"...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

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"High Capacity People"...A Church "Generosity Consultant" Explains How to Go After Them

Part of what I want to do in the coming posts is to help the average pew sitter see what is going on "behind the scenes" in modern Christianity regarding the tactics churches are using to raise revenue.

We will be looking at some trends of church marketing and fund raising. Church members should be aware of how their money that they are giving to the church for ministry, is actually being used to hire church marketers and consultants, to come up with ways to get MORE money from them, and to target those who have money to give.

Let's start things off by looking at a 6-minute video produced by Jim Sheppard, the CEO of a consulting firm named "Generis". I found this video at the blog of one of their former consultants, Ben Stroup. Ben has recently left Generis, but Ben was one of the few people in evangelical Christianity that actually defended Ed Young's classic tithing sermon from last October. Go here to read his defense of Ed Young's tithing sermon.

Back to Jim's video: Jim produced the video below for an event called "The Nines" last October, where 100 leaders gave 6-minute talks on the Internet to help church pastors. In the promo for this event you'll see some of the big names that spoke - included are Perry Noble and Steven Furtick. In his video, Jim explains to church leaders how they need to develop strategies for going after the very wealthy in their community, who he calls "the high capacity people".



Here are some quotes from the video:

"...I've chosen one [strategy] that's simple...it's right under your nose. In fact my only fear is that it is so simple and maybe so obvious that you might not see the great potential that lies in it. The reason I chose it is that hardly any churches are doing it. And for the few that are, it is a game changer, I mean a TOTAL game changer. So here it is: I call it unleash. Simply put, it is releasing the full potential of the high capacity people God has placed in your church."

He then goes on to make some valid points about how the "high capacity" people can be a valuable resource to the church in more ways than just financial.

Then he does give a disclaimer:

"Now...first and foremost, let me make one thing clear. This is not a money ploy. Though these people are probably among the most financially blessed in your church. This is not about reaching them for their money."

Gee, if you have to say "this is not a money ploy", it just might be.

But he gets to a point where he asks the question:

"First you have to find them. This is pretty easy, some think it's tough, but it's pretty easy. Most have already identified themselves by; who they are in the community and in other places - at work , at school, wherever it is. You can find them. A few are hiding, but most of them are fairly obvious."

OK, so we have to find the wealthy. It's easy. Some are hiding. How do we find these people? They're everywhere! If you're a mega church pastor, they're probably your neighbors!! Once we find these successful rich people, what should the pastor do?

"Once you find them, you have to create environments and opportunities where you can build relationships with them. It might be a dinner gathering, or a dessert fellowship or something like that. Make it fun, make it casual. Don't let the group get too large."

He is advocating the pastor build relationships with them. But be be careful pastor, don't let your group of rich people get too large! Create environments to get the wealthy to come have dinner and ice cream. Where? At Ruth's Chris?

"If you happen to be one of those churches that has too many of them - and by the way that is a really good problem to have - break 'em up into several smaller gatherings. Get them together periodically. Not too often, but just often enough."

It is a good "problem" to have too many wealthy - yes, much better to have that problem than the problem of too many poor slobs.

And of course, you need to get their input as you "cast vision":

"Use this time to cast vision, to recast vision, if you've already cast vision, to build trust with them, to enhance relationships. Let them see the ministry from the senior pastor's cockpit, to give them a glimpse of where you believe God is leading your church."

The term "casting vision" is very popular among the emergent churches, a term that describes what a pastor does after God directly gives him a vision as to where the church should go. A pastor receives this vision directly from God, then "casts" it to the people who then will fund it and support it as God's will. To question or express dissent from the pastor's vision is to speak against God.

"Most importantly, create opportunities where you can listen to them. Especially when you're about to embark on a new initiative, or cast some kind of a new vision, type of thing."

I know this man means well. And I agree, successful business men and women can be a great asset to a church. And yes, rich people need to hear the gospel. Of course.

But does the Bible teach that the wealthy in your community should be targeted by the pastor, they need to be found and courted at special events? And does the Bible teach that the pastor needs to give a special ear to people of great worldly success?

Do people who are very wealthy and successful have more valuable insights for the direction of the church than do those who are of very modest means, that have proven through decades of service at their church that they are very wise and humble?

I have to disagree with Jim on the premise of his video: the problem in mega churches today is not that they are not listening enough to those who are successful in the world, THEY ARE LISTENING TOO MUCH. They are hiring marketing firms (like Jim's) to tell them what to preach and how to get more money out of the people's pockets.

I think a more valuable message to mega pastors might be something like: stop listening so much to the very wealthy hot shots in your congregation. Stop wining and dining with the wealthy. You might want to try rubbing elbows with the people of very modest means in your church and seek THEIR counsel before you "cast vision".

Perhaps pastors should get more advice from those that are "high capacity" in the areas of love, grace, mercy, compassion, steadfastness, etc....than focusing on those who are "high capacity" in the areas of money and worldly success.

What do you think?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Why So Few Tithers? Perhaps They Accepted a "False Gospel" and Didn't Count the Cost

In the coming weeks we're going to be looking again at some recent church marketing trends regarding church giving and the tithing doctrine.

Having understood clearly that the Bible does not require tithing 10% of one's income as the dividing line between Christian obedience and disobedience, yet so many preachers DO teach this false doctrine, I have struggled with the answer to this question:

Do these preachers who teach the 10% tithe as a requirement KNOW that the tithe is not required yet do it out of pragmatism thinking they must to maintain revenue streams, OR, do they really believe it?

I have come to the conclusion that the former is most often the case, and I we will pursue the reason for this in the weeks ahead on this blog.

