Matthew 7:15 (NIV) “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

Matthew 24:11: (NIV) “…and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.”

2 Timothy 2:23 - 25 (NIV) - 23Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. 24 A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. 25 Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Top Watchdog Stories of 2011 - According to the Watchdog

As we wrap up another year of blogging on the Watchdog, here are my choices of the top 10 stories covered on this blog in 2011.

10. Ergun Caner Controversy Continues, Caner Makes SBC Comeback: In less than a year after Ergun Caner left Liberty University over his decade of deceit, in 2011 Ergun Caner has made a remarkable comeback by getting hired at fundamentalist Arlington Baptist College as the Provost and Vice President. Soon after the hiring was announced, Brett Shipp of WFAA did an outstanding TV news story on the hiring and highlighted many of Caner's exaggerations. But perhaps more remarkable than Caner getting a new job with a Christian college is how he was given prominent speaking gigs in the Southern Baptist Convention. He had a speaking role at a meeting at the 2011 FBC Jax Pastor's Conference, and preached at Ronnie Floyd's Cross Church using it to again paint himself as a victim of "haters". And to top it all off, in the most brazen and nonsensical move, FBC Jax granted Ergun Caner access to the eyes and ears of their middle and high schoolers for a week at camp by hiring Caner as the summer camp preacher. As I posted here, Caner is STILL stretching the truth and not being completely honest with congregations about his past.

9. Year of the Crybaby Pastors: the series of posts I did on crybaby pastors (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3) complaining about criticism were very popular. This seems to be a recurring theme amongst mega church pastors, as they have difficulty with the idea that as they use social media to get their messages maximum exposure, their sermons and ministry tactics will be evaluated and criticized using the same social media.

8. Departures and Hiring at FBC Jax: there were two significant departures this year from FBC Jax - Jim Smyrl left on less than friendly terms from FBC Jax and quickly started a new SBC church, and Shelly Baumgarner-Norman, the long-time children's director at FBC Jax left this fall. Smyrl is currently a bi-vocational pastor. The preaching duties Smyrl performed were partially filled by Danny Crosby - who quickly declared in one of his first sermons that the pastor's salary "ain't none of yo' bidness", and he took aim at those who dare to criticize their church and pastor.

7. Evangelist Tim Lee Defends Caner: I published a story in May about Liberty University's trustees actually forcing Caner out in 2010, which prompted evangelist Tim Lee to chime in on the blog to express his disagreement with my article. Lee claimed that he was head of the committee that actually wrote the vague statement by Liberty when he was let go, and Lee declared on my blog that "I was Chairman of the committee that crafted the statement concerning Ergun. We never once found that he lied." As far as I know, this is the only place where someone on the Liberty committee has spoken publicly about the Caner dismissal from Liberty.

6. FBC Jax's Mike Hogan Loses Jacksonville Mayor Race: Long-time FBC Jax member Mike Hogan lost the Jacksonville mayoral race to virtual unknown Democrat Alvin Brown in a close run-off election. Hogan was the hands-down favorite to win the election, and not many gave Alvin Brown a chance. As I documented on the blog, Mac Brunson called Hogan to the platform the Sunday before the election, asked he and his wife to kneel at the altar, Brunson laid hands on Hogan, and prayed a very long prayer asking for "Godly leadership". I called Brunson's laying on of hands and prayer an "ordination" of Hogan as mayor. This stunt to bring Hogan to kneel at the front did not sit well with many in the community. FBC Jax deleted this portion of the service from their website video podcast - but Watchdog readers can still view it here.

5. James Merritt Pushes Suspected Pyramid Scheme: one of the dumbest moves in 2011 by a mega church pastor has to be James Merritt - former SBC President and pastor of Cross Pointe Church - using his church facilities and his own personal influence as a trusted pastor to push the Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing (FHTM) multi-level marketing scheme. After videos of his pushing FHTM in his church went viral, they were taken down and then Merritt issued a statement through a spokesman denying the "rumors".

4. Jax Pastor Accused of Voyeurism: Berean Baptist pastor Greg Neal was accused this past year of video taping women in his office as they undressed. The church kicked out the church member who took video evidence to the police, and then Neal issued a public denial with his bobble-headed members standing behind him. Neal was never charged with a crime because too much time had passed between the actual video taping and the submission of evidence to the state attorney's office. Greg Neal is still co-pastor of the church.

3. SBC Evangelist Sammy Nuckolls Arrested for Voyeurism: Huge story this past year was Sammy Nuckolls' arrest for video voyeurism. Apparently Sammy got his jollies from using a spy pen with a video camera to video tape women. Sammy was once a preacher at Lifeway youth camps.

2. Mac Brunson Complains of His Tough Life, Then Issues Blanket Apology: for nearly 5 months of 2011 Mac Brunson preached out of the book of Job. A good portion of his sermons seemed to focus on how Christians are supposed to handle criticism (see #9 above), and in one sermon he spent several minutes belly-aching to his congregation just how tough his life has been as a mega church pastor having to deal with criticism. He even went so far as to say that he did not want to come to be the pastor, but that he had to come because God "drove" him to Jacksonville. The following Sunday Brunson gave a strange blanket apology for anything he's ever said that has offended anyone.

The #1 story for 2011 will be posted on New Year's Eve, so check back in on Saturday!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Darrell Gilyard to Be Released Wednesday - A Sad Story of the Failure of Church Leaders to Warn Unsuspecting Church Members of a Deviant "Man of God"

I noticed earlier this month that Tiffany Croft posted on her blog the soon release of Darrell Gilyard, former pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. The Florida Department of Corrections website lists Gilyard's current release date as "12/28/11".

Gilyard plead guilty in 2009 of molesting a 15-year old girl whose parents brought her to him for pastoral counseling, and he plead guilty of sending a lewd text message to another teenager. He was sentenced to three years of prison, and for life will be registered as a sexual predator.

Sad thing is, there was ample warning of Gilyard's predatory sexual appetite long before this molestation in Jacksonville occurred, but church leaders failed to take appropriate actions to warn unsuspecting church members who would never imagined that their "man of God" was a man who used his position as pastor over and over to have sex with women in his churches for years.

This entire saga of Darrell Gilyard, dating back to the 1980's, is a case study on how blogs are necessary to alert people of what is going on in churches, even how blogs can be used to bring justice to men like Darrell Gilyard. And now we will hopefully see blogs keep alerting people to the dangers of Gilyard once he is out of prison.

The Gilyard saga is also a clear example of how church leaders, even denominational leaders and seminary leaders cannot be trusted to do the right thing when allegations arise against "men of God" pastors.

Consider the following recap of events about Darrell Gilyard:

- Gilyard came to the Southern Baptist scene way back in the 1980s at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville. Gilyard was mentored by Jerry Vines and Gilyard preached multiple times at FBC Jax, telling his phony story of growing up homeless and living under a bridge. It was all a made-up story, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle back in 1991. Yes, a new preacher brought into the limelight at FBC Jax by Jerry Vines with a phony story about his past - sound familiar?

- Gilyard had a history of sexual misconduct (to put it mildly) in Texas in the 1980s and 1990s. Gilyard attended Criswell College where Paige Patterson was president at the time, and multiple women reported Gilyard's abuse to Paige Patterson with little effect until Gilyard himself admitted to Patterson that he committed adultery. Gilyard even tried to seduce a young member from First Baptist Church of Jacksonville in 1991 during a youth revival tour.

- Paige Patterson knew that Gilyard had confessed to having sexual relations with multiple women who had come to Gilyard for counseling. At my blog here I posted a 1991 article from the Austin American Statesman newspaper that told the entire saga. Probably one of the best articles on Gilyard's past and his relationships with Patterson and Vines is here.

- Perhaps Gilyard's first signs of being a sexual predator were the accusations made against him at Concord Missionary Baptist Church in south Dallas where Gilyard was an associate pastor during his time at Criswell College. Read this Dallas Morning News article about these allegations, and how Paige Patterson did not believe the accusations made against Gilyard by 25 women - some of which were allegations of rape and sexual assault. Tiffany Croft has an article on this where she posted the story of a student who was at Criswell at the time.

