A Petition Requests Forensic Audits of Two SBC Entities: North American Mission Board (NAMB) and LifeWay. Great Idea but Leaders Will Never Let Donors Know the Truth

2017 Eclipse: Moon Transiting the Sun –NASA

“I want to throw open the windows of the Church so that we can see out and the people can see in.” Pope John XXIII


A couple of days ago, I was sent a copy of  SBC Forensic Audits: Essential Transparency at NAMB and LifeWay from an anonymous person. Given the reluctance of the SBC to release financial information on a number of items, this petition has little chance of success. However, I find myself in agreement with many of the concerns listed. I would love to hear the rationale for refusing to do the requested audit but I doubt the dudebros will even deign to reply. They’re too busy trying to spend the money.

The following is from the petition. There are no links to prove what they are saying and everyone knows that I like links. However, given the fact that this was written by some Baptist insiders, I would venture to guess that there is some truth to their concerns.

In regards to the NAMB

The request:

The North American Mission Board (NAMB) stewards assets of $435 million on behalf of Southern Baptists, with an annual budget of $125 million. To build trust for cooperative Kingdom work, it is imperative that we operate with full transparency and accountability, particularly in financial matters.

The petition makes some hardpoints on the decline in the SBC in general.

Over the last 10 years NAMB has spent $1.2 billion in sacrificial mission gifts from SBC members and churches with diminishing results in evangelism and church planting, resulting in the worst decade in the 175-year history of the SBC in terms of decline in baptisms, missionaries on the field, new church starts, Cooperative Program mission giving, church attendance and church membership.

Here are their specific concerns.

MILLIONS have been sent for houses for a few church planters.

NAMB has spent tens of millions on houses for use by a few church planters. Some of these homes cost over $500,000 and have amenities like swimming pools. Where are these homes? How many are there? Who lives in them?

I have long believed that the majority of church plants are unsuccessful. I have recently been in conversation about one such plant (SBC) that appears to be deeply troubled and on the verge of collapse. However, I cannot get any figures from the SBC. I predict that the SBC will not be able to continue such large layouts of cash for such small gains if I am. Why shouldn’t the SBC post the numbers of church plants with locations along with the number of church plant fails?

LARGE FINANCIAL GRANTS TO A FEW CHURCH PLANTERS

NAMB has given large grants to a select number of church planters, some of whom are no longer Southern Baptist. In July 2020 it was revealed that one Atlanta, GA church planter received a NAMB loan to purchase a church building, then received a $175,000 grant to remodel the building. That church planter, and his NAMB-funded church, has left the SBC. Who else is receiving large grants from NAMB?

I believe the Atlanta church is Cornerstone. Cornerstone Church Atlanta votes to leave SBC: ‘We should’ve done it sooner,’ black pastor says. 

CHURCH PLANTING BUDGET TRIPLED WHILE PLANTS REDUCED BY HALF.

The NAMB church planting budget has grown from $23 million to $75 million in 10 years, but the number of new church starts has dropped to less than half the number a decade ago.

This is a simple math question. If more money is poured into church plants and the number of plants declines, what’s up? I recently spoke with some folks who said that their SBC church plant was run by an ineffectual, young dudebro who appeared clueless on how to run a church. That church has been marked with multiple firings of personnel and threats to the congregation to be *submissive.* I predict failure along with frustration.

The SBC has paid out $600,000 to lobby Congress

Why is a Southern Baptist mission agency, supported through the Cooperative Program and an annual missions offering, lobbying for federal funds (for Send Relief)

So, the SBC dudebros are claiming hostility to politics while on the other hand playing the game?

MILLIONS IN MARKETING STAFF AND ADVERTISEMENT

NAMB’s marketing staff is four to five times larger than the evangelism staff. How much money is spent on marketing verses evangelism? Annual baptisms have plummeted by over 100,000 in the past decade to levels not seen since 1938.

Is the SBC now marketing Baptist churches? Have they started product placement? For example,” Today’s church plant in Kennebunk, Maine, brought to you by LL Bean which encourages you to” “Warm your feet with Bean boots while you warm your spiritual heart in this church plant?”

On the SBC website I found this slogan under the church planters section:

We long to see communities across North America holistically restored by meeting spiritual, economic, emotional and social needs.

It appears that communities in which there are SBC church plants are being *holistically restored.*  I will be watching for this *holistic transformation.*

$15 MILLION SPENT ON ONE PROPERTY IN A SMALL TOWN.

NAMB spent a reported $15 million on a mission center in Clarkston, GA, which includes soccer fields, among other amenities.

…While NAMB has defunded local Associations and State Conventions, why are they investing millions of dollars in one mission center in one Georgia town? Are there other such mission centers that NAMB has bought or built?

I could not find the definition of a mission center on the SBC website. (Get those web gurus moving.) So I don’t know if this is a new or old concept. But that is a large chunk of change for small-town Georgia. Surely someone should be able to explain why this money is being spent?

NAMB is paying monthly stipends to select pastors to represent NAMB in nearly every State Convention

How many? How much? Why?

LifeWay

This section is noticeably short. That may be due to the newly found revelations on Thom Rainer’s retirement obligations which I wrote about here: The Incredibly Well-Paid D. Thom Rainer of LifeWay Discovered That Contracts Can Be Enforced. Throughout the years, I have heard a number of unsubstantiated rumors that Rainer was being paid $1 million/year. You can read more about that in my post. According to the petition:

Published reports and statements by both the LifeWay Trustee Chairman and LifeWay President reveal that … A LifeWay Trustee, Pastor Jimmy Scroggins, who was under financial contract with LifeWay in violation of SBC bylaw 15-F, solely decided to give LifeWay President Thom Rainer over $1 million in a retirement agreement without knowledge or approval from the LifeWay Trustee Board, the LifeWay Compensation Committee or the LifeWay Trustee Executive officers. Scroggins and Rainer were also in financial relationships with NAMB via at least printed materials and professional services contracts.

Will McRaney’s lawsuit against the NAMB link

I believe this petition was generated by friends of McRaney. I would suspect that some would dismiss this petition because of the lawsuit ongoing between McRaney and the NAMB. However, as a former member of an SBC church, I have long been asking such questions about $$$$ and the SBC. Do not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

The issues in this petition have plagued the SBC for years.

