The Incredibly Well-Paid Dr Thom Rainer of LifeWay Discovered That Contracts Can Be Enforced

JUPITER AND EUROPA 8/2020 NASA/HUBBLE

This latest image of Jupiter, taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope on Aug. 25, 2020, was captured when the planet was 406 million miles from Earth. A unique and exciting detail of Hubble’s snapshot appears at mid-northern latitudes as a bright, white, stretched-out storm traveling around the planet at 350 mph. Hubble shows that the Great Red Spot, rolling counterclockwise in the planet’s southern hemisphere, is plowing into the clouds ahead of it, forming a cascade of white and beige ribbons. Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, thought to hold potential ingredients for life, is visible to the left of the gas giant.
Credits: NASA, ESA, STScI, A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center), M.H. Wong (University of California, Berkeley), and the OPAL team

“A contract is only as good as the people signing it.” ― Jeffrey Fry


Several years ago, a few cardiologists decided to leave their practice and start a new practice near the other group. They checked their contract which had a noncompete clause. However, they discovered an out. The group had not followed their required notification responsibilities as outlined in the contract. It went to mediation and all of them were proven to be correct. They proceeded with their practice. Contracts, along with each and every word, are important. As Christians, we should follow the promises we’ve made even when it is uncomfortable. You can be darn sure that churches will go after members if they violate the membership contract which they call covenants. The contract is a promise between two or more parties.

This is not about some guy that we really like. It’s about keeping promises.

Thom Rainer and LifeWay

According to Wikipedia:

Rainer was born in Union Springs, Alabama and is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama, majoring in corporate finance with minors in statistics and economics. He began his career as a cash management officer (1977–80) at Trust Company of Georgia, now SunTrust. By age 25, Rainer became a fifth-generation banker and the youngest vice president[12] for corporate lending of SouthTrust Bank in Anniston, Alabama (1980–83).

Rainer entered Christian vocational ministry in 1982 and earned his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He served as pastor of churches in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky and Indiana prior to joining the faculty of SBTS in 1994 as founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth.[13] Also while serving at SBTS, Rainer founded and served as president and CEO of the Rainer Group.

In September 2005, Rainer was unanimously elected by the trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources to succeed James T. Draper as the ninth president of LifeWay,[14] one of the world’s largest Christian resource providers.[15] Shortly after assuming the presidency, Rainer established B&H Academic,[16] a branch of LifeWay’s B&H Publishing Group, to provide pastors, seminary professors and students with theologically conservative commentaries, academic monographs and other biblically-based resources.

As in-store sales continued to tank, Rainer closed the brick and mortar stores.

I believe that Rainer was aware of declining sales long before 2018 but he claims he didn’t. According to Baptist Press in Rainer: LifeWay did ‘all we could’ to save stores

LifeWay Christian Resources did “all we could” to keep brick and mortar stores open, LifeWay President Thom Rainer told the entity’s trustees. But despite positive indicators in mid-2018, by late in the year, data from stores showed revenue declines “had not reversed” and “had been exacerbated.”

It was widely known that sales for books and small gift items had been declining for 27 years according to the Baptist Press.

From 1990-2017, brick and mortar sales declined for sporting goods, furniture, shoes and hardware among other industries, Rainer said, citing data from the news website Axios. But the largest declines in that period were for books (49 percent) and newsstands (61 percent), including cards and small gift items.

Yet Rainer insisted that he saw *positive signs of growth as late as 2018.* I  am startled at his statements in this regard. Once again, from Baptist Press:

As recently as August 2018, Rainer gave trustees a positive report about LifeWay stores, based in significant measure on the customer migration from Family Christian, he said. But financial indications based on Family Christian Stores’ former customers were “a false positive.” The industry-wide decline continued, and by November and December 2018 “we began to see that not only had our efforts not reversed the declines. They had been exacerbated…. We knew that we were feeling the winds of change for this era.”

In 2016, the Board approved Rainer’s plan build of a brand new, expensive headquarters for Lifeway in downtown Nashville. There’s going to be ping pong tables and video games for the employees. Google, move over.

According to Bizjournal, Nashville, in Here’s how much LifeWay paid for its new downtown headquarters:

A newly filed deed reveals that LifeWay Christian Resources paid $5.5 million for land at the back part of Capitol View, which is being developed in a joint venture by Boyle Investment Co. and insurance giant Northwestern Mutual.

… The move to Capitol View is happening because LifeWay last fall sold its nearly 15-acre downtown campus for $125 million, 

…Nashville-based Gresham Smith & Partners designed LifeWay’s nine-story building, and Skanska USA will build the 250,000-square-foot building. Thom Rainer, the president and CEO of LifeWay, has said he is aiming for the building to be ready sometime late next year or early 2018.

…LifeWay joins two subsidiaries of Nashville-based hospital giant HCA Holdings Inc. (NYSE: HCA) as the headline office tenants so far in Capitol View. HCA, like LifeWay, bought its slice of Capitol View from Boyle;

…That first step, with a $90 million price tag, is set to feature a six-story building that would include 375 apartments, up to 50,000 square feet of office space, and up to 60,000 square feet of ground-floor retail —

According to Russell Vance Brings LifeWay’s HQ into the Modern Era ,this building has all sorts of bells and whistles. They are responding to the change in the culture with…video games?

Now situated just a handful of blocks west of the Tennessee State Capitol, the nine-story headquarters measures 277,000 square feet—about a quarter the size of the old campus, and a fraction of its operating cost as well

…Basically, LifeWay employees need to be able to work from anywhere, whether at home, in a café, or at the airport, waiting to embark on a business trip. Vance says the new facility therefore had to provide what’s needed for any of the 1,100 people on staff to work without being office and desk bound.

The eschewing of the traditional desk—and fixed-wall office, for that matter—is a crucial part of the new layout and culture. Each floor is dominated by large, natural-light workspaces designed to encourage collaboration and camaraderie among coworkers. More-remote areas are also available throughout the building, for when concentration and privacy are necessary, but the signature style at LifeWay’s headquarters is decidedly wall-free.