Just as I struggle to understand how preachers still teach this doctrine when it is clear that it is not biblical to tell Christians they will not be blessed, or they are "robbing God" when they don't fork over 10% to their church, I'm sure pastors who teach this doctrine struggle with the answer to this question:

"If I and other preachers are teaching Christians in our churches that the tithe is binding on Christians, and to not tithe hurts the cause of their Savior and causes God to curse them, why do so few (less than 10%) obey and tithe to their church? Why are 90% of professing Christians disobedient in this important area that is hurting the funding of the gospel?"

I think I have the answer: most people in the pews have been converted by being presented a "false gospel".

If the tithe is binding on Christians, if failing to tithe causes God to curse you as a believer, if Christians not tithing causes God to unleash his wrath on a nation of non-tithers, if not tithing causes our marriages to fail and our kids to be rotten because we are living in stolen houses and driving stolen cars, then here is the question:

Why then, is tithing not part of the modern gospel message?

Is it not disingenuous to tell someone that God has a wonderful plan for your life if you will just ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins, ask Jesus to come in to your heart, and you are going to heaven....but AFTER they pray the prayer, and AFTER they get baptized, you add some requirements to that message and now tell them, "oh, by the way, if you want to be blessed and not cursed, IF you want to have a successful marriage, if you don't want to be a modern day Christian thief, you have to give 10% of your income...and you have to give it to the church. It's required, it's in the Bible."

Why not tell people that up front when witnessing? It wouldn't be hard. Throw Malachi 3:10 at the end of the Roman's Road and gently explain that as a non-believer you have been robbing God of your life and of your resources, and by giving your life to Jesus you also are committing to give at least 10% of your income to your church - and in return, God will "open the windows of heaven" as a Christian. Why wait in explaining that? It is not a deep theological concept that must wait. Shouldn't people be able to "count the cost" before committing to Jesus? Most sinners know how to move a decimal point. Even little kids understand the 10 cents on the dollar concept.

Let's face it: the tithing doctrine has become a modern day Christian "bait and switch"...lure people into getting saved and joining your church by telling them that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives if only they will accept Jesus. We tell people: "all you have to do is pray this prayer, walk an aisle, and you are saved." Even baptism is not required, we say, it is just symbolic. Just believe, and you are saved.

But after they are saved, the tithing preachers change the message: you will suffer at the hands of God if you don't give 10%. You're robbing God, you're greedy, you're harming the gospel, you're causing God to bring wrath on our nation.

So tithe-teaching preachers - at least be intellectually honest - and mention the tithe in your gospel presentations. Stop lying when you say "God doesn't want your money, He wants you." That is not true, according to you, God wants at least 10% of their cash flow to be delivered to your church, so tell them that UP FRONT.

Tithe-believing evangelists and soul-winning Christians: tell the people you are witnessing to about this tithe requirement so people can count the cost of following Jesus. Then, and only then, will we see a rise in the percentage of tithers - as we weed out those looking for a free trip to heaven, and convert those who are truly willing to commit their all (and 10% of their finances) to Jesus. Percentages of tithers will go up as people are given the opportunity to count the true cost of following Jesus, and many decide Jesus is not for them because they can't afford a 10% tithe to the local 501(c)3 religious organization.

After all, could Jesus not have been any clearer about "counting the cost" in Luke 14?

"And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it." Luke 14:27-28 (NKJV)

Friday, March 25, 2011

"Forgiveness" is the New F-Word in Church

Whether you like this or not, you have to give the guy credit for beating the emergent church guys to the punch with this. The folks at NewSpring (Perry Noble) and Elevation Church (Furtick) - and maybe even Fellowship Church - would have loved to have their preacher pull this one!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Paige Patterson Crosses One Off the Ol' "Bucket List", and Does Striptease Act in Chapel

Yes, Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) does a striptease act in chapel on 3/23/11, complete with music accompaniment and cat calls, one I'm sure the Mrs. has seen many times before. Hilarious.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Criticisms of Vance Pitman Offered Up By Tim Rogers

Readers: my apologies. I didn't read Rogers' article close enough. I was too kind. The issue was NOT that Pitman invited TD Jakes, and that TD Jakes might be a modalist. The sin of Pitman was that he invited Jakes' MUSIC MAN to participate in leading of worship. So it is a sin to have Jakes, AND a sin to have Jakes' music man. Is it also a sin to hire TD Jakes' music man's caterer? What if I am driving the same kind of car that TD Jakes music man's caterer is driving?
And it is not that Pitman was seen at a table with a cup that might have wine...it is that one of the speakers Pitman invited was once photographed at a table where there might be wine. What if TD Jakes' music man's caterer was once photographed at a table with wine?
I have made editorial changes below to correct my oversights.
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Stop the presses. We've covered crybaby pastors here on this blog, pastors who can't stand criticism, that complain how criticism from their congregants keeps them from doing God's will. One pastor said he can hardly go on, as he gets a criticism a day, and he correctly did the math and said it is "...over 300 a year."

So I can't help but smile when I read North Carolina pastor Tim Rogers' blog post openly criticizing another conservative SBC pastor, Vance Pitman (shown at left), for his decisions as the president of the 2011 SBC Pastor's Conference.

What did Pitman do to deserve Tim's criticism? Did he harbor a pedophile on staff? Did he cheat on his wife? Did he openly slander a church member? What did he do that has caused Rogers to write a long article criticizing everything from his church's giving to what he drinks for dinner?

Did Pitman lie and mislead congregations for a decade about his past, giving false stories of his childhood to make himself more marketable on the preaching circuit and book market?

