Listen to what advice Mac gives pastors in his book:
"Some pastors unintentionally separate themselves from their people by living in executive houses and driving luxury cars. Billy Graham has lived in the same house and driven older cars for decades. He did not allow people to give him automobiles. He did not allow local committees to furnish luxury automobiles for him during crusades. Guard against greed. It will do you in."
Problem is, Mac is holding forth one standard for pastors and seminary students using his book in their studies at seminary, but he himself is not willing to live by the same standard.
Why do I say this? Well, let's review Mac's actions just weeks after he arrived in Jacksonville.
1. Mac accepted an offer to live rent-free in a multi-million dollar condo, ocean-front, at Fernandina Beach over an hour away from Jacksonville during 2006. If Billy Graham is a pastor's example of not accepting even gifts of the USE of a luxury automobile, would not the same standard apply to a pastor accepting the use RENT-FREE of a luxury, multi-million dollar condominium for a year in a town an hour away from his new church?
2. Mac just three weeks after arriving in Jacksonville signed a deed accepting a 1/2 acre piece of property in an exclusive, gated, private golf-club community called Deerwood - how much did Mac pay for this land? Zero. It currently is valued at $307,000. It was given for "love and affection", given to him by one of the donors of the church. I wrote about this gift in this article.
Click here to see the deed for yourself.
Mac doesn't explain exactly WHY he cautions against accepting gifts, but its obvious that he considers it a matter of a pastor holding themselves to a very high ethical standard. His opening paragraph of the chapter says:
"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 acknowledges that he as pastor should not engage in any activity that would cause anyone to question his integrity; in fact he should hold himself to a higher standard than other Christians. Could we not say then he most certainly should hold himself to a higher ethical standard than a person working for a corporation? Is it unethical for a CEO to accept a large gift from a customer or vendor - OF COURSE! Would it be unethical for a the head of the Red Cross to accept a quarter of a million dollar land gift from one of its donors! OF COURSE IT IS! In the profit and non-profit business world these actions would never be tolerated in a million years so it stands to reason that a pastor, seeking to hold himself to the absolute highest of ethical standards should avoid even the appearance of impropriety and not accept these gifts. The one exception perhaps that could be made would be a pastor of very modest means who is barely earning a livable wage from a very small church, and one of the church members decides to meet a pastor's need...which we know is certainly not the case with this large gift given to Mac.
In closing, what could Mac have done when offered this gift? What would have been the "honorable" thing for Mac to do? One question that has been raised on this blog is whether or not this gift was offered to entice the Brunsons; that is did they know of the gift BEFORE they accepted the call to come, or was it sprung on them as a surprise after they arrived? Many of Mac's defenders on this blog have said the Brunson's did NOT know of the gift beforehand. But if we assume that this is the case, then surely, SURELY, our church had already agreed to meet the Brunson's relocation expenses and a hefty salary and such a gift was not necessary for them to make the transition to Jacksonville comfortably. Mac had two options: he could jump at the chance to take the gift and thereby enrich himself, or he could have told the giver of the gift something along the lines of:
"Brother, thank you for that kind gift. That certainly is generous of you and I appreciate it very much. But the truth is that our needs have been generously met by the church already as a part of our salary, benefits, and relocation package. I do suspect that our church will have some very great needs coming in the very near future as we launch new ministries. I encourage you..if you feel the Lord leading you to give this gift to me, then perhaps the Lord wants you to give this gift to the church. You giving this sacrificial gift to the church could be a great seed to cause others to look at their circumstances and perhaps lead them to give sacrificially to the church. So please brother, hold on to that gift, and at the right time perhaps as the church faces new needs such as starting a school, or starting satellite campuses, or even renovations to our campus - the Lord may use you to challenge the rest of the church to give sacrificially."
Mac could have done that. I submit that would have been the right thing. That would have been the "honorable" thing for a pastor to do - especially a very wealthy pastor who already had his needs met by his mega church.
As Mac said in his sermon on Sunday 6/1/08: "Honor is doing the right thing because its the right thing to do." and "Honor is doing the right thing in spite of our emotions". After reading Mac's book, its apparent he DID know the right thing to do, but for some reason he couldn't do it. The right thing, the honorable thing, would have been to politely refuse the gift and perhaps allow the Lord to use the gift and the giver to bless the entire congregation, and also challenge the church to also give sacrificially.