"...When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." Matt 9:36

"Do not rob the poor, because he is poor... for the Lord will take up their case and plunder those who plunder them." Proverbs 22:22-23

Thursday, January 31, 2008

WANTED: Courageous Seminary Students - Part 2 - Questions for Mac

Welcome to FBC Jax 2008 Pastor's Conference!!!

To our visitors: This blog arose from the blogosphere last September after members became increasingly disappointed in Mac Brunson's leadership at FBC Jax. The blog closed down about 4 weeks ago, but the Watchdog is back for a series of articles directed toward the attendees of the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference. We want to make sure that the SBC knows about the events that have transpired in the first two years of Mac's reign at FBC Jax.

Keeping up with the theme of questions to be asked by our visiting seminary students at the FBC Jacksonville Pastor's Conference, here are some for Mac Brunson....a few borrowed from the Anon poster in the previous thread.

When can you ask Mac these questions? If you're a seminary student, you can expect Mac to invite you to his "office suite" to show you the 20 foot high ceilings, massive book cases, personal library collection, etc. When you're there, you'll have a chance for some Q&A with Mac. Here's some possible questions:

1. Dr. Brunson, how much do you pay the speakers at this event? I only ask because the cost of this conference has skyrocketed from only $100 (inclusive of meals!) during Dr. Vines last time he hosted it in 2006, to $175 (exclusive of meals)...are we having to pay thousands and thousands of dollars to entice men to come in and speak to us lowly pastors who aren't worth their time unless they get thousands in their pocket? I wouldn't even dare ask this question, but when we see the cost going sky high we wonder - some of your church members tell us that the money does NOT go to underwrite the costs incurred by the FBC Jax church, so we just were wondering.

2. Dr. Brunson, I do love your office suite...but tell me...we understand you have your wife on staff, and son as well. Can you tell us what steps we should take as pastors to avoid the appearance of "nepotism"? Should we do as you and give our family members positions at the church without telling our congregations what their official job descriptions are? Should we be concerned that if we create positions for our children that this could create unrest and dissatisfaction among our long-term staff members? By the way, just what IS Trey's official job title at the church? We don't seem him on the church website, yet members tell me that you mention Trey regularly from the pulpit as though he has a very prominent staff position at the church.

3. About the office suite: why the rapid conversion of the Children's Building conference room to a pastor's office Suite? We're told it was converted before you ever arrived. Wouldn't it be more prudent for you to get your feet on the ground here and assess the current situation facilities-wise before spending tens of thousands of dollars on converting this space to your own personal use?

4. Some questions we have been mulling around in our heads and discussing with our fellow seminary students since we were here last year: when we were here for last year's conference, you made it a point to talk about how "change" is inevitible in our churches as we try to reach people, and that we will always be criticized for change...you even said that it wasn't the drunk or prostitutes that caused you grief but church members who complain about change...but now that we're here can you tell us: WHAT REALLY INNOVATIVE, GROUND-BREAKING, RISKY, ON THE EDGE CHANGES HAVE YOU IMPLEMENTED HERE AT FBC JAX SINCE ARRIVING TWO YEARS AGO? The only thing we see that has changed since you arrived is this lavish office suite you are so proud of, the long time staffers are gone, and you hired Jim Whitmire. Oh, you did change the start time of the services by a few minutes we noticed, and of course the pastors conference fees have doubled. But we see no contemporary service as most mega churches have to reach out to a younger generation...just what changes HAVE you implemented or tried to implement?

5. Another question from last year's conference: why on earth did you get up and high-five and hug Dr. Vines when he uttered the words during his sermon: "You don't pay me enough to be your preacher, brother"....were you saying that some of your flock just aren't worth the trouble, and that you're underpaid to have to put up with the recalcitrants? Now that we know how well you ARE paid (enough to live in a 6 bed, 4.5 bath million dollar house), and now that we know you WERE given a quarter of a million dollar piece of property when you were hired....well, it makes your antics on that night seem even more disgusting (OK, you might want to reword this one if you ask Mac).

6. We hear that you changed the bylaws of your church in a clandestine fashion, keeping the proposed changes under wraps in the library, only allowing members who would check them out and sign their names look at them, and you didn't allow any copies to get out. Maybe understandable, but what we are confused about is why your members are claiming you have not bothered to even one single time mention the bylaw changes to them - very odd since they were not at all minor changes - there's even an ugly rumor that you added a "discipline committee" in those bylaw changes and then preached in a threatening way about church discipline right afterwards. We're told you were even in the service when the bylaw changes were voted on, yet you never stood up to explain what your church was voting on. Is this true? We can hardly believe it. Is this the pattern of how we should operate in our church when we become pastor?

