"...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

Saturday, July 30, 2011

How Social Media Has Shaped How Jim Smyrl Left FBC Jax, and Aided in His Church Plant and Communication of His Vision

It is quite interesting to watch through the Internet and social media the journey that Jim Smyrl has been on over the past month. All in the span of about 30 days Smyrl has left a very high-paying job at FBC Jax, put his home on the market to downsize his family, obtained employment as a banker, declared himself to be bivocational, and ready to start a new church plant tomorrow on the Westside of Jax, called: Loyal Heart Bible Church.

Spare me the story of how Francis Chan and David Platt are suffering for Jesus. They have nothing on Smyrl.

Twenty years ago if he would have fallen into disfavor with the heavies at FBC Jax, one minute he would be there then "poof" gone the next. When they wanted you gone, you were gone, like Alfredo in "Godfather II". But with the magic of technology, we've been able to watch what happened to Jim Smyrl almost real time, and best of all the church leaders couldn't control the message. They couldn't whisper in people's ears and shape how people viewed Jim. Instead, we were able to follow Jim real time, this blog got the word out early and often about what was happening. We saw an uglier side of Jim's former boss and son through their tweets about him, and we've been able to even discuss his departure and new church plant non-stop. He's been able to get the word out about his church plant at virtually no cost, and to tweet his transformed views of church and ministry.

Imagine - Jim didn't need Maurilio to fly in and design a website and LHBC marketing campaign, or make "Fresh" banners and stich fruit vendor aprons to be stretched across the stomachs of the ushers (ok, not everyone will get that - think - April 2006, "Fruit of the Spirit"...."Fresh").

I have been critical of Smyrl for some of his views and statements about Catholics, priests, Muslims, Obama voters, his exaggerations about a FBC Dallas commercial, and his criticism of Lifeway for selling "The Shack". He is a staunch storehouse tithing teacher - believes it is a sin from which one must repent for not giving 10% of their income to their church - he says so in this Theology Driven Ministry materials.

But when I read some of his Tweets, it seems that now that he has abruptly had to leave FBC Jax, he is beginning to see things differently...not so much theologically, but how he views ministry and church and service and lay people.

For example here is a sampling of his Tweets the past month:

By grace I'm officially a bivocational pastor. Banker/Preacher. Now most of LHBC's budget can go to make disciples of Jax and the nations. (7/15)

Jim has decided to be bivocational. I'm told that this is not just a short-term thing, like taking a job until he can get enough revenue to go back full time as Les Puryear planned earlier this year. No, Jim believes his calling is to be bivocational, and not to spend precious dollars on large salaries and buildings. If this ever catches on (won't be in my lifetime), Jim can say "I was bivo when bivo wasn't cool".

Then this tweet:

Learning the difference between ministry by man's effort and ministry by God's grace. Repenting of much self effort over past 23 yrs. (7/15)

Interesting. I hope that he shares his transformation with his congregation, and with other pastors.

Breaking the Smyrl family downsizing code: "I forgot I had this..." = throw it away. "I think I can still wear this..." = give it away (7/17)

and

Our house goes on the market tomoro. Another divinely appointed change for the Smyrl family. That He is sovereign mks all things joyous. (7/20)

Jim and his family are selling their home - apparently they are downsizing. Unheard of. I didn't think I'd ever see the day when a mega church pastor would actually take a pay cut, move to a smaller house, and not look for the next big gig with a land deal and beach condo. I hope you do well at your new job, Jim, and make the big bucks and buy a house larger than the one you had. Maybe you can even buy Mac's house when he moves and you're a VP at your bank.

One of my favorites:

RT @jimperdue: When someone starts retweeting all the great stuff other people say about them on twitter... #AutomaticUnfollow (7/18)

I assume that is a reference to Mac's habit of retweeting all the nice things others say about him. Kinda creepy.

And this one:

I've lived in the cocoon of church ministry for 23 yrs. Monday I enter the real world. Market place ministry. Nervous...trusting God. (7/22)

Jim is realizing that things in the church are pretty cush; that all the things pastors complain about like anonymous emails, complaining church members, and egads, having to speak 2 or 3 times in a WEEK...are all minor inconveniences. He is now in the real world where the church members he's been preaching to for 23 years spend the overwhelming majority of their waking hours.

Another classic from Smyrl as he gets ready for his first day on the job in corporate America:

I step into corporate America tomoro. The place where a PhD in Homiletics is as valuable as a grain of sand in Egypt. (7/24)

Yep. He realizes now that at work, he is not "God's man". His coworkers, and his customers, and his bosses, don't give a hoot about his Ph.D. in preaching as it has no practical relevance to the banking industry. He is not "Doctor Smyrl", he is "Jim". His bosses don't care what he thinks about whether Hebrews was written by Paul or James or Luke. His critics will not be recalcitrants, they will be customers he must serve. His bosses will want results. He may even get anonymous feedback from within his company on whether he does his job well, and he won't be able to spit on them and throw them in the trash can as Jerry Vines said he does. They will measure his performance and productivity. Jim now lives where the hardworking church members work, the ones that paid his salary for the last 23 years.

In 23 yrs I never considered when ppl w/ non-church jobs went to Dr or had car worked on. Now I know why ppl dont like Sat church events. #8-5 (7/26)

Yes, welcome to our world, Jim. But it is not bad. It is hard work, but it is good work. You are now a contributing member to our economy. You are not living solely off the nickels of people giving their money to God. You will pay full taxes on your income, and you get no housing allowance.

Good luck to you, Jim, and to those who are brave enough to leave their comfort zone known as First Baptist Church of Jacksonville to join you at LHBC. I think they will find it incredibly refreshing to be away from what is going on these days at First Baptist Jax. Sometimes we don't know the tyranny under which we exist and tolerate until we remove ourselves, or are removed, and go elsewhere.

I hope your experience at FBC Jax will make you more humble, more appreciative of hard-working lay people, and that you will share your experience and what you learned with as wide an audience as possible to continue to make a difference.

We'll be following your church's progress. And maybe I'll pop in some Sunday to say hi.

Friday, July 29, 2011

I Thought I Had Seen it All....Then I Saw James Merritt, former SBC President, Pushing a Pyramid Scheme from His Church Platform


"God does value people, and God does value souls, and so does Paul Orberson (founder of FHTMC), and so do I...but my prayer is, that we would all honor Jesus Christ in this business. And we would help others find hope, provide for their families, and enjoy the American way of doing business while we're in the process....and by the grace of God and with His help, may God use us in this business to bring hope to other hurting people and to bring glory to the One who made it all." James Merritt on FHTMC
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I thought I had seen it all. I thought it couldn't get any worse.

Then today I saw a video of James Merritt, mega church pastor and former Southern Baptist president giving a 10 minute testimony pushing the "Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing" (FHTM) pyramid scheme.

Where was the video of Merritt pushing this scheme filmed? At a conference, a convention perhaps?

No, it was in Merritt's church auditorium, at Cross Pointe Church in Duluth, Georgia.

Yes, a pastor in his church, a tax-exempt house of worship, speaking at a seminar in his church to encourage people to be involved in a pyramid scheme that is currently being investigated by the attorneys general of at least four states states including North North Carolina and Montana. USA today has an article about FHTMC here, and a Louisville news station did an investigation here.

As you'll read the story, you'll see how religion is often used to push this scheme.

From the Louisville news station report:
"The pitches promise fast cash with help from a higher power.