There is little question in my mind that big cheeses in the SBC are being exorbitant salaries. The fact that said salaries will not be released is an indication that the recipients of the $$$ do not want the little guys who tithe to know how they are spending their money. For example, it was widely conjectured that Ronnie Floyd was being paid $500,000 when he took the EC position. And that doesn’t include reimbursements from all sorts of conferences, special meetings, etc. There is a reason he is known as *Armani Ronnie.*

I am of the opinion that the SBC should become more transparent. There’s lots of money coming in and going out. Given the continued decline in the SBC, leaders, and members should begin to consider a newer, more transparent process when it comes to money. Then again, maybe the leaders have and they are too afraid of what the little guys will find out. To quote Pope John XXIII:

“I want to throw open the windows of the Church so that we can see out and the people can see in.”


Comments

A Petition Requests Forensic Audits of Two SBC Entities: North American Mission Board (NAMB) and LifeWay. Great Idea but Leaders Will Never Let Donors Know the Truth — 95 Comments

  1. Can’t SBC nessengers present motions of this kind at the annual convention? Is this preparation for something like that at a forthcoming convention? Have such motions been presented at past conventions; were they defeated before being put up for a vote by the assembled messengers?

    I’m scratching my head. These kinds of questions are “transparency 101” and it’s a bit puzzling if this is the first such effort.

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  2. SBC “Church Planting” is a misnomer … in recent years, it would more aptly be called “Reformed Theology Planting.” SBC’s new wave of church planters don’t evangelize, they proselytize … they make disciples of Calvin not Christ. SBC’s millions of non-Calvinist members at traditional churches have been supporting NAMB without fully realizing Southern Baptist generational shift in belief and practice occurring through its “church” planting program.

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  3. Yeah. Saw that petition. Most of the issues aren’t quite as described. I’ll not argue that namb doesn’t have some severe critics, not a few of whom have lost funding through policy changes…but I digress.

    The Clarkston mission center has been widely publicized and Is a considerable investment in a multipurposed Missions center. It’s near me but I have not visited. The call for a “forensic“ audit presupposes some illegality, something even critics haven’t asserted.

    Numbers have always been fuzzy and slippery on church plants.

    There’s to be a hotly contested SBC presidential election next June. Mostly it’s about mundane stuff like how to slice up a declining revenue stream.

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  4. I don’t think it will happen, but I hope it makes a lot of people angry before they try to hide it.

    I can answer some questions about Clarkston. I have actually worked on mission teams with the church that was bought for the mission center. Clarkston is a refugee resettlement area and is considered to be the most ethnic diverse mile in the country.

    I have to admit being very suspicious why NAMB chose Clarkston for it’s mission center. I wonder if they planned to replace foreign missions with this, but keep the funds inside the US. BTW, this center is very close to the plan that Friends of Refugees had years ago (I saw the plans).

    The mission center’s website:
    https://www.sendrelief.org/projects/clarkston-ministry-center/

    The controversy around the center:
    https://www.christianpost.com/news/namb-sues-georgia-town-over-plans-for-new-10-million-send-relief-ministry-center.html

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  5. William: Numbers have always been fuzzy and slippery on church plants.

    A real slippery point for me (a former 70 year Southern Baptist) is the lack of data at NAMB on the theological leaning of church planters under Kevin Ezell’s tenure. I can tell you that in my area, most (if not all), young church planters are New Calvinists. The last time I looked, Ezell’s church planting budget was $60 million per year, recruiting 1,000 church planters to plant that many churches throughout the U.S. annually – most coming out of SBC’s reformed seminaries. The identity of the non-Calvinist SBC is trending toward Calvinism through this new wave of church plants and deceptive takeovers of traditional (non-Calvinist) churches.

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  6. Max: SBC “Church Planting” is a misnomer … in recent years, it would more aptly be called “Reformed Theology Planting.”

    Alternatively, “Viral Spread”.

    Because when a virus infects a cell, it injects its DNA/RNA into the cell to take over the cell’s reproductive mechanism. At which point the cell only generates more virus, until the new virii burst the cell wall (destroying it) and spread to any other cells they can to infect them, take over those cells’ reproductive mechanism, and…

    Blind reproduction for the sake of reproduction, with no other purpose than to multiply and spread the virus without end.

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  7. Max: SBC’s millions of non-Calvinist members at traditional churches have been supporting NAMB without fully realizing Southern Baptist generational shift in belief and practice occurring through its “church” planting program.

    And so the virus bends the infected cell’s reproductive mechanism to its own advantage and its advantage alone.

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  8. I often wonder if there is any spiritual discernment among the SBC leaders. The trend in the SBC has been downward for decades now and yet they think they can do business as usual without any accountability. I spent 44 years of my life as a Southern Baptist. When the FUNDAMENTALIST took over they cut the heart right out of the SBC IMO. Those people they ran off, etc. were the heart and especially as it relates to missions. These SBC leaders may believe once saved always saved, but there will be a payday after this life for how their actions have affected the Kingdom of God.

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  9. During the 2 years that Andy Stanley was getting his North Point Community Church up and running, the NAMB set up a church plant inside their building called The Church at North Point. It had 4 full time staff/pastors for a congregation of less than 100. I attended said venue for 1 year until I discovered that the pastor was being paid over $200,000 and the other3 staff were over $75,000. This was mid 90’s. The church failed and the pastor then went on staff at the NAMB with like minded salary to match. Meanwhile, they threatened a lawsuit against Andy Stanley claiming he stole their name, North Point and their logo. Of course both locations are next to each other. And the logos were almost identical back then….but this is all in reference to the money the NAMB was dishing out for this small gathering on salaries. There were no building expenses. Just using the NAMB building on Sunday mornings. Hard to think back to those days, but I do believe that the NAMB was trying to compete with Andy before his own church could get built and open their doors. With only 2 street blocks separating the locations, it can be assumed that as soon as the NAMB knew of Andy’s purchase of land in their backyard, they quickly attempted to church plant before Andy could do his thing….the NAMB was doing lots of advertising up in Forsyth County and used the quarterback of the Atlanta Falcons at that time, Bobby Hebert (and of the NO Saints) to draw attendees because Hebert was good friends with the pastor. Hebert did attend a few times, but his appearances never drew the crowds as they anticipated. How much money do you really think they spent on marketing/advertising/salaries/etc during that time frame for that one location? It had to be alot of money.