7. Is it really true that door-to-door evangelism is dead as you preached to your congregation to convince them that a school is needed at your church? Do churches really need to start a school in order to reach their communities?

8. Dr. Brunson, we read that you purchased a piece of land, valued at over a quarter of a million dollars, from one of the donors of your church for only $100 only two weeks after you arrived here at FBC Jacksonville in 2006. I didn't believe it at first, but this being the Internet age I saw the deed and property record on the City of Jacksonville website. Can you tell us, as seminary students and future pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention, is it ever wrong for a pastor to accept large gifts from one his congregants? If so, can you tell us perhaps what kind of gift, or what size of gift is OK, and what kind or size of gift is not OK? I'm not saying you did anything wrong in accepting YOUR gift of over a quarter of a million dollars, but what criteria should I apply when my wealthy church members might try to give me very large gifts?

9. Lastly, we know our time is short with you...about your house...is it a good testimony for a pastor to live in such a lavish dwelling like yours? A 1/2 acre, 5500 square foot, 6 bed, 4.5 bath house on a golf course in a gated community...I'm happy for you that God has blessed you with such a nice place, but should we be worried if we ever get a mega church gig that our community will be put-off by the use of "God's money"? Could a house ever be too big for a pastor? Especially when we become empty-nesters, to go and build such an oppulent home...well, we would be worried that this sends the wrong signal to our church and our community...especially if we have to ask them to "dig deep" for so many things the church is trying to do.

10. Sorry one more quickie: WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WHEN YOU HELD THE NIGHT TO SUPPORT ISRAEL IN YOUR CHURCH - were you ashamed of your church fellowship for not supporting that event after they found out that the funds raised were going to an Israeli hospital that performs abortions? When we are pastors, do you recommend us using our church facilities for non-Christian fund raisers? Is it true that you hardly explained this to your congregation, and only mentioned the event from the pulpit just days before the event, but never addressed the questions about the funds going to the Israel hospital where abortions are performed?

Thanks Dr. Brunson, for allowing us to ask you these questions...we know you don't answer anonymous emails, so we thought we'd ask them in person.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

WANTED: Courageous Seminary Students

At the FBC Jax Pastors Conference there will be many seminary students from the Baptist seminaries in attendance. Perhaps some of them will take advantage of their visit and instead of seeking out the autographs of the "heavies" like teenagers at a rock concert, will instead seek them out to ask them some very important questions. The Paige Pattersons, Jerry Vines, and Mac Brunsons of the Southern Baptist Convention are the ones that these future pastors and staff members now in seminary are looking up to as examples...and the events of the past year demand that these seminary students get answers to important questions.

I hope that some of the seminary students here will be courageous enough to ask some of the following questions...below are some questions that can be asked of Paige Patterson...tomorrow will be a list of questions to be asked of Mac Brunson when he gives you a tour of his oppulent office suite on the ground floor of our children's building, that was renovated before he ever showed up at the church to know if spending that money for a huge pastor's suite was a wise use of the space and money.

Questions for Paige Patterson

1. Why Dr. Patterson did you claim last February at one of your chapel services that Mac Brunson was being attacked by "recalcitrants" at his church ever since he arrived in Jacksonville, and that Mac "never had a honeymoon?" (click here to listen to the audio of Dr. Patternson's remarks). Were you aware when you uttered these words that church members had heaped on Mac riches and perks from day one? Were you aware that Mac bought a $300,000 piece of land from one of our donors for $100 and "love and affection" only two weeks here in Jacksonville? Were you aware that Mac stayed rent free at a multi-million dollar condo for a year while waiting to build his million dollar home on the free $300,000 land given to him by one of the church donors? Doesn't that make you feel silly for standing up and telling your seminary students that he has been "attacked" by his congregation?

