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, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving from the Watchdog - And Update on Ergun Caner Lawsuits

Happy Thanksgiving from the Watchdog! Hope all of my readers enjoy some turkey and stuffing and football, but don't overdo it! You'll regret it tomorrow!

I'm thankful today for the many faithful readers of this blog, now starting its 7th year. And I am very thankful for the many friends I've made along the way. And thankful for no door knocks on Thanksgiving Eve this year!

While I'm getting ready to feast on a turkey bone, I did want to give an important update on the Ergun Caner lawsuits that broke yesterday on Jason Smathers' blog here. As most of you know, earlier this year Ergun Caner did file a lawsuit against pastor Jason Smathers, and Liberty University grad Jonathan Autry for copyright infringement related to their posting of the most damning video of Ergun Caner speaking to the U.S. Marines in 2007.

It seems there is finally some movement in the case, as some court filings have been made by the defense. Please take time to read Jonathan Autry's pleading with the court. If you've followed the Ergun Caner case over the past three years, and wonder what kind of "Man of God" could mislead congregations for an entire decade, read this filing and things about Ergun Caner will make sense - in a sick sort of way. Read it. Carefully. It is disturbing. I have embedded the document below, or you can hyperlink to it here.

Jonathan and Jason have very different legal representation. Because of the significant first amendment and "Freedom of Information Act" implications of Smathers' case, he is being represented by Kel McClanahan of the National Security Counselors just outside of Washington, DC. Jonathan on the other hand, can't afford legal representation and his younger brother is defending him.

Kel McClanahan's brief to the court to support their motion to dismiss Caner's lawsuit is also interesting reading. It is one thing to read some blogger like myself popping off about Caner's deceptions. It is another thing altogether to read a long court filing written by a great legal mind, summarizing many of the events we have blogged about since the transformation of Butch Caner into Ergun Mehmet Giovonni Caner on 9/11 - it is carefully footnoted and detailed, arguing to the court the merit-less claims of Caner's copyright assertions. I have also embedded this court filing below as well.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Ten Commandments of When It May Be Time to Stop Giving Money to Your Mega Church

Readers - last month the Wartburg Watch posted an excellent article that included some basic rules or principles of when it is time for Christians to stop giving money to their local church. Their article was posted in the context of the Steven Furtick mansion story, but I am going to summarize these principles and add a few more of my own to make what I will call "The Ten Commandments of When It May Be Time to Stop Giving Money to Your Mega Church."

I know many of you right now are rolling your eyes. You're saying "There he goes again - telling people to not give to the church." No, that is not what I'm saying. If you are a member of a church, you SHOULD support it financially. However, if you're a member of a mega church and you see some of the following trends in YOUR church, perhaps God wants you to start using your money to make an impact in other areas. Perhaps God wants you to start channeling your resources into organizations that are more in line with the values of your Christian faith. Maybe God wants you to support your church at a lower financial commitment to free up money for you to give to other organizations.

Here is what the Dee and Deb at the Wartburg Watch said as they laid out their principles of when it is time to stop giving to your church:

"Are you, church contributor, vaguely discontented by what your money actually supports? Do you ever wonder if your money supports anything of eternal value? If you are a member of a church with a well paid pastor, and you see any of the following, maybe you should consider giving your money elsewhere."

Here we go:

1. Stop giving if you cannot find out your pastor's salary and compensation package.  I've been saying this for six years. Complete transparency is essential. Most mega churches go to great lengths to keep salaries of the top dog ministers a dark secret, and for good reason. They know that if the average church member knew of the compensation packages of the pastor and his family, they would be so disgusted that many would stop giving altogether.

2. Stop giving if your well paid pastor lives better than most of the congregationAs Dee and Deb said:  "Drive by his house. See what kind of car he drives. See what kind of vacation he takes. Think about it."  Of course, if he lives in a gated community it might be hard to drive by it, but you can look it up on Google maps and you can look it up on the property appraiser's website. Don't be ignorant on how well your Man of God lives using the money church members give for God's work.