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  10. I need to try and get his last name right, Pastor Scott, I thought it was McQuinn close to that, his son was a pitcher for the New York Mets for a few years….one of the pastors was a son of the old time Southern Baptist Evangelist Jack Taylor, so this guy was a “Taylor”…and the worship pastor ended up pastoring a satellite church under Andy….hard to remember because there was so much going on….

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  11. I think the lawsuit threat was based on the fact or claim that advertising/marketing 2 churches with like names would cause confusion, The Church at North Point, and North Point Community Church. When the logos were plastered on the ads, they did look almost identical…but the NAMB was trying to play herd in that area…

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  12. prodinov: I think the lawsuit threat was based on the fact or claim that advertising/marketing 2 churches with like names would cause confusion, The Church at North Point, and North Point Community Church. When the logos were plastered on the ads, they did look almost identical…but the NAMB was trying to play herd in that area…

    After all the thousands of trendy churches now, they all use very similar marketing. But I guess it was new back then. But I don’t doubt that NAMB probably had someone in that meeting at FBC Atlanta and rushed to plant something to compete. But few people have the charisma that Andy has, which is why NP was/is so popular.

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  13. prodinov,

    It was always a bit ridiculous when I was at Liberty and SEBTS, people declaring to me they were going to plant churches in Alpharetta, land of hundreds of Baptist churches and multiple megachurches. But none of them knew the area at all, just that it was the new popular place for churches to be and there were a lot of wealthy people there. I remember for awhile there after I moved back home seeing a new church sign each week. None of those ever got going, because they were too late to the game.

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  14. ishy,

    you may remember when Richard Lee left his SBC church in Snellville and started First Redeemer in Cumming (5,000), very controversial in the 90’s, then you had Stonecreek over on HWY 9 which didn’t do too bad….that was strategic…the growth was heading to Forsyth County with like minded upper middle class families, i.e. money. Andy always understood it was all about demographics. Remember when Louie Giglio was hosting his large gatherings on Tuesday nights at Andy’s church? That led to Louie getting his Passion Church up and running. Lots of connections up that way….but typical of the ongoing strategies of planting churches where the money and demographics can scale a church…meanwhile you are correct…there are many that fail…

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  15. prodinov: you may remember when Richard Lee left his SBC church in Snellville and started First Redeemer in Cumming

    I actually went to First Redeemer for awhile. They moved early in the game, too, and there wasn’t much there in Forsyth County at the time.

    I’m not sure Giglio initially planned to plant a church, but he went New Calvinist. I went to Tuesday nights at Northpoint and Giglio’s theology visibly changed during that time. He was the reason I first heard John Piper, at a Passion conference. And the New Cals are all about assimilating into and controlling their own, which they could not do at Northpoint, which has always maintained a loose control over members.

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  16. These financial shenanigans are the bread and butter of The Church, Inc. and it goes all the way from the tops of ‘denominations’ to the local churches, even in my own socially responsible denomination. (I have seen it with my own eyes.) The power, dear actual Christian, is yours. Think twice about your *ethical* responsibilities at pledge time or when the plate is passed. You can put your tithe to work directly instead – make cash donations, for example, to a food pantry or shelter ministry. I remit donations directly to a missionary family via PayPal. No need for your entire pittance to become grist in your church or denominational mill.

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  17. d4v1d: You can put your tithe to work directly instead – make cash donations, for example, to a food pantry or shelter ministry. I remit donations directly to a missionary family via PayPal. No need for your entire pittance to become grist in your church or denominational mill.

    I think that is excellent advice. If I had my years of giving to my Southern Baptist Churches over, that is exactly what I would do. I figured this out way too late!

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  18. d4v1d: The power, dear actual Christian, is yours.

    It is a power game, as Tom Arnold explains in a recent interview with Zev Shalev.

    The “leaders” seek power through extending their gangley fingers into the pocketbooks of the working person while the working person seeks access to the perceived power of the leadership on the platform.

    It’s transactional.

    Tom Arnold, in the same interview, explains that if you not only don’t bow down, but also speak up against said powers, you risk threat to livelihood and family. The trolls go after you and your loved ones.

    It’s real.

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  19. ishy: The controversy around the center:
    https://www.christianpost.com/news/namb-sues-georgia-town-over-plans-for-new-10-million-send-relief-ministry-center.html

    In the Christian Post article referenced in the link, I found the following quote:

    As the town has been labeled the “most ethnically diverse square mile in America,” Burks also explained that members of the town’s Muslim community are concerned that the mission center will try to convert members of other faiths to Christianity.

    If Max is to be believed, and I have every reason to trust him, the good people of Clarkston need not worry of NAMB converting anyone 😉

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  20. Gus: If Max is to be believed, and I have every reason to trust him, the good people of Clarkston need not worry of NAMB converting anyone

    Well, that’s the side of the SBC that the public doesn’t really see. It’s definitely not what most people think of when they think of evangelicals, and much of that is due to the hyperevangelistic traditional Baptists that the SBC used to be.

    I suspect the mission center’s purpose is to inflate evangelism numbers for things like the Lottie Moon offering without actually funding hardly any missionaries. A single mission center is much easier to pay for than thousands of missionaries to reach the same number of people groups. “We’re evangelizing to 42 countries!” but they don’t mention that missionaries are actually in those countries. Plus, mission groups that are sent to the center probably have to pay for themselves. It’s a much cheaper way to do international missions while getting people to pay for it themselves (which is very much against the purpose of the Convention).

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  21. Gus: If Max is to be believed, and I have every reason to trust him, the good people of Clarkston need not worry of NAMB converting anyone

    Well, they certainly don’t need to worry about the New Calvinists at NAMB attempting to get them to say a sinner’s prayer and ask Jesus into their hearts!

    David Platt represents the position of SBC’s new reformers on attempts to convert souls – he says that sort of evangelism is “superstitious.” Platt was President of SBC’s International Mission Board when 1,000 foreign missionaries were recalled – career servants of God who were engaged in whosoever-will-may-come evangelism that characterized Southern Baptists for over 150 years … before the Mohlerites took charge of the denomination.

