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.”

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Closing Out 2008 - A Look Back...

As we wind up 2008, I wanted to list what I think were the top 10 most important Watchdog posts on this website this year - but the list grew to 20, chosen from its inception about 1 1/2 years ago. They are listed chronologically - and ones that as we head into 2009 discussing the bylaws of FBC Jax I would recommend re-reading.

The Watchdog wishes all of you a very happy, healthy, and prosperous 2009.

"Paige Patterson: Mac Never Got a Honeymoon" - 10/8/07

"Good or Best" - 10/23/07

"FBC Jax Beware: The Major Fleecing is About to Begin" - 11/25/07

"What Changes Were Made to the Bylaws?" - 12/10/07

"Mac Strikes Back" - 2/3/08

"Does Mac Follow the Holy Spirit of the A-Group" - 3/23/08

"Its Enough to Make One Feel Sorry for Mac" - 4/6/08

"Mac Brunson: Jacksonville is a Hotbed of Legalism" - 4/12/08

"Two Rivers Baptist Church - Lessons for FBC Jax" - 5/15/08

"Pastor's Guidebook - Do as I Say and Not as I Do" - 5/31/08

"Let's All Go to the Holy Land" - 6/4/08

"Mac: Don't Accept Gifts..." - 6/7/08

The Lie About Sheri Klouda - 7/15/08

The Response of Sheri Klouda - 7/17/08

Christians in the Hands of an Angry God - 8/6/08

"Welcome to Maurilio (Takes a Swipe at the Watchdog)" - 8/9/08

"Fleecing the Sheep: Mac Needs a Million Dollars" - 9/21/08

Deacon Worriers - 11/3/08

"Questions for FBC Academy" - 11/25/08

"What Would Jesus Blog" - 12/7/08

"Church Discipline - Part 2" - 12/24/08

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Church Discipline - FBC Jax Style - Part 2 - Memo to Bloggers: "NO TRESPASSING"

Well FBC Jax, below are the hyperlinks of letters and trespass warnings blogged about the last month. The accused members still have not been provided a copy of the bylaws - but they were told they could swing by the church library at a predetermined time, and for that visit to the library the trespass warning would be temporarily lifted, so they could read the bylaws - but no copy would be provided. Trespass warnings are STILL in effect he says, on both he and his wife, and will be until such time as they agree to meet with the discipline committee with no representation, and without being give a copy of the bylaws.

Two of the letters are from the Discipline Committee to the member of FBC Jax and his wife - a member in good standing who he and his wife have served in the church for many years. One of them is the reply letter from the church member. He is accused of being the owner or controller of this particular blog. When you read the list of 16 sins ("A" through "P") it sounds as though they are accusing the owner of this blog of single handedly destroying the ministry of and fellowship at FBC Jax.

Letter #1: The Indictment of the Watchdog

This 11/25/08 letter accuses the man of owning and controlling the blog, and lists 16 specific sins which are "derogatory, devisive, destructive, and demeaning"...reads almost as a Jerry Vines alliterative 4-point sermon outline. According to the accused, the letter was hand delivered on the eve of Thanksgiving, by two long-term staffers who first called and hung up on him to ensure he was home, rang the doorbell, refused an invitation to come in, and pulled out a sealed envelope and gave it to the accused man and left.

According to the man who received this letter, this was the FIRST and ONLY correspondence or notice or communication in any way of this matter. Very interesting if this is true, since the letter claims that the committee is acting in accordance with Matthew 18:15-20; which it most certainly is not if the FIRST action was to drop off a letter and trespass warnings. Greek scholars are pouring through the text to find the discipline process in scripture where step one is a crank call, step two is to drop off a letter at the man's house, and step three is to ban the members from the church property until the accused comes to meet with a committee. So far no luck in finding that process in scripture.

This letter makes the accusations, and then informs the accused that he and his wife are forbidden from coming on the property ever again until they meet with the "Discipline Committee", and that failure to meet with the Discipline Committee within 10 days will result in expulsion from the church. Another reason why the December 2007 bylaw changes have significance: did the bylaws grant the authority to this new Discipline Committee to vote members out without the approval of the congregation?

The letter has been signed by the six members of the Discipline Committee: the Chairman of the Deacons, the Vice Chairman of the Deacons, and four other members of the committee - one of them which also is the President of the Trustees of the church. So who in the world would he speak to at the church to protest such treatment? The pastor? He appointed the committee members. Certainly not the Chair or vice chair of the deacons - they are committee members. President of the Trustees? Nope, on the committee. And without a copy of the bylaws (as of Friday last week no bylaws have been provided as requested) it is impossible to know if they prescribe some sort appeal process as was outlined in the Bellevue Baptist Church bylaws that also provided for an ad-hoc discipline committee. According to some posters here, the old bylaws DID contain a type of appeal process where an accused could call for a hearing in front of the church, but that the new bylaws have removed that - this story on the bylaws is developing. Names and signatures of the FBC Jax discipline committee have been removed as requested.

Trespass Warnings

Here are the trespass warnings issued which I believe were attached to the 11/25 letter: one for the man and one for his wife. These forms were shown to a law enforcement expert, who confirmed these forms prove the persons have been warned to stay away from the premises, and thus the two members could be arrested for trespassing if an official at the church wanted to report them as trespassing. The forms had the man and his wife's name, address, date of birth, weight, height, race, sex, etc. The reason stated on the forms for the warning issuance was: "willful misconduct of a church member" for the man, and "association with member engaging in willful misconduct of a church member" for the woman. So based on this its clear to me that the woman is not being accused of owning the blog, just that she is accused of "associating" with her husband who is accused of owning the blog.

Reply Letter

This 12/1/08 letter is the man's response to the accusations and trespass warnings. He states his intention to meet with the committee, but requests a copy of the bylaws, states his intention to tape record the meeting and to have counsel present, and also asks that the trespass warnings be lifted so that he and his wife may attend church services on 12/3/08 to watch their daughter sing in the choir. He also is asking for the basis of the accusations.

2nd Letter from Church

This 12/3/08 letter is the committee's response to the accused's 12/1/08 letter. This letter ignores the request to provide the bylaws, and states that the committee will never allow the man to have representation in any meetings with the committee because of the "ecclesiastical" nature of the meeting. The committee acknowledges that the man and his wife have a desire to see their daughter perform in the 12/3/08 service but insists that the man and his wife must first submit to their demand to meet with the committee prior to the service else the trespass warning is "in full force and effect". They state:

"Your non-response, unwillingness or unavailability to meet at this time will prevent you and your wife from being granted permission to attend this evening's service."

So this committee apparently has been granted such power by the church's bylaws (or by the pastor or pastor's wife's decree) that they can dictate the terms to members by which they are allowed to attend worship services. Its worth noting that attendance at the 12/3/08 meeting would not have lifted the trespass warnings, but would only permit attendance for that one service: "...the committee...is willing to allow you on the premises, for tonight, if you have an initial meeting...this evening."

A church like FBC Jax that allows its bylaws to be significantly changed by just a few men and a pastor with no explanation or discussion of the changes, especially the addition of a discipline committee, is asking for trouble - now we have a committee deciding the terms by which members of the church can and cannot attend worship services. We were warned here, here, and here.

The man says he did send a response to the 2nd reply from the church, and says he has decided to not make that one public, at least not at this time.

What is next? His wife has been removed from her Sunday School email prayer distribution list. For the time being the man and his wife have trespass warnings against them that are "in full force and effect" and he says they will comply and will worship elsewhere and don't plan on coming back. He tells me his wife is taking it all pretty hard but is coping well. The worst part he says is the total silence toward his wife - only one staff member called her - he is one of the young, very humble ministers at the church who did not know why she was not able to fulfill her ministry anymore at the church. Apparently not all of the staff had been informed of the trespass warnings.

So it appears to be a stand-off since the committee requires a meeting under their conditions only, and doesn't seem to want to meet what seem to be reasonable requests of the man and his wife prior to a meeting. If there are any "appeal" processes or procedures in the bylaws for members who are being mistreated by the committee, they are unknown to the accused as the church still has not complied with his request for a copy of the bylaws or even an explanation of the basis of the accusations. The man says its likely that the committee is following through on their threat to revoke their membership unless they meet with the committee.