You can read Rogers' article yourself, but let me summarize and simplify for those who don't want to bother, what are Tim's gripes with Pitman:

1. Pitman gave an interview to the "wrong" newspaper. Yep, Pitman dared to give an interview to the Associated Baptist Press to address his critics. Pitman has been criticized by a number of pastors, and Pitman did the right thing and actually tried to answer his critics by giving an interview that would be widely reported to Baptists. But according to Rogers it was the "wrong" news outlet. The ABP is a bunch of liberals, or at least started by liberals says Rogers, so Pitman should not have given the interview to THEM. Rogers mockingly strikes the word "news" in front of "agency" when describing the ABP. Seriously, what other profession besides "pastor" features graduate and Ph.D. level, supposed men of intelligence, making these arguments against each other?

2. Pitman is inviting the "wrong" guys to speak at the SBC Pastor's Conference. Pitman invited the music man of T.D. Jakes, who some say is a "modalist". (Not that he invited TD Jakes, but TD Jakes' music man). He invited Jon Piper, a Calvinist. He invited Rick Warren who is something else. The writer of the ABP article brought up the issue of race given that T.D. Jakes is black, and Rogers actually criticizes Pitman because he "let that stand". Nowhere in the article is Pitman quoted on the racial issue, but Rogers decided to hang that around Pitman's neck. That is not fair.

3. Pitman invited a speaker who was seen at a table somewhere with a glass that looks like it might have wine in it. Yes, Rogers links to a picture of some men at a table, one of whom apparently Darrin Patrick, where there are beverages on the table. I've posted it here at right. One of the men is Patrick - a speaker invited by Pitman - and according to Rogers, one of the glasses has wine in it. Could be tea, but it looks too much like wine for safety's sake. Egads, Patrick either consumed an alcoholic beverage that night, or he was at a table where one was consumed. Get the pitchforks.

4. Pitman's church doesn't give enough money to the SBC. It always comes down to money. Pitman's church only gave $61,000 to the SBC missions' fund (the Cooperative Program). Rogers cites the inequity of the $61,000 from Pitman's church and the $148,000 of SBC money going to the Pastor's Conference Pitman is leading. Holy cow, Rogers and his cohorts ELECTED Pitman to lead the conference, and now Rogers' is criticizing the giving of Pitman's church?

I realize some WD readers will agree with some of Rogers' criticisms of Pitman. But even if his open criticism, which I think much of it is unfair and unjust (and even illogical) is valid, why is he hurting the cause of Christ in this way? Rainer said it, this kind of criticism of pastors is "the Great Distraction", it is used by Satan to keep the man of God from doing God's will and is harmful to the cause of Christ. And if Rogers doesn't like his convention, why doesn't he just leave or choose not to attend, instead of criticizing one of it's leaders? Or is he jealous? These are all arguments preachers use against lay people who criticize their pastor.

Here is the unbelievable part of this: Tim Rogers never once spoke out criticizing Ergun Caner last year. He even had Ergun Caner in to preach to his church recently.

So while Tim writes long articles criticizing a pastor who speaks to the wrong news outlet, and invites a pastor to speak who appears in a picture with a glass of wine and whose churches give only $62,000 to missions, Rogers is completely silent, and in fact is openly supportive of...a pastor who misled congregations for nearly a decade with a false story of his past - who still to this day has not apologized to the many Christians he has wronged.

Which is worse: Pitman inviting a man who had a picture taken at a table with wine, or Rogers himself inviting a man to speak at his church who perpetrated a decade of deceit on evangelicals telling tall tales of his past to make himself into something he was not?

That is what we have for leadership in the SBC these days.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

SBC Pastor Admits: Satellite Churches and Church Plants Target the Rich, Increase SBC Bureaucracy

"I predict that you won't soon see the following multi-campus sites opening: Fellowship Church Wilmer-Hutchins Campus, Saddleback Watts Campus, NorthPoint Community Church Bankhead Campus, or Second Baptist Houston Third-Ward Campus. The multi-site movement and the preponderance of domestic SBC church planting is focused like a laser upon those areas where people with lots of money live in church-friendly cultures—places where it is easy to fill a church with rich people." Bart Barber, Pastor FBC Farmersville (TX)

Not often that you hear harsh words of criticism from a SBC pastor directed at significant initiatives within the SBC, but pastor Bart Barber spoke truth in his blog post from last November in which he criticized the trend toward multi-campus (i.e. "satellite") churches and "church plants" in areas already served by SBC churches .

Barber claims these plants and satellites are predominantly targeting those who have money, in areas already served by SBC churches. As he says in the quote above, you won't see satellite churches in the slums around the megas, but in the wealthy neighborhoods. FBC Jax is a prime example. Where was their first satellite? In Ponte Vedra, the wealthiest part of Jacksonville, in an area already served by several Southern Baptist churches.

And please don't dismiss Barber as someone who doesn't know what he is talking about with regard to SBC trends. He is a church historian, a Ph.D. graduate, adjunct faculty and trustee at Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary, so he certainly knows his stuff.

And as Barber points out, as these satellites and church plants are funded in areas already saturated with Baptist churches, the SBC is simply adding to their bloated bureaucracy as each new church is adding additional overhead costs of buildings, utilities, high-priced ministers - when the ministry could be done by an existing church. Barber says these church plants have to be curtailed:
"If younger Southern Baptists are serious about getting resources out to where lostness is, then we will witness some stanching of the flow of young seminary graduates out to plant new churches throughout the Southland. If it is wrong for a local congregation to keep the preponderance of its money and if it is wrong for a state convention to keep the preponderance of its Cooperative Program receipts within a state, then it is equally wrong for seminary graduate after seminary graduate to cram their new church starts into wealthy Southern suburbs tighter than sardines in a can."
Interesting use of the word "stanching", used most often in terms of stopping loss of blood, or loss of vital resources. He is saying it is a waste of money given for missions, for the SBC to take funds and start churches in wealthy suburbs where there is already an SBC presence.

