2 Samuel 16:9,11 - "Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head...let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him."

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

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Good or Best?

Sometimes the most difficult decisions in life are not between "good" and "bad", but between "good" and "best". The issue debated here in the last few days regarding Pastor Mac Brunson's decision to use the facilities and name of First Baptist Jacksonville in sponsoring a fund raiser for the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Israel on November 8th, is a prime example.

Let me say first how disappointed we are that Mac Brunson has not publicly addressed this fund raiser with his congregation, yet the church has this event prominently displayed on their scrolling announcement banner on the FBC Jax website. At best this is negligence on his part to pastor his sheep, and at worst its outright arrogance and disrespect for those he leads. He had ample opportunity to at least briefly explain the event, its purpose, how it fits with our church mission, and what the funds will be used for - he could have done it during either of the Sunday services, but did not. He could have done it through his "weekly" publication "Life Lines", but sadly his office staff hasn't had time to publish the weekly newsletter in over two months (but here's the version from August 17th). Those of you who say that we should call the pastor if we have questions about this event: hogwash. Any leader worth his salt knows that quality leadership includes keeping members of the organization abreast of important events, and "selling" new and innovative ideas. A leader must be the one to use all the power at his disposal to reach out to his followers with information. So we have no information from the pastor or staff on the rationale for this event and the date of this event is fast approaching.

Let's just suppose that our church believes holding fund raisers for Israel is an activity that fits within our church's mission, or spending our church resources for raising funds for the nation of Israel is part of our "core values", or that it fits within Jim Smyrl's "theology driven ministry" model. I have already stated that this activity clearly does NOT fit into any of these, and that in fact hosting such an event is counter-productive to our church accomplishing its mission, in that this event prominently features and even glorifies non-believers (non-believers specifically aligned with a non-Christian religion) and will likely cause confusion in the minds of those in Jacksonville that we are trying to reach with the biblical message that "Jesus is the only way to heaven". On these grounds alone our pastor needs to pull his offer of hosting this event at our church. It would best be held at a neutral, secular site.

But let's assume for the sake of argument that fund raisers for Israel fits with our mission of reaching the world for Jesus Christ. If so, then the next question to be pondered by serious pastors and lay leaders is: "What is the best way for a conservative, evangelical, Christian church to demonstrate its love for the Jewish people? In what way can we partner with our Jewish friends on an issue that is both pro-Christian and pro-Jew?"

One option might be to raise funds to give to a non-religious, secular, or government-funded organization that is doing good things on behalf of the Jews. One option here might be donating money to a hospital. Some others might be to giving money to some worthwhile military support organization that assists families of Israeli soldiers. Or perhaps to some Jewish children's home, or orphanage. Unfortunately, when you get down to it, probably the LEAST best of these secular options for a conservative, pro-life, evangelical Christian church to be involved in would be raising funds for a hospital. Why you ask? Because Israeli hospitals perform government-funded abortions at the rate of about 20,000 per year. Government funded. At the hospitals. The proposed fund raiser is for a trauma center at the hospital, but still - sending money raised at a Christian church to go a hospital at which abortions are performed- any mature, clear-thinking Christian of FBC Jax would have to agree that this is not the best fit.

So, money sent by a church to a trauma center in Israel - it might not be "bad" or "evil" (I think it is for reasons already stated, but I'm assuming it is not for discussion purposes). It might be classified as "good" - hospitals save lives, right?. BUT IS IT THE BEST? Are there other ways we can demonstrate our love for the Jewish people that is consistent with our church's mission?

The second option, and much better option, is so obvious that I'm embarrassed for our church leaders to even have to explain it. Abortion is a major social problem in Israel as statistics show a disturbing imbalance between Jewish and Arab fertility rates (average number of children born per woman) creating obvious concerns for this Jewish nation. The nation of Israel has already lost over half a million of its Jewish citizens to abortion. But there is a non-profit, non-government funded group in Israel that actively works to reduce the number of abortions in that country by meeting the physical and economic needs of women contemplating abortion. Over 90% of abortions in Israel are because of economic hardship, and by meeting the needs of these women during their time of "crisis" babies are saved. The name of this group is "Efrat". Their motto is "Saving the Lives of Jewish Children in Israel." Last year they saved 1806 babies from abortion.

Efrat receives no government funding, and they have extremely low overhead. Their annual budget is about 2 million dollars, and this allows them to save about 2000 babies per year. Take a moment and visit their U.S.A Website: http://www.friendsofefrat.org/ to learn about the work they are doing. View the video on this website. Listen to the testimonies of Jewish women who's babies were saved through this ministry. Listen to the words of the rabbis explaining the evil of abortion in their country and the good work done by Efrat.

Then ask the question: what should a fund raiser at FBC Jacksonville for the Jewish nation (if we must have one) go towards: a hospital where Jewish babies are aborted, or a non-profit organization that works to save babies. Note that I'm not asking this question of the advisory board for this event...sure, it might be in THEIR best interest to raise money for the hospital. But I'm asking the Christians at FBC Jacksonville...which is BEST?

When you answer that question, call or email the pastor to tell him "no", we don't want our church to have a fund raiser for the AHMC Medical Center. If our pastor believes an Israeli fund raiser is a worthwhile activity for our church, then let the money go to something that is directly consistent with our core values....or let the advisory committee take their fund raiser for the AHMC elsewhere.