    Nah, the good people of Clarkston don’t need to worry about being converted to Christianity if NAMB shows up in their neighborhood. They were already saved or damned before the new and improved Southern Baptists hit the street! This new bunch ain’t going to scare the hell out of anyone.

    http://thewartburgwatch.com/2018/06/22/is-the-sinners-prayer-unbiblical/

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  22. ishy: I first heard John Piper, at a Passion conference

    The Passion Conferences boosted New Calvinism greatly in the early days of the movement. Piper and other leaders of the new reformation were first given a stage there to promote their aberrant faith. Thousands of young folks who attended those meetings were cast under the Pied Piper’s spell and lured away from the faith of their fathers.

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  23. d4v1d: You can put your tithe to work directly instead – make cash donations, for example, to a food pantry or shelter ministry.

    Nope, that ain’t gonna’ work.
    Your tithe has gotta’ go to the big-kahuna-pastor-in-charge, otherwise you’re ‘stealing from God’.
    Or so I heard from one of the big names in fundagelicalism.

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  24. Muff Potter: stealing from God

    You can’t steal what God has freely given.

    Followers of the prosperity gospel, of all people, should view all of their material things as rewards from God.

    If God created the universe and life therein, and gave humans stewardship of the Earth, it’s hard to see a locally crafted stewardship formula as a criterion for theft. We might do better to respond generously to God’s generosity.

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  25. Muff Potter: Nope, that ain’t gonna’ work.
    Your tithe has gotta’ go to the big-kahuna-pastor-in-charge, otherwise you’re ‘stealing from God’.
    Or so I heard from one of the big names in fundagelicalism.

    Recently came across some literature from an SBC church that reportedly had massively over budget for a building project –– we’re talking millions — and now wants prayer for people to give generously to cover outstanding debts. What a shock that these are the verses they highlighted for people to study as they prayed about quickly paying off the debt:

    Malachi 3:8-10 — “Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you ask, ‘How do we rob You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, yet you—the whole nation—are still robbing Me. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this,” says the LORD of Hosts. “See if I will not open the windows of heaven and pour out for you blessing without measure.”

    Seems to be a lot of presuppositions in taking an Old Testament requirement for national Israel and transporting it to the current day without proper contextualization, no? Amongst other issues, last I checked, the “local church“ is usually not a literal storehouse for fruit and grain offerings to feed priests and Levitical servants.

    The verses specify the whole nation, which had the blessing/curse type of covenant related to the land that they had been given. The fact that the SBC church included in their evident prooftext the verses related to robbing and cursing appears to align quite well with a burden shift away from the paid staff for the debt and reported overrun issue and to those whom the former purport to serve. Too many who speak of Christian liberty in sone areas seem to want to promote a “give, or else CURSE because of you robbers” mindset rather than risk new covenant liberty on giving that might not easily cover a multitude of Christian industrial complex excesses. Too often, this can fit hand-in-glove with an autocratic, top-down, winsome sheep-shearing operation without sufficient accountability, transparency, and oversight.

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  26. I am of the opinion that the SBC should become more transparent. There’s lots of money coming in and going out. Given the continued decline in the SBC, leaders, and members should begin to consider a newer, more transparent process when it comes to money.

    The SBC isn’t transparent with their attendance numbers; you know they aren’t going to be with their finances.

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  27. They might have forgotten the verse “ the borrower is a slave to the lender”. Don’t borrow a lot of money to build these huge buildings. I think of the famous missionary who started the Chinese Inland Mission , Hudson Taylor who said “ God’s work done God’s way will NEVER SUFFER LACK”
    If the church can’t pay it’s bills maybe it’s because
    they aren’t doing things God’s way. I guess I could mention the Calvinistic position on things being foreordained but I will leave that to the Calvinist experts on here.

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  28. I also failed to mention my favorite Christian , George Muller who housed and fed over 10,000 orphans in his life. He never built any of the orphan houses till he had the money in hand. He prayed and waited. If God did it for him could he not do it today. One caveat, he never publicly asked for funds nor solicited them, Muller wanted to leave an example to the world what God could to for those of faith.

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  29. Per the petition:
    “Over the last 10 years NAMB has spent $1.2 billion from the sacrificial mission gifts of SBC members and churches with diminishing results in evangelism and church planting.”

    Per NAMB’s website’s article, It’s on me,” SBC leaders and pastors say of baptism decline:
    “In the face of a steady, twenty-year decline, a new video released by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) emphasizes the need for Southern Baptists to take both responsibility and action for sharing the gospel in North America.”

    What gospel?

    In the Soteriology 101 Discussion facebook group, bubbling up everywhere are posts and comments of those that had to leave because of New Calvinism leadership style, for all the reasons that’s documented in TWWs articles and comments.

    I know it’s not correct to blame all decline on the New Calvinism that’s surged in the SBC, but I reckon it has an important part. Would love to be able to call their secretary and get stats.

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  30. JDV: Malachi 3:8-10 — “Will a man rob God?

    I’ve seen that verse abused and misused more times than I can count.

    JDV: Too often, this can fit hand-in-glove with an autocratic, top-down, winsome sheep-shearing operation without sufficient accountability, transparency, and oversight.

    And the folks that fork over their hard earned dinero to fund these mountebanks?
    It’s my fervent hope that they wake up out of their opium reverie (to use a metaphor) and learn to respect themselves.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1pYKdqD1ls

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  31. It might not just be “New Calvinism” per se that is to “blame” (if “blame” is the right word) for a shift from ingathering into existing congregations toward the planting of new congregations.

    As I understand it, in the first half of the 2010s, in the little Reformed denomination, OPC, that I attended, there was very modest aggregate membership growth but significant growth in new congregations. The pre-existing congregations were shrinking, unable to reproduce themselves either by organic/biological growth or drawing in outsiders.

    Predestinarianism, whether “old” or “new” may discourage lay involvement in outreach, but I am tempted to also suspect that “the Gospel” isn’t as persuasive to outsiders as it used to be.

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  32. -MILLIONS have been sent for houses for a few church planters

    -CHURCH PLANTING BUDGET TRIPLED WHILE PLANTS REDUCED BY HALF.