He goes further:
"If the Southern Baptist Convention's leaders are really serious about getting more resources out to reach the most lost areas of the world, they ought to reject entirely the notion of widespread church planting (apart perhaps from language work) within the strength areas of the SBC and labor hard to curtail it—and yet a steady stream among our seminary graduates eschew established churches and choose to create yet another local church bureaucracy in communities already served by multiple congregations, reducing with each new work the funding available to send to the nations."
That is not some disgruntled blogger saying that. This is Dr. Bart Barber, pastor and educator and historian in the SBC.

But why does the SBC do it? Well, from a pure marketing perspective, they are either very smart, or very stupid, and I'm not sure which it is. You see, what the SBC is doing is what marketers call "brand cannibalization". It has many facets, but cannibalization can occur when a firm opens new retail outlets that are located physically too close, and the two outlets end up competing for what are essentially the same "customers". Not a smart strategy, unless you're the pastor of the new outlet and can get help from the SBC to fund your new church, or if you're a megachurch pastor starting a satellite, and you plan on taking customers from the existing churches in that area.

But probably the truth is the SBC is willing to engage in some cannibalization as a means of what is called "brand extension", knowing the new church plant will reach a different market with a younger pastor. Perry Noble, who was trained at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, said recently he learned from Dr. Aiken that it is easier to give birth to something new, than to resurrect something that is already dead - thus it is better for a young pastor to start a new church than to resurrect an old one.

Given what Barber says, it is doubly sad to see the lengths pastors will go to justify to their congregations the concept of satellite brand extensions. I recall back in September 2008 when Mac Brunson made the ridiculous assertion that in Paul's day the church in Rome was a group of "satellite churches", in his attempt to sell the congregation on starting a satellite in Ponte Vedra. But more satellites can be expected from FBC Jax very soon as Brunson admitted in this recent interview, in a city that has a church on just about every corner.

So get ready Westside, or St. John's County, for more FBC Jax's. But something tells me there will not be any in Arlington or on Spring Park Road.

We need more pastors like Bart Barber willing to speak the truth on issues like this one.

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Blessed are the People When the Righteous Rule" Prays FBC Jax Pastor After Recognizing FBC Jax Candidates

Sunday morning was the day that the candidates who are members of FBC Jacksonville were recognized by their pastor during the church service, and a special prayer was made for God's will to be done in the election. (see the video below).

After recognizing the non-FBC Jax members present in the service who were running for office, and then recognizing candidates who are FBC Jax candidates, Mac Brunson prayed for the will of God in the elections:
"....the cries of this city go out, the injustice of this city comes up before you, the bias of this city comes up before you, the unfairness of things come up before you, Lord, you are a God of righteousness, and your word tells us that 'blessed are the people when the righteous rule'. So Lord, we pray for your will to be done in the elections in this city this coming week."
Apparently things are pretty bad in our city with all the "injustice", "bias" and "unfairness", and our city is in need of "the righteous" to be in charge. Strange, because our city government has quite a number of the "righteous" downtown in City Hall - at least four of the City Council members are members of FBC Jacksonville. And one could argue that some of the "unfairness" and "bias" over the past few years has been at the hands of public servants who are members at FBC Jax - can you say "Don Redman"?

The usual practice at FBC Jax in previous weeks leading up to the election has been for Jim Whitmire, the music minister, to recognize politicians or candidates who were present in the service. But for this special Sunday before the election, Mac Brunson did the duties. He started out making a point about how his experience overseas on his Holy Land trip has taught him what a great country we have (most people know that without traveling to the Holy Land and Rome), and he urged everyone present to go out and vote.

Next he acknowledged three non-FBC Jax candidates present, and the recently elected CFO of the state of Florida who was visiting also.

Then Brunson said they need to especially pray for their own members running for office:

Mike Hogan, candidate for mayor (introduced as "faithful member of the church")

Ryan Taylor, candidate for Tax Collector

Clay Yarborough, candidate for City Council

Richard Clark
, candidate for City Council

Ray Holt, candidate for City Council

Don Redman
was NOT mentioned, but he is running unopposed in his seat, and it is probably good that he lay low at FBC Jax the Sunday before the elections.

While not stated explicitly, the separating of the announcing of the non-FBC Jax candidates from those who are members, and then stating the church should "especially" pray for the members, and the prayer including the "...blessed are the people when the righteous rule", seems to be a subtle message that FBC Jax members should vote for candidates based on them being a church member.

In a conservative city like Jacksonville, I hope members of FBC Jax will look at the candidates' positions and not their church membership when voting. For mayor, there are a number of conservative Republicans besides Mike Hogan, and people should look at the experience and positions of the candidates, and not where they are church members - again, I would say "Don Redman" is your example of this.

And when I hear the preacher quote the Bible before an election involving a mayoral candidate who is in his church: "...blessed are the people when the righteous rule", another Bible verse comes to mind:

"There is none righteous, no not one."

True, especially when it comes to politicians. :)

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Here is the video - the audio is good, but the video is choppy and and irregular, my apologies.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Press Covers Small Black Church Pastor's Attempts to Fleece His Congregation, but Ignores the Wealthy White Pastors

By now most of you have probably heard of John Goodman, pastor of a small black church in Houston, Texas, that was accused by members of withholding communion for church members not forking over their tax refund to help build the church parking lot.

