"...When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Matt 9:36

"Do not rob the poor, because he is poor... for the Lord will take up their case and plunder those who plunder them." Proverbs 22:22-23

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Homeless Chased Away Before FBC Jax Pastor's Conference

In today's Florida Times Union (1/30/10) is a story by Deirdre Conner describing how this week in downtown Jacksonville the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has ramped up the efforts to clear people sleeping on the sidewalk near the City Rescue Mission's New Life Inn.

This is all within a stone's throw of the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville.

In fact in the picture above you can see one of FBC Jax's parking garages and the crosswalk leading to another of their garages.

Says the article:

"Since Tuesday, people sleeping on the sidewalk near the mission's New Life Inn have been chased away and, in a few cases, arrested."

And this:

"Mission leaders say they were blind-sided by the actions, because the few dozen people who sleep outside the mission's New Life Inn - which has been full for months and has seen a 33% increase in demand - have been doing so for more than a year."

Is it just a coincidence that these efforts are occuring just days before the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference begins, when thousands of pastors and high-profile Christian speakers are flying into town?

The article goes on:

"Jacksonville Sheriff's Lt. Steve Gallaher said the department had received a complaint on Tuesday about the area of Julia Street near State Street getting worse, which led to enforcement actions."

I wonder who made the complaint.

More from the article:

"On Friday afternoon, two police cars pulled up on Julia Street and ordered people waiting for intake to get their feet and any property off the street and onto the sidewalk."

Friday afternoon. The day the Pastor's Conference starts just yards from the homeless shelter, two police cars pull up.

More from the article:

"Duguid [CRM COO] said that some of the 'trash' on the sidewalk was actually the personal belongings of homeless people. He said many of the people who slept near the shelter said they did so because they saw it as a 'safe zone' where they would not fear violence...Duguid said no one at the mission could remember it previously having received notices of code violations by the city for a similar infraction."

It all may be just a coincidence that this is occuring just hours before the start of the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference. Even if it is just a coincidence, what a sad state of affairs when in the shadows of the city's largest and wealthiest church holding a conference full of pastors - there is a homeless shelter yards away that is at such over capacity that the men and women needing help are being arrested and moved off the sidewalks. A conference where money is flowing, promotions sold by the church to vendors for thousands of dollars, and speakers who will get paid thousands for their speeches - even wealthy church marketing consultants in town Twittering about their lavish meals and desserts at fancy restaurants - yet for over a year the homeless shelter next door can't house and feed all the needy people. The pastors at the conference are busy Twittering about all they are learning from these very wealthy speakers; I wonder if any will be emphasizing the need to care more for the poor.

How ironic also, that the first night of the conference, FBC Jax pastor Mac Brunson announces to the attendees that they should take pictures of the auditorium, because just after the conference concludes they will be starting a renovation of the auditorium. Millions available for renovations of an auditorium that is at a fraction of its capacity, but hardly any money for the poor.

This should cause ALL of us Christians to hang our head is disgust that we and our churches are not doing more to help the poor.

Most of these pastors who come in town are likely telling their congregations that the bible says to fork over 10% minimum of their income to the church...which the Bible does not say...yet these same pastors and their churches ignore the clear direct command of Jesus Christ to care for the widows and orphans and the downtrodden.

God help us all.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Snuggie's from the A-Group

Apparently one of the perks of being an F.O.M. is you might have gotten a Snuggie from the A-Group for Christmas! Their Christmas present for their special clients was a Snuggie with the A-Group logo. I agree with Maurilio - excellent gift, and nicely delivered. Maurilio does it right.

As Watchdog readers know, Maurilio and his A-Group firm are the geniuses behind the increase in promotions and marketing that have become the standard at the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference in recent years. Congrats to Maurilio and the FBCJ PC coordinators, as this year, apparently all of the "promotions packages" (ranging in price of $1000 to $12,000) have been sold, generating nearly $100,000 in extra revenue selling access to the eyes and ears of the attendees. And the display tables at a whopping $750 a pop were mostly sold as well. Let's hope the SBC does NOT follow the FBCJ lead when it comes to charging for vendors at their annual convention.

What a marketing accomplishment in this down economy - to be able to sell "promotions packages" for thousands of dollars to Christian ministries when so many churches and religious organizations are suffering from a reduction in contributions. A Christian organization forking over $10,000 to a church for the privilege of promoting something-or-other to pastors at a pastor's conference held inside the walls of a church - especially in this economy - just seems to be over the top.

So pastors, when you hear a ministry mentioned from the platform, and you see their logos plastered on banners and on image screens - know those were paid-for advertising. Ministry names on bottled water and trinket bags and pens - those were all sources of revenue for this event....and who knows, maybe you'll be treated to a special purchased "testimony" on the platform, just like the Jim "Jesus" Caviezel "testimony" back in 2007 which was more of an infomercial for a new Bible on CD product.