- After Gilyard left Concord he became pastor at Victory Baptist Church in Texas. After Gilyard resigned in disgrace from Victory Baptist Church in 1991 over his sexual relations with women in the church, unbelievably, Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church - located about a mile from FBC Jacksonville - hired Gilyard to be their pastor in 1993! Members had no idea their new pastor was a sexual deviant who used his position as pastor and counselor to have sex with women. Did Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines do anything to alert the church members of Gilyard's past, or was it all just "under the blood"? We don't know, they won't say - but it seems to me that prominent men like Vines and Patterson had it within their power to speak publicly of the prior misconduct of Gilyard in Texas.

- There was one bright spot in the Gilyard saga: a local Jacksonville pastor by the name of George Harvey, Jr. DID try to alert Shiloh deacons and members of Gilyard's past. All it got him was the deacons calling him nuts, and a meeting with the State Attorney's office and two Shiloh deacons to get him to stop his efforts. So no one can say that Shiloh's leadership was not alerted about Gilyard's past - but they chose to look the other way because Gilyard was such a talented orator and he could bring members and money to the church. Apparently no safeguards were put in place to prevent Gilyard's access to women in the church.

- As reported by the Times Union, Shiloh Baptist settled a lawsuit in 1996 over allegations of sexual misconduct, and then in 2004 they settled yet another lawsuit over allegations of rape during a counseling session. Still, it seems as though church members were not warned of Gilyard's sexual deviancy.

- Gilyard grew Shiloh Baptist. They built a new worship center. He was bringing in the bacon for sure at Shiloh. I was always amazed to see Gilyard on local TV during his Shiloh years, as I had heard of some of the allegations against Gilyard in Texas. I assumed that people in Jax knew, and that certainly his church members must have known. He was one talented preacher, as we were members at FBC Jax in the late 1980s when he emerged on the scene. His preaching style nearly matched Jerry Vines', in fact Gilyard himself and Vines had joked that Gilyard was the "black version of Jerry Vines."

- Jerry Vines retired from FBC Jax in February 2006, and it didn't take long for Vines to visit Shiloh and preach in Gilyard's pulpit despite his knowledge of Gilyard's past. Apparently Vines bought Gilyard's story that he had been healed of his sexual problems.

- Then, in December 2007 the latest allegations that sent Gilyard to prison surfaced. Tiffany Croft, who was the teenager at FBC Jax who Gilyard tried to seduce in 1991, started her blog focusing on Gilyard to help and encourage Gilyard's victims to come forward. Her blog was a source of tips for the State Attorney's office during their investigation, and they very much appreciated her blog.

- I blogged about the Gilyard story in December 2007 right after the initial allegations surfaced, posting several old news articles from the early 1990's asking the question "You're Telling Me Nobody Knew?". I was honestly surprised that people in Jacksonville did not know of Gilyard's past, not even the reporters who first reported the allegations. Times Union reporter Jim Schoettler emailed me at the Watchdog account about the source of these articles that I posted.

- Strangely enough there is even an element of this story crossing over into the FBC Jax Watchdog controversy of the past few years. In early April 2009 I discovered that FBC Jax deacon and discipline committee member, and Jacksonville Sheriff's Office detective Robert Hinson pulled subpoenas on my blog, Tiffany's blog, and the Bellevue Baptist blog during his "investigation" to find my identity. Hinson's testimony was that he pulled the subpoena on my blog and two that were hyperlinked on my site - of which there were 20 or so - quite interesting that the three blogs of many that he subpoenaed were three that were critical of prominent Baptist pastors. Hinson subpoenaed Tiffany's information from Google, but in his deposition he said he realized he made a mistake in subpoenaing her blog after he realized after-the-fact that Tiffany was the daughter of a long-time member at FBC Jax. But he said the subpoena was already sent, and that he destroyed all of her information received from Google upon receipt.

So now Gilyard will be getting out of jail. He will be a registered sex offender for life, and will be on three years of sex offender probation. He will not be allowed to live within 1000 feet or work at a school, or any other location that children regularly gather. He will not be able to have unsupervised contact with any children, and will be subject to electronic monitoring.

Let's hope that finally the legal system will have done what Baptist leaders could not or would not do: keep Darrell Gilyard away from women and children. Let's hope that this blog, Tiffany Croft's blog, and other blogs, along with the Florida Sex Offender database will warn people of the dangers of Darrell Gilyard. It would not be surprising to see him in a pulpit preaching very soon.

And let's hope the next time that a Darrell Gilyard or Bob Gray surfaces in Jacksonville, blogs will be used to spread the word even when the church leaders try to cover it up.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

First Baptist Jax Pastor's Conference to Host "Elephant Room II" Simulcast Featuring Steven Furtick, T.D. Jakes, and Mark Driscoll

Update: Wade Burleson has posted an article on the Elephant Room, entitled "The Problems with Elephant Room II are the Elephants in the Room." Wade asks some great questions that should be answered.
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The 2012 FBC Jax Pastor's Conference this year has hit a new low: the conference is hosting the "Elephant Room II" simulcast in the Ruth Lindsay Auditorium, featuring Steven Furtick, T.D. Jakes, and Mark Driscoll. Attendees to the Pastor's Conference can watch the event for only $59, reduced from the regular price of $99.

Members at First Baptist Jacksonville have to wonder: just who is calling the shots at First Baptist Jacksonville? Do the trustees or the deacons of the church even care what is being brought into your church?

I have been critical of the way the First Baptist Jacksonville Pastor's Conference has been transformed into a marketing bonanza under Mac Brunson, whose son Trey now runs the conference. You can read just a few of the past articles here, here, and here. In fact my criticism of the Pastor's Conference in 2007 and 2008 was specifically cited by the FBC Jax Discipline Committee as one of my 16 heinous sins in the discipline letter they brought to my door three years ago.

So while the godly leaders and pastors and discipline committee can't bear to have a blogger or his wife on the premises, they have no problem exposing their members and visiting pastors to the likes of Furtick, Jakes, and Driscoll.

T.D. Jakes is roundly criticized by Southern Baptists as being a modalist and a preacher of the false prosperity gospel. He regularly appears on TBN with his false prosperity nonsense. My favorite T.D. Jakes prosperity gospel performance is his classic shake down on TBN that you can see on YouTube here.

Then, Mark Driscoll. What can you say? I had my suspicions about Driscoll based on his 2007 pornographic sermon on the Song of Songs. He speaks of erections, Jesus commanding women to perform oral sex on their husbands, and other sexual topics that I won't mention. If you don't believe me, you can read the transcript of his sermon here. The Wartburg Watch has done multiple articles on the teachings of Mark Driscoll here.

Then, as I wrote a few months back, Mark Driscoll claims to receive visions from God of terrible sexual sins and crimes while counseling people. Yes, he sees the sexual sins of his church members. He even had a vision of a wife's infidelity, which he described in detail, and then confronted the wife in front of her husband over his vision. Weird, wacky, stuff. Don't believe me? See the video here.

So this is what is now being brought into the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference. Too bad the deacons and trustees of FBC Jax don't have the guts to explain to Mac and Trey that the event would better be hosted elsewhere, like at Celebration Church. Their pastor, Stovall Weems, is more in tune with the Elephant Room crowd than will be the visiting pastors or the people of FBC Jax.

It just goes to show you more of the empty words of Mac Brunson. On so many occasions he tells his people to stop reading information by heretical, questionable teachers. He proclaims that one of his primary jobs is to "protect" the people of the church - yet he brings these guys right into the Ruth Lindsay Auditorium during the Pastor's Conference.

So visiting pastors who have signed up for the 2012 FBC Jax Pastor's Conference: click here to register at the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference website for the Elephant Room II, and you can sit at the feet and learn from T.D. Jakes, Steven Furtick, and Mark Driscoll, in the comfort of the Ruth Lindsay Auditorium.

