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 30, 2009

Returning to the Topic of Storehouse Tithing

I hope Watchdog readers had a great Christimas and holiday season with their families. I wish all of you a very happy, prosperous 2010.

I return this week to the topic of "storehouse tithing". I will not cover this topic exclusively in the coming weeks, but have much more to say on this over the next month or so. I will address more of McArthur's views, have a little Steve Gaines' clip to share (he was in rare form just last week dishing out more of his brand of storehouse nonsense), and we'll look at Kostenberger and Croteau's writings on the matter.

Why continue to harp on this doctrine, you ask? Well, this is one of the doctrines that mega church preachers use to build their empires, and its a sacred cow of sorts. Many of these preachers KNOW its not in the bible, this magical "10%" threshold between obedience and disobedience. Their boldness and arrogance in continuing to hang this doctrine on the necks of trusting Christians is deserving of clear rebuttals, and examination and exposure of their techniques. And I'm more than happy to use this blog as a vehicle to give plenty of exposure to these men.

Many people that have grown up in church, and have been loyal "churchmen" in conservative envangelical circles, have trusted our preachers when they told us the Bible says that we MUST give 10% of our income to be an obedient Christian. The problem is, that it just ain't so. The bible absolutely does not teach that the line between obedience and disobedience in stewardship is 10%. Maybe it would be easier if it were so, but its not.

I remind you that I am focusing on the preachers who are "hard core" storehouse tithers - that is they teach that 9% giving of a low-income Christian is disobedience, while 10% of an ultra-rich Christian is obedience. They misuse Malachi 3 to accuse Christians who give less than 10% of "robbing God", while they themselves may very well be the robbers. They wrongly equate their church with the OT "storehouse", and some equate their position of "pastor" with that of Levitical priest. These preachers do this to guilt the poorer folk to give more, to pat the rich on the back for their generosity, and to lay a false claim on the FIRST 10% of everyone's paycheck. These men teach their disciples that absolutely NO giving outside of their church can occur until they first reach the 10% threshold to the church (which must be undesignated according to Gaines!). Convenient for them - but its not in the bible, not by a long shot.

So I will use this blog to help open the eyes of Christians - not by my own arguments, but that of scripture and what men like McArthur and others who are much more reliable voices on tithing than money-hungry pastors who seeks to raise revenue for their empires.

So stay tuned as we address this topic more in depth, and offer your views.

And we'll keep an eye on the hard-core storehouse tithing mega church pastors as they squirm and screech.


Previous Watchdog posts on Storehouse Tithing:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

'Twas the Sunday Before Christmas

'Twas the Sunday before Christmas
and all through God's church
"Not a churchman is tithing!"
Yelled the preacher from his perch

So the plates were all passed
down each row with great care,
In hopes that the peeps
Would put their 10% there.

The preacher told them how dare they not tithe,
Our country's safety at stake, Else God's wrath would arrive.

Mama in her new dress, and me in my tie,
I saw that plate coming, with a tear in my eye.

I took out my envelope, with my measly 9 percent
knowing I was "sinning", but had just paid my rent.

Here came the plate, I put my envelope upside down,
tried to fake a tithing smile, but wore a 9 percent frown.

Off Deacons, Off Trustees, please count all the dough
See if there is enough, for our mega preacher TV show.

The mega church preacher climbed up into his place
Said our tithe to his church, was required for grace.

He told of his trip to New York, how he was doing God's will,
and that we as God's people needed to pay for the bill.

He invited us with him, on a Holy Land Trip,
or to sail down the Danube, on a luxury ship.

He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he yelled, like a bowlful of jelly.

He pulled off his glasses and gave a jerk of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had something to dread;

He spoke not from the Word, and went straight to his work,
Began to tell the non-tither, how he was a jerk,

He was dressed all in finery, even cufflinks of gold,
He took out his Bible and yelled to the fold:

"Now please get out your bibles, you stupid sheep,
You're holding your tithe back, you're being way too cheap,

You owe me ten - not nine, not eight,
And we'll spend it as we please, you dare not designate."

We thought from our Bibles he would be sure to show,
How point-one times the gross, is the exact amount we owe.

But ne'er did he exegete this demand placed on us,
he just told us to fork it over, no need to discuss.

He said if we didn't agree, to "Take it up wit da book",
But he didn't tell me where, I should start to look.

The white-haired man to my left held on to his wallet
His trip to church today he was sure to regret.

"I didn't know it", whispered, the old man with sweat on his brow,
Then the preacher yelled, "HA, well you know it NOW."

I told the old man, after the show,
"Don't worry its not what you give, but rather its Who you know."

"The message this Christmas, sir, is God sent his Son,
He's after our hearts first, Not a wallet, not one."

"Baby Jesus came into the world, to show us the way,
Not to tell us what percent to the pastor we must pay."

The old man grinned, and nodded his head with a smile,
"I knew that, and I'll see you all in a little while."

"See, at Christmas time, I've blessed kids with gifts each year,
And not once did I demand a tithe in exchange for my cheer."

"I find it quite odd, these men demand cash as they do,
When God gives His love freely, to me and to you."

But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Friday, December 18, 2009

"Rage at the Spring" - Another Blogger/Church Scandal

Readers - my experiences through the past few years, and my observations of preachers especially of the mega church variety, have taught me that many mega church preachers have egos so large they would barely fit into their massive mega church auditoriums. And thus they don't like critics. They can't STAND public criticism.

They believe their profession, that of a preacher/pastor, to be the most noble and sacred and holy of all professions, because they are the ones "called by God" into their profession. And that anyone who would dare to be a critic, especially a public critic, of the holy and sacred position of "pastor" and his church (especially one so annointed as to be pastor of a mega church), must be of the devil.

The followers and supporters of such pastors - especially their fellow ministers and closest lay leaders - don't like critics of their church or pastor any more than the mega church pastor does, as they get the cues from their pastor about how to act towards critics. Ironically, often these pastors LOVE to use their own pulpit as a bully pulpit to criticize others Christians about things they don't like or differing doctrines or practices...but by golly let there be a public critic on the blogosphere analyzing THEIR actions and THEIR doctrines...well, they don't handle that so well.

Generally these preachers view their critics, especially persistent, public critics, as being of the ENEMY, and aren't afraid to teach this to their church members. The storyline goes something like this: these critics (often called "slanderers" and "deceivers" and "gossipers") must either be on God's side or Satan's side, and if they are criticizing a church were souls are saved and the Bible is taught, they most certainly CANNOT be on God's side. They must be on Satan's side for sure, and thus worthy of ridicule and punishment at the hands of the church until they repent. To go after such critics to expose them, or to do them harm, is to do God's will.

I have come across a situation that is eerily similar to the FBC Jax Watchdog scenario, but with some very interesting ironies and twists - and some extremes that go way beyond the story of this blog - some that are just to unbelievable to comprehend.

But these stories have at their root: mega church pastors who can't stand criticism, who teach their churches to view critics as the enemy, and the resulting efforts undertaken to identify and punish such critics. My criticism wrought me several subpoenas and a letter of 16 sins, trespass papers for me and my wife, a publicly read deacon's resolution ratified by my fellow church members, and newspaper quotes by the mega church pastor and his church president calling me terrible names...this blogger's criticism brought him, as you will see, a very different set of punishments.

Suppose I started to describe to you this scenario: a situation involving a professor who was a blogger critical of a mega church preacher, the preacher who couldn't stand for there to be a public critic of him and his church, a preacher who would equate critics and opposers to his vision as being on the devil's side, church members who didn't like the critical blogger and accused him of dissension and wickedness and evil intent, a person on the church security staff involved in teaching the blogger a lesson, and a sheriff's department involved in the ensuing investigation to find an anonymous party. And of course, brewing legal maneuvers on both sides.

You might think I was referring to FBC Jax and the FBC Jax Watchdog.

But I'm not.

The mega church is the New Spring Church in Anderson, South Carolina.

The pastor is a man named Perry Noble.

The blogger is Dr. James Duncan and the "Pajama Pages" blog he authors. (Note: his blog is not a typical "blogspot" blog and thus looks a bit odd at first glance...each article is in its own white box on the page, with the title of each article in a small green box at the top - what looks to be like a series of comments, are actually the blog posts).