    -MILLIONS IN MARKETING STAFF AND ADVERTISEMENT

    -NAMB is paying monthly stipends to select pastors to represent NAMB in nearly every State Convention

    -big cheeses in the SBC are being exorbitant salaries.

    d4v1d,

    “You can put your tithe to work directly instead – make cash donations, for example, to a food pantry or shelter ministry. I remit donations directly to a missionary family via PayPal. No need for your entire pittance to become grist in your church or denominational mill.”

    mot,

    “If I had my years of giving to my Southern Baptist Churches over, that is exactly what I would do. I figured this out way too late!”
    ++++++++++++

    a class action lawsuit?

    i mean, what do you do when over a billion dollars in donations sacrificially given from hard-working people is mismanaged, used to outrageously enrich a relative few, and is expressly NOT used as the donors were told it would be used?

    what do you do when there’s no real accountability for abuse of power on this large a scale?

    at some point, there’s a place for lawsuits in churchworld.

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  33. Gus,

    “As the town has been labeled the “most ethnically diverse square mile in America,” Burks also explained that members of the town’s Muslim community are concerned that the mission center will try to convert members of other faiths to Christianity.”
    +++++++++++++

    is there such a thing as rules/laws against ideological / religious monopolies?

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  34. Samuel Conner,

    “but I am tempted to also suspect that “the Gospel” isn’t as persuasive to outsiders as it used to be.”
    +++++++++++

    i feel the same.

    “the gospel” (in the iteration that’s been around for a long time) is like an out-dated & inferior product that is still hyped on commercials, incredulously so.

    it’s all like a Tupperware party, and the Gospel is the Tupperware.

    something old fashioned and out-dated that is hyped with billions of dollars, which people in fact *don’t* want, and which actually is unhealthy (plastic + food and drink for consumption).

    crimany, being in christian church culture itself is like being trapped in a dumb commercial or a never-ending tupperware party, for squids’ sake.
    .
    .
    part of the problem is “the gospel” has come to mean so much that it actually means nothing now.

    it’s lost its magnetism.

    christianity is what people make of it. and this is what christian powerbrokers have made of it, and christians simply say “yes, masta.”
    .
    .
    i realize i’m too cynical to stay on many people’s christmas card list. (actually, i see myself as simply realistic)

    i imagine in time “the gospel” will be re-imagined in a cleaner, leaner, true-er way — the truth of it itself causing it to regain magnetism.

    …after the machinery of ‘evangelical’ (& other christian brands) has been scrapped for parts and the fumes have long died down.

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  35. Wild Honey,

    ““The word ‘audit’ doesn’t appear in the Bible.””
    ++++++++

    ha! ain’t it true.

    kind of like

    “thou shalt not convince the IRS to call your non-profit a church so you can hide your engorged salaries sucked from donations sacrificially given by hard-working people who thought they were giving to charity”

    isn’t in the bible, so there’s no problem.

    😐

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  36. I believe the larger concerns above relate to Thom Rainer, his son (Art) previously working for Jimmy Scroggins, Becomes Lifeway board member, gets book deal while being a board member, Rainer gets $1 million transition package with Jimmy’s help, Kevin (great friends with Jimmy) and NAMB running an expensive marketing push for the book, NAMB buys “missionary housing” for Jimmy in West Palm, MAMB pays for staff and interns in West Palm that work our of FC and NAMB supports church planting school for Jimmy and his church.

    It appears that Jimmy runs a national podcast called “Church For The Rest Of Us.” The basic idea is his podcast is for the churches that are small, no resources, no dollar tree etc. He tells all the other little churches how to do church when they don’t have money, connections or resources.

    I do not have first hand knowledge of how the Thom Rainer transition deal went down but from what I am reading and hearing from others, ppl aren’t going to just let this one blow over. Everyone is talking about it all day, everyday and with COVID there seems to be plenty of time for discussion prior to messengers gathering for SBC 2021.

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  37. elastigirl: i imagine in time “the gospel” will be re-imagined in a cleaner, leaner, true-er way — the truth of it itself causing it to regain magnetism.

    …after the machinery of ‘evangelical’ (& other christian brands) has been scrapped for parts and the fumes have long died down.

    This is my hope, too.

    NT Wright’s work has been keenly focused on the early Church; he believes that the origins and character of “early Church” tells us important things about “Who God is” (the series title of his multi-volume life-work is “Christian Origins and the Question of God”). He has described the first churches as “ethically rigorous, philanthropic, fictive kinship groups”. They were like families (“fictive kinship”), were committed to impeccable moral standards in keeping with biblical conceptions of God’s holiness, and — in keeping with their “family” character — cared for their own (as well as for outsiders; Gal 6:10 is an example of apostolic instruction on this).

    I suspect that without these qualities, groups that aspire to the label “Christian” will not thrive over the long run.

    IMO, if SBC leaders want to strengthen their movement, they should be thinking very carefully about ecclesiology, and not just in the sense of “internal control arrangements”, which seems to be the recent focus.

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  38. I want to amplify Mot’s comment about the lack of discernment amongst SBC leadership. This is too often combined with a lack of self reflection. Major failures to manage well are ignored, spiritualized, etc. The insular culture creates arrogance among men commissioned to do God’s work and they lose the ability to guard the flick as shepherd and the ability to care for the lone sheep.

    It is often difficult to distinguish those who lack integrity from those who lack discernment when they are so tightly joined in dysfunctional harmony. I attempt todo so, not to condemn those who lack integrity, but to find a few that still have it and are willing to listen. I do it because I cherish fellowship and I despise the destruction of fellowship by ill devised schemes; both fair and fowl. I look for the men and women who would continue to meet together and continue to lead if the poop hit the fan the presence and work of God were all that we had or could expect from our efforts and from our assemblies. I find few, but I cling to those I find and I love them in spite of their shortcomings and pray that they love me in spite if mine. This is the work of God in my heart. I pray for discernment for those that desire God’s will, but are walking in blindness.

    Any efforts to identify and respond to the issues mentioned here and those mentioned prior, such as the sex abuse scandal, are destined to fail as long as arrogant men deny discernment a place in their heart and a seat at the table. I don’t remember exactly who the so called liberals were at the congregational level before they were shown the door, but I suspect many were people that simply understood nuance and discerned the spirit/Spirit without parsing the letter.

