"...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

Monday, February 28, 2011

Crybaby Pastors Part 1: Thom Rainer Issues Call to Church Members to Deal With Critics

According to Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, criticism of pastors is harming the Great Commission. Yes, pastors trying to win the world to Jesus are being thwarted by criticism, and it must be stopped for Jesus' sake.

You can read Rainer's blog posts here and here where he discusses the curse of criticism. One of them was published at Baptist Press here. Some excellent analysis of Rainer's post has been written by SBC pastor William Thornton here.

Rainer says criticism leaves pastors with "little energy to do anything else" when they have to suffer through criticism. Poor babies. One commentor on Rainer's blog, an anonymous pastor named "Bob Smith", says he is ready to quit the ministry because: "Well, I average one criticism a day, over 300 a year. It's wearing me out." I did the math, and he's right, one criticism a day is over 300 in a year. How DO they bear such a heavy burden? I think I passed the 300 mark on January 5th, and that's just from my teenagers.

According to Rainer what makes a good church member - and one who is a true Christian - is one who doesn't ask questions and doesn't ever complain. In Rainer's view, "undoubtedly many of the worst critics are not true followers of Christ." He gives no criteria as to what makes a "worst critic" - but he knows enough of the mind of God to say that they are not true Christians. How arrogant. How cultish.

Who are the good church members, according to Rainer? Well, they obviously don't complain, and if you want to be a really good soldier for the Lord, Rainer says you will help to silence these critics. Says Rainer: "The time has come for church members to speak up. Too much is at stake. It is truly a sin to remain silent when it is our God-given responsibility to confront those who ultimately would hinder the spread of the gospel with the poison of their words."

Rainer is out in leftfield on this - anyone that has spent time in Southern Baptist churches knows the level of opposition they will face if they ever call into question the actions or decisions of their pastor. Even when it comes to serious charges like sexual abuse - the pastor is often defended and protected by those around him while those who raise the charges are shunned and berated or slandered. The culture in most SBC churches is that asking questions and rocking the boat is a sign of spiritual immaturity and rebellion.

It is somewhat ironic to hear a preacher like Rainer complaining about critical church members, because pastors themselves are pretty good at criticizing from the pulpit other preachers they disagree with. And it is well-known how poorly some senior pastors treat ministers they have no use for in their ministry, firing them and forcing them to sign a non-disclosure agreement while telling the church "God called them somewhere else" - and yet they have thin-skin themselves when it comes to criticisms cast their way.

And unbelievably, Rainer is calling for church members to rise up and "confront" complainers. He says that there must be a formal or informal system in the churches to "confront the nagging naysayers." Notice the terminology. Rainer moves from "worst critic" to now it is the "naysayers" who must be confronted. A "naysayer" is one who doesn't go along, who rocks the boat, who doesn't get on board with the pastor's vision. This is what Rainer's beef is really about. Specially-anointed pastors sent by God Himself as God's gift to the church, who don't want their leadership, their "vision" for the church, to be questioned by some pipsqueak church member.

Well, newsflash to Rainer: FBC Jax tried what he is suggesting, to deal with me, one of those "nagging naysayers". While it did get rid of the nagging naysayer, the process they used created a huge mess and embarrassment for their church as well as a legal mess for the city of Jacksonville.

And when Rainer urges church members to "confront" complainers, I just couldn't help but think of Mac Brunson's infamous "shut 'em down" quote in the pulpit just a few days before the President of the Trustees stood in a special business meeting on 2/25/09 to read his "Deacon's Resolution 2009-1", which included this quote:

"And whereas it is the belief and expression of the deacons herein that division, strife, and discord caused to church members and unjust criticism and ridicule of the ministry, staff, leadership, pastor, and people expressed to the general public at large in any form and by any means by any member of the church should be viewed as an attack against the Lord's church contrary to scriptural truth and confronted aggressively in accordance with Scripture and the disciplinary provisions of the bylaws of the church."

Yep, FBC Jax has already declared that unjust criticism and ridicule, is "an attack against the Lord's church", and should be "confronted aggressively".

See, you're a little late to the game, Thom. FBC Jax is "cutting edge", and they already laid out the path you are suggesting and they executed it masterfully in 2008 and 2009.

Stay tuned Wednesday for Part 2: A naysayer's advice to crybaby pastors.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Candidates Own Words - And Words of Their Pastor - Can Cause Political Trouble

Mike Hogan, a candidate for mayor in Jacksonville, is in hot water again this week for a joke made about bombing abortion clinics at a mayoral debate Monday.