But why does the press cover this tiny black church, led by a poor pastor in an urban neighborhood in his attempt to get money from his people, yet they don't cover worse antics of the wealthy white pastor Ed Young, Jr. up in Dallas who last October behaved just as badly in trying to get his hands on his congregation's cash?

Here is the video of the report about pastor John Goodman:


The reporter actually goes out to the church and sticks a mic in this pastor's face to get him to answer questions about why he was trying to get his hands on the church member's tax refund and weather he actually withheld communion.

But which is worse?

Pastor Goodman calling his stingy church members "devils", or Ed Young calling his non-tithers thieves, and warning church members to watch their wallets as non-tithers would likely steal their money?

Pastor Goodman may have refused the church communion for being stingy. Not good. But Ed Young, Jr. actually had the audacity to mockingly laugh at his non-tithing members and told them they shouldn't even bother to come to church if they don't bring 10%. He said they should stay home, go golfing, and quit wasting his (Ed's) and His (God's) time.

Pastor John Goodman wanted his members' tax refunds. Ed Young wanted the checking account and routing numbers of his congregants for a 10% withdraw from their checking accounts.

I think the greater offense is a wealthy pastor misusing scripture to convince people that their path to blessings is only through giving 10% of their income to the pastor's church.

I wish the press would cover that - and they don't need anonymous eye-witnesses, it was all captured on tape.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Amazing Personal Story from Wade Burleson - "Saved From Hell in a Cozumel Prison" - MUST READ

Readers - please visit Wade Burleson's blog site today and read about his ordeal while on a family vacation. He was involved in a car accident in Mexico that injured two locals, and he tells of his story with the Cozumel police and his encounter with a criminal in the jail cell.

Saved From Hell in a Jail Cell in Cozumel - Wade Burleson

Wade, we are so glad to hear you are ok, and so sorry that you missed most of your family vacation. Thanks for sharing your ordeal on your blog, and we will be praying for you, the injured men, and the man saved in jail through your witness.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ed Young Videos Back Up: Lawyers Claim WD Videos "Infringe Upon The Church's Ability to Market the Work"

"This unlawful use of the Work is harmful to the Church's ability to utilize this Work both as a means to educate its attendees and members about God's Word, but also as a marketable product. The Church markets this Work to other pastors, churches and ministries, and licenses it for that purpose. The availability of this video obtained without the knowledge or consent of the Church for free on your site greatly infringes upon the Church's ability to market this work."
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The above quote is taken from a December 2010 letter sent to Vimeo by Ed Young's lawyer that resulted in temporary removal of my three videos from the Internet that I created for the purpose of educating Christians about the dangers of preachers who abusively preach a tithing doctrine. The videos are:

"Ed Young Goes After Access to Bank Accounts of Church Members"

"Ed Young's Tithing Long Bomb"

"Give and Live: New Prosperity Gospel in the SBC"

While Young's lawyers were successful in having the above three videos removed in December and January, my lawyer was successful in getting them restored in March by contesting their claim and sending a letter to Vimeo arguing that if the sermons are copyrighted, the use in my videos falls under the Fair Use doctrine of the copyright laws. The ball is now in Ed Young's court.

Yes, church work isn't just about preaching the Word and spreading the gospel anymore, it is about "marketing the work". They need to market "the work".

A few comments on this:

- It is interesting they claim my videos hurt their ability to market the work, because the Ed Young 10/10/10 tithing sermon was posted for free on their church website for at least a month after the sermon was preached, and was removed from their website AFTER my videos were created and posted. I know, because that is how I retrieved it to use it.

- not sure how my videos harm their ability to "educate their attendees and members about God's Word." I would say the sermon itself, not my videos, harmed their ability to educate people about God's Word, because in my view his 10/10/10 tithing sermon was about as un-biblical as any I've ever heard on the topic of Christian stewardship. It was embarrassing. Watch the "long bomb" video to get a taste of what he was preaching that day.

- another portion of the lawyer's letter reads: "Permission was not sought to use this work and no license was given to the individual that posted the video to utilize the video in such a way." True, I didn't seek their permission or a license. I didn't think I needed to under the Fair Use doctrine of the copyright laws. But I wonder, did Fellowship Church seek "permission" or a "license" when they used the Gatorade trademark logo in their video and called it "Haterade"? Maybe they did. I hope so, because that video had a commercial purpose in advertising a pay-to-attend church conference. Did Fellowship Church seek permission from author Stephanie Meyer of the "Twilight" series, to use the name and the characteristic trademark in Ed Young's sermon series "Twilight"? I sure hope they did, because as you see below, there is an unmistakable match between Ed Young's use of the Twilight logo and imagery (at left) and that on the book cover (right). And I would point out that Ed Young's "Twilight" sermon series is being sold for commercial gain here.

- Ed Young's lawyers claimed that my videos were not a "fair use" of the original work, that I purposely split the videos into two parts to fall with the Fair Use doctrine. They claimed that the portion of my work that was critical was only incidental, and that my videos were "...an opportunity to run the Work without authorization or compensation". This is not true...the entire creation of the videos and my commentary in the video and on my blog was to critique his work, not to profit from it or to prevent them from marketing it.

I realize my strategy of contesting their take-down has much risk. It would have been easier, less hassle, to just let it go, and let the videos stay down. But really, this blog has evolved around the theme of not allowing mega church pastors and preachers bully people, to expose their antics in real time. So I decided to contest Young's claims because I believe I am right, and keeping my work up for other Christians and non-Christians to see serves a tremendous purpose worth fighting for.