…Strengthening the team dynamic at LifeWay, there are plazas on each floor with cafés and vending options; “fun zones” with ping-pong, foosball, video games; a fitness center; and a terrace outside the third-floor café, among other relaxing features.

So the expenditures on this building appear to be based on statistics and projections from 1990-2017. And this is where the problem starts. It was apparent to me, way back in 2001 when I moved to Raleigh, that the brick and mortar store was outdated. Many of the gifts were tacky and the prices of the books were on the high side. The materials that I was looking for were unavailable and they had to order them for me. I decided that I would be ordering my stuff online from that point forward. It is startling to me that Rainer claims that he was unaware of the problem.

Most people without an MDiv and banking experience could have figured this out. Many of my friends didn’t even bother going to the store.

3/2019, Dave Miller wrote a post at SBC Voices Facts are Our Friends – About LifeWay’s Bad News

I felt he made a good point.

LifeWay is a denominational entity. Their goal is not to outsell everyone else or to become the biggest retailer of Christian goods. They are a Baptist publishing house and they are bound by our confessional statement.

But I disagree with him here. It was clear to me that there were problems.

One question I’ve seen raised often is whether this reveals greater financial issues at LifeWay. I believe they have answered this, but it is understandable that such a question would be raised. Statements have made it clear that LifeWay is on solid financial footing in general, but as Baptists, we always have the right to ask.

LifeWay continues to have financial problems, especially due to COVID.

LifeWay posted LifeWay announces budget cuts and staff reductions amid COVID-19

LifeWay Christian Resources is implementing a series of budgetary freezes, cutbacks and staff reductions in response to the economic crisis resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

LifeWay CEO Ben Mandrell cited a steep and steady decline of sales since mid-March, as well as uncertainty in the ability to host camps and events this summer as reasons for the actions LifeWay is taking.

“LifeWay stands to lose tens of millions of dollars of revenue that the organization would normally generate over the summer months from camps, events, VBS and ongoing curriculum sales,” Mandrell said. “LifeWay is mitigating these losses as much as possible through various expense reduction plans, including staff reductions and cuts in non-employee expenses. Additionally, LifeWay will likely have to use money from its reserves to cover a portion of the lost revenue.”

LifeWay will reduce staff, freeze all hiring and discretionary spending, and suspend salary increases and matching 401K contributions for all employees. In addition to these measures, the members of the executive leadership team will give up one month’s salary beginning in May.

These temporary expense reductions go into effect May 1, 2020. LifeWay is expecting to cut $25-$30 million of recurring expenses from its operating budget.

So, what’s going on with Thom Rainer?

in 2018, well before COVID, Rainer decided to retire. This is around the time the building with the video games opened. The Tennessean posted LifeWay CEO Thom Rainer announces plans to retire.

Rainer, 63, announced his decision Tuesday, according to a LifeWay news release. He plans to serve through August 2019 or until a new president is picked for the Nashville-based publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

…Dr. Rainer has strategically led through times of economic uncertainty, the digital revolution, changing church practices, and tumultuous shifts in culture,” Scroggins said in the news release. “His foresight and ability to lead change has well prepared LifeWay for the future as the organization continues to impact and influence the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

On September 30, 2020 (yep, it’s happening now) the Baptist Standard posted LifeWay sues former president Thom Rainer

LifeWay Christian Resources has sued its former president and CEO, accusing him of violating a noncompete clause in his contract.

Thom Rainer, who announced his plan to retire as president and CEO in 2018, still serves as chief advisory officer for LifeWay. Under terms of a transition agreement, he was prohibited from working with a competitor for 12 months after his retirement, LifeWay claims in a suit filed in Williamson County, Tenn., on Sept. 28.

Rainer, 65, was earning the same salary he received as president, plus a car, which he could keep after his term as chief advisory officer concludes Oct. 31, according to the transition agreement he signed with LifeWay in 2018.

But in April, the suit alleges, Rainer and Tyndale, a publisher of Bibles and other Christian books, reached “a multi-book, multiyear agreement” for publishing Rainer’s books, which LifeWay says violates the transition agreement.

Did you see this? He was getting his same salary as well as a car during this time period when he was working with Tyndale on one of his books.

Ummm-this is quite the sweetheart deal. Did he get a car? For what? Driving around Nashville? How many executives got cars and what kind?

This raises the oft-debated question…What was Rainer’s salary? I think it’s @ $1,000,000.

This has been going on for years. As TWW readers know, the SBC loves to pay their leaders top dollar. I have been told by those in the know that Thom Rainer was paid about a million dollars. In some discussions a few years back, there was a debate about LifeWay’s highest salary being around $700,000. However, some folks at SBC Voices believe that Thom Rainer was a cash cow for Lifeway since he has written many books. The SBC keeps a tight lid on salaries, especially for the dudebros. I believe the little guys paying their salaries should demand to know what they are being paid.

Here is a release from Lifeway for all of you numbers people. LIFEWAY CHRISTIAN RESOURCES OF THE SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION AND SUBSIDIARY Consolidated Statements of Financial Position: September 30, 2019, and 2018

“Exactly how many automobiles do they have and how nice are they?”  Before anyone gets excited, I know they must have trucks to get things shipped. But we also know that Rainer *got a car.* This is a question to be explored.

Finally, in the lawsuit described below, we learned from the Christian Post in Thom Rainer says he hopes to resolve the LifeWay lawsuit Tuesday; already returning severance

Thom Rainer, said he hopes to resolve a lawsuit for allegedly breaching his severance agreement with the denomination’s publishing arm by Tuesday, and noted that he began returning a portion of more than $1 million in severance pay. (ed. note-finally…)

Not all of the Trustees agreed with this decision. In fact, all sorts of folks are claiming that this was wrong-headed because Thom Rainer is a respected Baptist leader.

But at least some members of the LifeWay board of trustees have asked that the legal action be withdrawn. Jimmy Scroggins, pastor of Family Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., wrote an email to the board expressing his disappointment

Baptist Press reported Scroggins sent his fellow trustees an email citing three reasons he is “very disappointed” LifeWay sued Rainer: (1) “Lawsuits between believers are public, embarrassing, and damaging to the kingdom.” (2) “I believe a move this explosive should have been discussed with the full board.” (3) “I am confident there were, and are, better options for resolving any contractual disputes we have with Dr. Rainer.”