3. Stop giving if your pastor regularly complains about how hard his job is. I am sick of hearing mega church pastors complain about how hard their job is, and making statements like "you should try having my job for a day"....and you see them living a jet-setting lifestyle, and operating their church as a family business. If he complains about his job publicly to the congregation, you can bet he is going to be lobbying the trustees privately for even more mega-money to make his ministry more tolerable.

4. Stop giving when your money goes to more buildings, expensive equipment, and well-off pastors. If you see the money going to expand the church into other locations when the current location is at a fraction of capacity - at the same time they are ruthlessly firing underpaid faithful ministers - it might be time to reconsider your financial commitment to your church. Remember, giving to your church is NOT giving to God. Your mega church is a 501(c)3 religious business - you might be closer giving to God by giving to the Red Cross than to your church if they are using the money unwisely.

5. Stop giving money if your well paid pastor writes books on church time and then gets all of the proceeds. Many mega church celebrity pastors get paid to prepare their sermons as the most important aspect of their job - then they turn around and turn these sermons into books for which the profits go straight to the pastor and not the church.

6. Stop giving if your well paid pastor is double and triple dipping. Is your pastor constantly traveling during the week to speak and conferences and retreats? Does he regularly take time off to lead trips to Israel or luxury cruises? Does your pastor use church resources like the church website and church media resources to promote trips and cruises "with the pastor"?

7. Stop giving if your pastor operates the church as a family business, regularly hiring and promoting family members. Nepotism is rampant in almost every mega church in Jacksonville. Nepotism hurts an organization in the long run - especially those periods when there are staff reductions and the faithful, qualified long-time staff members get the boot while the pastor's family members get a pass and maybe a promotion.

8. Stop giving if your church has developed a culture of silencing or shaming questioners.  If leadership of your church expects people to just be sheep and blindly follow and fund the pastor's "vision" - you might want to close your pocketbook. You might see regular church members telling other people on social media to not talk openly about the problems of the church, or accusing those discussing their concerns as spreading "gossip", "innuendo", and "vitriol". Ignore them. Discuss the issues on social media. And use your checkbook to speak - it is the loudest voice you have, and the one that the leadership of church is most concerned about.

9. Stop giving if your pastor routinely tells you that you are obligated to "tithe to the storehouse" to receive God's blessings and avoid God's cursings. This is a recent phenomena in evangelicalism - trying to fool Christians into thinking they must fork over at least 10% of all their income to redeem their money, that God will "rebuke the devourer" if you give 10%. The reality is the New Testament calls Christians to give generously and cheerfully. You are free to give according to your conscience - and you are free NOT to give to your church but to other causes that are consistent with your Christian beliefs.

10. Stop giving if your church is super-focused on expanding their territory into wealthy areas of the city, and under-focused on helping the poor and needy in your city. Most - not all - mega churches have almost zero interest in helping the poor in their cities, but are interested in making land purchases and renovating their auditoriums and tapping markets of the wealthy.

Maybe you have a number 11. or 12. that you would like to add - if so I want to hear from you. Maybe you are a member of a church that exhibits some of these traits and you want to discuss it here. Maybe these don't characterize your church and you want to tell us about it. Chime in.

I'll leave you with a quote from Dee and Deb:

"How about rescue missions that reach out to the unloved? There are ministries that look after persecuted people groups or victims of human trafficking. I bet each of you know quite a few. I know such ministries would be thrilled with your donation and you might feel like your have done something worthwhile and eternal. Your money would actually do more good with these groups than the purchase of one more Bose speaker for Sunday morning."

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Is Ergun Caner the Next President of the Brewton-Parker College in Mt. Vernon, GA?

Mark Lamprecht who blogs at the "Here I Blog" site, has posted an article this morning about the possibility of Dr. Ergun Caner being a candidate for the presidency of the Brewton-Parker College, a Georgia Baptist Convention-affiliated college located in Mount Vernon of rural southeast Georgia. Mark received a call from a concerned parent of a BP student about the Ergun Caner rumor, and Mark's blog post describes his unsuccessful attempts to get an answer from a BP media relations person yesterday regarding Caner.