I used this blog to expose the bullying tactics of FBC Jax when they delivered their letter of 16 sins and trespass papers to me and my wife in November 2008. When Judge A.C. Soud read his Deacon's Resolution 2009-1 live streaming over the Internet to the people of FBC Jax and made the members stand and ratify it, I put the transcript and video on the Internet. When I got copies of the subpoenas that FBC Jax and the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office didn't want me to know about, and their official trespass notices filed against me and my wife, I put those on the Internet.

When a famous pastor in Texas had his lawyer bully me with a threatening letter in 2009 claiming I defamed him for blogging about news articles referring to his "shady land deal" demanding I take down a post from 2008, I kindly told him to jump in a lake (actually jump in a harbor) and blogged about it here.

So I will do the same now in this matter with Ed Young as best I can.

There are a many of us who believe great harm is being done to churches through this ridiculous tithing doctrine that Ed Young and others are aggressively pushing. Many modern preachers take their cues from Ed Young, and people need to know how awful and unbiblical this teaching is through videos like mine and others'. It is sad, really, that pastors are stooping so low as to use guilt, fear, and intimidation as tactics to raise revenue. I will continue to shine a light as best I can on these abuses.

As they use the Internet and technology to get their message out, so must we Christians do the same in response.

If Ed and Fellowship Church decide to pursue this matter in the courts, and I have no reason to believe they won't, I'll blog about it here, so stay tuned.

Friday, March 11, 2011

"It's Like Gettin' Married!" - So Be Sure to Submit to Your Pastor!

Jerry Johnson, president of Criswell College, was flown in to preach for Mac this past Sunday (3/6/11) while Mac was stomping around the Holy Land.

Good sermon, preached about the Bible, hit some favorite SBC themes, but then Jerry hit the ball out of the park with the money quote of the day that was sure to earn him an extra honorarium bonus:

"My pastor is Steve Swafford and I am to submit to him in that church member/pastor relationship. I am to follow his leadership. You're to do that here at First Baptist Jacksonville with Pastor Mac Brunson. When you voted him in what you were saying was 'God has appointed you to be our leader.' It's like gettin' married! 'God has chosen you as the one, and I'm going to follow you.'"

Well now, hold on there partner. I don't think any part of that quote is accurate.

- When we vote for a pastor, we are not saying "God has appointed you to be our leader." We are saying, "we'd like to hire you come be our pastor." The pastor might think God appointed him, but the congregation offered a job with salary and benefits and retirement.

- where is the "church member/pastor relationship" in the Bible where I have the position of "church member" and he has the "pastor" title, and I am to submit to him and follow him?

- It is absolute absurdity to describe our relationship to a pastor as "getting married" to him. We're the bride, and he is the bridegroom? Not only is that not a pleasant thought, it is nowhere in the bible, although Paige Patterson did tell SWBTS students Mac never got a honeymoon. Sorry Jerry, but us pew sitters know enough of our Bible to know that we are not married to our pastor, and we know that the bible says it is our relationship to Jesus Christ as his church that is likened to a marriage relationship. Maybe you just slipped and ad-libbed that, but you insult our intelligence when you make such claims.

I suppose the argument could be made that the way some mega pastors treat their congregations, I can see how that might be likened to a certain part of the marriage relationship, but I had best stop there before I get in more trouble already.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Armor Bearers: Video Blogger Calls FBC Jax Watchdog Investigation "Church Mafia Tactics"

Kevin Oliver has published a video blog post commenting on the Watchdog investigation, and discusses what he calls "armor bearers" in churches. Armor bearers are retired or active law enforcement officers who serve in churches as security guards who will often perform special favors for the pastor or church leadership - because they have the power to do so, and because they believe they are doing God's will.

Kevin characterizes the FBC Jax Watchdog investigation and trespass warnings and deacon's resolution as "Church Mafia Tactics". In Kevin's video, he shows excerpts from a Jacksonville TV news report after the lawsuit was settled last October, shows a few shots of Mac Brunson in action, and he even posts a minute of FBC Jax (former) president of trustees A.C. Soud reading the deacon's resolution (that would be resolution number 2009-1, not to confuse it with the other deacon's resolutions) warning church members not to criticize, else they will be perceived as attacking the Lord's church. Kevin gets a good chuckle at that.

Check out Kevin's video blog post below.

I first came across Kevin's video blog a few months ago when I found his video analyzing Mac Brunson's October 2010 sermon in which Brunson argued that Christians should tithe since ancient cultures all tithed to their gods. Yep, the Mesopotamians tithed to Marduke the Moon God, Brunson said, so Christians in 2011 should do no less.

You can follow Kevin's YouTube video blog, entitled "Not Your Typical Negro" here, or you can follow him at Facebook here, as he puts an entry on Facebook linking to his YouTube channel when he has a new post.

An interesting comment about Kevin's "Armor Bearer" video was posted by the regular commenter "WishIHadKnown", who said:
"I have to disagree with the idea that these [FBC Jax] are Mafia tactics. It’s worse! The Mafia operates outside of the law. This is more in line with Gestapo or KGB because it involved the Police. You know the people who are suppose to 'serve and protect.' This was an especially egress abuse of power and an out an out violation of everyone civil rights."
Here is Kevin's video blog:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Two Rivers Baptist Church Changes Name, Drops Baptist, Wants a "Fresh Start"

A news story this past weekend in The Tennessean reports that Two Rivers Baptist Church has decided to get a "fresh start, a reboot" of their church from their troubles of 2007-2008 by changing their name from "Two Rivers Baptist Church" to "The Fellowship at Two Rivers".

