Warning to FBCJ members and hangers on: This post will require something from you. Do you want to know about Heath Lambert? What about ACBC? Do you think its just a nice, little counseling service in case your kid gets a bit depressed? I have been following the development of nouthetic counseling and the ACBC stuff for years. Do you know that Lambert is a Calvinist? Do you know what that means for you? I have provided the reader with all sorts of links just in case you think I’m stretching the truth. Please feel free to contact me with questions.
I have been following church upheavals for 11 years. FBC Jacksonville has long been on my radar. It is known, in particular, for the tenure Jerry Vines. Here is what Wikipedia says.
Charles Jerry Vines (born September 1937) is an American preacher and former pastor of what was then the nation’s third largest Southern Baptist church, the First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Florida. Like his former co-pastor Homer G. Lindsay Jr., Vines is well known for his conservative and sometimes controversial public stances, as well as his wide-reaching influence in the Southern Baptist Convention and the local political arena. He retired from the First Baptist pulpit on February 7, 2006, and was succeeded by Mac Brunson. On February 4, 2007, Brunson named Vines Pastor Emeritus of the church.
Did you notice that little word *was* in reference to FBC Jax being the third largest church in the SBC during Vine’s tenure. Sadly, that is no longer the case. During Mac Brunson’s tenure, membership declined. Brunson often focused on accepting paid, outside speaking engagements as well as making sure he (and his family) had nice digs within the church setting (Didn’t his dog get nice digs at the church as well?) as well as a beautiful expensive house within a gated community along with other grants. He lived well.
This Wikipedia entry for FBCJ is important in understanding what has happened in recent years.
As of 2014, First Baptist Church has 28,000 members and an average attendance of around 3,000 for Sunday services. The main Downtown Campus comprises several square blocks of property connected by above-ground crosswalks. The campus includes several auditoriums for services, a Sunday school building, and facilities for First Baptist Academy, a private K-12 school.
This is a church which had massive infrastructure and abysmal attendance, only 11%, at church services. It appears that there was no need for such large facilities. I have learned that much of the church fell into disrepair and there was no money to care for such a large facility.
So it should come as no surprise that it was reported First Baptist Church to sell 90% of its downtown property
Declining membership means a declining budget and the church cannot afford the $7 million yearly expense to maintain its buildings.
The church plans to sell nine of its 10 blocks and Lambert tells News4Jax that offers have already come in. The church sold another block of its downtown property last year.
…Daniel Davis, the president of JAX Chamber, wants to work with the church and developers to grow this section of downtown. He believes it will work for retail, business and residential space.
…Lambert plans to renovate the church’s oldest sanctuary, the Hobson Auditorium. It was built in 1904.
His plan includes spending $30 million to renovate the auditorium as well as the building and parking garage next to it. The refurbished facility is scheduled to open in early 2022.
Pay attention to the parts of the church which will be kept. This church has tremendous potential for growth and that has not gone unnoticed by leaders in the SBC. The 10% that is left is quite attractive to pastors hoping to revitalize churches.
Enter Heath Lambert: the head of the controversial Association of Certified Biblical Counselors as well as an Associate Professor at SBTS.
Heath Lambert was an associate professor of counseling at the ardently Calvinist SBC seminary-Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. If you think he came to FBCJ to be a simple pastor of counseling under Mac Brunson, you haven’t been following the news in the SBC. FBCJ was a plum ripe for the plucking.
The SBC has been involved in the *revitalization* of older churches. Let me translate that for you. One of the most difficult things about starting a new church plant is trying to find and rent facilities. There are many within the leadership which urge SBC Baptist preacher types to find a church facility that is already bought and paid for.
Last year I received a call from church in the Boston area. Twenty Calvinist young folks arrived at their church and began to join committees, etc. They were attempting to get themselves elected to position of leadership in the church. Why might that be? This church was an historical church with paid for facilities. I explained to the pastor what was likely happening. Those 20 young church *revitalizers* were given the boot.
I have been following Heath Lambert for a number of years. I am quite critical of his intellectual soft ACBC curriculum. “You, too, can become a respected counselor by following this simple program.” This organization claims that they certify biblical counseling competency. However, I’e written a number of posts on this subject. Do you want to know what your new pastor believes about counseling?
