Shun, as you would the plague, a cleric who from being poor has become wealthy, or who, from being nobody has become a celebrity.” —Jerome
George Müller (also spelled Mueller) was a Christian evangelist who built orphanages where he cared for and educated over 10,000 children. He began his ministry in 1836. By 1870 over 2000 children were housed in five orphanages; however, the most remarkable part of this man’s life was his view on fundraising. The following was taken from Wikipedia but many books have been written about this incredible man.
“Through all this, Müller never made requests for financial support, nor did he go into debt, even though the five homes cost over £100,000 to build. Many times, he received unsolicited food donations only hours before they were needed to feed the children, further strengthening his faith in God.” Continuing “In 1871 an article in The Times stated that since 1836, 23,000 children had been educated in the schools and very many thousands had been educated in other schools at the expense of the orphanage. The article also states that since its origin, 64,000 Bibles, 85,000 Testaments and 29,000,000 religious books had been issued and distributed. Other expenses included the support of 150 missionaries”.
How strange would today’s churches appear to this devout man who seemed to trust God completely for his ministry’s finances as opposed to paying lip service to “trusting God” while employing multiple “Christian” promotional firms? Today’s churches are now firmly entrenched in the “business” of doing God’s business.
The Wartburg Watch recognizes that FBC Jacksonville isn’t the only church involved in the use of commercial fundraising. However, it provides an excellent case study on the new way of “trusting God” to provide. Both of us have MBAs and enjoyed studying companies, along with their successes and failures, during our education. The case study approach was heavily utilized during business school so our blog’s approach to various church disruptions demonstrates our fondness for this method. Since FBC seems to love utilizing corporate tactics in running their business, this method should seem familiar.
The main goal of most churches is well-exemplified by Jesus’ parting words before His ascension. It is know as the Great Commission in Matthew 18:18-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”
So, we are to make disciples and teach those disciples to obey God’s commandments. Yet there seems to be mounting evidence that many mega churches are not making lots of disciples but merely attracting Christians from other churches. Christianity is experiencing a decline in the United States with a concomitant rise in other religions as well as atheism. The Baptists are experiencing a precipitous decline in both membership and/or baptisms. However, there seems to be more non-Christians in mega churches than in other sorts of Christian churches. At the same time, it is very well documented that there are serious issues for those who profess to be Christians, with many claiming not to believe in absolute truth or an actual being called Satan.
Charles Swindoll started Frisco Bible Church when I (Dee) was in Dallas (Frisco is a suburb). The day the church opened there were close to 3,000 spectators (whoops, worshippers) present. The church where I worshipped had a very slight dip in attendees that day. Interestingly, there were churches in the area that lost a fair number of members to Swindoll's church. Many of those churches were decent, Bible teaching churches that just couldn’t compete with the draw of Charles Swindoll. Tom Rich’s contention that there seems to be an increasing trend of pastor idololatry (idolizing the pastor) might be born out be this example.
There is a lot of money that passes through the doors at FBC Jax. How those financial resources are being used is a legitimate question. The Apostle Paul commends the Bereans for asking questions. Tom Rich is asking very good questions that deserve answers. People are sacrificing large sums of money for this church. It is perfectly appropriate to ask where the money is going. In fact, the more that I am learning at FBC Jax and other such churches, the more I believe that the salaries of all of the employees, along with benefits, need to be spelled out. If a church wants my family's contributions, then they should explain how they are spending it.
However, a backlash is occurring. Approximately 80 people were thrown out of Little River Church for asking to see the pastor’s salary. Churches are scurrying to enact bylaws so that the “little guy” cannot see what the big pastor makes. The question is, Why not? Is someone embarrassed to reveal such information? My question to the average, sacrificing tither at FBC Jax is, Will they tell you how much Pastor Mac Brunson is making, along with all of his benefits? If not, why not?
Since churches like FBC Jax seem to be enamored by the way Wall Street does things, they need to be willing to be scrutinized. CEOs salaries are open to investors, including perks like cars, jets, golden parachutes, etc.
