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.”

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Rick Warren Exposes His Congregation to the False Financial Teaching of Robert Morris

"Just from a business point of view, that's a good deal for 10%, to have God rebuking the devil for you....God is saying 'Listen, you're living in this cursed financial system, I would like to redeem your finances, protect your finances, from this world's system. The only way I can do it, though, is if you will recognize me first every time you get paid. If you will give me the tithe, I will redeem the rest of your finances out from under the curse.' " Robert Morris at Saddleback Church
As we begin to look at "Slacking Shepherds", let's consider that a Southern Baptist Church mega church pastor, Rick Warren, has exposed his congregation to a man who preaches a false prosperity gospel that is non-biblical, and just plain stupid and nonsensical.

Yes, thanks to Rick Warren, Pastor Robert Morris' heretical teachings on tithing and blessings and curses have now made inroads into the Southern Baptist Convention at Saddleback Church.

Robert preached the very same sermon at Saddleback that he preached at Perry Noble's NewSpring Church in May 2011, that I blogged about here. Robert Morris' sermon "The Principles of Multiplication" uses the story of Jesus feeding the multitudes from Luke 9 to tell Christians they need to "redeem" their income by giving their first 10% of their income to their church. Robert says you can actually buy God's protection for 10%, and calls it a "good business deal".

From the quote at the top of this post, you'll see that according to Robert, God's ability to bless you and protect you is dependent upon YOU being able to give 10% of your income! Yes, God is all-powerful, and he actually WANTS to protect you, but he absolutely cannot unless you give 10% of your money to a local church. If you can't give 10%, you're cursed and out from under God's protection.

And if you give your 10% to your church, Jesus is there to accept it, and will bless it. Robert says:

"Here's what the bible says: when you give the first 10%, the tithe of your income, to the church, Jesus himself receives our tithe and blesses it."

The Bible never, ever says that. Not even close. We all know that the ushers receive our offerings at the church, not Jesus. The counters count it, and the church leaders under the direction of the pastor spend it mostly on buildings and salaries. Jesus doesn't receive it, and those who do receive it don't spend it on what Jesus would have spent it on had he actually received it. Just trying to keep it real here, folks.

As I said, his message is non-biblical, he says the bible says what it does not say, and you have to check your brains at the church door to actually hear his teaching and not burst out laughing hysterically.

But we know what Robert teaches, he has taught it before.

The question before us is: why would Rick Warren, a Southern Baptist preacher, the godfather of the modern contemporary worship movement, invite this man in to preach this at his church?

Does Rick Warren believe this same doctrine? He can't say he didn't know that Morris was going to preach this, because this is the SAME sermon Morris preaches when out on the preaching circuit. Warren exposed his sheep to false financial teachings. Why? And if he doesn't believe it, shouldn't he publicly correct Robert Morris so his people aren't led astray? Isn't that the role, the job description, of a pastor in Titus?

Didn't Rick Warren know that Robert Morris earlier this year invited Creflo Dollar, the king of health and wealth prosperity false gospel, to preach in his church? That should tell you all you need to know about what Robert Morris believes.

Lastly, here is an advertisement at Warren's church on the website this week:

How sad that under the auspices of trying to help people with their finances in these difficult days, Rick Warren exposes people to the false teachings of Morris, that if implemented could spell financial disaster for a family. And guess who is next on the list, this coming Sunday in this financial series? Dave Ramsey. Placing Morris in the same lineup in a financial seminar as Dave Ramsey is like holding a "Secrets to a Happy Marriage" seminar with Liz Taylor and Laura Bush speaking. Does Dave Ramsey endorse the nonsense of Robert Morris? Why would Dave Ramsey want to associate himself with such financial nonsense as Robert Morris'? We know the answers to all of these questions, don't we?

Watch out, church members. Investigate who it is that your pastor is inviting in to speak at your church.

The wolves may be at the door, waiting to come in, with no shepherd willing to protect the flock.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Watchdog to Examine "Slacking Shepherds": Pastors Not Doing Their Jobs to Protect Their Sheep

One of the scriptures that has been at the top of this blog for about 3 years now is Matthew 9:36:

" When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."

Still today, Jesus has compassion for the crowds - the crowds at many mega churches especially, who are like sheep without a shepherd.

Later today I will start a series of posts to shine a light on pastors not performing their most basic job functions as described in the Bible they preach from. Many take huge salaries and live a jet-setting, glamorous lifestyle, but they don't even earn their pay when it comes to their most important job functions as described in the pastoral epistles. They call themselves the "under shepherds" of the flock, with Jesus being the "chief shepherd" - but they are failing miserably.