2. Since you decided to paint those at FBC Jacksonville as "recalcitrants" who dared asked questions about Mac Brunson's actions, you must have looked into the facts and decided that everything at Jax was on the up and up before you would ask your students to pray for poor 'ole Mac being attacked by his congregation. Therefore we assume that you agree with Mac's actions and that any questions asked of the "recalcitrants" were baseless, and you would recommend your students to follow in Mac's footsteps when they enter the pastorship. Thus, do you encourage your seminary students to do as Mac, and recommend that they accept large gifts from donors of the church? If there is nothing wrong with Mac accepting the gift of land, is there ANY gift, of any kind or size, that would NOT be acceptable for a pastor to accept? If you were going to tell your students that Mac was being attacked by recalcitrants, why not tell them what the "attacks" were about? Why not tell them that Mac was being criticized for his land deal, for the nepotism of having wife and son on staff with no formal ministerial responsibilities?

3. Mac Brunson wants a school at FBC Jacksonville very badly. One of the reasons he is telling his church that they need to start a school, is that they can't reach their city without one. In fact, Mac said that door to door evangelism doesn't work anymore because "no one is ever at home anymore"(click here for this gem) . Since Mac is a graduate of SWBTS, is this what you teach now to your seminary students? Do churches need to start Christian schools for the very rich people in their community (with tuitions of $7000 and higher) in order to win their city for Christ? Since Mac is one of your "preacher boys" maybe you could tell us if you agree with him on this matter. When we graduate from SWBTS and take our first pastorate, should we be teaching our churches that the way to reach our community is with a Christian school because door-to-door evangelism doesn't work?

4. On the Gilyard matter: when Gilyard was at Criswell College and was first accused by the late Rev. E.K. Bailey of Concord church in Dallas of seducing 25 women at his church, did you do a complete investigation at that time? You must have because Criswell students who were there during this time report that you riled them up to support Darrell and oppose Bailey, so you must have done enough of an investigation to not believe Bailey's accusations. Was Gilyard to be believed over Rev. E.K. Bailey? Wouldn't it be interesting to hear from some Criswell students at the time who today feel that you betrayed them back in your Criswell College days by fooling them into supporting Gilyard against the allegations of Rev. E.K. Bailey? Hmmm...maybe we will hear from some of them very soon.

Coming tomorrow: Questions for Mac Brunson.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tough Questions for Paige and Jerry....

Watchdog is coming back with a few articles in advance of the 2008 First Baptist Jacksonville Pastor's Conference. These articles are geared toward the attendees of the conference.

This the first article of the series, is meant to draw attention to the Darrell Gilyard arrest, and the role played by Jerry Vines and Paige Patterson, two of the keynote speakers at the conference. I encourage all pastor's attending the conference to read this article by Christa Brown: Wanted: Courageous Baptist Pastors. Christa has some questions for the pastors attending the 2008 conference to consider asking Paige Patterson and Jerry Vines.

The next article on Tuesday will be some questions for attendees to ask Jerry Vine's successor at FBC Jax, Mac Brunson.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

OK...The FINAL Farewell from the Watchdog

Yes, I know that I said I was signing off, but in light of the numerous emails received in the last three days asking me why I was stopping the blog and encouraging me to continue, I thought I would share my last and closing thoughts on why I have quit blogging, and what my intentions were, and what my hopes are for the future of FBC Jax.

My intent in blogging about FBC Jax when I started in October was never to blog long term, and my intent was never to establish a cyber community for those who held my same views. I watched the first blog come and go in early 2007. As the heat was being turned up on Mac by the blog in February 2007 I watched in horror at the pastor's conference as our previous pastor Jerry Vines said that he doesn't get paid enough to pastor people who asked questions about preacher salaries, to which Mac Brunson hopped up and gave him a standing ovation and high five and hug - the message Mac sent to his congregation in that embarrassing scene was unmistakable. I think easily one of the low points of preaching in the FBC Jax pulpit as two preachers who were made millionaires at mega churches embraced each other in agreement about how they don't get paid enough to pastor some troublemakers who question their salaries, while humble, mostly poor or of modest means pastors and faithful FBC Jax members watched with dropped jaws at such a disgusting sight.