Who knows, maybe next year Trey and Mac can arrange for a simulcast event featuring Bennie Hinn and Joyce Meyer.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Follow-Up on Tim Tebow Criticism: Now Tebow's Pastor Claims Tebow Told Him "I Don't Have Anybody That Believes in Me"

"I was with a young man who late on Thursday night just shared with me....'I've never suffered anything like this in life before...this has been the most difficult week of my life...I don't have anybody that believes in me.' And I said 'let me tell you a story about a man named Job.'" Mac Brunson describing how he consoled a downcast Tim Tebow after the Jets game on 11/17/11. (See video below)
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Last month I wrote about how Tim Tebow has a thing or two to teach whiny mega church pastors about how to handle criticism.

But apparently I was wrong. According to Mac Brunson, Tim's pastor at FBC Jax, Brunson is the one who had to console Tim, and to teach him out of the Old Testament book of Job to help Tim cope with the immense suffering Tim has had to endure of late.

Yes, Tim is criticized. About everything.

But he never, ever complains about it. Unlike mega church pastors, Tim never calls his critics names, or tells them they are nuts or that they are recalcitrants or anything else. He doesn't yell about how people should stop reading what his critics write. Tim doesn't try to shut down unjust criticism. He doesn't stand on a podium and wag his finger about how terrible his life is. He isn't afraid to answer questions from his critics, and when asked demeaning questions by his critics, he smiles and is a gentleman and employs Proverbs 15:1, "...a gentle answer turns away wrath."

That is why it is shocking to hear that Tim Tebow's pastor, Mac Brunson, is the one who has had to teach Tebow how to handle criticism after the New York Jets game. Mac, the pastor who just a few weeks prior to his meeting with Tim went on a rant complaining about how terrible his life has been as pastor at FBC Jax where Tim grew up, needed to tell Tim how to cope with the criticism.

According to Mac Brunson's Twitter feed, Brunson and his son flew to Denver for the Thursday night 11/17 game against the Jets. Brunson also Tweeted that he met with Tim Tebow and his family for prayer and bible study Friday morning after Tebow led his Denver Broncos to a thrilling victory over the Jets. The following Sunday, Brunson couldn't help but to let his congregation know in his sermon that he was with Tebow, how Tim was terribly upset over how much criticism he has had to face, and how God used Mac to help Tim cope with his suffering.

According to Mac, Tim told him he has never suffered in life like he has lately, and that Tim said "I don't have anybody that believes in me."

Really? Did Tim say that to his pastor, that he doesn't have anybody that believes in him? And if he did, why would his pastor blab it to his mega church and stream it on the Internet?

Even more unbelievable than that, Mac said God used him to share with Tebow out of the book of Job to help him cope with his suffering. "Let me tell you about a man named Job", is what Brunson says he told Tim, after he told him how terribly he was suffering.

Do what?

The book of Job?

Tim Tebow does not have one thing in common with Job from the Old Testament, and his life has no resemblance to Job's experience. Maybe Tim is a Samson or a Gideon, but JOB? Job's story is one of immense heartache, disease, loss, and pain, and how God delivered him through it. Tim's story is the exact opposite of Job's: Tim has lived the most blessed life one can imagine, and Tim acknowledges that every single time he has a chance to speak.

Why would a mega church pastor think of referring to the book of Job to console a blessed man like Tim Tebow?

The answer is easy, and one I've written about quite a bit this year (here, here, and here). Mega church pastors like Mac Brunson view criticism as some form of modern martyrdom. Mac and so many of his cohorts in mega church land lead incredibly blessed lives of privilege. Yet Mac tells his congregation how terrible his life is because of criticism he faces. Mac has thousands and thousands of Christians and pastors literally all over the world that love him and adore him. He is invited to speak worldwide. He travels extensively. His own church loves him and supports him and allows him to live a very comfortable lifestyle. Yet as he said here, the criticism he has faced has made his life miserable, and he only came to FBC Jax to endure the pain for the sake of Jesus.

Mac has been criticized here in Jacksonville, and much of it deservedly so over actions his church has taken under his leadership.

But to criticize a pastor is to criticize God himself in the minds of the mega pastors. Brunson's church even passed a "Deacon's Resolution" condemning what they called "unjust criticism and ridicule" (aimed squarely at this blog) as being an attack on the Lord's church. They used a police officer who was a church member, a discipline committee member, and a deacon and church employee to pull investigative subpoenas on this blog and two other blogs critical of mega church pastors resulting in a first amendment lawsuit settled last year.

Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if Brunson will have his trustees and congregation pass a resolution condemning "unjust criticism" of Tim Tebow. Surely that would pass unanimously!

But we know the truth. Tim doesn't view himself the way Brunson characterized him, not one single bit. If he does, then he has been lying every day when he says how blessed he is and that it is the support of his fans and family that keep him going. And Tim is no liar, Mac.

Tim Tebow has told his fans for years now that he is the most blessed man alive, and that he doesn't let those that criticize him get him down. Tim tells us he concentrates on the blessings he has, and on the millions of supporters that do love him and pray for him.

He even posted on Facebook just yesterday the following:
"Hey everyone! I just wanted to thank all of you for your prayers and very kind words of support. I noticed that a few people were wondering if I actually read all of your comments and I wanted to let you know that I try my best to read all of them and that I use them as encouragement throughout my week. Thanks again everyone, have a good night and as always, God bless & Go Broncos aka GB bless & Go Broncos" Tim Tebow on his Facebook page, 12/13/12
Tim told Deion Sanders on national TV after the Jets game: "God has blessed me with so many people that support me, a great family that supports me, great teammates and a coaching staff and that's what I'm focused on."

Yet Mac wants us to believe Tim thinks he has no one that believes in him.

I believe Tim. I don't believe Mac.

Next time you run into Mac at the airport or at the cruise terminal, please take the time to help him and say:

"Mac, let me tell you about a man named Tim Tebow."



Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chandler and Noble in Elephant Room: Internet Bloggers Can't Call Out False Doctrine, Only Pastors and Elders Can

In case you missed it, earlier this year in the "Elephant Room" open forum hosted by James MacDonald and Mark "I see church members having illicit sex" Driscoll, Perry Noble and Matt Chandler said some very interesting things about just who in Christianity is and who is not allowed to call out pastors for their false doctrines and nutty, even abusive practices.

You see, as Al Mohler pointed out in the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference this year, pastors apparently are "God-appointed agents" to deliver God's word to the unlearned pew sitter. Thus, pew sitters and the lowly "Internet bloggers" are not allowed to call out false doctrine. Perry says only "pastors, elders, leaders of the church" are allowed to call out error.

If you give these guys say another 100 years or so, they will establish another Catholic church where the pope and the church God-appointed hierarchy delivers God's word to the masses.

In the clip below you'll hear Perry say:

"Pastors, elders, leaders of the church should be the ones, if error is going to be called out, not based on their personal preference, but on doctrinal accuracy."

If error is going to be called out? IF? Perry probably hasn't read Acts 17:11 where church members were commended in how they checked the accuracy of what they were hearing against the Bible. Sure, Perry would like to limit criticism to his pastor friends, and to leaders and elders that worship him and wouldn't dare to cross him.

Then Perry says:

"I don't think that God raised up Internet bloggers to call out wolves - who have an opinion and a website."

This is more of the whining of pastors who dish it out but can't take it. Noble and his emergent mega church pals are experts at using social media to get their message out. They hire marketing experts to brand their church, they blog, they Tweet, they have video podcasts. They write books, then they travel to each others' churches to push their books. They hold seminars like the "Elephant Room" to influence other pastors. They have virtually unlimited resources to get their message out, and yet they declare that Christian Internet bloggers shouldn't use the same social media to call out their false doctrine or even express criticism of the methods they use.

Sorry, Perry. If you believe God has blessed you with the social media you use to evangelize, then you better accept that God will use Internet bloggers to point out your error, and to criticize you. God is using bloggers like Wartburg Watch and Wade Burleson and Chris Rosebrough and Christa Brown and others to shine a light on false doctrine, nutty church practices, and abusive church systems and to speak plain truth about mega churches and egomaniac preachers.

