"...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, November 29, 2011

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

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

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

***********************************************************************************
Update: See footage of Wayne Newton's opening act at First Baptist Fort Lauderdale, wearing his Liberace-style puffy shirt: Wayne Newton Singin' for Jesus
***********************************************************************************

Friends, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried to.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 28, 2011

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

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

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

Says Bianchi:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bianchi doesn't let up one bit:

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 24, 2011

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


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

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

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

Ed says in the video above:

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

Let's analyze this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 18, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tebow simply smiled and answered:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Tim, for being such a great example.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What more could a pastor want?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

First Baptist Jacksonville "Arms Around Jacksonville" - Ministry for the Camera

"It's going to be great to see God's people in action. We've got camera crews set up at all the different locations." Damien, FBC Jax
----------------------------
"Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your father who is in heaven." Jesus Christ, Matthew 6:1
--------------------------
Today, First Baptist Jacksonville is implementing their "Arms Around Jacksonville" ministry effort. Each Sunday School class has been encouraged to select and plan a local missions project to help the citizens of Jacksonville - and then implement it on Saturday November 12th. Promotional videos have been recorded by Trey Brunson and John Herrett to rally the troops.

This is great - as a church they recognize their calling to actually serve the citizens of Jacksonville. Yes, Christians should be putting feet to their faith, and should serve and help others. Not just through ministry at church, but everyday at work and school and in their city.

But I think what is interesting is the way that FBC Jax, and other mega churches around the country, are using local ministry through the church performed by their church members, as a marketing tool. To do an act of kindness in your city through your church is now doing "missions". Instead of just quietly going about and serving Jacksonville, FBC Jax leadership wants to TELL everyone how great they are for serving. As Damien says in one of their AAJ promotional videos, FBC Jax media personnel will have camera crews all over Jax to film the ministry that they are doing on that one day. He explains they will produce a special video for everyone to see on Sunday morning and another special video for Sunday night - and you can bet they will see air time on their local TV broadcasts, and it will be featured on their web site.

Why not just go out and serve? Why film it all? Is that how ministry is to be done, with ministry brand names and t-shirts and film crews sent out to make videos of people serving? Isn't serving people and ministering to people what a church is SUPPOSED to be doing? Then why all the hoopla and cheerleading over what they SHOULD be doing anyways?

Truth is, long before the Brunson's came up with Arms Around Jacksonville, the people of FBC Jax HAVE been ministering in Jacksonville. Sure, no one gets any credit for it, but different Sunday School departments had and still have different projects all throughout the year. The difference now? Cameras to record it all, a brand name and logo, and t-shirts for everyone to wear and media professionals to produce slick videos.

Steve Gaines and Bellevue Baptist Church started a campaign several years ago called "Bellevue Loves Memphis" - same thing. They all got T-shirts, promotional items, they even purchased billboards to tell everyone just how much their church loves Memphis.

One other benefit to getting the peeps out for a day of "Arms Around Jax": FBC Jax wants to help their tarnished image over the past 4 years and combat the negative publicity of late. Said FBC Jax preacher Danny Crosby last month:
"If you took a survey and went door to door throughout the city of Jacksonville you won't always get a favorable response when you ask the question 'what do you think or know about the First Baptist Jax downtown?' They're not so excited as you are about this church. Why? 'Cause they read stuff that's not true [this blog?] They hear stuff that's not true. And they might have an occasional encounter with someone who says they represent our church. But you and I have the awesome opportunity to let others know what the real truth is: that we want to wrap our arms around this city for the glory of God. We want to be the arms of God to a lost and dying city. It's a dark place."
More whining from the pulpit of how everyone misunderstands FBC Jax. Poor FBC Jax, they and their pastor have gotten a bum rap all these years as Mac complained about last week. Not sure what "stuff" Danny is referring to - but people these days have a pretty good idea what most mega churches like FBC Jax are into: raising money for buildings and renovations to their auditorium, salaries and benefits for professional ministers that make very comfortable livings, and guilting people to give 10% of their money to the church to fund and maintain the system. That is what keeps many people away these days.

And now ministry is used as another marketing tool to aid the leadership to keep the big ship afloat.

So if you are ministered to in Jesus' name this weekend by FBC Jax, be sure to smile for the camera - you might be in their next video!

And please, whatever you do, don't criticize the pastor or the church, don't ask about any salaries, and do not tell them that you read the Watchdog. They don't take kindly to such folks.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Paterno Out: A Legendary Football Coach is Held Accountable for Turning Blind Eye Toward a Pervert

The state college trustees were right to fire Joe Paterno and the college president. They have acted to protect the integrity of their institution, and more importantly send a powerful message about how they expect their university leaders to always act to protect children and not the image of their institution.