Apparently when the topic of abortion was raised in Monday's debate, Hogan declared his pro-life views, then stated that the only thing he wouldn't do to oppose abortion would be to bomb abortion clinics, but added "...but it may cross my mind".

Ouch. An attempt at humor, or an attempt to show his absolute disdain for abortion. But really it is a foot-in-mouth comment that achieved nothing but to give fuel to his opposition making his victory that much more difficult. Articles are in the local news outlets here and here and here and the comment streams are running wild.

But again, this points to another example of how these sort of things make it difficult for evangelicals to get elected by the general population, especially a member at FBC Jacksonville as Hogan is.

Hogan is not the first member of First Baptist Jacksonville to make a serious run to be elected mayor of Jacksonville. Back in 1987, FBC Jax member John Lewis ran for mayor against Tommy Hazouri. As reported by the AP back in 1987, Lewis actually made Hazouri's ancestry an issue, saying Hazouri could not be elected because he is an "Arab" (Hazouri is actually of Lebanese descent). Hazouri called Lewis "John the Baptist" and claimed Lewis would not be able to bring the community together and would be a divider.

John Lewis' pastor, Homer Lindsay, Jr., created a controversy during the campaign. In 1987, Homer Lindsay, Jr. sent a letter to First Baptist Jacksonville members saying that Lewis was a "real Christian", implying of course that Hazouri, a Presbyterian, was not a real Christian. This outraged the Hazouri campaign, and it became a hot campaign topic. Hazouri ultimately beat Lewis, and Lindsay later regretted sending that letter.

While candidates who are members of a mega church like FBC Jax have some advantages as written about here in this 2001 Times Union article, Hogan's membership at FBC Jax could still be a campaign issue especially if he is in a run-off election when the gloves would really come off.

While Hogan won't have to deal with letters from his pastor declaring him to be the "real Christian", there have been teachings emanating from the FBC Jax pulpit that may causes voters concern. And I'm not speaking of theological teachings - but teachings about how people of other faith are viewed and about economic issues - that may have an impact on how a candidate would govern. On top of Hogan's abortion clinic bombing comment, and his embarrassing logic used at a sentencing hearing to claim the innocence of a youth pastor convicted of child pornography, here are some other tough questions raised by his affiliation with FBC Jax:

- Hogan's pastor Mac Brunson has said on multiple occasions (most recently here in October 2010 and before that in 2008), that our economic recession is the judgment of God on our country for disobedient Christians who won't tithe 10% of their income to their church. Does Hogan agree with this nonsense?

- Hogan's pastor has said that if church members don't tithe, that "God collects", and God will take the money from them through misfortune, so they had better tithe. Does Hogan agree with this?

- Hogan's other pastor Jim Smyrl - who was just recently promoted to "Teaching Pastor" at FBC Jax - has claimed that Catholics are "living and believing a lie" as Catholics, and FBC Jax members must try to befriend Catholics to convert them. Does Hogan agree with his Teaching Pastor?

- Hogan's Teaching Pastor Jim Smyrl wrote a series of articles making the case that Catholicism is a "cult". Smryl has referred to a Catholic priest as a "cult leader", and lumped Catholics in with other Christian cults such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and other non-Christian religions. Does Hogan view Catholics as cult members and priests as cult leaders?

- Hogan's Teaching Pastor Jim Smyrl expressed alarm over the Islamic Center simply painting their worship domes, declaring Muslims must be converted else "..your grandchildren are going to come under Muslim law if you keep silent." Does Hogan view Muslims in our community as a threat, and if not converted will put us under Muslim law?

- Just a few weeks after Obama was elected, in November 2008 Hogan's Teaching Pastor Jim Smyrl wrote an article on their church blog entitled "Voting Yourself Out of Fellowship" characterizing Obama voters as voting for the "continuous murder of the unborn", and need to repent of their sin for voting for Obama to be restored to full Christian fellowship. Does Hogan view voters in Jacksonville who cast a vote for Obama as having committed a sin, and Obama voters needing to repent of their sin to be restored to full Christian fellowship?

These are extreme views that certainly most Christians don't agree with - and views that would have non-Christians just as concerned about as voters were about the views of Obama's pastor Jeremiah Wright during the 2008 presidential election.

To ask Hogan whether he agrees with these views of the top two men at FBC Jax - his Senior Pastor and Teaching Pastor - are reasonable questions, and questions he is likely to face if he gets into a run-off election, which is entirely possible.