However, what we are about to show you might be surprising to the average churchgoer. We were a bit shocked and we read about this stuff regularly.
As most of you know, Maurilio Amorim is the church marketing guy for FBC Jax. There are also two other groups, Conexus, and A-Group who do promotions. According to FBC Jax Watchdog, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been paid to these groups through the years. The only way to get this money is through the offerings at church.
The question that needs to be raised is simple, but the answer is complicated. How much money needs to go to advertise the church and its functions? How about George Mueller and his belief that God would (and did) provide without the need to ask? Why do the church members not know exactly how much money is going to “promote” the church that supposedly “trusts God?”
Tom asked an interesting question. Can FBC Jax cut the “secret” marketing budget and have some of these tasks done in house with our staff and support staff? Maybe they could pray like Mueller and see how much money God sends their way? Maybe, if God doesn’t send money their way could it be that God wants some budget items to be cut? Could this be the real issue? Maybe the leadership doesn’t want to see what God might say?
Missions: Mac Style
There is no question that the Brunsons like living a very comfortable life. Don’t we all? However, this has to be one of the more blatant, in your face, “bless me” trips I have ever seen. In 2010, where will the Brunsons, who are sacrificing everything for the Lord, lead a group of FBC people? Perhaps to help a missionary in Africa? Wrongo. Guess again. Maybe to learn about inner city ministries in Chicago? Ix Nay.
The answer is…(Cue: Johann Strauss) a cruise on the beautiful blue Danube. Here is a description from the brochure. According to Uniworld, it will be a "…leisurely paced trip for those who love history, food and wine , architecture, music and diverse cultures in a blend of the best of Eastern and Western Europe." Pricing will be around $2700, exclusive of air travel to get to Budapest. With regard to the wine, we didn’t know FBC encourages alcohol consumption-live and learn. Mazel tov!
Of course, for this sacrifice, the Brunsons won’t pay a dime and will probably get some sort of a stipend. Before you think I have sour grapes, I have been down the Danube myself when I was a teen. So, here is my subtle question. Are they nuts????????????? The economy is crashing, the Brunsons' lifestyle is already under scrutiny, and the church budget is not on track. It's time to replace the leadership who signed off on this one. By the way, this excursion is being promoted within the church. How sad is this?
FBC has enough time to redeem this one. Contact some of the ministries/missionaries in Hungary and use your time to support them. Then, one day, take a quick buzz down the Danube. Guess which activity the Lord would remember?
Sermon on the Mound
I am an outsider at FBC Jax, but I am a Christian. To spend that much money to rent a baseball stadium to “introduce” your pastor is ridiculous! I have another suggestion for the future. How about calling some rescue missions and halfway houses and offering to donate time, money, and labor to painting, cooking etc. Maybe they could have had a fair on church grounds for handicapped children. Then, have Mac come around and give a message to those less fortunate. He could then serve food, or paint or make cotton candy for the kids. What a great way to have introduced Pastor Brunson to the community! His arrival could have been combined with service to the less fortunate. I bet the media and the Jacksonville community would have been impressed.
The Mini Missions Conference
This is small potatoes compared to the big Pastors Conference, but the use of promotional stuff for this conference shows the lengths that FBC leadership goes to in order to raise money. Once again, it appears that the only way to get some folks to contribute is to let them advertise themselves and their businesses.
“In November the church is hosting a mini Missions Conference for some missionaries. One of the events is a "Golf Tournament" at the private golf club "Deerwood", Mac's home course. The registration fees are a whopping $95 per person, and if someone or some business wants to "sponsor" a hole, they can donate $200. This means that a small sign advertising the donor's business would be placed at the tee box for the hole. Does everything FBC Jax does include money-making” ? (FBCJaxWatchdog)
Our children attend a wonderful Christian school. It was built with an incredible anonymous donation of over $20 million. There is no sign advertising their names. The only name affiliated with the school is Jesus Christ. The Bible talks about rewards on this earth and rewards in heaven. The people who get their name or business advertised have received their reward and thanks here on earth. I hope Mac Brunson reminds them of this.
