We have some pretty compelling evidence that Mac Brunson lives quite well in his McMansion with a handsome salary, a wife and son under his employ, and what appears to be a recession proof gig at First Baptist in Jacksonville. However, Mac was apparently whining about how poorly he was being treated by the church. We have learned the hard way that some in church leadership have different definitions of words that often stray from the more common usage of these words. We belief this is done purposefully. One such word, “gossip”, has been used recently to terrorize elderly ladies and throw them out of churches. See last weeks post on the widow at Prays Mills Baptist Church.
So, let’s take a look at what Brunson apparently considers “poor” treatment. We think our readers might have a different definition of the word. “Poor.”
– The church completed a $100,000 renovation of the ground floor of the new children's building to convert it into a suitable office suite for the Brunsons. Apparently, during a conference at the church, Mac gave seminary students a tour of the office suite so they could anticipate having such digs at their churches in the future. They saw approximately 3,000 square feet that included 15-foot ceilings (doesn’t sound like building "green" to us since the air conditioner costs to cool the space must be astounding), grand bookcases, and a massive book collection. Can you imagine these students requesting this sort of office space at your average church in America? No wonder salary requirements for pastors are on the rise!
-The search committee agreed to allow Mac to keep his speaking and travel commitments that he had already scheduled for 2006 before he accepted the call to Jacksonville. As a result, Mac traveled quite a bit during his "honeymoon period" at FBC Jax. He was apparently given two months' pay between the time he was formally asked to come to First Baptist Jacksonville until he formally assumed his duties.
-Pastor Brunson was given a salary reportedly in the range of $300,000. We do not know how much the Mrs. is making at the church.
– He was given free use of a multi-million dollar, ocean-front condominium on Amelia Island while waiting for his home to be constructed.
- Mac and Debbie were gifted a half acre property in a gated, golf course community. The market value of this property at the time was approximately $250,000. On this land they built a large home bringing the current market value of the property to approximately $900,000 (remember, real estate values have declined in Florida and all across the country due to the recession).
– Pastor Brunson's wife and son were employed by FBC Jax which means that Mac is supervising his wife and son. We will deal with the ethical problems of this sort of supervisory arrangement in a coming post.
– The church allegedly paid tens of thousands of dollars to rent the Jacksonville minor league baseball stadium to hold a "Sermon on the Mound" event on Sunday evening of Father's Day 2006 in order to introduce pastor Brunson the Jacksonville community.
– There was a wedding reception held at the church by the deacons and church body at for Mac's son Trey and his new wife just weeks after Mac arrived in Jacksonville. Solicitations for welcoming gifts for the happy couple were apparently widespread throughout the Sunday school classes. Reportedly money trees (which seem to grow quite rapidly at FBC Jax) were the gift of choice.
By most standards, Pastor Brunson was warmly welcomed and handsomely rewarded for his decision to come to FBC Jax. Now, this is a very large church, perhaps one of the largest in the country. The membership numbers are in the 20,000 range, but the actual attendance on any given Sunday is much lower. There is a difficulty with keeping accurate membership numbers in the Southern Baptist Convention. Members often leave and/or transfer to other churches. However, in many cases, their names are not removed from the former church roles. It is reported that some members of SBC churches are counted as many as 7 or 8 times.
What is the role of a pastor? Many believe he is called to lead the flock in doing the Lord's work. However, as most pastors should know, their flock is sinful. Pastors know this because the Bible tells them that ALL (guess that means preachers as well) have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Another interesting teaching of the Bible is that the flock is called the “priesthood of the believer.” What does this mean? When one becomes a Christian, (s)he receives the designation of "priest", along with spiritual gifting to further God's kingdom.
Well, what does this look like in real life? Everybody in the church has something valuable to contribute. Everyone, even the pastor, is affected by sin. Therefore, conflict is inevitable. Sin and priestly duties do not take a “honeymoon”, which we will explain in a minute.
The King James Debacle
Apparently, there are some folks at FBC who believe that the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible is the only correct one to use. We disagree with that position. From what we understand, Pastor Brunson uses the New American Standard Bible (NASB). That’s a good one, too. So are the NIV, ESV, NKJV, and others. However, that isn’t the point. Brunson was reportedly upset about the protest he received over using the NASB instead of the KJV. Reliable sources have informed us that some of these folks were told to find another church. That's quite drastic! Isn’t there another way to handle disagreement — a way of love and education?
How could this internal conflict have been handled in a positive manner that would have benefitted all of the members of FBC Jax? Pastor Mac could have stood up one Sunday and read a passage from two or three different translations. Then, he could have given a history on how we got the canon of Scripture and how the various translations were developed. Perhaps he could have said something like this.
“Brothers and sisters, we all share the love of God’s Word. However, we have differing views on what constitutes the best translation. I have just appointed Deacon Bob to teach a three-month course on the Bible, its various translations, and the history of conflict over this matter. I am going to ask all of you who have difficulty with this issue to attend Deacon Bob's class. Bring your questions, and we will make sure you receive answers.
At the conclusion of the course, I want to hear back from all of you. We could have an ice cream social over at my place and spend the evening sharing our thoughts and trying to come to a consensus on the translation issue. Until that time, I will use the NASB during the services but will occasionally read a Psalm or another passage in the King James Version. I know the KJV has been around for a long time, and some of you have always used this translation. I love you all, and I don’t want the translation debate to come between you and me. Let’s commit to pray together. You are more important to me than any one of the translations.”
Might this have worked?