I hope Hogan doesn't agree with any of the above teachings at his church. If he does, I wouldn't vote for him, as I don't think one can be a mayor of a large city and view Catholic priests as cult leaders, Democratic Obama voters as sinners not worthy of Christian fellowship, or that economic difficulty is a judgement of God for non-tithing Christians. There are other conservative candidates from which to choose.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Favorite Videos From FBC Jax

Below are some YouTube clips of music from FBC Jax. Most of these, if not all, are from the Pastor's Conference.

Chip Dorton - "Heaven" - 2003




Chip Dorton and Trio - "Farther Along - 2003"



Chip Dorton - "The Old Rugged Cross" - 2003



Babi Mason and Chip Dorton - "In All of His Glory" - 2003



Chip Dorton - "In Christ Alone" - 1999



Chip Dorton - "He Looked Beyond My Fault" - 2001

Friday, February 18, 2011

Jacksonville Pastor Stovall Weems Joins Ed Young and Produces His Own Rap Video

Jacksonville pastor Stovall Weems, pastor of Celebration Church (which is a member of ARC - Association of Related Churches) put up a rap video wishing a sister church in Arkansas and their pastor a happy 10th anniversary.

All in fun, I suppose, but a little creepy to watch a grown man, a pastor, immitate rappers in a video. But church members seem to love it! They are a growing church with multiple campuses, and if their website is correct, FBC Jax is no longer the biggest church in town. Celebration says they have 10 campuses and over 12,000 people in attendance.

So, who has more raw rapping talent, Ed Young or Stovall Weems? I am not sure, but I am waiting for a rap video from Steve Gaines, Mac Brunson, or perhaps even from Robert Jeffress.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bob Allen at Associated Baptist Press Writes Article on Mohler's "Save Them From Their Ignorance" Sermon

I think Mohler's comments on pastors' God-appointed role in saving people from ignorance, and his statements that most people "don't know enough" to be faithful Christians and need pastors to continually inform them, are worthy of more analysis and reporting than on a baptist blog.

Glad to see that Bob Allen at the Associated Baptist Press agrees.

Bob Allen over at Associated Baptist Press has run an article today at their website highlighting Al Mohler's FBC Jax Pastor's Conference sermon declaring how pastors are God's appointed agents to save all of us from our ignorance.

"Mohler: Preacher's burden to save flock from ignorance"- Bob Allen, ABP, 2/15/11

Bob Allen over the years that I've read the ABP and the BP since I started blogging, is by far the most objective baptist religion writer there is. Over the last 3 1/2 years since this blog began, Allen has not been afraid to write accurately about this blog, the sheriff's office investigation, the lawsuits, etc. - and he has written on situations at FBC Jax that were first reported on this blog in the earlier days of the blog. Perhaps this blog's article on Mohler's sermon caught Allen's eye and prompted him to write about it, but I can only speculate. And last year Allen wrote some of the most complete articles concerning the Ergun Caner saga and was not afraid to accurately explain the role that bloggers played.

While Allen actually reports what is going on in Baptist circles - fair and objective reporting - all we seem to get from Baptist Press and state convention run papers are articles that might cast a positive light on Baptist leaders.

Take for example our own "Florida Baptist Witness" - they tout themselves as the "newspaper of the Florida State Baptist Convention". But they don't report on most controversial issues, and in my view they are more of a mouthpiece for the religious leaders of the state convention than they are a "newspaper". The business editor and managing editor are John and Joni Hannigan, both members of FBC Jacksonville. If you look at the FBW Board of Directors, lo and behold you see that Brunson's wife, Debbie Brunson, is on the board.

So it is no surprise in the FBW that you won't see any articles about Mohler's sermon and his ridiculous statements about pastors and their appointedness to save us all from our eternal ignorance. In fact you won't read anything even slightly negative about First Baptist Church Jacksonville. Do a search on Mac Brunson or FBC Jax at the FBW site - no articles on the blogger fiasco that was on the front page of our paper or the ensuing legal action. No articles about Caner last year despite him being a close friend of Brunson and a regular speaker at FBC Jax since 2001. The Caner debacle was not a newsworthy event to Florida baptists? Or would have accurately reporting on it cast a negative light on FBC Jax because of the editors' pastor's and their church's close association with Caner?

