Today, appearing on the FBC Jax website scrolling images is an advertisement for a "Danube River Cruise 2010" next April, through Uniworld Tours with "hosts" Mac and Debbie Brunson.
Yep, while the Southern Baptist Convention will have to pull missionaries back from the field next year, FBC Jax will be sending their wealthy "missionaries" on a luxurious river cruise, to "spread the gospel" in Hungary and Germany while sailing down the Danube. Leading this bold mission thrust journey will be Mac and Debbie Brunson.
While the advertisement says "details to come", one can visit the Uniworld Tours website here to get more information and pricing:
Uniworld Tours - Enchanting Danube Tour
According to Uniworld, it will be a "...leisurely paced trip for those who love history, food and wine, architecture, music and diverse cultures in a blend of the best of Eastern and Western Europe." Pricing will be around $2700, exclusive of air travel to get to Budapest, Hungary. The cruise will be on the new "River Beatrice",
described by Uniworld as their "...new, ultra-luxurioius" river cruise boat. Its facilities include "luxurious staterooms, with 80% having French balconies, more junior suites than any comparable ship, and a spectacular owner's suite provide the ideal sanctuary for a restful night’s retreat....All staterooms and suites have made-to-order English Savoir beds draped in the finest and highest thread count Egyptian combed-cotton linens, and cashmere/wool blankets."
Assuming this advertisement on the FBC Jax website is not a cruel hoax, the questions must be asked: is First Baptist Church a CHURCH, or is it a club? Is it a religious organization or a travel agency?
If nothing else, this is poor timing - the economy is still very tight, many FBC Jax members are giving sacrificially in tough times, FBC Jax has a challenging financial year ahead with the start-up of the school, and the SBC is struggling with declining missions offerings - and now the FBC Jax website is being used to advertise for a river cruise next April. From a pure marketing perspective, the timing of the ad is probably good - just before the SBC meeting in Louisville so that more folks around the convention are aware of it.
I was critical of the advertising on the church website last year of the "Holy Land" trips hosted by the Brunsons, but a European river cruise on an "ultra luxurious" boat takes the cake. This kind of advertisement and marketing has no place on the FBC Jax website. The cruise is not a "ministry", its not sponsored by the church, and it sends the wrong signal to the world: that the pastor and the church are involved in using church resources (the church website) to promote luxury cruises around the world.
I don't mind people taking cruises or spending their money as they wish. But using the church to advertise and promote cruises for the very elite - it is another step towards the commercialization of the church, and it stinks.