    Please forgive my getting carried away with this manifesto. It may helpful in prefacing the comment/comments that I will offer separately about Lifeway, etc.

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  39. Natalia Hubbard: I know it’s not correct to blame all decline on the New Calvinism that’s surged in the SBC, but I reckon it has an important part.

    I spent 70 years in the SBC (I’m a Done now). There were things wrong with the denomination long before the New Calvinists showed up. The average Southern Baptist (non-Calvinist) member is religious, but not very spiritual. Once called a “People of the Word”, my observation was that few actually spent much time in it. Pray? Not really, as the people of God ought.

    SBC frequently refers to 16 million members. In the churches I was involved in during my long tenure, half of those on church roles were nowhere to be found! They were dead, moved, changed denominations, or otherwise missing … but their names were still on church roles! That would reduce SBC numbers to more like 8 million. Of that number, half could be considered active in church attendance and participation. That would reduce the “real” SBC membership to around 4 million. Many of these are rock-solid Christians who love Jesus and have joined Him in what He is doing on earth. They grieve over the condition of the SBC and the church at large.

    Southern Baptists are a rather contentious bunch. They fuss over things ranging from the color of the carpet to the color of the preacher. Some of the nastiest gatherings I have ever attended were church business meetings. Folks were just downright mean to each other! There’s a lot of truth to the term “Demon Deacons” (I’ve seen them in action!).

    Thus, the SBC was ripe for pickin’ by a movement of aberrant faith. The New Calvinists swept in undetected because the pew didn’t have a clue. They were more interested in protecting their potluck dinners than things like a drift in belief and practice. Give me chicken not theology!!

    Yep, as you note “I know it’s not correct to blame all decline on the New Calvinism.” A once-great evangelistic denomination was already on the decline long before the new reformers and another gospel (which is not the Gospel) showed up.

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  40. Ava Aaronson: power, vice, and greed … Hybels, Savage, RZ, Tchividjian, Falwell …

    Indeed. The pew ain’t got a clue about a lot of pulpit misbehaving, beyond aberrations of faith. The wiles of the devil have overtaken many churches.

    “Certain people have crept in unnoticed, just as if they were sneaking in by a side door. They are ungodly persons whose condemnation was predicted long ago, for they distort the grace of our God into decadence and immoral freedom, viewing it as an opportunity to do whatever they want” (Jude 4)

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  41. Max: “Certain people have crept in unnoticed, just as if they were sneaking in by a side door.” (Jude 4)

    I actually had a young New Calvinist church planter in my area tell me when I quizzed him about SBC’s reformed movement: “We’ve come in the backdoor.”

    To which I kindly quoted: “I assure you, he who does not enter by the door into the sheepfold, but comes in some other way, is a thief and a robber.” (John 10:1)

    He smiled and walked away. The arrogance of this bunch is deafening.

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  42. Dr Jones,

    Thank you, Dr Jones. Too often ‘successful’ churches, which are held up as aspirational models for smaller-membership churches, are artificially propped up and/or connected in some way with “big name” denominational entities. I suppose it is the ‘baptized’ version of too-big-to-fail with a healthy dose of sunk cost fallacy thrown in for taste.

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  43. My earlier comment has not yet been posted as it has been some time since I replied here and I likely used a different username. If they somehow get posted in a different order, this one somewhat follows the train of thought of the first and zeroes in a little more on Lifeway.

    I believe that there are few people with both integrity and discernment within the SBC structure. There seems to me a tendency of those who lack integrity go to great lengths to project that attribute and those who lack discernment lean heavily on discernment in the legalistic sense. Those who discern on a legalistic basis have the tendency to validate those who project integrity superficially and vice versa. I think Lifeway is a case study in the failure of this system. Most of the factual information on which I base my analysis was gleaned from information published yearly by the SBC in a report known as the SBC Annual. I have simplified the following analysis to eliminate confusion. I believe that this simplification communicates correctly the jist of what happened at Lifeway, but doesn’t adequately characterize how poorly Lifeway was managed and how little regard was given to the interests of stakeholders.

    When Thom Rainer assumed leadership of Lifeway, an entity of that primarily funds it’s own perpetuation via sales of materials to it’s constituents and others, it was financially stable and employeed about 2,000 individuals. Assets significantly exceeded liabilities and the pension plan was more than adequately funded at that time. Total revenue continued it’s upward trajectory and reached an all time high in his first year at the helm. By his second or third year at the helm, Lifeway was losing money and I think has lost money from operating activities every year since that time. In explaining the losses, closing of stores, etc.; Lifeway has pointed to increased competition from Amazon and others. Maybe that does have something to do with why operating revenue, adjusted for inflation, has been flat during Mr. Rainer’s tenure, but it doesn’t explain why they need more than 4000 employees are needed to produce approximately the same amount of sales as 2000 were producing when he became the chief. Given efficiency and technology innovations in production and distribution, a well managed Lifeway should have required less employees, not more.

    What was Mr. Rainer doing while it all fell apart? He was projecting integrity. I’m sure that the he board members of Lifeway had access to more information than what I took from the publicly available annual report. What did they do with that information? They validated Mr. Rainer’s projected integrity based on “Biblical” discernment.

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  44. Scott: I believe that there are few people with both integrity and discernment within the SBC structure.

    SBC’s New Calvinist movement alone is evidence of the lack of integrity and discernment within the denomination.

    Integrity? Stealth and deception by NeoCal leaders are not symptoms of that.

    Discernment? Aberrations of faith among NeoCal leaders and ease of church takeover are not symptoms of that, in either pulpit or pew.

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  45. elastigirl: a class action lawsuit?

    i mean, what do you do when over a billion dollars in donations sacrificially given from hard-working people is mismanaged, used to outrageously enrich a relative few, and is expressly NOT used as the donors were told it would be used?

    I would tend to agree that class action might be the first step in getting the non-profit statutes changed so that religious 501-c3(s) MUST ABIDE by the same rules that secular non-profits must adhere to.

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  46. Ava Aaronson: so power, vice, and greed … Hybels, Savage, RZ, Tchividjian, Falwell … hundreds or thousands of evil leaders as documented by the Houston Chronicles’ Robert Downen

    And how did the SBC respond to the documentary-as close to nothing as possible. Since I left the SBC in 2018 after 44 years I have not looked back. I kick myself for not leaving sooner and I say this as someone who pastored in the SBC world. The SBC world loved me until my views on women in the ministry became unacceptable.