Joni Hannigan published an FBW article last week - "Brunson's Jacksonville Pastor's Conference Conference Continues to Grow in Diversity" (congratulations to Mac and Trey, it is now "Brunson's conference") - which is a very lengthy article about how much of a smash success this year's pastor's conference was. Hannigan gives a blow by blow account of many of the speakers' sermons. Hannigan even gave the five sermon bullet points of Jimmy Scroggins' sermon from Sunday afternoon - now THAT is news! But she completely left off any mention or analysis of Mohler's sermon which was delivered right after Scroggins' and arguably Mohler was one of the keynote speakers. She did mention that Ergun Caner along with his brother Emir hosted the "student conference" at the pastor's conference.

So Baptists, be wary of the information you get - and that you don't get - from the Baptist Press and from your state convention news outlet that is probably run by the pastors in your state. It may look like "news", but I would characterize it more as a PR department for the views of those in power in your state convention.

Your best bet for news and analysis are the many blogs and reputable Christian news organizations. Use "Google Reader" to subscribe to the news feeds from your favorite blogs and news outlets, and get the content delivered to your browser.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Al Mohler: Pastors are "God-Appointed Agents to Save His People from Ignorance"

"...we believe that those who teach and preach the word of God are God-appointed agents to save God's people from ignorance." Al Mohler
------------

Al Mohler preached the Sunday night 1/30 sermon at the 2011 FBC Jax Pastor's Conference. The title of his sermon was "Endurance of the Christian Mind". Very good sermon from Romans about the importance of Christian intellect - as Mohler says "thinking precedes doing, knowing precedes action". He has some very interesting comments about what researchers are calling the prevalent religion in our culture: moralistic, therapeutic deism (MTD) the Mohler has written about in the past. You can click here to go watch the sermon and hear the music (see my comment at the end about the music).

But Mohler is preaching primarily to preachers at the conference, and when you hear preachers preaching to other preachers, you might expect to learn some things about how they view themselves and their profession and their role in Christianity - especially when it is one of their premier scholars doing the preaching.

In his summary at the end, Mohler offers three important "understandings" for the pastors on this matter of endurance of the Christian mind.

The first one on the list, and presumably the most important one is that the main way that God keeps Christian people from slipping into sin and ignorance is the preachers' sermons. He says:

"The main means by which God saves his people from ignorance is the preaching and teaching of the word of God. That's why a conference like this is so important. It's not just because we think of the pastorate as a profession set along side other professions so that we can gather together for a little professional encouragement to go out a be a little better at what we do.

No, we're here because we believe that those who teach and preach the word of God are God-appointed agents to save God's people from ignorance. "

This sort of thinking by one of the premier Christian thinkers in modern evangelicalism helps lay people like us understand why pastors view themselves as specially-anointed Christians, with extra insights into scripture because they have been assigned by God to holding an "office" that gives them special rule and authority over other Christians.

The premise: we lay folk are woefully ignorant and we tend to move toward ignorance, but the pastors, the "pastorate" - they are wise and anointed. We are stupid sheep, they are learned scholars whose feet we must sit at to fully understand the Bible and what it means to be a Christian.

I thought that the one time "pastor" was used in the New Testament in Ephesians 4:11 (where it is used in plural form, to indicate that it is not an office but a gift that multiple people in a church exercise) it meant "shepherd" - now I know it means "saver of the plebe from their own ignorance". Notice Mohler describes it as a "profession" - it never was intended as that in the Bible, as even Paul was not a professional pastor. Mohler even uses the word "pastorate" making "pastor" an office, and it just ain't so. It ain't even in da Greek.

But Mohler continues...

"So don't stand in the pulpit if you're not going to preach and teach the word of God. Life and death, heaven and hell, hang in the balance. "

Yes, to be in the pulpit and teach sound doctrine is important. But one of the problems in modern Christianity is that we tend to put TOO MUCH weight on the words of a guy in a robe or a suit (or a Hawaiian shirt) with a bible in his hand. No, heaven and hell don't hang in the balance when you're in the pulpit, pastor. Get over yourself and your sermons. The message should be to pastors: stop telling fantastic flowery stories of yourself and your life in the pulpit. Stop the exaggerations (Caner). Stop misusing scripture and stop brow-beating people into doing what you want from the pulpit - like giving money to build your building or support your ministry. Just teach the Bible, and be honest in the pulpit and don't lie and don't use your pulpit for your own selfish interests or to promote your family or your Holy Land trips or to go after your critics.

But Mohler ratchets it up...

"If you do not preach and teach the word of God, 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. "

Wow. Us lay folk, us church attenders - our very faithfulness, in fact our very eternal destiny hangs in the balance when a man gets in the pulpit to preach. He better preach the word of God "faithfully" - code word for the doctrine that Mohler and the baptists believe - or us common folk will all be unfaithful and some of us will go to hell. Or worse, we might all end up blogging, egads!