You've probably heard your pastor tell you of the "pastoral epistles", one of which is the letter of Paul to Titus. In the first chapter there are qualifications and responsibilities of "overseers" or "elders". As I start this series of posts on "slacking shepherds", I want to highlight some verses from Titus 1:

"For the overseer must be above reproach as God's steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain...holding fast to the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. " Titus 1:5-9

Baptist pastors like to preach about the "wine" part (and the "husband of one wife" part in verse 6 to justify prohibiting women from serving in leadership positions), but how many mega church pastors do what they do, invite who they invite into their churches, for the purpose of attracting nickels and noses? How many of these pastors expose their congregation to strange or false teachings that are either non-biblical, or have little to do with the actual proclamation of the gospel, to entertain people? How many of these pastors invite men in to speak to further their own interests and careers? We're going to look at those who do these things contrary to their biblical job description, and thus I call them "slacking shepherds."

Paul goes on:

"For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain...for this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith" Titus 1:10-13

So Paul says a pastor should silence and rebuke those teachers who teach for sordid gain, or are empty talkers, or who teach Old Testament law. Instead, many of these pastors are more interested in silencing and rebuking their critical sheep than they are about rebuking their fellow preachers who are misbehaving. As Paul points out, shepherds should not be handing their pulpits over as a platform for these men to teach, and they should rebuke them if they happen to make inroads to their church.

Sadly, many pastors today are not so much interested in just teaching the bible week by week to their sheep - they are interested in bringing in "speakers", entertaining their congregations, even inviting teachers of questionable character and doctrine. Some even using their pulpits for sordid gain.

We will start off later today looking at "slacking shepherds", looking again at Robert Morris of Gateway Church who has now made inroads at a prominent Southern Baptist Church with his false prosperity tithing doctrine.
H/T: Chris Rosebrough - Fighting for the Faith, September 21, 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Jacksonville Pastor Arrested for Living in a Stolen House!! Take THAT Steve Gaines!

One of Steve Gaines' most ridiculous lines when it comes to tithing, is to accuse his non-tithing church members of "living in stolen homes". In Gaines' very strange worldview, failure to fork over 10% of one's income to his church is a crime.

There is no evidence to suggest that any church member ever lived in a "stolen home". That would be pretty brazen to actually STEAL a home and live in it. Not sure how one would go about stealing a home.

But leave it to a PASTOR, oddly enough, to try to steal a home, and then live in it!

Yes, in my own hometown, a pastor was arrested Friday and accused of....get this....living in a stolen home!

Yes, Steve Gaines, one of your fellow pastors ACTUALLY is living in a stolen home!

As reported by WOKV radio, and by News4Jax, Pastor Marcelous Dunbar, who told News4Jax he is a pastor at Open Arms Christian Fellowship, took up residence in a $440,000 house as a "squatter" in an attempt to gain ownership under "adverse possession" provisions of an old Florida Statute. The family that bought the house this week was not able to move in until they got rid of the unwanted guest.

Pastor Dunbar said he was simply trying to eradicate the homeless problem in Jacksonville...by that he must mean his own homelessness.

And this isn't the only home that Pastor Dunbar is trying to steal! Apparently the good Pastor has figured out a scheme to claim "adverse possession" and has tried this at three other homes in the neighborhood! Only problem he would have to live there for 7 years, not just a few days. They must not have covered "adverse possession" in seminary. Oops.

How does a pastor go about living in a stolen home? According to Pastor Dunbar's arrest report:
"On September 20, 2011, the defendant went to the residence and drilled out the locks on the residence without the owner's consent. On September 21, 2011, the defendant occupied the residence again without the consent of the owner."
So, Steve Gaines, while no one was ever arrested for not tithing....your fellow pastor Marcelous Dunbar was arrested for grand theft and burglary for....living in a stolen home!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Captain Chris Rosebrough Has Removed the Curses from Your Finances that Pastors Have Placed!

Readers: Chris Rosebrough of the Pirate Christian Radio network and author of the Fighting for the Faith website, has written an ingenious proclamation. His funny, but full-of-truth proclamation below releases your finances from the curses that some pastors - even pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention - have told you apply to your money unless you fork over the first 10% of your income to their church.

Please read this. It is very clever, yet it just absolutely hammers home the reality that I've been trying to make about this storehouse tithing nonsense that pastors such as Mac Brunson, Steve Gaines, Ed Young, Perry Noble, Robert Morris, and others have been beating God's people with during these difficult economic times.

The truth is that Christ's death has removed any and all Old Testament curses and judgments on those in the New Covenant. For a pastor to try to hang any Old Testament curses around the necks of New Testament believers is spiritual malfeasance. And that these "men of God" do it in order to get you to separate from your money under false pretenses, makes it all the more damnable.

I love Chris' final paragraph, which I have highlighted.