Long-time Watchdog readers will recall the posts I made back in 2008 about the troubles of Two Rivers Baptist Church, a mega church that made headlines when their former pastor Jerry Sutton and other church leaders gave the boot to about 80 church members who used the courts to try to gain access to church financial records when they were denied by church leaders. Ultimately Sutton resigned and last I knew he was teaching at Liberty University. It was just two years prior to this fiasco that Sutton was nominated for the presidency of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2006 but lost in a close election to Frank Page.

When the story broke in July 2008 of Sutton's resignation and his $318,000 severance package after this very public battle between he and church members, I wrote the following on my blog July 29, 2008, months before the Watchdog blog became a front-page news story in Jacksonville, and even months before the FBC Jax detective opened his investigation into my blog:
"This story should send shockwaves through the SBC, particularly to those pastors at large to mega sized churches that operate with very little accountability and openness and transparency to their members - like Mac Brunson. I will not go into specific commentary in this article on what I believe these lessons are; I first want to just share information with the FBC Jax members to read to become more familiar with the chain of events that led to Sutton's inability to continue to lead his church. The story involves questions of financial accountability, pastor's salary, getting answers to financial questions, church discipline against those seeking the answers, and expelling of church members seeking those answers. Sutton won a few battles, but he lost the ultimate war - and so did his church. Sutton was not caught in open sin, had very high morals and integrity - but the manner in which information was shared or not shared, and how he treated those with legitimate questions and concerns, ultimately led to most everyone at the church agreeing his ability to lead the church was seriously eroded."
My point was that a pastor doesn't have to fall into open sin to disgrace his church. Just the way that a pastor and his lay leaders respond to criticism and dissension in their own ranks can backfire right in their faces and drag their church through the mud. Back in 2008 I thought that the events at Two Rivers should be a wake-up call to the leaders of FBC Jax, that they should be more transparent with finances, that they should not seek to expel church members or threaten critics from the pulpit, but rather seek ways to answer legitimate questions that the congregation had.

I had no clue what was in store for me: investigation, trespass papers, and slander in the newspaper. The FBC Jax bylaw changes in December 2007 established a formal discipline committee that must run all potential discipline actions before the pastor to see if the "offense" rises to the level of scriptural discipline. The establishment of this committee, by men appointed by the pastor 's men and reporting to the pastor, led me to believe what they sought was to treat their blogger as a recalcitrant and to discipline him with their new committee. But first they had to "positively" identify me - one of the men placed on that committee certainly had the power to do that through subpoena power as I later found out.

But back to Two Rivers: it certainly was an absolute case study of how NOT to handle members in church who ask questions and want answers regarding financial data. Jerry Sutton actively opposed these church members' attempts to get the information they wanted, and they filed suit in court to get what they believed as members they had a right and an obligation to inspect. Sutton said that their suit violated church standards and he demanded that the members write letters of apology promising never to cause disharmony again. He sent a letter to his church members saying that the members' behavior was "not consistent with the word of God". When administrative pastor Scott Hutchings was asked why one of the trustees was removed from his position for asking questions: "there has to be submission and authority". Sutton even used his bully pulpit to call for a vote for the ouster of the members a second time, after the first one failed.

What a disaster it was, and apparently most mega churches didn't use it as an opportunity to learn from it.

I have long believed that one of the reasons the FBC Jax trustees changed the church bylaws in December 2007 - changes that formed the discipline committee that the detective was placed on prior to him opening the investigation into my blog - is that they saw what was happening at Two Rivers with members calling special business meetings and making motions. As I blogged here two years ago, one of the FBC Jax bylaw changes from 2007 that was never, ever explained to the congregation before the vote, was removal of the long-standing provision that allowed for members or deacons to call a special business meeting. Now only the pastor and his trustees can do it.

This weekend's article on the Two Rivers name change explains how the membership steadily declined after their public battle between the pastor and concerned members over financial records. Long time member Bob Marklein was quoted:

"People didn't want to be associated with a lawsuit....We've been through quite an ordeal in the last several years, and a lot of people now are looking at churches first through the Internet. If you Google 'Two Rivers,' you'll find our website and all the particulars about the lawsuit and all that's happened. I think the old name scares people off."

Yes, in this day of the Internet age, the antics of pastors and their churches are now chronicled on blogs and websites and discussed openly on the Internet, as Wartburg Watch has blogged about recently. But a name change will not serve to mask the problems their congregation had in 2007-2008, and it certainly doesn't guarantee a fresh start or reboot.

What does matter is whether the Two Rivers church leaders learned their lessons from 2007-2008, and whether with their new pastor they have worked to change the culture of their church that 4 years ago allowed for a strong-armed pastor to actually seek the ouster of church members for simply demanding access to church financial records, creating a public relations disaster that dragged their church's name through the mud and cost him his job.

So who knows....they have a new pastor at Two Rivers, and now they have a new name. I wish them all the best, and maybe they can be an example of a church that in these days can recover from the public embarrassment brought about by failed leadership.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Crybaby Pastors Part 3: Steven Furtick Lashes Out at "Haters"

I didn't plan on a part 3, but just came across the video below posted by Steven Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church in North Carolina. In his video he waxes eloquently about his disdain for "haters". Pastors like Furtick and Perry Noble and Ed Young use the term "hater" to describe their critics. Nothing more loving, I suppose, than to call your critics "haters".

I do thank Steven, though, for not trying to do a rap with sunglasses and tight britches like Ed Young. Steven made his message very clear and I'm sure he is very sincere.

But at the risk of being a "hater", let me make a few comments, ok Steve?

Do you not find the tone and emotion and the accusations in his video to be incredibly ironic? It is though really he is speaking of himself and his emergent protege's. Who is the real hater? Listen to this guy's words and accusations that he hurls with animated emotion. He hates his critics.