So it is quite apparent that these preachers believe that we really can't fully understand the Bible or function properly as Christians to the point we can grow, UNLESS we put ourselves under their "faithful preaching". Unbelievable. This just is not true, and it is not supported in any way in scripture.

But it doesn't stop there. Mohler continues:

"We ought to be yearning to get from sermon to sermon preaching with such vigor and such energy and such faithfullness and such convinction that the people who hear our preaching also can't wait to get back sermon from sermon to sermon. God's people are those who recognize THEY CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT THIS! "

Ironically, God's people are those who are in increasing numbers realizing they CAN live without "this", - the preacher's sermons and bible interpretations and brow-beatings and in some cases spiritual abuse. Many church members are leaving churches with pastors who hold to this view of themselves, and they are finding churches where the pastor is a humble shepherd. Many people are starting home churches where they meet with other believers who exercise their gifts of being pastors and teachers to help people live the Christian life. They realize they can live without forking over 10% of their income to a church system that exists primarily to pay professional ministers and to build and maintain buildings.

And you know what, Al Mohler? These people are not at all ignorant - and in fact they realize just how ignorant they had become in many ways in their churchianity and in their following of their pastor. They now can begin to grow by concentrating on what the bible says, and not what they were taught it says by their pastor.

I've said it before: if this is the thinking of typical SBC pastors and it is what they are learning about their profession at seminary - no wonder they are so absolutely frustrated and leave their profession in growing numbers. How hard it must be to love church members when they listen to your magical sermons and are still so woefully ignorant. No wonder they can't stand criticism and want "troublemakers" thrown out of church. No wonder they view themselves as the rulers in the church through whom God gives the vision and others must follow. No wonder they are incredibly frustrated when people don't obey and tithe.

Lastly, I want to say to the FBC Jax choir and orchestra and Jim Whitmire - some incredible music you provided to the pastors. Whitmire is doing a great job and FBC Jax choir and orchestra are in peak form. I especially recommend that WD readers go and listen to the duet performed by Baron Rice and Jonathan Welch just before Mohler's sermon entitled "My Heart Belongs to You". Rice sings the voice of God, Welch the voice of Adam. I've never heard that song, and these two young men who both grew up at FBC Jax, and the orchestra, did an incredible job.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Example of Why Non-Christians Have a Hard Time Voting for Committed Evangelical Christians

In today's Times Union, there is a story about Mike Hogan, one of the leading Republican candidates for the upcoming mayoral elections in Jacksonville. This story is an example of why so many non-Christians have trouble casting their vote for evangelical Christians.

First of all, let me say I like Mike Hogan and his policies and believe he is a fine man and I would have no trouble voting for him. Many of my Christian friends are very much supportive of his candidacy. We need more men like Hogan running for public office. He is a long-time member of First Baptist Church Jacksonville.

However, the paper reports today that back in 2007 he was a character witness at the sentencing hearing for a local youth pastor who was convicted by a 12-person jury for possession of child pornography.

That alone is not troubling. If he has facts about the defendant that should be weighed in the sentencing hearing, then by all means speak up, and Hogan did and good for him.

But the devil is in the details. If you read the transcript of his brief testimony given on behalf of Richard Sweat, former youth pastor at Lake Shore Baptist church convicted of possessing child pornography, Hogan wasn't just pleading for leniency based on Sweat's history, and he wasn't explaining the remorse that Sweat had expressed that should be considered by the judge.

No, Hogan instead testifed to Sweat's innocence. He said Sweat couldn't possibly have done what the jury found he did do. Despite not hearing any of the testimony at trial, Hogan said the 12-person jury had it wrong.

And I find his testimony troubling:

"Your Honor, I also served three years in the Florida legislature, eight years as a City Councilman, 15 years as director of singles at First Baptist Church and have worked with young people almost all my life in church work."

OK, so he lists his experience at FBC Jax as relevant in knowing about Richard Sweat.

"Your honor, the things that I’m about to share are stated without reservation, are the truth, and although from my heart are not clouded by my personal feelings for Richard."

He is about to tell the truth, from his heart, but not clouded at all by his personal feelings. So far so good.

"If I had any thought that Richard was guilty or any reservation whatsoever about his innocence, I would not be here today."

Wow, he knows Richard could not possibly be guilty. How did he know? Was he there for the trial to hear the evidence? No, he was not.

"I am aware of the findings of this court regarding Richard’s actions, and those findings trouble me greatly. However, they are so far out of character for this man as to be bizarre. It would be like taking a trip to the North Pole and never seeing any ice or snow."