So there you have it: Church Discipline - FBC Jax style. Not according to the Bible. Matthew 18 church discipline? Not even close. Its church discipline according to Team Brunson.

These events should concern every single member of FBC Jacksonville. Lest you think Mac is a disconnected party to all of these shenanigans, consider this: Mac preached Wednesday night 12/3, the very day that Mac's committee tried to force the man and his wife to meet with them without representation as a condition of seeing their child perform in church, Mac stated that scripture teaches that one function of a pastor's "dealing harshly" with sinning church members is to "put the fear of God in YOU [the congregation]". I don't find this in scripture that a pastor is to "deal harshly" with sinners, or that church discipline is designed to put "the fear of God" into people. But that is Mac's view and intent in all of this: to put the FEAR OF GOD IN YOU, THE GOOD PEOPLE OF FBC JACKSONVILLE. Just a coincidence that he makes this statement on that particular day that the man and his wife were refused entrance into the church? I don't think so.

So FBC Jax I ask you: Is Mac successful in putting the fear of God in YOU? Or is it time perhaps for the congregation to put the "fear of God" into Mac and the discipline committee and demand that they stop their abusive ways?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Celebrity-Preacher Driven Ministry

As a follow-up to the previous post, I want to offer one more ministry model that Jim Smyrl left off his article on TDM...its called the "Celebrity-Preacher Driven Ministry". Yep, CPDM.

When Mac first came to FBC Jax, his mantra for the first few months was "We don't come to church to worship a pastor or to hear from a preacher, but to worship and hear from God." Fine and true, although one might assume he said that to tell us that was what we WERE doing before he came along. And now that he was there he was going to put a stop to the evil of preacher-worship and celebrity preachers at FBC Jax.

Only problem was we really did NOT worship our pastors, and they did NOT behave as celebrities. We really DID come to church to hear from God - fortunately our pastors were preaching the Word of God every single Sunday.

Three years into Mac's tenure, we can look back and see the obvious contrasts - that while our previous pastors were NOT celebrities, Mac really does behave as though he is a celebrity, in many ways.

I suppose Vines and Lindsay were "celebrities" if by that you mean "beloved pastors". The people loved these men. Not because they were perfect, not because they had the title of "Pastor, FBC Jacksonville". And not because they expected or demanded special status. They were beloved because they proved themselves over many years to be loving toward the people, faithful to God in their call to preach Jesus and the Bible, and faithful to do right by the church called FBC Jacksonville. They were hard on sin, soft on people...and people loved them and God blessed their ministries.

Whatever love and admiration the people of FBC Jax gave them, they earned - they didn't have to demand it. They didn't come riding into town with a $300,000 land gift in their hip pocket, jobs for the family and a brand new $100,000 "pastor study" in the choicest of church space...and neither Vines nor Lindsay came into town to staying at Amelia Island for a year in an ocean-front condo while they built their million dollar mansion as Mac has.

So really, who was/is the "celebrity" preacher?

Mac has come here and used his position to give special status to his family, as though they are the "first family". We now have a 24 or 25 year old Director whose primary qualification is that his last name is Brunson. His wife also has a special position in the church. Some of you might say that Homer, Sr. gave Homer, Jr. a job - that this was nepotism. No, Jr. went away to seminary, earned his doctorate, and "earned his stripes" so-to-speak as a pastor before coming to Jacksonville. Hear me: Homer, Jr. didn't seek out this position, he didn't negotiate a deal for he and his wife and son...in fact his dad had to convince Jr. to give FBC Jacksonville a try.

Homer or Vines never held a "special offering" to raise money not in the budget to put themselves on national television.

Homer or Vines never used their position as our pastor to advertise for "Holy Land" trips on our website. Vines did travel and preach on "Christian cruises" once per year, but he never advertised them to us on the website or in the church bulletin! Even when Vines retired he was very careful to not use the pulpit to promote his "Jerry Vines Ministry" launch - with 20+ years at the church he could have and no one would have said a peep, but he knew how unbecoming it was for a pastor to use his position as pastor of a mega church to sell and promote and advertise themselves or their ministries. Vines had wisdom. Vines had class.

Once the transition to "celebrity" is made, the next logical step is to view events as promotions and revenue opportunities. And then to advertise to SELL the promotions packages - what arrogance - sure, we're going to charge you money to put you on our I-mags and to mention you on the "stage" - we can sell you a little bit of "celebrity" status if you have have the money to pay for it! Homer or Vines never sold advertising and promotions to our Pastor's conference - such a thought would be very foreign, to charge ministries $750 for a table and $12,500 for a "platinum promotions package" including "emcee recognition" and video displays and "banners in prominent positions" and "premium booth space". I would submit that doing such things would not even be a consideration for a "Jesus driven" ministry, but in a celebrity driven ministry, why not sell a little bit of "celebrity"?

For Brunson, envelopes with requests for money were passed through all the Sunday School classes for several weeks to collect money for a "money tree" for his newly married son before we even got to know Mac OR his son.

The birthday cards sent to members have Mac's entire family even though his children are grown and have families of their own. I'm glad he has a wonderful family, but one must think they are a celebrity in order to put their out-of-town daughter and son-in-law and grandchild on birthday cards going to members of FBC Jax. I mean really...does son-in-law Barry really need to be wishing FBC Jax members "Happy Birthday"? Get real.

We held special baby dedication services for Baby Broc. We held a special ordination service for Mac's son-in-law. Celebrity status - you get special baby dedications and ordinations. Never would other staff members, and certainly never would the plebe - ever get a special baby dedication or ordination service for their relative. But if your pastor is a "celebrity", it makes perfect sense to do that! But wait, maybe we can market this, and for a handsome donation one can get a special Sunday morning baby dedication.

Now again we are treated to the Brunson's including their extended family on their Christmas greetings, featuring a picture of "the Child", Baby Broc. I'm happy for Mac that he has a grandson. I'm also happy that he's proud to be a grandfather...but are members of FBC Jax to be overjoyed at the sight of his grandson who lives in Kentucky? Is there something special about HIS grandchild that he should be featured on our church website? The greeting makes it seem as though its Mac and Deb's 4th child, for crying out loud. Mac is our pastor. He has a wife. Wouldn't it be enough for Mac and his wife to give us Christmas greetings?

What empty nesters their 50's and 60's that has grown children and grandkids sends Christmas cards out that includes their grown kids, their kids' spouses, and the grandkids names on it? I have never in my life ever seen such a thing. And what is with the "Doc" and "Honey"? Let's see, Sleepy, Dopey, Doc....and "Honey"? Isn't it "Mac and Deb"?

But the Brunson's do it. Perhaps they view themselves as "celebrities". Just a guess, but I will bet this was not Mac's idea, if you know what I mean. But since women are more "sensitive to the Holy Spirit" as Mac says.

The Lindsays and Vines knew that while they were beloved, they didn't abuse that love by showcasing all of their family members in our church or promoting their families! They kept their families private.

I love babies in general, but like most members at FBC Jax I'm not all that interested in "Baby Broc" in particular. If they are presuming that we care to see Baby Broc and are filled with joy at his sight, they must assume they are celebrities, and that anyone associated with them is of interest to us. Like the baby of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie - we don't care anything about that baby but that its parents are celebrities! Oooh...let me see the little baby!

By the way, I found it a bit uncomfortable Sunday when Mac declared to us that his daughter was expecting another child, and he said "...its another boy, thank GOD, we got another man coming...the 'man-child' is coming".....as though there is something inherently wrong with a girl baby?

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Theology Driven" or "Jesus Driven" Ministry?

I find it humorous that Jim Smyrl's blog earlier this week proclaimed the virtues of "Theology Driven Ministry" - that he and Mac's "changes" they've made in the past year or so, and their plans for the future are some sort of new "movement" - the "Theology Driven Ministry" movement. Smyrl categorizes all other forms of ministry and piously explains how they all fall short - some of them, based on his examples, are taking a shot at the way we used to do things at FBC Jax. But according to Jim, thank God for TDM - because it is THE way ministry should be done. Thank you Jim and Mac, for giving us TDM, for what WOULD we have done without it! We were so lost in our ministry until Smyrl showed up with his TDM.