So in the fall of 2007 after I saw few changes in Mac toward the direction of humility and love of his congregation, and after Rodney left and rumors abound that Calvin was on his way out...I truly wanted to get the word out to as many of the faithful, trusting members of FBC Jax that I could about the antics of Mac Brunson during his first few years. Why did I feel the need to do this? Because so many godly people at our church that for years faithfully followed Vines and the Lindsays are now following Mac Brunson as though he is worthy of the same followship as Vines and Lindsay based on his POSITION as pastor...and its just not so. The love and trust bestowed on Vines and Lindsay as pastors was NOT based on them holding the position of "pastor", but was EARNED through years of hard laboring and faithful service to the Lord's work at FBC Jax. I saw Mac granted the same prestige and power as Vines and Lindsay, but then abusing that power right away through his decisions his first year and a half. I wanted as many church members as possible to know about: the land deal (here and here), the cars, taking time off for the book deals, the nepotism, the salary, the whining and lying to Paige Patterson about not getting a "honeymoon". I wanted them to know about the "Night for Israel" and how the money was going to an Israeli hospital where abortions were performed and how that was an abuse of his power to hold that in our sanctuary. I wanted to broadcast his off-the-cuff declaration on a Sunday night that he was going to discontinue "reward trips" for high schoolers and middle schoolers to see who would serve the Lord not just for rewards - which caught so many parents and high schoolers by surprise, as though the teenagers were freeloaders and only serving the Lord in the church to earn the rewards. I wanted people to know that while out of town he was bragging about giving so much to missions causing a budget shortfall and saying our finance committee lacked faith, yet at our church he was saying that we weren't giving enough causing the budget problems.

I thought that this was the end, that perhaps the blogging could stop. But then the antics continued. Mac then cranked up the idea on the school with the stated purpose of asking for a vote from the congregation in November. So I wanted to broadcast to church and to the SBC that Mac Brunson was telling his congregation that we needed a school to reach the people in Jax because door to door evangelism doesn't work anymore. I wanted to also let the church know who it was that he was bringing in to supposedly talk to us about a school in Jacksonville (Ed Gamble), and I correctly predicted that he would tell us nothing about a school in our city at our church but instead told us all how great Christian education is (which most people know already and didn't help in deciding if a school was the right move for our church).

Mac never did ask the congregation for a vote on his school as he said he would. Then Mac pulled what I consider the most arrogant move of all: changing the church bylaws without ever uttering a single word about the changes to his congregation - not even in the service when the vote was taken did Mac or his president of the trustees attempt to summarize the bylaw changes while asking for a vote. So I believed the church members had a right to know about the bylaw changes done right under their noses with not one single, solitary word from the pastor who supposedly loves them, while at the same time he began to stress the importance of church discipline in his sermons, at times in a very intimidating manner.

Now Mac is going to ask for a vote of the trustees he has nominated. And it will continue. This blog will rest, but the bloggers will be watching. If the antics continue, rest assured a new blog will begin very soon.

So what do I believe about Mac Brunson. I believe, in my own humble opinion that Mac has turned into an "opportunist"....he no longer acts as though he is a "called" preacher, again in my opinion. Called preachers don't seek fame and fortune and build wealth for their families at the expense of their church members. Called preachers don't keep their church members in the dark and clandestinely change the bylaws without a single word to their church. Called preachers don't use their sanctuary for a non-Christian event that might possibly confuse the people in their community of their need for Christ, just to appease some interests of influential deacons. I believe that he WILL have to give a public answer to the questions raised here - perhaps an influential lay leader will rise up and publicly demand an accounting (not likely) - perhaps one of our local news outlets will ask the tough questions and do a series of stories about Mac Brunson (more likely, especially the land deal and the house issue - those make for good news stories - preachers living high on the hog as we saw in the piece done by the Memphis TV station in December). So many questions for an inquiring news reporter: how did Mac get that land? Who donated it to him? Why did they donate it for "love and affection" if the pastor had been here 2 weeks? Who donates $300,000 to a man they know for two weeks? What would Senator Grassley's committee think of this? Did Mac pay taxes on this land, and would the IRS agree that its a "gift"? Did not Mac consider the ramifications of how this gift would be viewed by his new church and city if it became publicly known - if not why not and if so why did he take the gift? Did the search committee know of this gift, and was this gift used by one or more members of the search committee to entice the Brunsons to come, and if so, who ever heard of a preacher having to be enticed to come with the promise of a $300,000 piece of land on which to build a mansion? Why does Mac live in a 6 bedroom 4.5 bath house and how much must his salary be to afford such a lifestyle - and why would he need such a home as an empty nester - and why would people want to give to the ministry of FBC Jax if they know their pastor uses the money to live such a high lifestyle? How can he in good conscience ask the members to give sacrificially for all the new projects (school and church renovations) when he is earning such a huge salary with his wife and son on staff and living in a mansion? What does the average church member think of their pastor living in opulence as compared to their previous pastors?

