"...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, July 30, 2011

How Social Media Has Shaped How Jim Smyrl Left FBC Jax, and Aided in His Church Plant and Communication of His Vision

It is quite interesting to watch through the Internet and social media the journey that Jim Smyrl has been on over the past month. All in the span of about 30 days Smyrl has left a very high-paying job at FBC Jax, put his home on the market to downsize his family, obtained employment as a banker, declared himself to be bivocational, and ready to start a new church plant tomorrow on the Westside of Jax, called: Loyal Heart Bible Church.

Spare me the story of how Francis Chan and David Platt are suffering for Jesus. They have nothing on Smyrl.

Twenty years ago if he would have fallen into disfavor with the heavies at FBC Jax, one minute he would be there then "poof" gone the next. When they wanted you gone, you were gone, like Alfredo in "Godfather II". But with the magic of technology, we've been able to watch what happened to Jim Smyrl almost real time, and best of all the church leaders couldn't control the message. They couldn't whisper in people's ears and shape how people viewed Jim. Instead, we were able to follow Jim real time, this blog got the word out early and often about what was happening. We saw an uglier side of Jim's former boss and son through their tweets about him, and we've been able to even discuss his departure and new church plant non-stop. He's been able to get the word out about his church plant at virtually no cost, and to tweet his transformed views of church and ministry.

Imagine - Jim didn't need Maurilio to fly in and design a website and LHBC marketing campaign, or make "Fresh" banners and stich fruit vendor aprons to be stretched across the stomachs of the ushers (ok, not everyone will get that - think - April 2006, "Fruit of the Spirit"...."Fresh").

I have been critical of Smyrl for some of his views and statements about Catholics, priests, Muslims, Obama voters, his exaggerations about a FBC Dallas commercial, and his criticism of Lifeway for selling "The Shack". He is a staunch storehouse tithing teacher - believes it is a sin from which one must repent for not giving 10% of their income to their church - he says so in this Theology Driven Ministry materials.

But when I read some of his Tweets, it seems that now that he has abruptly had to leave FBC Jax, he is beginning to see things differently...not so much theologically, but how he views ministry and church and service and lay people.

For example here is a sampling of his Tweets the past month:

By grace I'm officially a bivocational pastor. Banker/Preacher. Now most of LHBC's budget can go to make disciples of Jax and the nations. (7/15)

Jim has decided to be bivocational. I'm told that this is not just a short-term thing, like taking a job until he can get enough revenue to go back full time as Les Puryear planned earlier this year. No, Jim believes his calling is to be bivocational, and not to spend precious dollars on large salaries and buildings. If this ever catches on (won't be in my lifetime), Jim can say "I was bivo when bivo wasn't cool".

Then this tweet:

Learning the difference between ministry by man's effort and ministry by God's grace. Repenting of much self effort over past 23 yrs. (7/15)

Interesting. I hope that he shares his transformation with his congregation, and with other pastors.

Breaking the Smyrl family downsizing code: "I forgot I had this..." = throw it away. "I think I can still wear this..." = give it away (7/17)

and

Our house goes on the market tomoro. Another divinely appointed change for the Smyrl family. That He is sovereign mks all things joyous. (7/20)

Jim and his family are selling their home - apparently they are downsizing. Unheard of. I didn't think I'd ever see the day when a mega church pastor would actually take a pay cut, move to a smaller house, and not look for the next big gig with a land deal and beach condo. I hope you do well at your new job, Jim, and make the big bucks and buy a house larger than the one you had. Maybe you can even buy Mac's house when he moves and you're a VP at your bank.

One of my favorites:

RT @jimperdue: When someone starts retweeting all the great stuff other people say about them on twitter... #AutomaticUnfollow (7/18)

I assume that is a reference to Mac's habit of retweeting all the nice things others say about him. Kinda creepy.