Here is his proclamation:
"Are ye concerned that your treasure (finances) are under a curse? Have Robert Morris, Kelly Dykstra, Perry Noble, and Craig Groeschel or any other scurvy pastors told you that your money (treasure) is under a curse unless you redeem it by giving them the very first ten percent of your hard earned cash? Not to worry.

Whereas I am a pirate captain, and we captains have the authority to break and all curses that have been put on any treasure, I am officially exercising my powers and removing the curse on your treasure by declaring all of your treasure to be uncursed. Furthermore, I declare all treasure that you earn from now until the end of your life to also be uncursed.

Whereas I am a generous pirate captain, I must insist that you receive my curse breaking services as a gift. Please do not try to buy this gift. This is a free service that I am doing for you out of the kindness of my heart due to the joy that I feel as a result of having all my sins freely forgiven by the bitter sufferings and death of our beloved Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Since he freely released me from the curses of sin and the law I can't help but to also want to release all your treasure from the curse, for free.

Now that your treasure has been released from the curse you are now free to support your church or any other ministry that preaches the gospel to you and properly instructs you in the word of God with the amount that you've "decided in your heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Cor 9:7)

Enjoy your freedom."
Amen. Enjoy your freedom, Christian. You are free to support your church, or any other ministry with an amount you've decided in your heart.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Southern Baptist Name Change: It is About Helping to Gain Access to the "Pockets and Portfolios" of Northerners

Bryant Wright, the Southern Baptist Convention prez, has authorized another study to be done about changing the name of the Southern Baptist Convention. Read this article from Fox News about the change, with quotes from various Southern Baptists.

Why the name change?

The Southern Baptists are trying to extend their brand into the north and northeast, plain and simple. SBC mega pastors like Wright and others who regularly employ the services of church marketing consultants to grab market share in the south, would naturally view a move into the north as one of marketing strategy.

Expanding beyond the southeast and into the rest of the U.S. is part of their "Great Commission Resurgence" (GCR) strategy, but they have an image problem: "Baptist" doesn't sell all that well in the north, and "Southern" definitely doesn't sell. Might as well let the Yankee Baptist Convention try to make inroads in Georgia.

And why do they want to move to the Northeast and get more churches started? I know, they want people to pray a prayer and "accept Jesus". But in this day of churches paying marketing consultants and generosity consultants to attract people and to get them to let loose of more of their money - this is all about coming up with ways to gain access to a mostly untapped market of tithers. The SBC's seminaries are cranking out more and more professional ministers, and they need to grow their market as the south becomes more saturated. The SBC can't wait to get people up north to give money to churches so they can build buildings and hire full-time professional ministers.

And of course these mega church pastors down south need some churches up north to expand their preaching circuit, especially during those hot summer months. Imagine, a brand new market that hasn't heard all of their recycled preaching-circuit sermons!

I would remind you what Ronnie "Max Headroom" Floyd, mega church pastor and the head man of the GCR said in February 2010 in one of his GCR video taped presentations (this is the actual slide):

Yes, Yankees, you have money right now in your pockets and in your financial portfolios that the heavies in the SBC have their eyes on. Us church members down south are stingier than ever, still giving less than 3% of our income. They need you and your money now to advance the gospel (i.e. build church buildings and hire ministers), and they might change their name so you don't know who they really are.

The fundamental problem with their approach is that a brand name cannot mask the cold-hard facts of what the brand IS.

Maurilio Amorim has written a piece on this issue from a branding perspective, since he is a church marketer who makes a good living applying Marketing 101 principles to churches. Maurilio's number one point: "A new name doesn't mean you have a new brand." In fact, changing the name without making fundamental changes to the product can be seen as "bait and switch". People in our country already know what the SBC is, and to change the name to help them move north is nothing short of being deceptive, trying to mask who and what they are. Whatever the new name is, for the next generation the new abbreviation will be followed with "formerly the SBC."

Let's face it: "Southern Baptist" is a powerful brand name in western religion. They ARE southern. They espouse "southern" traditions: they interpret the Bible very strictly, they require strict adherence to secondary doctrinal matters, women have a very limited role in leadership, they pick and choose Old Testament doctrines to apply legalistically to church members and drinking any alcohol is considered a terrible sin.

And the SBC is and always will be known as the convention that uses "church autonomy" as an excuse to not hold their participating churches accountable for harboring and then allowing pedophiles to move on undetected. They are the convention that takes swift action to dis-fellowship churches who hire women pastors, yet takes no action to do the same with those that protect pedophiles.

It is this, it is what they ARE, that will be offensive to northerners, not the name.

