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.”

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ed Young Breaks New Tithing Ground: Demands Bank Account and Routing Numbers on Tithing Commitment Forms

Update: There is one place you can still listen to the Ed Young sermon excerpt asking for his church to fill out forms with their checking account and routing number. It is at Fighting for the Faith, on the November 2nd, 2010 podcast, starting at about the 9:00 minute mark. Chris Rosebrough analyzes the audio of the video that was removed. So far Fellowship Church hasn't successfully removed it from the Rosebrough website.

"When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Will you give me a drink - along with your bank account and routing number?' " John 4:7

Ed Young, Jr. of Fellowship Church delievered a humdinger of a tithing sermon on 10/10/10. As you see in the picture above, Young blazed a trail that likely no other Southern Baptist has gone down: he actually is trying to gain access to his church member's bank accounts to withdrawl their tithe automatically. He doesn't just want THEM to use online banking for an automated payment, Ed wants the church to have access to their bank accounts! This is not a joke or a parody. He really did this. Watch the video above.

I'll have more to say about this sermon later, as it might be the most heretical, nonsensical, self-serving, manipulative sermon I think I've ever heard. I can't wait to hear what Chris Rosebrough has to say about this.

By the way, men, if your pastor has recently used the line: "come on men, 'man up' and start tithing and supporting your church", chances are they got it from Ed Young. He started this sermon by appealing to the men to be spiritual leaders, and wrapped it up by insinuating that if you aren't forking over 10% of your income to his church you aren't a real man and you're under a curse, and it's no wonder your marriage is lousy and your career is on the shaky ground. According to Ed, you can't possibly be blessed by God if you don't tithe.

He even said if you aren't tithing, why bother coming to church, you should just stay home, play golf, and not waste his (Ed's) or God's time. Even said if you're sitting next to a non-tither, watch your wallet because that person is a robber. These pastors can't help but accuse their own church members of being criminals if they don't fork over the dough. It is sickening.

I would submit to the men of Fellowship Church: if you want to be a man, a spiritual leader in your home, then "man up", admit to your family that Ed Young is a false teacher, and that you're sorry you have been subjecting your family to his false teaching. Stop letting your family see you drinking the Ed Young Kool-Aid. You're setting your kids up to follow in your footsteps and be duped by some guy holding a bible that wants to get his greedy hands on their bank account.

But Ed saved the best for last. He made every person pick up a tithing commitment card, and he told them to put their routing number and bank account number on it, and commit to giving 10% of their gross income. Ed said some of them would become very wealthy as a result, because "God will get it to ya, if he can get it through ya." As shown in the photo above, Ed even showed a picture of a check, and where you can find your routing number and account number.

Wow. Imagine giving a mega church access to your checking account. I thought at first maybe I was watching a Saturday Night Live skit - the preacher collecting the bank account access numbers. Maybe next year Ed is going to ask for their ATM card to be put in their tithing envelope, along with the PIN.

FC church member, if you did give this information to Ed on 10/10/10, I hope and pray that you have, or will, write the church office and retract your permission to have access to your checking account. This is not good for you, and it is not good for your church.

This is greed, pure and simple. Ed Young wants you to trust God with your finances, but he doesn't want to trust God that enough money will be collected each Sunday. He doesn't trust you, so he wants to get DIRECT access to your funds.

Tell Ed that you will give him access to your checking account, the day your employer gives YOU access to the company checking account for YOU to get access to your salary directly. No, it doesn't work that way. You trust your employer to give you the money when it is due you. It is that simple. If you want to automate the giving process, you can set up through your bank for online payments to go to the church. There is absolutely no reason to give your bank account info to your church. I can't believe a church would ever want to do that. But maybe Ed will start a trend, and the SBC can have Dave Ramsey add this to his stewardship pitch.

But hey, perhaps Ed's bible says "It is more blessed to give your account number, than it is to receive." - it could be in the Greek.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Big Bang Theory - Push Da Big Red Button, Boom Goes Da Church

Below is the video of the FBC Dallas implosion. Pretty impressive. Below that is the still shot of the pastor and two others pushing The Big Red Button. Is there a deeper, allegorical meaning in three men in suits pushing a button and blowing up the church? Hmmm.

I liked the looks on the faces of the men (pastor in the middle) pushing The Big Red Button that makes it go boom. I like the suit and ties for a building demolition - nice touch! For more pictures, visit this blog.

From that blog, is this quote:
"We're doing this for one reason," Jeffress said, "to magnify the glory of our lord Jesus Christ." With that, the three made a show of plunging down the button in unison, cueing a series of explosions around the church complex below."

No Turning Back: First Baptist Dallas to Implode Its Buildings Saturday Morning - Meanwhile the Crystal Cathedral Implodes Financially

As reported by WFAA news in Dallas/Ft. Worth, this morning First Baptist Dallas will implode 6 buildings comprising 600,000 square feet, to get ready for their $115 million construction project, to be completed by Easter 2013.

Meanwhile this week, ironically, Robert Schuller's ministry, the "Crystal Cathedral" declared bankruptcy. The Wartburg Watch has two very insightful articles on their ministry, here and here.

About the demolition, FBC Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress said:
"No longer is there going to be any debate about whether we ought to do this or not," he said to laughter. "The new question is how quickly are we going to build this thing for the glory of God."
They're building magnficent buildings "to the glory of God".

That is the question really in the Southern Baptist Convention and in evangelical Christianity in the U.S. Are we American Christians to give sacrificially to build state-of-the-art buildings and worship auditoriums and beautiful downtown campuses? Is that what will be "to the glory of God"? Is God really glorified in this, or are we building to glorify ourselves and our personal religious affiliations?

Read what Jon Zens says in his book "A Church Building Every 1/2 Mile":
"Have we ever asked ourselves if Jesus - the Head of the church - would be pleased with the off-the-chart expenditure of money and resources on church structures? Are expensive buildings in line with the Kingdom of the One who had no place to lay his head? Shouldn't our financial resources be poured into helping people in need, rather than into erecting and maintaining institutions that perpetuate our unique beliefs which separate us from other believers?" Jon Zens

Don't like what Jon Zens says? Then definitely do not read Chapter 2 of Frank Viola's book "Pagan Christianity", and what he has to say about our devotion to church buildings in modern Christianity. It will disturb you, but it is something I urge my readers all to read. It is a book that your mega church pastor most certainly does NOT want you to read.

It seems that the Southern Baptists have an identity crisis. On one hand convention leaders are telling us there is nothing more important than raising money for missions through NAMB and IMB to send missionaries around the world to save souls before Jesus comes, and we need to start churches in parts of our country with little evangelical influence. Yet our flagship churches like FBC Jacksonville and FBC Dallas are asking people to dig deep to finance renovations of their campuses. New buildings, new pews, new carpet - for the "glory of God", of course.

Now, what does the implosion of the FBC Dallas buildings have to do with the Crystal Cathedral financial implosion? Plenty.