Praise God for the "Internet bloggers". They are doing a great service to Christianity. When I hear guys like Noble and Chandler popping off about bloggers, it lets me know that Internet bloggers ARE doing good, and are making a positive impact on the church.

And in the video, you'll also hear Matt Chandler say that Internet bloggers get no support from him because they are people who "live with their moms." Hardy-har-har.



Also, in the video, at the end, you can watch Al Mohler deliver his statement from the 2011 FBC Jax Pastor's Conference about just how important preachers are to the salvation of souls. Al's quote:

"...we believe that those who teach and preach the word of God are God-appointed agents to save God's people from ignorance....life and death, heaven and hell, hang in the balance. If you do not faithfully teach the word of God such that your people hear it and understand it and grow upon it, they are consigned to unfaithfulness and many will be consigned to hell."

No wonder these guys want no criticism. Their work is so important - heaven and hell are in the balance! If they don't do their jobs, or if we point out that they are NOT God's anointed, church members will fall into unfaithfulness (meaning they leave the mega churches?) and many will be consigned to hell. Yes, a pastor's poor preaching will cause people to burn forever in eternal torment. We need pastors to tell us what the Bible says, and to criticize them is to criticize God himself. No wonder these guys have huge egos.

Speaking of the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference, did you know that live video feed of the next "Elephant Room" round table discussion moderated by Mark "I see church members having illicit sex" Driscoll will be one of the options for attendees at the FBC Jax 2012 Pastor's Conference? It is true. Mac and Trey Brunson have decided to use the FBC Jax Ruth Lindsay Auditorium to expose SBC pastors at their conference to the likes of Driscoll, T.D. Jakes, Steven Furtick, and James MacDonald.

FBC Jax Pastor's Conference attendees: click here for more information on how you can pay $59 extra dollars to sit at the feet of T.D. Jakes and Steven Furtick and Mark Driscoll in the Ruth Lindsay Auditorium while in town for the pastor's conference.

Hosting the Elephant Room is a new low for the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Senate Hearing on Child Abuse Set for December 13th - Senate Needs to Hear from Some Baptist Witnesses

"Without institutional consequences, we will continue to see the pattern of Southern Baptist leaders – leaders such as Philip Gunn, Jack Graham, Greg Belser, Steve Gaines and many more – who weigh each scenario for themselves and conclude (for whatever rationalized mess of a reason) that their particular scenario is somehow exceptional and that reporting isn’t necessary." Christa Brown, 12/8/11
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Christa Brown is exactly right. And not only are institutional consequences necessary, but also stiffer legal penalties as well.

While it will probably be a cold day in Hades before baptists enact institutional consequences for their lay folk and ministers who don't report abuse, we can rejoice that our government is moving forward on the legal side. In the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State child sex abuse scandal, the U.S. Senate is doing the right thing: they are going to hold a December 13th hearing on child abuse reporting, and legislation has already been proposed to require states to enact tougher laws to punish any adults that fail to report suspected child abuse to law enforcement.

If the focus of the hearing is to help legislators understand the risk to children from sex abuse because of failure to report the abuse to law enforcement agencies, the Senate must focus on a bigger risk to children than college administrators and coaches: that of the risk from failure to report allegations of abuse by ministers as in the Bob Gray scandal at Trinity Baptist here in Jacksonville (Bob Gray's booking photo is above, next to Jerry Sandusky's). Tougher penalties must be imposed on clergy and lay leaders in churches who become aware of abuse allegations yet fail to report them to the police. This nonsense of "priest penitent" privilege as an excuse to not report pedophile ministers must go out the window, as evidenced by the latest scandal where even lay "elders" of a church are using the priest penitent excuse to not speak to law enforcement in an abuse case.

The witness list of the hearing has not been announced. I would recommend the Senate consider some of these as witnesses at their hearing to fully understand that the Penn State scandal is nothing new, these cover-ups have been going on for years in baptist churches.

Witnesses I would suggest at the hearing:

- Christa Brown: Christa would be a powerful witness. As a victim herself, she has lived through the pain of trying to hold her perpetrator accountable while watching him continue to minister and receive the support of his peers. She can speak to this problem of churches failing to report abuse, why so many churches fail to report, and why tougher penalties should be enacted against clergy and lay leaders who cover for an accused minister.

- Dr. Jack Graham: the most recent scandal amongst Southern Baptists involves John Langworthy, who ministered at the megachurch Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas. The Senate ought to subpoena the Prestonwood pastor Jack Graham to ask him why the local authorities were not contacted about John Langworthy when allegations arose of sexual abuse. The Senators should ask Dr. Graham why his church chose to conduct their own investigation, fire Langworthy, and chose not make a report to the local authorities, allowing Langworthy to move on to another position without warning the next church.

- Dr. Tom Messer of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida: Messer would be an excellent witness. The similarities between the Bob Gray scandal at Trinity Baptist Church and the Penn State scandal are really unbelievable. Messer should be asked why Trinity Baptist church did not call the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office when allegations of sexual misconduct arose against pastor Dr. Bob Gray. He can be asked about why allegations were not disclosed to parishioners of the church (and in fact why Messer and church leaders stood by while Gray lied to his congregation about them), and why Gray was allowed to go on mission to Germany without the mission sending agency being alerted to the allegations. It is a story like that of Bob Gray, and the tendency of churches to not report their "men of God" ministers who are accused of abuse and to even accuse the victims of wrong-doing, that will help Senators realize that stiff penalties for failure to immediately report allegations are required, and no statute of limitations should apply in these cases.

I hope the Senate does act. I hope states are required to enact tough laws with mandatory jail time for all persons who become aware of child sexual abuse allegations and don't report them to the police.

And we can thank God we don't live in a theocracy run by Baptists or Catholics or any religious men. We can thank God we have a government who can do something to increase protection for children from pedophiles and their friends who think they are doing the will of God by not reporting the abuse.

Monday, December 5, 2011

"First Fruit" Tithing Teachers - Their Theme Song is "You Ain't Never Had a Friend Like Me"



The above video is the perfect "first fruits" tithing theme song for Ed Young, Perry Noble, Robert Morris, and Stovall Weems who teach the "first fruits" tithing doctrine. They teach their church members that the first 10% of their income belongs to God, that is a "holy portion", and you give it to God by giving it to their church, and in so doing you "redeem" the remaining 90% of your income. In return for your tithe, you get God to "rebuke the devourer".

But it is not just these emergent church mega pastors who have caught on to this. Even Mac Brunson of FBC Jax believes this and teaches it to his people. In Brunson's tithing sermon in October he spent 15 minutes of his sermon explaining the Old Testament book of Leviticus principle of "first fruits", characterizing God's sacrifice of giving Jesus as a "first fruits" tithe.

"God established the tithe to redeem the rest of the material world. God sent his son in the form of a servant...to redeem you, and God established in like manner the tithe to redeem the material world. He [God] says these things [first fruits] are set apart and they're holy to God, and nothing is to interfere with that."

Mac explains that the "tithe" by Christians today is a biblical principal that started at the fall of man in the garden of Eden, instituted by God to "redeem" all material things, and Jesus was God's tithe to us. Then Mac falls right in line with the teachings of Robert Morris and Perry Noble, and declares that the way you get God to bless your finances, is you fork over 10% to your church. It is releases God from his magic lamp:

"God says you set apart that first tenth, that 'first fruit', and the other 90% will be blessed, will be blessed. I'll put my hand on it. I'll watch over it."

And of course this implies that if you don't tithe, God won't watch over it. In fact in the same sermon Brunson uses Bernie Madoff as an example of what becomes of a man who has wealth but doesn't have God's blessings through the tithe (Steve Gaines, you can use this in your next "God robber" sermon). Last year Brunson declared that the tithe is something that a Christian owes to God and must give it to God (i.e. give it to his church) or if you don't, God collects on what he is owed by bringing calamity. This is not an exaggeration; click here to see it for yourself.

According to all these pastors, all you have to do in order to unlock all of God's blessings and benefits for your life is to rub God's magic tithing lamp.

