Suspicious Minds

"Of all bad men religious bad men are the worst."

–Reflections on the Psalms, CS Lewis

"This year, or this month, or, more likely, this very day, we have failed to practise ourselves the kind of behaviour we expect from other people."

–The Case for Christianity, CS Lewis



Based on what’s been going on in the lives of Steve Gaines and Mac Brunson, these must indeed be desperate times! 

Let’s begin with Steve Gaines. 

He “officially” became pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church on September 11, 2005.  In fairly short order, Gaines’ began to promote his agenda and his ministry came under scrutiny.  Here’s an excerpt from a Baptist Press article entitled “Bellevue conflict bleeds onto Internet, into public square” (posted on October 18, 2006).


“Controversy at the 30,000-member church began less than a year after the arrival of Steve Gaines as successor to longtime pastor Adrian Rogers, who retired in poor health and later died of complications from cancer. Opponents of Gaines’ leadership, led by former Bellevue deacon Mark Sharpe, have accused the pastor of forcing out a popular music director, of needless and improper spending on his church credit card and of pushing the church toward an elder-led model of leadership.

Those at odds with Gaines also claim that the pastor’s salary has been set at nearly $500,000 — though they say the actual figure remains hidden from church members — and that Gaines has intimidated members of the Cordova, Tenn, congregation.”

It gets worse…  Cue the music and please keep reading!!! (You can even make this your ring tone!)


The Baptist Press article continues:

“Sharpe also charged that Gaines and three other men, including associate pastor Mark Dougharty and deacon chairman Chuck Taylor, had “trespassed” on his property by climbing a privacy fence unannounced. The visit, Sharpe said on the website, was an effort to intimidate, as was a phone call from Gaines in which the pastor reportedly told Sharpe he was “Hezbollah.” 

Barnwell said that Gaines and other church staff members had attempted to respond to Sharpe and others privately and had answered questions from deacons about the accusations at a meeting early in September, but that the Bellevue leadership team was forced to devote the Sunday evening service on Sept. 24 to clearing the air. Gaines told the congregation that the session was not a “business meeting,” but a time for church members to receive information “from this pulpit from the leaders of this church.”

Gaines, Taylor, Harry Smith, a longtime member of the church’s finance committee, and Chip Freeman, the church’s chief administrator, addressed point by point allegations of financial misconduct, insisting that nothing improper had occurred. Taylor and Gaines, however, admitted to climbing the privacy fence in Sharpe’s gated community. Gaines said it was an attempt to reconcile with a “brother.”
Here’s some background information about the trespassing that we found at this link:


On Friday August 11th, 2006 Mark Sharpe was scheduled to address concerned Bellevue members at the Old Bartlett Baptist Church Building. 


Prior to that Friday night meeting on Monday August 7th 2006, Pastor Steve Gaines. Chuck Taylor, current Deacon Chairman and prior Pastor Search Committee Chairman, John Caldwell, 2004-2005 Board of Directors member, and current Chairman of the Deacon Nominating Committee (8 years running) 2004 Deacon Chairman and Associate Pastor Mark Dougharty paid a visit to Mark Sharpe's home that evening. When they arrived to the neighborhood they found a gated community with No trespassing signs and a locked gate. Instead of calling Mark Sharpe at home, they decided to go to the side of the gated area where the fence was only four feet high and jumped over the wall! Mark and Lydia were not home that evening, but the children were.

Mark Sharpe was told later that week he was no longer a Deacon by the Associate Pastor Mark Dougharty. Steve Gaines on Wednesday called Mark on the phone and was yelling at him and calling him Hezbollah. The next day (Thursday) three deacons met with Mark and ask him not to disclose any information in the scheduled meeting the next evening.

At the September 24th 2006 evening Church address, the congregation was told that it was a "restoration visit" to the Sharp's home!