Thom Rainer resolves part of the dispute.

Holly Meyer of The Tennessean reported LifeWay Christian Resources resolves contract dispute with former president Thom Rainer

In a joint statement released Tuesday, the Southern Baptist Convention’s publishing arm and Rainer announced they have reached an amicable resolution. The settlement agreement comes after discussions Monday.

“Rainer has agreed to honor the transition agreement, including the non-compete clause. He has agreed not to move forward with his business partnership with Tyndale House Publishers, which was a violation of his non-compete agreement,” the statement said.

…Rainer stayed on through the transition and is currently LifeWay’s chief advisory officer. This role is slated to end on Oct. 31, the lawsuit states. The non-compete clause is valid until Oct. 31, 2021.

Once again, in Christian Post’s article. Thom Rainer says he hopes to resolve LifeWay lawsuit Tuesday; already returning severance

Thom Rainer, said he hopes to resolve a lawsuit for allegedly breaching his severance agreement with the denomination’s publishing arm by Tuesday, and noted that he began returning a portion of more than $1 million in severance pay. (ed. note-I knew it!)

“I am hopeful for a final resolution of the lawsuit by the end of the day. I did begin returning my severance several months ago at the request of LifeWay’s CEO,” Rainer said in a statement to The Christian Post on Tuesday in response to questions about a report that he was paid in excess of $1 million as part of the terms of the disputed severance agreement.

This ain’t over yet.

“While there have been numerous public misstatements and inaccuracies surrounding this matter, we have been and continue to be hopeful that we may resolve this issue with Dr. Rainer regarding his agreement with LifeWay and his partnership with a competitor,” Fannin said in an email to his colleagues who had planned to meet last Wednesday to discuss disagreements concerning the lawsuit.

“In lieu of moving forward with litigation, both parties are currently exploring the possibility of an agreed upon resolution of the differences. Our continued prayer is that this will be resolved quickly and amicably,” he noted.

Rainer previously told Baptist Press that in October 2019, he received “a written and amicable release from publishing” with LifeWay Christian Resources and spoke with the organization’s attorney and had “assumed all was well” until he received notice of the lawsuit last week.

Today, Mitch Little, the well-known Dallas attorney, tweeted the following. He knows a thing or two.

My thoughts on the lawsuit? Be careful when you sign a contract. (Remember those pesky membership covenants?)

It seems pretty clear to me that Rainer violated his non-compete. He had already started sending back his severance pay, all $1,000,000+ of it. But, as you see, it is possible that the non-compete’s requirements have not been reached.

As I have said, over and over again, a contract means something in the law. When you sign a membership covenant, which is a legal document, you can get sued. Many Christians, including Rainer, appear to think that a contract is nothing to get upset about. Folks, in this case, Rainer promised something. It appears he broke his promise. Some people claimed that the lawsuit was unjust. So be it. But it also appears that Rainer also didn’t follow his contract to the letter of the law. If this is so, he broke his promise.

Finally, Thom Rainer is on the side of authoritarian pastors. He thinks lowly members can be rather stupid.

In October 2019, I wrote Thom Rainer: You Are Too Dumb and Divisive to Vote for Church Staff

I posted the following tweet,

I then went on to say the following:

“Rainer appears to have a rather low view of the ability of church members to have a say in who gets to select the staff for a church. Mind you, he does appear to think the members should vote for the senior guy. Forgive me if I suspect that he barely tolerates the little people messing with this illustrious office but, for the sake of discussion, we’ll give it to him.

It appears to me that he thinks the senior dude should have the say but it might be a good idea if he asks a few of the dudebros, just in case. This technique is well known in the medical world in which a consultant is a guy who helps the attending “carry out the body.”

Rainer often does a good job looking down his nose at the little people.

Congregational votes for staff can be problematic. Pastors should do a thorough work to prepare for that vote. No, I am not a fan of congregational votes for staff members other than the pastor. Most of the members do not have nearly the knowledge of the prospective staff member as those making the recommendation, whether it’s a pastor or a committee. Sometimes the process can become a popularity contest. Sometimes members in the church are mad because their cousin was not chosen. If a congregational vote is mandated by polity or bylaws, the pastor should be fully prepared to answer any or all questions about the candidate before the vote takes place.

Let me say something to Rainer. I’ve been in many a church in which the lead pastor does select associate pastors like his own son or his soon to be best buddy who will nominate him to the council of a select gospel™ organization.

He seems to think that only the little guys make the selection of ancillary staff a *popularity* context. Good night! You should have seen a former church and the new senior pastor who, for his first sermon, mentioned John Piper and Mark Driscoll in the opening run-on sentence. He selected his best buddy who was a CJ Mahaney look alike and speak alike who, upon being introduced to one group of adults, explained that we were all equal but made sure everyone knew that he was the one with *authority.*  Dee turned to her husband and said “We are so screwed.” We got outta there.

Rainer gets quite concerned about divisiveness. Therefore, he wants the little guys to stand down. I actually feel bad for Rainer and his 30 years of churches. I am in a church in which congregational votes work and there aren’t knock down drag out fights over the matter. Sometimes, I suspect that Thom Rainer may be a little thin-skinned, imagining that all disagreements are attacks on his carefully won *authority.*

In the end, I believe church members should vote for those who will function in any capacity as pastor/minister. I am so sorry that Rainer, as he leaves his extremely lucrative position at LifeWay, has such a dim view of church members. It was those church members in SBC churches who contributed their hard-earned dollars to make sure that Rainer was paid so well that he retires at 62 with the ability to winter in one location and summer in another. “

$1,000,000 + a car…not bad…


Comments

The Incredibly Well-Paid Dr Thom Rainer of LifeWay Discovered That Contracts Can Be Enforced — 85 Comments

  1. If you look closely at that Christian Post article, Rainer had just been returning any severance payments made since March. Lifeway was crushed by COVID, and asked him to stop cashing those checks — so he did.