To understand, you need to read this New York Times article by Laurie Goodstein in which she writes about what led to this financial disaster at the Crystal Cathedral:

"Mr. Schuller [the younger Schuler who was ousted out of leadership in 2008] said he also inherited a sizable debt. His father, he said, had believed that striking new buildings attracted donors who would continue giving. It worked with the church’s original building, designed by the midcentury modern architect Richard Neutra, which enabled Mr. Schuller to preach from a balcony to people sitting in their cars in the parking lot below. It worked with the Crystal Cathedral sanctuary dedicated in 1980, designed by the famed architect
Philip Johnson and quickly paid off by thousands of donors who had their names
inscribed on windows, seats and even the struts that support the glass.

But the strategy failed with the church’s “welcoming center,” designed
by Richard Meier. It was finished in 2003, and when some major donations fell through, the church still owed $40 million for it, according to the younger Mr. Schuller."
There you have it. The elder Schuler believed that if it worked in the past, that magnificent buildings will attract worshippers, that it would work in the future. Apparently their "Welcoming Center" costing millions put them in financial straits. Notice it was "major donations" that fell through that contributed to the problem. One of the things I was critical of in FBC Dallas project was the reliance on several major donors who committed large sums of money to the $115 million project.

Whether Jeffress is successful in their $115 million building program or not, I think the great disservice that preachers like Mac Brunson and Robert Jeffress do to Christianity is they actually try to connect Christians' spiritual condition and growth to their willingness to give money to a building project. Robert Jeffress did it during the capital fund raising campaign as I blogged here, and Mac Brunson did it last month when preaching out of Hagai connecting the unwillingness of the Jews to rebuilding of the temple to Christians not wanting to help renovate the auditorium of FBC Jax.

That is dangerous ground, and is just a modern day form of indulgences that were marketed and sold by the Roman Catholic Church in exchange for alms given to help rebuild St. Peter's Basilica in the early 1500s. And we know how that turned out, a little thing called the "Reformation".

Perhaps another "reformation" in evangelical Christianity is just around the corner. And maybe the Crystal Cathedral financial implosion is a sign of things to come.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

NAMB: Fool Us Once, Shame on You; Fool us Twice, Shame on ALL OF US

Baptist Press has reported on Kevin Ezell's first address to the SBC's North American Mission Board trustees last week.

It seems Ezell has had an amazing change of heart in devotion to funding NAMB, since he was named it's president.:

"It's been a regret of mine that I disengaged. But there's now an incredible capacity to tap into those who have disengaged. There are thousands of pastors who are ready to re-engage if we provide them a compelling vision and show them how we're going to efficiently and effectively use the money that they encourage their people to give through the Cooperative Program and Annie."
By "tap into", I assume Ezell means getting pastors to increase their church's Annie Armstrong missions offering, and their Cooperative Program giving to get more money to the NAMB.

Problem is, we remember.

As the saying goes....if NAMB fools us once, shame on NAMB. If NAMB fools us twice, shame on US.

We remember what happened under one of Ezell's predecessors at NAMB, and we need assurances that this won't happen again. We're afraid of being fooled again.

We remember how the NAMB under Bob "Hollywood" Reccord wasted millions of dollars, as chronicled by Mary Branson in her book "Spending God's Money". Things like spending $142,000 on private jet use, 1/2 million NAMB dollars paid to Jay Strack and Johnny Hunt ministries with no written contracts, a million dollars lost on "Elevate" conferences and their advertising, promotions of Reccord's books at speaking engagements, tens of thousands of dollars spent on PR firms when NAMB had staffers with those capabilities, and much more.

And what did Reccord get for it? He got a 1/2 million dollar severance package, two-years health benefits, and $12,000 for an employment agency to find him a new job. Soon after he left NAMB with his hefty severance, a pastor had his church raise a special "sacrificial love offering" for him in 2006. Sick.

Did Reccord's peers hold him accountable for his wasteful spending of our missions dollars? No way! In fact, 41 prominent SBC leaders signed a "Statement of Support" for Reccord as he left NAMB. The letter commended Reccord for his "visionary leadership", his "tireless work ethic", his "courage to try innovative new approaches". Who signed this? They include SBC heavyweights like:

Ronnie Floyd

Johnny Hunt

James Merritt

Jerry Sutton

Ted Traylor

David Uth

Jerry Vines

Bryant Wright

and 33 other lesser-known SBC leaders.

If ever anyone should have been held accountable for financial waste in our convention, it would be Bob Reccord at NAMB. But once again, we see the SBC bigwigs covering for their friends.

So if Ezell is going to "tap into" more money and resources for NAMB, he might want to do the following:

- openly acknowledge the past abuses at the NAMB under Reccord. Mention his name. Say that what happened at NAMB under Reccord will NOT happen under Ezell's tenure.

- explain HOW that same mismanagement will not, cannot occur under his own tenure. And explain what changes have taken place to prevent it.

- announce that all expenditures at the NAMB, including his own compensation package, are an open book for anyone to look at. Set a new standard of transparency and accountability in an SBC agency.

And if Ezell jumps that hurdle of transparency, then he needs to deal with other barriers to "tapping into those who have disengaged":

- the sheep aren't giving. Pastors are beating the sheep for more money using Malachi 3 and creative misuses of scripture in Hagai, accusing them of robbing God, driving stolen cars, and even accusing them of being to blame for the economic problems of our country.

- the very people that might have more money to give to Annie Armstrong are being encouraged by their pastors to put downpayments on Holy Land trips and river cruises with their celeb pastors. Maybe Ezell can tell his pals to cool their heels on all the "walk where Jesus walked" vacations, and instead encourage these world travelers to put that money into the Annie Armstrong offering this year;

- pastors are starting satellite churches as extensions of their mega church, and are not too interested in "church plants".

- our largest churches seem to be more interested in renovating auditoriums for millions of dollars. FBC Dallas encouraged its people to "lop off a big chunk of their assets" and give to their $100 million dollar building program.

- seems many mega church pastors have learned from Bob Reccord: that using PR and marketing firms is an important part of their "ministries". More money spent on church marketing consultants means less money for missions.

So good luck "tapping into" more resources, Kevin. Many of the pastors have beat you to the punch.

After all, "there's gold in them thar pews."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wade Burleson Lays Down the Blogging Pen

Readers - Wade Burleson has announced that he is stepping away from blogging for good to focus more on other ministries. Please visit his blog to read about some of his new directions.

His blog will stay up and articles are searchable, and he says that all articles will eventually be transferred to his new website next year. Commenting has been turned off.

I'm sure much will be written in the coming days about the sudden end to Wade's popular blog. One article that is already out is by Bart Barber, who has written a very fair piece about Wade's blog and I recommend my readers to go here to read it.

Thank you Wade for all you've done through your blog. I could say more, but it would take too long to write.

Readers, feel free to leave comments here to Wade, or to discuss the significance of Wade's blog, what it has meant to you, or what his blog's end will mean to Southern Baptist life.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Holy Land Trips: Another Example of "Mining the Pews for Gold"

Last week I posted an article how a church marketer described churches as "literally a goldmine of opportunity" for book publishers. Unfortunately some pastors and businessmen look at our churches and declare: "THERE'S GOLD IN THEM THAR PEWS!!!"