The grand jury testimony was clear: Paterno turned a blind eye toward a pedophile coach that used the Penn State showers for multiple sexual assualts against minors. When he was told of a specific episode by a distraught graduate assistant, Joe didn't call the cops. His graduate assistant didn't. Joe didn't have the sense to use his influence on the graduate assistant to encourage him to call the police as an eye witness to a sexual assault.

And according to the grand jury report, more boys were needlessly assaulted after this.

We know the lesson of Sandusky: there are perverts everywhere posing as coaches, teachers, preachers, Sunday School teachers, mentors, and seemingly all-around good guys that want to prey on your children. This makes it incredibly difficult for us parents to know who really wants to help our kids. We didn't need Sandusky to teach us this, we already knew it.

But Paterno's firing teaches us three lessons:

- it tells us that in the secular realm, we hold our legends and heroes to much higher standards than we do our ordained "men of God" in Christianity. Look at the Catholic priest scandals all over the world, evidence that molesting priests were shuffled from parish to parish. Look at Baptist preachers who knew of sexual molestation in their church by preachers and ministers that didn't report the abuse to authorities - and in some cases even allowed the pedophile to simply move away to be someone else's problem.

- it tells us that even the most respected and revered coach in the history of college football is not so powerful as to be not accountable for a moral failure to protect children. Citizens in Pennsylvania - and Paterno himself - never envisioned a day that a group of trustees would deem him unfit to be the coach of the state university football team. It was not his God-given right to be the coach of Penn State...many pastors think they are appointed by God himself to their position as pastor, leading many to think they are above being held accountable for a moral failure to protect children from perverts in their church.

- there was an institutional arrogance within the Penn State university that led employees from the janitor all the way to the president of the university to not do all they could to protect children from a sexual predator posing as a powerful assistant coach. Thankfully, this arrogance may have come to an abrupt end by the actions of the state trustees yesterday and in the days to come. Question is: when will "trustees" of the Southern Baptist Convention realize they can do much, much more to protect children from predator ministers?

Thankfully, Paterno will not be on the sideline this weekend coaching Penn State for turning a blind eye toward a pedophile coach.

Sadly, there are many pastors and priests who this weekend will be in pulpits preaching who should have been fired for turning a blind eye toward molesters in their church.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Ugly Truth About Joe Paterno and the Sandusky Rape of 10 Year Old - And What We Can Learn From It

"Here's what we do if someone comes to me with an accusation of sexual abuse: I pick up the phone and call the cops." William Thornton, SBC Plodder
----------------------
"I did what I was supposed to with the one charge brought to my attention", Joe Paterno
---------------------
If you are easily offended and grossed out, please don't read this post. I'm going to explain to you the cold, harsh reality of what took place at Penn State, and why Joe Paterno should be fired immediately for failing to report to authorities what his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky did to a 10-year old boy in the showers of Penn State's locker room.

While Joe Paterno has escaped legal jeopardy for now because he did report the offense to his superior, is that really what we expect from a guy like Paterno? The man who IS Penn State football, the face of college football, the best he could do was to call his athletic director? Paterno is now saying he didn't know the details of what happened when he was told....DO WHAT??? All he needed to know was that a 59-year old man was naked in the shower with a 10 year old boy, and he should have been on the phone with the police. But he didn't do it.

If you're the janitor and you walk in and see Sandusky performing oral sex on an 11-year old (which did happen in the case of victim #8 in the grand jury report), ok, maybe the best we can expect is for you to report it to your supervisor...but Joe Pa, the best he could do was report it up the chain? It is ridiculous.

But let me tell you what Sandusky did to this 10-year old boy in the incident that is the focus of the allegations. From the grand jury report here is what was reported under oath concerning the rape of "Victim #2" (warning, the following indented material is graphic; do not read it unless you want to know the truth about what this deranged pervert actually did to this boy):
"As the graduate assistant entered the locker room, he was surprised to find the lights and showers on. He then heard rhythmic slapping sounds. He believed those to be the sound of sexual activity....He saw a naked boy, Victim 2, whose age he estimated to be ten years old, with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky."
I'm sorry if that offended you. But sometimes the bland reports of "molestation" don't really do justice to the sinister nature of the actual act itself. This 59-year old man used his notoriety and wealth and his connection to Penn State football to gain access to this boy and others...so that he ultimately could hold a 10-year old boy against the wall of a shower and violently rape him in the Penn State football locker room.