"Earth to Jim": Please do a "find and replace" on your computer, and replace all occurrences of the word "TDM" with the word: JESUS. Then re-read all of your TDM gobbldy-gook and it might start to make sense. It might do you, and FBC Jax, some good.

That Smyrl thinks he is defining the ultimate ministry model in TDM is so arrogant that it defies logic. FBC Jacksonville has never needed a "movement" to define its ministry. For 50 years we didn't need three letters like TDM to define what we were all about. We used 5 letters: J-E-S-U-S. We were a "Jesus Driven" ministry. We preached Jesus. We taught Jesus. We explained who Jesus was out of the Bible. We didn't need "theology" courses taught by seminaries on campus - we used humble Bible teachers who loved and lived for Jesus. The only "theology" we needed was the Word taught by preachers who preached....JESUS straight out of the Bible every single service.

And being a "JESUS" driven ministry, we used all sorts of techniques to draw people to him and to encourage people to live for Jesus. We didn't need an angry preacher yelling at us to bring our Bibles...we did it because we loved Jesus. A preacher stomping around and "amening" himself where he was just standing - nope, we gave heartily "Amens" when the truth about JESUS was spoken from the pulpit. Preachers didn't need to threaten us to tithe...we did it because we were taught to love JESUS. Jesus WAS our theology. We didn't start a school - not because we were stupid and needed the marketing genius of Mac and Maurilio to do what we were too stupid to do, but because we thought it not the best use of our resources to achieve the goal of REACHING PEOPLE FOR JESUS.

We didn't need to give our preacher a quarter million dollar land gift to come and preach...they did it because they loved us and loved JESUS. We built parking garages and buildings - not to draw people and raise revenue - not a "build it and they'll come" marketing strategy - we built because people were coming to hear about JESUS. They didn't come to hear history lessons and theatrics and seeing the preacher yell, squint, stomp, cringe, bellyache, and cry...they came to hear about JESUS. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. It was...I said WAS a Jesus-driven ministry.

Its wonderful to have a JESUS-driven ministry...you can try new ministry techniques and explain them lovingly to a congregation in the context of: "let's try this and see if it helps us reach people for Jesus and helps people love and obey Jesus more". If something works, let's keep doing it. If it doesn't work, let's try something else. We don't need to declare our new ideas as THE way...that is arrogant. We would humbly try something and if it worked we kept doing it until it didn't achieve the results of reaching people for JESUS. We didn't narrowly define our ministry in terms of "we must do small groups". Could we do "small groups"? Sure, we could try that and our preachers would lovingly explain it to us. If the preachers perceived the people didn't like it and it didn't draw them closer to Jesus, they'd move on to something else because we weren't about "small groups", we were about JESUS. Could we help compel students to invite their friends with fun rewards? Sure! If it helps reach people for JESUS, let's do it! Reward trips for teenagers to help give them motivation to study their Bibles each week and to witness? Sure, if it helps compel them to live for JESUS, let's try it! If it doesn't work, we'll do something else. Start a local TV ministry? Sure! Start a men's division? Let's see if it helps us reach people for Jesus! Bus ministry? Let's go for it, if it helps us reach people for Jesus and helps people learn to love Him. Couples classes? Let's try it!

"Earth to Mac": We were "cutting edge" when we were "JESUS driven" and we tried all sorts of ministries focused on Jesus. We didn't force people...we didn't yell at people...we did what we could to help people come to JESUS and live for JESUS.

We were a JESUS driven ministry and there is a remnant at FBC Jax that knows deep in their heart that we WERE Jesus driven, and we are now no longer Jesus driven, but we are now promotions, revenue, and celebrity preacher driven. More on that later.

Jim and his clever little TDM and his explanations of all the things we did that were wrong...he'll move on and maybe he'll write a book. Mac and Honey at some point will move on and take the Promotions and Celebrity and Marketing and Maurilio and the Family and will move on to the next church or SBC agency....and we'll get back to being a JESUS-DRIVEN MINISTRY.

In the meantime: keep loving people, and keep loving Jesus. It would be what Homer Lindsay would want us to do in these difficult days.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Examples of the Poor Treatment of Women at the Hands of Jacksonville Churches

The recent news story of the public church discipline being carried out by Grace Community Church against one of their female church members is just another example of the poor treatment of women at the hands of Jacksonville's most prominent, fundamental (Baptist) churches. Here is the trend:

- pastors abuse, slander, or denegrate women

- those who seek to reveal the abuse - whether they are the abused or concerned Christians - they are intimidated by church leaders into silence

- the abusers are not held accountable within their own church power structure

- the abusers are not even held accountable by fellow pastors! While local pastors exert church discipline on church members - they do little to nothing to call out and stop the abuse of their fellow pastors

Here are some examples of the poor treatment of women at the hands of conservative, fundamental churches in Jacksonville:

- the church covered up the sexual abuse of their pastor, Bob Gray, for years. This was well documented by TV-12 in Jacksonville through a series of special investigation reports.

- one of the young women who brought the matter of her abuse forward to church leaders in the sat in the congregation as the pastor's sexual abuse was glossed over and mischaracterized as "neither sexual nor immoral", and was then given a standing ovation of support to the disgust of the young woman.

- According to some at the church, their current pastor Tom Messer admitted he knew of Gray's abuse at the time but did nothing to stop it.

- No proper "church discipline" for Bob Gray when accusers came forward - and apparently no church discipline for Tom Messer for not exposing Gray's abuse and recommending Gray for a missionary position knowing Gray was a child molester. Messer still claims there was no cover-up. Was "church discipline" carried out against Tom Messer?

- This church hired Darrel Gilyard in 1993 after he had pastored in Texas and Oklahoma and admitted to have abused his power as pastor in having sexual relations with church members and women coming to him for counseling. Gilyard's abuse was well know to Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines, as they were both Gilyard's biggest supporters and mentors in the 1980s.

- Hiring Gilyard and not warning the church of his past immediately put the women of this church at great risk from a serial sexual abuser. And as anyone could have guessed, Gilyard continued his abuse of women at Shiloh and is awaiting trial for several charges dealing with minors.

- There was one bright spot in that story - a local pastor who knew of Gilyard's past confronted Gilyard back in 1993 when he came to Shiloh, that he was unfit to pastor, and warned several leaders of the church in person and in writing of Gilyard's past. This pastor was "thanked" by having a complaint filed against him by the deacons of the church. If only more pastors were like this pastor - at least as concerned as much about "disciplining" abusing pastors as they are "disciplining" sinners in their churches.

- Dr. Mac Brunson spread a lie about Dr. Sheri Klouda from the pulpit in the summer of 2008, regarding her lawsuit against Paige Patterson and Brunson's alma mater, Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary. This lie was very hurtful to Dr. Klouda particularly considering Brunson was Klouda's pastor in Dallas. To date Brunson has not apologized to his congregation nor Klouda for his hurtful remarks

- The "Discipline Committee" of FBC Jacksonville has issued a Trespass Warning against the wife of a long-time member of the church who the church has accused of creating division in the church through this blog. The woman has served faithfully in the church for many years - and now she is banned from the church property for the sin of "associating" with her husband until she agrees to meet with the church Discipline Committee with her husband. As of this week no one from the church has contacted her, not even the pastor's wife, to discuss the sin of associating with her husband. The church would not even allow her to attend services with her child or to watch her child perform on a Wednesday night unless she agreed to meet with six men of the church.

- In a self-serving move to protect the church from lawsuits that might arise out of misdeeds by the church, FBC Jacksonville trustees have added a provision to their bylaws stating that members waive their rights to file any legal action against the church in a civil court or agency. This was added to the bylaws in 2007 with absolutely no explanation to the church prior to the vote.

- Mac Brunson accused two very famous pastor's wives (wives of Dr. Truett and Dr. Criswell of FBC Dallas) of creating problems in the church by openly opposing pastors. Very unorthodox for a pastor to publicly accuse and denegrate the name of pastor's wives - yet Mac doesn't have any problem doing that.

