You broke two of the Southern Baptist Convention's irrefutable laws on church leadership, which say:
"The week before you ask your church to vote on whether or not to follow your leadership in starting a costly new ministry (like a K-12 school for example), never send the president of your trustees to conduct a Wednesday night business meeting to fool your congregation into blindly passing significant changes to the church bylaws with no explanation or discussion prior to or in the meeting."
"Don't make it as difficult as you can for members to read proposed bylaw changes by treating them as classified documents and putting serial numbered copies in the library, requiring them to be signed out, and having the librarian clearly explain that they mustn't leave the library. In fact its best to make the proposed changes readily available to members by implementing very creative initiatives like making copies and passing them out, summarizing the changes in the bulletin, if your church has a website posting the information so all members can have access to it, and even have the pastor tell the people what the changes are and why they are being proposed - especially if he is the one who desires the changes."
You were so close to getting your school approved by us, and then you go and do this. Right up there with "4th and Dumb".
Congregations tend to not like it when their leadership tricks them into voting for changes to the bylaws on Wednesday nights. At least the thinking members of the congregation don't like it. Doing this tends to tick people off, and it lowers significantly their support for your proposed new ministry.
It is my hope that this Wednesday night the church does NOT approve your vote on whether to start down the First Brunson Academy route. If we vote "No", it doesn't mean we never want to start a school, it means that now is not the right time. It means you haven't demonstrated yourself worthy of leading us into this venture - at least not yet. A "No" vote means that you've just thrown us for a loop by pulling the wool over our eyes while you changed our bylaws with hardly anyone noticing, you making very obvious and orchestrated attempt to conceal the changes, and to identify those who have bothered to read them and therefore your credibility is now in question, sir.
A "No" vote means we want you to do the following:
1. Immediately hold a Wednesday night meeting to revoke the bylaw changes voted on Wednesday night. No, its too late now for you to give us one of your 60-second "van-down-by-the-river", after-the-fact explanation of the bylaw changes. That won't be good enough. You have shown us that your explanations after-the-fact are shallow and empty of substance. We asked you why you were holding the "Time to Stand for Israel" since it was not about evangelism but about raising money for a Jewish hospital and you bravely told us "Jesus was a Jew, and we got our bibles from the Jews". Uh, we already knew that, and that wasn't what we were asking, and we were wanting you to explain how deciding to hold this fund raiser was congruent with this statement and others similar to it that you've made several times. So we would like you to apologize to the members, especially those present for the Wednesday night November 28th, 2007 business meeting, for changing the bylaws in the rush and hidden manner you did, and bring a motion to revoke the changes. Then, feel free to explain to us what the changes are, give us copies of the bylaws and the proposed changes. You are then perfectly free to explain the need for a "disciplinary committee". You are free to explain how it will operate. You are free to explain all of the significant proposed changes and rally support for them! Then we can vote on your by law changes again once we are informed! If you missed the meeting and the vote, click here to listen yourself (listen closely and you'll hear the 10 "recalcitrants" who did read the bylaw changes and voted no).
2. Explain completely where we are on our budget shortfalls; or better yet, have the chairman of our finance committee explain it. You have given two seemingly contradictory explanations: one at Mud Creek Baptist on 10/8 saying "we" (meaning YOU) overspent on missions (click here for the Mud Creek explanation) and another to us on Sunday 11/25 saying we have not overspent, but that we haven't been giving what we committed (click here for the 11/25 explanation). We are confused. We want straight answers. If we think you can't give us straight answers on this simple question, how can we trust you to give us straight answers in the future on other projects like FBA?
3. Give us serious, adult facts upon which we can base a wise vote on the FBA. And by "facts" we don't mean lame explanations like "nobody is home anymore to be reached and thus we have to start a school to reach people" (what research did you base that on, anyways?) like you did this past Sunday night (click here for this beauty), or that by having an FBA you'll be able to be have FBA grads run up to you at airports and restaurants to congratulate you for starting a school. Surely you've done some market research to see what capacity there is in the existing Christian schools in Jacksonville, what their target students are by denomination and income, tuition costs, and perhaps some research to find the level of interest within our church and the community for a Baptist, Christian school downtown. If you haven't perhaps the Director of Special Projects, or the A-Group can do this. Surely you've talked to other schools in town to get an idea of projected demand growth for Christian schools - what have you found?
4. Bring in a serious expert on Christian schools who can talk to us about pros and cons, benefits and costs, of starting a school. Don't bring in some man whose recent notoriety is for telling parents they are disobedient for sending their kids to public schools. You said Sunday 11/25 that you were having Ed Gamble in on 11/28 to "talk to us about having a school in Jacksonville." That was not what Mr. Gamble did (as the Watchdog correctly predicted beforehand here on this blog). He didn't talk to us about having a school in Jacksonville, but instead talked about the importance of Christian education in general (about which most of us understand already!). Very little of what he said has any direct relevance to OUR situation of deciding as a corporate body to start a Christian school or not. Some of us might completely agree with Mr. Gamble's assessment that parents should not put their kids in public schools but instead private Christian schools, but at the same time NOT believe its the right thing for our church at this time to start a school. Mr. Gamble addressed the question: "How Important is Christian Education", while we are trying to answer: "Is now the right time for us to start a Christian school." Big difference between the two. So give us some facts. Sell us on the idea. Maybe even let the chair person of the school committee (is that Dave Bristowe also?) you've formed speak to us about pros and cons...about the costs in terms of dollars out of budget, possible impacts on other ministry areas, etc.
There you go Mac. You might still get the gullible sheep of FBC Jax to give you the green light for the FBA next Wednesday. But there will be a sizable group that will vote No, and a growing number who have a distrust of your leadership unless you undo the stunt you pulled on Wednesday November 28, 2007, at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida. One of the best churches in America as you said last weekend, but certainly not the most stupid.