Brewton-Parker has an enrollment of around 1000 students as of 2007, with an endowment of around $13 million. It does receive funding from both the SBC-affiliated Georgia Baptist Convention, and from the Georgia Baptist Foundation. As Bob Allen reported here, last year Brewton-Parker was placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Perhaps the trustees are looking at the success of Emir Caner at Truett-McConnell and think their own Caner might be a solution to their problems. But I find it hard to believe that a SACS-accredited school that is currently on SACS accreditation probation (with possible loss of accreditation in June 2014) would look to a man with Ergun Caner's past deceptions - most notably his gross "performance" at the 2007 training session of U.S. Marines that has led to Caner's copyright infringement lawsuit against Jason Smathers -  as the man to lead the institution. And I'm certain that the many female and minority students at Brewton-Parker would not appreciate Caner's past use of ethnic and racial stereotypes from the pulpit.

Mark Lemprecht and all Georgia Southern Baptists whose money helps support Brewton-Parker - are right to be upset and I hope they let the trustees at the college know of their concern over the possibility of an Ergun Caner presidency at Brewton-Parker.

If you would like to express your concerns in advance of any possible announcement on Caner, click here to get the email addresses of the school's administrators. I'm sure they would be happy to pass your concerns on to the Board of Trustees and the search committee.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Nothing Like the Pious to Tell You They Are Praying for You, the Lowly Tax Collectors and Critical Bloggers

"The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people - robbers, evildoers, adulterers - or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get. But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted." Luke 18:11-14
Daniel Darling, the "Vice President of Communications" of the SBC's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission posted an article this week entitled "Five People We Should Pray About, Even Though We Don't Want To".

Who are the "five people" that Daniel says "...are the sinners Christ most likely would have sought out to save, the people we should, at the very least, pray for"? Who are the worst of the sinners, that even professional Christians like Daniel don't want to stoop so low as to pray for them? Well, included in the list of five are "highly critical bloggers and commentators". Yours truly - and all you critical commentators - we're number 3 on their list.

This church actually took the article and made it one of their banner scrolls this week so their pious folk would know who the five worst sinners are and who are in need of their urgent prayers.

Why do "highly critical bloggers" need the prayers of the pious religious folks? Well, according to Daniel we are:

"..angry, self justified people"

"..people God wants to rescue from themselves..."

"..using the Internet for vile purposes..."

Well, Daniel, sorry to tell you, but most "highly critical bloggers" as you call them are not like the "ruthless Ninevites" as you make reference to. We are Christians, we are following God's will for our lives.We are daring to call out the wickedness in the modern church that has been overrun by professional religious men who have turned the church into a money-making bonanza, some making it a family business.

We don't need God to rescue us from ourselves - we are working hard to help people be rescued from lying pastors who twist scripture and use Jesus to build religious empires and enrich themselves.

So Daniel, thank you for your prayers for us lowly sinners that most Christians today by your own admission don't even think we're worth praying for. And those of you who have been called at your church to pray for the five people you don't want to pray for, thank you, but you might best use your prayers to pray for the pastors about whom we write - and pray for yourselves, that your own eyes will be opened.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

What it Looks Like When an SBC Mega Church Pastor Shakes Down His Congregation - Steve Gaines Strikes Again

Leave it to Steve Gaines to once again preach a whopper of a tithing sermon in this season of tithing madness.

His sermon on November 3rd, 2013 really was a shake down. Merriam-Webseter defines "shake down" as:

"The act of taking something (such as money) from someone by using threats or deception."

Gaines uses both threats AND deception in this sermon to try to convince his members they must give more to the church, else bad things might happen to them for "robbing God".

Gaines uses Malachi 3 to tell Christians at his church that the thought of "robbing God" scares him - with the obvious implication that those who don't tithe should be scared not to give 10% to his church. Watch the video.