And wait till Joe and Jill Yankee hear the first sermon on storehouse tithing, when they find out there was a minor detail left out of the gospel presentation: that once they are saved God requires them to give 10% on the gross to their "storehouse" to receive God's blessings and to redeem their income. Calling people up north who pay enormous income taxes to all levels of government "selfish" or "stingy" or "driving stolen cars" or "God collects" won't go over too well. People outside the Bible belt haven't been raised to believe the nonsense that Old Testament verses meant for the care of Israel apply also to their paycheck - they'll see right through that trick.

Maurilio says that a brand name should align with the "brand promise". I like Ergun Caner's idea for a new name for the SBC. Ergun tweeted today:
My SBC Name Change: "Fundamental Anabaptist Conservative Local Church Immersion Revivalistic Tithing Convention"
Amen. Now that would be aligning the SBC brand name with the brand promise!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Favorite Ed Young Sermon Antic: "Up From the Grave Ed Arose...."

Above is my favorite Ed Young pulpit antic. I won't tell you what it is, as I don't want to spoil the surprise.

We'll just say that this version of the old classic hymn might be sung during this video:

Low in the casket he lay—
Ed Young, my Pastor
Waiting my tithe to pay—
Ed Young, my Pastor.

Up from the grave Ed arose!
With his Gucci 'Gator shoes on his toes.
He arose a victor from the dark casket,
And he lives for ever and he flies his jet.
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Ed arose!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On 9/11, Steve Gaines Pronounces God's Judgment on Non-Tithers: God Will Make Your Kids Sick, and Will Poke Holes in Your Purse

"God knows how to poke holes in your purses if you're not following Him. Those of you that are not tithing, you will not get that money yourselves. God's gonna poke a hole in your wallet, every kid you have is going to have a snotty nose, everything in your house is going to start to break, your car is going to break down and everything else. If you don't tithe, you'll never spend that extra money you're stealing from God." Steve Gaines, September 11, 2011.
On 9/11, Steve Gaines once again delivers God's judgments from the Old Testament to Christians who don't obey the Old Testament laws of tithing. We need to update our gospel presentations, because apparently God is in the business of purposely punishing Christians who don't obey the Old Testament laws.

This time Gaines directs his message to women where they are most vulnerable: that if you don't tithe, ladies, your kids will "have snotty noses", and God will "poke holes in your purses". Notice the condescension in his voice in the video as he says "every kid you have..."

Strange, but I haven't heard Gaines yet pronouncing judgments on the men who haven't obeyed the Old Testament law of circumcision. Of course circumcision doesn't raise revenue at the church, so he leaves that law alone.

Gaines not only continues to put forth unbiblical teaching - putting Christians under the curses of the law when we know Christ became our curse - but it is absolute stupidity. You have to be a moron to not see the logical fallacies in his argument.

He is saying that your kids will get sick, because this will cost you money and his premise is that God won't let you keep money that you stole from him, the first 10% of your income.

But what if you have excellent health insurance and don't have to pay much to get treatment for your kids' illnesses? Then God would have to make your kids REALLY sick so you have to pay more out of pocket, right? Those of you with no health insurance, good for you, because God can give you a gut punch with just one trip to the doctor. Those of you with health insurance, well, God will have to really bring the hammer down on your kids.

Maybe the very wealthy who don't tithe, God will have to even deliver brain tumors, or leukemia to their kids to get all that money from them they are stealing from God. Dee at the Wartburg Watch has written about how their family went through the pain and sorrow of her daughter's brain tumor, from which she was completely healed. How irresponsible is it for Gaines to plant the idea in the mind of a young mother that her failure to tithe would somehow affect the health of her child?

But let's be real. 99.9% of the mothers sitting in the audience know that this guy is a self-serving windbag. They know there is no correlation between their giving and the health of their kids (except perhaps those who fork money over to their church instead of buying health insurance). The children of tithers aren't any healthier than those of non-tithers. People's fridges and cars and air conditioners break down regardless of whether they are tithing or not. People know it. They just tolerate Gaines's idiocy for whatever reason.

Gaines is not the first preacher lately who has misused this scripture from Hagaii to tell Christians that God will bring harm to their personal possessions if they don't tithe. Mac Brunson did it last November, in his sermon from Hagaii in which Brunson declared "God collects" on what he is owed, like some sort of cosmic loan shark.