Back to the Snuggies: for some reason, unbelievably, I wasn't on the A-Group Christmas list, as I didn't receive my Snuggie from the A-Group. Maybe it was lost in the mail. Perhaps when Maurilio is in town for the Pastor's Conference he can stop by the house and drop one off. Maurilio, if you need directions, check with your clients at FBC Jax - I'm pretty sure at least two of the ministers know how to get to my house and make special deliveries on my doorstep.

Above we see Maurilio modeling his special zebra Snuggie. Fantastico! As Austin Powers says, "Yeah, baby!" Note to Maurilio: please, no more Twitters this year at the conference about "man crushes" on Tim Tebow.

Below, we see Mac taking a nap with his Snuggie. Is that a Snuggie or a dang body bag?

Below that, we see Maurilio and what appear to be his 12 disciples in their Snuggies.

I want my A-Group Snuggie!



Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Adrian Rogers on the Tithe

According to the late Adrian Rogers, if a person's finances aren't "right with God", then a person cannot be "right with God". And true repentence must reach the "bank account" or its not real repentence.

Here is the January 24, 2009 Daily Devotional from Love Worth Finding Ministries, which quotes Adrian Rogers:

Proving God in Finances

“Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in Mine house, and prove Me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3:10

You can say all you want about getting right with God, but if you don’t get right with God in your finances, you are not right with God. The kind of repentance that does not reach the bank account, has never reached the heart.

In Malachi 3:7, God says, “Return unto me, and I will return unto you.” And the people said, “Wherein shall we return?” God’s answer in verse 8 reveals that they were to return in tithes and offerings.

The point of return is the point of departure. If you’re going to come back to God and if you’re going to renew your fellowship, you’re going to have to begin with the tithe.

It’s time to put the good book to the checkbook!

How are you doing in the area of your tithes and offerings to the Lord?"

Any thoughts?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Was the Earthquake a Judgment of God on Haiti?

I have a few questions.

When I heard Robertson declare that the Haitian earthquake was a judgment of God on that country, I thought it ridiculous and dismissed it entirely based on what I know about science, and what I know of the Bible and of God.

There was an earthquake when the seismic plates shifted. Where these plates meet a tremendous amount of energy can be stored for centuries, and when released and the plates move, earthquakes occur. God certainly knows this, as he is the one who created the plates and created all energy. And I know that God loves all people and wants them to turn to him. In fact the reason he doesn't end all of the suffering and sin on earth now is his longsuffering. He doesn't want people to perish eternally.

So I dismissed Robertson's declarations, as did so many evangelicals.

But I have read statements by Al Mohler, and hear statements by Mac Brunson, that leaves the door open to the possibility that the earthquake WAS indeed a judgment on this nation. Wise, learned men who are our religious leaders.

Said Brunson Sunday in a sermon out of 2 Chronicles 11-14, contrasting the disobedience of Rehoboam and the obedience of Asa:

"If they ever invite me to the Congress or the White House to preach, I'm preaching this. It is not rocket science, figure this out. Rehoboam you sinned against God, the prophet said, God abandoned you. Asa, you have followed God, you have been delivered. I mean its not that hard. God does that with nations....when man is disobedient, when nations are disobedient, the enemy comes. See also the United States in the year 2010.

Don't mistake this. Have your eyes open. Let there be a remnant in this country that understands fully that what we're experiencing in this country is most likely the judgment of God. We look off down at poor little Haiti, and bless his heart, Pat Robertson, you can't help but just to pray for him, you know. He may be right, but what a dumb time to say something like that. But let me tell you something, we don't need to worry about seeing the judgment of God on somebody else, all we gotta do is look within our own borders, and congregation, let me tell you something, we've got the judgment of God here. We gonna have to edit all that out when we get to the TV thing. We don't need to look and say 'Well, is that God's judgment on them?' Folks, listen, you don't need to worry about God's judgment on somebody else, its coming on us, its coming on us."

Not that Robertson is absolutely wrong. No. "He may be right."

Mac is very smart and learned. He hs forgotten more Bible knowledge than I will ever know, and he has been educated at a prestigious seminary. So maybe I've been wrong about my perception of who God and Jesus is, and I need to be set straight.

Some questions that I would like answers to:

- we are all dirty, filthy sinners deserving hell and death, and Christians have been saved by God's grace. However, is it true that those Christians who are mostly obedient, God blesses, but those who are more sinful, God abandons and punishes? Is it true, when we sin as Christians, "the enemy comes"? I am aware of the consequences of sin, but is God ready to bring judgment? Is is true as Brunson says: "the mills of the gods grind slow, but they grind exceedingly fine"?Since we are all sinners, are the gods (whoever they may be) grinding on mills and we're all going to be ground to dust by their mills?

- is God still judging nations today like he did in the Old Testament as Mac suggests? Is he looking for those nations who are "obedient" and those who are "disobedient"? And what is his criteria? What sins does he punish countries for? Does his wrath trump his grace when he delivers punishments like earthquakes that harm little boys and girls?

- so if Pat Robertson "may be right", as Mac admits he may be, why so much ridicule towards Pat? How could it be the wrong time to say the truth? If that earthquake was Jesus' wrath, shouldn't we be proclaiming this to other nations so they can repent? And since when is it the wrong time to speak the truth?

