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.”

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ed Young Teaches Us Rule #1 When Hawking a Guest Speaker's Book at Your Mega Church: Make Sure You Get the Title Right!

Watch the video below, as Ed Young hawks Colonel Oliver North's new book, "Heroes Proved." That is PROVED, as in Heroes who prove they are heroes....

Unfortunately Ed took the stage thinking the name of North's book was "Heroes PROVIDED"....even though he was looking right at the book.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

"It's Not Your Money!!" Says Steven Furtick, as He Proudly Screams "Yes! The Church Wants Your Money!!"

"Yes, the church wants your money!! Guess what?  It's not your money! God gave you that money, Big Boy!....my name is Steven Furtick, and I approve this message!" Steven Furtick - SEE VIDEO BELOW
What is so fascinating about mega church pastors is the new lows to which they plunge in their attempts to expand their church, and to extend their reach into the pockets of their followers.

In the video below, Steven Furtick of Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC, proudly proclaims that "Yes, the church wants your money", and then tells his church members as they hoot and holler:  "It's not your money!"

What Steven means is that he and his church have a greater right to your checking account than you do. None of your money is yours, says Steven. All of your money is God's, and you need to give God back at least 10% if not more, since he gave it to you. And here's the catch: to give God back what he gave you - which doesn't make sense since God owns it all anyways - according to Steven you have only one choice: give it to Elevation Church - because Steven is building the church that Jesus promised he would be responsible for.

"And once upon a time, there was a little girl named Goldilocks who went for a walk in the woods..."

Furtick's claim to his follower's money is so illogical, and so wrong-headed, that to hear the hoots and hollers from the crowd as Steven spews this nonsense, tells me this church is on its way to being a cult, and Steven Furtick a cult leader. Perhaps it is there already.

I don't point out the exploits of Furtick and his other mega church pastor friends just to get a laugh and chuckle. This is serious business, these guys are forever damaging Christianity in America.

When I heard Furtick spew this nonsense, it reminded me of the story a friend told me about why he had to stop attending his church. His pastor was so aggressive in raising money that he told the men in the congregation that if they were not tithing, they were not "real men". The pastor said they were having other men "pay their way", and that no real man would have another man pay their way. And for good measure, the pastor said if you're a man not tithing you probably are not a Christian. This man was giving some money to the church, but he was struggling financially, had two kids in college, and was being very generous to his family in providing for their material and educational needs. He went to church to get encouragement in his faith, but instead was told on multiple occasions from the pulpit that he was no damn good, was not a man, that the pastor was the "real" man, and that in fact he probably wasn't a Christian because he didn't give 10%.

So this man felt he couldn't return to the church and continue to expose his family to a preacher who denigrated their own father's faith and manhood from the pulpit.

This is what is happening in evangelical churches - pastors who have such a love of money and power, they are turning away clear-minded, rational-thinking believers. And young people who are very adept at seeing through these shallow preachers, will be turned away from Christianity altogether.

And what this will leave is churches predominantly filled with Kool Aid drinkers who don't dare question the pastor, and who will fork over 10% of their money based on fairy tales and myths and believe they are buying favor with God.

Avoid these churches like the plague, Christian.

Yes, the Church Wants Your Money, 'Cause it Ain't Yours Big Boy!! from FBCJax Watchdog on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Letter from a Friend: There is Hope After an Experience With a Spiritually-Abusive Pastor and Church

This Thanksgiving week, I want to wish all of the Watchdog readers a wonderful time with your family and friends as you give thanks to God for all of the blessings we enjoy.

Over the past 5 years of blogging I have made many new friends who have followed our story on the blog, and have contributed to the blog's success in helping shine a light on misbehaving pastors and churches. I thought this Thanksgiving week would be a perfect time to share the testimony from one of the Watchdog readers I have corresponded with via email and telephone over the past few years as he and his family endured the antics of a spiritually abusive pastor who arrived at their church some years ago. I asked him to put in writing his testimony for my readers, and today I am sharing his story with you.

There is so much of his story that I can relate to. But if you read his entire story, you'll see it is one of hope: that even after you and your family have been hurt by arrogant and abusive clergy and their enabling lay leaders, you can find a new church where the leadership are transparent, loving, and seek to minister to you and your family.

Thank you to my friend for sharing this testimony with all of us. Please read it to the end, he has some very wise advice for all of us in his concluding paragraph.

So enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!
Dear Tom: I have been a follower of your website for a number of years, having discovered it after my wife and I and many friends experienced firsthand a “pastor” who came into and church who was totally void of the fruits of the spirit; who autocratically ruled with a heavy hand, and who practiced spiritual abuse upon the members of the church who did not obey his directions.

Disagreement with him was labeled of the devil. Those who disagreed were referred to as “Satan’s Agents”. Deacons and Sunday School teachers were removed, or not asked to come back to serve when their terms ended if they did not agree to everything the “pastor” wanted to do. Loyalty oaths to the Pastor were required to be signed to remain a deacon and Sunday School teacher. All transparency with finances was removed. Those who disagreed were “bitter, angry and selfish”, disobedient to God; “kinks in the hose – squelching God’s work”, “snakes in the garden”. (Actual sermon titles!). Long time staff members were run off by the pastor, on trumped up charges of sinful lifestyles and impure hearts. (Based upon his sole declaration, without any evidence). 

Unbridled anger was exhibited by the Pastor in sermons, and in meetings with members, when he did not get his way. With amazement many of us watched as our fellow members seemed not to be bothered in the least by such behavior. Lives of Godly men and their families were ravaged. Unfounded charges were relentlessly made by this person, without any hesitation or guilt as to the lives he destroyed. So convinced of his own Godliness, there was no limit to his actions. 

Those who stayed “went along”, for fear that they might displease God if they “don’t obey their pastor” as the pastor tells them the Bible requires of them. He analogized himself to Moses who was leading the Israelites through the wilderness; he claimed to be leading the “dead” church that he came to pastor through a desert – a city under the “grips of Satan”. (We are a small Texas town, with lots of good people; it is truly hilarious at some point). He claimed to be a “Prophet”. He and his followers justified anything and everything they did by claiming it was of God. Over the 8-9 years he has been at this Church, there has been an almost complete turnover of membership. As I read about the things you have related from your experiences, I can only think the man must be reading and operating from the same playbook as your previous pastor. (I’m pretty sure they know each other). 

However, God has provided an oasis for us. My family and I left, without looking back. In the last year and a half my wife and I have joined another church in our town. It is quite a refuge for many hurting people in our city. Many from our former church attend there, and many have moved to other wonderful congregations in our town. The pastor of our new church family is wonderful. Get this – he is kind, outgoing, fun, friendly, loving and a great communicator and student of the Bible. He does not seek the limelight or notoriety or fame. He merely seeks to love and care for those who attend.

Since I was ordained as a deacon many years ago at my former church I was asked to be deacons at our new church. We had our first deacons meeting two weeks ago. Our new pastor visited with us and advised of how "things are handled at our new church". He informed us that we were not his rubber stamp, not his yes men, and that he did not "run" the church. He told us that the congregation did. He told us that he would never check giving records, so to not be influenced by persons who did or did not give money to the Church. 