The Pastor's Money Making Conference
I am livid about this conference. I’m sure the speakers are just fine with it. They should be because they are making good money by speaking. How much? I don’t know because there doesn’t seem to be any way to find this out. I guess they must be a bit uncomfortable.
This conference has been going on for years. Interestingly, the church provides volunteers and the facility. Tom Rich raises a valid question on his blog… “ I see zero expenditures on the "Pastor's Conference" line item under "Community Life". I assume the revenues and expenditures related to the Pastor's Conference are off-budget, perhaps in another 501(c)(3) organization. How might member find financial information on these expenses and the anticipated revenues from the pastor's conference from both attendee enrollment and the selling of promotional space? What is the name of this 501(c)(3) organization?”
Let’s look at some of the ways they raise money. The church is laid out so that Christian organizations can set up tables to explain their ministries. One of my former churches did this very thing but they didn’t charge anything for the groups to set up tables. Guess what? It costs them a bundle at FBC Jax!
– The Your Organization Is So Inconsequential That Jesus Doesn’t Even Know You Exist Package: ($750) gets your organization a table, two chairs, two name badges, general cleaning, and a listing in some sort of brochure (you know how closely those are read).
– Now, You’re Talking Package ($2,000): You get a table, a booth in the café, a brochure in the café, and your organization gets to have your name scrolling on a screen inside the sanctuary between sessions (whoa, they will be watching, transfixed). No mention is made of a free cup of Joe.
– We Can’t Believe You Paid This – Does Your Organization Know Package -($15,000) Premium placement booth, special thanks from the emcee, a one minute video during the conference from the front, all sorts of banners, etc. Still no mention of a free cup of Joe.
Apparently Mac Brunson interviewed Jim Caviezel at church after the Pastors Conference last year. Bet you all thought that it was a major coup for FBC to get him. Think again… Everyone's laughing all the way to the bank!
” As you recall he was interviewed by Mac Brunson on stage about a new "Word of Promise" audio Bible product that featured well-known actors like Caviezel. Well, after we look at the promotions plan, we see that this was not a carefully chosen testimony by our staff to bless the people at the conference…no, it was a PURCHASED ADVERTISEMENT to peddle the Word of Promise, sold for the "platinum package" price of $15,000! Did you ever think we would see the day when our pastor would interview someone who paid to be on our platform to promote their product?” (fbcjaxwatchdog)
Fleecing the participants: All of the attendees get to hear certain speakers for $199. To register, go to this link:
However, you have to pay more to hear the "really cool" guys — they call this the ”premium” package. It was an additional $50. Can you imagine being one of the speakers and finding out that you're not worth the “premium” price. The women had to pay $30 extra to hear a woman speaker! (Women must need to pay more because they use the rest room facilities more!)
Update: The new rates for the 2010 conference have just been posted. Now, they are even finding cold cash in cool water: Conference Bottled Water ($1000) “We can have your logo printed on all bottled water used around the campus. Our communications department can work with your team to produce the logos and get them on the bottles”.
Dad gum that pesky recession!!! Not only did it lead to a HUGE drop in pledges to FBC Jax this year, but it appears the conference planners had to forego the premium and woman’s speaker charge this year due to a decline in enrollees.
Things have gone too far… In fact, it's unbelievable! I'm sure we will get lots of comments saying that the money is being raised “for the Lord”. What is even scarier is that members have been conditioned to think this is absolutely normal. I'll bet George Mueller is turning over in his grave! Somehow, it seems like this is being done to benefit more than the Lord. In fact, I actually think He had something to say about this on another occasion. See if this sounds familiar …
"The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said,
"Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a place of business."
John 2:13-16 (NASB)
By the way, we have discussed the promotion of conferences before on The Wartburg Watch. For those who may have missed it, we explained how Sovereign Grace Ministries appears to be using the same marketing techniques as AMWAY.