- as I have been critical of for so long: is it true as Mac has said on numerous occasions and reiterates above: is the economy, 9/11, Katrina, the recession, high gas prices - are those all things that are the judgment of God on America? Is God really working behind the scenes to harm Americans?

- if we think Jesus perhaps decided to shake up Haiti and smash buildings and instantly kill thousands and thousands of babies, boys and girls under the rubble, how do we go and tell these same people that the answer to their problems is this same Jesus? "This earthquake that devastated your country was a judgment of God and Jesus on you...but we want you to accept Jesus as your Savior, He is the answer!"

I really already know the answers to my questions, but would love to hear your responses.

What happens on earth - earthquakes, cancers, brain tumors, divorces, tsunamis, murder - it all comes about because of fallen man living in a fallen world. Not one sin or a group of sins committed in a specific time by a specific people, but as the result of ALL sin for ALL time. Romans 8:18-25 makes it clear that all suffering in this present day is part of the corruption of mankind and this fallen world - but that a day is coming when this suffering will cease. To try and hang one event, or a series of events in our country on the wrath of God is blasphemous.

My Bible says it is not God judging people or nations and then exacting his due punishment on them.

What does your Bible say?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What Ministry We Could Do if 90% Would Stop Robbing God

Below is a video of Perry Noble, pastor of NewSpring (yes, one word) Church in Anderson, SC. No, that is not Conan O'Brien having a flat hair day.

I like to listen to Perry Noble. He is a gifted speaker. He is funny, and he has no problem speaking what's on his mind. He is the pastor who declared in his pastor's conference earlier this year that critical bloggers are "jack asses". Hee haw.

In this sermon he spends 10 minutes telling his church members that they are obligated to give 10% of their money to his church. Because, he says, it is in the Old Testament, and no gift recorded in the New Testament was less than 10% (which is false), and because his members signed a "membership covenant" that says they WOULD fork over 1/10 of their income.

But they aren't forking it over, and Perry ain't happy.

Perry admits his church is checking the finanical records of its members. He says only 10% of his members are tithing. He says he knows "because we looked". Why don't these churches just require a 10% automatic withdrawl from the members' checking accounts - it would be so much easier!

And Perry is like so many in the modern church: they whine about how much ministry they COULD do if only the recalcitrant sheep would stop "robbing God" and give their money to Jesus - and "giving to Jesus" means only giving it to their 501(c)3 and no one else's. "Giving to Jesus" is not putting your kids in a good school, buying a safe car for your teen, or saving money for your kids' education...or giving it directly to another charitable cause. "Giving to Jesus" only counts when stroking a check to the church. Perry claims that if his church members tithe the state might be able to reject bail out money because the church would be able to help so many poor people. Really? Or would that extra money be used to purchase advertising, hire more professional ministers with comfortable salaries and bennies, build a new building, and open more satellites?

Finally, something very interesting about Perry Noble's sermon is that immediately after he got done hitting the tithing doctrine, he went into a 20 minute tirade ridiculing the modern church (that is all churches but HIS emergent church) - I mean he bashed everything from deacons, to lay leaders, to Sunday School, to Church Training, to bible studies, dress shirts with long sleeves, men's ministries, Sunday luncheons...according to him, its ALL bad, but HIS church has it right.

Funny how the emergent church rejects just about everything from the traditional church...all of the traditions are out the window and trashed...but by golly not the tradition of requiring the sheep to fork over a tenth of their income.

That tradition is still alive and well, even in the emergents, apparently. They absolutely cannot let that tradition go because they need to rake in millions and millions and that tradition helps them toward that end.

video

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Pastor Expresses Concern for the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference

Jeff Haney is the pastor of Pinecrest Baptist Church in Corinth, MS. I have been reading his blog, Change Worth Making, since he wrote several articles recently on storehouse tithing addressing the criticisms of storehouse tithing expressed on this blog. He has commented on a few of the tithing posts here on this blog.

However his latest article, first baptist church, jacksonville, florida pastor's conference, I thought worth sharing with the WD readers as he expresses his support of, but concern for, the directon of the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference.

Jeff says he has made the trek to Jacksonville since 2004, and said his first time attending was like he had "died and gone back to seminary", and he loved the "Anti-Calvinistic, Loudly Conservative, and explosively fundamental" flavor of the conference.

But Jeff is concerned the conference, and perhaps FBCJ, is not heading in the right direction.

His concerns:

- the change in tone concerning Calvinism: Jeff points out that he could count on the conference having a very anti-Calvinist flavor, that is not so anymore with some of the speakers they have had (Jeff mentions Mohler and Nelson, although he didn't mention Chandler who was there last year).

- change in FBC Jax ministry methods: Jeff points out that he was impressed in years past with the FBCJ youth ministry under Calvin Carr and the strong stands Carr took against "Cotton Candy" youth ministry - and Jeff says some of the attitudes at FBCJ seem to have changed in recent years regarding ministry.

And Jeff praises the music under the direction of Jim Whitmire; no one would argue with that.