    But I see no sign he’s “returning” all the payments collected before March 2020. And allegedly leaked Lifeway memos say they’ve already *paid* him more than a million in benefits, royalties, and cars after retirement.

    He wanted to keep the money, but not his promises. Lifeway called him on it.

    Faced with a choice, I bet Thom’s decided to keep the promises to keep his money. But he’ll blame Lifeway for being so “unchristian” about it.

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  2. Everyone needs to visit https://sbcvoices.com/ to see the Rainer loyalists feel. One example:

    “I had quite a bit of interaction with Dr. Rainer during his time at LifeWay, likely the most I had with any entity leader except for Frank Page. I believe him to be a man of character and honesty. Whatever is going on here, I do not believe he is ignoring the law or acting with willful disregard for what is right (as is accused in the lawsuit). I do not believe he is that kind of man.”

    Dave Miller

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  3. Well… money aside, this appears to be another debacle compliments of the Christian industrial complex.

    Noncompete laws and their enforceability actually vary by state. For a lower level employee (not a corporate officer), you can often times get out of them if you can prove you were not able to work because of it. However, any noncompete agreement that involves $1 million in severance was certainly reviewed and agreed to by lawyers on both sides. I am pretty sure that everyone knew what was required because they would have been lawyered up.

    In my line of work, I have spoken to several Christians who have asked me if I think they can get out of their employment agreement. They will ask if I think that they should go to a lawyer and have it reviewed. The big problem I have with a Christian asking that question is that I really believe that they should just let their “yes be yes and their no be no”. Unless the other side has clearly breached the agreement, a Christian has no reason to want to get out of a contract that they signed. You know in your heart what you meant when you signed it.

    The other thing about noncompetes, is that if something comes up during the duration of the agreement that appears to be a grey area, you can simply go back and ask the other party if they would be willing to let you participate in another endeavor. Given the gravity of this agreement, I would think that if permission was granted to write a book for a competitor, that Thom would’ve gotten that permission in writing. Since he was seeking an exception, or an “addendum” to his agreement I would think that would have been reviewed by a lawyer as well. Who knows if we will find out!

    This one actually hits pretty close to home for me. I think the best thing you can do with a contract if something changes in your business environment is simply go back and ask the other party if they would be willing to open it back up. I think that is what a Christian would do.We are supposed to be different.

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  4. The LifeWay store in Flower Mound (where I would shop while my SO would buy out the nearby Belk) was well maintained but was selling a bunch of stuff that was way outdated. Such as a Sunday School Record Book in triplicate. (I remember my church had those — almost 40 years ago.) Not to mention deep discounts on bulletin covers, another way outdated item.

    Sad that they went under since the nearest Mardel is all the way in Denton and I rarely have a need to go there.

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  5. “Thom Rainer, said he hopes to resolve a lawsuit for allegedly breaching his severance agreement with the denomination’s publishing arm by Tuesday, and noted that he began returning a portion of more than $1 million in severance pay.”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++=

    It has always been my understanding that severance pay is what an employer gives to an employee when they are cutting the workforce, not to someone who retires.

    A cake, a card, and perhaps a watch is what a retiree usually receives.

    That Rainer receive a car and a million bucks is ridiculous. Who approved that? These guys sure take care of each other. Their sense of entitlement is obscene.

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  6. “on the side of authoritarian pastors. He thinks lowly members can be rather stupid.” – from the post

    Maybe the authoritarians and the not-so-well-informed find each other. Complementing, co-dependent networking.

    The answer for the not-so-well-informed: read the Bible like the Bereans did and follow, for example, TWW, to get a clue.

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  7. “ This has been going on for years. As TWW readers know, the SBC loves to pay their leaders top dollar.”

    Brings to mind Platt starting to serve as a guest pastor at McLean about two Sundays a month while being on full salary at IMB, then actually announcing he was going to be signing on at McLean full-time, while staying on — presumably with substantial remuneration — while a lengthy period of time went by to name a successor at IMB.

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  8. He was paid all that money upon “retirement,” plus the car, but he couldn’t wait even 12 months before starting up another hustle. You have to wonder … gambling debts? Girlfriend? Or just a really greedy guy.

    It’s a business-school cliche that when a company builds a super fancy new headquarters, it’s time to sell the stock.

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  9. “folks at SBC Voices believe that Thom Rainer was a cash cow for Lifeway since he has written many books” (Dee)

    For a while, Rainer was a cash cow at Lifeway because he promoted New Calvinist books … in the early days of the movement, Lifeway stores were a major outlet for Piper, Driscoll, etc. etc. The SBC Voices’ crowd love the man for that reason, for his role in disseminating indoctrination for the new reformation. Personally, I was glad to see the Lifeway stores close – you had to trip over New Calvinist book displays and ESV Bibles just inside the front door. Mainline (non-Calvinist) Southern Baptists didn’t have a clue, however, and continued to buy self-help books and trinkets there. A Mohler bud, Rainer was a key player in the New Calvinist takeover of SBC … and he can be considered a profiteer poster child for the Christian Industrial Complex. He was scheduled for a day of reckoning such as this.

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  10. Cynthia W.: It’s a business-school cliche that when a company builds a super fancy new headquarters, it’s time to sell the stock.

    Happened all the time during the Dot-Com Boom & Crash.

    Startup after startup of 20-year-old Silicon Valley Hotshots would go public, put all the money into Super Fancy HQs (some built from scratch), lotsa EXPENSIVE Bling-Bling, Porsches & Lamborghinis for everyone — and never got around to putting any money into what their startup was supposed to be doing. Some never even figured out what they were going to do, just a string of buzzwords like Weird Al Yankovic’s “Mission Statement”. They even competed with each other for “Burn Rate” — who could go through the investors’ money the fastest.

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  11. An OP-relevant thought relating to the use of legally-enforceable contracts as a condition of church membership.

    I have read that there has been a big change in business culture in US in recent decades, roughly contemporaneous with the rise of the idea that the sole duty of corporate officers is to maximize return to company shareholders; previously (and still in law) the principle duty of the officers was to the corporation itself, and there was a wide recognition of the interests of customers, suppliers, employees, local community, etc, on whom corporations depend for their prosperity.