In November of 2006, Chuck Taylor, Mark Dougharty, and Steve Gaines called Mark Sharpe to apologize for trespassing on Monday August 7, 2006.

John Caldwell has refused to date to apologize to the Sharpe’s for trespassing.  Currently, John Caldwell remains as Chairman of the Deacon Nominating Committee  8 years running and he also serves as a current Deacon Officer). It was his committee that failed to reactivate Mark Sharpe and Richard Emerson as deacons to serve during this current year.


At the last Communications Committee meeting, it was stated by a deacon that serves on that committee, that Sharpe and Emerson’s names were not brought before the committee for any discussion and no letter of explanation was sent to Sharpe or Emerson.  Richard requested a letter of explanation be sent to him but was ignored.  It was confirmed that John Caldwell was responsible for removing Sharpe and Emerson from the Deacon Board without any explanation to anyone.


In conclusion, Steve Gaines is Pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, earning more money than the President of the United States. He doesn't even preach on Wednesday nights. Pat & John Caldwell now have their grandchildren living a few doors down the street. Their son-in-law has a high paying job at Bellevue.


Mark Sharpe is vilified and no longer a Deacon at Bellevue and told to leave.  His Commercial Insurance business has lost accounts as a result of him speaking out. He and his family are shunned as troublemakers and they have since moved on.


And the others lived happily ever after…..


Here’s an interesting excerpt from the Baptist Press article referenced above:


“This was a mistake obviously, and we shouldn’t have done it,” Gaines told members of the congregation during the meeting. “There was no intimidation at all. We just wanted to be reconciled, and we’re sorry. I want to tell you as a church we are sorry. It was poor judgment on our part, and I want to tell you this: It did not come out of a bad heart. It was a mistake. It was a mistake of the head and not the heart.”

But Gaines’ explanation — as well as those from Taylor, Smith and Freeman — have done little to soften the criticism. In addition to publicly calling for Gaines’ resignation in the Commercial Appeal and on the website, Sharpe wrote a lengthy open letter to church members in which he described the Sept. 24 meeting as a “one-sided hearing” and a “Perry Mason episode gone bad.”

Cue the Perry Mason theme song!!!  (


He said that neither Gaines, nor Taylor, nor Dougharty had contacted him to apologize about jumping the fence and trespassing in his neighborhood. He also claimed that the “church meeting” format did not allow for members to ask questions of the pastor and deacons.

Sharpe, who said he was saddened at having to write the letter to the church, claimed that Gaines and the others only “made the church body believe” they had apologized.

Uh oh!  Gaines admitted:  “This was a mistake…and we shouldn’t have done it.”  It’s interesting to note that making mistakes seems to be a chronic problem in Gaines’ ministry.   

Let’s see…  Gaines found out about Paul Williams’ molestation of his son in June 2006.  He
trespassed into a private gated community on August 7, 2006, even though there were “No trespassing” signs posted.  Apparently, the rules don’t apply to megapastors…  Then Gaines was forced to fire Williams after Paul Williams’ son confronted Gaines in December 2006 about why his father was still serving as a minister at Bellevue.   Of course, all of this was discussed on the blogs critical of Gaines.

After getting rid of the TROUBLEMAKERS at Bellevue, Gaines delivered the infamous sermon.

Waiting for the Coming of the Lord on July 5, 2009.  He used James 5:7-11as his Bible text. 

Here’s the link to Steve Gaines’ sermon:

The excerpt we featured in last Friday’s post comes from this sermon.  Almost halfway through his message, Gaines utters these words:

“They’ll use the internet.  They’ll be anonymous.  They’re gonna slander people….  Stop it!  You’re gonna answer to God for that.  Stop it!!!  There should be no troublemaker in any leadership position in any church.   There is no room for troublemakers in any church.  We are to be peacemakers… The judge is standing right at the door.” 

Apparently, Gaines hasn’t “gained” anything of value from the blogs that have been critical of him up to this point.