Now, if you read the grand jury report, you will see that the graduate assistant who witnessed this violent rape called his father as he was understandably shaken by what he saw. Instead of calling the police, they called Paterno. Mistake #1. This graduate assistant witnessed a violent rape - what if it was the rape of a woman and not a boy? Would he go call his dad? Of course not, he would either intervene with force of his own, or he would immediately call 9-1-1 and not let the perpetrator get away.

Church members, let this be a lesson to you: don't ever, ever, report sexual abuse at your church or by a member or minister, to the pastor or to a minister or deacon or trustee. They cannot be trusted to do the right thing. Any person, whether it is a head football coach or a minister or a school administrator, who has a vested interest in the institution that is somehow connected to the victim or perpetrator, can't be trusted with the information!! As William Thornton wrote today about this, there is only one thing to do when you hear of sexual abuse: stop, pick up your cell phone, and call your local police department. Report what you saw or heard, and let THEM investigate. If they need to tell your pastor, they will.

Now, back to Paterno: you might say that he didn't know the nature of the offense that the graduate assistant saw. That is what Paterno basically said in his statement Sunday night. But that doesn't square with the grand jury report. From the grand jury report:
"Joseph V. Paterno testified to receiving the graduate assistant's report at his home on a Saturday morning. Paterno testified that the graduate assistant was very upset. Paterno called Tim Curley, Penn State Athletic Director and Paterno's immediate supervisor, to his home the very next day, and reported to him that the graduate assistant had seen Jerry Sandusky in the Lasch Building showers fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy."
Did you read that? Paterno knew of at least "fondling" or "something of a sexual nature" that Sandusky was doing to a young boy. What more evidence did he need to know a crime had occured against a helpless young boy in the showers of the Penn State football program?

But now Paterno defends his inaction by saying:
"It was obvious that the witness [the graduate assistant] was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the grand jury report."
What does "very specific" mean? The grand jury report says that he knew Sandusky was in the showers "fondling" or doing something sexual to a young boy. Do you see how twisted this is? Paterno is now saying he didn't know how bad it was...implying he WOULD HAVE reported it if he knew more details?

Here is perhaps the most shocking part of the grand jury report:
"Approximately one and a half weeks later, the graduate assistant was called to a meeting with Penn State Athletic Director Curley and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz. The graduate assistant reported to Curley and Schultz that he had witnessed what he believed to be Sandusky having anal sex with a boy in the Lasch Building showers. Curley and Shultz assured the graduate assistant that they would look into it and determine what further action they would take. Paterno was not present for this meeting.

The graduate assistant heard back from Curley a couple of weeks later. He was told that Sandusky's keys to the locker room were taken away and that the incident had been reported to The Second Mile.
The graduate assistant was never questioned by University Police and no other entity conducted an investigation until he testified in Grand Jury, December 2010."
Do you know who at Penn State University oversaw and had ultimate responsibility for the University Police department. Yep, Gary Schultz, one of the first men who was brought into this story by the Athletic Director. Like I said, don't ever report your abuse to people connected to the institution.

So yes, Joe Paterno should be fired. If Jim Tressel should be fired, if Woody Hayes should have been fired, so should Joe Pa for failing miserably to do the right thing. No one cared to even find out who the victim was. All they cared about was the reputation of their precious institution.

And so it is with the institutions of government, religion, and education.

Report sexual abuse to the police department, don't go to the coach, the preacher, the teacher, or your boss.

Go straight to the cops.

At Least in College Football, Failing to Report a Molester Is a Crime - But How Does Joe Paterno Still Have a Job?

In one of the most disgusting and disturbing cases of repeated child molestations I've heard of, former Penn State assistant coach and football legend Jerry Sandusky finally has been arrested and won't be able to molest boys any more.

And thank the Lord two Penn State officials have been indicted by a grand jury for lying to the grand jury about one of the cases of abuse, and for failing to report the abuse to authorities.

While many Baptists get away with not reporting possible molestations of their clergy, at least in this case those who did not report are going to be held accountable.

Says Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly:

"There is no indication that anyone from the university ever attempted to learn the identity of the child who was sexually assaulted on their campus or made any follow-up effort to obtain more information from the person who witnessed the attack first-hand."

The only question remains: how does Joe Paterno, the head coach still have a job? As recorded on pages 6 and 7 in the grand jury findings of fact (WARNING...the contents of the 23-page grand jury report are graphic and disturbing), a graduate assistant that observed Sandusky sexually assaulting a 10-year old in the Penn State locker room in 2002 reported the incident directly to Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno.