He asked us to let him know immediately if we sensed any un-Christlike attitude or spirit from him and to schedule a time to visit with him and let him know our concerns if we did. And he really meant it! He told us that he only wanted to love and minister to the body. He has no goals of mega growth, no agendas for fame, no desire to be well known. He also told us that we would never be asked to sign a covenant or loyalty oath to him or the church. He said he trusted that through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ that we would be right with God and therefore we would all treat each other and himself as Christ directs - and therefore all things will work in accordance with God's will. He truly believes in the Priesthood of the Believers and the personal relationship one can have with Christ. He trusts us to allow Christ to lead our lives, even if it means that we might have a disagreement with him as to what God wants for us as a group. He is confident in Christ’s ability to move the group as Christ sees fit, not as he (the pastor) plans, desires, or directs. 

It is telling that when the pastor of our new church arrived as a bi-vocational pastor over 8 years ago, there were 35 people who regularly attended. He is now full time. That number in attendance is now close to 400 on Sundays, and growing. New Christians, the un-churched, and many others in our community are now in attendance. Our church continues to grow. More people are attending each Sunday. We are about to exceed the capacity of the sanctuary. No surprise! The one common comment that is always heard from those who visit and who join is “we love the loving feeling of the congregation”. 

It is so refreshing and I though you and other readers would like to hear about a healthy body of believers and a loving pastor. I just wanted to encourage others in our world who may read your website and who have been exposed to unloving and unkind leadership. There are very wonderful congregations for them to attend. We have found one, and pray and hope for the best for those who have suffered at the hands of similar men. 

If I may add my advice to those who may be dealing with similar situations, don’t try to wait such people out – it is a waste of your time and a loss of opportunities for peace and worship with God. Find a place where you can worship God without the distraction of men who try to get in between you and God. Such “pastors” (so-called) are in reality a barrier between you and God; they seek to squelch the Holy Spirit’s leading in your life because they seek to be a God-like figure who you must spend time following, listening to, and obeying. They must act this way to control you; they only need to control you because they have earthly desires at heart. It is selfish and un-Christlike. Please run from it and find peace. 

Keep up the good work Tom. You have been a blessing to me.

Friday, November 9, 2012

News Flash: Jeffress Declares Obama is NOT the Anti-Christ, As His Poll Numbers are a Bit Too Low

"I want you to hear me tonight, I am not saying that President Obama is the Antichrist, I am not saying that at all. One reason I know he's not the Antichrist is the Antichrist is going to have much higher poll numbers when he comes. President Obama is not the Antichrist." 

Wow, that was close. I thought for a minute there, after the election, that Barack Obama was the Anti-Christ.

But thanks to Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, I slept easier last night knowing the Southern Baptists have determined:

Barack Hussein Obama, is NOT the Anti-Christ.

How has he made his determination? He doesn't say exactly, but says "one of the reasons" is that "the Antichrist is going to have much higher poll numbers when he comes."

I love how the fundamentalist Baptist mindset works: let's start with the assumption he might be the Anti-Christ. Then look at his poll numbers.

He goes on to say Obama is just "paving the way" for the Anti-Christ, you know, like "John the Baptist" for the Anti-Christ.

Watch it for yourself:

In all fairness, let me say to my readers:  Robert Jeffress is NOT the Anti-Christ. I am not saying he is the Anti-Christ at all. However, his leadership of at FBC Dallas in convincing the members to spend $120 million on a glamorous new church and fountain while our country suffers economically - he is just paving the way for the gullible sheep to follow the Anti-Christ.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

On This Election Day, I am Extremely Positive, Unlike the Evangelical Sourpuss Pastors

As the Watchdog, I listen to a number of sermons each week...a variety of evangelical pastors at churches and at seminary chapel services, and on this election day I want to make a few comments regarding preachers and the 2012 election.

It is amazing how negative and dark so many mega church pastors have become lately, especially over the election. Not only are they are complaining about the money drying up and how people aren't tithing and aren't "committed"; but now and in the weeks leading up to the election so many of them are preaching doom and gloom over the election and the state of America.

One of the things I remember most about Jerry Vines' preaching that I heard for 20 years, was just how upbeat and positive he was when he was my pastor. He preached the Bible, he preached truth, but he was upbeat, positive - a very happy person. If I were a visitor in many of these baptist churches today with angry, negative, dark pastors, I would run for the exits and reject the distorted gospel they preach. In fact, it is no wonder we are losing our young people at these churches, as for the most part young people are hopeful for the future and don't respond to angry, old men who preach like they have a chip on their shoulder.

One of the reasons I believe Romney will probably win this election is that he is so upbeat and positive about the future of our country, while Obama has gone dark and angry near the end of the campaign. People respond to a message of hope and future prosperity, not one of doom and gloom and despair.

I even heard a mainstream baptist mega church pastor this weekend blame God for 9/11, claiming that God himself is the one who has decided to ruin our economy because our country is no damn good. He said that no president is to blame, that the blame actually falls right at the feet of God who had to punish us for our national sins.  If God is angry at anyone, he would be angry with wealthy mega church pastors who stand in pulpits and maliciously misrepresent who God actually is to people who come to church to hear the message of hope in the gospel.

It is too bad that so many pastors preach now like Obama has campaigned near the end - no message of hope, only blame and despair.

The Watchdog remains upbeat, positive, and hopeful for the future!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What WOULD Your Mega Church Do If Everyone Tithed? This Jacksonville Mega Church is Building Their Own Hotel!!!

Have you ever heard your mega church pastor say something like:

"Until God's people learn how to tithe, we'll never accomplish for our church what God wants us to accomplish."

I've heard it often, and heard it recently. This begs the question:  Just what WOULD a mega church pastor do with all the money that would come his way if all members forked over 10% of their income?

Well, we have a glimpse of what the answer might be, right here in Jacksonville, Florida.

Rodney (R.J.) and April Washington are the pastors of "Titus Harvest Dome Spectrum Church" - whose website is www.rjwashington.org - and at their church property they are nearing completion of their church's very own 4-story, 80-room hotel constructed at a cost of $11 million.

Yes, "Apostle R.J." and "First Lady April" Washington are building the "Marble Waters Hotel and Suites" - pictured above - right here in Jacksonville on the church property.

What would compel a church to decide to get into the hotel business? That is a good question, as "hotel rooms" and "mega church pastors" aren't real good combinations, if you know what I mean. Perhaps the Apostle is going to use the hotel to care for widows and orphans, or to house the homeless in our city?

What we do know about the Marble Waters Hotel and Suites, is that it is a for-profit business venture. According to the local Jacksonville business weekly, the site is at the church property, and the permit was pulled by "Water Marble Holding, LLC", whose managing member is Titus Harvest Dome Spectrum Church and Apostle R.J. is himself the registered agent for this corporation.

But it doesn't stop there. There is also a "Marble Waters Hotel and Suites, Inc.", a FOR-PROFIT Florida corporation, whose address is located at one of the church properties. Guess who is the head of this for-profit corporation? Yes, it is "First Lady April" herself, with Apostle R.J. as the registered agent.

So this gives us a glimpse of what might happen if everyone tithed at a megachurch: there would be so much money that they would use it to build a hotel with a spa, owned and operated by the pastor and his family.