I am going to close this article with a few hyperlinks; if you are curious and would like to do some research into this blogger/pastor/church scandal, there is plenty here. Very soon I will provide a summary of events for my readers to shine a light on what has happened to this blogger at the hands of this mega church. Some incredible similarities, but some awful, awful differences.

Here is a direct link to a blog post earlier this month entitled "Holy Rage at the Spring" that gives the detail on the whole bloody affair - he posted this on December 5th, 2009...its very long and detailed:

Holy Rage at the Spring - December 5, 2009

Here is a link to a radio interview of Dr. Duncan on what seems to be an Internet radio site called "Fighting for the Faith"...you can get a good feel for who Dr. Duncan is, what his intentions were behind his blog, and also hear some excerpts from Perry Noble's sermons and excellent analysis by both Duncan and the interviewer:

Radio Interview of Dr. Duncan - December 7, 2009

There are two parts to the interview, and they are very long, and they seemed to take a long time to download and start playing, so be patient.

One interesting twist in this story that I'll leave you with, and that you'll see: the anonymity in this case was NOT the blogger, but a man on the church's side, an employee of the church, who went after the blogger anonymously to teach him a lesson to try to get him fired by sending a phony resignation letter to his employer, to paint the blogger as pervert, a homosexual, his kid as a cross dresser, and to make him fear for his family's life by actual threats against him...all in the name of God to punish the blogger for the audacity in criticizing a mega church pastor.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Continue to Pray for Matt Chandler...

The pathology reports are back from the doctors after Matt Chandler's brain surgery to remove a small tumor, and the report is not good. Read the church's post today here.

Pray for Matt and his wife and kids, and his church family at the Village Church in the Dallas area as they endure this trial, especially during this time of year. He is a very young man and I pray for a full recovery for Matt.

If you haven't listened to Matt's sermons, try one...they have both audio and .pdf transcripts on their website. Matt's style and message is unique. As it relates to readers of this blog and the topics we've discussed lately, read or listen to Matt's sermon entitled "Generosity" from 11/1/09.

And keep Matt in your prayers.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why I Don't Say "Merry Christmas"

One of my favorite Seinfeld episodes is the "Soup Nazi" - the soup cook that would declare "NO SOUP FOR YOU" if you didn't behave in line, or even so much as looked at him crossways or didn't have correct change.

I have noticed a type of "Merry Christmas" nazi prevalent today. Its the people who tell me that I must say "Merry Christmas". I have noticed more Christians tellling other Christians to be sure and be bold and brave to say "Merry Christmas" to everyone - as though we can help preserve the true meaning of the season if we'll just say "Merry Christmas" and not be cowards and use the bland "Happy Holidays" greeting.

OK, I'll admit it: I don't always say "Merry Christmas".

No soup for me.

I usually will say "Have a happy holiday season" as a standard personal salutation this time of year. And for a reason. Its an expression of my desire for the person receiving my greeting...I want you to have a happy holiday season. If you're a Christian, I want you to have a Merry Christmas.

"Why?", you ask? Why not just be true to my beliefs and tell everyone "Merry Christmas"?

Because for me, I think its pretentious and somewhat obnoxious, to assume everyone celebrates this holiday in the same way I do.

If someone celebrates a holiday other than Christmas during this season, or celebrates no holiday, I genuinely want them to have a happy time this season. Really. I do. A Jewish friend - I really, really want him to have a Happy Hannukah. And maybe he wants me to have a Merry Christmas, and if he does, I hope he tells me! But it would be futile for him to tell me to have a Happy Hannakah - because I won't be having any kind of Hannakuah, happy or sad or otherwise. I don't celebrate it.

When I'm communicating to people in writing which I often do as part of my job, and I don't know their faith, I'll say "Have a Happy Holiday Season". If I'm speaking to someone I know is a believer, I'll most certainly say "Merry Christmas". If I'm communicating to a Jewish friend, I'll say "Happy Hannakuh". If I'm speaking to a non-believer who still celebrates the Christmas holiday on the 25th, I might say "Merry Christmas". If I'm speaking to someone I don't know at all, I'll be sure to say "Have a Happy Holiday Season." An atheist? "Happy Holidays, my friend".

So is it wrong to fit my greeting to the RECEIVER, if it is an expression of my desire for that person? Must I tell everyone, "Merry Christimas" because that is MY holiday for this season?

During this time of year I wouldn't say ANYTHING, except this season is MORE than just a holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, whether us Christians like it or not. In our culture it has become a season where people of all beliefs and unbeliefs take a break from work and school, spend a bit more time with the family and friends, exchange gifts to express love for one another, and its just a joyous time for people whether they be Christians or not. I like that.

So for my professed atheist friends, like "Johnny" who posts here from time to time: HAPPY HOLIDAYS my friend, I wish you a happy, joyous holiday season with your friends and loved ones. I appreciate you very much and wish you all the best.

For my Christian friends (yes, Jim Smyrl, even including my Catholic friends): Merry Christmas! Have a blessed time with your families as you celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

And if I don't know if you are are a believer or not: HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!! I really do want you to have a happy holiday season with your loved ones, and I wish you a joyous and prosperous 2010.

And for those of you who will now criticize me on my blog for not being "true" to my faith by only saying "Merry Christmas", I say:


Monday, December 14, 2009

Jim Whitmire Reaches 50 Year Milestone

Brother Jim Whitmire was honored last night at FBC Jax for reaching his 50th year anniversary in music ministry. Terry Williams, the Florida State Baptist Convention music director, presented Jim Whitmire with a small plaque commemorating the milestone.

Williams told how Jim Whitmire was an inspiration to him, when as a teenager Williams traveled with his father to the church in Merrit Island (FL) where Jim and Adrian Rogers were serving back in the 1960s, and the choir was nothing like he had seen or heard before.

Mac was very gracious, and also said something very funny, along the lines of: "Dr. Whitmire, you've served along side many great men of God, I wonder what secret sin you committed to have to end your career serving with Mac Brunson." (paraphrase).

Congrats to Jim Whitmire for such a milestone.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Liberty and SWBTS: You're On the Clock! What Will You do With Sutton?

"I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren?"


It was reported yesterday that Jerry Sutton, former pastor of Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and current professor at Liberty University has filed a libel lawsuit against his most vocal critic.

Baptist lay people should find this at least mildly surprising, if not shocking, because of what we've been taught from scripture regarding 1 Corinthians 6.

Liberty University and SWBTS: you're on the clock. Us SBC lay people are waiting to see what disciplinary action you will take against Jerry Sutton, a Liberty University professor and celebrated graduate at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, who has just filed a lawsuit against a fellow believer.

Yes, we're going to hold you to your doctrine. We've been taught by graduates and leaders of your institutions to interpret scripture literally, and when our pastors get to 1 Corinthians 6, we are told that this clearly forbids Christians taking each other to court.

Or do graduates from your institution just interpret scripture literally and profess to believe it, but when they get in a pickle they find some way to wiggle out, showing they really don't believe it?

Consider the following:

- Sutton, a SWBTS grad, took disciplinary action against his church members when he was pastor at Two Rivers Baptist church, and had them removed from the church after they filed a lawsuit to gain access to church financial records.

- Friends of Paige Patterson and SBC leaders roundly criticized Sheri Klouda, seminary professor at SWBTS, when she filed a gender-discrimination lawsuit as a last resort when she was fired from her postion for being a female. Through a very narrow interpretation of scripture we were told Dr. Klouda was violating scripture by teaching men in a classroom, and this required her to be removed from her job for which she was very well qualified.

- Mac Brunson, himself a SWBTS grad, from his pulpit in the summer of 2008 criticized Klouda for filing the lawsuit as he was preaching out of 1 Corinthians 6, claiming her lawsuit was in violation of the clear scripture on this in 1 Cor 6. He even went so far as to mischaracterize Klouda's own testimony about the scriptural validity of her case!

- Mac Brunson's church in December 2007 modified their bylaws, without any word of explanation, stating that a member of the church is not allowed to bring any legal action against the church, and that only biblical conciliation efforts shall provide the sole rememdy for any dispute arising against the Church, and that all members waive their rights to file legal action against the Church. So clearly, Mac Brunson believes lawsuits between believers, or believers and their Church, are sin.