    In the “old days”, contracts served as formal statements of agreements reached between business agents who believed they could trust each other. It was not expected that it would be necessary to enforce them, since each party expected the other to act in good faith; they were a last resort in case of unresolvable dispute. I have read that there is a lot less trust in our day, and contracts are more important as a means of compelling the compliance of untrustworthy counterparties.

    So it’s disheartening to see contracts proliferating in “the Church”. The implication is that the leadership do not trust the laity. And in many cases, it appears that the laity have warrant to not trust the leadership; thus Dee’s IMO wise counsel to refuse to sign church membership contracts.

    This might be another illustration of the sub-optimal character of churches larger than a certain relatively small scale. In giant churches, the laity are not known or knowable by the leadership; of course in such cases trust cannot exist, and thus enforceable agreements become desirable. That would be the case even if the leaders were themselves perfectly virtuous and trustworthy. Add to that the reality of leader desire for enforceable control mechanisms, and contracts are even more attractive.

    It’s an argument to avoid large churches, and also smaller churches that imitate the large churches’ methods in the hope of becoming large themselves.

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  12. George: This one actually hits pretty close to home for me. I think the best thing you can do with a contract if something changes in your business environment is simply go back and ask the other party if they would be willing to open it back up. I think that is what a Christian would do.We are supposed to be different.

    The reason that contracts are so important is that both sides get to structure it in a way that will benefit all parties. That means that each part of the contract should be carefully reviewed for general agreement.

    My husband decided to move his practice back to Duke. His noncompete was in effect for 6 months and a 20 mile raidus. He stuck to the agreement and drove to a medical building just over 20 miles away. He did what was right, even when it was inconvenient.

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  13. Todd Wilhelm: It has always been my understanding that severance pay is what an employer gives to an employee when they are cutting the workforce, not to someone who retires.
    A cake, a card, and perhaps a watch is what a retiree usually receives.
    That Rainer receive a car and a million bucks is ridiculous. Who approved that? These guys sure take care of each other. Their sense of entitlement is obscene.

    The SBC pays the celebrity types very, very well and they refuse to tell the great unwashed what that means. The upper layers of the SBC are supported by a cash cow. I wouldn’t give a dime to the SBC, knowing this to be true.

    i suggest that the little guy give directly to the ministry that they understand and support.

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  14. dee: Dave Miller is a decent sort but he stands by those he admires, no matter what.

    Agreed, Pastor Miller is a decent sort of guy. Unfortunately, SBC’s New Calvinist elite have used folks like Miller and his blog to advance their kingdom. As a reward, he gets to rub shoulders with royalty at SBC conferences, where he is encouraged to support their takeover of the denomination. The big-boys probably don’t really give a big whoop about him otherwise. In recent years, SBC Voices has tried to come across as more middle of the theological road, but the bias is still there. I stopped commenting on SBC Voices years ago – I was a voice crying in the wilderness and usually got ripped a new one when I posted there. It’s a shame that good folks like Pastor Miller are used and abused like this, but that’s what New Calvinist leaders do. It would have been better for the new reformers to start their own denomination, but they wanted all the SBC stuff … which they have largely gathered in at this point (seminaries, mission agencies, publishing house, thousands of churches).

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  15. dee: i suggest that the little guy give directly to the ministry that they understand and support.

    I will add to that a plea to support local ministries. There’s a lot of local groups doing ministry to those in need around me, and I would guess around others as well. It doesn’t have to be money, either, but time or goods. There’s several local food pantries and a soup kitchen run by a local church here. My local elementary school also has a food pantry and clothes closet for their own students.

    The SBC now just wastes money and proves they care more about protecting their elite class than ministry. I wouldn’t give them another dime, either.

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  16. ishy: I will add to that a plea to support local ministries.

    Agreed. At this point, it would be better for SBC churches to support local needs than sending funds to national entities where you can’t see how your hard-earned money is distributed. The days of trusting the big-boys to do the right thing is over.

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  17. I do scratch my head on why Rainer would go to a different publishing company to handle his books than supporting B&H or whatever the publishing arm of Lifeway is. If they have supported you – financially, etc., why go some place else.

    Here is another side of the situation. It is above my pay grade, so I will let you all sort it out. https://twitter.com/R_Denhollander/status/1311485211029495809

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  18. When you run a church like a business … with people who only know how to run a business like a business, you get a business-led ministry. Not sure where the surprise is here?
    I see this as the BIGGEST issue in modern churches. They are ran like businesses. The dollar is the primary motivation for EVERYTHING! Not Jesus. It opens doors for greed, lying, and all other sorts of deadly sins.

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  19. Don Jones: I do scratch my head on why Rainer would go to a different publishing company to handle his books than supporting B&H or whatever the publishing arm of Lifeway is. If they have supported you – financially, etc., why go some place else.

    One thing I’m not seeing discussed now, which I saw earlier and may be because of shared court documents, but that one of the issues was over Ranier’s church consulting business, which does compete directly with Lifeway Leadership. Maybe the court documents were kept secret, but this is the real issue and Ranier avoided talking about that in his public statements?

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  20. dee: The upper layers of the SBC are supported by a cash cow

    I’m curious whether there is an accessible list of the layers of upper management of SBC state and national entities supported by the Cooperative Program and (probably less accessible) their compensation. I’m wondering how much of the CP total contributions go into paying for these upper admin layers, and how that compares with other not-for-profit entities (though perhaps that’s not a great baseline; I have the impression that increasingly the NGO sector is becoming a grifter’s paradise; the iron law of institutions at work over time)

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  21. elastigirl: who or what this cash cow is?

    Millions of hard-working SBC members across the U.S. in 47,000 churches … who bring their tithes and offerings into the storehouse … unaware that the keepers of the storehouse are using them as a collective cash cow to draw huge salaries and benefits. The faithful multitude naively think their money is being used for something like the Great Commission.

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  22. Samuel Conner: I’m wondering how much of the CP total contributions go into paying for these upper admin layers, and how that compares with other not-for-profit entities (though perhaps that’s not a great baseline; I have the impression that increasingly the NGO sector is becoming a grifter’s paradise; the iron law of institutions at work over time)

    It’s my understanding that once the New Calvinists took over, they became very secretive about financial statements of the institutions. I know that was an issue when they fired all those missionaries without involving the Convention. So that may be something very hard to discern…

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  23. Meanwhile, here in the Ozarks, church was wonderful this morning.