Kevin Mullens, a Pentecostal pastor out of Crawford, FL delivers his recorded speech inside a church.

He encourages other pastors in the audience to get involved by signing up members of their congregations.

'The Lord wanted you to be here today,' he says during a recruiting session under a cross. 'Can't survive. Can't pay your bills and all of the sudden, the Lord opened a door.' "

The Lord opened a door, says Pastor Mullens. No, the pastor is opening your pocketbook.

I'm not surprised at all that a mega church pastor would use his position and his church to market a pyramid scheme.

It is how the game works in mega churches. The pastors use their position, their power, and the trust of the congregation to sell them their books, to get them to travel with them overseas. They will even use their church resources to the do the selling. They market their Holy Land trip and vacations on church websites. They'll mention their Holy Land trip during sermons. They'll take their church video production crews with them to film the trip. And now we see Merritt breaking new ground to push multi-level marketing schemes that are under investigation for possible criminal activity.

But I'm not surprised, really. Merritt was one of the 41 SBC leaders who signed a letter affirming the integrity of Bob Reccord at NAMB, as reported in Mary Branson's book "Spending God's Money" - despite the extravagance and misuse of NAMB funds under Reccord's leadership.

Merritt was the keynote speaker at the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference just a few months ago, preaching the final sermon on Tuesday evening. Oddly enough, his sermon was about the danger of criticizing pastors (surprise, surprise). Just before Merritt got up to preach Mac and the Israeli Commissioner of Tourism gave a sales pitch for pastors to bring their congregations to Israel. Merritt must have had to bite his tongue to not put in a good word for FHTMC with the promotion-fest in full swing that night!

This is what I have been warning lay people about.

It started back at the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference in 2007, when they started selling "promotions packages", allowing people to actually buy stage time to push their products.

What Merritt did at his church, now, is just a logical extension of this nonsense at FBC Jax Pastor's Conference as seen in the graphic below listing what someone can buy for $12,500. Keep in mind, this is within the walls of the church, not at some leased convention center.

But we better not criticize Merritt too harshly. You see, he is a "man of God", and he warned all the lay people at the FBC Jax Pastor's Conference just how dangerous it is to criticize the "man of God" in your church:

"I want to talk to all the lay people here tonight. You better be careful when it comes to your pastor and the 'man of God' in your church what you say and what you write. I'm here to tell you tonight...lives can be destroyed. Ministries can be ruined. Pastors can be absolutely devastated over just one word that is wrong."

Well, Merritt should be careful what multi-level marketing schemes he chooses to market in his church. Pushing the wrong product - those that might be ponzi-schemes - under the guise of pious religion can be absolutely devastating to the financial well-being of unsuspecting church goers.
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H/T: Tim Rogers and Bart Barber

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Re-Writing History - Attempts to Get Rid of the Truth on the Ergun Caner Wikipedia Biography Page

Currently there is an "edit war" taking place on the Ergun Caner Wikipedia page.

A person editing as "dseppling" is trying to clean up the Ergun Caner biography, while another editor "MosesModel" is trying to expand it to include the important events of the past couple of years leading to Caner's departure at Liberty University.

Currently Wikipedia has frozen the Ergun Caner Wikipedia bio page with the latest MosesModel version, until at least July 31, 2011. I do not know how these editing disputes are ultimately resolved, so what ultimately comes of this remains to be seen.

Click here to go to the Ergun Caner Wikipedia page. In the upper right hand corner, you will see a hyperlink for "View History" and you will be able to see a blow by blow edit list, with time and date stamps of the edits made to the Caner biography.

What are the paragraphs that seem to be in dispute? Here are the ones that have been wiped by the "dseppling" editor:
".....He ignited controversy largely due to the criticism and scrutiny of "an unusual alliance of Muslim and Christian bloggers"[6] which found errors of various kinds in Caner's lectures and books, even in his biography;[10] though he had claimed to have been raised as a teenager in Turkey to become a Muslim extremist and only immigrated to the US in 1978. It was during these years that he claimed to have attended a Muslim extremist training center in Beirut. However, court records show that he had actually emigrated to the United States in 1969 at age 3.[6]

"On April 25, 2005, he conducted two training sessions for the United States Marines in New River, North Carolina. During these sessions he was introduced as having moved to the United States from Turkey at the age of 14. He claimed that he did not know anything about America until he came to the country at age 14. He told the marines that he did not learn English until after age 14. He said he watched American television in Turkey, but he had to watch it with Turkish captions.[15] He claimed that he had been educated (before coming to America) in madrassas in both Instanbul, Turky and Cairo, Egypt.[16] The unedited videos of these sessions were obtained by a Freedom of Information Request in August, 2010.[17]

"Moreover, in a statement released on his own website and reproduced by the Southern Baptist Convention, Caner admitted, in February 2010, that he had actually been born in Sweden, and that possible errors in his "pronunciation of Arabic" as he's from a Turkish background and other matters were not intended to mislead but were bound to happen in two decades of ministry and hundreds of sermons.[18] The Associated Baptist Press reported in May 2010 that Liberty University backed Caner after having investigated the allegations of untruths,[19] but a few days later the university announced that it would continue investigating.[20] "Because of "factual statements that are self-contradictory", he was forced to step down from his position as dean in June 2010, though he was retained as a professor.[6]"

"September 24, 2010, Ergun Caner was the keynote speaker for the Twin City’s 12th Annual Community Prayer Breakfast in Bristol, VA. When interviewed about the controversy, the chairman of the local prayer breakfast committee said that members were aware of the controversy, but the invitation had been issued before the controversy became apparent. He also noted that the Community Prayer Break
fast does not delve into the backgrounds of their motivation/inspiration speakers. [21] At the meeting, Caner claimed that he and his brother saw the controversy coming for years. The bloggers were simply "frustrated people in their basements.” He claimed that it would take more than edited videos to take him down. All of his false statements could be explained by the fact that he has more than 200 hours of combined sermons which would yield random misstatements.[22]"
Nothing false in those paragraphs. If you go to the webpage you can follow the citations to their sources, and see that the above are all properly sourced.

So why is a "dseppling" trying to wipe these off? Who is "dseppling", anyways?

It could be anybody, but there is a David Eppling who hails from Jacksonville, Florida, who is currently on staff at the Liberty University School of Law. He was brought in to be Caner's "Chief of Staff" at Liberty Theological Seminary. Prior to that he was a middle school dean in Jacksonville. David Eppling's brother, Chris Eppling, was the former high school pastor at FBC Jacksonville, before leaving last year to work for Emir Caner at Truett McConnell as the Vice President of Student Services and Athletic Director.

The first edit made by "dseppling" contains a statement that he is the "Executive Vice President of Ergun Caner Ministries".

So someone tells Brookwood Church they can't podcast Caner's sermons he preached at their church this month. Then a "dseppling" who says he is the EVP of Ergun Caner Ministries tries to wipe the Caner Wikipedia page free of any references to Caner's deceptions.

What is next?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Christian, You Have Been Released from Servitude to God - Part 2


"You and I are released from servitude TO God. In other words I rest from my efforts to produce for God...because I have been released from my servitude to God....'I thought when I became a Christian I became a servant OF God.' No, No....you became a SON of God" Wade Burleson
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In part 2 of our look at Wade Burleson's January 2, 2011 sermon, we see above Wade tell us that we have been saved and been made sons and daughters of God, and we are not slaves or servants to God. Our debt has been paid and we can rest.