It’s now time to investigate the desperate measures used by Mac Brunson to deal with an annoying anonymous blogger.  On September 29, 2008, an investigation was launched into the identity of a blogger who was critical of First Baptist Church Jacksonville’s pastor. 

According to an article written in the regional newspaper by Jeff Brumley, here’s why this blogger (who goes by the name FBCJaxWatchdog) was investigated.



The probe was launched Sept. 29 after the Rev. John Blount, First Baptist's administrative pastor, called Hinson to report "heightened vitriol" on Rich's blog, Blount told the Times-Union previously.
Blount said he also relayed to Hinson that mail had been stolen from the home of pastor Mac Brunson and that a stalker had taken photographs of Brunson's wife in 2007. Blount said the church wanted to know if the incidents were related.

But the police report used to open the investigation cites only an ongoing "Internet incident that has possible criminal overtones."

Separate reports about the mail and photographs were never filed, Blount said, because they seemed isolated and unrelated at the time.The investigation was closed Nov. 13 after Hinson reported finding "no criminal activity" had been discovered, according to reports.

Does anyone find these allegations against FBCJaxWatchdog interesting besides us?  Stealing mail in a GATED COMMUNITY where the Brunsons live and taking pictures of Brunson’s wife?  Yes, the Watchdog featured a photo of the Brunson home on his website, but he obtained it on the internet, not breaking into the gated community.  By the way, anyone can find a photo of your house too using the internet. 

Hmmm…..  We wonder whether Mac got the idea of accusing the Watchdog of trespassing into his gated community from LEAPING Steve Gaines!!!  Could it be that Mac and Steve are very good friends and know intimately what's going on in each others' lives?  Well, consider this statement from Brumley’s article…

“So far, police haven't said why a third blog, one critical of a church in Memphis, also was investigated by Hinson.”

And just which church in Memphis might that be?  Take a wild guess… Bellevue Baptist Church, home of the walljumping pastor!  Yes, Sheriff Hiinson filed for a subpoena against the anonymous blogger who was critical of Bellevue. 

This would be a good place to take a break and listen to another Elvis song:


Tom Rich (aka FBCJaxWatchdog) posted the following entry yesterday:


The Watchdog Goes Idle for a While…
"Readers – this will be my last post in a while. Events require that I take a break at least temporarily from blogging, probably through the month of October or longer, unless events during this period dictate otherwise.

Thank you to the contributors of this blog, those on both sides of the issues that have used this forum to discuss and debate important issues at FBC Jax.

In the meantime, until the next post, blessings to all."

We have been extremely touched by a segment on the local news featuring Tom Rich.  We encourage you to go to this link to watch the interview.  Does this man look and act like a “sociopath” as Mac Brunson publicly labeled him?


The accompanying article entitled “Internet Blog on First Baptist Church Causes Stir” can be found at the above link, along with the following statement given by Sheriff John Rutherford who is defending Detective Hinson (who moonlights as Mac Brunson’s bodyguard).  Folks, we’re not making this stuff up!!!

I would like to clarify some information that has been reported about a recent Intelligence investigation conducted by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, regarding perceived threats against a local religious congregation.

Our agency is responsible for investigating any perceived threats and possible criminal activity that is reported to us by a citizen. They routinely share what they learn in the course of the investigation with the victim or complainant.

Suspects would not be made aware of this information, if it is gathered in an effort to determine if a threshold of criminality exists and none is found. In this case, the case was closed 11/13/08 with no further action by JSO warranted when no criminal conduct or significant threat to the church was determined to exist.

In this case, the information about suspicious behavior directed at Pastor Mac Brunson and his home and family was provided to a detective whose normal duty assignment with the JSO is to investigate possible threats against Jacksonville's religious institutions. He is a member of our Intelligence Unit. He would have investigated this situation had the complaint come from those affiliated with a Mosque, a Synagogue, or any religious organization. This is Detective Hinson's job as the intelligence point person for the religious community, and other designated critical infrastructure sites in Jacksonville.