Their doctrine reduces God to a magic genie who is trapped in a golden lamp waiting for you to drop 10% of your income into your nearest 501(c)3 church. When you do, you effectively rub God's magic lamp and the magic genie will appear, and he will be obligated to bless you. If you don't drop the 10% into the plate, then the genie will never appear, he will never be indebted to you, and the magic genie will be unable to protect you from an invisible "devourer" who will begin to consume and waste your money as you live under a curse. I don't think I'm exaggerating one bit - this IS their doctrine.

These preachers' tithing doctrine has much more in common with the Aladdin folk tale portrayed in this Disney video from their 1992 movie, than it does with the Bible. And apparently people are entertained by it and they find it very appealing. It appeals to the consumerism mindset that you can use your money to buy whatever you want in life - you can even secure the blessings of God. The Catholic Church taught this through their indulgences - Robert Morris has even joked about how the tithe is a great bargain, paying only 10% to get God's blessings and buying God's protection from the devourer. Morris and Ed Young even have gone so far as to offer a money-back guarantee.

Aladdin was right to be skeptical of the genie's claims at first. Only difference is that Aladdin's genie could grant him his wishes, but the "genie" sold by the modern day first fruit tithing teachers doesn't exist. God can't be bought for 10% or for any price - he gives the same love and grace to all who trust Christ. But preaching that won't help pay the mega church bills and salaries.

So enjoy the video, or just read the lyrics here.

Well Ali Baba had them forty thieves
Scheherezad-ie had a thousand tales
But master you in luck 'cause up your sleeves
You got a brand of magic never fails
You got some power in your corner now
Some heavy ammunition in your camp
You got some punch, pizzazz, yahoo and how
See all you gotta do is rub that lamp
And I'll say

Mister Aladdin, sir
What will your pleasure be?
Let me take your order
Jot it down
You ain't never had a friend like me
No no no

Life is your restaurant
And I'm your maitre d'
C'mon whisper what it is you want
You ain't never had a friend like me

Yes sir, we pride ourselves on service
You're the boss
The king, the shah
Say what you wish
It's yours! True dish
How about a little more Baklava?

Have some of column "A"
Try all of column "B"
I'm in the mood to help you dude
You ain't never had a friend like me

Can your friends do this?
Do your friends do that?
Do your friends pull this out their little hat?
Can your friends go, poof?
Well, looky here
Can your friends go, Abracadabra, let 'er rip
And then make the sucker disappear?

So doncha sit there slack jawed, buggy eyed
I'm here to answer all your midday prayers
You got me bona fide, certified
You got a genie for your chare d'affaires
I got a powerful urge to help you out
So what-cha wish? I really wanna know
You got a list that's three miles long, no doubt
Well, all you gotta do is rub like so - and oh

Mister Aladdin, sir, have a wish or two or three
I'm on the job, you big nabob
You ain't never had a friend, never had a friend
You ain't never had a friend, never had a friend
You ain't never had a friend like me
You ain't never had a friend like me, hah!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Please, for the Love of the Almighty, Would Someone Buy the Brunson's Last Two Cabins on the Luxury Med Cruise???

We interrupt this blog to bring forth a special request to assist FBC Jax during the month of December:

Would someone, anyone, maybe a wealthy person at FBC Jax, maybe one of the FBC Jax Sunday School classes, maybe our new Jacksonville Jags owner Shahid Khan....would you please buy the remaining two cabins on the Brunson's Deluxe Mediterranean Cruise on the Norwegian Jade?

FBC Jax has been hawking this cruise for about 4 or 5 months now. They extended the original registration deadline, now they are hawking those last two cabins. If someone could find it in their heart to purchase these two last luxury cabins at about $3000 per person or around $12,000, FBC Jax could finally remove this advertisement from their website scrolling marquee, and they could remove it from the sanctuary pre-worship announcement slides.

The cruise will be a great time. While it really has nothing to do with a ministry of the church or spreading the gospel or helping anyone, you will be able to rub shoulders with the pastor and other big wigs from FBC Jax. Even if you have to take a little bit of money from what you would have given to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, you will be blessed indeed by joining the Brunsons on this cruise.

So let's get going, and make it a goal to get the ad removed from the FBC Jax website by December 10th.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mac Brunson Issues Blanket Apology to Church and to Viewers on Internet for Anything He's Ever Said That Offended Them



Mac Brunson has just completed a grueling 5-month long series on the book of Job, which focused on how to handle criticism and tough times, especially if you're a mega church pastor. One of the primary lessons God taught Mac through his study of Job? Be careful what you say to people.

"God has spoken to my heart out of the book of Job: I should be very careful what I say to people. I should be very careful how I talk to people...many of you are struggling and going through difficulty and hardship right now....from my heart I want to say that to you: I deeply regret if I've ever offended you...if you speak as speak as much as I speak you're going to say some goofy things from time to time."

Yes, we should watch what we say. Too bad it took Mac to read through the book of Job to figure THAT one out.

Why is he saying sorry? There must have been some sort of offense that would cause him to do this. Could it be the week before when he said he never really wanted to come to FBC Jax and be the pastor, and that the people of FBC Jax didn't call him to preach and "only Jesus can take me outta here"? Did the trustees tell him to get out there and apologize to the good people of FBC Jax that DID call him to preach at Jax, and that do give sacrificially to support his comfortable lifestyle, and that CAN remove him as pastor?

Maybe he was apologizing because he told the good people of FBC Jax that he has things he could be doing other than be their pastor. Well, no offense there really because they already knew that, as Mac has been busy doing those other things ever since he became pastor.

But thanks, Mac. We out here in Internet land and TV land tell you too, Mac...if we've ever blogged anything that has offended you, or written anything that offended you, we're truly sorry. We know you're going through difficulty and hardship as a mega church pastor. But if you blog as much as we do, we're bound to blog some goofy things from time to time. So we know you will forgive us, right?

:)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Seminary Trustee, Lawyer, Tells Church Leaders to Not Speak to Police About Meetings They Had With Molester

As further evidence of the institutional problems within the Southern Baptist Convention when it comes to reporting child abusers, we look at the latest article by Bob Allen at the Associated Baptist Press in the John Langworthy case.

Attorney Philip Gunn, who is also a trustee of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville and a Republican state legislator, is advising the elders of Morris Heights Baptist Church to NOT discuss with police investigators details of their internal investigation into accused child molester John Langworthy (click here for links at New BBC Open Forum regarding Langworthy case).

Yes, you heard right. Gunn is claiming some sort of "priest-penitent" privilege that binds the church leaders to secrecy regarding THEIR discussions with Langworthy.

The church leaders/elders aren't priests. Then men aren't pastors. The men are lay people who are "elders". And they may have important information that could help prosecute a child molester but they won't talk to the investigators.

How much more of this nonsense are Baptists going to have to endure? So now the church elders are "men of God" and apparently are above having to answer questions from the police and prosecutors about a molester going on trial next spring ? Isn't this the entire problem - men in a church who think they are the ones to investigate molesters and who don't willingly hand over information to the police?

Bob Allen quotes Amy Smith of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), who sums it up quite well:

“It is very troubling that Philip Gunn as the legal representative for Morrison Heights Baptist Church is trying to keep information from Hinds County prosecutors about a recently arrested and indicted child molester on whose behalf Gunn attempted to ‘discuss a resolution’ with me last May."

“It certainly seems that Mr. Gunn has some explaining to do about why he, as an elder and attorney, participated in an internal church investigation into child sex crimes without going to the police. It raises the question of what he and the church leadership are trying to hide that could help effectively prosecute a confessed child molester.”

Good question. What are they trying to hide?

Again, as I wrote several days ago, until Christians are as disgusted over these actions by Morris Heights Baptist Church and Prestonwood Baptist Church in the John Langworthy case and stay away from these churches, it will be just more of the same, in Jesu's name and for his sake. Sick.

Watch this news report for more information on this case:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Mr. Las Vegas" Comes to the SBC's First Baptist Ft. Lauderdale Christmas Show - See Both Jesus AND Wayne Newton in the Same Pageant!