In Part 3, we will look at the concept of a "bond slave", and in Part 4 Wade explains his view on the tithing doctrine as an example of how Christians have been released from having to perform FOR God. What Wade says in Part 4 is so simple yet profound, and something that you just won't hear in most pulpits regarding the truth on Christian stewardship.

Stay tuned....
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Part 1: "Christian, Jesus is Your Jubilee, and You Can Rest" - July 21, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

$49.00 a Head: Bellevue Baptist Calculates the Per Head, Per Worship Service Cost

"Nickels and Noses" - that is what mega churches need to fund their bloated budgets and pay their mega salaries.

And at Bellevue Baptist Church, for each nose that walks in the door on Sunday mornings, apparently they need 980 nickels to fund the operation.

And they put that "fast fact" in their bulletin a few Sundays ago, as you see above. $49 each person, every Sunday to operate, or 980 nickels per nose.

That is just plain weird, to even think in those terms - of how much money they need from each person who comes for worship. You can tell quite a bit about an organization by what metrics are important to them. What they calculate, what they measure, tells something about what they value. Bellevue wants you to come, but they really like the money you bring with you, and they hope they can get at least $49 for every hiney in the pew.

It is no wonder that a church whose pastor beats the sheep over their giving, is thinking in terms of how much money they need per head each Sunday. Bellevue pastor Steve Gaines consistently teaches that a Christian must fork over 10% of their gross income each week else they and their money are under a curse of God. He even tells them to not give 10% of your gross income means that everything you own is stolen goods. And he tells them they dare not designate how it is spent, that to be obedient to God Almighty they must give their 10% undesignated.

The reference to $49 per head reminded me of the "Pie Charts and Giving Units" article I wrote back in September 2008, criticizing Mac Brunson's use of the words "giving units" to refer to his members (in fact it was the last article I posted before John Blount asked FBC Jax deacon and discipline committee member Hinson to open up a criminal investigation into this blog). Brunson complained that if the "5000 giving units" of the church would tithe on their average $50,000 salary, the church could rake in $25 million instead of the paltry $15 million they have to scrape by with. One of the funnier moments of the lawsuit depositions last summer is when my attorney was deposing FBC administrator John Blount, Blount admitted that after that article was published, the church decided not to refer anymore to people in the church as "giving units".

But maybe Bellevue is on to something. Perhaps it is not too much longer before mega churches start charging admission at the door. Perhaps Bellevue can issue a bar-coded bracelet for all tithing giving units that can be scanned by the ushers at the door of the sanctuary.

If you're not a tither and thus a robber and a freeloader, you have to pay your $49 at the door, else go home and watch it on the Internet.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Shelly Baumgarner-Norman Announces Her Departure from FBC Jax as Children's Director

On Sunday July 24, 2011, long-time FBC Jax Director of Children's Ministry, Shelly Baumgarner-Norman announced to her department that she is stepping down from her position. Next Sunday, July 31st, is her last as FBC Jax Children's Director.

She will be leaving to work with her husband in his local business here in Jacksonville.

This leaves two Director or higher vacancies at FBC Jax - Jim Smyrl announced on July 6th he was leaving FBC Jax, and now Shelly is leaving effective July 31st. Members tell me that no plans have been announced yet for a going away party.

Shelly was hired by Homer Lindsay, Jr. back in 1994 or 1995, right out of seminary as I recall. All three of my kids came up through the children's ministry while she was there, and without a doubt Shelly was loved by all. She always held a high standard for ministry - teaching kids to love Jesus, memorize scripture, and to be good citizens. I also recall back in the late 90's when AWANA was implemented at FBC Jax on Sunday nights, she was the minister who led that effort and it was a huge success.

I served one year as a 4th grade "table teacher", and my wife served for many years in the children's ministry. In my one year of service I was absolutely amazed at the dedication of the volunteers working under her that ministered to young children and their families. Shelly and her workers at FBC Jax proved that what makes effective ministry is not fancy buildings or programs or bells and whistles - it is people motivated by love to minister to other people that makes a successful ministry.

Best wishes to Shelly and Ben as she embarks on a new phase of her life.

And I'm sure many parents would join me and say a great big "Thank you Ms. Shelly!!" for the positive impact your ministry had on the life of our children!!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"It Has Been Requested that We Not Podcast Ergun Caner's Messages" Says Brookwood Church in North Carolina

As I blogged on June 30, 2011, Ergun Caner is still stretching the truth about himself and his family from the pulpit - as evidenced by his sermon delivered on June 26, 2011 at Brookwood Church in Burlington, NC.

The audio of that sermon was posted for maybe 4 or 5 days on Brookwood's podcast page before it disappeared.

Since that sermon, Caner preached one other time, possibly two times at Brookwood, and those sermons were not posted on the church's podcast.

Then, in their Sunday July 17, 2011 church bulletin, they gave the reason, as shown in the graphic above:

"We apologize, but it has been requested that we not podcast Dr. Caner's messages."

At least they gave an explanation: someone requested they not be podcast, and they obliged.

I wonder who would make such a request?

And why not podcast his sermons?

Is he afraid to have light shown on his words?

I don't know of any preacher who would preach the gospel and actually request that his sermon NOT be put on the Internet. Even the big name preachers who came in to FBC Jax for the pastor's conference - Platt, Mohler, Hunt, Vines, Merritt - have their full sermon videos posted on the FBC Jax Vimeo site here.

So why is Caner so special? Wouldn't he WANT his sermons broadcast so people can see that he truly has changed his ways? Wouldn't he want the gospel proclaimed in his message to go forth?

Unless.....well, we get the picture.

Final thought: with Ergun Caner's history of telling fibs in the pulpit which allowed him to build a huge following in SBC circles for nearly a decade, why should we believe that he has changed his ways unless he is willing to give his sermons the widest circulation possible? And now with his apparent desire to not have all of his sermons broadcast on the Internet, why would anyone want to grant him access to the ears and minds of young people at a retreat where there will be no cameras or recordings?

Won't you wonder what stories he is telling your kids?

Or does the truth just not matter, as long as everyone has a great time and Caner gives a great performance?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Christian, Jesus is Your Jubilee, and You Can Rest - Part 1



"You will have preachers tell you that this year should be the time that you commit more TO God, that you promise to do more FOR God, that you work the fields DOUBLE. And what the preachers will say to you is 'God will be very pleased with you if you do that.' Do you not see that they have missed the Christian message?"
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Readers - over the next several days I want to share with you several excerpts from a sermon preached by Wade Burleson the first Sunday of January 2011. The short 2-minute video above is the first of about 4 clips I will show here on the blog.

On this blog we have looked at a number of mega church pastors over the past year or so that are really beating up the sheep during these tough economic times. Most of these mega church pastors are models for other pastors, their methods are emulated by other pastors who look up to them. These pastors load rules and regulations on the backs of their people. They use tactics of scare and guilt and shame, even ridicule and mocking, to get their sheep to bend to their will in the matters of service and financial contributions.

So it is time to take a step back and look at how simple the gospel really is that these men have complicated, and outright misrepresented.

In this brief sermon by Wade he explains how when you come to Christ, you can REST in your efforts to produce for God. You don't have to produce FOR God. You are not a slave to God. You are a "son" or "daughter" of God, and you can rest. When it comes to giving - you give generously as the spirit leads you. That is it. No need to have a man scare you, or pronounce curses on you and your family, or tell you that God collects it anyways through calamity.