If the Apostle Paul were alive today, he would stand and read the book of Galatians to guys like Brunson and Gaines. In Galatians Paul deals with the Judaizers - those who sought to put Christians under the Old Testament Law. When you get right down to it, that is what Gaines and Brunson are when they preach the Old Testament tithing law: they are Judaizers. Paul's answer to the attempts of the Judaizers was:

"However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, 'He who practices them shall live by them.' Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us..." Galatians 3:12-13

And I would remind all of us Christians, of Paul's strong words to those Christians who gave in and submitted to the demands of these Judaizers:

"Behold, I Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law." Galatians 5:2-3

Strong words for those who sit under the teaching of these men and can't discern the error that they are hearing.
H/T: Chris Rosebrough's analysis on tithing, Fighting for the Faith, 9/8/11

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11 Attacks: God's Punishment on Americans? Brunson, Falwell, Graham-Lotz Say So

At Southern Baptist Theological Seminary this week, Al Mohler moderated a panel discussion on 9/11, in which they touched on the irresponsible statements of Christians like Pat Robertson immediately after the 9/11 attacks. Mohler's panel took several shots at Robertson, but strangely none of them mentioned the nutty statements of Jerry Falwell, who said the following on Pat Robertson's 700 Club on the day of the 9/11 terrorist attacks:
"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'" Jerry Falwell (click here to listen)
To Falwell's credit, a few days later he did apologize for blaming people for 9/11. But really Falwell wasn't just blaming pagans and gays for the attacks, he was ultimately blaming God. Falwell was saying that these groups of people brought the wrath of God on this nation because of their sin and disbelief.

But Falwell was not alone.

As Dee at Wartburg Watch points out this weekend, even Ann Graham Lotz blames the 9/11 terrorist attacks - and even natural disasters - on the judgment of God:
"From Hurricane Katrina to the record breaking floods, forest fires, tornadoes, droughts,and snow storms; to the collapse of major financial institutions,to the economic recession, to the inability to win the war in Afghanistan. The alarm keeps resounding because so many people have not heeded, or even heard, the warning." Anne Graham Lotz, Christianity Today 9/7/11
Strange. I thought the gospel was that we are all hopeless sinners, for whom Jesus died to cover our sins and separate us from the penalty of our sins. But when disaster strikes, our religious rock stars come up with a different gospel: despite Jesus taking away the sin of the world and establishing a New Covenant, God has to deliver his stored-up wrath every now and then through terrorist attacks, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis.

Back in October 2008, from the pulpit of FBC Jacksonville, Mac Brunson blamed 9/11 directly on God's punishment for the disbelief of Christians and all Americans. He said our failure to repent as a nation caused God to "buffet" us, and even spoke for God in the first person, saying "I've been active all this time. I've been active putting into place all these things."

Here is a quote from the video you can watch at the above hyperlink:
"If [God's] blessings won't get our attention, then maybe buffeting will...what to me was an embarrassing moment in American history was the scandal of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky....and what did we do as a nation? We made jokes about it and we laughed about it and did not repent. Not following far behind that came 9/11 and according to George Barna that had an impact on this nation for approximately 4 to 6 weeks. Then behind that came Katrina, wiped out an entire city. What did we do as a nation?...What did we do? We do NOTHING in the midst of all of it! Nothing! And thousands of people have lost everything, an entire city wiped out. How much louder does the voice of God have to get to America?

We end up in an oil crisis where families can't afford to put $4 a gallon gas in their cars and now in the past week we've had the largest drop on the Wall Street in its 112 year history....
...You think God hadn't been actively doing something? God says 'I've been active all this time. I've been active putting into place all these things. I've been actively seeing how high I can get gasoline for you Americans. I've been actively seeing how I can cause the economy to crash, because if you will not turn to me in my blessings on you, I will take them away, as Hosea took away the blessings of Gomer. And nobody, the bible says, will be deliver you out of My hands."
He preached this on Sunday October 12, 2008 right at the time when many Americans were very fearful of what was happening to our stock market and economy - especially seniors whose retirement income is directly tied to their hard-earned life savings and investments. The message they got from their preacher was not one of hope, but one of fear. In this sermon Mac builds the case that what we see today is from God, and he even starts it all with the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, 9/11, Katrina, all precursors to God causing our economic crash...its all been God, like the evil magician, working to bring calamity on Americans.

Its amazing really, that this sort of thing is now coming forth from the pulpit of First Baptist Jacksonville. To explain that God is causing this calamity and the suffering of innocent people is beyond the pale. It not only gives people the wrong impression of the nature of God, but it strikes fear into the heart of God's people. Using Mac's logic, I suppose we can explain other calamities and suffering, such as children dying everyday from starvation and malaria - is that God's doing to in an attempt to get our attention?

Since this sermon in 2008, Mac has declared several times that our current economic recession is God's judgment for failing to tithe.
"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
Some things never change...men are still using religion to instill fear in the hearts of people, to get them to do what they want them to do.

Perhaps THAT is God's judgment on America.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Watchdog Learns What French Cuffs Are....

As the Watchdog learns more fashion tips from Maurilio's "Fashion Fridays", I think I may start a new series "Mega Pastor Mondays" where we explore what are the latest fashion trends for the rock star mega church pastors.

There are so many - some wear faded jeans and t-shirts, some wear double-breasted suits, others seersucker suits with bow ties. Some wear suits with no ties, some Hawaiian shirts.