Jeff raises valid points. The conference was started back in the day when the SBC looked to FBCJ for leadership - pastors wanted to know what the FBCJ secret was, and they came to see and hear what was going on. There is no question the attendance is much down over the glory days of the conference in the 1990's and early 2000's. Is it because of concerns that others have about Calvinism, or is it something else?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"An iPhone is Many Things...a Bible is a Bible"

A question that I have:

Should a Christian bring a hard-copy of the Bible to church, or is it acceptable to bring an electronic copy on an iPhone or other PDA device?

Is bringing an electronic version of God's Word equivalent to a hard copy? Is the hard copy preferable to the e-copy?

Said Paige Patterson to his SWBTS chapel attendees last week (1/14/10) - emphasis mine:

"I am aware of the electronic era in which we live, and that many of you carry your bibles now on your iPhones or some other such way. I want to urge you to bring a written copy of the Bible with you in these days while we work through the book of Ruth. It is difficult with the best of electronic development to make notes and to underscore things, although I know that there are ways to do that. But it is not as easy still as it is with Bible in hand. Besides which, I want to urge you to teach your people to be a Bible loving, Bible bringing people. When you stand to proclaim the Word, when you are teaching it in the Sunday School class it is one thing to have it on an iPhone, but an iPhone is many things, a Blackberry is many things. A Bible is a Bible. And I hope you will teach your people to bring their bible to church. And I hope you will bring your bible to these sessions as we look at the book of Ruth."

Patterson implies that bringing an electronic copy of the Bible is not really "bringing your Bible" to church. I am a newly converted Blackberry user (having been a Palm PDA user since the late 1990's). I have had an electronic copy of the Bible on my handheld devices for 10 years. I sometimes bring my hard copy Bible to church, sometimes I don't. But I consider it a matter of preference and convenience, and that the Word of God on my phone is equivalent to that on paper. I like the electronic copy as I can in one stroke change translations, I can find verses much faster.

But Patterson is telling his future preachers to bring their hard copy Bibles (which is understandable if one is teaching), and if I understand him he is telling them to teach their congregations that they should bring their hard copies of the Bible instead of depending on an electronic device.

What do you think? What is your preference?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Matt Chandler Sharing His Journey



"After conversion we need bruising so that reeds may know themselves to be reeds, and not oaks. Even reeds need bruising, by reason of the remainder of pride in our nature, and to let us see that we live by mercy. Such bruising may help weaker Christians not to be too much discouraged, when they see stronger ones shaken and bruised. Thus Peter was bruised when he wept bitterly (Matt. 26:75). This reed, till he met with this bruise, had more wind in him than pith when he said, `Though all forsake thee, I will not' (Matt. 26:33). The people of God cannot be without these examples. The heroic deeds of those great worthies do not comfort the church so much as their falls and bruises do." Richard Sibbes, "The Bruised Reed"

----------

Last November I introduced Matt Chandler on this blog as perhaps a counterexample to the typical megachurch pastor - I was very intrigued by his sermon style and his Calvinist views as I heard bits and pieces of him during 2009. Then when I heard his 11/12/09 SBTS sermon, it blew me away. I gave a few quotes from his now infamous SBTS sermon, and have mentioned him in several posts.

Matt suffered a seizure on Thanksgiving Day, and a brain tumor was found. Surgery was quickly scheduled, and most of the tumor, which was found to be cancerous was removed in December.

Matt is now in the middle of a very intense six-week chemo/radiation treatment, after which another MRI will be taken, and then more chemo and radiation.

A few comments about Matt's journey thus far:

- I think it is wonderful that Matt is willing to share his journey publicly as much as he is able, through social media sites like blogs and Twitter. I wouldn't expect anyone to do this in such a public way, but Matt has said in his preaching that enduring this trial publicly and not privately was a matter of great prayer and dialogue with his family. This has allowed his church and Christians everywhere to be more direct and specific in their prayers for Matt. It is a very good thing for Christian to watch this high-profile preacher endure this struggle with faith and strength from the Lord. No doubt Matt's willingness to share and document his journey publicly will teach Christians for many years about how to handle the coming catastrophies in our own lives. Matt reads the quote from Richard Sibbes in the video blog that beatifully describes this.

- Matt has preached several times thus far in 2010, his sermons are available at the Village Church website. John Piper preached an incredible sermon on December 27, 2009 at the Village Church that beautifully put Matt's cancer and the suffering of the entire world through senseless tragedies like tsunamis and earthquakes into perspective. If you want to hear probably the best sermon you'll hear on suffering, made especially relevant since the Haiti earthquake, listen to Piper's sermon.