The truth is we are free in Christ. Christ is our "Jubilee" as Wade preaches. Christians under the New Covenant are free, and are led by the Spirit. While Pastors use the Bible to create a holy sense of duty that Christians have to perform for God - and their pastor - to receive the blessings and favor of God, the truth is we can rest from our efforts to produce for God. Pastors are trying to say you "owe" God a tithe, that you have a debt that MUST be paid, else he will collect it by force and withhold blessings.

People, Jesus paid that debt, no matter how much the pastors point and stomp and yell to convince you otherwise.

I know many of those of you who regularly read this blog have endured much over the past few years from preachers who have spiritually beat you up and raked you over the coals. Some of you have had to leave your church, others have dealt with the conflict of leaving your church vs. staying and waiting. You feel tired and abused. You've had the bible used to beat you up over the head - that you aren't giving enough, you aren't serving enough, you're not faithful enough and that you will pay a price for your slackness. You've had pastors question your salvation, you men have had pastors question your manhood and your commitment to the Lord. You've given all you can but you've been made to feel it isn't enough, that still you can't enjoy the full blessings of God until you get to a certain level of giving. You've been yelled at, pointed at, lied to, and even mocked by the man in the pulpit.

And although I do focus on the mega churches on this blog because of their wide audience and influence of other ministers - these same antics happen in smaller churches. I know of one in particular in Jacksonville that is going through some upheaval and a church split over these same issues. It is so sad.

So enjoy these excerpts over the next several days from Wade Burleson. You will find them refreshing as you see a preacher who speaks the truth to the sheep about their position in Christ. He speaks the truth that so many pastors are afraid to preach these days, for fear that they won't get the results they need from their flock to keep the family business going.

If you want to see Wade's sermon in its entirety, go to his church's website here, click on the "Watch Live" button in the upper right hand corner, register for a login account, then go to his January 2, 2011 sermon entitled "Your Year of Jubilee".

Enjoy....more to come.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ergun Caner at Ronnie Floyd's Mega Church: I Pay No Attention to the "Flamers" and "Haters" on the Internet Who Attack Me

"You have haters and so do I, we live with them....there are people who on Facebook who make it their living to be flamers and they attack me. I've got people who make a good living attacking me...don't pay attention to those who hate you, this tiny little cadre of people who don't like you. Don't obsess about the people who just live their lives bitterly - they're failures of their own right and that's why they don't like you."
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Ergun Caner had a pretty high profile, Southern Baptist mega church preaching gig this past weekend at Ronnie Floyd's Cross Church. While for years he rode the SBC gravy train speaking circuit telling lies about his past, now he is back on the SBC mega church circuit spinning what happened to him last year.

And Sunday he used Floyd's church to once again take a shot at his detractors, and to paint himself as the victim of Internet hate, never bothering to mention his decade of deceit perpetrated in pulpits after 9/11. This is basically the same statement he made last year after being let go by Liberty when he referred to bloggers as "frustrated people in their basement".

What makes his comment so ridiculous, and actually quite sad, is that it came right after one of the points of his sermon where he says "your scars tell your story". Caner called on Ronnie Floyd's church members to be transparent about the failures and the difficulties in their lives - their "scars" - because God could use them to help someone else heal from their wounds if they would only tell their story.

That is a great message, but can't Caner see how hypocritical it is to preach that when he himself doesn't live by it? Why can't he tell people the truth of what happened to him last year, and what caused the pain he went through as his lies told in pulpits were exposed on the Internet causing him to lose his job and suffer embarrassment? Why must he instead turn that story of his "scars", into a complaint about "haters"?

On a positive note, Caner showed in the sermon and in an interview filmed with Floyd's son Saturday, that he is able to tone down the rhetoric about his past, but still has a way to go. No mentions of himself as a towel-head, or about being in Islamic Youth Jihad, or growing up watching American TV in Istanbul, or the many Muslim debates he has spoken at, or the other fibs he told SBC congregations for so long.

But he still insists on introducing himself as "Turkish, immigrant, Yankee" - that is his standard opening line to his audiences. But newsflash: Caner is at best half-Turkish, never lived there; technically he was an "immigrant" as he came here when he was two, but he is not a Yankee. He still calls his kids "half breeds".

And Caner seriously needs to take some time and develop new material. The sermon he preached Sunday was the same sermon he has preached over and over again for two years at various venues. He preached that sermon in 2009 at FBC Jax, if I remember correctly. And the same jokes about his family, marital strife, Facebook, food, etc. are getting old.

If Caner is going to keep speaking at Southern Baptist churches and not apologize for his decade of deceit, the least he can do is stop referring to himself as a victim of "haters". The people who have called for Caner to apologize and to repent don't hate him.

Caner is probably just warming up for his gig with the FBC Jax youth at their middle school and high school camp at the beginning of August. If the congregation at Floyd's church are getting statements about his Internet "haters", one can only imagine what Caner will come up with when the cameras are not rolling and his audience is hundreds of gullible teenagers.
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Click here to go to the Cross Church web page where you can watch Caner's 7/18/11 sermon, and his interview with Nick Floyd.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pastor and Israeli Government Official Hawking Holy Land Trips at FBC Jax 2011 Pastor's Conference



"On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts." Mark 11:15-16
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I have blogged many times here about the disgrace of pastors using their church's resources to market their special trips to the Holy Land, or cruises down the Danube or on the Mediterranean. I called for pastors to cease the trips for a couple of years during these tough economic times.

But it is full steam ahead - pastors are still using their church resources and their celebrity status to market these trips to their worshipers. Some pastors benefit financially as they are incented by the travel company based on volume. Some take advantage of free introductory trips to Israel so long as they promise to bring 15 or more of their church members to Israel within a year. Some pastors will take their church media personnel and equipment to videotape the trip for future marketing, showing the plebe back home what they missed.

Apparently one of the sponsors of the 2011 FBC Jax Pastor's Conference was the Israel Ministry of Tourism - an agency of the Israeli government according to their website. Their Commissioner for Tourism, Haim Gutin (man on the right in photo), was given the microphone by Mac on the eve of the final night of the conference before James Merritt preached, to tell the pastors that they all need to lead groups to Israel to walk where Jesus walked. Here is part of Haim's message:
"How many of you have been in Israel [show of hands]. Quite a few. But not enough, not enough....Israel, the holy land, I know this land is dear to you as it is dear to me. And I know that you love the land as I love my land. But in order to show your love, you have to be there, to walk where Jesus walked, to walk in his footsteps...but to come every few years to Israel is to show to the people of Israel that we are the best friends. Israel...is the place where Jesus was born and ministered."
This is an example of why eventually the tax exempt status of churches will someday be a thing of the past. Consider what is going on here: FBC Jax sells tickets to their pastor's conference to visiting pastors. Then, they also sell "promotions packages" at their conferences that allows an organization to purchase platform time within the house of worship. The state of Israel buys one of these packages, and flies in their commissioner of tourism - who presumably does not share the same faith as the pastors - to tell them they must come with their church members to "walk where Jesus walked" as an act of love toward Israel.

More from Haim:
"About 700,000 tourists came from the United States [last year]. It's a big number. And I would like that this number be by the end of this year 1 million tourists from the United States, and I need your help. So please, stand up, stand up. Feel free, stand up. And let's pledge together: Next Year in Jerusalem! Thank you!"
Yes, pastors, FBC Jax sold access to your eyes and ears to the state of Israel, so their minister of tourism could pander to you and get you to pledge to bring your sheep over to walk where Jesus walked.