All our religious institutions are a major part of Jacksonville's critical infrastructure and we remain vigilant in investigating all perceived threats and security issues associated with those institutions. In light of recent violent incidents that have occurred in churches around the country, I think our vigilance is necessary and most appropriate to ensure public safety.

Had another officer received a similar threat or tip or raised a similar concern, Detective Hinson would have ultimately been the officer assigned to investigate. I have no issue with his investigation and there is no conflict of interest because he is affiliated with that particular congregation.


The fact that the medium used to communicate the messages being investigated was the internet is irrelevant. Investigations are conducted into the sources of anonymous letters, phone calls, and in this day and age websites and emails, any time it is deemed appropriate for public safety. We then look at the contents and sources of internet information regularly, as part of our investigations.

I hope this information helps clarify for citizens that this was not about "outing" a blogger, but instead was about public safety.

John H. Rutherford, Sheriff
Jacksonville, FL

Please be in prayer for Tom Rich as he fights his legal battle against First Baptist Church Jacksonville, among others.  It truly is a modern day David and Goliath story.  If you’re new to The Wartburg Watch, we spent two weeks reporting on the saga in Jacksonville.  Check out our blog posts dating from August 17, 2009 to September 2, 2009.

And how are the wives of Steve Gaines and Mac Brunson dealing with these issues – we suppose “very quietly”.  You might find this June 29, 2009 Baptist Press article entitled “Ministers’ wives ponder ‘Quiet Influence’ very interesting.  Here’s the link along with an excerpt:

“The SBC Ministers' Wives Luncheon, held June 23 at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky., featured "A View From the Pew," a panel of female authors and pastor’s wives who spoke to topics relevant to wives of pastors. The panel included (from left) Donna Gaines, author of "There's Gotta Be More" and wife of Steve Gaines, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church near Memphis, Tenn.; Debbie Brunson, an International Mission Board trustee and wife of Mac Brunson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla.; Jeana Floyd, author of "The Uninvited Guests" and wife of Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church in Springdale, Ark.; and Susie Hawkins, author of "From One Ministry Wife to Another" and wife of O.S. Hawkins, president of GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

An overflow crowd of more than 1,600 women pondered the ways God could use the quiet influence of their lives during the 54th annual Ministers' Wives Conference June 23 at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Louisville, Ky.

This year's luncheon theme — "Quiet Influence: The Romans 12:1 Woman" — was based on a recently published Bible study of the same name focusing on a Bible passage urging believers "to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship."

Every attendee received a copy of the Bible study, which includes chapters by Debbie Brunson, Jeana Floyd, Donna Gaines, Susie Hawkins and Lisa Young, as well as Diane Strack, its general editor.

As an aside, we have done several blog posts on the ministry of Lisa Young’s husband, Ed.  You can find them at these links:

Needless-to-say, we (Dee and Deb) aren’t exhibiting our “Quiet Influence”.  Steve Gaines remarked in his July 5, 2009 semon that anonymous bloggers will answer to God one day.  That’s EXACTLY why we are blogging – because we will answer to God one day for the knowledge that He alone gives.  Our heavenly Father has blessed us with unique spiritual gifts which we are attempting to use to the best of our ability in this forum, and we dare not remain silent.  Just before we began The Wartburg Watch in March 2009, Dee remarked to me:  “If we don’t start the blog soon, I believe we’re gonna get swallowed by a big fish.”   (think Jonah).  God’s calling in this direction was so strong for both of us over a period of two years that we fearful not to begin our religious blog.  That is the ABSOLUTE TRUTH, and that’s why The Wartburg Watch exists!

Here’s another Elvis tune that seems to relate to today’s topic.  We’ll leave it to you to decide who’s the “Devil in Disguise” in each of these situations.

Devil in Disguise (video to follow)


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