Furtick starts off saying they are "done" with people who criticize them for their methods. Well, I don't know about Furtick, but Perry Noble from the pulpit hurls insults at traditional churches and pastors and deacons, and even pastor's wives for their hair-dos. These guys like Furtick and Young and Noble can dish out the criticism from their pulpits and at their conferences, but they just can't take it. They have built mega-mega churches but apparently they can't take criticism.

Steven can't see that he is speaking of himself. Right after he criticizes "haters" for seeing things in only black and white, he then says "The only kind of words you speak bring death to the hearer". Wow. His words apparently bring life...but the words of the "haters", his critics, bring death. Nothing more black and white than this.

I can't imagine being a member of a church with a guy like this as pastor. Anybody in his church going to say a word against Steven, or criticize this or that? No way, he is training his church members to hate critics and to shun them. Can you picture Jerry Vines or Adrian Rogers making some sort of hateful video like this toward their critics? This video shows makes Furtick out to be a small, small man.

My favorite line toward his critics: "You look like a toddler". He must be looking in the mirror.

And what it all boils down to is this when Furtick says this at the end:

"We're not looking for approval from you, who give no respect and never neglect the chance to complain."

There you go, that says it all. They want respect, and they don't want you to complain. Just give them your tithe (that is one custom from the traditional church that they haven't let go), attend their conferences, and buy their books.

But don't complain or criticize. Just kiss Steven's diamond rings and bring your alms.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Crybaby Pastors Part 2: Drying the Eyes With An Alternative Message to Pastors About Criticism

Below is an alternative message to pastors regarding criticism that is more practical, and more biblical than Rainer's, to help the drying eyes of crybaby pastors.

We should expect better advice coming from a guy like Rainer, but maybe he was just having a few bad days there. Afterall, Rainer's first article on criticism posted on January 18, 2011, exactly one day AFTER North Carolina pastor Tim Rogers criticized Thom Rainer himself. Rogers points to the possible nepotism in Rainer's three sons - one of whom is barely out of college - all being author's published by Lifeway, the SBC agency that Thom Rainer heads. Good article, Tim "The Naysayer" Rogers.

Here's the advice:
---------------------------

Pastors, get ready for criticism when you go to pastor a church.

Criticism is a fact of life. In every profession, you have people who will think they know how to do your job better than you. If you get frustrated about the critics in your church, ask your members about what criticism they face at their jobs, and they will tell you that you likely have it pretty good. Most people in your congregation view you as "God's man" and will love you no matter what, with your good and bad.

But what if you have someone who is a "naysayer", as Rainer suggests. What should you do?

Some helpful, practical suggestions:

1. Don't do as Rainer suggests and view critics in your church as unregenerate. Oh, they might be. But so might you. So might the guy who is patting you on the back and is your greatest supporter. Sometimes God will put a cantankerous, cranky church member in your church that will call you every Monday to teach you something like humility and perseverance.

2. Whatever you do, do NOT do what Rainer suggests and wait for, or encourage, the "diaconate" (as in "deacons"?) in your church to take care of a naysayer through a discipline process or God-forbid some "informal" church process. That is exactly what NOT to do. That is not even a Christian response. You are supposed to love your critic. If you really think they are not a true Christian as Rainer says they must not be if they are a harsh critic, then shouldn't that be a person to focus on and show true Christian love to?

3. Reject the notion that you may have learned in seminary or picked up from the hot-shot mega church pastors preaching in seminary chapel that you are God's gift to your church, have a special anointing, or that you are the vision caster and people need to get on board with your vision. Reject the notion that you are some sort of special agent sent from God to save the people in their church from their ignorance. You are a pastor, an undershepherd. Practicing servant leadership starts in viewing yourself as a servant, not a special agent from God. Your critics might be special agents sent to you to help save you from some of the ignorance you picked up in seminary. Really.

4. Do not view ignoring critics as a goal to be achieved. Rainer says:

"But the reality is that we humans have difficulty ignoring critics whom we see every week, critics whose faces are ever before us. Ignoring critics is a good idea in theory, but only a few pastors are really able to accomplish such a feat."

Wow. It would not be so sad to read this if Rainer weren't a prominent speaker and author on leadership. This is exactly the opposite of what you should do. Ask any of your church members who are in education, or in business or any other vocation, and they will tell you how important it is to listen to negative feedback. You should seek ways to allow people to give you feedback, even anonymously. You should seek ways to be more transparent and welcoming of questions and criticism, not less.

5. Don't view yourself as a victim. Rainer characterizes criticism from even what he calls "insignificant matters" as being "attacks" and "beating you up." He refers to critics as "dragons" - and we all know what we do to dragons. That is a victim mentality you should reject. And what is insignificant to you might not be to someone you are called to love and pastor.

6. Realize you really aren't that important. Criticism of you and your "ministry" does not equate to a hindrance of the Great Commission. Your sermons aren't God's gift to humanity. Sorry, but while you view your profession as a "calling", it is still a profession and there are lots of people with your skill set who can and will pastor your church. This might help keep you a bit more humble. Oh, and read about the trials of Les Puryear who left his position as pastor at his church and had to enter the work force. Not too much demand in the workforce for guys with Masters of Divinity (that almost looks frightening, when spelled out; a Master of DIVINITY?), or PhD's in preaching.

There you go, pastors. Hope that helps.

Oh, I almost forgot. Three last pieces of advice:

7. Don't pass "Deacon's Resolutions" condemning unjust criticism in your church. One church tried that, and it didn't work out too well.

8. Avoid issuing trespass papers to the wife of a critic.

9. Don't call your critics "sociopaths", or "mentally unstable" to the local news media.

Now go pastor your flock.