And if that wasn't cheesy enough, a representative of the Land of Promise Foundation (man on the left in picture above) was on hand to tell the pastors how their churches can do a "fund raiser" to plant trees in Israel - and he quoted scripture to explain how people will be blessed if they plant a tree in the Holy Land. The Land of Promise Foundation raises money for trees, fire prevention, and helping alleviate the water crisis in Israel. How wonderful that FBC Jax is on the cutting edge of ministry, doing their part to raise funds to alleviate the tree and water crisis in Israel.

At least during the Israeli fund raiser of 2007 hosted by the Souds, the funds were supposedly being raised for an Israeli hospital.

Now First Baptist is in the business of hawking Israeli vacations and trees for the Holy Land.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Smyrl's Meeting Packs the Room: Maybe 100 People; Lays Forth a "Radical" Plan for New Church on the Westside of Jax

I would say that Jim Smyrl's meeting tonight was a huge success. His new church will begin meeting on July 31st at Crystal Springs Elementary on the Westside of Jacksonville.

He filled out the meeting room at the Ramada Inn, and had upwards of 100 people present. The crowd was mostly current or former First Baptist Jacksonville members, including some very, very prominent long-time members whose names you would recognize if I posted them. Present was a cross-section of older and younger members.

But more than that, what was most surprising is the vision he laid forth about this new church that will be radically different from the typical Southern Baptist church. Smyrl took the high road, and never mentioned the past about First Baptist Jax or Mac Brunson or John Blount, but did look to the future in explaining the following about the new church:
  • Smyrl will be a bi-vocational pastor, as he has secured a job with Chase Bank that starts later this month;
  • The church will affirm the priesthood of the believer, as prescribed in the New Testament, the "ecclessia" church model
  • Smyrl says the church will absolutely not focus on buildings and programs and positions - but will focus on spreading the gospel with funds going to ministry, not salaries and buildings;
  • The home groups will be autonomous in nature, where they will decide themselves on mission projects to support
  • Smyrl does believe in supporting the Cooperative Program of the SBC, so the church will be involved in some manner in funding missions through the CP;
  • Smyrl is not interested at all in building a huge church - in fact, if the church were to grow to 300-400 it would plant another church.
  • The location of the church will be at Crystal Springs Elementary on the Westside of Jacksonville, with the first service being at 10:00 am on July 31st.
  • Did not go into detail about the "membership covenant" that he tweeted he was working on - this would be my only concern, that members have to sign a "covenant" agreeing to some sort of conditions of membership, including subjecting themselves to the authority of an elder board and church discipline. I hope Jim Smyrl doesn't go that route.
But kudos to Jim Smyrl. Sounds like he is going counter-culture to the SBC mega church movement and much of what he has seen the past 5 years first hand at First Baptist Jacksonville.

Now get ready for the onslaught of those slamming Smyrl, saying he is divisive and bitter - and blaming any harm that might come to FBC Jax on those darned Calvinists.

And contrary to rumors being spread by yours truly, there were no FBC Jax deacons or trustees spotted taking down license plate numbers in the Ramada parking lot, although surely the Discipline Committee would love to get their hands on that list. :)

Daring to Challenge the Storehouse Tithing Doctrine

With the release of Croteau's latest book, I am republishing the article below in November 2010, with a few minor updates, discusses the path Croteau took in coming to investigate the tithing doctrine, and just how sacred it is considered amongst the SBC power structure.
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In David A. Croteau's book "You Mean I Don't Have to Tithe: A Deconstruction of Tithing and a Reconstruction of Post-Tithe Giving" you will read in the preface just how Croteau came to question that his long-held view of the applicability of the Old Testament tithe to the Christian might be false.

And Croteau gives a glimpse of just how sacred this doctrine is to denominational leaders and how those who question it are punished.

Croteau's testimony in this regard is very interesting to me, as I found his experience to be very similar to my own, and the same as others I've talked to. I've come to believe that many of the erroneous doctrines we are taught we easily believe them if they are taught "gently" and sincerely to us. Sometimes it is not until some bull-in-a-china-shop kind of preacher comes into our lives and kicks the doctrinal door down when we finally wake up and realize what we were taught all along was wrong.

Here are some excerpts from Croteau's preface that give a glimpse of how he started on his journey:
"I was driving to work in the fall of 1999 and listening to Christian talk radio. John MacArthur was in the middle of a sermon and he was explaining why the tithe was not applicable to Christians. I had never heard anyone actually challenge the applicability of the tithe before, so this took me totally by surprise."
Most of us in Baptist pews have been taught this doctrine as fact for so long, even by well-meaning and sincere preachers. We have not heard SBC preachers dare to consider that the Old Testament tithing laws do not apply to Christians under grace. Preachers at best take a hybrid approach: that yes, we are obligated to tithe, but the New Testament says we should do the forking over joyfully and not under compulsion - in fact we should give more than the tithe as proof of just how darned joyful we are. As someone who was saved in a Southern Baptist Church as a teenager in college, I know the tithe has always been an expectation. It is planted into the minds of preschoolers. The Malachi 3:8-10 application to Christian tithing was never, ever to be questioned. If you don't tithe, you're a God-robber, a cheapskate, plain and simple. No one dares question the doctrine. You are expected to tithe - you check the box that says you are a tither on your committment card, and pray no one at church sees your tax returns to see you're only giving 4% on the gross.

But here is what is happening: as the new generation of preachers are beginning to become more brazen about the doctrine, taking it to the extremes now of saying non-tithing Christians are under God's judgment or a curse, that your money is under a curse until you "redeem" it through giving 10% to your church, or that God will take your money anyways through calamity if you do NOT tithe, blaming your family or financial misfortune on your lack of "faith" to "bring the tithe"...this is jolting more people to open their eyes and question the very basis of the doctrine that we have just accepted blindly for so long.

And thank God there are some men who are coming forth and not afraid to tell the truth. MacArthur is probably the most prominent one for a long time, as are Barna and Viola, but these are not Southern Baptists. Croteau is - he is trained in our seminary, and his research has the endorsement of Dr. Andreas Kostenberger at SEBTS.

Here is what Croteau says he did after he was challenged to question the tithing doctrine after listening to MacArthur's views on tithing:
"That night when I got home from work I read every passage in the Old and New Testaments that mentioned the tithe...at about two o'clock in the morning, I realized I was beat: I could not decipher what was being described. I called MacArthur's radio ministry and ordered the six part series on tithing. Thus began my journey into this subject; ten years later I have now completed this book."
So Croteau made this the topic of his Ph.D. dissertation at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Andreas Kostenberger approved the topic, and Croteau admits he was concerned over the opposition he would face from his writing:
"..I was not looking forward to the opposition with which the concepts would be received. I had already studied the topic for over five years and the resistance I had met with when discussing it with people was, at times, intense."

How true. Bring up this topic in your Sunday School class. Tell your Sunday School class when you next discuss money matters, something like this: "Christians are not under the Old Testament law of tithing. Malachi 3 has been misused for decades by taking it totally out of context. We are to follow the New Testament model to be generous, but there is no prescribed percentage." Try it and see what happens.