    First there was the “walk to church” as I logged my daily walk for health. Trees are turning, as are shrubs. Burgundies are strong, some bright reds coming on good as are gold, orange, and yellow. Our marigolds are bright orange, our mums yellow and purple. Beautiful!

    Fellowship time was served, though I only watched as the squirrels, chipmunks, blue jays, crows, and wood chucks gathered the abundant acorns and pecan, walnut, black walnut, and hickories.

    I entered the sanctuary of my back deck to the choir performance of a number of songbirds doing fall calls. Spring mating calls are my favorites but these are nice also. Greeting me were my neighbor’s deaf dog, some goats, and a lot of chickens.

    The speaker was eloquent. It was the Word of God, plain old text version of the old Living Bible. It was followed by a time of silent communion with the Maker of all.

    There was a refreshing lack of money changers, and of buyers and sellers. It cost my Savior everything, it cost me nothing financial and gave me once again more than any amount of money could ever buy. No one counted nickels and noses.

    No business model. No one pouting they did not get their way, no jockeying for power.

    I bet there is a church like that near you too!

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  24. ishy: I know that was an issue when they fired all those missionaries without involving the Convention.

    That was the deciding issue for me for exiting the SBC after nearly 70 years. At the same time IMB claimed a budget shortfall as the reason for dismissing 1,000 career foreign missionaries, NAMB was budgeted $60 million annually to plant 1,000 reformed churches per year in the U.S. If asked, mainline Southern Baptists would have prioritized spending to keep those missionaries on the field. Apparently, the New Calvinist leadership preferred planting theology to reaching lost people across the world. (of course, in their book, you were either lost or saved before you drew breath … so why need foreign missionaries preaching whosoever will may come?)

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  25. I am a broken record. The SBC I knew before the TAKEOVER is gone. Rainer, Miller, etc., will never admit they destroyed the SBC. These FUNDAMENTALIST took over all of the SBC assets and there is no accountability. One day the money coming in will dry up. What will they say then? As my friend in South Africa says-I am being a smarty pants- they will blame it on the “Liberals.”

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  26. Max: It should be clear now to all Southern Baptists that the Conservative Resurgence was really a Calvinist Resurgence in disguise … and the worse deceivers of the bunch got out in front to lead the rebellion.

    The notion keeps recurring that some in the seminary supper clubs may have war-gamed the best way to do to to find guaranteed paying gigs for their charges (who in turn would enhance the planners and their operations) even in the midst of societal changes and corresponding institutional entropy as the baby boom dollars dried up.

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  27. Max,

    https://erlc.com/about/leadership-council/

    Dave Miller is on the leadership council of the ERLC.

    Dave Miller serves as senior pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in Sioux City, Iowa. He served as President of the 2017 SBC Pastors’ Conference. He is a graduate of Palm Beach Atlantic College (now University) and SWBTS. He served churches in Florida and Virginia before returning to Iowa, where he grew up, in 1991, and has served two churches there. Since 2010, Dave has been the editor of SBC Voices. Dave and his wife, Jennifer, have four grown children and seven grandchildren.

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  28. JDV: institutional entropy as the baby boom dollars dried up

    Someone forgot to tell the young reformers that when they takeover established churches by stealth and deception and force the boomers to leave, their money goes with them. When they excommunicate the deep-pocket old guys who won’t willingly swallow their aberrant theology, they also excommunicate the ability to pay church bills. One such church in my area had to cut back on service times because they couldn’t afford the electric bill … a church that once had a healthy congregation of worshippers.

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  29. Max:
    AUCPA,

    He’s been climbing the SBC ladder since his humble beginnings in Iowa.His blog got the attention of SBC’s New Calvinist elite.

    Mr. Miller has claimed he was a foot soldier in the TAKEOVER of the SBC. He took notes, etc of what he considered “liberal” seminary Professors while he was in Seminary for those that would use this information against these Professors to have them fired or removed. I wonder if he has ever repented over the lives he destroyed during the TAKEOVER. Christians do not treat other Christians this way IMO.

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  30. Max,

    So Max, I just joined a SBC church ( pastor is a wonderful guy who is not a Calvnist) . I love the church, very easygoing and caring. . My question is this , when they have the Lottie Moon offering etc., is that money going to overseas missionaries or to build churches to run by Calvinist’s pastors.
    If so I really don’t want to give. Are most the new plant pastors Calvinists or a mix? Has anyone researched this? I don’t really care for the 5 point Calvinist God. Thanks

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  31. Zane Pratt has been given charge of training IMB missionaries:

    https://www.imb.org/leadership/

    Turns out he was the one who initiated 9Mark Dever into Calvinism years ago:

    https://www.patheos.com/blogs/thoughtlife/2012/11/how-can-you-grow-in-your-faith-learn-theology-like-at-gospel-coalition-2013/

    “missiologist and career missionary Zane Pratt…won Mark Dever over to Calvinism while the two were at Duke”

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  32. Chuck P: when they have the Lottie Moon offering etc., is that money going to overseas missionaries or to build churches to run by Calvinist’s pastors

    After 70 years in SBC life, I was saddened the last couple of years before I left when the Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong offering envelopes were passed around. Before the New Calvinists took control of the denomination, you were guaranteed that those funds would go to support “whosoever-will-may-come” evangelism around the world and in North America. As you note, those monies may now be used to support New Calvinist works, given the definite trend toward Calvinism within the SBC.

    IMB does not keep a record of foreign missionary theological belief, so you don’t know for sure if they are restaffing the 1,000 missionaries who left with New Calvinists. David Platt, a notorious New Calvinist who said that the “sinner’s prayer” is superstitious was IMB President when they booted those good people from the field … so I suspect the new wave of “missionaries” coming out of SBC seminaries would be of a New Calvinist persuasion.