- Matt has talked and blogged and twittered about how the Lord has used his illness in various ways. As an example of this, here is a quote from Matt on 1/3/10. [Just some context: apparently at the same time the tumor was found the Village Church was opening a new campus]:

"I think one of the things that I have found through all of this, my heart being really grateful for, is that this happened when it happened. And what I mean by that is leaving the Highland Village campus, coming into this campus, going live stream, all these big markers in our church's life - and the Lord decided to do this at a time to show us all that this is His church, not my church, this is what He's doing, not what I'm doing, and that I am a piece of the puzzle just like everybody else here. And to remove me from that as all of that was going on and to let it be as seamless and as beautiful as its been, was just such a gift from God to us, to show that His power and might is not wrapped up in me, His power and His might is wrapped up in Him and He's going to accomplish His will. And that was a gift He gave us. That was a gift He gave us. It has brought me an immense amount of joy to think on that, to dwell on that, and to revel in the fact that God chose to do it like He chose to do it. "

I will continue to follow Matt's journey. In the video blog post above, Matt said that the next three weeks may be the most intense period of his chemo/radiation as the accumulative effect of the treatments start to affect his body more severely.

Keep Matt and his family in your prayers.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Pat Robertson - His Comments Reflect Poorly on All Christians



WATCH THE ABOVE SAT NIGHT LIVE CARTOON PARODY OF PAT ROBERTSON

One of the sad aspects of Pat Robertson's comments about Haiti's "pact with the devil" causing the earthquake, is how poorly they reflect on all evangelical Christians.

The morning's national news coverage of the earthquake included clips of Robertson's remarks, and the White House response.

Robertson is no Benny Hinn or Creflo Dollar - he is considered by most outside of evangelical Christianity to be a main stream evangelical - and when he makes a fool of himself the media will jump at the chance to showcase his stupidity.

I came across the above Saturday Night Live video from 2001 that demonstrates this. This was made just after Robertson declared that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke because he was "dividing God's land". I think the video does a great job of showing the absurdity of his theology.

This video is as much of a slap at Robertson's viewers and contributors - and maybe all evangelicals - as it is at Robertson himself. The audience to whom Robertson is dishing out his declarations of the judgments of God in the cartoon are small, gullible children and a red smurf-like object with a blank expression.

To those of us in the SBC: are Brunson's comments declaring the economic recession to be a judgment of God because of Christians who don't tithe any less ridiculous and irresponsible? I think not, but thankfully they aren't getting any national air time.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Donald Miller on Pat Robertson's "Pact With the Devil" Comment

Before today, I had not read anything written by Donald Miller, but today a WD reader sent me a link to his latest blog post responding to Pat Robertson's ridiculous statement blaming the Haiti earthquake on the Hatians themselves.

According to Robertson, the Hatians made a "pact with the devil" to get out from French rule. Robertson said "no one wants to talk about it" - as though he is the brave one appointed to remind everyone that the Haitians brought this on themselves. No one is talking about it, Pat, because it's NONSENSE. Yes, a pact with the devil says Robertson, and apparently Robertson was there when the deal went down because Robertson quoted the devil as saying, "Ok, its a deal."

Miller's article is worth reading for every conservative Christian outraged at Robertson's comments, especially those who follow this blog. He analyzes Robertson's statement in the larger context of controlling personalities in religion who seem willing to paint God as some vengeful tyrant, yelling in the pulpit at people who don't agree with them, surrounding themselves with yes men, and who seem fearful of allowing people to have a free will. Miller's post is a definite must read for WD readers.

"A Response to Pat Robertson's Comments About Haiti" - by Donald Miller

Also, if you didn't hear Robertson's comments, below is a link. His comments deserve to be thrown in the dumpster, but we'll put them here for all to see; especially since Robertson's website edited their clips to exclude the portion containing his diarrhea-of-the-mouth comments.




Pat Robertson on Haiti Disaster
by burghnews

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"Shake Down" or "Shake Up"?

Pastor Ron Jones at the Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA tried something very unusual this past Sunday.

After preaching his sermon "WEALTH" from Mat 6:19-24, he called on his congregation to put what they heard into immediate action.

Pastor Jones called for everyone present to empty their pockets of all "cash and coin" and give it away before they left the building. Apparently the church collected the money from the people as they left the worship center.

According to Pastor Jones, over $33,000 in cold hard cash was collected. The funds were used to stroke three checks in excess of $11,000 to three worthy ministires outside of their church.

At his blog, Jones said that he was very pleased at the amount raised, but not surprised at the people's generosity. He said that the reaction was mixed...one member called it a "Sunday Morning Shakedown", but Jones preferred to call it a "Sunday Morning Shakeup". Jones said he went to lunch with one member this week who said he would have paid for the pastor's lunch, but he had no money in his pocket! Funny!

A couple of comments:

- one commenter on Jones' blog said it was a good lesson for his son to see his dad open his wallet and empty it at the request of the pastor. Are we sure that is a GOOD thing? [Update: after watching the sermon and how Jones explained why he was doing this, and what the money was going toward, I'm sure it was a good thing].

- here's a thought: I wonder what a mega church would do if their congregation one Sunday decided NOT to give their "tithes and offerings" to the church, but decided to give it DIRECTLY to a needy ministry in their home town that is caring for people's physical needs? Would the pastor like that? Or would he call out his church for their disobedience in not bringing the money to the "storehouse"?

What do you think of Pastor Jones' tactic? Would you have emptied your pockets? Was this a "shakedown" or a "shakeup"?