During the course of his research Croteau says he reached out to two authors that are cited in his book, and their responses made him realize tithing was more of a "hot button" topic than he realized.
"The first man said that after he had written his book, every church he visited ostracized him because of his view. He was unable to get a job in ministry, so he went back to school and earned a Ph.D. in journalism and began his second career....The second man commented that he received so much disdain for his view that he quickly left the Baptist denomination."
My hope is that more and more Christians will be shocked by the false teachings in our mainstream churches on this doctrine, by men who have a vested financial and professional interest in the perpetuation of the doctrine. Christians must understand they are NOT obligated to blindly fork over 10% minimum to their church, with no accountability from church leadership. They can and SHOULD if they are so led by the Holy Spirit, but not under compulsion, or coercion, or scare tactics. But they are also free to be generous with their money as God leads them in doing His work through many avenues, not just their church.

When Christians realize they are free to give as the Holy Spirit leads them to being generous and cheerful, then that is when the true church will use it's resources more for true Kingdom work, and less for building the kingdoms of men and preachers.

Croteau wraps up his preface by saying:
"I pray that this work will be received by gentle hearts open to the attempt I have made to inductively analyze Scripture's teaching on this complex, important, and very practical subject. My hope is that readers will interact with the content of this book and not attempt to guess at hidden motives or agendas, that ad hominem attacks will remain on the sideline, and that, through dialogue, the evangelical community will strive to come closer to the truth and thus bring glory to our God."
We shall see in the coming years how Croteau's views are treated. He will likely face the same ostracizing as others, and the same cast of SBC characters will probably belittle his views from their pulpits/stages. You won't see Croteau at the next SBC pastor's conference...but perhaps it will be a grassroots effort. Let the lay people see the truth on tithing, sharing it with others. Let's call for transparency in church finances and if refused, perhaps the Holy Spirit will guide you into giving in other areas. And let's be sure to challenge pastors who teach wrongly on giving.

And I will continue to highlight on this blog the preachers who are abusing their congregations through the storehouse tithing doctrine, as well as highlight those that are brave enough to teach the New Testament principles of giving.

And over time we can make a difference.

Monday, July 11, 2011

David Croteau and Jon Zens: Two New Books Worth Reading

Readers - there are two new books that are out that you might wish to consider buying - two books that your pastor very likely doesn't want you to read, especially if you're a member of FBC Jax. I have placed my orders for both.

The first is the new book on the tithing doctrine by David Croteau, called "Perspectives on Tithing: Four Views", in which Croteau and 5 other authors lay forth four different views of the tithing doctrine and New Testament giving. What is unique about this book is that each author has a section of the book containing their view on the tithing doctrine, followed by rebuttals from the other authors. This is a great way to compare and contrast the different views on tithing. Croteau gives Ken Hemphill, the SBC's point-man on the tithing doctrine, a chance to give the SBC party-line on tithing.

This book by Croteau is a follow-up to last year's "You Mean I Don't Have to Tithe: A Deconstruction of Tithing and a Reconstruction of Post-Tithe Giving." Croteau is a Ph.D. graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and an assistant professor at Liberty University, whose dissertation was on the tithe under the tutelage of Dr. Andreas Kostenberger. You might remember the hullabaloo created when SBC pastor Les Puryear contacted Danny Akin attempting to get Kostenburger fired because he doesn't teach "storehouse tithing" at SEBTS. It was all documented on Wade Burleson's blog last year.

Perhaps I'll write another article after I read the book, but one thing that stands out to me: those of you who have preachers who stand in the pulpit and declare with 100% certainty that you as a Christian are obligated to give 10% to your church, else you are disobedient and under a curse from God: your preacher does NOT want you to read this book. They don't want you to know is that there are very conservative scholars who have examined the doctrine, who don't have a financial stake in convincing you to tithe, that have determined that the tithe does not apply to those under the New Covenant - and that your finances are not cursed until you tithe on your "first fruits".

I hope many lay people read this book to compare and contrast the views of tithing and come to a conclusion, rather than just listening to their preacher tell them about curses and God's judgments on those who don't fork over 10%.

The other book is by Jon Zens, entitled "The Pastor Has No Clothes: Moving from Clergy-Centered Church to Christ-Centered Ekklesia". Those of you who have read "Pagan Christianity" by Frank Viola and George Barna will want to read this. Jon Zens and Frank Viola are close friends and have much of the same views on the state of the modern church. Here is Frank Viola's plug for the book:
"Jon Zens has written one of the most important books of the 21st century. If you thought Pagan Christianity was controversial, think again. Jon’s book demonstrates beyond dispute that the clergy-system (in the form of the modern pastorate) is not only unbiblical, but contrary to the headship of Jesus Christ. I hope that every Christian reads this volume with an open heart and mind, especially those who deem themselves “leaders” in the body of Christ. I applaud Jon for his courage in adding another Scripture-based book to help foment the growing revolution that God has begun today — a revolution designed to give His church back to His beloved Son." Frank Viola
So there you have it.

Two books that your pastors definitely don't want you to read, because they will challenge you to reconsider the two pillars of their power: their ability to convince you that you need a headliner pastor in your life to tell you what the bible says, and that God requires you to give them 10% of your gross income.

In my book, Croteau and Zens are modern day Christian heroes who are not afraid to speak the truth.
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Other related Watchdog posts:

"Dr. David A. Croteau Has Another Book on Tithing Coming Soon" - November 21, 2010.

"A Look at the Doctrine of Storehouse Tithing" - November 18, 2009 (looking at Kostenburger's and Croteau's research at SEBTS)

"Daring to Question the Storehouse Tithing Doctrine" - November 23, 2010.

"Brunson Defends Tithing Doctrine, Impugns Authors' Financial Motives"
- September 18, 2010. (Brunson impugns the financial motives of Barna and/or Viola).

"As a Gift to Our Mothers and Daughters, Consider You May be Wrong About the Doctrine of Male-Only Authority in the Church" - May 8, 2011 (mention Jon Zens' teaching on women in the church).

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Mac's Son Trey Tweets: "Church Planted by Bitter Pastor Will Lead People to Bitterness"

Like father, like son.

Yesterday we saw how Mac Brunson tweeted a bible verse to insinuate that Jim Smyrl has betrayed Brunson in leaving FBC Jax, that Smyrl has "raised his heel" against Brunson to start a church plant in Jacksonville.

Now we see that on the same day, Brunson's son, Trey Brunson, who is the Director of Special Projects (or something like that), took a few cheap shots at Smyrl via Twitter:


Yep, Smyrl is bitter. And Trey gives a warning to those of you who dare to follow Smyrl to his new church, you'll become bitter as well.

How ironic. Who is the bitter one? Is it Smyrl, who has decided to move on and start a new church plant, or Smyrl's old boss and his son who are posting on social media attacking the motives and the heart of a guy starting a new church plant in Jacksonville?

I don't see Smyrl posting tweets about Mac or Trey or John Blount or anything First Baptist Church. He is moving on. But the Brunsons have to get their shots in at Smyrl and warn those who follow him that they, like Smyrl, will become bitter.

Then Trey posted this one, invoking the name of our Florida Baptist Convention Executive Director, Dr. John Sullivan:


Yes, as the son of Mac Brunson, you get very connected, you get to speak to Dr. John Sullivan and learn valuable ministry lessons. Then, you can tweet about them to call a fellow minister "bitter", "jealous", and even "lazy".

Again, it is painfully obvious who the bitter ones are. Based on Mac's and Trey's tweets, it is the Brunsons, not Jim Smyrl.