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  47. mot: Since I left the SBC in 2018 after 44 years I have not looked back … as someone who pastored in the SBC

    It took me longer than that. I suppose we are still looking back though, Mot … through our comments on TWW. We are still lamenting and grieving about the fall of a once-great evangelistic denomination. We saw better days, Mot. Thank you for serving the Lord in SBC during that era.

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  48. Dr Jones: Jimmy Scroggins

    I first became familiar with Jimmy when he became Chairman, SBC Resolutions Committee (about 2010-2012 as I recall). He successfully edited/gutted proposed resolutions to benefit the New Calvinists. The young man scored a lot of brownie points with SBC’s NeoCal elite for doing that. He’ll continue to climb the SBC ladder now that the reformers are in complete control of the denomination. (his assistance to Rainer that you detail stinks to high heaven)

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  49. There was a website I stumbled upon called “Reform NAMB Now.org.” According to them, NAMB has amassed over $200 million in cash, but has slashed their evangelism budget by 65%. They are also strong-arming state conventions to hand over all their church-planting efforts to NAMB. Our own state convention secretary is retiring in order to save the jobs of others. It’s getting ugly.

    I agree with Max’s assessment above. It’s really not about planting churches, it’s all about planting reformed theology. Our church continues to be inundated with request for these new plants to ‘partner’ with them, but their real desire is to take over our (paid for) building and kick us oldsters to the curb. I don’t know how long we can keep beating them back, but even secular, heathen businesses don’t do things as treacherously and underhanded as these church planters! God help us!

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  50. elastigirl: is there such a thing as rules/laws against ideological / religious monopolies?

    No, there is not.
    In our form of Government (see 1st amendment), religions either stand or fall on their own two feet.

    elastigirl: ,” Burks also explained that members of the town’s Muslim community are concerned that the mission center will try to convert members of other faiths to Christianity.”

    Whether or not the mission center tries to convert Muslims to Christianity is not a first amendment issue, and they (the Muslim community) need to understand that no one particular religion gets special help or prohibition under our form of Government.

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  51. Scott: Maybe that does have something to do with why operating revenue, adjusted for inflation, has been flat during Mr. Rainer’s tenure, but it doesn’t explain why they need more than 4000 employees are needed to produce approximately the same amount of sales as 2000 were producing when he became the chief. Given efficiency and technology innovations in production and distribution, a well managed Lifeway should have required less employees, not more.

    I have noticed a flurry of hiring every time the New Cals take over an institution. It follows a flurry of firing of those who are not in the in-crowd. Often, the people are hired not for their skills, but their affiliation, such as being an SBTS grad. While I was at SBTS during Akin’s first year, suddenly there were a bunch of SBTS grads hired (and a few people fired, though I expect others followed after I left).

    They have definitely created a loyal group, but at what cost? I’m not even sure they can see that it’s hurt them. They are very much a tunnel vision sort of group. Whenever one of their celebrities gets in a major scandal, they often pretend like politicians that nothing ever happened. When it’s clear the majority of people don’t want to be owned by them, they just double down on it. And then they wonder why the SBC is declining so fast?

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  52. Max: He successfully edited/gutted proposed resolutions to benefit the New Calvinists. The young man scored a lot of brownie points with SBC’s NeoCal elite for doing that.

    Good Little Party Member, brown-nosing on the Fast Track to the Top.
    LOYALTY LOYALTY LOYALTY TO THE CAUSE, COMRADES!

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  53. Max: I suppose I’ve been salt tossed on a wound during most of my “ministry” … a watchman not heard … crying in the wilderness for the most part.

    Remember Cassandra from the Iliad?
    Cursed by the gods with Perfect Prophecy, Perfect Knowledge of The Future — that no one would ever, ever believe a single word of.

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  54. Samuel Conner,

    “NT Wright’s work has been keenly focused on the early Church; he believes that the origins and character of “early Church” tells us important things about “Who God is” (the series title of his multi-volume life-work is “Christian Origins and the Question of God”)
    +++++++++++++

    i’d like to read it.

    …although the last time i attempted to read NT Wright i got caught in some kind of too-many-words-&-syllables-in-too-small-font vortex on the first page.

    the only way i could get out of it was to close the book.

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  55. Muff Potter,

    “Whether or not the mission center tries to convert Muslims to Christianity is not a first amendment issue, and they (the Muslim community) need to understand that no one particular religion gets special help or prohibition under our form of Government.”
    ++++++++++

    but what does one do if one’s home and community is suddenly surrounded by and filled with proselytizer invaders?

    what about rights to freedom from religion?

    (honest questions — these are from the ‘things i should already know and understand’ folder)

    I imagine the 18th century couldn’t fathom such a thing.

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  56. elastigirl: I imagine the 18th century couldn’t fathom such a thing.

    No they couldn’t.
    The men who founded our nation were truly revolutionary (pun intended) in thought.
    All prior governments, on the European continent, and even the British Crown, were all about what the King’s men can and will do to you.
    Ours was the first to specifically spell out what the King’s men may not do.

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  57. Well I suspect one minimal way of some abiding by secular rules is to not allow donations to them to be tax deductible on the donors’ part unless the org is filing a 990.

    Countries like Canada are much stricter
    https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/charities-giving/giving-charity-information-donors/about-registered-charities/what-difference-between-a-registered-charity-a-non-profit-organization.html

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  58. Gus: As the town has been labeled the “most ethnically diverse square mile in America,” Burks also explained that members of the town’s Muslim community are concerned that the mission center will try to convert members of other faiths to Christianity.

    I don’t know much about the situation but this seems a bit unlikely. Not saying it’s impossible, but I’m sure the Jehovah Witness and Mormons have been through there already. And come on, don’t tell other religions aren’t coercive in some way, shape or form.

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  59. Jack,

    …i think i see a business opportunity.