OK, Richard Sweat downloading child porn is as impossible as not seeing snow on the North Pole. The jury's sentence would be bizzare, to suggest this man downloaded child porn. On what basis does Hogan make this assertion?

"Richard is a man and as such is flawed and he’s capable of making mistakes; however, there is no evidence in his past that speaks to these problems of which he’s been convicted of. And given the things he’s done and the positions that he’s been entrusted with, a problem such as this would have surfaced."

OK, so if he is downloading child porn, this problem would have "surfaced", and since it didn't surface, he couldn't be guilty? Say what? About as hard as Bob Gray's pedophilia was to surface over at Trinity, right? How could Bob Gray have been fondling boys and girls, certainly that would have surfaced years ago, right? This is about as ridiculous a statement as could be made - and he is making it in front of a judge who has presided over a jury trial where unanimously the man was found to be guilty.

"As I mentioned, I’ve known Richard for over 15 years. I met him through my son, Joshua. Joshua has always chosen friends of great character. His buddies that he’s made from childhood to this day are active in their community, served their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, are excellent fathers, and they’re always faithful and true friends. If I didn’t know Richard, Joshua’s recommendation alone would convince me of Richard’s innocence in this matter."

Oh my gosh. So because his son only chooses the best of friends, and all of his son's friends "serve their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ", that alone would be enough to convince him of the defendent's innocence, because he is the dad of one of his son's friends? Remember, he is in front of a judge saying this.

"I never remember a time that Richard wasn’t infectiously happy and possessed great energy. He reminded me of the story of the little boy who was whistling and singing while emptying a great barn filled with manure. When asked how he could be so happy he replied, Mister, there must be a pony in here somewhere. He was a real joy to be around. He loved doing things for his friends. He was unashamed of his love for and his commitment to his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The fact that he went into Christian ministry was not a surprise to anyone."

Why the reference to whistling through a manure barn? Is he somehow implying that the court proceedings or the trial, or the charges were a bunch of bull? OK, so the defendant was a happy, energetic, unashamed Christian committed to "his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ"? So therefore, he must be innocent? Complete rubbish, totally illogical. Embarrassing.

Prosecutor Ron Henry asked Hogan a few questions:

Henry asks: "Mr. Hogan, I appreciate your passion for the defendant, but I have some questions about whether or not you have any training as a psychologist or a psychiatrist?"

Hogan Answers: "No, sir, not at all."

Henry asks: "So, when you say that if he had done what the jury said he did it would have manifested itself in some way is not based on any clinical experience that you have as a psychologist or psychiatrist, is it?"

Hogan Answers: "I know leopards don’t change their spots."

Wow. He didn't answer the question. The obvious point of the prosector is that Hogan is completely unqualified to make a judgement on the matter of Sweat's capability to commit the crimes. But Hogan doesn't care, for HE KNOWS that "leopards don't change their spots"

A leopard doesn't change his spots, says Hogan.

This is the sort of illogical Christian thought that allows pedophiles to roam churches and hang out with kids and to move from church to church. It is precisely what attracts pedophiles and abusers TO churches, because they know that if they can perform as a happy-go-lucky, committed, sold-out-for-Jesus Christian, that even the smartest folk at the church will never suspect their motives and won't believe the victims.

And if they're caught, a pedophile can count on a Christian to argue their innocence or ask for leniency, because the defendent just loves Jesus so much.

I don't know if this will hurt Hogan's chances, as he is one of the front-runners. Probably not. But it is stories like this that cast a negative light on all evangelical Christians who seek political office.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Vines at Pastor's Conference: "Come Before Winter"

Jerry Vines was my pastor for about 16 years at FBC Jacksonville. My family and I have fond memories of those days sitting under the bible teaching of Jerry Vines and Homer Lindsay. We still remember the night Vines and his wife came to share a private dinner with us and our extended family back around 1999 or 2000.

Sunday morning at the 2011 FBC Jax Pastor's Conference, Vines delivered a sermon entitled "Come Before Winter" from 2 Tim 4. A wonderful sermon about the importance of acting now, today, to do things that need to be done - including apologizing to people you are to love, and doing things today for God that you know you should do. He demonstrates he really is a heart preacher as he speaks gently and lovingly to the Christian's heart.

Some personal thoughts on Vines:

- Vines still is, and always has been a happy preacher, comfortable in the pulpit. In the pulpit he delivers his Bible message clearly and plainly, contented to allow the Holy Spirit to fit the truths to the listeners. So many preachers today are showmen who are over-bearing as they are pre-occupied with playing the role of the Holy Spirit. Not Vines.