Now for an example of how this gold is mined: Overseas travel with a celebrity pastor, including the ever-popular "Holy Land Trips" to Israel, or Mediterranean cruises and even luxury European riverboat trips.

I'm not against nice vacations. I just can't stand the hypocrisy of pastors beating their sheep for more money, threatening them with calamity if they don't tithe, begging and beating the sheep for emergency funds for renovations to their auditorium, poor-mouthing that they just don't have enough money and have to cut ministry - yet at the same time they try to entice the church members to drop $4000 on a trip to Israel or a luxury cruise to the destinations of the Apostle Paul as a means of spiritual renewal.

The fact is there is an entire segment of the travel industry focused strictly on Christian overseas religious travel, mostly trips to the "Holy Land". Holy Land travel agencies offer special trips just for pastors to train them on how to lead their own trip (nice example of multi-level marketing). These "pastor only" trips, called "familiarization tours" (click here and here for two examples) are offered at a greatly reduced price, and some agencies offer to refund the cost of the entire trip if the pastor commits to mine the gold in their pews to get 15 or so noses and their nickels to return to the Holy Land in the next 18 months.

And really there is no limit to who is willing to tap the church "market" with these trips, and creative ways to use church resources in the process:

- SBC pastors like Mac Brunson and Herb Reavis here in Jacksonville lead these trips, and they market the trips using their church's websites and Internet resources. The Herb Reavis trip tracing the steps of the Apostle Paul is touted as "...more than a vacation, it is a spiritual pilgrimage".

- Some pastors will actually send church media ministry personnel and equipment to film portions of the trip, like sermons of the celeb-preacher preaching on a Galilean hillside. Nothing can help entice people to go next year, than to film and edit it and show pictures and video clips to the plebe back home who couldn't go on the trip.

- Televangelists like Benny Hinn are mining this gold as well.

- Even the evangelical Christian favorite politician Mike Huckabee is in on it, leading Christian excursions to the Holy Land.

And if you look at the websites hawking these trips, it is the same marketing cliches' over and over again: "walk with us where Jesus walked", or "let's follow in the footsteps of our Lord", or "your life will never be the same as you go back in time", or "your Bible will come alive after you visit the Holy Land". They are called "spiritual pilgrimages". Some Pastors will hawk them from the pulpit in their sermons "If you travel with me next year to Israel, you'll see what this verse means by...". It never ends.

There are 8-day trips, 10-day trips, 11-day trips. You can select trips where you "follow Jesus", or "footsteps of Paul." Some are land-based, some are cruises. Some focus on trips for Catholics, others for Methodists, even some for Mormons (trips to upstate New York to see the birthplace of Joseph Smith?). Some highlight history, like Danube River trips, sometimes including stops in Rome.

A whole menu of ways you can travel and rub elbows with your celebrity pastor - all in Jesus name of course.

The Watchdog has to ask pastors all over the country who annually use their influence to lead their followers on overseas trips:

Can we put a moratorium on "Holy Land Trips" and "Sail Down the Danube" excursions for just a year or so until the economy gets rolling again and our ministries are on more stable ground?

Reports all over are that giving in churches is down during this recession. Churches are having to cut ministry. In Florida churches have had to decrease their giving to the Cooperative Program about 6%. Even the mighty FBC Jax is 13% behind in their giving and is 1/2 million short of cash for an on-going auditorium renovation. Mac Brunson even said FBC Jax is trying to maintain "some semblence of ministry" with the cash shortfalls. The money is not flowing fast enough.

Yet the advertising for Holy Land trips continues. If giving is down, and ministries are having to be cut, why then, are the rock-star celebrities in Christianity still pushing their high-priced "Holy Land Tours" on their church websites as though they are some sort of "ministry" of the church, during these times?

Or maybe I have it all wrong? Perhaps Holy Land excursions ARE ministries, and perhaps Christians SHOULD be encouraged to give sacrificially to the pastors' Holy Land Trips. After all, here is a quote from Debbie Brunson of FBC Jax, encouraging church members to go with her on their 2011 "Holy Land Trip with the Brunson Family":

“Nothing in your Christian walk will have a greater impact on your life than a trip to the Holy Land. Journey with us to Israel as we follow the steps of our Lord and see how the stories in the Bible come to life.”

Is that true, or is it a marketing ploy? The greatest impact on our Christian walk would be to go to the Holy Land and "follow the steps of our Lord"? News flash: by going to Israel you're not "following the steps of your Lord". Jesus is no longer walking over in the Holy Land. In fact, Jesus is over HERE, right now, in our country, walking here, in the lives of Christians who should be ministering to folks here.

People at FBC Jax must be incredibly confused by the mixed messages: should they increase their giving 1% to the budget as they are being encouraged to do, or should they give a sacrificial gift for the new carpet and pews, or should they save for a Holy Land trip with their pastor? Or dare they put new tires on their kids' car or buy a new washing machine? And If non-tithers are the cause of our nation's economic ills, is the church making sure non-tithers are NOT using God's money by going on this trip?

Maybe instead of pastors encouraging their people to travel with them and spend $4000 to "walk where Jesus walked" on a Holy Land trip, maybe they should encourage their people NOT to go on a trip the next few years, and invest that money IN WHERE JESUS IS WALKING TODAY: right here in our own community amongst the lost and weary and the downtrodden who are hurting.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lawsuit Settled with Eye Toward Making Positive Changes

Yesterday was an important day in the just over 3-year life of the FBC Jax Watchdog blog.

My lawyers and I have reached a settlement in the 1 ½ year long lawsuit against the city of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office (JSO) detective and Assistant State Attorney involved in issuance of subpoenas on my blog back in October 2008 (for background, click here, here, and here).

The monetary settlement was for $50,000 representing the damages we have incurred from the actions of the JSO officer and Assistant State Attorney in unmasking my identity as the Watchdog blogger through subpoena power, and the ensuing banishment from our church – but much more important than the financial settlement is that the settlement agreement includes a commitment on the part of the city, specifically Sheriff John Rutherford, to make positive changes at the JSO stemming from the circumstances that led to this lawsuit.

In our agreement with the city, the Sheriff has agreed to a meeting with myself, my lawyers, and the city’s legal counsel to discuss important ethical issues that have arisen from this case, and to consider our input on changes that can be made in the JSO’s conflict of interest code for its detectives. Additionally, the Sheriff and the Office of General Counsel have agreed to develop and implement a training program for JSO detectives specifically on constitutional First Amendment issues and legal ramifications that must be considered when issuing investigative subpoenas.

We are extremely pleased with this settlement, and believe that the lawsuit and its settlement will serve the interests of the citizens of Jacksonville through a strengthening of the JSO’s ethical policies and training provided to detectives on constitutional First Amendment issues. We are very grateful to Sheriff Rutherford in agreeing to meet with us personally to address these issues, and think this is an example of excellent governmental leadership on his part.

I will have more to say in the future concerning the case, the litigation and the implications of the case to mega churches, etc. But this will be in the future – for now we will focus on our meeting with Sheriff Rutherford to try to help effect real change at the JSO for the betterment of Jacksonville.

Stay tuned!