What did Paterno do? Well, he called his Athletic Director, Tim Curley. Curley was Paterno's immediate supervisor. Curley and another Penn State big-wig, Gary Schultz had a meeting with the graduate assistant and assured him it was being taken care of.

But Curley and Schultz both failed to report the incident to any authorities. In the grand jury report there was at least one young boy victimized by Sandusky AFTER the 2002 sexual assault - that would have been prevented had Curley and Schultz - or Paterno - done the right thing and gone immediately to the police.

Curley and Schultz are being charged with perjury as well, since the grand jury believes they may have lied to them, claiming the graduate assistant did not indicate that a crime had been committed or that the incident was of a sexual nature when he first reported the assault to Paterno. Read the grand jury report, and you'll see why the grand jury didn't believe their story.

Why am I writing about a football sexual molestation scandal on the Watchdog blog? I can't help but compare and contrast this report to similar cases of molestation involving "men of God" and how they are handled.

A few observations:

- Is it not amazing that all of these men that knew of the 2002 molestation never reported it to any authorities? Why not? The reason is obvious: they feared the negative consequences of a public scandal involving their beloved institution. Very smart men - a graduate assistant, the most beloved football coach in NCAA history, two administrators, even the graduate assistant's father - all made the wrong choice, and their inaction resulted in at least one more boy being needlessly victimized. We see the same in religious institutions - fear of negative publicity causing men to not report and letting the molester move on.

- the two men indicted for failing to report are now claiming they didn't know how terrible the actions were of Sandusky. Sound familiar? I think of the Trinity Baptist scandal with Bob Gray - what was the congregation told about the allegations? That whatever Gray was accused of was not of a "sexual nature". The fact is Bob Gray was a pedophile. He french-kissed boys and girls in his office, even molested a little girl during her baptism. Yet those in authority in the church who had the power to stop him failed to do it, and they conveniently mischaracterized his actions. He could have been stopped had one person made a phone call to the sheriff's office, but no one did.

- if you read the grand jury report you will see that Sandusky used his fame, his money, gifts and notoriety as a Penn State legend to befriend his victims. His legendary status gave him open access to young boys at Penn State, and at public schools. He took them to Penn State football games, had them stay at his house, took them on trips. Molesters are molesters - whether they are football coaches or pastors - and they will use their power and position to gain access to their victims.

Church leaders, pastors, ministers everywhere: take notice of this case. Nine years after these men at Penn State failed to report a sexual assault on a minor, and after their arrogance caused them to allegedly lie about it to the grand jury, they are going to be held accountable.

But it should come as no surprise: the Penn State University institution is standing behind Curley and Schultz, and they will pay for their legal defense.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Schullers Say: "Let Us Eat Your Cake - Delivered by Our Limo Drivers"

"....They would appreciate meals over the next three to four weeks. They are to be sent to the church in order to be transported to Arvella [Schuller]. The limo drivers could pick up the dinners or meet in the Tower Lobby around 4:30 p.m." Email sent to Crystal Cathedral members this week requesting food donations for Robert and Arvella Schuller
-------------------------------
It was reported today by the Orange County Register that leaders of the bankrupt Crystal Cathedral church distributed an email request to members that they deliver food to the church to help feed the ailing Robert and Arvella Schuller.

And here's the kicker: the food will be picked up by the "limo drivers" at the church, and then delivered directly to the Schuller home.

These people are millionaires, their children are quite wealthy also, and yet they are asking the church members to bring food to the church to feed the pastor. And they have the brazenness to declare that "limos" will transport the food.

We've gone all the way from "let them eat cake", to now "let us eat YOUR cake, delivered by the limos you're paying for".

Let's be real. This is probably a stunt to garner support for the pastor, to mobilize the peeps so they can feel good about themselves in performing acts of kindness for their spiritual guru. In all likelihood the Schullers won't be eating the food. No public figure in their right mind would consume food delivered by strangers to the church, then transported in "limos" to their home!

But it must feel good to know that you can just ask for food deliveries, and they will show up at your front door delivered by your limo driver!

As Mel Brooks once said, "It's good to be da king."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Robert Morris: I Check Tithing Records of Daughter's Boyfriends, Don't Want to "Give Her to a Thief" - Full-Blown Legalism on Display

"Of course I would check the tithing record of a young man that wants my daughter. Why would I give my daughter to a thief?" Robert Morris, explaining why he pulled the giving records of a church member who wanted to date his daughter, and ultimately married her.
-----------------------------------
Some fathers might use their investigatory powers as a law enforcement officer to run a background check on a daughter's boyfriend. The boy might be a felon, after all, or a pervert.