    It should be noted that the Lottie Moon funds are administered by SBC’s International Mission Board (IMB) who has responsibility for foreign mission efforts. SBC’s church planting program in the U.S. is administered by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) … although new IMB missionaries essentially plant new churches in foreign countries. IMB and NAMB have separate budgets and different missions. The Annie Armstrong offering supports NAMB programs, including church planting in the U.S.

    This is a long answer to your question. I answered it in my own heart by leaving the SBC. Evangelism (of the sort I knew for 7 decades) is no longer the primary mission of SBC.

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  33. Chuck P: I just joined a SBC church ( pastor is a wonderful guy who is not a Calvinist)

    Chuck, I’m pleased to hear that your SBC pastor is a non-Calvinist … within 10 years, he will be a rare and endangered species within the denomination.

    When the New Calvinist wave began to sweep through the SBC, thousands of non-Calvinist pastors refused to advise their congregations of the potential disruption it would cause to Southern Baptist belief and practice. While these are good folks, who desire unity, I fault them for not having “family meetings” to discuss this important issue. It’s too late now.

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  34. Jerome: Zane Pratt has been given charge of training IMB missionaries:

    https://www.imb.org/leadership/

    Turns out he was the one who initiated 9Mark Dever into Calvinism years ago

    Chuck P,

    Chuck, if you are listening in, Jerome just addressed my concerns about the probable theological slant of the new wave of SBC foreign missionaries. Do you reckon Mr. Pratt would have a particular theology in mind for his training program?

    Thank you, Jerome, for you efforts to retrieve these important items.

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  35. Max: Someone forgot to tell the young reformers that when they takeover established churches by stealth and deception and force the boomers to leave, their money goes with them.When they excommunicate the deep-pocket old guys who won’t willingly swallow their aberrant theology, they also excommunicate the ability to pay church bills.One such church in my area had to cut back on service times because they couldn’t afford the electric bill … a church that once had a healthy congregation of worshippers.

    Which is where the other part of potential planning can prove valuable to the planners, as they institute a top-down structure guaranteeing funding uninterrupted to the shepherds/leaders, with any questioning of local church / storehouse theology ripe for being blunted by proof texting, membership covenants, and much more for the winsomely sheared sheep.

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  36. I thought we we finally going to get a first hand account of Dever’s 1980s church plant in Massachusetts that went belly up just a few years after he’d penned the initial 9 Marks manifesto detailing how it was such a healthy church:

    June 2020 podcast titled “Mark Dever Planted a Church”

    https://www.churchplantingpodcast.org/new-city-network/mark-dever-planted-a-church

    Clint Clifton (Senior Director of Development for the North American Mission Board): “we talk with Mark Dever on his experience of planting a church.”

    Clifton introducing Dever: “Early on in his ministry career, he planted a church called the New Meadows Baptist Church with another pastor…Andy Davis, who’s pastoring down in Durham, North Carolina now.”

    Then, what a letdown:

    Clifton: “I didn’t record the first part of the conversation where we were talking about the church planting that he did in New England.”

    [lots of other stuff however regarding Dever’s current strategy of “replanting” churches, how he downplayed the Founders connection, how he he’s convinced that YRR is “just getting going…it’s not slowing down; it’s increasing”]

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  37. Jerome:
    Clint Clifton (Senior Director of Development for the North American Mission Board): “we talk with Mark Dever on his experience of planting a church.”

    Clifton introducing Dever: “Early on in his ministry career, he planted a church called the New Meadows Baptist Church with another pastor…Andy Davis, who’s pastoring down in Durham, North Carolina now.”

    Then, what a letdown:

    Clifton: “I didn’t record the first part of the conversation where we were talking about the church planting that he did in New England.”

    It’s interesting that in a discussion focused directly on this particular subject, a key part of the initial experience of “planting a church“ would be not reproduced at all. Maybe Anthony Moore took notes on the subject way back when and can help round out the discussions on teachable moments in church planting etc.

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  38. Chuck P: So Max, I just joined a SBC church ( pastor is a wonderful guy who is not a Calvnist) . I love the church, very easygoing and caring. . My question is this , when they have the Lottie Moon offering etc., is that money going to overseas missionaries or to build churches to run by Calvinist’s pastors.
    If so I really don’t want to give. Are most the new plant pastors Calvinists or a mix? Has anyone researched this? I don’t really care for the 5 point Calvinist God. Thanks

    I am still glad to hear that there are non-SBC pastors, but I would be very careful if the pastor ever retired or decided to leave the church. Having seen a takeover firsthand in two institutions and one church, they are brutal and often don’t give people much of a chance to leave fairly.

    It’s hard to research this, because as I said earlier, the New Calvinists shut down financial accountability to the Convention when they took over the institutions. And they are very much against foreign missions. They will absolutely claim up and down that they aren’t, but IMB is just a shred of what it used to be now.

    I can answer with a definite yes, that new missionaries are likely to be Calvinista-vetted. Even before them, appointment had a lot of political strings. I saw that pressure first-hand, too, while working at NAMB and in seminary as a missions student. It is likely that their bigger stars will go the NAMB route, as they are pushing NAMB church plants very hard. They talk about planting the Gospel™, but I think it’s way more about acquiring voting power in the Convention and getting churches to buy Lifeway materials.

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  39. There was another Christian store chain in the Midwestern and Western part of the U.S. that was also seeing a decline in sales in that 2018 period. The restructured as a nonprofit, still had to shut down. I was told this by the people working with that store chain.

    There is three choices to explain T. Rainer’s actions: Willfully ignorant, lying, or mentally challenged.

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  40. Brian: There is three choices to explain T. Rainer’s actions: Willfully ignorant, lying, or mentally challenged.

    Does it have to be a choice?

    Not far from I live a Lifeway stored opened a few blocks from a family Christian book store. The family store went out of business first, and the Lifeway store shut down a couple years later. Now we have nothing. I get most of my books online anyway, but it was useful to be able to flip through paper copies in the store to see what was really in the books.

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  41. Ken F (aka Tweed),

    This raises the point that lots of bookstores have gone under in the past decade, even without mischief on the grand scale.