OK, which duet would you like to hear Jesus and Wayne Newton sing together at the FBC Ft. Lauderdale Christmas Pageant? Maybe Newton's 1973 hit "Pour Me a Little More Wine", or "I'm Lookin' Over a Four Leaf Clover"? Or who can forget the timeless Newton classic "Danke Schoen"?

Yes, you can see BOTH "King Jesus of Nazareth" and "Sir Newton of Las Vegas" perform in the very same show at First Baptist Church of Ft. Lauderdale!

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Update: See footage of Wayne Newton's opening act at First Baptist Fort Lauderdale, wearing his Liberace-style puffy shirt: Wayne Newton Singin' for Jesus
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Friends, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried to.

In the days of the worst economic recession in decades and people losing their homes and increased numbers of children living in poverty in our own state, we have mega pastors threatening those WITH jobs that they must give 10% of their income to the church else be under a curse. It is sad to see churches like FBC Jax use their website to advertise for the last two "cabins" on the pastor's luxury cruise, but no where do we see an advertisement encouraging people to purchase housing for homeless families through the local Sulzbacher Center.

So I suppose it is not surprising that First Baptist Church of Ft. Lauderdale has brought in "Mr. Las Vegas", Wayne Newton, night club entertainer, to be a headliner at the opening night of their 2011 Christmas pageant.

Wayne Newton, who is the icon for Las Vegas - the gambling, the booze, the night life - is featured on their website along with the Lord Jesus Christ for the Christmas Pageant.

And what do you think the church had to pay Wayne Newton to make this appearance? I don't know, but I have a hard time imagining that it was cheap. The tickets for the pageant range from $15 to $50 depending on how close to the stage you are located. Wayne Newton is widely known for his philanthropic activities. In fact he was recently "knighted" at a Catholic church (I didn't know Catholics knighted famous people) for all the good works he has done. So who knows, maybe Wayne flew in to be the headliner of the Christmas pageant pro-bono as a part of his charity work.

Southern Baptists, Perry Noble has nothing on us. He has done some very strange things at his church to draw a crowd, but this one I think dwarfs even Perry Noble's antics.

Kudos to First Baptist Church Jacksonville, Mac Brunson, and Jim Whitmire for NOT resorting to this kind of tactic at FBC Jax during the holiday season. Look at the FBC Jax line-up for Christmas, and there are no "tickets", there are no Vegas "headliners". FBC Jax is not even paying to bring in Christian headliners, but are instead going to have gospel-centered music and drama, all free, and performed by the lay people of FBC Jax.

But please, FBC Jax, stop the shameless advertising for luxury cruises with your pastor on your website and in your church services. FBC Jax is not your pastor's advertising or travel agency.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mike Bianchi Tells Penn State to Stay Home - Where is the Societal Disgust Over Baptist Church Sex Abuse Cover-Ups?

One of my favorite sports writers is the Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi. I was a student at the University of Florida in the 1980s when Bianchi, an '85 UF grad, began writing for the Gainesville Sun, eventually becoming the lead sports writer taking over for Jack Hairston. Bianchi then went to write for The Times Union newspaper in Jacksonville sometime in the 1990s, then he left for greener pastures in Orlando about 10 years ago.

Anyways, last week Bianchi wrote an excellent article about the Penn State scandal, and how he absolutely does not want Penn State's football team to come to Orlando to play in the Captial One Bowl, or any bowl for that matter. He said the way the university covered up allegations of child abuse for years to protect the brand of their school makes them unfit this year to play in any bowl game.

Says Bianchi:

"This scandal is bigger than a football team. Even though the players are pawns, they still represent a university where the coaches and administrators appear to have covered up the atrocious allegations against Sandusky just so they could protect the football team's brand. Penn State's name is now toxic in the minds of most Americans. Every time the Nittany Lions step on the field, we don't see a football team; we see a dark, evil place where countless little boys were allegedly allowed to be sexually molested by a football coach."

I agree with him. It isn't just that one of their coaches molested boys - predators can be found in any institution. It is that the Penn State institution that the football players represent, from a janitor to a grad assistant, to the head coach all the way to the president of the institution, behaved irresponsibly that allowed a pedophile to roam the Penn State locker rooms for years, having sex with little boys in the Penn State showers, and allowing him to freely romp through high schools and boys' clubs looking for potential victims.

Bianchi says the Penn State scandal is bigger than a football team. Yes, and each time when we read about sex abuse cover-ups in Baptist churches, it is not just a story about cover-ups in a single church. It is about an entire religious institution that refuses to adequately deal with sexual predators in their midst. Failure to track, failure to inform, even failure to report crimes to law enforcement.

Bianchi's article represents the outrage that so many American's have over the Penn State scandal. But I sure wish more people would express such disgust and call for sanctions when it comes to churches who act to protect the image of their church and send away a pedophile minister to another church or ministry. Where was the public outrage this year over Prestonwood Baptist Church allowing John Langworthy to go to another church without warning the other church after he was dismissed from Prestonwood for "allegations of inappropriate activity with a teenage student" at the church. No report was ever made to the authorities by Prestonwood, Langworthy was dismissed from Prestonwood, and he went on to have contact with children at another unsuspecting church and even a public school.

Where was the public outrage and call for the heads of church leaders when it was discovered that Trinity Baptist's Bob Gray went on mission to Germany after serious allegations of molestation were made against him, and as reported by TV-12's Jeannie Blaylock no one from Trinity - including the current pastor Tom Messer - notified the mission-sending agency about the allegations against Bob Gray? How many victims were there in Germany? Where were the calls by the press and public for dismissal of the church leaders at Trinity who knew of Gray's abuse of children and allowed him to lie to the congregation about it? Forget the press - where were the cries from other churches in Jacksonville for accountability at Trinity?

And keep in mind - Bianchi's outrage toward Penn State comes even with the knowledge that Penn State trustees ARE taking immediate steps to move toward fixing the problem. They really couldn't take any more drastic, immediate steps than they did in firing their president and legend Joe Paterno. Therefore how much MORE should the public outrage be over churches who not only covered up the offenses at their church, but that those in leadership have never been held accountable for their institution's lies and inaction?

Where is the media outrage over denominational institutions within the Southern Baptist Convention who will take action to excommunicate churches for the horrific "sin" of hiring women pastors, but they take no action against churches who pass pedophiles on to the next unsuspecting church?

Bianchi doesn't let up one bit:

"Do us all a favor, Penn State, and stay home. We don't want you in Orlando or Tampa or Jacksonville or Pasadena. We don't even want you in the Meineke Car Care Bowl or the Ticket City Bowl or the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl. We don't want to hear your name or see your helmets or listen to your cheers. And we certainly don't want to spend an entire week during the holidays reading about, writing about, hearing about and thinking about kids who allegedly had their innocence raped away by your sociopathic assistant football coach. Don't ruin bowl week for everybody else. Play out the regular season and then do the only honorable thing you can do at this point. Just go away."

The truth about sex scandal cover-ups in baptist churches: they will not be fixed in baptist churches until Christians and pastors become disgusted like Bianchi. Christians should stay away from those churches where abuse occurred and those involved have not been held accountable. Churches and pastors who are involved in sex abuse cover-ups: we don't want to hear your wonderful sermons about Jesus, we don't want to hear your church's glorious music, and we sure don't want to contribute to your latest building program.

Bianchi says when he sees Penn State's football team he thinks of molested boys at the hands of their "sociopathic" assistant coach. Many in Jacksonville when they hear "Trinity Baptist Church" think of Bob Gray, molestations, and church leaders who have not had to answer for their non-reporting to authorities of Gray's crimes. This is why I would never recommend someone join Trinity Baptist church: as an institution they have not in my view adequately given answers to our citizens about what happened and who knew what in the Bob Gray scandal, and have not assured our community that appropriate institutional changes have been made, or that those who could have stopped Bob Gray or alerted the Germany missionary-sending agency, have been held accountable.