- A certain pastor that I have not named, and like Sutton a former mega-church pastor and celebrated graduate of SWBTS, had his lawyer send me a threatening letter this summer demanding that I take a blog post down from 2008 that merely commented on news reports of this pastor's troubles at his former church. I responded that I would not take it down, as my blog post was based on multiple, credible news accounts, and I even talked personally with one of the authors who stood by his story.

- a blogger critical of Mac Brunson is called a "sociopath" in the local newspaper, and when said blogger files a defamation lawsuit, he is roundly criticized for violating 1 Corinthians 6.

So which is it? Does 1 Corinthians 6 forbid believers from using our God-ordained (according to scripture) government system for the settlement of disputes? Or does it not? Or are there certain circumstances that are justifed? Does one need to be a Greek scholar to be able to understand the nuances so they know when a lawsuit against a believer is justifed?

So we're waiting. We'd like to know.

Is Sutton in sin in filing such a lawsuit? If so, why is he doing it? If not, why was Klouda criticized by Sutton's SBC cohorts, and why did Sutton's church criticize some of its members for filing their own lawsuit?

Or is the answer much simpler: maybe the scripture should not be interpreted literally in 1 Cor 6, and maybe some pastors just teach this when its convenient or when it helps their friends, but when they get in a pinch and don't like how things are going in THEIR lives, the scripture goes out the window and they will do what they want? Or maybe scripture about lawsuits just applies to the plebe, and is used as a means to protect pastors and churches from lawsuits from their parishioners in the event they harm someone?

So SWBTS and Liberty, you're on the clock - we would love to hear what you say about this lawsuit and whether 1 Cor 6 applies to all of us, or if megachurch pastors have a special exemption.

We're waiting! Tick, tock, tick, tock...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Moving Pre-Surgery Video from Matt Chandler

Readers: Please follow this link to listen to a 3-minute video from Matt Chandler, lead pastor at The Village Church, filmed just days before his brain surgery. On Thanksgiving morning Chandler suffered a seizure and subsquent tests discovered a 2 inch brain tumor on his frontal lobe. The doctors said it required immediate surgery which was done last Friday. This video are his thoughts prior to the surgery and we all can benefit from hearing this Christian who was experiencing much success in his ministry, find out terrible news that might change his life forever, and as he says might cause him to lose it all.

Video from Matt Chandler Days Before Brain Surgery

Last month I put up a post commenting on a sermon preached at SEBTS by Matt. That sermon contains a message that he has been preaching around the country this fall as he has been invited to speak at various venues, including FBC Jax. As you saw in this video, he ties that message into his current illness. His message to pastors has been out of Hebrews 11, where Paul about wrote all the great things that God did through his servants, including "shutting the mouths of lions" and "putting foreign armies to flight". But in this same passage Paul turns it 180 degrees and says that while some people doing God's will enjoy great victories, some do NOT. Paul says some were tortued, stoned, and sawed in two and devoured.

And Matt's message to pastors just a month ago, at least at SEBTS, was he is concerned that young men are going to seminaries these days looking at the successes of the big names in Christianity, and say to themselves something like "Hey, I'm going to be like THAT guy, and have great success in the Lord." And they listen to these men, many of whom are on the podcasts and write books and travel and speak all over, and students desire THEIR success, and think their success will be from emulating some other guy who is "shutting the mouths of lions". But as Paul says, some shut the mouths of lions, some were cut in two and eaten. And in modern Christianity its the guy who is shutting the lions who is getting all the money and glamour and glory, as though he is someone especially holy and annointed. And some ministers, sadly, are yearning for that same success they see and are being taught by those who shut the mouths of lions.

In warning these future preachers, he wrapped up his SEBTS sermon to future preachers with this:

"Are your eyes set on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. Look right at me. Or are you a liar, using Jesus to make much of you? You see, I don't think some of you shouldn't be here. I don't know who's who, but some of you should not be here. You do not love him, you do not pursue Him, you do not pray except in public, and need I remind you what Jesus said about that. You have used this as your niche, you have used this as your place, to find what makes much of you. And I would be terrifed that God might grant you Western success and that would damn you for all eternity for the belittlement of His name. You need to quit playing this game. This is not better than Jesus."

Matt is still in the hospital, and the tests are not back on the nature of the tumor, but word should be received soon.

We should all pray for Matt and his family. I hope that he has a full recovery and returns to preaching. He lives what he preaches. His messages are needed in Christianity.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"Bring Ye All the UNDESIGNATED Tithe to My Church...Now"

Before we continue looking at what John McArthur has taught on the topic of storehouse tithing, let's look at a timely example of a storehouse tithing preacher and the tactics used to raise end-of-year revenue using the storehouse tithing doctrine.. The preacher is Steve Gaines of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. Below is a video that shows Gaines from this past Sunday (12/6/09) using the storehouse tithe doctrine, with a special twist, to encourage his people to give more money, and to give it ONLY to his church.

In the video you see the familiar tactics that the hard-core storehouse tithers use, and a few new ones:

- the twist this preacher uses that I haven't seen before, is he is calling not just for a 10% tithe, but he wants it given as "undesignated". I wonder how necessary it is to actually say that. Most people who give regularly to their church, do so without designating a particular budget item. If they do designate, its usually into a capital fund. Are there givers that are giving significant sums to a capital fund? If so, so what, let them give as they purpose in their hearts to give! Is it his place to tell people how to give? He seems to imply that giving to a captial fund or to a designated fund is not obedient storehouse tithing.

- this preacher emphatically tells his congregation to support NO other ministries with the first 10% of their charitable giving. He says that people will be bombarded with requests for money this time of year from "everybody and their brother", and they are to not give to these unless it is over and above the 10%. If a man in that church is able to give say 5%, or $400 per month, is he really obligated by God to give it ALL to this preacher's church? I know the preacher PREFERS it all be given to his church, but really, does God demand that it ALL go to Steve Gaines' church? If so, where in scripture does it command this as an act obedience? Would it be disobedient for someone to support another ministry like a local rescue mission, or even to help a single mom whose car needs repairs with their first 10%? This strong, emphatic call for ALL of the FIRST 10% is perhaps one of the most arrogant and greedy parts of the storehouse tithe doctrine. But it works, apparently.

- he talks about "unwritten checks" - apparently those you did NOT write to his church - as showing the condition of your heart. Amen! Perhaps if people stop forking over all of their charitable money to the mega churches and to other worthwhile charities, these "unwritten checks" will show them to have a discerning spirit!

- one positive note: at least this guy has some soft music playing, and uses his "prayer voice" to ask for the money, at least in the first part of the video, and actually does thank his church for their generosity. If you're going to tell me God Almighty has told me I need to give 10% of my money to your church as a test of my obedience, please set the mood right and be gentle. :)

- he has someone give a testimony of a wonderful ministry that their tithes are paying for. This would be a good tactic, if any measurable percentage of the money was actually paying for that ministry. This minister offers an example that really doesn't cost any money, as an example of what their money is paying for. Do they think the sheep are that stupid?

- the preacher calls the giving a wise "spiritual investment". Make the sheep believe that their gift is an "investment". Televangelists use this verbiage quite a bit...even going so far as to encouraging people to get their investment money and "put it in the kingdom" to earn a higher return! One televangelist recently told viewers that instead of putting aside money for their children's college, they should take that same money and "invest" it in his ministry and God will give them a much greater financial return.

- the power of a personal testimony of a storehouse tither is used. These testimonies are very persuasive. People in the pews who are giving generously, but not 10% will feel a sense of guilt to get to 10% so they too can be blessed, and be obedient to God. Notice the terminology used by the man and woman giving the testimony. No doubt they are very sincere, but they speak of the tithe as "an act of obedience", a "test of my faithfulness", tithing is what "the Lord has commanded". The woman mentions "the Malachi 3:10 thing", and apparently has been tithing all of her life. We'll look at this "Malachi 3:10 thing" a bit later.

Enjoy the video, and I look forward to more discussion!