Even Adrian Rogers and "Love Worth Finding" Had it Wrong on the Tithe

Below is a June 4th devotional entry at Love Worth Finding ministries, entitled "God Blesses Through the Tithe":

God Blesses Through the Tithe

June 4

Sometimes when I talk about tithing, people will say, “Well, you don’t expect that little widow to tithe her pension, do you?" I’d say, “Sure!" And they reply, “You hardhearted man!"

I’d be hardhearted if I didn’t teach her to tithe; I want her to be blessed! If there’s anybody who needs to depend on God, it’s that kind of a person. You’re not smarter than God…don’t you know that God knows what that little lady needs?

And this person will say, "You’re trying to take her money from her. The church doesn’t need it." And that person is right on the second part. No, God doesn’t need her money, or anyone else's for that matter.

But God wants to bless. He says, “Prove Me! I’ll renew your faith, I’ll rebuke your foes, and I’ll restore your fruitfulness. Your fruit is not going to fall to the ground ahead of time. I’ll make you fruitful in all that you do."

You’ll always do more with nine-tenths and God as a partner, than you do with ten-tenths by yourself. It’s time we began to trust the Lord!

Proverbs 3:5-10 says, "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones. Honor the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine."

The words above are attributed to Adrian Rogers on the website. I don't know if this is an actual excerpt from one of his sermons, or if he actually penned it, or if someone on the LWF staff ghost wrote it. I really don't know, but it is attributed to Adrian Rogers, written in first person.

As I said previously, Adrian Rogers was probably the best preacher of the gospel I ever heard. His sermons at the FBC Jax Pastors' Conference on Tuesday nights were incredible. But if the above represents Adrian Rogers' view on tithing, I believe he was wrong on this one issue. He may have been sincere, and I believe he was sincere, but he was still wrong.

The message to poor widows on a meager pension is that the channel of God's blessing is through them giving 1/10th of their pension to their church. Notice that "dependence on God" is demonstrated through giving the tithe. And "God WANTS to bless" it says....as though God's wants to, but can't, or won't, unless she forks over 1/10th of her income as a requirement.

If she chooses to give 1/10th of her pension to her church, so be it. But I sure hope preachers, and I hope financial gurus who teach Christian stewardship like Dave Ramsey, don't tell widows they should be forking over 1/10th of their income to the church in order to allow God to bless them. I certainly hope preachers would never tell her that she is driving a stolen car or living in a stolen retirement home (I guess that analogy breaks down here) or wearing stolen clothes.

And I hope that no preacher would threaten her by saying "God collects on what is due him" and tells her that if she does NOT give 10%, God will get it from her anyways through a leaking roof and sinking investments and car crashes. That would be sad, if a preacher ever preached that to old ladies on a meager pension, would it not?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Even Very Godly Preachers of the Gospel Can Be Wrong About Tithing

One of the recent commentors on this blog has argued the following defense of the storehouse tithing doctrine: that because preachers over the years that we have all respected and admired have taught storehouse tithing, to now call it a false doctrine is to declare them to be liars.

The point is that even sincere, well-meaning preachers can have it wrong about tithing being a requirement on Christians, teaching 10% as a dividing line between obedience and disobedience.

At the same time, I also believe that while many preachers who have taught the tithe for decades are sincere, many of the new generation of pastors coming up KNOW it is not supported in scripture but they have latched onto the doctrine as a means of revenue maximization, or they are afraid of peer rejection if the speak the truth on giving. Even young preachers like Perry Noble in the emergent church movment that have jettisoned almost every single Baptist tradition from their night-club style churches, have refused to get rid of the tithing tradition and still hang it around the necks of their church members in very threatening ways.

Fortunately, there are some young preachers who are speaking the truth. David A. Croteau is a Ph.D. graduate of Southeastern Theological Seminary and a professor at Liberty University (not the seminary), and his doctoral research at SEBTS was on the tithing doctrine. He has published a book this year, "You Mean I Don't Have to Tithe: A Deconstruction of Tithing and a Reconstruction of Post-Tithe Giving", which was borne out of his years of doctoral research as a Ph.D. student at our own Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary under the tutelage of Dr. Andreas Kostenberger. Croteau's exhaustive research on tithing included a complete survey and categorization of major church leaders and writers and their tithing views from the 1st century to the modern day.

And Croteau's research shows a wide distribution both for and against the tithe being binding on Christians. So it is up to us to not just buy the line that because Homer or Vines or Rogers taught tithing, that it must be true, and to say tithing is unbiblical means we have to reject everything else they taught. That is not so. They could have been sincerely wrong. Some might have taken their views because they were under immense pressure to raise funds at their church, we don't know.

Thus, I recommend to Christians who want to know the truth about tithing to listen to credible Christians who have no financial interest in pushing the tithing doctrine like David Croteau, John MacArthur, George Barna, and Frank Viola. There are many others, but these are more credible ones that I have read, and recommend that others read as well. The scholarly approach of Croteau is fascinating - no question the book comes from a PhD dissertation. If your pastor still is teaching the doctrine of tithing, you might want to buy him a copy of Croteau's book!

Two of the endorsers of Croteau's book are David Alan Black and Andreas Kostenberger at SEBTS, who write:

"Are Christians obligated to tithe? David Croteau thinks not, and argues that it is only our traditionalism that prevents us from following the biblical instructions about giving. The New Covenant foundation for giving is always relationship-driven, grace-driven, and love-driven. "Radical obedience is required," the author states. But Christians who give less than 10 percent "do not sin." I am impressed with Mr. Croteau's work. It offers valid, profound, and inspiring direction to all and especially evangelical Christians." David Alan Black, SEBTS
"David Croteau's study promises to be the definitive work on tithing for years to come. Croteau provides a thorough survey of the history of scholarship on the issue, exegetes all relevant biblical texts, and discusses all the major systematic theological issues at stake. But Croteau does not stop there. He sets tithing within the framework of the larger pattern of New Covenant giving, which renders his study not merely academically significant but also immensely practical. For all those interested in the subject of giving, tithing, and financial Christian stewardship, this is a must-read-highly recommended." Andreas J. Kostenberger
So we must search the bible ourselves, find out if indeed the bible teaches that we as Christians are obligated to give 10% of our income to our local church as a pathway to receive God's blessings. We should NOT rely on the preacher to TELL US what we are to do with our money. We should not allow them to use guilt tactics on us. We should not listen to financial planners hired by the church who on one hand tell the church they must tithe without exception, but then on the other hand never say anything about tithing or giving to their secular "market". Read the bible for yourself to see what Jesus Christ would have you do with your money today. Read authors like Croteau and MacArthur to help you "deconstruct" what you have been taught for decades about tithing, and your eyes will be opened up as to just what Jesus Christ would have you use your resources for.

And a word to those preachers who even take the tithing doctrine to new heretical levels - like declaring that we will actually suffer at the hands of God if we DO NOT tithe, falsely accusing Christians of dealing in stolen goods who are caring for their families first as the New Testament commands us...those who preach that "not tithing" is a special, natinal sin that God hates and will judge a nation financially because of it - well, these men should be exposed and their views brought to light so their ideas and teachings can be examined by Christians. That is what this blog will continue to do.