Or, they might use it to spend $20 million to open seven-new satellite churches like Ed Young, Jr., or they might use it to build a magnificent water fountain as an "architectural invitation to Jesus Christ", as a part of their $120 million campus renovation - like First Baptist Dallas.

"Bring ye the whole tithe into the storehouse/hotel."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Even Emotional, "Common Sense" Tithing Appeals Make No Sense

Like all good salesmen, mega church pastors will try multiple approaches when selling the ridiculous doctrine of tithing to their church members, and we see this most clearly in the fall during pastors' emphasis on stewardship.

The first sales tactic is usually twisting Old Testament scripture (Malachi, Melchizidek, and the doctrine of first fruits and Jericho).

Pastors will then resort to misinterpreting and/or ignoring selected New Testament scriptures regarding stewardship.

Of course some will berate and scare the congregation - the best at this are Ed Young, Jr. and Steve Gaines.

But sometimes pastors will make emotional, seemingly "common sense" appeals to sell their tithing tonic to the peeps - and that is the topic of this post.

Here is how the more basic, common-sense argument usually unfolds - many of the readers here have probably heard something like this recently at YOUR church by your mega church pastor:

- pastors will equate "walking with Jesus" to tithing - that if you're going to walk with Jesus, you have to give 10% of your income to your church, undesignated, off the top, before you pay anyone else. No scripture, but hey, who doesn't want to "walk with Jesus"?

- your mega church pastor will try to tie your devotion to Jesus to devotion to church and tithing, saying something like:

"If you can trust Jesus with your eternal soul, surely you can trust him with your finances."  

Sure, I suppose I can trust Jesus with my finances - but Jesus doesn't own any banks, and Jesus doesn't work at Schwaab or Bank of America last time I checked. And Jesus never says to give 10% of your income to your 501(c)3 religious organization. I can't tell you how many times I've heard this rubbish - that a logical next step to "accepting Jesus" is to fork over 10% of your income to your pastor's church, that tithing is a matter of "trusting Jesus" with your finances.

- your mega church pastor will tell you that HE tithes, that his parents tithed, his dog tithes, and thus you should tithe too. That is great that he gives 10% or more to the church, but that doesn't mean it is a good idea for the others in the congregation.

- pastors will tell you that as a Christian, tithing is one of the greatest disciplines that you can develop in your life and will help you spend the other 90% wisely. What a nutty idea: let me donate more money than I can afford, to put myself under further financial duress to force me to better manage what is left. My new dieting strategy: let me binge tonight, so tomorrow I'll be more motivated than ever to eat less and lose weight.

- pastors will even go so far as to tell you that if you are struggling in your finances, one of the best things you can do to help your situation is learn to trust God and start tithing, that by tithing you demonstrate your faith in Jesus and he will then be able to help you more. They will tell you that the reason you ARE struggling financially is you are not tithing yet! Again, pure fiction, but it helps to increase revenue at the church.

This kind of rhetoric is why it is dangerous to give a man a microphone for 45 minutes - any man: a politician, a lawyer in a courtroom, or a pastor in a pulpit.  Dangerous thing for men to have access to your mind to spin their yarns and make their arguments with no rebuttal time or at least a question and answer time. Imagine if the Romney/Obama debates consisted of all the networks giving 45 minutes of uninterrupted time to each candidate.

It even gets worse when your millionaire mega church pastor lectures his congregation on their selfishness in owning too much stuff and being too focused on the material- even yelling that you don't need a raise, or barking that you're being stingy if you think your family needs extra income during these tough times - when they themselves and their family live the life of jet-setting rockstars off of the very money you contribute to the church. It is very, very sad.

If your pastor takes luxury cruises and uses your church to market luxury cruises to other rich people in the church - and brags about how many shoes his wife has in the closet - and then lectures you on being materialistic and selfish, you have a world-class hypocrite in the pulpit, and the people who continue to fork over their income need to lay off the grape-flavored Kool Aid.

Next, we'll take a look at some specific examples of tithing nonsense delivered here in Jacksonville during this fall tithing season. It ain't going to be pretty.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ed Young Acquires Church Just 1/2 Mile from Perry Noble's Columbia, SC Satellite - Who Will Win the "Battle of the Tight Pants"?

Ed Young announced last week that Fellowship Church has opened a new satellite church in Columbia, South Carolina - just 1/2 mile from Perry Noble's Columbia satellite church!

Ed Young's new Columbia satellite is actually an acquisition of an existing church (Friend Church) that is joining Ed Young's system of churches. Ed did the same thing in Miami last month, acquiring a former hispanic baptist in Midtown Miami. These acquisitions are a perfect business strategy for Ed: each of these new churches will be a place where he can sell his books and sermons, and where revenue can be brought back to the mother church.

Seeing Ed Young expand his church brand into South Carolina should not come as a surprise, given that Perry Noble has seen explosive growth with his satellites with revenue in excess of $25 million a year. There are plenty of peeps in South Carolina ready to join mega churches,and who are gullible enough to obey Noble's and Young's abusive tithing sermons (for sampling, click here, here, here, here, here, and here)

The continued expansion of mega churches using satellites and church acquisitions is further proof that modern evangelicalism is about mega church personalities who are seeking to build their personal and church brands by expanding into areas already saturated with churches to tap into wealthy markets.

This reminds me of this quote by SBC pastor Bart Barber that I featured on my blog last year:
"I predict that you won't soon see the following multi-campus sites opening: Fellowship Church Wilmer-Hutchins Campus, Saddleback Watts Campus, NorthPoint Community Church Bankhead Campus, or Second Baptist Houston Third-Ward Campus. The multi-site movement and the preponderance of domestic SBC church planting is focused like a laser upon those areas where people with lots of money live in church-friendly cultures—places where it is easy to fill a church with rich people." Bart Barber, Pastor FBC Farmersville (TX)
Bart is right on the money; Ed Young is a Southern Baptist, and he is expanding into areas where he can get new church members who have loads of money who just might be willing to give Ed their checking account numbers.

Recently, Pastor Tom Messer of Trinity Baptist Church in Jacksonville announced the church's plans to open a new satellite church in affluent St. John's county, just south of Jacksonville. Messer told his congregation how much it would cost, who would pay for it, and how the initial investment will yield positive dividends.

Said Tom Messer in Trinity's evening service on September 16, 2012:
"Look, its going to take us probably $150,000 in a budget and $150,000 in capital investment to start a South Campus. About $300,000. You say 'where is that money going to come from?'  You.  You say 'Really? We're going to give it to all those people down there in St. John's county?'  Yes!  You say 'Will they ever give it back?' Sure. Absolutely. They're going to invest it in YOUR rescue mission, they're going to invest it in YOUR college...". Pastor Tom Messer, 9/16/12
That quote is very telling, and gives us a glimpse into how pastors view satellites! The satellite church members are viewed as people that can give money that will come back to the mother church to the benefit of the church members!  

That is the modern model of mega church growth. Potential new church members are viewed as a market to be tapped. Potential church members are viewed as "giving units" who can begin generating positive cash flow to the mother church. Starting new, autonomous churches doesn't generate cash flow for the mother church, doesn't help hire new staff, or provide the needed revenue to justify an increase in the pastor's salary and expense budget.