"Tithing is not synonymous with giving. Tithing means to literally give 10% of your income to the work of the Lord in your church in an undesignated fashion. It was brought to the storehouse in Malachi Chapter 3 and all over the Old Testament. And in the New Testament, Jesus affirmed it as well when he was talking with folks....and I know at the end of the year you're going to have everybody and their brother sayin': 'Give to our cause, give to our cause'. Just remember though, God wants your tithe to go to your local church. And this local church is not just spending that money to build buildings and all that kinda stuff, we're putting that money back into the lives of people, to help people, so they can know about Jesus Christ. So I want to encourage you, even though a lot of people are going to be sayin' 'We need this and that', you pray about that and give to them if you're led to, but don't give your tithe, your tithe goes to your church......[then later when preaching]....What about unwritten checks?...Jesus said 'where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.' And I'm telling you, the way you spend your money shows the condition of your heart. How is your heart? Are you tithing? I tell you, that's to be an undesignated check to this church if you're a member of Bellevue. Your tithe goes to the general fund, the budget of Bellevue, it doesn't go to anyplace else. Offerings above that if you're led by the Holy Spirit, fine, but your tithe goes to the budget of this church." - Steve Gaines 12/6/09

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Takin' It Up With Da Book: MacArthur on Tithing, Part 1

John MacArthur is the Pastor-Teacher of Grace Community Church. He is one of the most respected bible expositors amongst conservative evangelicals. MacArthur's preaching is heard over the world on their church's "Grace to You" broadcast ministry, and he has authored numerous books. I think its safe to say that most teachers who preach "storehouse tithing" have a great deal of respect for MacArthur; many SBC preachers routinely quote MacArthur in their sermons, as they know the weight of his views on doctrinal matters.

In this post I want to present what the New Testament says about Christian giving according to MacArthur, and then in the next post will share what MacArthur has to say about the "storehouse tithing" doctrine. MacArthur preached a sermon series "A Biblical Model for Giving" upon which this information is based.

Note that I am using his sermons on this topic, and not his writings in books or reference materials. The information shared here is what MacArthur has stood in his pulpit and TAUGHT HIS CONGREGATION from the Bible. He was not afraid to be honest with his congregation about what Christian giving IS and what it is NOT. Just a side note about MacArthur - he has been pastor of Grace Community Church since 1969, and has had some health challenges this year. Totally unrelated to this topic, if you want to hear a preacher pour his heart out in gratitude to and love for his congregation, listen to or read this sermon from 9/13/09 upon his return from a few months away during his recuperation.

From the third sermon in the Biblical Giving series, MacArthur explains the following characteristics of Christian giving from 2 Cor 8 and 1 Cor 16: it is instituted by God's grace, it transcends difficult circumstances, is done with joy, not hindered by poverty; it is liberal, proportionate, sacrificial, and voluntary.

I think any Christian would agree that scripture clearly teaches those principles of New Testament giving. But MacArthur makes a few points under the "proportionate" and "voluntary" characteristics that are especially relevant to the matter of storehouse tithing; and also about "sacrificial" that we'll look at later.

Proportionate Giving (1 Cor 16:2)
Says MacArthur: "They gave whatever they were capable of giving. God doesn't expect you to charge giving on your credit card and go further into debt. God expects you to give out of what you have. We aren't supposed to give a fixed amount, that's not what the Macedonians did, that's not, as we shall see in a few moments, what God asks of us, or a fixed percent. We're not supposed to worry on whether it's set against the gross or the net, those questions are not germane to the discussion of Christian giving. The issue is you give as you are capable of giving. And they did that."

MacArthur rejects a discussion of a fixed percent - its not even relevant to the discussion. The preachers who answer the question of whether a Christian should tithe on their gross or net income by saying "do you want to be blessed on the gross or the net" - its not even a matter to be considered.

Voluntary Giving (2 Cor 8:3)
Says MacArthur: "It says at the end of verse 3, "They gave of their own accord." They gave literally of their own volition. They gave of their own will. They gave out of their own initiative. They were self-motivated and spontaneous. This was their choice. In fact, the term here is very interesting, authairetos in the Greek which is the word used, "they gave of their own accord," literally means one who chooses his own course of action. They chose to do this. They weren't coerced. They weren't manipulated. They weren't intimidated into this. They weren't bribed into it. They weren't sort of coddled into it. They weren't brought into it by some promise of something or some trickery or some gimmick. There was no manipulation. There was no coercion. It was out of their own hearts."

I would classify some of the hard-core storehouse tithing tactics used by preachers as coersion, trickery, and gimmicks to get people to fork over 10% of their money when perhaps they shouldn't - and perhaps allows those who should give MORE than 10% to stop there and feel spiritually superior when maybe they should give more.

Consider Brunson's following statement on tithing delivered in a sermon on stewardship in 2008 (click here for the audio clip):

"Congregation, I say this as an act of leadership, and not as anything else. I give my tithe to this church. Anybody who says otherwise of giving a tithe to the church is doing the work of Satan....I live by a standard that my father took the word of God when I was a boy and taught me and he says 'You give God the first tenth'. And you say 'Pastor, but wait a minute, Pastor, I cannot tithe' - that's probably why you're in the situation you're in. And you say 'But give us some leeway here, tell us surely we can do it with 3%, let us just start somewhere'. You know what God's word says in Malachi? 'You're robbing me of tithes'. So you want your pastor to stand up here and say "OK, give 3 percent, rob God a little less than you've been doing.' Is that what you want me to say? I can't tell you that. I can tell you as a personal testimony of my life and our marriage, that God...gets...the tenth...first. And it comes to my local storehouse, the church I'm a member of."

Well, I sure don't think MacArthur is "doing the work of Satan". This is typical "storehouse tithing" nonsense, made worse when considering it comes from a very wealthy megachurch pastor, living in a million dollar home, traveling the world, that has accepted a six-figure gift from a member of his congregation, and then misuses OT scripture to accuse his people of "robbing God" if they don't meet the magic 10% threshold.

In the next post, we'll look at what MacArthur says about this 10% threshold taught by the storehouse tithers. As MacArthur says:

"And that leads us to the issue of why do Christians today think they need to give ten percent? Where does that come from? And I want to answer that. It comes basically from a misunderstanding of the Old Testament. And I feel obligated to make that misunderstanding clear to you and then set it right."

Amen. A preacher not afraid to teach the truth from scripture about Christian giving. That will be discussed next...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

IMB: "Let Them Eat Cake"

Wade Burleson reports on his blog that the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) International Missions Board (IMB) has, in a move to cut costs in tight economic times, notified certain missionaries that the IMB will no longer be reimbursing them for:

- drying of their clothes

- use of cell phones

- use of air conditioners

Yes, as a cost-cutting measure the very meagerly-paid missionaries, the ones out of all in modern Christianity who do take seriously the New Testament in giving sacrificially of everything they have to spread the gospel, are called on to make even greater sacrifices. Not only are they paid very little for what they do, but now if they are going to communicate via a cell phone or have the "luxuries" of drying their clothes or having an air conditioner they will have to pay it themselves out of what little they earn.

Does this news make you want to give MORE to Lottie Moon this Christmas, or LESS? Maybe churches that have members serving as IMB missionaries should find out from their missionaries what the annual cost of their cell phone, a/c usage, and clothes dryer usage is and SEND THAT AMOUNT DIRECTLY TO THEIR MISSIONARIES. Unless the IMB fat cats in Richmond are willing to make real, significant sacrifices in their own salaries and benefits and programs and trustee meetings FIRST, then churches should perhaps take matters into their own hands.

What are the Priorities of the SBC?

When I see FBC Dallas making plans to gather up over 100 million dollars to demolish buildings and reconstruct a "Crystal Cathedral" type worship center when they still owe millions on the building Mac built - when I see FBC Jacksonville advertising on their website to entice the rich folk to spend thousands on a "Cruise Down the Danube" with the Brunsons on a luxury riverboat...you have to wonder: just what are the priorities of the leadership in the SBC? While Mac sails down the Danube with his rich friends from FBC Jax, missionaries will be hanging their clothes out to dry and sleeping in sweltering heat. I don't begrudge FBC Dallas for deciding to modernize or renovate...but 130 million dollars? I don't think people of means should NOT go on cruises, but for a church TO ADVERTISE on their church website to entice people to cruise with their celebrity pastor? It all is over the top, and Christians are wising up, and the heavies are getting nervous.