Thank God for the work of David Croteau. He was one who dared to take this issue on, and to write the truth about the doctrine, and to put forth a correct biblical view of Christian stewardship. Thank God for Andreas Kostenberger who supported and mentored Croteau in this research.

I suppose if Croteau's work is read by enough people, preachers will try to discredit him, like was done with Barna and Viola last month in the FBC Jax pulpit. But it will be hard to discredit Croteau. He is one of our own, taught in one of our own seminaries, and mentored by one of the most respected professors at SEBTS. And Croteau had absolutely no financial gain to be made by completing his research, but rather he knew going into his research that he would be inviting the scorn of his fellow Southern Baptists. I'm sure his book will not be required reading any time soon at our seminaries! I suppose some preachers might even try to get he or Kostenberger fired for their views, but that's already been tried unsuccessfully.

Next, I will show an example of how even Adrian Rogers had it wrong on the tithe. And still stay tuned for the 2nd part of the previous post on the Brunson sermon on tithing, entitled "Is God our Father, or is He the Godfather".

Friday, October 15, 2010

Brunson: We Should Expect the Judgment of God on America for All the Non-Tithing Christians

"I want to tell you something. You cannot convince me, that a big portion of the economic downturn in this country doesn't rest squarely on the shoulders of Christians who will not honor God with the tithe. When you come to the place in this country where only 2 to 3 percent of the people tithe that call themselves Christian, we should expect the judgment of God." Mac Brunson, 10/10/10

To me there is nothing more disgusting in Christianity than to watch a preacher misuse his position as a spiritual leader, and to misuse the Holy Bible for his own selfish ends to extract money from his congregation through fear, guilt, and intimidation.

I've called it out when Steve Gaines has done it, accusing his non-tithing congregants of being criminals dealing in stolen goods. I've called it out on this blog when Robert Jeffress at First Baptist Dallas advised his people to discount advice from their financial advisors and "slice off" a chunk of their personal assets to give to the building program as a means of getting closer to Jesus.

And I've called Mac Brunson out on it before, almost two years ago to the day, and I'm going to do it again.

On Sunday October 10, 2010, Brunson made the most spiritually abusive, careless remarks to his congregation that I think he's ever made regarding financial stewardship. There were several parts that I'll break up into separate blog posts. Below is the first excerpt:

The first remark he made is a rehash of his comments from October 2008, declaring that the economic downturn in America and in the world rests squarely on the shoulders of non-tithing Christians. Mac says we should expect the judgment of God on our country because only 2-3% of "people who call themselves Christians" actually tithe. As his proof text, he uses Haggai 1:10-11, and he assumes that how God dealt with Old Testament Israel in that situation translates directly over to Christians in the New Testament.

Is there anything more deplorable than a preacher blaming an economic recession on Christians who ARE obeying the Lord in their giving? This is making false accusations against the brethren. This is harming the saints of God. This is confusing those who know in their hearts that they are giving as the New Testament says, out of their resources, out of their time and energy, doing it cheerfully and generously, but maybe not at the 10% financial threshold. Mac heaps the guilt on their heads for our economic recession, blaming those lowly OTHER Christians that don't tithe like he does. How Pharisaical can you get? I'm now convinced that the Pharisees all wore giant cufflinks and had monogrammed cuffs.

And the church leaders sent ME a letter accusing ME of being divisive, of harming the fellowship, and unjustly criticizing the church?

In a way I feel sorry for preachers like Brunson. What a miserable existence as a pastor it must be to believe that 95% of the people you are trying to lead are robbing God Almighty and hindering your mighty God-called ministry at the church because they are stingy recalcitrants who have actually brought about economic recession through their disobedience. It must be awfully hard to have love for such cold-hearted, tightfisted people, who might not even be real Christians. No wonder pastors leave the ministry, who would want to pastor such evil people?

The truth is Brunson's accusation doesn't even stand up to historical scrutiny and common sense. It is well documented that the percentage of tithers has been pretty consistent among evangelicals for 100 years. So now all of a sudden God is condemning our country for non-tithers? Or maybe Brunson and Gaines convinced God recently that we're all thieves and He is obligated to punished us like He did Israel. Or is this just a guilt trip conveniently used by a pastor whose church is 2 million dollars behind budget, and who needs to raise a quick million for new carpet and pews to get ready for his "Pastor's Conference" in February?

If God is judging America for Christians and their financial stewardship, I'll go out on a limb and say it is not for non-tithers. It is more likely we face God's judgment because we are forking so much of our money over to mega-palaces of entertainment to enrich rock star preachers and to build grand and glorious buildings with new pews and carpet, and in so doing we are neglecting our brothers and sisters who are in need during recession, we are not caring for our families and their future, and we're failing to give to the poor and stand for justice as we are called to do under the New Covenant.

Did I just say that? You better believe I did.


Stay tuned for the next post, "God Always Collects on What He is Owed", where Mac explains that God WILL get from Christians what they owe him, one way or another - roof leaks, car wrecks - if we don't tithe.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ergun Caner Hitting Smaller Venues - Preaching Tonight in Jacksonville

Ergun Caner is preaching tonight at a church called Southpoint Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. The sermon starts at 7:00 pm. Strange, but there is no announcement on the church website, but a phone call did confirm he is preaching there tonight.

Seems that Caner is making the rounds in smaller venues these days, with much less fan fare. I wonder how many of these people know of the true Caner story from this past summer, before their pastor pays him to come, and before they buy his wares at his book and CD table.

Caner preached this past Sunday (10/10/10) up in Bear, Delaware, at a small church called "Liberty Baptist Church". You can listen to and watch his sermon at this link. Ergun was traveling with his "good friend" Craig D. Yes, with Craig D.

You will see or hear from Caner's Bear, Deleware sermon that Caner really cannot escape the urge to push the personna of him being an almost-terrorist. He is doing his best not to stretch the truth, but you'll still hear stories of his "ultimate mixed marriage", how is father in law is still from the mysterious "Possum Kill, North Carolina". He spoke a few lines of jibberish (which might be Turkish or Arabic, who knows, but it sounded like good ole fashioned jibberish to me), he quoted his smoking "church planting" mother as having an Arabic accent (although she is from Sweden).

He still says his name is "Ergun Mehmet Janel" - with a thick Arabic accent, rolling the r's and slurring the "Janel". His real name is Ergun Michael Caner, from Columbus, Ohio.

He claimed to be "a Turk", but to his credit did say he was born in Sweden, but that his family came to America "through Sweden".

And Ergun used his 'ole "Jesus died on a cross so I wouldn't have to strap a bomb to myself line". I never get tired of hearing that classic line, just like I never get tired of Rodney Dangerfield's "I tell ya, I don't get no respect!" schtick.

Ergun tossed in a new quote that I thought was great: "If tomorrow they discovered I was part of Al-Quada, he [his father in law] would believe it." Again, he is trying to plant the idea in the mind of his audience a reasonable person might think him linked to terrorists. Clever.