And this one:

I've lived in the cocoon of church ministry for 23 yrs. Monday I enter the real world. Market place ministry. Nervous...trusting God. (7/22)

Jim is realizing that things in the church are pretty cush; that all the things pastors complain about like anonymous emails, complaining church members, and egads, having to speak 2 or 3 times in a WEEK...are all minor inconveniences. He is now in the real world where the church members he's been preaching to for 23 years spend the overwhelming majority of their waking hours.

Another classic from Smyrl as he gets ready for his first day on the job in corporate America:

I step into corporate America tomoro. The place where a PhD in Homiletics is as valuable as a grain of sand in Egypt. (7/24)

Yep. He realizes now that at work, he is not "God's man". His coworkers, and his customers, and his bosses, don't give a hoot about his Ph.D. in preaching as it has no practical relevance to the banking industry. He is not "Doctor Smyrl", he is "Jim". His bosses don't care what he thinks about whether Hebrews was written by Paul or James or Luke. His critics will not be recalcitrants, they will be customers he must serve. His bosses will want results. He may even get anonymous feedback from within his company on whether he does his job well, and he won't be able to spit on them and throw them in the trash can as Jerry Vines said he does. They will measure his performance and productivity. Jim now lives where the hardworking church members work, the ones that paid his salary for the last 23 years.

In 23 yrs I never considered when ppl w/ non-church jobs went to Dr or had car worked on. Now I know why ppl dont like Sat church events. #8-5 (7/26)

Yes, welcome to our world, Jim. But it is not bad. It is hard work, but it is good work. You are now a contributing member to our economy. You are not living solely off the nickels of people giving their money to God. You will pay full taxes on your income, and you get no housing allowance.

Good luck to you, Jim, and to those who are brave enough to leave their comfort zone known as First Baptist Church of Jacksonville to join you at LHBC. I think they will find it incredibly refreshing to be away from what is going on these days at First Baptist Jax. Sometimes we don't know the tyranny under which we exist and tolerate until we remove ourselves, or are removed, and go elsewhere.

I hope your experience at FBC Jax will make you more humble, more appreciative of hard-working lay people, and that you will share your experience and what you learned with as wide an audience as possible to continue to make a difference.

We'll be following your church's progress. And maybe I'll pop in some Sunday to say hi.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love this! How refreshing!

Anonymous said...

It is kind of interesting how you people love to see a pastor out in the world working instead of busy pastoring the church and taking care of your many and varied needs. Woe be to the pastor that doesn't know immediately when you have a cold or go to the hospital. I wish some of you could spend a week in their shoes listening to the rest of you. I guarantee would have a different opinion. Most pastors are not overpaid for what they have to put up with.

BTW, Jim will soon find that IF his church grows, then the people are going to start wanting their own buildings and then his life as their pastor is going to change in a hurry. Not many Baptists want to meet in a borrowed building or in homes for very long.

We'll see how he does in a year.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Oh, the bitterness. This comment shows just how remarkable it is that Smyrl has done what he has done.

He has spent 23 years in that same culture that would lead a grown man to say those things...and somehow Jim has broken out of it, and done what really I don't know of ANY pastors that have done this.

I know of a local pastor who got the shaft from his church and he is not bivo, he is starting a new church, and as soon as he can will be back on the payroll after his severance pay runs out.

Good for you Jim. You're going where no pastor I know of has dared to tread.

Thy Peace said...

I wonder what truly caused this transformation? If anyone on the inside knows, please share. As to what actually happened at fbc jax that prompted Smyrl to leave?

Long Time FBC Jax Member said...

Spot on as usual, Tom. And I echo your sentiments with regard to Rev. Smyrl. It is truly an ongoing leap of faith for Jim and his family, and God is blessing.

Praying for Jim and the first worship service at LHBC. Very excited to see what God has planned.

EZ said...

It looks like Mr. Smyrl has been reading David Platt books and is taking the message to heart. This is right out of "Radical". How exciting to see God's people making sacrificial changes in their lives in order to focus on serving Him and His purposes.

Anonymous said...

"I hope you do well at your new job, Jim, and make the big bucks and buy a house larger than the one you had. Maybe you can even buy Mac's house when he moves and you're a VP at your bank."