The solution? Wade offers some very good suggestions in his article. But here's one: perhaps pastors need to get on board and begin to once again teach their people the storehouse tithing doctrine and preach it HARD! If people are robbing God, then tell them, and blame the missionary cutbacks on these robbers of God in the pews.

And don't stop at the arbitrary 10% tithe. Let's put a demand on the WHOLE tithe, the full 30% that is outlined in the Old Testament! If all of the SBC "giving units" would obey God and fork over 10 to 30 percent of their income to their churches, why imagine the missionaries that would be sent....

....or would churches use that increase in revenue to build larger buildings, hire more staff, buy more TV and radio advertising spots, hire more personal coaches and marketing consultants and give jobs to their friends and family members?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Takin' It Up With Da Book: The Truth on Tithing

Readers - this week and next we will examine the doctrine of storehouse tithing.

In several articles here, we will continue to examine this false doctrine of "storehouse tithing" that many pastors continue to teach to their people. The first article was posted a few weeks ago here.

"Storehouse tithing" is a stewardship doctrine that tells a Christian something like this: As an act of obedience to God, you must give 1/10 of all your income to God, just as God commanded the Israelites in the Old Testament to give their "tithe" to God, to the priests at the "storehouse". To not be obedient in meeting this 1/10 standard of giving, is to openly disobey God, and God will hold his blessings from you. And when you, a Christian, give 1/10 of your income to God, you MUST give the entire 1/10 to your "storehouse", which is your local church, and to no other organizations. To give anything LESS than 1/10 of your income to God (at your church) is total disobedience in the matter of stewardship.

The doctrine takes other forms, and the degree to which pastors push it on their people varies greatly. Some pastors set the tithe as a criteria for church lay leaders. Some pastors, like Mac Brunson, believe that God takes this 1/10 threshold so very serious that He will in fact punish a nation economically for the failure of Christians to tithe. Many pastors misuse Malachi 3:10 to accuse Christians of "robbing God" who don't meet the 10% giving threshold. Other pastors teach it as a "principle of giving", that 1/10 is a good idea for Christians, a starting point, without overtly calling people disobedient who don't fork over the full tenth.

My intent in shining a light on this false doctrine is NOT to encourage people to give less to their church, or to be less charitable in their giving. Far from it, it is my desire that people know the truth about this doctrine, and that the preachers who continue to brazenly teach it - especially those that do so in a particularly arrogant and offensive and abusive manner to guilt people into giving - and turns people away from Christianity - are held accountable for their false doctrine. The best way to hold them accountable is to put their words up against credible people who have looked at this doctrine.

We will examine what writers like John McArthur and Charles Ryrie have to say about this doctrine. We will look at what Andreas Kostenberger and David Croteau have written about this doctrine - Kostenburger is a very respected New Testament professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Croteau a professor at Liberty University who studied under Kostenberger. Croteau has perhaps written the most extensive and exhaustive work on tithing to date as part of his Ph.D work at SEBTS, which will be published in book form next year. Kostenberger's and Croteau's work have been peer-reviewed and published in the "Bulletin for Biblical Research" - which may not mean much to the average lay person but this is very significant as we shall see. We will compare what these men have said about storehouse tithing as compared to what some of the more rabid teachers of the doctrine say about it.

To give you perhaps one of the best views into what this false doctrine looks like, how it is taught, I recommend reading the following bible study posted at the FBC Jax website under their Theology Driven Ministry materials:

This document is one of the best examples of this false doctrine you will find on the Internet, clearly articulating a hard-line approach urging Christians to fork over 10% of their income to their church to prove their faith and obedience to God. Preachers have preached the doctrine hard, but its rare to find anything IN WRITING like this. The document is a bible lesson that is part of Jim Smyrl's "Theology Driven Ministry 2010 Curriculum" that they are offering to churches for free on their website. Its great that Smyrl is offering free curriculum, but I shudder to think that churches are pulling down this particular document and then teaching it to their people. By the way, its unclear exactly who the author is, as none is given. Darn, those anonymous writers who won't put their name on their material. :)

More to come...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving from the Watchdog

Happy Thanksgiving to all of the Watchdog readers and your families. Today marks exactly one year since events were set into motion that would thrust this blog into a greater spotlight when the FBC Jax administration and Discipline Committee delivered their list of 16 sins and trespass warnings, in the name of Christ Jesus, accusing this writer of "derogatory, devisive, destructive, demeaning, and subversive" conduct. Its been a strange year, and a sad one in many ways, since that evening Blount and King showed up at my door, one that I never imagined.

The blog will stay active for the near future. If you've been listening to Mac Brunson preach lately, you know that in his sermons he is readying his congregation for the upcoming lawsuits. He has been preaching on slander, gossip, his "stumble" in the newspaper last April, and more is sure to come. Discovery has begun in the lawsuits, depositions will begin early next year. In the short term I will be blogging about the doctrine of storehouse tithing that I began last week. I think you will find these articles VERY interesting and enlightening, probably a bit disturbing, but please check back and I welcome your discussion on this topic. I hope to shine a light on a heretical doctrine that some preachers in the SBC churches, even those very high in the SBC power structure, continue to preach even though they know or should know it is not biblical.

In the meantime, I wish you a very relaxing weekend with friends and family!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Catholic and a Baptist Unite in Friendship and Ministry

Read this story by Jeff Brumley in the Florida Times Union 11/18/09 about a Catholic and a Baptist who became good friends and actually prayed and studied the Bible together for years - and helped each man understand and appreciate each other's faith.

Not only that, but the two men shared a desire to minister to prisoners, and they served together in a prison ministry which was started in 1989 shortly after the men became friends.

Some interesting quotes from the article:

"One was a devout Catholic, loyal to his bishop and pope. The other's an Independent Baptist, bent on winning souls for Jesus and viewing Scripture and Christ as humanity's sole spiritual authority."

"But rather than trying to convert each other, during their weekly meetings they stuck to the outline of a Kairos prayer card that covered personal needs, sharing moments of closeness with Christ and insights from personal devotionals."

The story explains how each man's faith helped complete the other: the Baptist learning to be more concerned about social needs, while the Catholic seeing the importance of proselytizing.

The Catholic man, Ray Walker, died recently, and his friend, Ken Cooper, the Independent Baptist, delivered Walker's eulogy - inside St. Patrick's Catholic church where Walker worshipped.

Its great to see such a positive story in Jacksonville, of how two Christians with theological differences didn't let these be a barrier to their relationship - in fact to the contrary, each of their faiths complemented and completed the other's - and helped also to make more complete their respective Christian ministries.

The article contained a sidebar about how Walker's daughter says her dad's relationship with Cooper helped him be more accepting of her non-Catholic husband whom she married in 1986. "It made my dad look outside the Catholic religion and at other Christians without prejudice," his daughter said. "It helped him realize there were good men in every faith."

We need to see more of this in Jacksonville. Many preachers, on both sides, preach that they must convert the other Christian into their faith with no tolerance for doctrinal differences. As I posted on this blog just a few months ago, an example of this intolerant viewpoint was preached from Jacksonville's largest church, FBC Jacksonville. Dr. Jim Smyrl, preacher at FBC Jax, last December called the Catholic church a cult in his blog on the church website, then followed that up with a sermon in which he called for members of FBC Jax to confront their Catholic friends that they are "living a lie" and that they need to convert to the Baptists' beliefs and practices. Smyrl even went so far as to refer to a Catholic priest as a "cult leader" in one of his articles appearing on the church website last November.

Isn't it wonderful that Cooper wasn't listening to a Jim Smryl in the 1980's when he met his friend Ray Walker?

In the article, Brumley quotes the Rev. Robert J. McDermott, former pastor at Walker's Catholic parish: "Nowadays, people are a little closed-minded. They believe there's no salvation outside of their own religions, and Ray and Ken show that's not true."

Yes, I think McDermott is right on the money, and Smyrl is out in left field.

Cooper said: "There were doctrinal differences that would have separated us forever. God gave us the grace to overcome them."