A strange twist to the Caner saga: if you go to the Liberty Baptist Church link above, you'll see that Craig D. was traveling with Ergun - Ergun acknowledges Craig D in the first part of the sermon as his good friend. Also, unbelievably, you'll see that Craig D. actually preached a three-part sermon series in June 2010 at this church, and the video is there! I won't say anything else about Craig D, those of you who have read this blog and followed the vicious attacks on James White know who Craig D. is, and you might be as shocked as I was to see him standing in a pulpit in a suit, holding a Bible preaching love and tolerance and ministry, explaining to the unsuspecting congregation just who this Jesus is. Shocking. Disturbing. Apparently he is a childhood friend of the pastor, and that is why he allowed Craig to preach to his sheeps.

Strange days in evangelical Christianity. And disturbing days.

One Conservative Pastor Who Calls for Transparency

William Thornton is a conservative SBC pastor who used to be one of the moderators at the Baptist Life discussion forum. He now writes his own blog, "SBC Plodder".

William is one of the few SBC pastors - the only one that I'm aware of - that openly calls for transparency of financial matters in the SBC. He has written on this multiple times, most recently concerning compensation for Kevin Ezell, recently appointed as president of NAMB. William calls for Ezell to establish a culture of transparency in the wake of financial waste and terrible leadership for the past decade at that missionsary agency.

This morning, William refers to a report that the president of Dallas Baptist University earns over $850,000 (DBU school has an enrollment of about 5000 students), while in comparison the president of the University of Georgia, a public institution with over 35,000 students earns about $650,000 per year. (go here to read more about the DBU president compensation if interested).

And William makes the point once again: what is so wrong with demanding transparency from the leaders of the SBC that earn a living off of the Cooperative Program dollars given by SBC churches?

And I say, what is so wrong with mega church members, demanding complete transparency from their churches on what their mega church pastor earns in total compensation, including salary, housing allowance, car allowance, all the other allowances, deferred compensation, and honoria and gifts?

As William says this morning:
"Who would be harmed if full disclosure, like public corporations and universities, were the rule? Would our CEOs [or our mega church pastors, William] be harmed? The only way I can see that they would be harmed is if they were grossly overpaid, an assumption I have never made about any of our SBC people."
I am glad that at least one SBC pastor dares to call for transparency.

Thanks, William.

Monday, October 11, 2010

"There's Gold in Them Thar Pews!!"

I read a recent blog post by Maurilio Amorim, a church marketer who was and perhaps still is a church marketing consultant for Mac Brunson and FBC Jax. Maurilio was describing the difficulty that Christian publishers are having in these days of digital media, and he made the following statement:

"With the digital revolution flattening the distance between authors and end-users, the church is literally a gold mine of opportunity for publishers. Every week, Christian content consumers look at their churches for guide [sic] in their search for resources."

"...the church is literally a gold mine of opportunity..." This is disturbing. This just makes me wonder - how many of our preachers and their ace church marketing consultants view their congregations more as a market with deep pockets to be tapped, than they do as the people of God to be fed and served and discipled?

And even more disturbing is the question: do they really want to reach the "lost" so they can help them find the truth of Jesus Christ, or do the "lost" represent to them an untapped market of potential storehouse tithers? Does the Southern Baptist Convention really want to make inroads to the northeastern United States for the glory of God, or IS THERE GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS?

I hope every pastor that reads this will stop and consider these questions - do you really want to reach the lost, or do you want to grow your church and expand your list of "giving units" to help you build your next building and hire another staff member to make your life easier? When you see a family visiting, do you see their hurts and needs and their potential for ministry, or do you see "benjamins" pasted on their foreheads?

And how odd that so many of these mega church pastors who utilize church marketers like Amorim also preach the false "storehouse tithing" doctrine abusively to their congregations! With the scriptural evidence that the tithing doctrine is absolutely not binding on New Testament Christians, we are left to wonder: do these storehouse tithing preachers REALLY believe the Bible teaches Christians are commanded to give 10%, or do they know it doesn't but teach it anyways to maximize their revenue?

But it goes way beyond the tithe. Mega church pastors become rock stars amongst their "giving units" and their own peers - thus they are magnets for gifts of gullible church members. Cars, clothes, and land gifts - people believe they are giving to "God's man". And not just gifts, the mega church pastors want their members to not only fork over 10% of their income, but they want them to also pay thousands to travel with them on cruises and Holy Land treks. They brazenly use the church website to SELL their trips! Funny, they don't use their power and influence to raise any money for the poor or downtrodden or the "least of these", but they will use their influence to advance causes that benefit them and their families. Gosh, even the NFL Jaguar football players have enough decency to do GOOD in their community for the sake of doing good and wanting nothing in return.

But the marketing extends beyond the Holy Land trips. We've seen at FBC Jax now how the Pastor's Conference has been transformed under Brunson and Amorim as a marketing bonanza, where ministries are encouraged to pay thousands and tens of thousands to get access to the eyes and ears of the attendees - who also pay a fee to attend and to hear - you guessed it - the mega church rock stars. They even now sell access to the pulpit, er I mean "stage". Mike Miller of NavPress was on the platform at last year's Pastor's Conference in an incredibly awkward moment congratulating Mac on his new book and showing a confusing Navigator's video. The marketing never ends. And I won't mention the Jim "Jesus" Caviezel infomercial at PC 2007.

And you know what? It is ALL on the backs of gullible Christians who are the source of these revenue streams. Like the federal government who wants more and more of our money each year and whose bureaucrats take a piece at every stage resulting in only pennies on the dollar actually making it to provide services to citizens, so it is now in modern Christianity. Only pennies on the dollar that we the people, the Christians actually give - goes to do real ministry or missionary work. The vast majority is wasted on salaries and buildings and maintenance and marketing and a myriad of other things that has nothing to do with "Kingdom work", as they like to say.

Yes, these pastors and their marketers are sucking on the teat of the church, milking it for all it's worth - and then to top it off: they have the bald-faced audacity to accuse their church members of "robbing God". Unbelievable. So brazen, all you can do is just sit back and admire it.

So who really are the robbers in this game? And how long will true Christians continue to support such a system? People are leaving the churches in droves because they no longer want to be a part of this system. They are finding smaller churches, or no "church" at all but gather with other believers in their homes.

Meanwhile we wait for some real preachers to step forward and put a stop to the marketing madness.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mac Uses 10 People Holding Dollar Bills to Show What "All the Upset is About" - It's Just "That Little 10% that God Requires"

I want to congratulate Mac Brunson on a stellar performance in September 2010. He exceeded even the September 2008 fund-raising performance that I criticized when I was still a member that ended with a criminal investigation into my blog the day after the offering. This year Mac really pulled out all the stops, and took the fund raising at FBC Jax to a "whole nutha level". Textbook stuff, really. Mac even taught the church what "10 percent" means, as shown in the picture at right. Unbelievably, everyone now knows that "10 percent" means "1 out of 10".