Here is Pastor Jones' sermon if interested:


WEALTH from IBC on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A 2008 Message from Paige Patterson on Handling Attacks

In an interview with SBC Today in February 2008, just prior to the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference, Paige Patterson was asked by Tim Rogers of SBC Today the following question:

"How do we control ourselves when we as pastors come under attack, and we take attacks alot like you have, not on the level that you have, but how do we control ourselves when we're under attack like that, what suggestions do you have for us?"

I think Patterson's response is worth considering by all Christians who claim to be attacked and might seek justice, and might have particular relevance to Jerry Sutton's recent lawsuit against his critic. I don't know if Patterson has lived up to his own statements below or not, but his advice is worth considering.

I'm putting it here after nearly 2 years since the interview, as it was provided in audio-only format at SBC Today, and probably not many people have heard it. The context of the interview was at the time the Sheri Klouda lawsuit was before the court but not yet decided on summary judgment. He also was receiving heat at the time because Darrell Gilyard has just gotten busted a few months earlier, so Patterson was being roundly criticized for not doing more to keep Gilyard out of the pulpit after complaints about Gilyard's sexual appetite were brought to Patterson as president of Criswell College.

So here is Patterson's response to Rogers' question (emphases are obviously mine):

"Well, that's an excellent question. I'm not certain that I'm much of a paradigm to look at on it, because, I do have some difficulty with it. As I often say I'm half Irish and half Texan - its a bad genetic combination. What is easy for you to handle is with regard to what comes toward you personally; when your family is hurt and so forth, it becomes very difficult.

I would say that one of the most important things that a person has to do is to keep in mind the bigger picture, and the bigger picture goes something like this: first and foremost do you believe that God is really just? Do you believe that He is really merciful? Do you really believe he is omnipotent, that he can really handle the situation? Is he really omniscient, does he know what is going on? If you really believe that, then you really only have one big challenge, and that is to be sure you please God. What else happens to you, God can stop it anytime he wants to.

If its unjust, then at some point God rights every wrong. You HAVE to believe that, if you don't believe that, then you go mad, you get angry and you get bitter, and when a root of bitterness is found in your heart its not long before it contaminates you and everybody around you, as the Bible warns.

As a second feature, that helps me in it, that is that I'm an old man now and I have to face the fact that what happens to me from now on is relatively unimportant. Its the next generation and the next and the next that are coming along behind. And so with no attempt to be particularly noble about it at all, its much more important for me to take whatever folks want to dish out to me than it is for a younger man, and anybody else that has to take it. I have to learn to thank God because if those energies are expended on me somebody else is being spared and I'm thankful for that.

And there's a third thing too, and that is I believe that God uses all such attacks that come to take off rough edges on us. There's some very clear mandates from scripture about loving your enemy, returning good for evil, praying for those that spitefully use you; not a one of those are you able to do under sunny-side-up conditions. Not one of those commands of Christ can be done unless you have an enemy, unless he is misrepresenting you, unless he is attacking you in some way.

And so I have to reach the point where I say 'OK Lord, you're Lord, you can do whatever you want to about this.' My responsibility is to be sure that I respond to you properly in this situation. But if I can keep my mind and thought on that rather than on whether I like or dislike the people that are making the attack it helps me a great deal.

But in the end, I come back to say, it's your doctrine of the providence of God, whether or not that's a theory, or whether or not its a fact in your life, that is determinitive."

Great advice for the most part. Whether he and his "sons in the ministry" (as he calls them) follow this advice is something else. His comment on taking what people dish out so that younger pastors don't have to makes no sense. Seems like a clever attempt to dismiss Christians like Klouda, Burleson, Cole, Brown, and Croft and others who have raised legitimate issues in the public arena concerning Patterson. Patterson wasn't taking someone's else's arrows when he was the subject of the Klouda lawsuit - HE was the seminary president that had fired Sheri Klouda for being a woman teaching men. HE was the mentor of Darrell Gilyard and the president of Criswell College when Darrell was accused of being a sexual predator and worse...so the criticism came and rightly so. He wasn't taking someone else's arrows, he spared no one else attacks by enduring his.

But his other comments are valid and worth considering. Patterson asks if the doctrine of the providence of God just a theory to these pastors who have studied it and preached it to their congregations, or is it an actual fact and verifiable truth lived out in their lives? In other words, perhaps a critic is placed in someone's life by God to help them see something that needs correcting and to give them an opportunity to show the world how to love someone even when they despise you.

Or does the providence of God sometimes include lawsuits, threats of lawsuits, and other legal maneuvers against critics?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"10%....Undesignated...No Exceptions"

video

"10 percent to the budget of your church in an undesignated fashion, no exceptions."

That is Steve Gaines' definition of what it means to storehouse tithe. He speaks with authority, as one who knows the scripture, and is telling his people exactly what God expects. He clearly explains that all of your 10% must come to the church, not to any other Christian organizations or charities. ALL TO YOUR CHURCH. And you can't give to any other causes until you have first met the 10% tithe to the church.