But Robert Morris takes a different tact in his sermon from October 30, 2011: he admits to using his investigatory powers as a mega church pastor to check the giving records of a boy who dates his daughter to see if he is tithing.

After all, what could be worse than your daughter going out with a non-tither, or a "thief" as Robert Morris says. Nothing like having your eventual father-in-law measuring your worth as a man based on whether you fork over 10% to his church or not.

Watch Robert explain below why he pulled the giving record of his eventual son-in-law; and see the full-blown legalism of Robert's tithing doctrine as he explains how the boy was "late" in tithing by one day, and he explains how non-tithers can not expect God to give them "significance" if they don't fork over 10% on time.

And of course, the question remains: how would Robert know if the boy was tithing unless he also knew his salary?

And the most disturbing question for members and contributors of Robert Morris' Gateway Church: did you know that your pastor has open access to your giving records? How could your church allow the pastor to see the giving records of the contributors?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sammy Nuckolls Appears in Court - He Must Not Have Been Paying Attention to Ergun Caner Saga

Sammy Nuckolls appeared in court today in Olive Branch, Mississippi, and pleaded not guilty to charges of secretly video taping a woman in that city. At left is a picture of Sammy leaving court today, and his attorney behind him addressing the media.

Unfortunately for Sammy, he already has confessed to similar charges in Gosnell, Arkansas, so his ship is sunk.

Sammy and his lawyer have to be now absolutely regretting his confession in Gosnell, as he has broken one of the fundamental laws of traveling Baptist evangelists:

"Don't ever admit to doing wrong, and never apologize, and enlist the help of your Baptist friends to defend you and attack your accusers."

Sammy's confession to police in Gosnell, Arkansas is completely baffling. Apparently Sammy wasn't paying attention to the Ergun Caner saga last year. If he had been watching and learning, he would have known to never, ever confess to any wrong-doing and to always maintain his innocence, even in the face of overwhelming video evidence!

If Sammy had been paying attention last year he would have seen Ergun Caner caught red-handed by discerning Christians to be lying to congregations for years, speaking gibberish to convince people that he spoke Arabic, telling people he grew up in Turkey learning about America through watching imported pro wrestling programs, and even misrepresenting his past during a training session with our Marines. Through all the proof and video and audio showing Caner to be guilty of lying and deceiving Christians as a traveling evangelist, Caner never confessed, never apologized, and maintained his innocence throughout.

Sammy must have missed how Caner's friends came to his aid. Prominent pastors and theologians who had supported Caner spoke on his behalf, even helped Caner by attacking and blaming those who were trying to expose the truth about Caner.

Too bad Sammy didn't think on his feet fast enough, else he could have played the same card as Caner.

Sammy could have told the Gosnell police that he bought the pen to record himself practicing his sermons. He could have said it was part of his magic tricks gig, or that he used it to record videos for his blog. He could have said he regularly video taped other evangelists.

You say he was caught red-handed with videos of women on the pen? No problem. There could be an explanation. If there were videos of women on his pen, he could have plead ignorance, and proclaimed that he didn't know how the video got there. The woman in Gosnell said the pen camera was poking out of his shaving bag - maybe he left it there in record mode by mistake and bad luck. He could have blamed Calvinists of stealing his pen and placing videos there. He could have enlisted the help of prominent Southern Baptists in Lifeway and others that hired him as an evangelist to help defend his honor and attack those who are trying to take him down.

If Sammy was reading my blog earlier this year, he would have learned about the pastor at Berean Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida who was also accused of using his cover as a "man of God" to video tape women undressing. Even though the video tape showed the pastor setting up the camera, the minister adhered to the "never admit wrong-doing" rule and maintained his innocence and never wavered one bit! If he was innocent as he claimed, he is the unluckiest pastor because as fate would have it he was filmed in the same sequence before and after the women were filmed undressing! Darn! But he stayed true to his calling and never admitted wrong-doing - his church kicked out the recalcitrant who reported him to the police. The minister put on his best preacher suit and held a press conference in front of his church with bobble-headed church members behind him amening as he declared his innocence!

We could recount other instances of pastor misbehavior where the pastor stays silent, and the victims are kicked out as bad people, and the pastor is the hero.

If Sammy were a mega church pastor, he would have known better than to confess - he would have admitted to nothing, gotten his attorney involved right away to fight all charges, stayed silent himself, and returned to church on Sunday for the obligatory standing ovation given to pastors who are under attack from Satan himself.

Yes, Sammy should have maintained his innocence and let his friends defend him; and I wouldn't be surprised if he retracts his confession in Gosnell, fights all charges and is back in pulpits next year ministering to youth.

Such a strategy worked for Ergun Caner
.