And some wear French Cuffs, as I learned this week. With monograms.

Here is my favorite picture of a grown man wearing French cuffs:

I like the French cuff look....the cuff and cufflinks have a hard time fitting into the sleeve of the suit, giving such weight and importance to each hand gesture. It looks so distinguished, a look of power and prestige, even if what you are saying is a bunch of hot air. The monograms speak of money...because it means you took the time to get shirts tailor-made for you and no one else, as they stitched your initials in the sleeve.

I do apologize, but I couldn't find any pictures of slender gay men strutting with French cuffs and disheveled hair, so we'll just have to leave it here. Perhaps we'll see that on one of Maurilio's future Fashion Friday posts.

So the French cuff is definitely here to stay.

After all, there will never be a shortage of politicians or mega church preachers.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

First Baptist Jacksonville and Mac Brunson Hand Over $7000 "Tithe" Check to the Florida Baptist Convention During Sunday Service

It is humorous to see how many different ways First Baptist Jacksonville can incorporate the concept of "tithing" into church life.

Mac Brunson declared several years ago that he would be "tithing on his tithe", which through the magic of math means an extra 1% giving.

Now we see that the concept of tithing might apply to what a church should give to their missions organization. A few weeks ago, as seen in the picture at left (and video at bottom), Mac Brunson grandstanded and gave a generous $7000 "tithe" check to Glen Owens of the Florida Baptist Convention. It is a "tithe" on the tithe of the tithe that the people of FBC Jax are giving this year in their "1% More" Campaign.

Something odd about a church with a $14.2 million dollar budget that would think it necessary to bring in the Assistant Executive Director of the Florida Baptist Convention to present him with a "generous" $7000 "tithe" check, with their pastor declaring "we want to be faithful to tithe on what the folks are giving".

So to be "faithful", FBC Jax needs to tithe to missions on the money that people give?

If so, then why does FBC Jax given only 3.7% of their $14.1 million 2012 budget to the SBC Cooperative Program?

If they should "tithe" to missions, why do they only give less than one half of 1% to their state missions program? Even if you throw in ALL of the FBC Jax spending on missions listed in the budget it is just under 6% of their projected revenue.

So don't be fooled, FBC Jax: you don't even come close to tithing to missions. But one thing is for sure: it makes for great theatrics and a nice photo op when you bring in a guy from the state convention and hand him a check declaring a tithe from the people of FBC Jax.

If they're going to do that, perhaps Mac should bring in their church marketing consultant and present him with a check for his work over the past year - that would be much closer to a tithe than the $7000 given to Mr. Owens.

Or maybe present Mac's travel consultant with a check for all of the money to be spent on the 2012 Mediterranean Cruise by the wealthy FBC Jax members. Now that is some serious tithe money there, and it is for a "missions" trip to sail where Jesus sailed, right?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Robert Jeffress Speaks the Truth on the Applicability of OT Law, Women in Abusive Relationships, and Young Earth vs. Science

"I am just amazed at the number of Christians who want to put themselves under the Old Testament Law...folks, we are not under the law, PERIOD! So quit trying to live like you're under the law. Quit picking and choosing what you want to obey in the law. None of the dietary restrictions apply, none of the religious restrictions apply. We have been set free. We are under the New Testament, the New Agreement, praise God!"
I have been critical of Robert Jeffress over the past year, but I have to say the more I listen to him the more I think he really is one of the better preachers in the SBC. He is not theatrical and overbearing in his preaching, and he does a good job of sticking to scripture.

A case in point about why I like Robert Jeffress is his latest "Ask the Pastor" service on 8/28/11.

About once a year he has a service entitled "Ask the Pastor" where a moderator reads questions to Jeffress that have been emailed or written by church members to the church on controversial topics. Jeffress speaks to the issues without notes, and he gives some great biblical advice, mixed with humor and some just plain ole common sense.

In this session there were some things I agreed on, and some others I didn't but there were three questions that really stuck out to me that I wanted to share with my readers - three things that I think Jeffress was right on the money, when most pastors who are asked these questions will probably be off the mark.

The first was his emphatical statement (see above) that Christians absolutely are not under the Old Testament law, and that they should stop trying to live under the law. You won't hear many pastors say this so clearly and forcefully, because many of them still like to hang the Old Testament tithe and "curses" around the necks of their people by misusing Malachi 3. Thank you, Robert Jeffress, for affirming that Christians are not under ANY of the Old Testament law, we are under the New Covenant. You said it without reservation, and with passion.