In the following posts, I came to the conclusion that church members should flee such counseling. It is clear that confidentiality will not be guaranteed and counselees could be subjected to church discipline.Read the counseling contract carefully. You will see what I mean. Better yet, avoid this sort of counseling at all costs.
The following is part of a post that I wrote in 2018.
Start 2018 post
Another Reason to Avoid Biblical Counseling: Confidentiality Is Not Guaranteed When Sin™ Is Involved
Finally, back to biblical™ counseling. Here are my previous posts in case you missed them.
- Part 1: The Biblical Counseling Movement and Timberlake Baptist Church and Counseling Center
- What is the Difference Between Nouthetic and Biblical Counseling? Just the Spelling.
- Biblical Counseling Training: Inadequate Education, Problematic Resources and Questionably Educated Leaders
- Heath Lambert Channels Martin Luther (As If) and Writes the 95 Theses of Biblical Counseling
- Heath Lambert’s 95 Theses of Biblical Counseling Reminds Me of Bob’s Advice in Stranger Things 2: It’s All Easy Peasy.
- John Piper and Heath Lambert of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors Views of the Mind Demonstrate Why We have a Problem With the Biblical Counseling Movement
- Biblical Counseling: Anyone Can Do It, Sin Is the Focus, Confidentiality Is Not Guaranteed and Women Should Beware
According to the website for ACBC (Association for Certified Biblical Counselors): (Note 6/17/20-This has been removed since Lambert has stepped down from this position but the following is what existed on the site in 2018.)
Dr. Heath Lambert is the Executive Director at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. ACBC is the largest biblical counseling organization in the world with counseling training centers and certified counselors in 29 countries.
Dr. Lambert is a faculty member at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and their undergraduate institution, Boyce College, where he has taught since 2006.
Dr. Lambert is a founding council board member of The Biblical Counseling Coalition. He serves on the editorial boards of The Journal of Family Ministry, and The Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
According to First Baptist Church, Jacksonville:
Dr. Heath Lambert came to FBC JAX in 2015 as associate pastor. In May of 2018, he assumed the role of senior pastor. A faithful teacher of God’s Word, Pastor Lambert is also a leader and advocate of biblical counseling, serving as Executive Director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors
…Pastor Lambert earned a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Biblical and Theological Studies and Political Science from Gordon College in 2002; The Master of Divinity of Degree (M.Div.) in Christian Ministry from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2005; and the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in biblical counseling from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2009.
Make sure you understand his allegiances beyond the biblical counseling world.
- Faculty member at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
- Founding member of The Biblical Counseling Coalition.(I mistakenly said Gospel Colaition although he is well published over there.
- Editorial board of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
- He also speaks for 9 Marks (added 8/18)
Given his background, what might you expect about his view on the church?
- He is Reformed and believes in a strict authority structure within the church.
- He believes in strict gender roles.
- He believes in church discipline.
- Church authority over a believer’s life trumps confidentiality.
What does he think about confidentiality in biblical counseling?
In a series called “Truth in Love” he speaks on Counseling and Confidentiality which you can listen to here. The following are some comments that jumped out at me.
- Since Lambert became the director of ACBC, confidentiality is one of the most frequently asked questions. (Ask yourself, why might that be?)
- He believes that secular counseling places a premium on confidentiality. He does not mention that even secular counselors must report child abuse and seem to do a better job of that than the church but why muddy the waters?
- He does believe that abuse is required to be reported in *most* states. It is curious that he does not say that abuse must always be reported even if the counselor is not required to report it.
- In Biblical counseling, confidentiality is *often* valuable but it is not the most important. (Ask yourself, what is more important?…)
- Matthew 18 as your answer. Of course it is. I knew he would get around to this since Matthew 18’s verses appear to be the most important part of the Bible after the Cross and Resurrection.
Matthew 18:15-19 NIV:
Dealing With Sin in the Church
15 “If your brother or sister[a] sins,[b] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’[c] 17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
18 “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.
19 “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.
- Lambert believes that if the counselor is aware of sin, there is a requirement to disclose that sin if the person continues to sin. Think about that for a moment and ask the most overlooked question, “What sin must be disclosed?” You will not get a definitive answer.
- If the counselee does not stop *sinning* then Lambert says the counselor must get 2-3 witnesses ala Matthew 18:16 in order to confront them.