It will be interesting to watch the battle of Perry Noble and Ed Young in Columbia. Reminds me of this video, where Will Ferrell and Jimmy Fallon quarrel over who has the tightest pants in the land.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Professor Watchdog Issues a "Reverse Tithing Challenge" - Give NOTHING to Your Church, See if God Indeed Curses You!

As I promised a few days ago, here is my tithing challenge for church members whose pastors again this year trot out the same old tithing phoney-baloney sermons.

Your pastor will probably use Malachi 3 to tell you to "test God" by giving 10% of your income to God (meaning giving 10% to your pastor's employer, the 501(c)3 he works for).

But why give 10% as the "test"? There are two parts of this tithing teaching out of Malachi that can be tested: one is that if you tithe, God will "open the windows of heaven" and you'll reap financial rewards. The other part is that if you DO NOT tithe, that God will curse you and your finances. One of my former pastors even said that "God collects" and God will get the un-tithed money you owe him through calamity he will bring your way, such as leaking roofs, wrecked cars, etc. I never figured out how God would collect the money I pay my roofer or my auto mechanic, unless maybe they attended the same church and THEY tithed...but I digress.

So don't tithe to see if God will bless you; instead, let your pastor know you've decided to give NOTHING to the church, to withhold what you were giving, and to cut it to zero, to test God and see if he curses you like the pastor claims. That is a much easier way to test God in this area, because presumably you are ALREADY receiving blessings - it will be much easier to detect a blessing decrease as you give nothing.  Be sure to let your pastor know that you appreciate him giving you the challenge, but you've decided to stop giving until God curses you. Tell your pastor if God does curse you, you will resume giving at the 10% level.

This reverse tithe challenge has a number of benefits to you, the church, and all of Christianity:

1. You can experience the freedom to be a blessing to other people with that money you were giving to the church. You can donate it to another Christian organization, or you can use it to bless your immediately family by paying someone's rent, or buying a new set of tires for your spouse, or even take a much needed trip or cruise to mend a strained marriage or relationship. YOU decide what you will do with it!

2. Your church won't have the burden of possibly raising their spending in response to members' tithes only to have to return it all when God doesn't bless. This reverse tithing challenge will instead require them to tighten their financial belts while they wait for you and others to see if God will keep his word and heap coals of cursings on your head. If God keeps his promise and curses you as your pastor says will happen, then your pastor and staff can rejoice that God cursed you while you reluctantly "bring the tithe" to remove the curse. What a day of rejoicing that will be!

3. God might actually REALLY bless you when he sees you've decided to use your money more for what he really wants it used for: helping people in need, taking care of your family, planning for your future so you can meet needs in the future...rather than using it for lavish buildings and to pay salaries of professional religious men who haven't yet learned a marketable trade.

Anyways, why give your 3% or 5% to the church when the man of God is telling you that you are still cursed since you aren't meeting some phony 10% threshold? Use your charitable contributions to bless other ministries that will actually thank you for being a blessing, instead of one that pronounces cursings on you because you didn't give enough.

So give it a try, church members. It is a novel, fresh, innovative way to put God to the test as he says to do in Malachi 3! But be sure to let your pastor know that you're taking "Watchdog's Reverse Tithing Challenge"!

Of course we already know what the outcome of this "challenge" will be. The only "curse" involved will be the reduction in revenue at your 501(c)3 - THAT is the real curse that your "man of God" fears, and it is what drives him to preach such nonsense. A perfect example of how much these men of God fear this curse is this quote from Stovall Weems in his tithing sermon last month entitled "Yes, the Church Wants Your Money":

"When you get that check, when you get that $2000 check, before you look at your bills, before you do anything else, before you even know if you have enough money to do that, you take $200 and you bring your tithe - to Jesus, through the house of God, your local church."

Stovall and those like him don't want you to even think about or budget your giving. This is greed that knows no bounds. They want - they need - you to blindly give the first chunk of your income before you even consider caring for your own family's needs. It is sick and twisted.

When you get down do the bottom line, THIS is the curse that currently exists in the church, that greedy men twist the Bible to raise revenue at their church.

Break the real curse, by taking the Watchdog's Reverse Tithing Challenge.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dr. Watchdog Gives a Tithing Alternative to Pastors as We Enter the Season of Tithing Sermons

 "I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving." (II Cor 9:7)
October is the month when we see the absolute worst tithing sermons. Of course Perry Noble and Steve Gaines are tithing preachers for all seasons, but October is on average the worst month for pastors misusing scripture to deliver the anti-gospel bad news that God has cursed you, your family, and your checking account because your offering each week does not equal 0.1 times your gross income.

So I want to try to help this year. I would like to take a proactive approach, to help prevent the sheep-beatings and scripture twisting BEFORE it starts, rather than having to blog again this year about pastors threatening church members with curses from on high.

Pastors, because I care, here is an alternative approach to the same old tired tithing approach you've taken year after year:

1.  Acknowledge Your Tithing Sermons Don't Work: Pastors, please recognize that while you might be teaching tithing year after year, it is not helping. You aren't gaining a larger percentage of tithers, and the amount donated per "giving unit" is not going up. 

2. Understand that Your Members KNOW You Aren't Telling the Truth: Realize that since such a low percentage of Christians practice what you are preaching about the tithe, this means they don't believe your tithing nonsense. They KNOW you are lying and scripture twisting, or at best they are demonstrating their grace toward you by tolerating your ineptness at this one theological point. They KNOW God does not require 10% as a starting point, or as a condition for God to bless them, or a threshold below which God curses them and their families and their finances. They know there is no set percentage at all! While you preach fantasies and fairy tales of tithing and first-fruits giving from the Old Testament as a fund-raising tactic, your church members know the NEW Testament says clearly:

"Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (II Cor 9:7, NIV)

Or better yet, what another version of this verse says:

"I want each of you to take plenty of time to think it over, and make up your own mind what you will give. That will protect you against sob stories and arm-twisting. God loves it when the giver delights in the giving." (II Cor 9:7, The Message)

Your church members don't want to hear your sob stories and they don't want their arms twisted again this year. Christians decide what percentage and amount to give. When you arm-twist and threaten and coerce, you make it very hard for your church members to delight in what they give.

3. Acknowledge to Your Church You Might Be Wrong: In your stewardship series this fall, start off by humbling yourself. Admit from the pulpit that you might have been wrong about tithing in the past. Tell them that you've researched things a bit - you can mention John MacArthur and David Croteau and Andreas Kostenberger as credible sources on the topic - and that you have decided that Christians should decide what they give because that is what the New Testament teaches. Even challenge your church members to read John MacArthur's views on tithing, tell them about Croteau's book

4. Don't Misuse Malachi and Don't Mention Melchizedek, "First Fruits", and "Storehouse":  Tell your people that you might have been wrong about the "church" being the Old Testament "store house". Tell them that what the Jews gave under the tithing tax probably has no bearing on what Christians do with their finances in 2012, but that the New Testament does say we should all be generous, regular givers of our resources, and this will manifest itself in varying percentages and dollar amounts. Please resist the urge to misuse Malachi and Melchizedek. Whatever you do, don't bring up Ananias and Saphira in the context of tithing. Teach New Testament grace giving.