Kudos to Jeff Brumley for sharing this positive story with the people of Jacksonville.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ronnie and Johnny: Doggone It, How Can We Spread the Gospel If the Sheep Don't Tithe?

As we continue looking at this doctrine of storehouse tithing, I thought I'd share with you a recent quote from Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Arkansas, and the chairman of the SBC Great Commission Resurrgence Task Force. [Click here to go to Ronnie's personal online store to purchase his books and tape series. Click here to go to his church's website].

As reported by the Baptist Press 11/18/09, according to Ronnie Floyd one of the underlying problems in the SBC is that people aren't tithing:

"God tells individuals to tithe and honor Him with the first tenth and with offerings, but studies show the average evangelical gives 2.4 percent to all charities. How are we going to change the world with the Gospel when 98 cents of every dollar given stays in the churches and 98 cents of every dollar earned stays in the pocket of the member?" - Ronnie Floyd, 11/18/09

Another pastor, a prominent one at that, a mega church pastor, multi-campus pastor, who believes that the problem is THE SHEEP....gosh darn it, how can you expect us to reach the lost when you stupid sheep are keeping 98% of your income!! And as the article points out, Floyd's church contributes about 2.2% of their budget to the CP, so not sure what his point is about money staying in the churches.

Fact is, what churches have ALWAYS gotten, on average, for decades, is between 2 and 3 percent from their church members. Maybe the problem is not the percentage, since that hasn't changed, but its what church leaders have been doing with the dollars given. Big buildings, church marketing consultants, NAMB president personal coaches, large mega church pastor salaries and bennies, jobs for wife and family members, airfare to their speaking gigs, and on and on. Maybe, just maybe, the problem isn't with the sheep who have been consistently giving 2-3% for a hundred years, but its with the convention leaders who are mostly mega church pastors or close friends with megas who are prioritizing the spending and have build the denominational structure that demands more and more money.

I just don't believe their logic that if they got more money they would do more ministry. Mac Brunson of FBC Jax used this same logic last year in his "giving units" sermon, that if his 5000 "giving units" who earn on average $50,000 annually would just obey God and tithe, they could get $25 million instead of having to get by on just $15 million. But what these guys don't realize is that church people are on to them. They are so sick and tired of hearing their pastors and staff members, especially in the mega churches, bellyache about money. Parishioners are sick of hearing just how great their church's ministry COULD be, if everyone would stop being so stingy. And at the same time they see their megachurch pastors like Mac Brunson put family on staff and advertise on their church's website to entice people to pay $5000 and higher to join them on a luxury riverboat to "Cruise Down the Danube".

What if we told guys like Ronnie Floyd: "Hey Ronnie, I would give more money to my church, but you don't understand. My boss is only giving me a fraction of what he should. Believe me, I could do MUCH MORE for the Lord in my church if I could only get more money, the right and fair amount, from my place of employment". Ronnie would tell us that we perhaps should spend less, and that the problem is not with the amount of the income, but that its more our spending priorities. Amen! So maybe they should listen to their own advice.

So we tell you, Ronnie and Johnnie and Mac: please, you are getting what you are getting, stop bellyaching about what you COULD do if you only had more money, stop using the tithe doctrine as a fund raising, marketing gimmick to raise revenue, and make due with what you are getting. Instead of trying to extract a higher percentage, concentrate more on preaching the gospel, getting people saved, less on your book deals and river cruises and seminars, and let the Lord lead your new converts to give their 2.4% or whatever they purpose in their heart to give.

And please, this Sunday, thank your church members for being so generous with their 2.4%.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Look at the Doctrine of Storehouse Tithing

I will return to the topic of Matt Chandler in a bit, as I am doing more research on him for a few future articles. I find his ministry to be very intriguing. The more I learn about him, the more surprised, or perhaps impressed, I am that FBC Jax invited him to speak at the 2009 Pastor's Conference. Contrary to what some critics have posted here on the previous article, Chandler is NOT cut from the same mold as your typical SBC mega pastor, not by a long shot.

But I wanted to post a few articles on the topic of tithing. Our friends over at The Wartburg Watch are posting some articles this week on the doctrine of tithing, and their first article is going up today.

Wartburg Watch on Tithing

Having been a member at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville while pastors Vines and Lindsay were there, and then for 2 1/2 years with Brunson, I noticed a vast difference between what Vines and Lindsay taught about Christian giving, and what Brunson taught. At first I thought the difference between Vines/Lindsay and Brunson was more technique than doctrine. But after more reflection and research I believe it more than technique, that the Brunson theology on giving is a dangerous, legalistic doctrine requiring one to tithe to be in a proper relationship with God - in fact to avoid God's wrath one must tithe or suffer severe consequences, and that Christians' failure to tithe is causing God to punish our country. Brunson's sheep-beater sermons on tithing have caused me to look more closely at what I've been taught about tithing from scripture.

I don't write any of this to discourage people from giving to their church, or to encourage people to give less to their church or to suggest people shouldn't give 10% to their church. But for goodness sakes its time for church people to wake up about what the modern church has been teaching about Christian giving and stewardship, especially given how many of these same pastors who are preaching it are themselves taking a chunk of the dough for their personal fortunes.

But as a starting point on my thoughts on tithing, I wish to share something that I came across earlier this year that I found startling and will be the basis for my blog posts on tithing. Its not so much startling because of its content, but because of the authors' affiliation.

I discovered two research papers published by two authors that do a complete biblical and doctrinal analysis of the issue of tithing - a deconstruction of Old Testament tithing doctrine misused by pastors for so long, and a reconstruction of biblical, New Testament grace giving. These two authors conclude in part that "..the view that Christians are required to give at least 10 percent of their income lacks adequate support from the biblical data".

Their research is very deep and scholarly. They not only debunk the myth that Christians are obligated by scripture to tithe, but they analyze the current cultural context of WHY pastors still try to sell this doctrine to their churches, when they KNOW (or should know) that it is not supported in scripture.

You say "So what, probably just a few liberal nuts who wrote some crazy paper on tithing."

You would be wrong.

This research paper is authored by two seminary professors at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary: Andreas Kostenburger and David Croteau. Andreas is still to this day a professor at SEBTS. Gee, he's probably friends with Jim Smyrl, famous SEBTS alum and creator of the "Theology Driven Ministry" model. Croteau is no longer at SEBTS, but is a professor at Liberty University. Croteau has a blog where he has many, many articles on the tithe.

There are lots of websites and voices out there that have said the same thing that Kostenburger and Croteau have said, but no one in the SBC pays them any attention. But these guys are two of our own, from a conservative SBC seminary, and they are worth listening to. This paper is probably not intended for stupid sheep like us who have been spoon fed the tithing doctrine our entire Christian lives, which makes it all the more important for us to read! This is information that your pastor probably knows, or as I said, SHOULD know - but they still tell you that you are robbing God if you don't meet the 10% tithing threshold.

So I will share some summaries and thoughts on these two papers by Kostenburger and Croteau. I encourage you, if you have the time, to browse these papers. They are not difficult reading. Be careful, as you might end up a little miffed, wondering why your pastor still pulls out Malachi 3 to tell you that you must tithe, and that you must bring it all into the "storehouse" and that the church is that "storehouse" and that you are "robbing God" if you don't. That is a fable we've been told by pastors who themselves probably know its not true, but they do it since it helps keep the sheep's wallets lubed and makes for hefty offerings on the "move that mountain" Sunday. Sad thing is, this false doctrine allows the richest members to drop their 10% in the plate and strut around as though they've met some magic (although artificial) threshold of giving that makes them spiritually superior - and then they can be super-super spiritual by declaring they are "tithing on the tithe".

Here are the articles so that you may read them yourself. The website at which these are published is a site founded by Kostenburger himself:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Matt Chandler's SBTS Sermon to Future Preachers

Matt Chandler is a very interesting young preacher from the Village Church in Dallas, Texas. He spoke at the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference in 2009. His church has grown rapidly over the last 10 years or so from a few hundred to 5000 or more, and three campuses. What he has to say to the modern church and to the modern-day preacher is what makes him so interesting to me. This guy is certainly not cut from the same mold as the typical SBC mega-church pastor, even though his church is growing very rapidly.