All this being said, I still have a small glimmer of hope that Mac can turn it around. If enough heat is applied (as in emails and reduced giving) he might find it in his heart to address these many issues that are keeping people from embracing him as their pastor, and even acknowledge poor judgement in some matters and ask for forgiveness (which he would readily receive). But Mac seems to be very proud, and the probability is slim - but he also too must realize this is his last mega preaching gig. I don't think any other mega church would touch him with a 10 foot pole after his 2 years have been exposed - so if he feels like the ship is going down, and if he and his wife love the huge salary and mansion and millionaire lifestyle, he might be compelled to do the right thing and come clean as a last resort. If not and he leaves, his ties to Vines and Paige Patterson might land him a job at the IMB or as president of a seminary - but he better watch out because Vines won't be around too much longer and Paige Patterson's days as an influential SBC leader are numbered after the Klouda case this summer costs the SWBTS tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars.

So those are my closing thoughts...if Mac does something else absolutely outrageous I might fire the blog back up, but I doubt it. Certainly if I hear that the discipline committee is taking action against dissenters I will post that information here for everyone to read.

I'm glad that I've documented Mac's activities at FBC Jax his first two years; I only regret that such a blog didn't exist during his time at Dallas.

Take care everyone!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Farewell from the Watchdog...

Those of you looking for my Darrell Gilyard articles: They are still archived in the sections at the right. Click in the December 2007 section and you will see them there...
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As I look forward to 2008 I realize it is time to give up blogging. I have tried to shed some light on many of the important issues at our church that many people weren't aware of. Because of my own personal time constraints I feel it is time to close the site and stop blogging.

If any of the members of FBC Jax wish to start their own blog discussing these issues, email me and I'll consider putting a hyperlink to your blog here on this site. This site averages about 500 visits and over 1200 page views per day, with readership all over the country, so if someone feels inclined to pick up where I left off I will gladly consider posting your blog hyperlink here to direct traffic to your blog.

Thanks for stopping by and reading, and I hope some good will have come from this blog.

Best wishes for a healthy, prosperous 2008.

FBCJW

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

What Does a "Trustee" Do?

As has been chronicled on this blog numerous times, Mac Brunson made significant changes to the church bylaws in a business meeting held during a Wednesday night church service on November 28th, 2007. Never has Mac Brunson once explained what these changes were or why they were necessary. The church congregation still has no idea what the changes included, except we do know from those who did go to the library to check out the proposed changes that they included addition of a discipline committee, changes to expenditure approvals, and changes to how members of committees are nominated. One person who read the bylaws and posted here said that in his/her opinion the bylaw changes granted more power to the pastor in how the church is operated. We also know that the bylaw changes required that the church articles of incorporation be amended to increase the number of trustees; we know this because the president of the trustees asked for a vote on amending the articles of incorporation immediately after asking for the vote on the bylaws.

So now we come to the point where Mac Brunson is nominating the trustees and is asking us to vote on them. He presumably is nominating trustees to fill the increased number of trustees positions created from the November 28th meeting. But before Mac Brunson asks us to vote on these trustees, shouldn't he take the time to give us some basic information on what we are voting on? Here are some questions Mac, that you might be able to answer to your congregation...just take 2 or 3 minutes during the announcement period of a service:

1. Why did the bylaw changes require the number of trustees be increased?

2. If you're giving us biographical information on these men before we vote, then presumably they will have some role in church governance - can you please explain what this role will be that these men we're voting on will have? We don't feel comfortable being asked to vote for men for a position in the church when we're not told what their roles and responsibilities will be. If they have no roles and responsibilities and these are "figurehead" positions only, why the trouble of giving us biographical information on them?

3. Did the bylaw changes specify roles for the trustees, if so what are they? If the bylaws do not, what do YOU Mac Brunson, view their role as being? Are they "advisors"? Will you confer with them on important decisions?

4. What do the bylaws specify as the requirements for a man holding the position of trustee?

I personally don't feel comfortable voting for any of Mac's proposals (trustees, school, budget, etc) he brings to the church until he first takes a few minutes and explains the November 28th bylaw changes and why they were proposed and passed in the secretive manner they were. If he wants our trust, then he would be wise to reciprocate and trust us with important information about what he is doing and why he is doing it. I also would not vote into a position of trustee any man who served on the pastor search committee or who served as a trustee during the first two years of Mac Brunson's tenure as pastor.

Church, if Mac Brunson can't answer simple questions to his congregation about bylaw changes and trustee responsibilities before asking us to vote on them, I hope you will vote no on his trustee selections.