5. Tell Your Church Members You Trust and Appreciate Them:  Tell church members that they are the best ones to know what percentage of giving to the church is best for them, their kids, and for their futures. Tell them no mater what they give you will appreciate it, and you know that it represents a sacrifice on their part. Tell them that you are fully trusting them to do the right thing, and that if the church revenue increases you'll praise God, and that if the money decreases you'll praise God and gladly adjust the budget accordingly.

6.  Actually trust God: I know this is hard to trust God with the finances at the church. You have for so long told your church members they should trust God and blindly fork over 10% of their income - well, now is the time is for you to blindly trust God that he will deliver the finances to your church as you release the members to decide in their hearts what to give. 

I believe that if you humble yourself and take this approach, you might be shocked as to how people in your church actually respond. You may actually free them up to be generous givers at your church.

You say that no one would ever preach something like this, that it wouldn't work.  Not true. Click here, and you can see a Baptist preacher who actually has taught this for decades, and whose church grows numerically and meets their budget year after year.

Pastors, give it a try. Be innovative, cutting-edge, willing to try new things - you know, just like you tell your congregations to be.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Steve Gaines Elevates Tithing to an Old Testament "Commandment" That Must Be Obeyed

"When you're a Christian, the Holy Spirit of God lives in you and he will prompt you to do certain things. He will prompt you to read the bible and believe you're just supposed to do what it says. That's why I've never had a problem tithing...I read in the bible 'bring the whole tithe into the storehouse'...so when I see these commandments in scripture they're not suggestions, they are not just a few little helpful hints. But they are literally a commandment from God." Steve Gaines, 9/16/12, elevating tithing to the status of "commandment".
Steve Gaines never disappoints. Every six months or so he always manages to come up with a new twist to coerce his church members to give more and more money.

He has called his church members thieves, accusing them of driving stolen cars and eating stolen food. He has said God will make non-tithers' kids sick. He has said non-tithers' finances are cursed. He has threatened them even with death at the hands of God who hates liars. He has even said Christians must give 10% to his church before they can give money to the Red Cross to help orphans in Latin America.

His latest absurdity is to state that not only are Christians obligated to tithe, but that if they are truly Christians, the Holy Spirit will prompt them to tithe, because tithing is a literal "commandment from God."

That is strange, because there are other "commandments" of God in the Old Testament - ones that are much clearer and direct than tithing - that I'm pretty sure the Holy Spirit is not directing Gaines to obey. However, Gaines doesn't explain how he is able to differentiate tithing from the other Old Testament statements such as:

"If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; " (Lev 20:13); or

"If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him....then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you." (Deut 21:18-21)

It is a good thing the followers of Steve Gaines don't take his advice to "just do what the Bible says", else they would be killing homosexuals and stoning rebellious teenagers. But of course, when Gaines says "just do what the Bible says", he really means "just do what I tell you the Bible says". Let's hope a Bellevue satellite church in Guyana is not planned anytime soon.

Truth is, Gaines and his SBC mega-church cohorts are making this stuff up as they go along. The more over the edge they go with their fantastic stories and cherry-picking of laws in the Old Testament that serve their own self-interests, the more people are wising up - especially younger Christians who see these charletons for who they are, and unfortunately some are leaving the faith altogether.

Shame on you, Steve Gaines.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Students Learn at SWBTS What the Letter "T" Stands for in "BAPTIST"

It is good to know that seminary students at our SBC schools are learning the deeper, more meaningful spiritual truths of life that feed the souls of men.

For instance, take Dr. Bob Pearle's chapel message on 9/13/12.  Pearle unveiled the secret of what each letter in the "BAPTIST" represents. Why is he so proud to be a baptist? Because each letter represents one of the most cherished beliefs of Baptists.

What did the good doctor tell everyone the word "BAPTIST" stands for?

B stands for:    "Bible"

A stands for:  "Autonomy of the local church"

P stands for:  "priesthood of the believer"

Now, what about the letter "T"? It could stand for "theology", or "testify", or even "trespass the recalcitrant". No, it stands for something much more important, something that is much more near and dear to the heart of so many baptist preachers like Bob Pearle.

Tithing. I know you didn't know it, but the "T" in "Baptist" (the first "T", anyways) stands for "tithing".

You say you didn't know it? You know it now. ;)
Indeed, one of the central tenants of being a good Baptist in the year 2012 is tithing, forking over 10% of  your income to your 501(c)3. And if you don't tithe, then you have to put up with the periodic accusations from your Man-o-God that you're a thief, and that you, your checking account, your investments, and your family members are cursed by God himself for your disobedience.

What is so absolutely hilarious about T standing for "tithing", is it is inconsistent with the B and P definitions Pearle gave just prior: New Testament tithing is not biblical, and to declare church members are still under the Old Testament requirement to tithe contradicts his belief in the priesthood of the believer. Christians don't need Doctor Pearle - or any other Man of God - to tell us what percentage we are required to give to their church.

Pearle did not give any scriptural basis for his view. He just used the same tired old argument that people who don't believe the tithe is applicable to new covenant believers are looking for an excuse not to tithe.

And, of course, tithing is "something we've always done" - which is another bald-faced lie.

Says Pearle:

"Tithing has always been something we have embraced to fund our ministries, not bingo, not raffles, but giving to God biblically".

Embrace is a good way to say. Tithing is as near and dear to the heart of baptist preachers like Pearle as the bible, Jesus, and salvation.

As Pearle says, it is all about funding the ministry of the preacher's 501(c)3 organization, which pays his salary.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Al Mohler Declares: Church Members Don't Have a Right to Leave Their Church, Except for "Theological" Errors

"We have no right to leave a church over preferences about music, personal taste, or even programming that does not meet expectations".  Pope Albert the Pious I
 Al Mohler has declared from his lofty perch at SBTS that church members do not have the "right" to leave their church, unless it is for a primary doctrinal reason.

Apparently we aren't smart enough to know when it is in the best interests of our family to leave and join another church. No, we need Albert the Pious and the other seminary-trained holy-men-of-God to tell us when we can leave, and when we can't leave. After all, as Albert said last year, pastors are "God-appointed agents to save God's people from ignorance."

Says Albert:

"When members leave for insufficient reason, the fellowship of the church is broken, its witness is weakened, and the peace and unity of the congregation are sacrificed...we have no right to leave a church over preferences about music, personal taste, or even programming that does not meet expectations..."

"Christians cannot look to this question as merely a matter of consumerism. We are called to love the church and to pray for its peace and unity, not to look for an opportunity to move to another congregation."

This is not only unbiblical, it is just plain stupid and illogical. Let me give just a few reasons why Mohler is out in left field on this issue:

1. "The Church" is NOT the same as "501(c)3 religious organization": Mohler wrongly equates local 501(c)3 religious organizations with the "church" in scripture. We've beat this dead horse before, but if I leave ABC Baptist Church, I'm not "leaving the church" - I'm changing 501(c)3 religious organizations. Christians absolutely are free in Christ and free as Americans to change churches as often as they wish, for whatever reason they deem fit, as led by their conscience and faith. And they're even free, and have a Christian right to not be a member of ANY 501(c)3 religious organization.