Mike Bianchi gets it. And I don't need to ask Mike Bianchi what he thinks about the Trinity Baptist Church scandal in Jacksonville where he used to live - his article about Penn State says it all.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"Would a Man Rob Ed?" - Ed Young Issues the God Challenge - Signed Tithing Committment Cards With a Money-Back Satisfaction Guarantee


A new tithing gimmick has been introduced into the Southern Baptist Convention, by Ed Young, Jr. at the SBC's Fellowship Church.

Last year Ed Young pulled a stunt to try and collect checking account and bank routing numbers from his people to allow Fellowship Church to auto-withdraw their tithe.

This year the salesman Ed Young is trying a new tithing gimmick: a money-back tithing pledge. Ed distributed tithing commitment cards to be signed by all members last Sunday for them to commit to tithe 10% of all their income for seven-weeks, and if they are not satisfied with the blessings Ed has promised they will receive, Ed says he will give "God's money" back!

Ed says in the video above:

"Here's the deal: this is the 'God challenge'. This is a money-back guarantee, is what I'm sayin'. In other words, we have 7 weekends from now until the end of the year. And I'm going to ask you to sign up. If God does not bless your life and show up in huge ways, we'll give you God's money back. [scant applause]. I'll say it again. I know it's hard to believe, a church doing this. You do this for seven weeks, make sure you participate in a way that we can track it in our financial office, we'll give you God's money, ha ha, did you get that, God's money, back!"

Let's analyze this:

- first of all, it is absolutely amazing that Ed says while laughing heartily, that "we will give you God's money back" (watch the video, I looped this laugh several times, it is incredibly revealing). I think he laughed accidentally at the ridiculousness that it is "God's money". Ed knows it is not. The entire premise of his sermon was that your first 10% of your income is not yours, it is "God's portion", and it belongs to God. According to Ed you can't even "give" it, you can only "bring" it, since it is not yours. But if the money is God's then on what authority does Ed claim the right to give it BACK to you? This gimmick actually shows that Ed doesn't believe his own nonsense - if that money you give - sorry, I mean bring - to Fellowship Church is holy and God's property, Ed certainly would understand he has no right to give it back to you. But it is Ed's money once you give it, and he can give it back.

- does Ed not fear the God he preaches about? The bible says he is a jealous God, and would not share his power or glory with anyone. Yet here is beautiful, blonde Ed Young in his skinny jeans, telling people that giving 10% to his church will unlock all sorts of blessings. God is a genie, and he is released from his magic lamp when he sees you put in 10% of your income to the collection bags at Fellowship Church. But now Ed removes even the requirement to trust God because God has apparently anointed Ed Young to manage God's storehouse. Ed will take your money, but he has the power to give it back to you.

- I know of no one who donates their hard earned money to their church, or to the United Way, or to a rescue mission, that expects ANYTHING in return. What does this guarantee offer say about how Ed views Christians? He thinks people are stupid enough to believe that 10% of their income is the magic key to blessings, that 8% or 9% means God's cursings and 10% means blessings. Then he thinks people are stupid enough to be motivated to give to their church by their pastor promising something in return. Hey Ed, people donate to your church or to any 501(c)3 non-profit because they believe in the ministry or cause and they don't expect anything in return.

- God can't be confined to the limits of a 7-week test defined by Ed Young, Jr. God may or may not bless someone between now and the end of the year, whether they do or do not tithe. How about a test to see if someone gets blessed WITHOUT tithing? Ed's ploy is pure poppycock and gimmickry, and I feel sorry for any person at Fellowship Church foolish enough to play into Ed's scheme by signing that card.

- do we need any further evidence to demonstrate that Ed and the other first-fruit tithing teachers are peddlers of the gospel for profit? Only companies selling things for a profit offer money-back guarantees. When will the IRS begin taxing these mega temples? They are salesmen at heart. As I wrote back in 2008 and then in 2010, Ed himself acknowledges the intense pressure he has as the church's "franchise player", responsible for raising money, when he said:

"We're responsible [pastors] every year, we're the main one, that raises money. I call pastors the 'franchise player' because we're the ones who are responsible before God for raising money...every year I've stared a lot of money in the face, and I know at the end of the day it's up to me to raise that money...and now it's many, many millions of dollars, and that's a taxing thing."

There you have it: Ed has to "raise" the millions. I thought it was God who did it all, that he was sovereign over matters in his church. But no, apparently God needs Ed and other franchise-player-pastors to raise the money, thus we see these cheesy gimmicks like this money-back guarantee to extract more money from trusting Christians.

- interesting how the money back clause is worded: "If at the end of 7 weeks you believe that God did not honor his word and pour out blessings in your life, then Fellowship will give God's money back to you promptly." So you have to call God a liar to get your money back, saying he didn't honor his word. Actually, it should read: "If you discover at the end of 7 weeks that Ed Young's claim of blessings for tithing is nothing more than a gimmick to get his hands on your money, then we will give you your money back." Can you imagine being put on the list of people at Fellowship that called God a liar and asked for "God's money" back? Might be a sure way to not be asked to serve in any capacity at the church, right?

- will Fellowship Church require you to show that you gave 10% of your income in order to get your money back? After all, if all you did was give 9% of your income, and come and claim God didn't honor his word and bless you, you didn't keep your end of the bargain. Of course God won't bless you at 9%, right? So get ready to hand your tax forms over to the finance department of the church so they can confirm that you indeed were tithing on the gross for 7 consecutive weeks.

This is a just a repackaged form of the false prosperity gospel that is peddled by televangelists that has now made its way into the Southern Baptist Convention. You give to get blessed, and you call God's hand by tithing, he HAS to bless you.

I'm still trying to figure out which is worse: this tithing gimmickry by Ed Young, or James Merritt peddling FHTMC, a suspected pyramid scheme, in his church.

Either way, the Southern Baptist mega church pastors, the "franchise players", need your money, and they will go to any lengths to separate you from your money, even under false pretenses, even during the holiday season.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tebow Shows How a Christian Leader Should Handle Criticism - Pastors, Watch and Learn

"You know, I'm not sure, but I know one thing is I am extremely blessed. God has blessed me with so many people that support me, a great family that supports me, great teammates and a coaching staff and that's what I'm focused on." Tim Tebow's answer to interview question about why he "provokes" so much criticism.
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I've written quite a bit about whining pastors the last year. Thom Rainer whined about the tragedy of pastors being criticized and how critics need to be shut down. One of the more popular Watchdog posts this past year was Steven Furtick's embarrassing rap video he made blasting his critics. Perry Noble calls his critics "jack asses" - from the pulpit!

Mac Brunson is so fed up with criticism that he swung for the fences last week and wagged his finger in the face of his church members to tell them he is God's man, he doesn't answer to them and they can't fire him, and no one it as rough as he has it. Despite living an incredibly blessed and privileged life as the pastor of FBC Jax, he portrays himself as the "Job of Jacksonville", a modern-day martyr. He even thought it helpful to admit to his church members he didn't really want to come to our city and be pastor of FBC Jax in the first place but God made him come - actually said God "drove him" to Jax (in a pickup truck I'm sure).

These whiny pastors need to learn from Tim Tebow. Mac Brunson needs to learn from Tim Tebow.

There aren't many Christians who have had to endure public criticism like Tim Tebow has. Sure, he has many supporters who love him, but within his chosen profession he has many detractors. Sports writers have criticized him for being so public about his faith, unfairly criticizing him because he prays while he plays, and always mentions Jesus Christ when he gives his post-game conferences.

The criticism has been unrelenting. Criticizing anything and everything. Writers and fans have criticized him personally, his motives in being open about his faith, his stance on abortion, even criticizing he and his mother for a pro-life commercial aired during the Super Bowl. They even criticize how he does his job, his throwing motion, people doubting he even has the basic skills required to be an NFL quarterback. One has even criticized him for being a member of FBC Jax. You name it - about his profession, his abilities, his family, and his faith - he has been criticized non-stop.

How does he handle it? Does he complain about his complainers? Does he criticize his criticizers? Does he try to shame the reporters who ask asinine questions?

Does Tim Tebow tell people about how great he is, or how important his "calling" is and how people should respect him? Does he call on other people to stop the criticizers? Is he worried one bit about the criticism?