- If the counselee still does not stop doing the undefined sin, he/she must be reported to the entire church. Remember when Matt Chandler reported Karen Hinkley’s supposed sins to all 6,000 members????
- Then, if the undefined sin is still present in the life of the counselee, that sinner should be kicked out of the church and shunned!
Lambert appears to claim that making sure that sin in the life of the believer should be prosecuted. Therefore, the counselor must work with the leadership of the church to make sure that discipline happens. Seriously?
End 2018 post
Given the above, why would you seek counseling from an ACBC counselor? The following is what I would expect to occur at FBCJ. I hope I am proven wrong.
Heath Lambert will institute Calvinism as the preferred theology of FBCJ.
How could he not? This is what he was taught and this is what he believes. FBCJ was a perfectly situated for a Calvinist incursion. It is a church in turmoil, looking for a strong leader. It is my opinion that Lambert came to FBCJ with the intention of becoming the senior pastor ASAP. FBCJ had the infrastructure, even with 90% being sold off. I have been told that Trey Brunson was instrumental in bring Lambert to FBCJ. Those I interviewed said that Trey was a great admirer of folks like Matt Chandler whose church is currently being sued for the molestation of an underage child. Who can forget the Karen Hinckley situation?
I have no problem if a church chooses to be Calvinist in its theology so long as the members have been told about the switch in emphasis. Now, Lambert may say something like the following “I believe in grace, don’t you?” And all God’s people said, “Amen,” except…maybe they should ask what Lambert means by grace. He most likely means the *doctrines of grace.* Do you know what they are?
- Total depravity
- Unconditional election
- Limited atonement
- Irresistible grace
- Perseverance of the saint.
Such theology espouses that God determined who would be a Christian before time began. So, if you weren’t chosen, you will not be going to heaven to matter how many squints you put it in the nursery. Same goes for your children. Has Lambert mentioned this to you yet? Why don’t you ask him if you doubt me on this?
Heath Lambert will be authoritarian in his tenure just as much as Brunson was an authoritarian.
For those of you who want to continue at FBCJ, and goodness knows they need every bit of your tithe money, be sure to agree totally with him or be prepared to have some problems. Lambert insists he had nothing to do with the following. I don’t believe him. Eric Johnson Lambasted by Heath Lambert and Fired by Al Mohler
It appears to me that Lambert is thin skinned when it comes to his beloved ACBC accreditation being challenged by a real academic. Of course he’s worried. ACBC is problematic in a number of ways. It is simple to become certified by ACBC. It is hard to get a real PhD in psychology like Johnson.
What happened? Johnson was the last actual PhD holding psychologist at SBTS. Lambert believes in the supremacy of the ACBC. Here is Lambert’s confession.
The importance of these issues leads to another problem with the way I spoke about Dr. Johnson that night. I believe the centrality of Christ is really on the line with whether or not we believe God has given us sufficient resources to help troubled people. But my sin took the focus off of Christ, and placed it on me where it should never be. I am so ashamed of that.
But I really believe what I teach about these things. I know that Jesus Christ has forgiven me, and I pray that now you will too.
Remember this when you sign up for counseling. Lambert really believes that he has found the key to emotional salvation. That should make you worried.
Things to watch out for: membership covenants and church discipline
For now, I plan to watch and see if such things are instituted and how they are applied. I recommend that no-one sign a membership covenant which is, in reality, a legal contract. I have written reams on this subject but will spare the reader for now.
Some thoughts on Mac Brunson and Heath Lambert
- Lambert is a hardcore Calvinist.
- Both are authoritarian.
- Both do not like to be challenged. Think Tom Rich for Brunson and Eric Johnson for Lambert.
- Both are adept at wiggling around the truth when necessary
- Lambert will get some monetary help in putting FBCJ back on its feet.(See if the NAMB is donating money.) Brunson ignored monetary realities.
- Lambert is a better preacher.
- Brunson will always be remembered for the grave injustice he inflicted on Tom Rich.
- Lambert will fire more people and may bring in more help from his BFFs at SBTS.
- Will Lambert attempt to bring resolution to Tiffany Thigpen’s concern about Jerry Vines’ book? Or will he chicken out of that one as too challenging? I bet on the latter.
- Why does it matter if there are 28,000 members when almost none of them (11%) come to church? Talk about weird…
Well, you have your work cut out for you to make it through this tome. Go for it. Learn about what’s going on in your church.