- now Grace Community comes on the scene as they seek to exert church discipline on a woman at the church who is accused of having an immoral relationship. One can only wonder how they determine which sins are worthy of this action: is it only those accused of sexual sins? What about greed, or gluttony? Those who are drunkards? Any men who have been unethical in their businesses, have they been rung up by the elders of Grace Community and exposed publicly before the church?

- this story has gone national, as it is now picked up by Fox News. Fox has posted a copy of the letter sent to the woman here. One sentence does sound threatening, almost coersion like: "...this third step [of the discipline process] will be carried out publicly on Sunday January 4th, 2008 [sic]. In order to avoid this, you may contact us through the church office, 904-268-8854". So unless she gives in to their demands, they will do something that she would not want them to do, which is make her sin public. Coersion? Sounds like it. I would like the church to produce one such letter with similar intimidating words that has ever been sent to a man in the church.

So that is the trend. When abuse occurs, silence the accusers. Gloss over the accusations. Mischaracterize the abuse and sin of the abusers. Intimidate those who call out the sin. Change the bylaws to take away rights of church members to hold the church civily responsible for their misdeed - but let the church hold members accountable through threatening letters and trespass warnings. Cover for the abusers and slanderers. Don't hold the abusers or the protectors of the abusers accountable. Tell lies about a woman if it helps your buddy at your alma mater. Issue a trespass warning against a woman and keep her from coming to church with her children since her husband is accused of creating division in the church. Send a letter of coercion to a woman that unless she stop her sinful ways the elders will "tell it to the church".

So who is next fundamental church to step up and be a "strong supporter" of the women in Jacksonville?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Scarlet Letter - A (or B for Blogging?)

The Florida Times Union (Jacksonville) ran a story today entitled "Church to 'Out' Ex-Members Sexually Immoral Relationship". This is a story about a female divorced church member at Grace Community Church who is being accused of having a "sexually immoral relationship" with her boyfriend, and the church is exercising what they consider to be biblical church discipline - which included sending her a letter telling her of her sin, presumably asking her to repent or face public revelation of her sin before the church. This member is a local social worker, and a Lt. Col in the Army National Reserves. The pastor of the church is Scott Christmas - graduate of Criswell College (at FBC Dallas), and Southern Seminary - both affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. The church however, from its website is apparently non-denominational.

According to the article, at the church's January 4th service her sin will be publicly exposed before the church. Although not stated in the article, it is likely that this is for the church to understand what she is being accused of so that they may vote her out of the fellowship and revoke her membership.

The member has sent the church a resignation letter to try and stop this public revelation, but according to the pastor the discipline process will proceed.

This is so very sad that the church has decided to do this, and I would like to make a few comments:

- this process the church is going through, is likely spelled out in their bylaws as biblical "Church Discipline", much like what is currently in the new bylaws of FBC Jax recently passed in December 2007 with no discussion or explanation to the members. There is likely a group of elders or deacons who once they become aware of some sin or offense in a person's life, they will go to the pastor and determine if it is worthy of discipline according to their bylaws. They then will likely go to the person to confront them of their sin (which apparently a group of women did at the church) to get the person to repent. If the accused does not respond appropriately, then the committee will make a recommendation to the church - which could include expulsion from the church.

- being a relatively new church (founded in 1996) and certainly not a "mega church" like FBC Jax, its likely that their church bylaws originally had this discipline process in it. FBC Jax has NOT had this discipline process in their bylaws, until this past December 2007 when the bylaws were changed adding an article spelling out a similar discipline process that culminates in the offenders sin being brought to the church. Mac Brunson himself stated just two weeks ago that this process of bringing people's sins before the church, and "dealing harshly" with them is to "put the fear of God" into other church members (listen below).

- this process that is occurring at Grace Community Church is similar to the process taking place at FBC Jax with a long-time member who has been accused of dividing the church through ownership of this blog. One strange twist in the FBC Jax church discipline case is that the accused and his wife both were served with Trespass Warnings until such time that they agree to meet with the a discipline committee of six men - without given a copy of the governing bylaws and without any representation.

- what the press should inquire at both FBC Jax and at Grace Community Church as a follow-up (this Grace Community Church story will likely have legs at the national level - I can see a "pinhead" award coming!) is this: how does the church determine what offenses are so egregious that they require this process? Are all sins committed by the members of congregation worthy of such a process? Are there any men at Grace who have been accused of adultery, and were they subjected to this Church Discipline process? Any obese people at the church that haven't repented of their gluttony? What about drunkards who might be seen at the local bar? Same process?

- I wonder if this woman was issued a "Trespass Warning" as the accused blogger was at FBC Jax. Do they issue Trespass Warnings at Grace to try to coerce people to meet with their discipline committee? Do the FBC Jax bylaws specify which sins are worthy of having Trespass Warnings issued barring people from the church, or is it just people who are accused of divisiveness through blogging? What about adulterers, fornicators, drunkards, swindlers, and the greedy and gluttonous? Trespass Warnings for them?

- Just this week Time Magazine declared the Southern Baptist Convention's failure to begin a sexual predator database as one of the Top-10 most under-reported news stories of 2008! So while the Southern Baptists have decided AGAINST taking prudent steps towards letting people know of dangerous clergy in their midst...at the same time churches like FBC Jacksonville, one of the largest churches in the SBC, is clandestinely changing their bylaws to make sure the church's expose the blogging or sexual sins of their own members! And here's the kicker: which I'm sure will be of interest to Christa Brown: to rub salt in the wounds of FBC Jax members a statement was added in the new church discipline bylaws section saying that all members of FBC Jax have given up their right to seek civil remedies against their church. Minister molests your kid? You've agreed to not sue the church. The church doesn't do a thorough background check on one of the Sunday School workers and he fondles your child? Sorry, you forfeited your right by joining FBC Jax to seek any civil penalties for their negligence.

Is there any wonder why people are leaving churches? Maurilio Amorim of the A-Group has a blog article this week reviewing the book "Quitting Church" - which examines why people in America are fleeing churches for home church and worship. And no wonder, when they see the one-way discipline churches seek to exert on members: Churches like FBC Jax and Grace Community want to make sure they exert "discipline" on wayward members who engage in certain sins deemed by the ministers to be worthy of discipline - yet the church leadership seeks to minimize the church's accountability for misdeeds by their own ministers - and banishes members who are accused of blogging about problems in the church.

Below are two sermon excerpts from Mac Brunson explaining his view of church disipline with an example of how he used it in Dallas - and his statement that church discipline is to be exercised by the pastor to "put the fear of God" in the congregation.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Smyrl's "Lost" Articles

As a courtesy to Jim Smyrl's blog readers, I thought I'd provide copies of his lost articles on the Catholic Cult and on the sin of voting for Obama. All but one of these articles mysteriously disappeared from the "FBC Jacksonville Official Blogsite" after Jim's blog experienced "technical difficulties" over the weekend. We wouldn't want these insightful, relevant, "cutting edge" articles to not get the fair reading they deserve. Blog on Jim - the Watchdog has you covered!

Voting Yourself Out of Fellowship

Catholic Cults - Part 1

Catholic Cults - Part 2

Catholic Cults - Part 3

Monday, December 15, 2008

What Would Jesus TAKE?

In the next installment of "What Would Jesus _______" as follow-ups to the Times Union 12/7 article "What Would Jesus Blog"....we will ask the question:

"What Would Jesus TAKE?"

If Jesus were our pastor, would he have accepted a $300,000 land gift just weeks after he showed up? Would he have played a commercial for a business of the person who gave him that land gift in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount?

I know that this topic has been discussed here on this blog many times, but it bears another examination in light of the Times Union article. If there was ONE, indisputable, verifiable, PROMINENT claim made on this blog about Mac Brunson that bears examination by a Times Union reporter, it is this - if you are one of the many new readers of this blog since the Times Union story ran, please read this next paragraph very slowly:

Mac and Debbie Brunson, just three weeks after arriving in Jacksonville as pastors of the FBC Jacksonville, accepted a land gift in Deerwood Country Club valued currently at $307,000. This gift was given to the Brunsons for "love and affection" as stated on the deed, and the giver of the gift is a member of and donor to the church.