    Lowest Common Denomineditor – Read Award-Winning Academic Literature Reduced Down To Succinct

    Word Weeder Publishing – The Best of Academic literature, The Worst Of Invasive Word Clutter Weeded Out

    (maybe this is my golden ticket – i’d have to learn how to survive the vortex, though)

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  60. Brian: Church Hires GRACE to Investigate Allegations of Sexual Abuse by Musician Chris Rice

    https://tcpca.org/rice-investigation

    “On multiple occasions between 1995 and 2003, a musician named Chris Rice was hired to lead worship at our youth and college retreats. Mr. Rice was not an employee or member of our congregation, but was close friends with the previously-investigated Brad Waller. Through his involvement in our ministry, Mr. Rice developed close relationships with multiple students. Last week, one of those male students called to inform me of allegations that Mr. Rice had sexually assaulted him on multiple occasions. While these remain allegations at this point, we are treating them as credible because of the source of the allegations and corroborating evidence we have discovered….”

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  61. “musician Chris Rice…was close friends with the previously-investigated Brad Waller.”

    Waller’s misconduct discussed here two years ago:

    http://thewartburgwatch.com/2018/06/29/tates-creek-presbyterian-church-demonstrates-how-to-handle-accusations-of-sexual-abuse-yes-a-foot-fetish-is-a-form-of-sexual-abuse/

    http://thewartburgwatch.com/2018/06/25/do-they-want-us-to-believe-that-no-one-in-new-and-improved-leadership-of-the-southern-baptist-convention-knew-anything-about-patterson-pressler-etc/#comment-375850

    “Brad Waller was at Tates Creek Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Lexington, Ky. from 1995 to 2006, where his primary responsibilities included directing the youth and college ministries. Since then, he’s pastored at Twin Oaks Presbyterian (St. Louis, Mo.) and Independent Presbyterian and Grace Church of the Islands (both in Savannah, Ga.).”

    “Waller has been involved with Reformed University Fellowship throughout his ministry, and was named last year to the PCA committee that oversees RUF.”

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  62. Root 66:
    They are also strong-arming state conventions to hand over all their church-planting efforts to NAMB.
    Our church continues to be inundated with request for these new plants to ‘partner’ with them, but their real desire is to take over our (paid for) building and kick us oldsters to the curb.I don’t know how long we can keep beating them back, but even secular, heathen businesses don’t do things as treacherously and underhanded as these church planters!

    What a coincidence that centralizing church planting or “replanting“ just might allow for the seminarians and other hand-picked people to be placed in certain positions more easily.

    As for the last part about kicking the oldsters to the curb, what Paul warned some Ephesians who were not newcomers came to mind:

    “I know that after my departure, grievous wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock, and out from your own selves, men will rise up, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.“ (Acts 20:29-30)

    A key problem is institutions asleep at the switch and checking those coming in by stealth to begin with as to who are hirelings or grievous wolves. How many examples have we seen here about nobody asking hard questions but just going along to get along, and then moving along the grievous wolf who has devoured a sheep or two without a word of warning to anybody because they’re worried about their own reputation, liability, and cash flow?

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  63. JDV: church planting or “replanting“

    Within SBC:

    Church planting = reformed theology planting

    Replanting = non-Calvinist church takeover by New Calvinists

    I’m so old that I remember when SBC church planting meant extending the denomination’s outreach to harvest souls for Christ. It’s now a tool used by the new reformers to indoctrinate souls for Calvin.

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  64. JDV: A key problem is institutions asleep at the switch and checking those coming in by stealth to begin with as to who are hirelings or grievous wolves. How many examples have we seen here about nobody asking hard questions but just going along to get along,

    “… getting someone out of ‘a cult’ is very different than a drug intervention, ‘because their critical thinking has been taken away. And so the process of working with — a cult defector is to reawaken and reignite their critical thinking.’”

    “But you have to be open to it. Like, you can’t force somebody to see the truth. They need to want to. And I didn’t want to for a long time.”

    “I was scared to death but it didn’t matter if I was scared, … I knew nobody had dared to do what I was doing because this cult had financially ruined them.”

    from allusanewshub.com re: “The Vow”

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  65. Max–love your posts. I’m so old I remember when a few people would start to gather for prayer. That might morph into Bible study and prayer, usually called a Sunday School although without affiliation. Then if it grew enough it organized into a Baptist church. And only then, if enough people in the church decided they wanted to do so, usually after several years, it might affiliate with the SBC. Or not.

    It worked. It planted churches, saw souls saved, and had zero start up cost.

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  66. linda: I’m so old I remember when a few people would start to gather for prayer. That might morph into Bible study and prayer, usually called a Sunday School although without affiliation. Then if it grew enough it organized into a Baptist church … It worked. It planted churches, saw souls saved, and had zero start up cost.

    I remember those days, too … when God’s people were serious about their faith, praying to see His hand move in their communities. The problem is these days, Linda, you can’t even get a few people – real deal Christians – to gather for prayer! Heck, intercessory prayer even in church – the sort that gets God’s attention – is uncommon. So, in the absence of the genuine, the counterfeit takes root. More money is being spent, but fewer souls are being saved.

    A few years ago, I had the honor to meet a U.S. Senator from our State – a godly man who had been a pastor and president of a Christian college. I told him that I met with a group who prayed regularly and asked if he had any prayer requests to take back to them. He asked me firmly “Do you ‘really’ pray?” I told him that I believed we were serious about that. He replied “Then tell your group that, as a Senator, I have been exposed to ungodly regulators and regulations and extremely concerned about the direction this country is taking. I believe that we have all the heavenly resources we need to turn this nation back to God, but they are not appropriated to us because we don’t pray as we ought.” That certainly gave me much to think about on the flight home. He was right … God’s people do not pray as we ought.

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  67. Root 66: Our church continues to be inundated with request for these new plants to ‘partner’ with them, but their real desire is to take over our (paid for) building and kick us oldsters to the curb.

    And the sick thing, Root, is that these young whippersnappers justify their stealth and deception thinking they alone are the keepers of truth, having come into the world for such a time as this to restore the gospel that Christendom lost somewhere along the way (of course, Gospel = Calvinism to them). Thus, pillaging and looting the church resources financed by others is OK – it’s a good thing for the New Calvinist movement.

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  68. Max: And the sick thing, Root, is that these young whippersnappers justify their stealth and deception thinking they alone are the keepers of truth, having come into the world for such a time as this

    Just like the Young Communist League, Chairman Mao’s Red Guard, and the Taliban.

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