Here's a recap of the month; it was a lot, so I'll try to be concise:

He started out the month giving a staunch defense of the tithing doctrine. He still teaches that the borderline between obedience and disobedience is exactly 10% of your income. He took a swipe at authors Frank Viola and George Barna who are among a growing number of credible Christians who dare to speak the truth that the storehouse tithing doctrine is unbiblical. These tithing preachers need to stop with the misuse of Malachi 3 and the "robbing God" accusations, and they need to teach more of Proverbs 22:22, where it says "Do not rob the poor because he is poor...for the Lord will plead their case and take the life of those who rob them." Perhaps that should be quoted right before the offerings on a regular basis. But you don't hear much about THAT "robbing" Old Testament verse, which is much more appropriate today in the storehouse tithing mega churches, than is the Malachi 3 verse.

Mac announced via a special letter that they needed to raise $1 million cash or they wouldn't be able to finish the renovations of the auditorium. Somehow, FBC Jax was a whopping 25% short of cash needed for a $4 million project that included addition of Sunday School space, and then ripping up the carpet and replacing the pews and wall coverings in the 9000+ seat auditorium. Mac said the carpet was "ratty", the "pews were a mess", and the wall coverings needed to come down. Mac said he was just following his dad's advice: "You can at least be clean". One expensive "cleaning", that is for sure.

Mac then preached "reaping and sowing" out of Genesis 26, misusing scripture to say that because Isaac sowed of his "resources" during a "double dip recession" (it's in the Greek), that people today should also sow of their financial resources and portfolios into the church to be obedient and receive God's blessings during our own double dip recession. He actually said that Isaac planting seeds means he was trusting God with his "commodity, his portfolio, his finances". I didn't see that in the text. It says Isaac planted seeds. But Mac said Isaac's sowing and then bountiful reaping from God means Christians today during terrible economic times need to give more money to their church so they too can reap. Amen!

Mac then declared that the people of FBC Jax are "gripped with fear" because they won't let loose of their 10%. He used himself as the model of faith, as he tithes, he doesn't "mess with the tithe, or the house payment or the shoe money". Hardy har har.

Mac then brought 10 people out of the audience to show everyone what "10 percent" means. Everyone now knows that 10% means "1 out of 10", because Mac took one of the 10 people, who all had dollar bills in their hands, and made her move to the end of the newly constructed stage. Mac then declared that this is "what all the fuss is about", "just that little 10%", that little part that "God requires". Again, more of the same: God requires 10%, and you people are just not trusting Jesus.

Then Mac showed a video of a stay-at-home mom of four children whose husband was sentenced to jail on drug charges a few years ago, and the mother's testimony was that they were completely out of money, couldn't pay their electric bill, couldn't pay the rent, almost at foreclosure...a real-life family and financial tragedy. And her testimony is that at that moment of financial disaster, she said she made the decision to start tithing. I'm not criticizing her, but what does this say about the ministry of FBC Jax and Mac Brunson, that a poor mother with no food and money decides to start forking over 10% of her income to the church? But then again, this is what Dave Ramsey teaches: that he tithed all the way into and out of bankruptcy. Apparently the tithe to the mega church must be paid by poor struggling moms who have lost their husbands. This testimony sent the message: even you poor folks who can't pay your bills, you need to give 10% too, so you can be obedient, and your bills will be paid too. It is nothing short of financial and spiritual perversion.

Mac squeezed the good folks at FBC Jax for all they're worth. Even the Sunday of the offering, they moved the offering to the END of the service to give everyone a chance to "prepare" their special offering. This also gave Mac one more whack at the wallets, preaching again out of the Old Testament on the temple of God, and how the care of the temple reflects what Christians think about God.

So it was a great month of fund raising. It had it all. Scripture was misused, tithing was put forth as the path to obedience and God's blessings, and Mac wrongly characterized the real concerns that his church members have with their finances during these days. People need to give 10%, they're not, they're fearful, and not exhibiting faith. Times are tough for a mega church with such cheapskates as members.

September 2010 will be a perfect case study of non-scriptural "fund raising" that other pastors can be sure to follow (or avoid, whichever is the case).

And let's see if they raised the million.

If not, perhaps I'm just days away from more subpoenas.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Brumley Article: Is Eddie Long Being Prematurely Attacked? A "Gay Man Struggling with His Sexuality"?

Jeff Brumley, religion writer of the Florida Times Union, has an article this morning about Eddie Long, asking the questions:

"Why do so many people delight in the misfortune of others?"


"Do such attacks amount to kicking a man while he's down, or is it deserved scrutiny and punishment for a hypocrite?"

I really am at a loss for words. "Such attacks"? So Eddie Long is being "attacked"? Hardly. He has credible accusers. I expect pastors to call being credibly accused of sexual sin as "being attacked", but he is not being "attacked". If these men are telling the truth, he is the attacker and abuser.

And "misfortune" - are we to characterize Bishop Eddie as having experienced misfortune? Bishop Eddie is hardly a man who has experienced "misfortune". This is a man who has become wealthy by preaching a false gospel, a health and wealth gospel, telling people they were obligated to give 10% of their income and more to him, and who has become a millionaire preying on people's desire to be close to God.

And now we hear credible accusers (have you seen the video of the one accuser brave enough to speak publicly?): that Long used his spiritual position, gained the trust of their families, in order to transform young men into his sex toys. It is a sin so heinous that it is difficult to fathom for believers.

The part of the story that Brumley is missing is that any kind of criticism aimed at evangelical pastors is viewed as an "attack" on the "man of God." Evangelical pastors are so thin-skinned that critics are viewed as troublemakers and dividers. Eddie Long himself has claimed that he is under attack from these charges.

If there is another story here, it is not whether people are justified in "prematurely attacking" Long, it is why is there no accountability system for mega church pastors like Long - who is a "Baptist", and other Southern Baptist pastors? There is no formal grievance process for victims to come forward to get help, and the pastors absolutely do not police themselves. There is no "defrocking" process by which a misbehaving pastor has their ministerial credentials revoked as in other Protestant denominations.

But still, even though credibly accused, Eddie hasn't experienced much "misfortune" yet - he got a standing ovation from his congregation last week after the story broke while not directly denying the charges made in the lawsuits. He probably took in an even larger offering that day. His ministry will likely pay for his expensive defense against the lawsuit, and he will likely pay-off his victims with a large settlement from the ministry and Eddie will keep the gravy train running on the backs of the gullible sheep who worship their pastor.

And the story is whether people are piling on poor Eddie?

The article ends with an absolutely disgusting quote from someone who implies that Eddie Long himself is a victim! Brumley quotes Rev. Grant Lynn Ford, pastor of a local church with a mostly gay congregation:

"But Grant said he feels compassion for Long - partly because of the hit he's taking and partly because he may be a gay man struggling with his sexuality. Grant said it's an issue he once wrestled with himself and that for some gays the struggle ends in suicide. 'I feel sorry for the guy, Grant said."
Ugh! Are you kidding me? Eddie is "taking a hit"? Is he kidding? And Grant says Long is "a gay man struggling with his sexuality". I think I will throw up now.

The only thing that would make this story worse is to find out Long's mentors were a popular preacher and seminary president that knew of Long's sexual appetites and stood silently by while Long continued to pastor and gained access to more victims. Or that his successor knew of his deviance, and did nothing to step in and stop it.