God wants 10%. And God wants it now. And he wants it undesignated. And God allows no exceptions. None. So says Steve Gaines.

He doesn't have time to explain where in scripture, OT or NT this clear command comes from.

And wants us all to know: there are no exceptions. Period.

Strange, even the IRS who demands 20% or more from us gives us some leeway. If our income is low, or we had excessive medical expenses, or we gave some of our money to worthwhile charities, the IRS does give us some exceptions.

But not the mega church preachers. They want 10 percent. Not to any charity. They want it ALL to their church. No exceptions.

I would love for Bill O'Reilly's body language expert, Tanya Reiman, to analyze Gaines' body language as he says this to his congregation. Notice his slow eye close as he declares "..in an un-designated fashion...", with a slight emphasis on "un" and then the slight pause for effect. Its as though he is saying he will say it ONE MORE time for those of you who don't get it, and he's tired of having to say it. There seems to be a bit of contempt as he says it. Almost a threat.

I almost expected Rodney Dangerfield to come out and declare "Moose, Rocco, help the judge find his checkbook, will ya?" Or I thought Gaines was going to explain the tithe was to be given in unmarked bills, all 10's and 20's, left in a black brief case behind the Waffle House Saturday night.

But you have to hand it to this guy. He believes in the storehouse tithe, and is not afraid to ratchet up the requirements and speak them as gospel. Wow.

Steve says finances are what can define a man or woman as being "right". Says Gaines: "If a man or woman is not right in his finances, he's not right." OK, so I lose my job, debt up to my eyeballs, and my home is being foreclosed, my creditors are beating my door down, and my finances are a wreck. I guess I'm not right. I need to repent. Thanks, pastor.

He declares if you're not at 10%, you're not even close to what God wants. I think, Pastor Gaines, that YOU might not be even close to what God wants in a preacher....perhaps God wants the full 23 1/3%. Or perhaps he wants you to stop throwing percentages around and let the Holy Spirit work on Christians. Maybe he wants 50% of your mammoth salary in order for you to be a generous, sacrificial giver as the New Testament says.

"Moose, Rocco, help Mrs. Jones find her pocketbook." And maybe Mrs. Jones says "Steve, you'll get nothing, and like it!"

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Circumcision Doesn't Raise Revenue

As we continue our look at tithing, and specifically what the very respected biblical scholar John MacArthur teaches on the subject, we see that there was no 10% tithe in the Old Testament. There was a 23% tithe that included multiple tithes. But some preachers like to hang the 10% around the necks of Christians today as some sort of holy commandment from God that determines one's obedience in giving.

Why do they do this? Some may be sincere in their beliefs, but I believe it is still taught because these pastors know that while it is not completely defensible from scripture, they believe teaching it is necessary to raise required revenue. One could make just as strong an argument for the OT circumcision command to be in effect today, or the Sabbath, than to say 10% is the borderline between obedience and disobedience.

But circumcision and the Sabbath don't raise revenue in the modern day mega church, so mega church pastors leave those OT pre-Mosaic laws alone - although one might be able to think of some creative ways the church could take a cut on revenue from a circumcision ministry (no pun intended). If cutting genitalia would increase revenue at the modern mega church, I truly believe some preachers WOULD teach it from the Old Testament. As Gaines said recently, Jesus came not to do away with the law, but to increase the law (my Bible says Jesus came to fulfill the law)...so let's circumcise, and let's do it all the way.

But the hard-core storehouse tithing preachers don't preach circumcision. Circumcision won't raise any church revenue or build any mega church empires.

To understand MacArthur's view on tithing, you have to understand this: MacArthur does not say that the Old Testament law on tithing doesn't apply to us as Christians under the New Covenant. Rather, he shows from scritpure that there WAS NO 10% tithing requirement on the Jews. In fact, the REQUIRED giving (which was much more than 10%) was a TAXATION to run a theocratic form of government, and thus has no application whatsoever to Christians giving finances to church. Read MacArthur's words:

"Now let me say at this point just by way of a footnote. I know that this is new to some of you who perhaps were raised in a church or been in a church where they hammered on tithing and they said that the way Christians are to give is to give ten percent because that's the way the Jews give. I know that that is something that is taught commonly. That is not what the Bible teaches. The Bible does not teach the Jews gave ten percent. As I pointed out it teaches that they gave about 25 percent. It was not their giving to God, it was their payment to the theocracy, to the government. It had to be brought into the temple treasury and not to bring it was to rob God, according to Malachi 3:8, of His due tithes and offerings. That was taxation. I know that that is perhaps new to some of you but that is clearly what the Scripture teaches. It's what I've taught for many, many, many years, we just haven't been able to cover it recently."

MacArthur points out that the "tithe" was not 10%, but was about 23.3%...the Jews were required to give 10% to the Levitical priests (Lev 27), to support them as they had no way to provide for themselves. They were the leaders of the nation, "God's vice presidents" in the theocracy, as MacArthur says. There was a second tithe, for festivals, found in Deuteronomy. There was also a welfare tithe, which was 10% every three years.