Maybe you felt better after typing this but I suspect this would be the farthest thing from Jim's mind.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Point is, I sincerely hope that Jim prospers at his job. I hope he is blessed and does well and earns lots of money that he can use to care for his family, and give to ministry.

I hope that excelling in his job and earning more money is not the furthest thing from his mind.

Douglas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sharon said...

I know of another pastor (nakedpastor) who now works full-time and does his pastoring on the internet. I'd think, if there is a God, he'd approve of pastors and all Christians, being out "amongst 'em."

I've also heard of a church that meets in a bar and allows people to have a beer while talking about God. Makes sense to me.

I've also heard of a famous preacher that traveled around and went to bars to talk with people.

Don't all these things seem more authentic than having a church building and inviting people to church-where they'll most likely feel uncomfortable?

Plus if you're out in the real world, you have to show respect for the thoughts of others. Hey, you might even learn something if you truly listen.

So I think this is a good thing this pastor is doing.

Anonymous said...

.
Here is the perfect example of one who thinks the traditions of men are biblical.

Jesus takes care of my many needs. When will these types start eating meat instead of being spoon fed milk? Probably never.

Anonymous said...

"It looks like Mr. Smyrl has been reading David Platt books and is taking the message to heart."

I did not realize David Platt worked in a real job. Are you sure about this?

Anonymous said...

You said: " You will pay full taxes on your income, and you get no housing allowance."

That is not exactly true. I assume that as a bivocational pastor he will still receive at least some salary from his church. The portion of income that he receives from his church can be designated "housing allowance" up to the fair rental value of his home or his actual living expenses which ever is the lessor.

Anonymous said...

Here is the perfect example of one who thinks the traditions of men are biblical.

Jesus takes care of my many needs. When will these types start eating meat instead of being spoon fed milk? Probably never.

July 31, 2011 6:57 AM

Sorry, I was referring to this shallow comment earlier that got cut off...

"It is kind of interesting how you people love to see a pastor out in the world working instead of busy pastoring the church and taking care of your many and varied needs"

Anonymous said...

I can't sleep.

I always got a good nap when Dr. Smyrl preached.

I will be there...His sermons are better than Ambien.

Anonymous said...

"I hope that excelling in his job and earning more money is not the furthest thing from his mind."

I hope that excelling in his job(s) and earning more favor with God is the nearest thing to his heart.

Anonymous said...

"It looks like Mr. Smyrl has been reading David Platt books and is taking the message to heart"

Hmm. If David Platt is working in the real world while being bi vocational, then how does he have time for all those speaking gigs?

DAWG Watchdog said...

"We'll be following your church's progress. And maybe I'll pop in some Sunday to say hi."

Or maybe, if you don't like what he preaches or the way he preaches you will blog against him also.

Anonymous said...

Many of us remember when Jim Smyrl first came to First Baptist and how well he was liked but then left to get his degree and came back to First Baptist a totally different person. Hopefully all that has happened to him lately has made him a humble person and gotten rid of his arrogance. Now if God would do the same thing to our current Pastor and make him a humble man and get rid of his arrogance.

Anonymous said...

Now if God would do the same thing to our current Pastor and make him a humble man and get rid of his arrogance.

July 31, 2011 7:00 PM

In other words, you want your "pastor" to act like a Christian.

Anyone else see the cognative dissonance in this?

EZ said...

Anons 6:58 and 11:42

I did not mean to suggest that David Platt is bi-vocational. I do suggest that you pick up a copy of Radical and read it for yourself. The changes that Smyrl is making are right out of the book. Perhaps Platt makes a lot of money from speaking engagements. Does he use that to make his own life more comfortable or further the kingdom? I don't know for sure and I'm not here to defend him. Paul wrote "But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. " Now, I am not accusing anyone of false motives. The point is that the message stands apart from the messenger. If Platt doesn't live what he preaches that is between him and God. (If we have evidence of such inconsistencies I do believe we should sight them.) Regardless of his motivation, the Lord can still use him to spread his message. That may be difficult to accept but it is biblical in my opinion. Again, I am not accusing him of false motives. I am also not defending or justifying those who abuse their positions as teachers and leaders. I only meant to state that what Jim Smryl is doing seems very "Radical" to me and I commend him for it.