Nah, that could never happen - in Atlanta. Only in Jacksonville.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mac Brunson: Need a Million Bucks, But FBC Jax People are "Gripped With Fear" and Not Supporting the Work of the Church

The people of FBC Jax have not been good Christians or church members this year, apparently. According to Mac they are not giving to support the ministries of the church, because they are "living in fear because they are not giving" during this recession and are not trusting God with their finances. Giving is down a whopping 14% below budget (over $2 million annualized) and they blew through the building fund for auditorium renovations and need $1 million dollars else they can't pay the contractor to finish the job.

Wow, how things have changed. Giving is weak, and they started construction without having the cash, or having a financing plan in place. I would be nervous if I were the general contractor!

Mac says:

"What do you do with a church when people in the church are so gripped by fear that they don't give to support the work of the church, and let me tell you something, the work of the church goes on. We continue to do the work of the church, and it is obvious that a lot of our people are living in fear because you're not giving."
I think Mac needs to come out of his ivory tower. While he and Whitmire are drawing HUGE compensation packages, many people in Jacksonville are suffering. He gives no credit to the fact that giving in his church is down because people are perhaps earning less during this time, people's taxes and fees and utility bills in Jacksonville have been rising, and uncertainty abounds in the job market. People might just be saving more, and paying more money to get themselves out of debt. Some might be giving elsewhere. Some might be helping friends and family who are hurting during this economic down-turn. But in Mac's world: you either fork over 10% or more to the church undesignated, or you are "gripped by fear" and not trusting God.

And Mac is not just upset over the general budget giving, he also not at all happy that he is short $1 million for the renovation of the main auditorium:

"We have on-going needs at First Baptist Church of Jacksonville that we feel like we've got to do some semblence of ministry in the midst of financially difficult days. But what am I to say to you? And what are we going to do in this auditorium. Next Sunday morning...the 30th of September we will have depleted all of our building fund money on the renovation that has about a million dollar's worth to go. We've got to finish this. We're under contract. We can't really legally get out of completing the work, we don't want to stop the work, but what do we do if God's people don't give? What am I to say to you in the midst of a financially difficult day about trusting God and giving to God?"
Amazing. Who sounds fearful? Who is "gripped with fear"? Why can't he just "trust God" that the money will be provided?

Mac is asking what are they going to do about the auditorium renovation costs. That is a good question, Mac. What will you do? Are you implementing any cost cutting measures at the church, as in reduction of salaries starting with the top two: yours and Whitmire's? And I don't see Brunson recommending people NOT go on his "Holy Land Trip with the Brunson Family" (prominently advertised on the church website) and instead donate an equivalent sum to the auditorium or to make up the budget shortfall.

And why did Mac obligate the church beyond their means? Why did he sign construction contracts without the cash on hand, or a plan to finance it? And why did the renovation include ripping out all the pews, replacing the carpet and wall coverings? Was that absolutely necessary given the church didn't have enough cash for the entire project? Later in the sermon he gives a financial tip that a person should never buy anything that they can't pay for at the end of the month. What hypocrisy. Why did they sign contracts for construction that they didn't have the money to pay for? Of course: this axiom doesn't apply when you're spending the money of OTHER people, since you can just go ask them for more of it.

So Mac goes on to preach on "sowing and reaping" out of Genesis 26. Mac makes the point that God has promised to take care of his people IF they are obedient.
"I mean you cannot mistake it unless you're just lame in the head, folks. God is saying 'If you will be obedient to me I will take care of the needs of your life.' Now listen to me: God doesn't promise that he will give you your wants, but that he meets the needs of his people. "
This sounds good, but in the context of Mac's sermon he is trying to convince his congregation that if you want to have God take care of your financial needs, you MUST be obedient in giving the tithe to your church. This is instilling fear into his people - most of them are not giving 10%, and thus Mac is telling them that they are exposed and God may not take care of them since they are not tithing. It is not true. Under the New Covenant, there is no prescribed percentage for a Christian that is a prerequisite for receiving God's protection and blessings.

Then Mac goes on to cover "sowing and reaping", and uses Isaac's example in Genesis 26:12-13:

"In economically difficult days, he (Isaac) took what he had, his seed was his commodity, it was his portfolio, it was his finances, and he sowed it in the ground, he planted it in the midst of famine, and the Bible says this: 'he reaped in the midst famine in the same year...ten thousand percent"...but the man of God did when he trusted God with his finances in the midst of an economic downturn. Now you explain it any better than me, YOU GET UP HERE AND EXPLAIN IT! That is exactly what the text says."
That is not what the text says. The text doesn't say Isaac sowed his "finances", or his "portfolio". The text does not say Isaac trusted God with his finances in an economic downturn. I know, because I read it, and it doesn't say that. Isaac sowed SEED, and the Lord blessed him agriculturally. Mac implies that this means Christians should "sow" their finances (and portfolios) in the church, and they will reap God's blessings. Give to the building renovations, and God will bless and protect. This is Benny Hinn and Robert Tilton territory for sure. "Money, COME!" says Robert Tilton.

Mac then brings ten people to the platform, gives them each $1 that represents $50, which in total represents $500 net income for a person. He then separates one person out of the 10 representing the tithe and then condescendling says:
"Now here's your tithe right there. That is what you're worried about. That's what all the concern is about, that's what all the fuss, all the chatter, all the upset, all the despair, all the heartache, all the brokenness, 'I'm leaving church cause they talk about that right there.'...'Can't possibly survive because of that over there'.... Just that one little tenth that God says 'You honor me with that'....Now I want you to listen to me...why do we not tithe? Number one, because we don't trust God. We don't trust that God can take what is left over and can meet our needs with it."
So Mac is trying to close the deal here, to let people know that their failure to tithe not only will cause them to not have God's protection and blessing, but he mocks the reasons why people might not give 10%. He says they are "fussing", and "chattering" about having to give what God requirs, etc...notice he says "that one little tenth". I've said it before, but 10% to a wealthy person who has plenty of margin is not the same as 10% to a person of modest means who has little margin.

I wonder if they will get the million dollars on October 3rd. One thing we know for sure, with both mega churches and the government: if you give it, it will never be enough. They have an insatiable appetite for YOUR money, and they'll likely need more in an "emergency" again next year.

And if they get it, the likelihood of wise expenditure cuts won't happen. No need to cut inflated senior pastor salaries if they can get people to fork over more money. They can get the million, it is there, it's just that they don't want to cut where they need to cut to get it. It is so much easier to ask the plebe in the pew.

And finally, listen to exerpts from the sermon below from earlier in September, where Mac preaches out of Ezra to show the church that the Jews "took up an offering" to rebuild the temple (with new pews and carpet and wall coverings I'm sure), and Mac reminds them arrogantly that they don't get free electricity from JEA, and he gives his reasons for the auditorium renovations ("My daddy says you can at least be CLEAN!!"). At the end, Mac complains about complainers, screams to tell people to STOP YOUR GRUMBLING AND START YOUR SHOUTING.

Rebuilding the Temple from FBCJax Watchdog on Vimeo.