We're still waiting for A.C. Soud to chime in, perhaps to call Smyrl a "coward". That is what they do at FBC Jax to those who cross the hot shots at FBC Jax: publicly call them bitter, jealous, angry. And lazy. Perhaps John Blount will call for a deacon's meeting and propose a resolution condemning those who do what Smyrl did. Then they can get the church to stand and vote on it after Soud reads it from the image screens. But the Wed crowds are so small they could hardly have a quorum.

Trey did delete the above tweets from his Twitter account, but as anybody knows, once you tweet something it is viewable forever to those who follow Twitter accounts via Google Reader.

So why do I bother posting these? I want Christians who follow these so called mega church "men of God" and their families to realize they can be as mean and ugly and spiteful - or more so - as anybody else in the church. They are not priests, prophets, or "men of God". They are men who guard their turf and their wealth and who are not afraid to use their power to unleash it and bring harm on those that cross them. Brunson did it to me in the newspaper calling me terrible names. He did it to Dr. Sheri Klouda mischaracterizing her deposition testimony in her lawsuit against Paige Patterson. And now against Smyrl. He has done it to FBC Jax as a whole, saying he never got a honeymoon when he came to FBC Jax.

And now we see even family members of the "men of God" will take cheap shots. My wife and I saw it right in our faces during Deb Brunson's deposition in the JSO lawsuit - the hatred and vitriol she had toward me was unlike anything I had ever experienced. Too bad, Smyrl's kids have to read that their former pastor and his son are using social media to take cheap shots at their dad. Surely Blount won't go to the JSO and accuse Smyrl's wife of church misconduct to get a trespass warning, will he?

And I'm sure Smyrl knows: if they're saying this on Twitter, you can only imagine what they are whispering in the ears of the deacons and their wives.

And lastly, I have to say that Trey inferring in his Tweet that Dr. Jim Smyrl is "lazy" is just plain laughable. Smyrl is a graduate of Clemson [correction, not a graduate of Clemson], and has a Ph.D. from an accredited seminary. Smyrl has started a ministry developing bible curriculum to teach lay people to teach the bible, and has preached all over the world, and now has the audacity to start a church plant. Trey? A Bachelor's degree from a small bible college who for five years has ridden his dad's coattails as the Director of Special Projects at his dad's church.

I'm sorry Trey, but you can't carry Smyrl's proverbial jockstrap.

Will those who go to Smyrl's new church be bitter as Trey says? No, perhaps they'll be better.

And using Trey's logic, those still following Brunson and Family at FBC Jax might become the bitter ones.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Church Split Brewing at FBC Jax?? Smyrl Already Announces His New Church, Brunson Tweets Himself as the Victim

Could a church split be brewing over at FBC Jax?

First Dr. Jim Smyrl, easily THE best bible expositor that FBC Jax has on staff, announces he is leaving in a week.

Now just a week later, Smyrl today announced on his Loyal Heart Ministry (LHM) website the start of his new "church plant" in Jacksonville called, well, "Loyal Heart Bible Church". An informational meeting is scheduled at a local hotel meeting room on July 13th, but Smyrl's website already is giving details of the church's mission statement, ministry plans, even announcing a "partnership" with a church in Tennessee.

Smyrl is wasting no time, and is going full steam ahead. Given that his LHM board of directors has several prominent FBCJ members this is quite interesting. His LHM site has statements of endorsement from Danny Akin and Frank Page. Danny Akin is on the LHM Board of Trustees!! I wonder how long Akin will remain on the board?

Now, enter Mac Brunson.

On Thursday July 7, just hours after Smyrl's LHM website announced his new church plant, here is the tweet that appeared on Mac Brunson's account:


That's nice. Mac Brunson is tweeting a bible verse to his followers on Twitter to help encourage them, right? No words of explanation, just a verse. I wonder what the verse says.

Well, here is Psalm 41:9, with a few verses that follow to give the full context of the verse:
"Even my close friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me. But You, O Lord, be gracious to me and raise me up, That I may repay them. By this I know that You are pleased with me, Because my enemy does not shout in triumph over me." (Ps 41:9-10)
Nothing says "man of God" like using a Bible verse to slam someone. Only Mac Brunson could think of posting a bible verse to paint Smyrl as seeking to harm Brunson. I guess in April 2009 Brunson couldn't find a "woe to you, o sociopath" verse when interviewed by Jeff Brumley.

Is Brunson for real? Does this not show the absolute brazen self-centeredness that these mega church millioinaires have? It is all about them - Mac says Smyrl is "raising his heel" against poor Mac.

Let's face it, we don't know why Smyrl left. He might have been fired for being a Calvinist. He might have been fired for any number of reasons. Or gee, maybe the Lord led him to leave on his own and Smyrl genuinely felt that a new church is needed! Hey, maybe God is sovereign as Mac preaches!

Nope, not in Brunson's view. Smyrl is "raising up his heel" against Brunson. Well, Mac of all people should know that these days "megachurch" is a cut-throat business. When Mac and Maurilio came in and cleaned house back in 2006 they let people go that they had no use for, and bought at least one minister's silence with a few month's severance pay. Maybe, just maybe, Smyrl wasn't going to give in and sign their non-disclosure papers and non-compete clause for a few months severance pay.

Despite Mac's call for pity on Twitter, I hope the trustees of FBC Jax aren't feeling sorry for Mac, but are concerned over another fiasco at their church under the leadership of Brunson.

Anyways, I'll close with a bible verse, as Mac did on Twitter.

Jeremiah 23:1-4.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Perry Noble to NewSpring Members Who Don't Like the Music: "You Officially Suck as a Human Being"

"I think you officially suck as a human being if that is your focus...and the people that think the music is about them can leave the church." Perry Noble's message to church members who say they don't prefer the music style at NewSpring Church.
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It ain't easy being a member these days at NewSpring Church pastored by Perry Noble - the rules, the regulations, the sheep beatings, the curses.

According to Perry Noble, you "officially suck as a human being" if you express to Perry that you are purposely late to church because you like his preaching but don't care for the music style.

NewSpring members need to be careful that their church doesn't begin to fall into the category of a cult. Cults often begin by having a very demanding, charismatic leader, they will require conformity with rigid extra-biblical rules, they will devalue outsiders and non-conformists, and they will suppress dissent.

You see all four of these beginning to emerge at NewSpring. Not saying they are a cult, but when the charismatic leader starts telling people that :

- they can't come back into the auditorium after the sermon starts even if they leave to tend to a child or go to the bathroom;

- that you suck as a human being if you disagree with the pastor over music styles;

- you are not allowed to designate how your donations are spent;

- you must give 10% of your income to the church undesignated or God will curse you;

- parents cannot bring children younger than 12 years of age into the church services;

- you must show up to church on time or you can't get into the church service;

...then you better begin to get concerned.

Lest you think that I'm overstating things by bringing up the word "cult" - don't forget what happened to a critic of Perry Noble's at the hands of staff members a few years back that is the subject of an on-going lawsuit. You see from the "you suck as a human being" quote how those who even mildly express dissent are devalued by the pastor. I would say it is this kind of rhetoric from the pastor towards dissenters that breeds the actions taken by a staff member against the Noble critic back in 2008 and 2009.

Perry Noble even tells the parents that if they don't conform to the "authority" of the church leaders, they will breed rebelliousness in the hearts of their children . No, actually subjecting one's self to non-biblical requirements for the pleasure of the pastor might teach your kids that they must endure spiritual abuse at the hands of an over-bearing preacher.



If you're interested, Chris Rosebrough has done an excellent review of this sermon that he has entitled "The Perry Noble Sheep Beating Incident of 2011." You can listen to the entire Perry Noble sermon here, and click on the sermon "Frequently Asked Questions".

