the singular power and hand picked "yes men", that guarantee a "yes vote" for Brunson is a step further than we have been before.
Also to say giving "all power" to the pastor is the way "most" mega SBC churches operate, is exactly why many people are leaving SBC churches today.

Anonymous said...

Pastors Conference 1997 by Dr Lindsay Jr. In that service Dr Lindsay made several statements which account for not only his success but his father"s as well. He said in 1940 that FBCJ had the worse debt of any church in the SBC. Dr Lindsay Sr led the congregation out of debt within three years with a group of apprx 300 people. He had a vision and his ministry was to lead the people and eventually in the 1950's the Hobson Auditorium was filled to capacity of 1100 people. Then in 1968 Dr Lindsay joined his dad as co-pastor and together they moved forward with a vision in 1974 to grow in the new building of 3200 the Ruth Lindsay building. The building was opened in the summer of 1976 and was paid for when the congregation moved in. The other properties that were purchased were all paid for in cash. Dr Lindsay Jr said that change is difficult. The pastor has to catch a vision, pray about it and make certain God is in on it and then bring it before the people. He also said that if there are any that oppose it the pastor must do three things: 1. Love those people who oppose it 2. Pray for those same people 3. Don't treat them as your enemies because God saved them and they are special to Him and should be to the pastor as well.

The point is this: If the pastor is open and brings everything to the congregation after he, the pastor, knows for certain God is in on the change then it will suceed. He went on with the other 10 points and covered another area: Administration which is a superb way in which a pastor is to lead the staff. He also said you don't need outside programs or parties (marketing firms) to assist in this endeavor. Like someone else said, there will never be another Lindsay...Senior or Junior. The current pastor could learn a lot by just listening to some of their sermons. This sermon was on 88.7 this afternoon. I suggest anyone that wants to know how to put God in the equation, purchase that tape and just see how important good leadership is to a church.

Thy Peace said...

"The pastor has to catch a vision, pray about it and make certain God is in on it and then bring it before the people. He also said that if there are any that oppose it the pastor must do three things: 1. Love those people who oppose it 2. Pray for those same people 3. Don't treat them as your enemies because God saved them and they are special to Him and should be to the pastor as well. "

Amen. Amen. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Try this one, folks:

Church enters new year debt free
By Amanda Warner
Times Record News

Thursday, January 22, 2009

In an economic recession, everyone struggles to stay afloat — well, maybe not everyone.

While most people were counting every penny, First Baptist Church of Wichita Falls tackled an enormous debt in 2008.

The original loan to build what is now a completed worship center project — including parking — was for a little more than $23 million.

As of May 1, the church was still more than $8 million in debt, and a new pastor was on the way.

Interim Pastor Bill Anderson commissioned the congregation to “Level the Mountain,” beginning a campaign to clean the slate and make way for FBC’s current pastor, Bob McCartney.

“I learned about it when I was speaking with the committee,” McCartney said of the FBC members responsible for finding a new pastor. “There are a lot of people in our church who made sacrificial gifts to make this happen.”

From May to October about half of the $8 million debt was paid. By Dec. 31, the nearly $4 million amount shrank to zero — the church entered the new year completely debt free.

“There was a rumor swirling around that we received a $9 million anonymous gift to the church,” McCartney said. “Not so. It was a collective effort of God’s people.”

Now every dollar of interest the church would have had to pay is a dollar that can now be used for ministry, he said. “We just feel like we have been set free to really pursue what we believe God has for us,” he said. “I think this is going to be fantastic, not just for the church, but we will be able to impact the city as well.”

Rod Payne, minister of missions and media at FBC, said the whole situation is amazing.

“Looking at the economy today, isn’t it remarkable that the whole thing is paid off?” Payne said. “The church is not only not closing, but it’s debt free. There are some good things happening.”

New projects include the purchase of The Place, the old YWCA, to make room for 98 new parking spaces for new and existing members of the church. Crews have begun the predemolition process of the asbestos-ridden building, which sits just across the street from the FBC.

“We have been in need of parking for quite some time,” Payne said. “Every week God is bringing new people into the facility.”

The church, which has been a downtown staple for more than 100 years, has big plans for new ministries and growth. With a completed worship center, as of Easter 2005, and a new parking lot on the way — the construction of which is paid in full — the ministry team at FBC hopes to expand into the next era of ministry.

There is no secret as to how the massive debt was settled.

“Folks denied themselves certain things to help eliminate this figure,” Payne said. “Some people gave up fast-food dining, cut back on their cell minutes or didn’t go to the movies as often. They wanted to make that commitment.”

McCartney appreciates the effort that was made by the members to “Level the Mountain.”

“I would call it miraculous,” McCartney said. “We’re glad that it’s out of the way.”


(Now, that's a church with its act together--and the Lord in its midst!)

from: www.timesrecordnews.com

Anonymous said...

Two thoughts:

1) One aspect I haven't seen you address in the bylaw changes is the increase in trustees from 11 to 17. This is a commonly used tactic in corporate takeovers. Allow me to explain.

Assume, as Mac does, there are two "sides" on the trustee board: those with Mac, and those opposed. Under the old structure, if 6 of those trustees were "opposed", Mac would be out of luck in implementing his changes. Now, the "opposition" needs 9 votes, as does Mac, to carry a motion. But with the instant increase from 11 to 17, coupled with the fact that Mac gets to nominate the new additional 6 trustees, Mac essentially gets a built in vote of 6 to start with. So now he only needs 3 of the "old" trustees on his side in order to accomplish something.

So let's look at the math. Under the "old" 11-trustee system, it could have been split as bad (for Mac) as 8 "opposed" and 3 "with Mac". But now, that lopsided split suddenly gives him a majority of 9 "with Mac" and 8 "opposed" as he is not going to nominate any "opposed" people to the trustee board. Mac is not stupid -- this is frequently seen in the corporate world, and Mac is putting some of his (or Maurillio's) corporate lawyerly skills to work to gain more power. Not hard to understand, but a sly move to those who are unaware of these power plays.

2) The article from Wichita Falls is interesting. Not only that it is a great example of how to manage finances at a church, but more so that it deals with the church Robert Jeffress left to go be Mac's replacement in Dallas. To see that Jeffress left WF with a large debt says a lot about what he is willing to incur in Dallas with his massive new worship center plans. Likewise, FBC JAX should look to the large debt Mac left in Dallas (10+ million) to get an idea of what he is willing to incur at FBC JAX.

it is written said...

By-Laws;Pastor lead;...WHATEVER!!.All roads lead to MAC!!..Mac Brunson IS THE PROBLEM!!..NO MATTER what the scenario,NO MATTER what situation,NO MATTER what advice,NO MATTER what solutions,the SOURCE of FBC Jax troubles are MAC BRUNSON HIMSELF!!!!And as long as he is not willing to humble himself,stop with the heavy-handed tactics and be transparent with the congregation,lead as 1 Peter 5:1-3 commands,nothing is going to change,there will be nothing but continued confrontations with this guy...The personal characteristics displayed by Mac indicate that God did not call Mac to the Pastorate....MAC CALLED MAC!!!!P.S. OR MONEY CALLED HIM..

Anonymous said...

Jeffress knew FBC-WF could pay off its debt; he told the congregation on the Sunday following his call to FBC-D. Having a fantastic interim pastor follow helped a lot; having a terrific (and fairly well-to-do) congregation also helps, of course. But, as FBC-WF's new senior pastor said, the church made lots of sacrifices--a rather novel idea in these days, huh?