For starters, I recommend listening to this sermon he preached at Southern Seminary last week. Not the typical message you hear, for sure, from a SBC pastor of a large church. I'm not sure that the message was all that well received by the hearers, but it was one that needed to be preached. Very direct and hard-hitting about pastors getting into the ministry to promote themselves and to achieve Western success, ignoring the scriptures in Hebrew 11 that many will NOT have success (and will be devoured).

I will make a few comments on the sermon later, but wanted to share it with you hear on this site first, along with this quote Chandler used from Eugene Peterson's book, Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity:

"I don't know of any other profession in the world that is quite as easy to fake as ours. For a long time, I have been convinced that I could take a person with a high school education, give him or her a six-month trade school training, and provide a pastor who would be satisfactory to any discriminating American congregation. The curriculum would consist of four courses.

Course I: Creative Plagiarism. I would put you in touch with a wide range of excellent and inspirational talks, show you how to alter them just enough to obscure their origins, and get you a reputation for wit and wisdom.

Course II: Voice Control for Prayer and Counseling. We would develop your own distinct style of Holy Joe intonation, acquiring the skill in resonance and modulation that conveys and unmistakable aura of sanctity.

Course III: Efficient Office Management. There is nothing that parishioners admire more in their pastors than the capacity to run a tight ship administratively. If we return all phone calls within twenty-four hours, answer all the letters within a week, distributing enough carbons to key people so that they know we are on top of things, and have just the right amount of clutter on our desk—not too much, or we appear inefficient, not too little or we appear underemployed—we quickly get the reputation for efficiency that is far more important than anything that we actually do.

Course IV: Image Projection. Here we would master the half-dozen well-known and easily implemented devices that that create the impression that we are terrifically busy and widely sought after for counsel by influential people in the community. A one-week refresher course each year would introduce new phrases that would convince our parishioners that we are bold innovators on the cutting edge of the megatrends and at the same time solidly rooted in all the traditional values of our sainted ancestors.

(I have been laughing for several years over this trade school training with which I plan to make my fortune. Recently, though, the joke has backfired on me. I keep seeing advertisements for institutes and workshops all over the country that invite pastors to sign up for this exact curriculum. The advertised course offerings are not quite as honestly labeled as mine, but the content appears to be identical—a curriculum that trains pastors to satisfy the current consumer tastes in religion. I’m not laughing anymore.)"

Link to Audio of Matt Chandler SBTS Sermon Nov 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Freda Crawford

My wife and I were extremely saddened to hear the news yesterday of the death of Freda Crawford, wife of Pastor Gary Crawford of Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville, Florida. Freda had been battling cancer for 9 years. She and her husband Gary have been serving at Westside Baptist Church for 28 years.

As reported by the Florida Baptist Witness:

"While undergoing a cancer treatment regimen that included two bone marrow transplants and on-going chemotherapy, Crawford continued to teach Sunday School and to sing in the choir, completed a Ph.D. in education at University of Florida, and assisted Gary Crawford in writing and editing a book he dedicated to her: Celebration of Love, Marriage and Sex: A Journey Through Song of Solomon."

How wonderful that Mrs. Crawford was voted "Pastor's Wife of the Year" at the Florida State Baptist Convention annual meeting in Pensacola November 9th just a few days before her death. She was the model pastor's wife, teaching Sunday School, playing the piano, committed to serving people through involvement in world missions, and an inspiration to all of the people at her church and in the state of Florida.

My wife and I have fond memories of Westside Baptist and Gary and Freda - we met at Westside Baptist Church and were active in their excellent college ministry, and were married by Gary back in 1986 and were members there until we moved to Jacksonville in 1988. We still have friends who attend Westside who have always told us what a wonderful example of faith and perseverence Freda has been to them through her long battle with cancer.

Our condolences go out to Gary and his family, and all of the people at Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Congrats to Trey Brunson - Appointed as Florida GCR Task Force Member

Yesterday, Trey Brunson, Director of Special Projects at FBC Jax, was named to the Florida Baptist State Convention "Imagine If Great Commission Task Force", by FBSC president John Cross. Trey is one of 30 people selected from around the state who will study what changes need to be made in this state convention to more effectively reach the people of Florida with the gospel.

I do not mean this post to be disrespectful to Trey in any way. I have never heard a negative comment about Trey, and I'm sure he is a capable, fine young man.

However, his appointment to the Task Force is perhaps an example of why an amendment was put forth to the Florida GCR Task Force motion yesterday requiring the task force members to be selected by committee, not by John Cross, FSBC President, in consultation with John Sullivan FSBC Executive Director. That amendment was soundly defeated, and Cross selected the committee.

Trey has been in Florida for only about 3 1/2 years, serving in a position at FBC Jax as the Special Projects Director, although we can't be positive since he has never been listed on the church website as an official staff member. One might wonder what qualifications he has that would make him a candidate for such an appointment in this state, and if his relationship to his father had anything to do with him getting appointed. No doubt John Cross wants the younger generation of Florida Baptists to be represented on the task force, which Trey most certainly is, but if someone is going to represent the Jacksonville area or even FBC Jax, why not one of the OTHER younger ministers in this area like Dan Elkins, or Chris Eppling, or Marcus Allen, Jr. who have all lived and served and ministered in the state of Florida for a much longer time.

I would provide a hyperlink to Trey's bio, or his email address, or description of his ministry at FBC Jax, but he still is not anywhere listed on the FBC Jax website as a staff member. Maybe with this appointment that will change.

But congrats to Trey for such an important appointment, and we wish him well as he serves on this important committee in our state of Florida.

Monday, November 9, 2009

FBC Jax Academy Headmaster Gone

Apparently Jim Daniels, the FBC Jax Academy headmaster hired last year, is from all appearances no longer employed by the school.

Daniels was hired in 2008 to head up the school that was launched the fall of 2009. According to the academy website, Marlene Anderson is now the school's headmaster and no mention is made of Daniels.

No official word has come from FBC Jax about the change.

The Watchdog wishes Mr. Daniels and his family well, and hopes they are doing fine.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Prediction: Brunson for SBC Prez, 2010

I would like to be the first to go on the record predicting that Mac Brunson will be nominated and elected by a comfortable margin, as president of the Southern Baptist Convention during their annual meeting in Orlando in June 2010.

I base this prediction on the following observations:

- 2010 SBC Keynote Address: Brunson was selected by the 2009 SBC Annual Meeting attendees to deliver the SBC 2010 convention sermon (akin to a "keynote address") in Orlando.

- Friendship with Current Prez Hunt: Perhaps Brunson is the choice of current president Johnny Hunt. After all Hunt is a very outspoken friend and supporter of the Brunson family. In his most recent show of support for his good friend Mac during these troubling times during Brunson's tenure at FBC Jax, Hunt flew in to Jax on Friday 9/25 in a plane flown by one of his church members to speak to the FBC Jax deacons and their wives at their Daytona Beach deacon's retreat. Hunt flew in that night, had a riverfront dinner at the Chart House with the Brunsons, then flew back that night after speaking to the FBC Jax deacons. Johnny Twittered during his trip, declaring his love for Mac and calling him "God's man". Another example of the Hunt-Brunson connection is that Hunt this past year hired Mac's son-in-law who just graduated from SBTS. The Hunt and Brunson friendship is deep, and Mac is very close to Paige Patterson. No doubt Mac would be an excellent choice for the Patterson CR crowd.

- State Convention Speaking Gigs: Brunson recently announced to his church that this year he has never received more invitations to speak to groups, and that is schedule is "scary" busy. He has been invited to speak at several baptist state conventions, including Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana, and Oklahoma. These are great stumping opportunities for Mac to garner support for his presidency. The current controversy at FBC Jax seems to not have waned Brunson's popularity with the SBC faithful, and in fact may have served to give his image a big boost amongst the conservative pastors.

- Local Speaking Slots: I found it interesting that Calvin Carr, pastor of North Central Baptist Church in Gainesville and long-time youth minister at FBC Jax, has invited Brunson to speak at his church for their special "Harvest Banquet" day in November. On his blog, Calving Carr described Brunson: "Dr. Brunson leads a mammoth congregation with the heart of a loving shepherd. I know you will not want to miss this special night." So even Calvin Carr is on board with Mac Brunson, "the loving shepherd". Apparently smaller churches like Calvin's find Brunson an attractive preacher to be brought in to speak to their people.