- Vines come across as a humble man when he preaches. He isn't preaching about himself or his family incessantly. He just sticks to the Bible, doesn't try to impress with too much Greek or history or trivia. Just Bible mostly, with relevant stories of application mixed with some humor. He never takes himself too seriously.

- Vines is not too big to say he is sorry. He stressed the importance in this sermon of apologizing to people you love before it is too late. He has some great words of wisdom for family members, parents, children, church members. In this sermon he expressed humility and love to the people of FBC Jax in a very sincere way, apologizing to anyone that he may have hurt or may have been cruel to when he was pastor here. And let me say, I know this is not just show. I know of Vines' willingness in being able to take the first step and deliver mercy and grace and love, even to someone who he feels has wronged HIM. "A gentle word turns away wrath", Proverbs 15:1. I have great love and respect for Vines in this regard.

- He isn't a whiner. So many of the mega church pastors today of the next generation are obsessed with criticism, or pointing out how rough it is to be a pastor. They want everyone to know "it ain't easy being me". This is not Vines. Vines never, ever took shots at his critics from the pulpit. Make no mistake, he had as many critics in his days at FBC Jax as any of the mega church pastors do today.

- There is an intangible aspect of preaching that is hard to put a finger on, as to why some preachers connect with their congregations allowing their messages to inspire their church members while other preachers' sermons just fall flat. Vines said it best when he described what is "heart" and "annointed" preaching in the last two chapters of his 1986 book on sermon delivery. Vines' and Lindsay's sermons were always from the heart, motivated not by trying to coerce people to agree with them or to twist people's arms to do what the pastor wants them to do - but rather motivated out of genuine love for Christians and for Christ and Christ's mission. It was annointed preaching, in that they preached the Bible and the sermons spoke to the young and old alike, the saved and unsaved, the mature Christan and the new convert. Thank God for heart and annointed preaching, which seems to be in short supply in these days of mega celebrity preachers.

I've been tough on Vines over the past few years - but I still have great respect for him and have fond memories of our time at FBC Jax when he was our pastor. I am grateful for his preaching ministry at FBC Jax as we raised our family there until late 2008.

Great sermon, recommend that Watchdog readers watch it at the FBC Jax website.

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Other related Watchdog posts:

"Heart and Annointed Preaching" - November 21, 2008

"Let Me Show You How We Grew a Church, Boys" - February 9th, 2009

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Prosectuor Says Church Engaged in 10-Year Obstruction of Justice in Church Abuse Case - Judge Denies Bail to Accused

"The worry is an obstruction of justice. I don’t have to just guess at that," Villella said. "I know that from the last 10 years, which has been nothing but an obstruction of justice."

Those are the words of prosecutor Jessica Villella who successfully argued in front of Judge Adrian Soud Friday that the two men at the Greater Refuge Temple accused of molesting and raping teens at the church should not be released on bail. She says her investigation has shown that the victims were prevented from going to authorities by a rigid church culture. Read the report from the Times Union article:

"Assistant State Attorney Jessica Villella told Soud her investigation revealed the youths had been trying to come forward but were silenced by the church and even their own parents. One of the mothers testified on behalf of Groover during a previous hearing....[Prosector] Villella countered that the close-knit culture of the church stonewalled the investigation."

Who showed up at the hearing arguing for the accused - both relatives of their beloved pastor - to be released on bail? Why 20 church members, of course.

How sad that now we need prosecutors and judges to protect victims of sexual crimes from their own church! I thought the church was supposed to be the one institution above all that protects the innocent and broken and defenseless. Christa Brown has documented the same circumstances before where churches protect the accused minister or church member, and then blame the victim, and even work against authorities who investigate.

This church seems to have hit the abuse trifecta: they successfully kept the victims from going to the authorities as it took an anonymous church member to contact the police and open an investigation. Once the police were involved the prosecutor says the church worked to stonewall the investigation...and now they have argued for the men who may very well be a threat to the victims - to be released on bail.

And I'm sure they'll all be singing "Oh, How I Love Jesus" this Sunday and will drop their tithe in the offering plate.

Kudos to you, Judge Adrian Soud, for protecting our children in this city by keeping these men in jail, and thank you Assistant State Attorney Villella for speaking the truth and doing the hard work of battling religous zealots.