Chris is right on in his analysis. This is classic sheep beating. A pastor is to be the picture of humility and servant-hood for the people he shepherds, but instead Perry Noble is a stand-up comedian who makes jokes about troublesome church members, denigrates Christians who disagree with him, and lays down extra-biblical rules that are burdensome on people.

Unfortunately in Perry Noble and other mega pastor superstars these days, we have professional religious men who have turned Christianity from its essence: the release of sinful men and women from the burden of having to try to please God with their works and their alms through simple faith in Christ - into a strict religious system that demands conformity to religious practices, tells people how they must think and what rules they must obey to be pleasing to God and their priest, and uses tactics of guilt and shame in the process. And, oh by the way, they get filthy rich while doing it.

I'm pretty sure that if Jesus were here, he would warn the people of NewSpring about the arrogant Perry Noble and his professional religious men and describe them as he did the Pharisees:

"They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger." (Mat 23:4)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Jim Smyrl Announces He is Leaving FBC Jax

At last Wednesday's FBC Jax mid-week service, Jim Smyrl announced he is leaving FBC Jax as of this coming Wednesday, July 6th, 2011.

Smyrl was hired by Mac Brunson back in 2006 and served as the church's Executive Pastor of Education, until about a month ago when his title was changed to "Teaching Pastor", and longtime FBC Jax minister Steve Clifton took over as the Executive Pastor of Education.

Without question, Smyrl was the number two preacher at FBC Jax behind Mac Brunson for the last several years. Smyrl is a very skilled bible expositor and preached frequently on Wednesday nights. Smyrl became a popular preacher when he first came to FBC Jax in the mid 1990's when he served as the minister of singles, as his preaching style seemed to be very close to that of Jerry Vines. However, in my opinion his preaching style seemed to harden since returning to serve under Brunson, and his theology seemed to be more on the reformed end of the spectrum.

Jim Smyrl will apparently be leaving to serve full-time in his ministry called "Loyal Hearts Ministry", which develops training materials and holds training seminars to equip lay people to teach the bible in an expository fashion. Smyrl introduced and implemented at FBC Jax a ministry model called "Theology Driven Ministry", which is what Smyrl teaches to churches through the Loyal Hearts Ministry. TDM focuses on four biblical "competencies": biblical thinking, living, relating, and proclaiming.

Smyrl, who is from South Carolina, has a Ph.D. in preaching from SEBTS. Smyrl has said that Paige Patterson was one of his spiritual mentors in college, as Patterson was the president of SEBTS when Smyrl attended there.

While I have frequently been critical of some of Smyrl's comments made from the pulpit on a variety of topics, there is no question he is a fine Christian preacher, and a wonderful father and husband and I wish him all the best in his future ministry. I predict greater things for Smyrl now that he will be away from FBC Jax.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Lying Continues: Steve Gaines Says Non-Tithers' Finances are Cursed, and They are Living in Stolen Houses, Eating Stolen Food

"Did you catch that? There are a lot of people in Memphis today, the 'curse' is upon their finances and they think they can't afford to tithe when they don't understand that's a lie from the devil and they're in bondage and they can't afford not to tithe. They're doing the very thing that is cursing their finances because they're stealing from God....there are too many Christians living in stolen houses, they've stolen that money from God. They're driving stolen cars, they're eating stolen groceries, they're wearing stolen jewelry and stolen clothes, they send their children to school with stolen money. Don't steal from God." Steve Gaines, 5/22/11
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When will the modern day mega churches stop lying to their congregations about what the bible says about Christian financial stewardship?

While Christians should be the picture of generosity to their culture, mega church pastors model the exact opposite behavior by greedily demanding 10% of the gross income of all parishioners, even the elderly on fixed income - and they have no fear of God in daring to use scriptures as a weapon against Christians.

The quote above, and the video below demonstrate just how shameless these preachers are getting. Have they no fear of the God they preach about? Steve Gaines of Bellevue Baptist Church doesn't even cut any slack for those on "fixed incomes", saying that it is fair that everyone, rich and poor alike, give 10% of their income. To the contrary, the lower the income, the deeper 10% cuts into the basic needs of the family. 10% to a poor family can hurt badly, while 10% of a rich person like a mega church pastor doesn't touch their basic needs. But Gaines himself being a wealthy mega church pastor, you wouldn't expect him to understand.

Gaines teaches what guys like Ed Young, Perry Noble, Robert Morris, and Mac Brunson teach: that the finances of Christians who don't tithe are under "the curse" placed by God, that God will send some sort of holy devourer - maybe God's angels named Moose and Rocco - to cause financial loss if you don't tithe. Gaines even says that people who are struggling financially are most often struggling precisely BECAUSE they do not tithe. Same nonsense that Paige Patterson preached to his students: I'm blessed because I tithe so much money, you college kids are poor because you don't. And they wonder why the secular media looks at Christians as though we are ignoramuses? They see our most prominent, successful preachers preaching illogical, non-biblical poppycock, and we tolerate it!

But this is the new trend these days with the tithing doctrine: to tell people that their money is cursed when they earn it, UNTIL they stroke a check to their local church, in the amount of 10% of their gross (not net) income to their church in an undesignated fashion.

It is a perversion of the gospel itself. The gospel says we are born sinners and we are under a curse, and we are in need of redemption, which is found at the moment we accept Jesus as our Savior, then the curse is removed and we have a relationship with God and eternal life. You give yourself to God, and you have salvation. The new tithing perversion says that at the moment you earn money, it is cursed, and it needs to be "redeemed" to have the curse removed. How do you remove the curse? How is it redeemed?

It is redeemed by YOU....like you gave yourself to God, you give your money to God, and the curse on your money is removed.

But there is a catch - to give your tithe to God so the curse on the rest is removed, you must give it to the church. You can't give any of the first 10% of your charitable giving to any missionary, or to the Red Cross, or even to your struggling neighbor or relative. Nope, it all must come to the church for church leaders to dole out, else all of your other money is cursed.

As Frank Viola says, this makes the gospel "bad news" for the poor. Your soul was redeemed by Jesus, but the blessings God has provided in the form of money for you and your family is actually cursed. And you have to do the hard work of redeeming your finances by forking 10% of it over to your church.

Gaines tells his congregation how he counsels people who have financial difficulties:
"I talk to people all the time, and they're having struggles in their finances. The first thing I ask them: 'do you tithe to your church?'...almost all the time they say 'no' if they're struggling with their finances. I say 'that's where you start.' They always say 'I can't afford to'. I say 'you can't afford not to, because until you do, the curse is on your finances.' "
Unbelievable. A pastor who is supposed to be a loving shepherd giving wrong advice, speaking of "the curse" that God has placed on their finances, blaming financial struggles they may have on their failure to fork over 10% to his church. This is a lie. It is not biblical, it is not even logical, and it is not borne out in anyway in the experience of Christians. Total rubbish, a ploy to attract more revenue from gullible people. It is a form of spiritual abuse.

The irony in all this: if there is any stealing from God going on in churches, it is the mega church pastors earning hefty salaries for themselves and their family members on staff (Gaines has multiple family members collecting paychecks from Bellevue) living lavish lifestyles.

Steve Gaines: look at yourself in the mirror, pal. You just might be driving a stolen car and living in a stolen car in God's eyes.

Here is a scripture for Gaines and the other tithing gospel teachers:

"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