The deed for this gift is publicly available on the City of Jacksonville property appraisor's website here. Despite this being perhaps the most prominent issue of this blog, and despite this being one irrefutable fact on this blog, the writer of the Times Union story did NOT ask Brunson about this allegation. Instead he characterized the blog as being about salary and the church's desire to start a school. Why ignore this issue?

Now, before you reject the rest of this article as irrelevant because you are thinking: "So what? The man accepted a gift, what is wrong with that?" or before you say "That's his own business, who are YOU, some anonymous blogger to be judging what the man does in his private life?", I implore you to read the rest of this article. Don't let the fact that this is written by an anonymous author cause you to reject the truth that is written here. I am a member of FBC Jacksonville, a person you've likely seen around the church or maybe know me personally. If my facts are wrong, or disagree with my arguments, reject this article and don't give it a second thought.

The desires to dismiss this issue out of hand as irrelevant are normal. When we first hear news that might shed a negative light on a man we respect, we don't want to think he did something unethical. But you and I as members of FBC Jacksonville must think more deeply. You owe it to your Lord and to your CHURCH to think more deeply than just "what's wrong with a man accepting a gift?" This has the potential to reflect very poorly on our church. It needs to have the light of truth shone on it, and if there is nothing wrong with this gift because of things behind the scenes, let it be said so.

I would first like to make this case...everyone at our church needs to understand:

For other non-profit 501(c)3 organizations such as the Red Cross or Compassion International: if a man is hired to lead the organization, then accepts a very large gift from ONE OF THE DONORS OF THE ORGANIZATION WITHIN DAYS OF ACCEPTING HIS POSITION...this would be universally seen as UNETHICAL.

You know it in your gut as you read this. Most of you reading this work for companies that have told you under what conditions you may or may not accept gifts from customers or vendors for obvious reasons - and $300,000 land gifts are definitely off limits! If you can't grasp that concept, then don't bother reading the rest of this article, as it won't make any sense.

A man that accepts a six-figure salary to lead a non-profit organization should never accept large gifts from one of the donors of the organization, unless it is fully disclosed and explained and approved by an independent review board! A 501(c)3 receives its revenue primarily from DONATIONS! Donations go to the organization, not the HEAD of the organization. Should not people who approach the leader with personal gifts be directed to give the gift to the organization, since the organization is giving him a comfortable salary? In a church, if a large gift is given to a long-time, beloved pastor (three weeks in Jax doesn't make him "long time" nor "beloved") and a gift is given, should not that be disclosed to the church so we may all rejoice?

What bearing does what the Red Cross or Compassion International's views on gifts have on us, a Christian church? Well, Mac himself has written in his "Guidebook for Pastors" that pastors should hold themselves to HIGHER ethical standards than the world - not only THAT, but he also believes pastors should behave more ethically than other CHRISTIANS!! Here's what he says in his book, "The New Guidebook for Pastors", page 180:

"In the Bible, people in leadership positions were called upon to have higher ethical standards than the other people of God. The pastor should never see how close he can come to the line between what is ethical and unethical, but he should stay as far away from it as possible" Mac Brunson

So if you can accept the fact that no other 501(c)3 organizations would see this as ethical, and that Mac should at least be as ethical as secular organizations, then read on. If you believe that perhaps Mac behaved in a less than fully ethical manner in accepting this gift - if you believe at least that this gift GIVES THE APPEARANCE of impropriety, then read on.

Let's be generous. Let's assume that if all the facts were known about this gift, that we would conclude there was nothing unethical. Its all on the "up and up". Fine, I'm open to that possibility. But on the surface this act looks to have greed and privilege written all over it. Thus, the pastor immediately needs to answer the following questions about this gift to clear any of this up. If he made a mistake somewhere, he can admit it and ask forgiveness. He needs to provide answers to his congregation that he himself has declared he is fully accountable to. I would propose the following subjects to be addressed with the church:

a. He needs to explain the circumstances behind the gift: when did he and/or his wife become aware of this gift? Was it before or after they had accepted the call to pastor FBC Jax?

b. He needs to explain why he thought it was ethical to accept the gift. If he is earning a salary from our church, and our church is presumably paying his relocation expenses, how then can he take a $300,000 gift for "love and affection" from one of our wealthy donors? Did he consider other options, like encouraging the man to liquidate it and give it to the church as a seed gift for a school or satellite church?

c. He needs to explain what the rules are for accepting gifts that apply to the staff of our church. Does his accepting this gift mean that other staff members can accept large gifts? Is it open season for wealthy members to donate large gifts to staff members that they personally like? If its not acceptable say for John Blount to accept a six-figure gift from one of our donors, then why would it be OK for Mac Brunson to accept one? Or is there one set of rules for the "senior pastor", and another for everyone else? Can just the "executive pastors" accept large gifts from donors?

d. Mac needs to explain how his accepting of this gift is not inconsistent with his advice given in his book "The New Guidebook for Pastor's" that is read by future pastors in seminaries. How can he caution pastors against accepting gifts in this book, but yet he accepts a $307,000 gift just says after accepting the call to pastor FBC Jacksonville?

e. If Mac and/or his wife were made aware of this gift at some point prior to them accepting the call to be pastors at our church, was the relocation package adjusted accordingly? If Mac and/or his wife were made aware of this gift by certain members of the search committee during the negotiations, were ALL pastor search committee members and members of the personnel and finance committess made aware also so that a fair relocation package could be negotiated to take into consideration this extremely large gift given by one of our members?

f. Mac needs to also explain why he decided to air a testimony (click here to listen) in the middle of his sermon earlier this year, for the sons of the man who gave him this gift. The testimony was a professionally produced commercial highlighting the residential construction business, owned by two sons of the gift giver, that has decided to close their sales offices on Sundays. Was this quid pro-quo for his land gift? If not, did we charge the business for this free publicity, especially since it aired on our broadcast on TV-12? If we are charging $12,500 to ministries to highlight their themselves during the pastor's conference with a 60 second video, wouldn't we certainly then charge a for-profit business for that same privilege that will end up airing on local TV-12 since it was in the middle of the sermon? Why or why not?

These questions deserve to be addressed by the pastor. As I said, Mac himself has stated he views us as his "bosses" and that he is fulling accountable to each of us. Really? Put your money where your mouth is, so to speak, Mac. Explain the gift.

You might say, "this is almost 3 years in passing, let's just let it go." I say we CANNOT. Firstly, what does this gift say to other wealthy church members? What if a wealthy church member in the future decides to buy influence or favors with the pastor? Secondly, we've already crossed the line where we sell advertising at our Pastor's Conference! How far are we away from selling references to businesses in the sermons? Thirdly, shouldn't our church say to all staff members to not accept any gifts above a certain amount from church members so as to not burden them with having to determine the motives of the gift giver? Its what the "world" does, shouldn't we at least have ethics that are at that level? How can our ethical standard be lower than the world's?

Mac himself points to pastors' ethical failures in his book on page 180 and says: "You are either honest or you are not. Many pastors have ruined their ministries by compromosing personal ethics....One cannot help but wonder if such pators are even saved, let alone called to preach." So it was Mac who accepted the land gift and has given the appearance of impropriety. He comes close to the line he said pastors should never get close to. Thus we ask: was what you did unethical? If so, are you saved? Are you called to be a preacher?

Mac has felt pressure in the past to address this issue. If you click below you will hear his defiant, arrogant explanation of his housing situation. This is the only time he has gotten vaguely close to explaining the land gift, and he did it to boldy proclaim "I'm paying for THAT house". True, he's paying for the million dollar house, but he did NOT pay for the $300,000 land on which the house sits. So that is deceptive at best. Another potential unethical act - deceiving us about paying for his house/land - deserving of an explanation.

Mac needs to address these issues with the church - fully, openly, honestly, and humbly. Not half of the story. No arrogance. Drop the bulldog approach, Mac. If he can't address this with the congregation to whom he said he is accountable, then perhaps a trespass warning could be issued to Mac....and his wife...until such time he agrees to explain why he has done what he has done.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What Would Jesus CHARGE?