I sure wish more Christians would wake up and see how terrible this is for a supposed "Man of God" to try to deceive people who really do believe the Bible, who really do look at him as a man sent to help them understand the Bible. He infers something bad will happen if they don't tithe, that they can't be intimate with God, and they can't fully worship God - unless they begin giving 10%. These preachers want to tell us that God loves us, and God forgives and forgets our sins - but that he also will work with "the devourer" to hurt us if we don't give 10% to the preacher's church. Which is it? They want us to believe God is some sort of mafia boss that collects on what he is owed. They make the gospel into "bad news".

Gaines then goes into great detail to brag about how HE has tithed every bit of his income his entire life, since he was cutting yards in Dyersburg, Tennessee as a little boy. If only the people would be as holy as Steve, they too could be as blessed as he is. Show us the tax returns, Steve.

And so ironic really: that of ALL the people in the building that morning who might possibly be "robbing God", it would be Steve himself. I mean if the people are giving money to the church, because it is God's money to do God's will - who is the one in the building who is taking most of it for himself to spend as he wishes? It is Steve himself who is taking hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to live a rather lavish lifestyle.

Lastly, Steve throws out this humdinger:

"If you can't trust God with 10% of your money, are you really going to tell me that you can you trust him with your soul?"

So you might not even be capable of being a Christian, of trusting God for salvation, unless you give 10%. That is spiritual abuse. It is a shake down.

People of Bellevue Baptist Church, I'm sorry that this preacher does this to you in your own church. I know that for several decades you had Adrian Rogers as your preacher, and now you have to put up with this nonsense.

But let me ask this question to you folks at Bellevue:

"If you can't trust Steve Gaines to be truthful regarding your finances, how can you trust him regarding matters of your soul?"

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Steven Furtick's Brother Goes into Attack Mode: Calls WCNC Reporter Stuart Watson a "Two-Bit Hack", "Coward", and "Half the Man" Furtick Is

Sad to watch this unfold, but Steven Furtick's brother Matt Furtick has gone on the offensive to defend his brother, using his Twitter account to make terrible accusations against WCNC reporter Stuart Watson.

Here is a sampling of the many bullying Tweet's Matt Furtick has posted since Stuart Watson's expose on the finances of Steven Furtick and Elevation Church began on October 22nd. By the way, WCNC aired the fourth part of Watson's pieces, exposing some of the contents of a confidential Elevation Church financial report.

Yes, attacking the manhood of Stuart Watson. How Christ-like of Brother Matt.

Just a tad bit aggressive, almost threatening. Matt, Stuart is an Emmy-award winning reporter, and I don't think your biased view of him carries much weight.

Oh yes, the old "coward" accusation. I heard that so often back in 2007 and 2008 - along with "man up". 

Steven Furtick's wife Holly sent a "Reply" Tweet to Matt's Oct 23 11:40 pm Tweet:

Again, that is Holly's October 24th reply to Matt's October 23rd Tweet calling Stuart Watson's report a "joke", a biased piece with "no factual information". After Holly seemed to publicly endorse Matt's characterizations, he then became more aggressive on successive days in attacking Stuart Watson on Twitter.

Matt Furtick describes himself as not being "affiliated" with Elevation, but says that he does attend when he is in town. Perhaps he helped Steven write the "Hey Haters" script?

I certainly understand Matt wanting to defend his brother, but this is just over the top to accuse a reputable reporter like Stuart Watson of being a "hack" and a "coward" - even questioning his manhood. 

But this is standard fare when a person dares to ask questions about the finances of a mega church and the pastor.

As you would expect from Stuart Watson - who by the way has won three Emmy's for his investigative reporting along with three Peabody awards - he is taking the high road. In Stuart's Twitter feed I see only one direct response to the bullying of Matt Furtick:

Stuart, thanks for showing the grace and kindness that Jesus would show to those who are attacking him. You are the Christ-like example. Not the pastor and his brother, sad to say.