- Support of FBC Jax Lay, Staff, and Leadership: Reportedly things are going very well at FBC Jax, numbers are up, giving is strong, and the ministry is thriving. Mac apparently has full support of his deacons and trustees, and all is well at FBC Jax. After all, Mac has had huge victories of late: the successful launch of the First Baptist Academy and a satellite church in St. John's County.

Why Brunson's increase in popularity of late on the preaching circuit, as Mac himself admits? I don't know, but perhaps he is viewed as the resilient, martyred, humble pastor, or on the other extreme perhaps some in the CR crowd hail him as the one with the guts to take on recalcitrant, blogging, vocal critics of SBC leadership. Or maybe its the influence of his friend Johnny Hunt.

Some may call this prediction a no-brainer, some may say "no way". But I say it is a long-shot prediction when one considers what Mac told Tim Rogers in an SBC Today interview in February 2008:

"I can tell ya right now, I've about determined I'm not runnin' for anything, I'm not going to take an office of anything, I don't want to. God would have to do something awfully, awfully unusual. I don't think my wife would let me do it, number one. But number two, I just don't want to do it."

This last year, certainly has been "awfully, awfully, unusual"....so maybe he will go for it. Needless to say, in this writer's opinion, there is much about Brunson that should cause SBC lay people concern, and the people of FBC Jax great concern, about Brunson's ascension to the convention presidency, and I'll make a few comments in the coming weeks on this.

I know its early, more than 7 months to the 2010 annual SBC meeting, but I want to be the first, at least that I know of, to predict Brunson's ascension to the SBC presidency next year, and if it comes to pass, I'll say a hearty "Congrats" to Mac Brunson!

We shall see next June in Orlando! See you all there!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Brunson Expresses "Remorse" and "Sorrow" Over His "Stumble" Last April

Finally, a step in the right direction.

As Proverbs 15:1 says: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."

On November 1, 2009, more than 6 months after stating to a Florida Times Union reporter that I am mentally unstable and a sociopath, Dr. Mac Brunson gave a "gentle answer" to the resulting slander lawsuit filed against he and his church. Dr. Brunson has finally taken a step in the right direction.

In his 11/1/09 sermon entitled "Speech Therapy" from James 3:1-2, Brunson expressed "regret" and that he is "deeply sorrowful" for his comments, because of the "influence and the impact of his words", and admitted he should have demonstrated more "maturity". It was very clear that he was referring to his comments made to Jeff Brumley that were published in the Florida Times Union on April 9th, 2009, as Brunson prefaced his "regret" and "sorrow" remarks in his sermon by referring to his words that were "reported on the front page of the headlines".

Click below and you can hear the 2 minute sermon excerpt. If you want to hear the entire sermon, it is available on his I-tunes podcast here, or at his Inlight Ministries podcast website.

A few comments about Mac's comments:

- I commend Dr. Brunson for admitting that he has regret and sorrow for his deeply offending words. These were long overdue. Perhaps if he had been more proactive in apologizing, the defamation part of the FBC Jax lawsuit would never have materialized. And most encouraging to me is that his remarks are more than anyone else at the church has expressed over their own pastor's words, including A.C. Soud, his trustree president who unfortunately followed Brunson's lead and called me a "coward" to the same reporter a few weeks after Dr. Brunson called me a "sociopath". Maybe now many of those who come onto this blog and others who proclaim "Mac was right about you", will be more Christ-like in what they say and how they say it.

- Of course, I hope that if Dr. Brunson truly is regretful and sorrowful and understands how hurtful his words were, that he will contact the Times Union and issue a retraction or clarification of his remarks in the same medium in which they were reported. Calling me a sociopath and mentally unstable to a Times-Union reporter, which ultimately made front page headlines, can not be "corrected" by a statement in a sermon. The audiences are vastly different.
- Also, if you listen to the sermon excerpt, you'll hear Dr. Brunson refer to his statements as a "stumble", and while he does express regret, he defends his misdeed by saying that "we all do it". I respectfully disagree. You see, Dr. Brunson still does not realize that not everyone in the congregation does what he did. Mac was the ONLY person in the 8000+ people in attendance Sunday who was interviewed by the media about the criminial investigation into this blog site by Brunson's friend and body guard who decided to defend the church's actions by stating without reservation that I was mentally unstable and a sociopath. So Dr. Brunson wasn't the victim of the media as he seems to imply in this sermon and others previously. His statements to Brumley were not a "stumble". He knew what he was saying, why he was saying it, and most importantly, to whom he was saying it.

In other word's, Dr. Brunson's remarks were not off-the-record remarks caught on tape; this was no dirt dug up on him, no embarrassing private conversation was overheard, and it wasn't him speaking off-the-cuff in anger. Those might be "stumbles". In the context of him knowing an embarrassing news story was about to come out, it seems he decided to defend his church's actions by proclaiming the blog author to be a nut case. This was Dr. Mac Brunson, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, in a newspaper media interview, sitting in front of Jeff Brumley, on the record, premeditated, stating a very harmful lie about me. He KNEW his comments would be reported. That is not just a "stumble", that everyone does every now and then.

And to make matters worse, he has let 6 months go by without retracting, clarifying, defending, explaining, or apologizing for his comments. And sorry to say, no one in the church, or even Brunson's pastor peers in the SBC has dared to publicly call for Brunson to explain or clarify his remarks....perhaps making Brunson's remarks in his 11/1 sermon all the more commendable.

But, as I said, this is a step in the right direction, and I applaud Dr. Brunson for making this step. Let's see where this might take us. His sermon also mentioned how one needs to apologize to the person harmed personally. Who knows, a personal apology, and clarification through the same medium that what he said was in fact not true, may make a defamation lawsuit against him unnecessary.

But at least this is a step in the right direction.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ed Stetzer: "Superman Pastors" and "Pay, Pray, and Get out of the Way" Mentality

Readers - the more I listen to Ed Stetzer, the more I really like this guy.

I recommend watching this video of a presentation on "missional leadership", delivered I believe at a conference of pastors in Oklahoma.

He makes some very on-target comments on the trend of "superman" pastors that is destroying the modern church (start 6:45 mark), and the trend of the "clergification" of the church which hinders God's work, and the lowly view that many "clergy" have toward their lay people that they should "pay, pray, and get out of the way" for the real men of God to minister.

All relevant comments for Watchdog readers.

He also address the trend of the "cult of personality" amongst pastors today:

Says Ed: "....what pastors lead people to is a cult of personality. 'You can come because I'm great, I'm Superman, I'm here, come follow me, you can listen to me here, you can read my stuff here, you can meet me here, I'm everywhere, I'm kind of a big deal, people know me, I have many leather bound books.' A cult of personality leads ultimately to a fall of the cult of personality."

Ed is definitely stepping on some toes. Good for him. Guys like this give me just a glimmer of hope that there are some guys in the upper echelon of the SBC that get it.

Would love to hear your thoughts after listening to Ed.

Missional Leadership from Ed Stetzer on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Who Chooses Who?" - A Sermon Series by Jimmy Scroggins

Readers - wanted to recommend to you a sermon series currently being preached by Jimmy Scroggins, pastor at First Baptist Church West Palm Beach.

It is entitled "Who Chooses Who?" and Scroggins deals with issues like predestination and the sovereignty of God versus the free will of man. Those who are interested in the current Calvinism debate in the SBC will find these extremely interesting, thought-provoking messages. He has preached the first two sermons in the series, with more to come in future weeks.

For those of you that don't know, Scroggins grew up at least in part at FBC Jacksonville under Vines and Lindsay, and completed his seminary education at Southern Seminary. You will find his preaching style very refreshing and down-to-earth. He doesn't mix in the convoluted history lessons and greek verb tenses and stories of himself - he is truly interested in preaching a simple, truthful message from the Bible that is practical and helpful to his congregation.

You can listen to Scroggins' sermons at their church website here.

You can view video of Scroggins' sermons here.

If you want to subscribe to Scroggins' podcast via I-Tunes, click here.