When I read in the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference "promotions brochure" that a company/ministry can purchase a "Platinum Promotions" Package that includes various advertising perks, video displays in the church and dining room, print display ads, banners around the church, perhaps the two perks that gall me the most is this:

"Emcee recognition and thank you from the stage"


"1 Premium Booth Location"

So part of the $12,500 "Platinum Package" promotions includes getting the "emcee" (I didn't know we had an "emcee" - master of ceremonies I assume - at a pastor's conference. I thought we had a pastor, a music minister, etc.) to say a few words from the "stage" (I didn't know we had a "stage" - I thought it was a pulpit on a platform).

And if you have $12,500 we'll give you a "premium booth location"...that idiot, that plebe that only has $750, we'll stick him by door number 6 on the east end of the RLA. But you, the guy with the deep pockets - we'll put you right outside the doors of the main sanctuary. Wow.

So in this 2nd installment of "What Would Jesus _______", we'll ask the question: What Would Jesus CHARGE? That is, if Jesus were the Senior Pastor of FBC Jacksonville, what would he charge ministries, if anything, to come into our church to have access to the people of our church and our visiting pastors?

Remember the context: the Times Union posed the question "What Would Jesus Blog?" implying that if Jesus were here today he most certainly would NOT be blogging anonymously, and he wouldn't dare to hold the mighty mega pastors accountable. How DARE Jesus say ANYTHING calling into question the integrity of Mac Brunson! So Mac and the Times Union ask "What Would Jesus Blog", so we shall use the same measuring stick against Mac and his ministries, to see how they measure up to the standards of Jesus.

When I see that we are marketing and selling "emcee recognition and thank you from the stage" that tells me we are at FBC Jacksonville willing to sell the very words uttered in the sanctuary. That scares me.

Were Jesus' words for sale? Could kudos from Jesus be bought for a price? Would he put ads in the middle of his sermons and his illustrations? In short: WHAT WOULD JESUS CHARGE?

Imagine Jesus saying any of the following:

"Hey Peter - if you donate 5000 shekels to my ministry, I will in turn give you a PREMIUM spot at the Last Supper...and me, the EMCEE of the supper, I'll even say a few words of what a great guy you are!"

"Hey Andrew - which package would you like? For 10 pieces of silver I'll walk on the water for you, and for an extra 5 pieces you can 'upgrade' to my 'premium package' and watch me moonwalk on the water. "

"You moneychangers in the temple...which of you purchased the Platinum and Silver packages? You plebe that bought the Bronze packages, how dare you set up shop in the 'premim' locations of my Father's House reserved for the Platinum and Silver moneychangers. Only those who paid the $12,500 are allowed THIS close to the temple!"

"Hey Lazarus, no problem recognizing you and calling your name and raising you from the dead. It was the LEAST I could do since you gave me that sweet land deal in Galillee."

"Suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light up a lamp manufactured by Smitty's Gospel Lighting and Fixtures, sweep the house and search until she finds it?"

Just a hunch, but I don't think Jesus would have said those things.

Jesus wouldn't blog? OK. But would Jesus use his resources to hire a marketing firm in Nashville and would he use his resources to hire a promotions firm in Atlanta to develop a promotions plan to charge ministries for having advertising access to his followers? If not, why is Mac, "God's man", doing these things?

Doesn't it all just stink? That our church is engaged in this sort of "marketing bonanza"? Doesn't it make you uncomfortable? Shouldn't perhaps the church stay away from this kind of activity? If we're hosting an event IN OUR CHURCH....how can we justify charging huge sums of money for advertising space? It does not cost us anywhere near $750 to allow a ministry to put a table up in our foyer area to showcase their ministry, nor does it cost $12,500 to provide the services listed above - even if we think those are things we should do. "Pay for Play", as they say.

Does this not concern anyone? Is this not just a dangerous line to cross? You give me a certain sum of money, and I'll say certain words from the platform that you will like and will benefit you. Show us the money, and you tell us what to say on the platform. Is that what our church is about now? Are we that BRAZEN that we will do this and openly sell it? We promote certain ministries based on their ability to pay for it? We're auctioning words and kudos to the highest bidder? Who has $12,500? Well if you fork it over we'll promote your product or ministry out the wazoo for you...we'll treat our members and our pastor guests as though they are a "target market" to be advertised to. Want to sell your "Bible on CD" series? Pay us and Jim Caviezel can come here and promote it and our sheep will think its a "testimony" and not a "commercial". Ouch. I feel duped. I thought it was a testimony. It was a commercial.

Come on people. Were you a bit alarmed at how Trey patted the Soles 4 Souls guy so hard on the back this Sunday that his fillings nearly came out? And did that ministry pay for that recongition given by Trey from the platform? I wonder: did THAT ministry pay us for putting a ":60 video promotion from the stage?" Why not? If we're charging ministries for promotion time at the PC, why not charge this ministry? Or do we only charge certain ministries for the privilege of promoting themselves? If that is so, what is the criteria? Who decides who pays and who doesn't pay for promotion time? Does Mac and Trey decide which ministries have to pay to be promoted, and which ones get the promotions for free?

This is what our church was always accused of doing in decades past. Don't you remember rumors in Jacksonville that the more money you give the closer you can sit to the front and other phony charges having to do with money and privilege in the church? We have become what we were falsely accused of in the past! Now apparently if we give enough money to the church we get our business or ministry recognized, you can purchase words of promotion, and you can even purchase "premium booth space". If we give enough money or land to the pastor, he'll promote our relatives' business during one of his sermons.

I warned FBC Jax last year that hosting a non-evangelistic fund raiser for Jewish hospital at our church because certain deacons wanted it, no matter how noble the cause may or may not be...was just not a line we should cross and it opens us up to all sorts of shenanigans.

We are now seeing those in our face - selling marketing and promotions in our own sanctuary.

And no one seems to care.

It must be of God, if "God's man" is behind it, right?

While I am sickened to watch this governor in Illinois be exposed for his "pay to play" schemes, I can't help but be reminded of our own "pay to play" scheme - if you want recognition at our church for your ministry, you're gonna have to pay to play, baby. What is so odd about this governor is not just his schemes, but the BRAZENESS of him willing to do it and talk about it. We are no less brazen when we develop promotions plan to "sell" to ministries the privilege of having marketing and advertising access to the people of FBC Jax and our visiting pastors.

Let it be said:


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blog? How 'Bout "What Would Jesus EARN?"

The Sunday Times Union article title was "What Would Jesus Blog?" - the implication being that Jesus would not be blogging anything derogatory about an abusive church leader, and certainly not anonymously. Of course not - Jesus wouldn't dare speak any harsh words to high and mighty religious leaders like Mac Brunson, would he?

Well, if we're going to ask "What Would Jesus Blog", and if the newspaper is going to give Mac the platform from which to deny that he is earning $300,000 per year - without the reporter demanding proof or requiring a firm number...then let's ask a few "What Would Jesus Do" type questions of our own in the next few articles.

Let's examine Mac's actions in light of what Jesus would do, since Mac says he is our "undershepherd".

First question we'll consider:

What Would Jesus Earn?

Pehaps this would have been a good question for Mac after he said he doesn't make "anywhere near $300,000". If Jesus were our pastor, what would he earn? If Jesus were here on earth, and he were our pastor at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, would he:

- be earning a salary 10 times the average church member?

- would he be driving a Lexus and Jaguar?

- would he have spent $100,000 of God's people's money to build himself a 3000 square foot office building in a building constructed not for a pastor but for the children of FBC Jacksonville?

- would Jesus use his position as pastor to give jobs and salaries to unqualified family members who didn't go through any legit interview and hiring process?

- would Jesus take a salary of up to $400,000 total compensation? (come on Mac, make a liar out of me and release you and your wife's total compensation number - don't forget to include ALL allowances, and honoraria from your speaking engagements and holy land trips and pastor's conferences)

- would Jesus take a gift of $300,000 from one of the church donors when Jesus knew that his people had already given him a generous salary and benefit package, and knowing he had told other preachers to not do this....or would Jesus perhaps taken the ethical, high road and politely encouraged the man to donate that gift to the Lord's work?