So you, Christian church member attending a church where your preacher is a hard-core storehouse tither sheep beater - you have to deal with this. Why does your preacher beat up the sheep and threaten them with God's judgment and "messed up" finances, accusing the sheep of robbing God if they don't meet the 10% threshold? Why does your pastor continue to paint all those that DO give 10% as "baby" or "ABC" Christians as Steve Gaines did recently? At best a preacher can use the Old Testament to teach a principle that a Christian might want to consider 10% as a starting point of giving...but to actually teach 10% is the rock-solid biblical borderline between obedience and disobedience for followers of Jesus is a false doctrine. Am I being too strong in saying that? I don't think so. But if you think that too harsh, consider that Mac Brunson goes so far as to accuse those who disagree with HIM on the view of storehouse tithing of "doing the work of Satan". Listen to Mac Brunson here.

MacArthur summarizes his views on tithing and the Old Testament like this (taken from sermons hyperlinked at end of this post):

"The required taxation for the theocracy was twenty-three percent, not very far different from the required taxation in Egypt when they were required to give twenty percent. So those who say the Jews gave ten percent are wrong. They did not give ten percent. They gave ten percent, ten percent, and another three and a third percent every year in order to fund the national government. That was required giving. In another words, that was taxation to fund the government. The government was there to lead them to God, to protect them, to provide an army to secure them, to provide resources for them, to create the social character of the nation and keep them as one great people involved in religious ceremonies and to meet the needs of those among them who were destitute."

In the next post, we'll continue to look at what MacArthur says about freewill offerings in the Old Testament, and what Jesus said about giving to the government and generous giving under the New Covenant.

Finally, no doubt storehouse tithers have their rebuttals against what MacArthur teaches on tithing. But here's my point: the hardcore storehouse tithers - I'll use Brunson and Gaines as examples - they will not exegete their views on tithing like MacArthur has. Instead, they stand in their pulpits and refer to previous pastors - they'll put video and audio clips of past pastors who told their people to tithe. They'll say "its what the Bible teaches", and they will push it on their people arrogantly and unlovingly, sometimes even mockingly. They expect their sheep to just believe it because THEY say it is in the Bible. They'll say not to argue with the preacher over tithing, but to "take it up with the book". They'll even make wild claims that God is punishing America with high gas prices and a terrible economy because of Christian disobedience in the matter of "tithing". They'll tell people their finances are a wreck precisely because they do not tithe. They will even say the tithe must be "undesignated" giving to the church.

But they won't exegete it out of scripture.

Perhaps it is because they can't do it.

So I challenge them to do it. Teach storehouse tithing clearly from the book, brother pastors; exegete it out of scripture like you do most other doctrines. We'll give you 10 bonus points if you attempt to address the "incorrect" teaching of MacArthur on tithing in your sermon.

Readers, if they do, we'll give them equal time and put their arguments here for all to see.

To read MacArthur's views on tithing for yourself, here are the links:

A Biblical Model For Giving - Part 1

A Biblical Model For Giving - Part 2

A Biblical Model For Giving - Part 3

A Biblical Model For Giving - Part 4

Sunday, January 3, 2010

"The Miracle" of Saddleback

You may have read the reports how Rick Warren's Saddleback Church was $900,000 behind in their 2009 receipts heading into the New Year. Rick Warren sent out a letter communicating this shortfall to the congregation, and they responded by giving $2.4 million in just a few days.

This is very interesting. A few comments I have, which are mixed, but I would love to hear views of others regarding this "miracle".

My thoughts:

- Warren was quite successful, no doubt. But was this God demonstrating his mighty power, as Warren says, or was this a demonstration of the power of his cult personality - that he can get people to fork over $2 million plus with a letter? Warren himself said: "This is pretty amazing. That’s a record. I don’t think any church has gotten a cash offering like that off a letter.” Maybe he should run for president, and send a letter out to ask for donations to fix our deficit.

- Notice that Warren didn't try to guilt or threaten his people to get them to fork over the money. He didn't tell them to give it else they would go into debt. He didn't say our economy is a wreck because of their poor giving habits...and by golly he didn't even tell them to give it "undesignated". He just communicated the shortfall, and people responded. I do admire that. Didn't tell them they were robbing God if they didn't give.

- Said Warren in a Tweet Sunday morning: "Radically changed lives at Saddleback 'vote with their wallet' to show their love for Jesus. $2,400,000 CASH given midweek." There is something there that bothers me...that Christians, by writing a check to a mega church at the request of a mega church pastor who says the church needs a million dollars in two days....ARE SHOWING THEIR "LOVE FOR JESUS". Were these people really showing their love for Jesus in their gifts?

- Warren says there were no big contributors, but that every gift was less than $100. I have a hard time believing that. If the average gift was say $75, that means there had to be 32,000 gifts of $75 to reach $2.4 million. I find that VERY hard to believe, that there were no large gifts that contributed to the $2.4 million. Pardon my skepticism on this point.

What are your thoughts? Most churches in the SBC and others were behind double digit percentages in 2009, but Saddleback made their shortfall up quite easily - what is there to be learned in this?