2.  If Al is right, why do pastors change churches so often?:  Al conveniently forgot that the average baptist senior pastor stays at their church for 6-7 years before moving on to another church. And when a SBC pastor leaves his church for greener pastures, it rarely has anything to do with major theological differences - instead we are told that "God called" the pastor to his new church.  In fact, the mega church rock stars go to great lengths to tell us how God told them to change churches - like while riding a donkey in the Holy Land and other such tales. Apparently God is capable only of calling pastors to change churches - but dang it the plebe have to stay at a church until the church denies the Trinity - or worse, they hire a woman pastor.  Al, if you really believe what you're saying, please tell pastors that once they become pastor of a church, they should stay there for their entire career.

3.  Why then, do mega churches spend so much on church marketing?  Al says people who change churches without a deep theological rift have a "consumerism" mindset. If we are not "consumers" and should not select a church based on preferences like worship style or programs offered by the church, then why on earth do mega churches treat us like consumers and spend so much money on church marketing, trying to steal sheep, and hiring guys like Maurilio Amorim? Al, if you really believe what you're saying, train your pastors to stop spending "God's money" on so much church marketing! And for goodness sake, please mega church pastors, inquire as to the reason why someone is joining your church and turn away those members who left their prior church for personal preferences!

4.  What About Abusive Churches and Pastors? Using Albert's standard, even if we find that our pastor covered-up for a pedophile, we don't have a right to leave the church. Sorry, Al, but most clear-thinking Christians know when it is in our best interests and the interests of our families to flee an abusive church and/or pastor. For example, I don't need a theological reason to leave a church pastored by this creep showing kids at a youth service how to "polish a shaft".

We could go on, but you get the point. Christian, you and your family have the right - even the Christian responsibility - to change churches and take your money with you for any reason you deem fit. It could be because the newly appointed pastor is more of a traveling evangelist who loves to go on cruises with the rich folk. Or maybe the pastor is an angry, pompous ass in the pulpit and you just can't stomach his rants each week.  It could be because your kids don't fit into the youth group, or the youth group is dysfunctional. It could be even something as simple as worship style preferences.

Friends, Albert Mohler is regarded by many to be one of the greatest minds in modern day evangelicalism. Albert telling church members they are morally bound to stay attached to their 501(c)3 religious organization else they are harming the cause of Christ, tells me that we not only can't trust men like Mohler and those he trains to teach the bible rightly, we can't trust them to make arguments that are logical, or even congruent with their other core beliefs.

"Hotel Calvinista":

"Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the church house
at the place I was before
'relax,' said Albert Mohler,
We are programmed to receive.
You can checkout any time you like,
But you can never leave!"

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Sammy Nuckolls Sentenced to 10 Years for "Video Rape" - Victims Testify to the Harm He Has Done

10 years.  That is the sentence judge Gerald Chatham handed to Sammy Nuckolls today.

Sammy Nuckolls is the Southern Baptist evangelist and former Lifeway youth camp pastor who last year was caught using a hidden camera to secretly videotape women in bathrooms. Friday Sammy received his 10-year sentence after being found guilty on 13 counts of video voyeurism - perpetrated against women as young as 17 years of age.

This is great news. It is not often that a perverted pastor gets justice for his deeds.

This, my friends, is why the father/son pastor duo at Berean Baptist Church here in Jacksonville fought so hard to keep the voyeur video that police said was created by Tom Neal secret and kicked a church member out who tried to tell the truth - until at least the statute of limitations had run out. Someone at Berean Baptist secretly videotaped women undressing - and police who conducted the investigation fingered Tom Neal but couldn't press charges because too much time had elapsed.

So Tom Neal, "man of God", is still preaching in his three-piece suit in Jacksonville, but Sammy Nuckolls will have to preach in his prison garb for the next ten years. No difference, just Sammy got caught and didn't have the laymen to help protect him from the cops.

Probably the most disgusting thing I've read today about Nuckolls' sentencing is a quote from the minister who is counseling Nuckolls and provided testimony in Sammy's defense. Says minister Eric Garner:

"It's proven to me how Satan can enter your life and bring you to your knees and get you do do things you otherwise wouldn't do."

Yep, Nuckolls is just a victim of Satan himself. Poor Sammy. The devil "entered his life", drove Sammy to his knees (which he had to do in order to hide the camera), and the devil got Sammy to do something he wouldn't otherwise have done. Complete rubbish. The devil didn't make Sammy do it. Sammy did it. He knew the risks. He knew the damage he was doing. Poor Eric Garner doesn't have a clue. In fact if this is how he is counseling Sammy, Sammy will probably be a repeat offender if he gets out of prison alive.

Instead, the judge has it right. He is sending Sammy for psychological analysis. The judge didn't blame the devil. He blamed Sammy. The judge believes Sammy suffers from psychosis.

Judge Gerald Chatham said it best when he told Nuckolls: "You violated the trust of these young women. You robbed them of dignity. First time I ever heard the expression video rape but I supposed that's what it is."

Lastly, kudos to Nuckolls' victims who bravely testified at the sentencing hearing - no doubt their testimony helped the judge decide on such a stiff penalty.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Watchdog Celebrates His Fifth Birthday, Still Alive and Well!!

Hello Readers! I hope all of you are doing well, I hope you all had a great summer! Here in Florida it has been the absolute wettest summer I can remember in 30 years of living here - but it was a very wonderful summer with the kids home. We met some very wonderful new friends, and had a great time in activities with family and friends.

It has been great to take a break from blogging, having posted only two articles in the last month. I have begun working on another project that I hope to announce very soon, and the time away from blogging has helped me get this project underway.

The Watchdog is now five years old. It was five years ago that the FBC Jax Watchdog site began. I started this blog because I cared about my church, and I cared about THE church. I hate what has happened to modern day evangelicalism: the nutty fundamentalism, the money- and marketing-hungry pastors that have taken over mega churches and damaged the faith of so many Christians. I am proud of what this blog has accomplished in shining a light on misbehaving pastors and churches - a few months ago this blog passed the 2 million page view mark, and traffic is still very strong after 733 blog posts and hundreds of audio and video clips the past five years.

People ask me from time to time if my faith has survived the past five years of blogging and the two legal battles and the ugliness my family has experienced. Some people assume that my views expressed here, my criticism of pastors and churches is an indication that I'm no longer a Christian - some even assume that I'm an atheist or some anti-Christian heathen trying to drive people away from their faith. This couldn't be further from the truth. Over the past five years I have been on a spiritual journey of sorts, having to acknowledge the flaws in some of my own religious views that I once held as a fundamentalist Christian, but still holding on to my faith in God. It has been a journey that has been incredibly liberating.

I have met with and talked with so many people that have been on a similar journey out of fundamentalism, and they can relate to what I'm talking about. I'm going to share here in the next blog posts some of these things I've learned in this journey - concentrating on the teachings in fundamentalism that are dangerous because of how they ultimately damage people's Christian faith.

When a person is confronted with the reality that much of what they've been taught by their "man of God" is not true, or not biblical and even some being self-serving nonsense and fairy tales - a crisis of faith can occur. For instance we know that over 50% of young people who leave home and attend college and get away from the fundamentalism in their home church jettison their faith. The fundamentalist pastors and parents will wail and moan that it is the worldy influence, the evil college professors, or they blame it on the lack of faith of the young person - or blame it on a recalcitrant blog that criticizes pastors.