- would Jesus charge $750 to "exhibitors" so they could have a table in our church during the pastor's conference to inform the pastors of their ministry? (what a deal - $750 to use a table at the church - but you do get two awesome badges, use of two luxury folding chairs, and those awesome power strips and a cloth drape! We'll even run the vacuum for you - we might add that we'll give you two parking spaces and free, unlimited drinking fountain water)

Not trying to be overly critical. But if we're going to ask WHAT WOULD JESUS BLOG, then it stands to reason that we should look at the pastor's actions himself and compare them to what Jesus would do.

So come on...WHAT WOULD JESUS BLOG? I don't know if he would blog...but I can tell you what Jesus DID do...he drove the guys from the temple that used the temple to enrich themselves. No blogging, but he drove the money-hungry scoundrels out of the temple. No trespass warnings delivered by his hirelings...no sir...he was a man and faced them himself and drove them out.

Let's face it FBC Jacksonville...we have entered a church age where there is HUGE MONEY TO BE MADE IN THE NAME OF GOD AND "MINISTRY". We've always known that, as we've watched televangelists operate and enrich themselves over the past 20+ years. But wake up FBC Jacksonville...YOU ARE NOW PART OF THE GAME - YOU ARE NOW FUNDING IT! Its not just televangelists, the day of money-making pastors and families is here on our doorstep as evidenced by:

1. Mac and wife are making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year and living lavish life styles....where does the money come from? From the people of God who give their tithes to God.

2. Son is making a salary of around $50,000 (by Mac's own admission) at our church as a man with no seminary training and holds a "Director" position at our church...he would never have been given any ministry responsibility in our church with a 4-year degree from a bible college at the age of 22...except that his last name was "Brunson". Where does the money come from for Trey's salary and bennies? From the people of God who give their tithes to God. If last name is the qualification for employment, then please someone contact Doyle Brunson to hire him as our Director of Texas Hold 'Em.

3. Even the guy who was here in town with the "Soles 4 Souls"....that son patted on the back so hard Sunday morning his fillings nearly came out....wonderful ministry and all of that...but he is pulling a salary of $265,500 (that's pretty close to $300,000) and his COO is pulling $108,000 from his non-profit Christian ministry. I'm not criticizing him for this - perhaps he needs that money and does wonderful things with his high salary. But my point is: where does the money and labor come from that allow him to operate this ministry and earn the hefty salary from his 501(c)3? From companies and God's people donating shoes, money and their time. What a business model - start a 501(c)3 and pay yourself a huge salary as the CEO.

4. Even Maurilio Amorim, our church marketing consultant (who by the way is a consultant for the Soles 4 Souls guy)...has a very successful business where he helps churches apply business marketing principles to help them "brand" their church to appeal to the "target market". Where does the money come from to pay Maurilio for his church marketing? From God's people, of course. At least Maurilio is operating in a competitive market of other firms and he is providing very valuable services in his web design and print media function of his business. Maurilio doesn't demand money from a congregation, and doesn't hold "special offerings" for his pet projects. So I'll be very kind to Maurilio in that regard. But STILL...God's people giving money "to God" have large amounts of money given to Maurilio's firm to "market" and promote their church...there's something not quite right about that.

5. We now are selling advertising space at our Pastor's Conference to increase revenues. Selling advertising. In the church. On the image screens. In the dining room TVs. I know, its hard to believe. I'm sure they would tell us the noble things done with this promotions money; but no matter - the ends don't justify the means. Click here to view the "promotions plan" yourself.

So what WOULD Jesus earn?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Since Mac Mentioned His "Annual Salary"....

Since the Times Union article quotes Mac about his "annual salary", its good that we now have him on the record. Although Mac's salary is not one of the main items blogged about here, since he decided to address that with the Times Union writer, let's take a closer look at this. Mac is one clever devil.

From the article yesterday:

"Brunson said he doesn't make anywhere near the $300,000 annual salary the blogger claims..."

Interesting. The term used is "annual salary". Anyone that knows anything about clergy compensation packages knows that for IRS tax reasons, a pastor's compensation package is broken out by annual salary and a myriad of other expense "allowances", such as housing allowances (in which a pastor's house payments can be lumped - Mac owns a million dollar home), car, travel, clothing, benefits, retirement, continuing education, other professional expenses, etc. For a pastor of Mac's stature, these "allowances" can be a very signifcant part of his compensation.

And given that Mac's wife is reportedly on staff and earns a salary without a formal job title and ministry responsibilities that are unknown to most members...while former pastors' wives served at the church without pay...then it would also stand to reason that her salary and her allowances should be considered in the number that Mac quotes us.

So now that Mac says his "annual salary" is not even close to $300,000, perhaps he can share the answer to this question:

"Is your total compensation package, inclusive of all your housing, car, travel, and other allowances, along with your wife's salary and allowances...is THAT amount less than $300,00? Is it less than $400,000? Less than $500,000?

If his total compensation package is NOT far below $300,000, then Mac is disingenous at best, and a bald-faced LIAR at worse. Mac doesn't want to give out his total compensation, but does want to give just enough partial information to be able to claim that the blogger that has been "dogging" him is lying - over the technicality that one portion of his compensation is below $300,000. Right. And his weight is probably below 180 lbs....from the waist up that is.

At least now the people at our church who do know his total compensation package know that Mac is a deceiver. He deceived the Times Union reporter over the issue of compensation to deceive his church members about how much he REALLY makes every year from our church, because if he disclosed what he and his wife's take is from the church it would be too embarrassing, and giving would suffer. But lay leaders keep this in mind: if Mac is willing to deceive a Times Union reporter about something, don't be surprised in the future when you go to Mac for some information if he decides to deceive you by giving you only part of the story.

So tell us Mac: what is your TOTAL annual compensation? You must want us to know else you wouldn't have brought it up with the newspaper, so please, give us the whole story. We're waiting. As someone said recently: "Trust God, and Tell the People".

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What Would Jesus Blog? The Other Side of the Story...

The Florida Times Union (Jacksonville's local newspaper) today is running an article entitled "What Would Jesus Blog" on religious blogs featuring quotes about Mac Brunson and this blog. What impeccable timing, given that Brunson and his discipline committee issued trespass warnings just last week on the eve of Thanksgiving to a long-time member of the church and his wife that the church is accusing of running the blog (click here to view the trespass warnings issued by the church and click here to read the article).

I'm sure many of you reading this article right now have read Jeff Brumley's article. The article says that this blog is critical of Brunson's salary and the decision to start a school, as though these are the only issues at our church. Oh if that were true! But unfortunately for our church, those are not the main issues. Not only has the church just last week decided to issue trespass warnings against a man and his wife that are accused of owning this blog, but there is a whole slew of concerns at our church that do NOT have anything to do with starting a school or the pastor's salary.

Jeff Brumley has always been very fair to FBC Jacksonville and has written excellent pieces on Jerry Vines, Homer Lindsay, Jr., and FBC Jax in general. But I think Jeff was just too soft in this article, mischaracterizing the concerns of the bloggers about FBC Jacksonville and Mac Brunson. And too bad he couldn't do some last minute updates to discuss in his article why Mac's discipline committee issued trespass warnings against the man and his wife accused of owning this blog. Also too late to make Jeff's article: Jeff's Catholic readers might be interested in knowing that Mac Brunson's right-hand man at FBC Jax has a series of blog articles on the church website stating that Catholic priests are "cult leaders", and the Catholic Church is a "cult". This church blog from Mac's right hand man also declares that those who voted for Obama need to repent of their "sin".

But in the event that Brumley's article does generate traffic to this particular blog (although Jeff doesn't include its name or web address in his article), I want to make sure that any new readers understand fully why this blog exists. Jeff is wrong, it is not about Mac's salary and the church's decision to start a school. Why did this blog start, and why is it still up and running with a vast readership? Why are the people running this blog and posting on this blog mostly anonymous? And just what are the issues at FBC Jax that this blog has dealt with for over a year?