    I recently went into a campus bookstore. The shelves were few and nearly empty. I was the only customer, three days before term began. Paid $150 for a science “textbook,” an envelope containing a scratch-off card with a unique access code. The text is completely online, but wait! There’s more! For that money the student also gets to turn in homework and take tests on a special platform. Because of the pandemic, class is by Zoom, and labs are something the student watches.

    I miss the world, and books.

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  42. Brian,

    “Evangelical Council for Abuse Prevention Supports Ministries, Churches

    The new nonprofit provides child protection standards and an accreditation program for ministries

    …ecfa-announces-formation-of-evangelical-council-for-abuse-prevention/z”
    +++++++++++++++++++++

    it sounds good!

    why do i have a sense of foreboding…

    that this will end up being another thing where ‘christian celebrities’ can buy their good rating

    (either of their own accord, or through pressure from shadowy evangelical entities because they represent dollar signs and power which benefits other christian entities)

    …that this will just be another opportunity for evangelicals to demonstrate how ethically confused they are. (i was being charitable, there)

    (which will be unfortunate for the good ones to have to be tarnished with)

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  43. Max: Chuck, if you are listening in, Jerome just addressed my concerns about the probable theological slant of the new wave of SBC foreign missionaries. Do you reckon Mr. Pratt would have a particular theology in mind for his training program?

    “Theology” as in “There is no God but CALVIN”?

    “For you cross land and sea to make ONE Convert, and when you do you make him twice the spawn of Hell as yourselves!”
    — some Rabbi from Nazaerth

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  44. mot: Mr. Miller has claimed he was a foot soldier in the TAKEOVER of the SBC. He took notes, etc of what he considered “liberal” seminary Professors while he was in Seminary for those that would use this information against these Professors to have them fired or removed. I wonder if he has ever repented over the lives he destroyed

    How can you “repent” when You Can Do No Wrong?
    And advancing the Sacred CAUSE is NEVER Wrong!

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  45. Chuck P,

    I’m not a Southern Baptist, but over the years I have had a number of colleagues who are missionaries with the IMB. since the purge , those who stayed receive less funds by the denomination and are increasingly asking individual donors to give to their support needs. So the lottie Moon offering doesn’t cover the needs anymore. Given all I’ve seen first hand and also read here on TWW I don’t trust the IMB when they raise support for any general fund. Better idea, find a cross cultural worker you know and respect who makes disciples among a people group which is among the least reached and give to their work directly.

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  46. Headless Unicorn Guy: “Kiss Up, Kick Down”?
    Suck up and brown-nose your Superiors until you can knife them in the back and climb Up over their bodies?

    I wonder with folks like Miller where God-Jesus-and the Holy Spirit fit into their destroying people’s lives and a thriving organization taking his Word around the world WITH what was once 5,000 plus foreign missiories? Since the TAKEOVER the SBC has been headed in just one direction-DOWN!! IMO if they do not fear God, then?

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  47. Fisher: I’m not a Southern Baptist, but over the years I have had a number of colleagues who are missionaries with the IMB. since the purge , those who stayed receive less funds by the denomination and are increasingly asking individual donors to give to their support needs. So the lottie Moon offering doesn’t cover the needs anymore. Given all I’ve seen first hand and also read here on TWW I don’t trust the IMB when they raise support for any general fund. Better idea, find a cross cultural worker you know and respect who makes disciples among a people group which is among the least reached and give to their work directly.

    I spent 44 years in the SBC and would not give a dime to Lottie Moon or Annie Armstrong for two reasons-The SBC leaders use these two Godly women’s names to raise money off of even though women in the SBC are treated as second class citizens and there is no accountability for the funds collected.

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  48. ishy: Well, this is an interesting twist and to me is a perfect example of how the New Calvinists work, so it sounds credible:

    https://baptistmessage.com/lifeways-mandrell-indicates-trustees-unaware-of-sweetheart-deal-for-rainer/

    The New Calvinist elite take care of their own. I see nothing in Scripture about sweetheart deals for those in the ministry. OTOH, there are lots of examples of the faithful being persecuted.

    “They were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated — the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” (Hebrews 11)

    Nah, Million-Dollar Rainer is not being persecuted by the LifeWay lawsuit. It’s how the world lives.

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  49. Max: The New Calvinist elite take care of their own.

    “The Lifesyle to which the Predestined Elect are ENTITLED”?

    Nah, Million-Dollar Rainer is not being persecuted by the LifeWay lawsuit. It’s how the world lives.

    It’s called Playing the PERSECUTION!!!!! Card off the bottom of the deck.

    Eagle’s regular troll was also heavily into that.
    Eagle calls it “Persecution Porn”.

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  50. Headless Unicorn Guy: Eagle’s regular troll was also heavily into that.
    Eagle calls it “Persecution Porn”.

    Love the description “Persecution Porn”.

    Read comments by a commenter who posted comments on a number of different kinds of websites (or try to post comments, judging by the comments posted by the various websites’ moderators). The comments were the equivalent of troll-bait, the contents being unnecessarily close to porn. I’d be willing to bet the moderators of the various websites felt persecuted by the troll and the troll-bait-like comments. (No offence intended to abuse victims and survivors who are trying to tell their stories, be heard, and be believed….and who are not in the same category as the troll with the troll-bait-like comments.)

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  51. Jimmy Scroggins hires Art Rainer, Jimmy is put on Lifeway Board and gets book published, NAMB becomes the marketing arm of the book (Jimmy once worked for Kevin Ezell), Jimmy becomes head of Lifeway board and signs transition allowance for $1m. Then Jimmy thinks it should be handled privately without lawyers….

    Anyone smelling a RAT? I believe there should be a full investigation and report given at 2021 SB Convention!

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  52. Motives to keep it quiet?

    Scroggins is pastor of Family Church, formerly the First Baptist Church, in West Palm Beach, Florida. He has been a LifeWay trustee since 2014 and served as chairman of the LifeWay board from 2018-2020. His second term ends in 2022. Lifeway has published materials by Scroggins in 2016 and 2020 and a book is slated for release in 2021, according to advertising on lifeway.com and amazon.com.

    https://baptistmessage.com/lifeways-mandrell-indicates-trustees-unaware-of-sweetheart-deal-for-rainer/

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