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Pastor's Perspective on FBC Jax Pastor's Conference 2011

Readers: below is an article written by Jeff Haney, pastor of Pinecrest Baptist Church in Corinth, MS. Jeff authors the blog "Change Worth Making". From time to time Jeff posts here on this blog, and he has posted some articles on tithing and other issues that we have discussed here.

Jeff has written about his trip to Jacksonville for the Pastor's Conference, and below is his "wrap up" article summarizing some of the highlights, and he shares some interesting insights about FBC Jax and the conference as compared to years past. Of particular interest are the last two paragraphs, which I've highlighted in blue. He wrote an article prior to the one below, which is here, if you're interested, and then another one back in November 2010 as he was looking forward to the conference.

Apparently the 2011 FBC Jax Pastor's Conference was the most photographed Christian event in history; click here and you can go see nearly 400 photos of the event. The auditorium renovations look very nice, although they could have gone with less photos of Chuck Kelly, and could have shared a few shots of Ergun Caner. Would have liked to see a shot of James Merritt as be blasted anonymous church critics as he stared into the camera. Vines had that duty back in 2007 to talk about the evils of anonymous emails - looks like it was Merritt's turn in 2011. It worked, as this small church preacher, Jeff Haney, really liked Merritt's "brazenness" and "boldness" in taking on church critics. Did Merritt throw in a "shut 'em down?", and did he do a few stomps?

Also, it's been about a week since my last post, as I have taken a bit of a break but have much, much more to write about that I know you will be interested in as I resume a more normal blogging pattern next week.

Here is Jeff's article:

I rarely like the assumption that all pastors are discouraged and need to be propped up by those who have the appearances of greater successes. I will admit that my first impression of the theme of the conference was less than an "oh boy." Even among the “vintage” years of my attendance, and the highest times of my spirit I have always disliked the underlying tones that come from "big preachers" reminding "small preachers" that we’re all the same "preachers." I have always thought, "we know that" but apparently they don’t. Sometimes it’s not the little known preachers that need to know there’s no difference in small church pastors, and large church pastors. Sometimes it’s the other way around. If I had one "tone" about this conference that I’ve never liked that’s it.

However, it was a pleasant surprise to me that even with the theme of Endurance, I did not sense this tone this year to the same degree that I have in years past. It did have moments that I still heard it, but I have become oversensitized to it and may have heard signals no one was really sending.

I must give credit where credit is due. I stand in stark opposition to Al Mohler on the issues of Calvinism. I will say from this day until the last day that the teaching of Limited Atonement, is an inright, outright, upright, downright Heresy with a capital H. And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2. Now that being said, Mohler hit a home run. My heart was touched and my spirit was saying amen, as he addressed the issues of God’s people having a lack of knowledge in our day and age. His call for a revival of Biblical knowledge among our people is past due, and under emphasized. His message Sunday night was the best that I personally have heard him preach.

I had never heard Jim Shaddix preach prior to this conference. I am glad that I did. To finally put a pastor on stage who is honest about the less than explosive growth in his church was suprisingly and wonderfully refreshing. The Lord is blessing our church, people are getting saved, numerically we are increasing, spiritually we are growing,but the roof is still on, and the doors haven’t come loose yet. Our people have the same desire for growth (deep and wide) as any other church that the Lord has, but the results have not been as earth shattering as we would like. For Shaddix to preach from the standpoint of someone whose church is not booming, and being honest about it, and approaching it from a scriptural point of view, refreshed my mind and recharged my stamina, and for that I am grateful.

As always Paige Patterson and David Allen, two of my favorites, were surgical with the texts, and dynamite in their message.

James Merritt deserves the "Kiss My Grits" award! Addressing the issue of anonymous "writing", and "people writing about their pastor" in the face of Mac’s friends and nemies, took more grits than Granny Clampett could conjure up. I was, to say the least, impressed with his brazenness, as he rather boldly took up the issue and looked the camera in the the eye and the crowd in the face. What he said was true to the Word of God, and he would not back up one inch.

My heart hurts for the people of FBCJax. The crowd being significantly smaller than years past, and the children’s choirs 1/2 of what they used to be, cannot be easy for those precious people. I did not see Jim Smyrl, Fran Hawk, or the gentleman with the "rock crosses," and I looked. I may just have missed them. I did see Robert Jones, Andy Anderson, Al Broyles, and some of the other ushers that we have grown accustomed to shaking hands with when we enter.

The choir and orchestra is still out of this world, and worth every accolade that comes their way.

What other course people and pastors may choose, I know not, but as for me and Pinecrest, we will serve the Lord, and I will pray for those people. Doing so would definitely be a change worth making.