Firstly, why the blog? This blog was not set up to "throw stones" at the FBC Jax or Mac Brunson. It was established after Mac Brunson for about a year was found to have engaged in several very questionable activities in his first year and a half as pastor of FBC Jax. All of these were ignored by Jeff Brumley in the article. The purpose of the blog was to attempt to hold the leadership accountable for questionable actions since Mac Brunson arrived, and to inform church members of the same in light of the absence of information coming from the church leadership. The blog contains video and audio clips of things Mac himself has said. If you browse the past articles of this blog you might be shocked at what you hear coming out of the FBC Jax pulpit these days.

Now, what were the questionable activities over which this blog was started? Since Jeff didn't include these in his article, and apparently didn't ask Mac Brunson about them, here they are for Brumley's readers:

1. Just a few weeks after his arrival in Jacksonville, Mac Brunson accepted a land gift worth $300,000 in Deerwood Country Club. This is a matter of public record and can be found on the city property appraisor's website. The gift was given for "love and affection" by developer J.D. Collins, a member of FBC Jacksonville. This raises serious ethical questions. Was the gift a pre-arranged gift as condition of him coming to Jacksonville, or just a spontaneous gift from the giver? Was the relocation package offered by the church revised when it became known that a member had directly given a large gift to the pastor for his home? What are the ethics of a pastor of a large church who presumably is paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the church in salary and benefits and housing allowance, then accepting a land gift FROM ONE OF THE CHURCH DONORS? This would be considered unethical in almost any other corporation or non-profit organization, yet its tolerated in our church. What was Mac's response to his church about this? Nothing, other than this past summer to say in a sermon: "I'm paying for that house...and the last time I checked, the United States Government said I could live anywhere I wanted."

2. About a year and a half after Mac was given the gift by J.D. Collins, Mac Brunson aired a professionally done "video testimony" highlighting the home building business of the sons of J.D. Collins - RIGHT SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF HIS SERMON. I call that "quid pro quo". Never has a video testimony highlighting a member's business been aired in the middle of a preacher's sermon. What a coincidence that the first one was for the sons of a man who gifted Mac Brunson $300,000.

3. One of the most egregious acts that this blog was critical of was the manner by which the church bylaws were significantly changed in 2007. The pastor and his trustees were completely silent with regard to the bylaw changes and they called for a vote knowing hardly anyone in the congregation knew of the changes. No words of explanation AT ALL were given prior to the vote in November 2007. One of the changes was to form a discipline committee. Not one single, solitary word of explanation from the pastor.

4. The blog has called into question the issue of "nepotism" at our church. Since they arrived in Jacksonville, Mac's son is employed at the church, and Mac has said that his wife also is working with him at the church. The son's title has varied and we're unsure what the latest title is. But both positions were newly created positions (they are not listed on the church website) and both of these new positions were filled by the pastor's family. That is called "nepotism". The dangers of nepotism to an organization are well documented.

5. Mac Brunson lived nearly a year rent-free in a million dollar, ocean-front condo offered by one of the church members while he waited for his million dollar home to be built on the $300,000 land donated by a church member. Was Brunson's relocation package altered in light of him receiving this free rent? Did the church pay him for relocation expenses that were not incurred?

6. Mac Brunson took time off from his preaching duties, at his own admission, for the purpose of finishing his book manuscript "A Pastor's Guidebook". In this Guidebook, Mac Brunson cautions pastors against accepting gifts, and cautions them against living in "executive homes" and driving expensive cars....the things Mac himself did when he came here to Jacksonville.

7. Mac said things very critical and hurtful about his congregation when preaching out of town. He did not defend his church against allegations made in his presence about our church by one Paige Patterson, president of the SWBTS. Mac called our church a "hotbed of legalism" while he preached in North Carolina, and said that we "have a list of rules but hardly anyone has a real relationship with Jesus Christ." The blog called on Mac to either explain these remarks or apologize.

8. This blog was very critical of the decision of our church leaders to take over 3000 precious square feet of our newest building, the Children's Building and Welcome Center, and spent $100,000 to renovate it and create a pastor's suite for Mac Brunson and his wife and secretary and dogs. The blog pointed out the carlessness in doing this BEFORE Brunson ever arrived and had a chance to assess our facility needs.

9. Brunson allowed "influential deacons" to utilize our church facilities to host a "Time to Stand for Israel" night November 8, 2007, to raise funds for an Israeli hospital where state-funded abortions are conducted.

10. Brunson has allowed our Pastor's Conference to be converted into a marketing fund raiser, selling advertising space and charging $750 for ministries to have a display table at the conference, and selling "promotional packages" that include advertisements on the church image screens and access to the pulpit.

11. Mac Brunson told a blatant lie about Dr. Sheri Klouda, a former Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary professor who lost her job at the hands of seminary president Paige Patterson for being a woman "teaching men" contrary to scripture. This was a very public and controversial topic in Southern Baptist life the last two years, and Brunson brought our church into it and brought it onto this blog when he used OUR CHURCH PULPIT to spread a lie about a woman whom he pastored in Dallas when her world was turned upside down by Paige Patterson. Brunson said in a sermon that Dr. Klouda admitted in testimony that her lawsuit violated scriptural precepts, when she said nothing of the sort. This was a shameless attempt by Mac to use his power and influence and OUR CHURCH NAME to help cast his friend Paige Patterson in a positive light, and to further kick Sheri Klouda more than she already had been. Worse than all of that, Mac has never publicly apologized to his church for spreading this lie about Dr. Sheri Klouda. This blog served as a place for Sheri Klouda to tell HER side of the story and refute Mac's lie and others told about her by supporters of Paige Patterson.

12. Mac held a special offering on Easter Sunday 2008 to raise money to again put himself on nationwide TV...then five months later asked for another special offering to raise $1 million for "emergency repairs" to our facility that we had know about for some time but failed to budget for. In the most cold manner possible, Mac demanded that we fork over $1 million in two weeks else our decades of debt-free financing would be broken. Mac couldn't even manage to stay for the entire service where the $1 million was to be raised, as he left the service before it concluded early for his European vacation - taken with the head of our finance committee to tour Italy.

There are many other things that have been discussed in this blog, these are just 12 of them. And none of them have to do with Mac's salary or the decision to start a school.

Regarding the anonymity issue: Anonymity has nothing to do with cowardice as proclaimed by many of the Watchdog critics. Anonymity is desired in discussing these topics for reasons of safety from crazy church people, to be blunt. In a church the size of FBC Jacksonville, people who dare to raise questions or call into question the wisdom of the leaders are subject to intense hatred and scorn from a certain portion of the congregation. There are some nuts in any church who simply won't put up with anyone being critical of the pastor or lay leaders and will seek to silence critics by any means possible. They will seek to do harm to the reputation of critics, possibly even physical harm. The events of the past week where the discipline committee of the church, once it was made aware of the identity of an accused blogger, decided as their FIRST action to issue trespass warnings against the blogger and his wife! Are you an accused blogger? You are banned from the property. Kid singing in church Wednesday? Doesn't matter, banned from the property. So if there is any question as to why anonymity is preferred, the events of the past week make it abundantly clear.

This blog has had quite a readership in its year and a half of existence, and this can be attributed not to the credibility of the posters (they are anonymous!), but mostly due to the lack of answers and explanations from the church leadership themselves on these issues! Like it or not, this blog HAS been a site where information and analysis and discussion of church matters has taken place amongst like-minded people. Not the forum that the church prefers because they have no control over its content, but the church has to deal with this form of communication. Time to get get "cutting edge" as Mac Brunson likes to say. Mac could make this blog irrelevant in one Sunday night business meeting by giving answers and explanations for his actions since arriving at Jax.

So let the detractors of the Watchdog make the issue his anonymity. Let the press make the issue being "throwing of stones" to hurt churches and using technology to harm the church by lying about the church. The issue of this blog is MAC BRUNSON and the lay leaders of our church and the abuses that have occured at FBC Jacksonville - the latest being the issuance of trespass warnings to people they suspect of blogging.

Too bad there were no bloggers when Darrell Gilyard and Bob Gray were committing their abuses at their churches.