No way. Never, not one time has Tebow retaliated or complained or criticized his criticizers. He just does his job and he lives out his faith. He has always done it his whole life, and he continues to do it now on a national stage and it just amazes reporters because they've never seen anything like it. A Christian acting like...well, a Christian.

Perfect example of this was last night after he led his team from behind to beat the New York Jets on a last-second 20-yard touchdown run on national TV. He came out to speak to the NFL Network sportscasters after the game. One of the talking heads, Deion Sanders, asked Tebow this question (click here):

"Of course these fans in Denver, they love you. But nationally, I've never seen a guy that provokes so much talk, good or bad. What do you feel attributes to that?"

Tebow probably should have asked him "attributes to that"? What does that mean? Instead, Tebow answered:

"You know, I'm not sure, but I know one thing is I am extremely blessed. God has blessed me with so many people that support me, a great family that supports me, great teammates and a coaching staff and that's what I'm focused on."

Then Sanders follows up with this doozy, still saying that Tim "provokes" the criticism:

"Do you feel like it is your throwing motion, is it your faith, what is it that provokes anger or hatred or disdain from some journalists and publicists?"

Tebow simply smiled and answered:

"You know, I'm not sure, something I learned early in college was to not worry about what I can't control, and that is something I can't control. But what I can control is my attitude, my effort, my focus, every single day, and that is what I'm trying to worry about."

Wow. Words of wisdom from a young man that seminary-trained pastors need to learn from. Tebow could have used that question to blast critics, or claim he is attacked for his faith. He could have told Deion Sanders what an absolutely stupid question that is, that he doesn't "provoke" anyone. He could talk about how hurtful it is to his family to have to see him be criticized, and talk about how it makes his job no fun at all.

Tim just fields the questions with a smile, is a nice, polite person, and respectfully answers all questions, even the very stupid ones. Like maybe a Christian would do.

This is what true leaders are made of. Leaders who inspire others to greatness don't pay attention to the critics, they don't portray themselves as victims or martyrs. They just stay focused on the task at hand, they praise their fellow workers, and are grateful for being granted the opportunity to lead. They don't behave as though they have a God-given right to be the leader. They respect everyone, even the critic, and they focus on the positive.

Tim's leadership has caused his team to rally around him. He was named the starter when his team lost 4 of their first 5 games with Kyle Orton as quarterback, and now the team has rallied around their new leader by keeping the games close and allowing Tebow to win them in the end.

Tebow is 4-1 as a starter. Kyle Orton was 1-4 as a starter.

Kyle Orton was the one who was supposed to lead the Broncos this year. He was the one with the training, experience, and credentials. He was the chosen one.

But the real leader has emerged, the one who can inspire his teammates. Now Tebow is the leader of the Broncos and he is grateful for the opportunity, and doesn't take it for granted, and you can bet it won't get to his head. He does nothing but publicly praise his teammates and coaching staff for their hard work.

So pastors, learn from young Tim Tebow. He's a leader. Some of you are crybaby tyrants, demanding respect and love from those you want to lead, and complaining about those who don't succumb to your leadership. You may be in charge, but you won't be a leader who inspires.

Thanks, Tim, for being such a great example.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The World According to a Suffering Mega Church Pastor: Mac Says He Never Wanted to Come, and "Only Jesus Can Take Me Outta Here"



"I don't do this because it's fun. You think it's fun to get beat up and made fun of all the time, and accused of this, that, and the other? You think that's fun? You think it's fun to watch your wife and children watch this stuff? You think it's fun, you think it's enjoyable? I'm here because of Jesus Christ, and He's the only one that can take me outta here. I'm here to preach His word, not your word. "

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"It ain't easy being green", Kermit the Frog used to sing. Apparently, it ain't easy being a mega church pastor, either. The sacrifices and suffering are almost too much to bear, according to Mac Brunson in his sermon a few weeks ago. Perhaps after preaching out of the book of Job for several months, Mac let the cat out of the bag, that HE is Job, having to endure the hardship of the life of a maligned mega church pastor.

In the video clip above you'll hear Brunson declare to the FBC Jax members:

- their pastor never really wanted to come to pastor FBC Jax, but God "drove him" to be the pastor at FBC Jax;

- the people of FBC Jax didn't "call" him, God called him, and thus only Jesus has the ability to remove him from his position;

- there are plenty of other things he could be doing besides pastoring - and presumably they are darned lucky he has decided to stick to the terrible job of being their "pastor";

- he has suffered tremendously as pastor and his "personhood" has been under constant attack for the past 4 years and thus it has been no fun at all to be their pastor.

Since he came here to FBC Jax Mac has played the role of martyr, starting when Paige Patterson had to ask his students to pray for Mac declaring that Mac never received a honeymoon at FBC Jax. In other instances Mac has seen fit to tell his congregation how terrible his life is as their pastor, telling his peeps "I have to endure more criticism in 30 minutes than you can handle in 6 months". Mac, speak to Jim Smyrl who has held a real job now for 5 months in the business world, about what criticism people deal with everyday.

The fact is the people and leadership of FBC Jax have treated the Brunsons extremely well. Must I recount how well? With jobs for three of the Brunsons, the new office suite, the $307k land gift, and many other perks...and Mac has the freedom to be away from the church to go to many speaking gigs. He really does have it nice here at FBC Jax.

But not everyone is going to love a mega church pastor. Vines and Lindsay knew that. Lindsay was often joked ridiculed in this town, and Vines was raked over the coals for his Mohammad remarks back in 2002.

Perhaps Mac's rant was the result of a Folio Weekly article that ran the week before this sermon that called Mac one of the scariest five people in Jacksonville, and blamed him alone for his church using the sheriff's office in identifying the Watchdog blogger and resulting lawsuit. The article included a cartoon caricature of Mac (at right), angry and foaming at the mouth, a ready-made cut-out Halloween mask. But the article was merely reflecting the disgust that this community has with a church that went to a member, deacon, and discipline committee member - who had investigative subpoena power - to investigate a blogger critical of their pastor. The criticism is understandable, and most people agree it is deserved.

But why tell his congregation that he didn't want to come here? Obviously there was something about FBC Jax that drew him here. He made a career change. People do it all the time. A person doesn't like the job they have, or they are ready for new challenges, or they see a move as beneficial to their family...or maybe there is more money and more perks to the new job. To tell his congregation that he was here only because "God drove me to this place" is not believable, but it helps him put himself on par with other biblical characters whom God spoke to directly.

And why the declaration that the people of FBC Jax "didn't call me here to preach"? That is not true. The people of FBC Jax did vote to have him come. And actually Jesus wouldn't be the one to take him out of FBC Jax. Jesus isn't here in bodily form, and thus he wouldn't be the one. It would be the trustees of the church who would do that. But it makes for great theatrics, and it shows his arrogance in making such a statement to the people who did indeed call him to be their pastor.

And boy, do the people of FBC Jax love it. They hooted and hollered as he wagged his finger in their faces. Why is it that smart people cheer such arrogance when it is on full display on a stage by a grown man?

And as a lay person I'm so sick and tired of hearing pastors pontificate about how their "calling" is so special and above everyone else's calling in life, using the word "surrendered" in terms of their calling. The fact is Mac and other ministers have chosen themselves to be professional, vocational ministers. They are called just like a Christian may be "called" to be a teacher or lawyer or doctor. But these men are trained in seminary to believe they are God's agents, appointed to save all of us from our ignorance, as Al Mohler preached at FBC Jax earlier this year.

Too bad that Mac views himself as a victim and martyr as the pastor of FBC Jax. He leads a blessed life. His wife and son work with him at church, he has a beautiful home in Jax, and beach home in St. Augustine. He probably will have the freedom to bring his son-in-law to FBC Jax in the near future on staff. He has a congregation that really has endured a lot in the past 4 years with the negative publicity that has come their way under Brunson's leadership - yet they still love and adore their pastor, they still give generously, and they responded to his call for acts of service in the Arms Around Jacksonville.

And they still applaud and hoot and holler when he preaches.

What more could a pastor want?