And Steven and Holly - you might want to reign in bro. Matt. He's really going off the deep end on some of his Tweets.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Message from the Pew to the Pulpit: The Expressions of Disgust from Church Member When Lied to About Tithing

In the comment section of the Robert Morris shakedown article a few weeks ago,, a Watchdog commenter posted a very insightful comment. I have copied and pasted it below in its entirety.

Pastors, please read it. I don't endorse everything said, but this comment I think expresses the frustration that many of your church members have when you lie to them and try to convince them that they are some how obligated by God to give 10% minimum of their income to your church as a "first fruits" offering - before even paying for their bills or giving to the poor. They see your efforts as having nothing whatsoever to do with God, but instead as a means of raising funds.

Church members like this one are fed up with it, they see through your tactics, and they see the unbiblical and illogical nature of your argument.

And worst of all, you're driving people away from the faith that you claim God called you to preach about. You've turned the "Good News" into "Terrible News" in your quest to raise revenue for your organization.

So go ahead again this year, pastor, and try to shake down your church members, attempting to convince them that there is an obligation to give 10%, and that blessings await them at the 10% giving level, and that the devourer will eat it if they don't give it, so best to go ahead and just fork it over.

Or try something else this year, pastor. Admit to your congregation that tithing 10% is NOT required. Tell them that the "devourer" is not going to eat their resources. Tell them God is NOT waiting to poke holes in their purses unless they fork over 10%. And tell them to be generous, and to give to the church what they purpose in their heart to give. I think there is a verse that says something close to that.

"Anything I have that could be construed as a blessing from God, is not from any local 501(c)(3)church that I attended. My ability to earn wealth came from the degrees I earned from the University of Florida. They also are a non-profit that raises millions of funds. Yet they never threaten me with words like "curses", or saying I am not a Christian, or telling me "you would not have that job if it were not for us" or "this is where you went to school, you owe us support." No, they simply inform me of all the good they are doing and the needs they have, and I respond out of gratitude and understanding and logic and reason. They raise billions doing it this honest and upfront way!

Who do I owe my ability to earn income from more: my local church I went to once a week for an hour or two, or my university where I invested thousands of dollars and thousands of hours to earn a degree that gave me job skills to find employment?

And health? My family doctor, or local hospital, don't send me solicitations telling me I owe my health to them, even though logically they could, right? Why would the latest pastor down at the corner church claim I should give to his organization because my health is good. Might my primary care doctor, who actually examines me and prescribes medication and diagnosis based on his earned doctorate, have a greater claim? Of course.

And my children's "blessings" and future? Again, my investment and support in giving them the best education I could, and their years of hard work and academic achievement, isn't that what gives them hope and a future for financial "blessings" in the future? Or is it the pompous ass preacher giving a history lesson once a week that is deserving of monetary donation as a thank-you for my children's success?

Think about it! Who do you call when you are sick? Your doctor? Who do call when your power gets turned off? JEA [power company]. Where do you go when you need money for food, clothing and shelter? Your job.

The church offers history lessons, fables, and TAKES your time and money from your family. It never GIVES YOU any. But it sure does give your pastor, and his wife, and his son, and daughter-in-law lots and lots of money, health care, car, clothing, etc. So yeah, they do owe it all to the church. So they make tithing a priority and tell you to give to their family and business before you give any to your own, or to the poor and needy.

And finally, what about your parents. Was it not THEM, that loved you, sacrificed for you, and provided you with food, clothing, shelter, love, care, teachings on life, etc. Yet they did it not expecting you to give them even one half of one percent of your income for the rest of your life! Honor them with your first fruits if you feel compelled to say thank you to someone or to God. Not the local 501(c)(3) on the corner you just love to attend once a week. I mean, what parent would put that kind of guilt or logic on their children? But we are supposed to believe that is what God wants us to do? Really? Or is it just what the CEO running your church wants so he can have a bigger campus, more staff, or more money?

No wonder Christians are viewed as non-thinking, illogical, gullible human beings."