Secondly, he was asked what a wife should do if her husband verbally abuses her. He was very clear: a woman has absolutely no responsibility to stay in even a verbally abusive situation in her home. He said:

"I think that is a perversion of submission..I think there is every reason in a marriage relationship, if you are being abused - I'm talking about real abuse here. I'm talking about cursing and belittling and all of this on a continual basis. I think when that continues a wife has every right to say to her husband 'God hates violence Genesis 6 says. He hates physical violence, he hates verbal violence. Unless you change, I'm not going to live in this situation, we're going to separate until you change.' I'm not talking about divorce or remarriage, I'm talking about saying 'I'm not going to live in this situation, here's some conditions that will have to be met for you to change'.

What a contrast. Many SBC pastors will tell a wife they have to suck it up, and they have to pray and win their husbands to the Lord through their submission. Even Paige Patterson told a story once of a woman who came to him seeking council about her abusive husband, and Patterson advised her to stay with her husband and pray for him, acknowledging that he might become violent. Sure enough he was, she became a punching bag, and she came back to him with black eyes, for which Patterson expressed delight that she suffered for her obedience. Thank you Robert Jeffress, for being crystal clear with the women in your church that they don't have to take the nonsense their husbands dish out.

The third thing that I wanted to mention is his response to a question about whether the earth is 6000 years old, or much, much older. He basically said he didn't know himself, but that sincere Christians differ on this topic. He acknowledged in his church are many "young earth" believers, and others who believe the earn is much, much older. He ended this question with a quote I first saw on the Wartburg Watch when they were writing about Ken Ham: "In the essentials, unity. In the non-essentials, diversity. In all things, charity."

If you want to watch the entire "Ask the Pastor" session, click here, and then click on the "Evening Services" tab and scroll to the 8/28/11 service.

Or, see the three excerpts below:

Friday, September 2, 2011

Watchdog Reaches 28 Years of Age (In Dog Years): An Update on Lawsuits, and the Most Shocking Fact So Far from the Lawsuits

This week marks the 4th anniversary of my first post on the FBC Jax Watchdog blog, posted on August 30th, 2007. That would make the Watchdog 28 in dog-years.

I appreciate all of the readers who have contributed to the blog. After 4 years the blog has steadily grown in readership, now at about 59,000 views per month, over 1.5 million views total. To date I have published over 600 articles.

I hear from readers via email regularly at churches who do support and appreciate my efforts on this blog to expose some of the crazy, abusive, sometimes humorous antics of pastors in the SBC and elsewhere. On the other hand I know many of you don't like me, think I'm recalcitrant, hateful, etc. But that is OK, the more I read about and understand modern organized religion, the more I understand why some of you hate this blog so much. But I will keep writing, and I'll keep giving you a forum to disagree with me and even tell me how evil I am.

I thought I would take this opportunity to give an update on the lawsuits that were filed by myself and my lawyer as the result of the events back in the fall of 2008 and spring of 2009 surrounding the revelation of my identity. And I wanted to give you one of the most shocking facts that came out of the first lawsuit that you will find quite amazing - even more shocking than the revelation that the detective pulling subpoenas was on the church's discipline committee at the time he pulled the subpoenas.

Lawsuit Against City and Sheriff's Office
Those of you that have followed this blog have known that two lawsuits were filed back in the summer of 2009 shortly after the front page news story of the police investigation that uncovered my identity. One was a federal First Amendment lawsuit against the city of Jacksonville and the sheriff's office and the state attorney's office , and another against Mac Brunson and FBC Jax for the statements made by the pastor to the Times Union reporter.

The first lawsuit against the city and state attorney was over the Google and Comcast subpoenas issued in late 2008 by a detective who was a member and employee of the church, and who also was a deacon and a member of the discipline committee that sought my identity. If ever there was a conflict of interest in a detective pulling subpoenas, it was this case.

After a lengthy discovery period involving many interrogatories and depositions, and after depositions revealed the detective was not just a member and employee but also on the discipline committee of the church at the time of the subpoenas, the city settled the lawsuit with a cash settlement and an agreement by the sheriff's office to train their detectives on first amendment issues involving Internet speech (the training bulletin was completed and issued last December - read about it here). There was quite a bit of media coverage of the police investigation and subsequent First Amendment lawsuit; even Jonathan Turley, legal scholar and TV commentator chimed in on the lawsuit here and here.

Lawsuit Against Pastor and FBC Jax
There still is a civil lawsuit against Mac Brunson and FBC Jax over the words of Mac Brunson as quoted in the Times Union in 2009. There have been several motions filed in the case, but the bottom line is it is still working its way through civil court and a trial date has been set for May 2012. I have no more updates than this.

A Shocking Fact About the Watchdog's Identity
Lastly, I thought I'd take this opportunity to share one of the most shocking facts about this blog and my identity that most of you don't know. This fact was one of the first significant revelations that the defense helped bring to light in the federal First Amendment case last year.