But really, the ones to blame are those who are teaching nonsense in the church, not those who choose to expose it on a blog or website. So in the next few blog posts I'm going to discuss what some of this nonsense is that is causing so many people to feel that they do have to leave their church, and what causes even young people to question the validity of the religious teachings they have received growing up.

So now that fall is here, and the kids are back in school, the Watchdog will be back at work.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Ed Young the Performer: At His New Hispanic Church, He Mocks Complaining Christians by Crying Like a Baby

Check out the excerpt below of Ed Young preaching at his new satellite church in Midtown Miami. In this clip, Ed is making fun of immature Christians - you know, those pesky complainers - by mocking them, crying like a baby. It is hard to believe that anyone takes this man serious when he acts like such a boob. His arguments are not even logical.

It is sad to watch Ed's interpreter having to mimic Ed's antics. It is embarrassing to watch.

According to Ed Young's intro to the sermon from which this clip is taken, Fellowship Church is "partnering" with the oldest hispanic Baptist church in Miami - First Spanish Baptist Church of Miami, pastored by Art Salcedo - as one of Ed's new satellite churches.

The good news is, as you'll see in the video, there weren't many people in attendance. If this was my first view of Ed Young - I would be running for the exits. Maybe they did.

I must say this is a good marketing move by Young: Ed is trying to make in-roads to a new market, Hispanics in South Florida that might not have seen Brett Shipp's articles on Ed's lavish lifestyle, or have read the Watchdog blog.

So, to make sure we get the word out to Hispanics on preachers like Ed Young and others, I am starting a new Hispanic Watchdog blog, "FBC Jax Watchdog" translated into Spanish:

"Perro Guardian FBC Jax"

Friday, July 27, 2012

Bloggers: 2, Pastors: 0. Julie Anne Smith Wins Complete Victory in Anti-SLAPP Motion, Chuck's Lawsuit is Chucked by the Judge

Julie Anne Smith and her co-defendants have prevailed. Their pastor's attempts to sue them for half a million in damages because they dared to criticize their former church and pastor, have ended in shame and disgrace for Beaverton Grace Bible Church - and have piled on a debt of probably $50,000 in legal fees and court costs.

Judge Jim Fun granted Julie Anne's anti-SLAPP motion, tossing out Chuck O'Neal's ridiculous lawsuit, and ordering Chuck and Church to fork over the money to pay for the defendants' legal defense.

And there ain't no insurance that will pay for this one. This money will come straight from the coffers of Beaverton Grace Bible Church.

Can you say "special offering"? Can you say "Double Tithe Sunday"?

Seriously, to a small 501(c)3 like BGBC this can be a fatal blow. Chuck and friends rolled the dice on this one, and he lost big time, and may have taken his church down with him. Too bad there weren't some elders/deacons/trustees with a backbone to stand up to Chuck and his cockamamie idea of suing the sheep. Too bad compensatory damages aren't required by the court for the anguish Chuck and his board of elders/deacons/trustees has caused to all of the defendants involved.

Kudos to Julie Anne Smith for her tenacity. Unlike her pastor, she has handled herself with grace and courage through this entire ordeal. Julie Anne has taken the heat, not shying away from the press coverage. She has used the platform given to her by this set of unfortunate circumstances to speak out against spiritual abuse, and no doubt she will continue to do so.

Make no mistake, Julie Anne is a trailblazer. She has won a very important case for religious bloggers who seek to share the truth about churches and pastors. Lawyers who represent well-to-do mega church pastors who are criticized on line are sure to take the judge's ruling to heart. As I said before, if O'Neal won, I believe we would have seen more of these lawsuits by pastors who want to shut up their critics who aren't good for their "business". The judge ruled that religious blogs critical of how pastors run their church and how they treat people, are matters of public interest, and opinions expressed about said pastors is protected free speech.

Here is a very important part of the judge's ruling:

"Plaintiff [O'Neal and his church] has the right to govern his congregation in the manner in which he chooses, and defendant Julie Anne Smith is authorized by law to express her disagreement with his performance of those activities. Consequently, the foregoing claimed defamatory statements are dismissed."

Awesome. Julie Anne did what she did, "authorized by law". Problem is, in the world of fundamentalist, authoritarian preachers like Chuck, Julie Anne was not authorized by Pastor to do what she did. Pastor didn't like Julie Anne's opinions. Pastor thinks Julie Anne's criticism was sin. Pastor got his hat handed to him by the judge, and Pastor's congregation has to pay the legal bills.

Here is the summary paragraph from Judge Jim Fun's ruling:

"In summary, defendants Julie Anne Smith [and other defendants'] Special Motions to Strike are granted. The court finds that the defendant's internet postings on plaintiff's website and defendant Julie Anne Smith's blog site, were made in a public forum and concern an issue of public interest. The court further finds that plaintiff has not met the burden of presenting substantial evidence the defendant's statements are defamatory. "

This is all made sweeter by going back and reading Chuck's "press release" from a few months ago, where he said:

"We have not gone hastily to court. For three and a half years this group has been engaged in a public, church to church, and World Wide Web defamation, showing their willingness to harm children, to harm wives, to harm the church, and harm the testimony of Christ's Gospel. It is BGBC's firm conviction that this cannot continue. The ministry of the local church and the Gospel cannot continue to be hindered."

The loving pastor accuses Julie Anne and the others of harming children and wives, and even harming the testimony of Jesus Christ himself. Actually, Chuck, YOU are that man! The last statement above shows why Chuck and his men couldn't make the right call:  their religious zealotry made them think their lawsuit was required by God himself to stop Julie Anne from "hindering" the church and the Gospel. In the fog of their religious confusion, they thought they were doing the very will of God.

As I close, I can't help but go back to the statement made by Chuck's wife when interviewed by KPTV, staring right into the camera and saying of Julie Anne and her co-defendants (while Chuck had a Cheshire-cat grin, see left):

"The only thing worse than a vicious woman is a group of vicious women." Mrs. O'Neal

I guess to Chuck and friends, they now have discovered there IS one thing worse - in their twisted minds - than even a group of "vicious women" who are "hindering" the local church and the Gospel:

One judge who can rightly put an authoritarian pastor and his cultish church in their place.


Other sites posting articles on Julie Anne's tremendous victory, and some quotes:

Julie Anne's blog: Judge's Decision

Wartburg Watch: Julie Anne Smith Prevails Against Her Former Church
"There can be no doubt that the major news outlets will be reporting on this story, which has garnered tremendous attention.  I do hope that hyper-authoritarian pastors are paying attention…  First there was Tom Rich (on the East Coast); now Julie Anne Smith (on the West Coast).

Yep, from coast to coast judges are ruling in favor of parishioners who have the right to exercise their free speech.  It does appear that the internet is the modern day version of the Gutenberg Press which was a major contributing factor to the Reformation.
Bene Diction Blog: Beaverton Grace Bible Church Loses Court Case Against Blogger
"Some of the best coverage of this Beaverton Grace Bible Church bully suit has been by Tom Rich of FBC Jax Watchdog – another blogger who dared question his pastor and who also faced spiritual abuse and struggles in US courts."
 Previous Watchdog Articles on this Case:

Mother and Daughter Being Sued by Their Former Pastor - May 13, 2012

An Analysis of Chuck O'Neal's Press Release - May 17, 2012

Greater Love Hath No Pastor - June 1, 2012

Donate to the BGBC Legal Defense Fund - July 11, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Critique of the Creepy and Unbiblical Deacon Qualifications at an SBC Mega Church: "Lifting Up the Hands of the Pastor" and Other Such Nonsense

When I read the expectations for deacons at Bellevue Baptist Church, my creep meter red lines.