FBC Jax Watchdog said...

Update on the first day at LHBC:

About 50 to 60 in attendance.

Very simple service, music with acoustic guitar played by teens and PowerPoint lyrics.

Jim Smyrl preached.

There are going to be 4 gospel community groups to start on four sides of town.

One very significant family from FBC Jax was present.

I would say not a bad start.

Good luck Jim and LHBC.

Anonymous said...

David Platt made hundreds of thousands on his book and pushes it all over our nation. He is not hurting for money. He lives in a very expensive home...that is a fact.

The "Graham Family" has made Millions off the Gospel and has employed their whole family in the BGEA. Franklin Graham is one of the most arrogant individuals that you would ever want to meet...that is a fact.

Jim Smyrl is a gift from God.

I hope he stays humble and stays bi-vocational.

Preachers that are broke preach better than those that are rich.

Anonymous said...

"I did not mean to suggest that David Platt is bi-vocational. I do suggest that you pick up a copy of Radical and read it for yourself."

Read it. I am impressed with Francis Chan.

Platt is out speaking and getting on with the Reformed big boys. Making a name for himself selling his radical agenda.

Chan walked away from it all because it was killing his soul

Anonymous said...

I would encourage many to read the book Revolution bu Barna. here he lays out the church attendance trends of evangelicals over the past 25-30 years. he goes on record in this book and states that the institutional church is rapidly declining and that by 2045 only 1/3 of Christians will be involved in an instutional business church. Where aer they going? BACK to the first century model of the early Christians! The house church or church systems founded in homes that meet in larger groups for the larger connection to the Body. The majority of Christians around the world already meet this way and they are growing rapidly.

The focus is no longer on the business of church, marketing, TV, selling products from the pulpit during services, buildings or programs, but on true disciple making! It appears that Jim and the folks at his community of believers are getting it. Chets Creek church is closest to this in town so far. Their strength are their home "life groups." I myself, am involved in a house church and LOVE IT.

Another book to read: So Do Don't Want To Go To CHurch Anymore. Be open minded when should you have the courage to read this.

Anonymous said...

"One very significant family from FBC Jax was present."

Why should that surprise you or anyone else. If I was the associate pastor I sure would hope that my parents were there to support me.

Anonymous said...

"Many of us remember when Jim Smyrl first came to First Baptist and how well he was liked but then left to get his degree and came back to First Baptist a totally different person."

Totally agree on this point. He did change significantly for the worst.

EZ said...

Anon 12:07

I too am impressed with Chan. I don't mean to exalt Platt as a spiritual hero. In fact, all men will eventually fail and disappoint in some way.

Anonymous said...

This blog really is disheartening. The things you point out about a lot of churches is true, but your solutions are often an over-reaction.

I am a bi-vocational student pastor who has had to wait to start seminary because I couldn't pay and didn't want more debt, I'm only starting now because I've been blessed to get a seminary that will significantly help me afford school.

Even with two jobs, I couldn't fully support a family on my own. Why is it wrong for a pastor to be paid a reasonable salary to provide enough, albeit modestly, for his family?

The problem isn't pastors and churches with buildings, it is the false teachings of some of them.

Ive been in ministry now for four years and have never made more than 30k in a year for working between 40-70 hours a week. One church laid me off because I wasn't only about growing a large youth group but rather wanted to focus on discipleship and gospel-centered teaching.

There are many pastors way too caught up with money,influence,power etc.... But that doesn't mean that a church that grows is unbiblical, that a pastor who is paid a salary is sinning or even if a pastor writes a book and makes some money off it is wrong. Those CAN be bad but they aren't inherently bad all the time.