Here it is: Mac Brunson and his office were told of my identity months before the subpoenas. They were told who the FBC Jax Watchdog was in the summer of 2008.

All of his hullabaloo, and the subpoenas weren't even necessary to find who I was.

As revealed during testimony in the case, one of the members of my extended family, with the best of intentions, sent an anonymous letter identifying me as the owner of the Watchdog blog during the summer of 2008, about 2 or 3 months before the detective opened his investigation. This family member was worried about what the church leadership would do to me or my wife and family if they found my identity, so they mailed a hand-written letter to Mac Brunson, identifying me as the Watchdog blogger, requesting that he reach out to me and visit me and answer my questions. I had no idea that this person sent this email - until they were under oath in the federal lawsuit almost two years later and admitted they were the ones that sent the letter.

Why is this so shocking? Let me explain. I do remember reporter Jeff Brumley sharing with me in April 2009 just before he published his front page article on this case, that someone at the church - I believe it was Brunson himself - told Brumley that they knew who I was all along because they had received a letter from one of my relatives the year prior!

But apparently, if we are to believe the testimony in the First Amendment case, the Brunson's decided never to act on the letter, and decided not to share this letter with anyone. The detective/discipline committee member didn't mention it in his deposition so apparently he didn't know about its existence. He said he had no where to start when looking for the blogger so he had to immediately issue subpoenas as a first step. John Blount admitted in the paper that he wanted to know where the blog was coming from so he went to the police. But his own pastor, his boss, had the key piece of evidence - a letter stating who the Watchdog was!

John Blount's testimony was that once Detective Hinson told him the results of the subpoena, that I was the blogger, Blount said he knew me and my family, that I was no threat, and he instructed Detective Hinson to close his investigation. Then two weeks later, Blount was on my doorstep delivering my letter of 16 sins and trespass papers for me and the Mrs. Two weeks after that, Blount filed official trespass papers against me and my wife with the sheriff's office for the dastardly offense of "church misconduct".

Here is perhaps the most puzzling aspect of this letter: the defense had to make a case that Detective Hinson was actually doing a real investigation when he pulled the subpoenas, and not merely doing a favor for his pastor and the discipline committee he served on. So their argument was that the blog was viewed as a threat, and the blogger might be a threat to the safety of the pastor and staff. Allegations of mail stealing and photographing the pastor's wife were thrown around for good measure. But the letter throws a wrench into that argument - because if the Brunsons viewed the blogger as a threat - why when you get a letter identifying the dirty rotten scoundrel don't you immediately call the police, or at least share it with the discipline committee so they could do one of their own crack investigations?

I will provide updates on the second lawsuit as it progresses.

Thanks again to my readers for reading and contributing to the blog these past 4 years.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Florida Baptist Convention Director Clarifies the Housing Allowance for Ministers

On August 31st, I contacted Gary Townsend, Director of Church Staff Benefits for the Florida Baptist Convention to ask him some of the questions we have had on this blog about the Housing Allowance. I sent an email to Gary with some of the questions about how the IRS "housing allowance" rules are applied to ministers in the Florida Baptist Convention. Gary called me back just a few minutes after my email, and he was extremely friendly as we discussed these matters.

I asked Gary how churches can determine whether a specific employee of the church would qualify for the housing allowance. Greg explained that there is a 5-point test that is applied, and that if the minister qualifies for at least 3 of the 5, then likely they would be a "minister":

1. They are ordained, licensed, or commissioned;

2. They can administer the ordinances of the the church;

3. They lead worship, such as delivering a sermon;

4. They have management responsibilities in the church;

5. They are considered to be "religious leaders", usually considered to be "pastors" of the church

These five points cited by Gary are from the Knight case, as I discussed in my previous blog post.

My conversation with Gary confirmed that the current tax law makes it extremely difficult for a woman minister in the typical Southern Baptist Church to qualify for the Housing Allowance. Women don't administer ordinances, they don't lead in worship, and they are not considered leaders or pastors in most SBC churches.

In fact, Gary said that he is aware of only one female church staffer in a Florida SBC whose church has determined that they qualify for the housing allowance.

Thus, don't tell me that all it takes is a church to license a female, or commission a female minister. It is not about getting a piece of paper. To enjoy the tax benefits of a minister, their church leadership (trustees) must vote to authorize her to administer ordinances and lead in worship (preach), and must be viewed by their church as a leader. That ain't going to happen in most SBC churches.

Something is wrong with a system that allows for laymen like Blount and Elkins to be hired on staff and then ordained with no formal training and immediately viewed as "ministers", while female ministers who are seminary trained and are ministering for years in their church, can't be viewed as "ministers" for tax purposes.

As I said, just another reason to do away with the housing allowance benefit for ministers.