If Bellevue Baptist's deacons qualifications are typical of an SBC mega church, it seems to be a deacon nowadays you have to be wealthy (or poor and agree to be poorer), agree to do things that are absolutely not in the Bible, and you have to pledge your allegiance to a man. I've said it before: give the SBC another couple hundred years, and their hierarchy and devotion to professional religious men will be indistinguishable from the modern Roman Catholic Church.

What I read as the qualifications of a deacon are absolutely indistinguishable from what the standards were for a small SBC church when I was ordained as a deacon and served as the Vice Chair of deacons in the 1990s.

And these expectations are not just creepy, I believe they helped to create an environment where abuses - should they occur in the church - would be covered up and not fully disclosed to authorities or the congregation.

Here are the Bellevue Baptist Church deacon qualifications that peg my creep meter:

1. "The deacon would be expected to give a tithe (one-tenth) of his income for the work of Christ through the local church."   Darn. You have to either be wealthy enough to afford to fork over 1/10th of your income, or you have to agree to be irresponsible in managing your finances and give more than your family can afford for the privilege of rubbing elbows with the big boys at Bellevue. The New Testament standard is regular, generous giving - this could be 25% for some, 0.5% for others. Again, we see legalism making the gospel bad news for the poor who can't afford a tithe, very good news for the rich who could give more.

2. "The deacon is one who is to help create and preserve harmony in the church. He should be able to have and to maintain the reputation of keeping in confidence those things which should not be discussed openly. He should be wise and discreet. "  Huh?  Isn't this just common sense? Aren't mature adults in any sort of leadership expected to keep things in confidence which need to be in confidence? Why does this have to be stated as an expectation? I'll tell you why: because deacons at this church and others are expected to suppress any and all negative information that might harm the church or the pastor. This is a form of the "cant' talk rule" described by Johnson and Van Vonderan: "If you speak about the problem out loud, you are the problem...the truth is, when people talk about problems out loud they don't cause them, they simply expose them....the 'can't talk rule', however, blames the person who talks, and the ensuing punishments pressure questioners into silence." A deacon is to "create and preserve harmony" - that means they are to help silence troublemakers. Harmony doesn't need to be created or preserved - it is the natural outflow of a healthy organization.

3. "He should see that his duty is to lift up the hands of the Pastor..."  Why does a deacon need to "lift up the hands of the Pastor" (capital "P"). What on earth does that mean, anyhow, "lift up the hands"? Creepy language that means nothing but to set forth the idea that the Man of God is more important than anyone else, a "Moses" of sorts whose hands tire as he lifts them to stay the hand of God. If it means to assist him in certain duties, why not say "assist the pastor as needed in pastoral duties"? Are there any job descriptions out there talking about "lifting the hands" of your boss?

4.  "....and to work positively and with loyalty under the Pastor's leadership."  Yes, you must be "positive" and be "loyal".  I have yet to see a job description in the real world where an adult is told to be "positive" and "loyal" to a man or woman in the organization. This is the stuff cults are made of, friends. In ANY organization, your "loyalty" is not to people, or even to an organization. It would be to the goals and ideals of the organization, and a Pastor or anyone else who acts in opposition to those ideals deserves no loyalty from anyone. This is just another indication of the "can't talk rule" being in place at this church. If you ask questions, or become a voice of dissent on an issue, you are not "loyal", you are not "positive", you ARE the problem.

5. "He is to free the Pastor to do the work to which God has called the Pastor to do."   Why does the pastor need to be "freed" to do his work? How do we "free" him? What work does he need to be freed to do that he can't do unless the deacons "free" him to it? Should lay people free the deacons? This is an elevation of the position of "Pastor" (capital P) to a spiritual plane higher than everyone else.

6. "The deacon's family life should be an example. He should be the husband of one wife and must guide and lead his children and his own house well. Neither husband nor wife has been previously married."   So we have to eliminate anyone who has ever been married before. A remarried widower, for example, cannot serve. I've seen this ridiculous rule implemented and eliminate men who would be fine leaders -sorry, "servants" - in a church.

7.  "The very word "deacon" means servant. This does not demean or lower an individual. To the contrary Jesus said, 'And whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave' Service exalts."  This is funny. Apparently the men who might serve as a volunteer in the position of deacon have to be TOLD that being a deacon and serving is not demeaning. They have to be told that it actually will "exalt" them. Yes, serve as a deacon, and you will be exalted by your service. Do grown men need to be told this about serving in a volunteer capacity?

8. A deacon should not drink alcoholic beverages, use nicotine or other addictive substances, or participate in questionable amusements."  Not in the Bible- the verses they quote say a man shouldn't be addicted to wine, doesn't say anything about nicotine, and I'm not sure what "questionable amusements" might possibly be. Like "R" rated movies, playing the lottery? Maybe reading the Watchdog? I would say one of my "questionable amusements" is listening to a Steve Gaines sermon every now and then.

OK, let me wrap this up by making a couple of points:

No wonder so many mega churches handle instances of abuse so poorly - covering up cases of abuse, failing to properly report abuse to authorities, or shuttling a suspected abuser to the next church without alerting authorities. Look at the diminished pool of candidates from which they can choose their leaders who would wisely discern a course of action: candidates are all men, only married men - sorry, only married men who have been married once - only married men married once who happen to have decent children and who don't drink beer, wine, or whisky. From that restricted pool of leaders we now have to eliminate the poor slobs who can't fork over 10% of their income, who might have a glass of wine with their wife at dinner, and eliminate all those who aren't willing to keep secrets and pledge their loyalty to a "Pastor". Wow.

What large organization, what large corporation could function at maximum efficiency - could make wise decisions - if they restricted their managers to be selected from such a narrow pool of candidates?

Deacons at Bellevue will tell you that all of these qualifications come from scripture, from 1 Tim 1:3-10. But not really. These verses don't say anything about "tithing", and they don't say that you must not drink alcohol. I've been around SBC churches long enough to know that exceptions to these "biblical standards" are made if it is convenient - but there is ONE qualification that they don't bend on:  deacons must all have penises.

Eliminating women from serving as deacons or elders in most SBC churches eliminates them from possibly serving on a board of trustees - as the trustees are typically selected from the body of deacons. Although 1 Tim 3 is used as the basis for eliminating women from the position of deacon, this ignores the fact that there is evidence that women served the church in leadership positions in the New Testament. "Phoebe" served as a deacon in Romans 16:2, and "Junia" was described as "outstanding among the apostles" in Romans 16:7. And look at women leaders in the Old Testament. And about "Junia" in Romans 16:2: what your pastor won't tell you is the name "Junia" was changed to the masculine form "Junias" in the bible in the year 1100. Look it up.

It is no wonder that evangelical churches who subscribe to the unbiblical standard of male-only leadership have trouble handling scandal: the leaders are only once-married males who pledge their loyalty and 10% minimum of their income to their institution and Pastor....

...and who are capable of keeping secrets.