The Paige Patterson Shout Out
Nothing significant within the Southern Baptist Convention escapes the notice and involvement of Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He is widely recognized and is both the revered and reviled as the architect of the SBC's Conservative Resurgence. Patterson is also a long time friend of Mac Brunson and regards him as one of his “boys.”
Now, a reasonable person would probably conclude that the following tongue-lashing occurred because Pastor Brunson was feeling a bit down in the mouth and complained to his good buddy. However, it is hard for this writer to understand why Mac would feel so “persecuted.” He had been handsomely rewarded for his choice to come to FBC Jax. Yet, a few people seemed to have upset him by “complaining.” Isn't that one of the reasons they paid guys like Brunson top-drawer salaries? How can a purported 20,000+ member congregation ALWAYS agree on everything?
Take a look at the Bible. All of the early churches had issues. Paul was repeatedly writing letters to these churches, admonishing them for this and that. Yet, at the same time, Paul would compliment them for the good things they were doing. Saints and sinners — all of us as Christians are both. That is the divine dichotomy, which is richly demonstrated in the story of the church throughout the ages.
Did Brunson and Patterson believe that FBC Jax was a perfect Christian community? That's not what the Bible conveys. Our history as Protestants (note the root "protest") finds its centuries of existence replete with examples of protests, disagreements, etc., alongside marvelous stories of redemption and love. Why would Brunson naively expect otherwise? And, yet, somehow, he was disappointed and expressed this to his good buddy in Texas. Let’s read what Patterson had to say to some of his students on March 7, 2007. Tom Rich transcribed this “lecture” for us. Here is Paige Patterson speaking immediately after Mac Brunson's SWBTS chapel message.
”..I think that you'd agree with me that is what a sermon ought to be…he took us to the text…he brought some things to our attention that I never noticed before, and that blesses my soul. And he did it with passion, he illustrated it cogently, and furthermore it was every syllable true. Thank you so very much. Thank you Mac for a magnificent message and challenge today, and uh, he's going to have to go pretty quick but he'll be here for just a few minutes if you want to come by quickly and, uh tell him you love him and promise him you'll be praying for him.
Unbelievable. Mac had not been at First Baptist Church Jacksonville for even two months, until recalcitrants started on him, and uh, unbelievable to me that anyone would do that, you know used to (sic) you got a honeymoon period in a church, uh, everybody said that we'll wait at least until he makes 5 mistakes before we kill him, and uh, so, that has not been the case in Jacksonville and yet God is blessing wonderfully in that ministry.
You say 'why does that happen?' I'll tell you why it happens, because the devil knows that he has to stop the man of God, if he possibly can. You can expect the devil to attack, that's what's happening to him. I want him (Mac) to see something, he's our graduate here, I want to know how many of you here will wave a hand at Mac Brunson and say 'Dr. Brunson, you can count on me, I'm going to pray for you, I'm going to ask God to bless that ministry in Jacksonville.' Will you just do that? …we promise we will do that sweet brother, don't grow weary in well-doing, and we will pray for you.”
There is no record of Mac Brunson trying to correct or protest what Patterson had to say in front of his seminary students. He's turning out pastor wanna be's just like him. No wonder the SBC is in a downward spiral! Frankly, we find this “lecture” to be obnoxious, and we are offended for the members of FBC Jacksonville. Although we are not supporters of the extravagant “welcome to Jacksonville” package that Mac received, we can appreciate that the FBC community demonstrated an incredible level of support for their new pastor. Even his dogs were afforded space in his new office and his son had lucrative wedding gifts. How about Pastor Mac’s day at the ballpark? If this ain’t a honeymoon, then Paul wasn’t an Apostle!
How the community at FBC can be accused of “killing him” is beyond me. Killing him? When was the last time that Paige stepped away from his fancy safaris and actually saw what is going on in Africa? Is he aware of the killing of Christian pastors? No, not the kind of killing that involves a disagreement over a Bible translation. We mean murder for the Gospel? How about the pastors who risk life and limb every day toiling in underground illegal churches in Muslim countries? How about heroes of the faith like John Hus who was burned at the stake for his faith? And Patterson said Mac was getting killed at FBC?! He should apologize and so should Mac Brunson.
Also, the devil made them do it? So, let’s get this straight. Some people have a legitimate disagreement with their pastor and this constitutes a Satanic attack? This is hyperbolic nonsense! It's the typical, hackneyed Southern Baptist preacher style exaggeration and it is frankly insulting to the good people of Jacksonville.
Here's the other side of the coin. Since Brunson is a sinner, couldn't he have made some sinful mistakes? Perhaps "gossiping" about his congregation. Also, since he is to be mindful of the priesthood of the believer, shouldn’t he have listened carefully to those who disagreed with him? Is there any possibility that God was speaking through those who held to a different perspective at FBC Jax?
No, Mac Brunson was treated like a king when he came to FBC Jax. Unfortunately, he took this king thing a bit too far saw the members as his subjects, instead of as his fellow priests in the business of bringing the love of Jesus to Florida. Sadly, he looks like a rather mundane, whiney, and thankless man when he should grateful that he is living in the lap of luxury while many other brothers and sisters in Christ around the world are facing real persecution for the faith. We believe Mac Brunson owes the FBC Jax congregation a huge apology.
Paige Patterson has this whole thing backwards. At the close of his little lecture to the students he said, “We promise we will do that (meaning pray for him) sweet brother, don't grow weary in well-doing.” Grow weary? Come on!!! Instead Patterson should have said. “Mac, praise God, you are doing well in your new pastorate!” and Pastor Brunson should have said a hearty “Amen”!