Tag Archives: Johnny Hunt

Beyond Johnny-Dome: Taking a Right Turn off of the Johnny Hunt Highway

“I wonder when we are ever going to change…We don’t need another hero.” Britten and Lyle

This is a post that was almost never written.  It’s one that has been in my mind for a long time, but I’ve not yet put word to processor to write it.  The time has never seemed right to do so.  If the time has ever been right, it’s right now.  Christians in the state of Georgia and beyond need a reminder that they shouldn’t put too much stock in any one man’s personality or accomplishments (unless, of course, than man is Jesus Christ).  One such man is Johnny Hunt, pastor of the First Baptist Woodstock megachurch and a hero of the conservative resurgence of the Southern Baptist Convention.  The false confidence that Georgia Baptists put in Hunt’s opinion of Ergun Caner last year has led to a lot of tragedy and heartache.   As many readers of this blog already know, Ergun Caner has recently resigned from the presidency of Brewton-Parker College among a brewing and secretive scandal.  CB Scott, a Vice President of that institution, was fired after he refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement.  In his words, he refused to sign the agreement and accept an attractive severance package “as a matter of personal integrity.”  Of course, CB Scott should have never been put in that position because the scandal-ridden charlatan Ergun Caner should have never been appointed as the President of Brewton-Parker or any other Christian institution…but he was…at the recommendation of Johnny Hunt, whose moral authority and charismatic allure (likely) helped legitimize Ergun Caner as a viable candidate.   Even though Johnny Hunt knew of Caner’s past charlatanry, he still backed him.  He even invited him to fill his pulpit last July.  I was a member of Hunt’s church at the time.  I am no longer.  Like CB Scott, I wouldn’t just sit silent in the face of scandal and shame.

Highway 92 Revisited

hunt highway

“I’ll be a big noise with all the big boys. There’s so much stuff I will own.  I will pray to a big God as I kneel in the big church.” Peter Gabriel

Georgia State Route 92 is 97.81 mile span of road that runs from Griffin to Roswell and through eight counties: Spalding, Fayette, Fulton, Douglas, Paulding, Cobb, and Cherokee.  In Cherokee County, a short portion of the highway between Neese and Trickum roads was renamed “Johnny Hunt Highway” in honor of the Pastor of the First Baptist of Woodstock (FBCW).  The renaming of this portion of Highway 92 was the brainchild of former Georgia State Senate Majority Leader, Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), an active member of FBCW.  Rogers was named as one of “The Most Influential Georgians” by James Magazine in 2009.  On at least one occasion, while sitting in the congregation at FBCW, I heard Johnny Hunt give Chip Rogers a shout-out from the pulpit during a sermon.  FBCW is a voting precinct, I’ve witnessed Chip Rogers actively standing outside of his own megachurch holding a campaign sign to encourage people to go into the church building and vote for him.  Incidentally, a controversial real-estate deal in which Chip Rogers was involved “contributed significantly” to the failure of a Georgia community bank, according to the bank’s chairman.  Rogers was sued by the bank.  Incidentally, Rogers resigned his senate seat not long after it was revealed that he was involved in a sports-betting enterprise before his political career, advertising himself in videos as “Will the Winner” and encouraging callers to call a 900 hundred number for winning picks.  Gambling is frowned upon at FBCW.  Incidentally, I have to wonder how much discernment Hunt exercises when he chooses his influential, big time friends.

“…your arm felt nice wrapped ’round my shoulder…I had a feeling that I belonged. I had a feeling I could be someone. Tracy Chapman

While “Will the winner” is gone from the Georgia Senate, the Johnny Hunt Highway remains.  FBCW itself is located on this small stretch of highway.  However Hunt’s and FBCW’s influence is not limited to a plot of land on the side of Highway 92 in Woodstock, GA.  The church boasts three additional campuses, one of which in Panama City Beach, where Johnny’s daughter Deanna Hunt Carswell lives.

Deena Hunt

Hunt, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, presents conferences nationally.  He bestrides the narrow evangelical world like a colossus.  When Johnny Hunt speaks people listen…and his voice emanates each Sunday from the Johnny Hunt highway.

“I took a drive today, time to emancipate…Saw things so much clearer, once you were in my rearview-mirror”. Eddie Vedder

The last time I traveled the Johnny Hunt highway was Sunday July 27, 2014.  I had just been escorted off of the campus of FBCW by this rather large security officer in a black suit, wearing an earpiece, whom I’d never seen at church before:

ergun goon

I was escorted off the campus at the order of John Day, who directs security at FBCW and whose son was one of Johnny Hunt’s mentees.  Multiple witnesses have attested that I was not acting in a disorderly way.  My only offense was attempting to warn fellow church members about the charlatan Ergun Caner, whom Johnny Hunt had invited to fill the church’s pulpit that day.  (Johnny was on vacation at the beach that day, on a rented yacht I’m told, near the FBCW Woodstock campus in Panama City).

Posted to Johnny Hunt’s Instagram Account on 07/27/2014

My stance on Ergun Caner was starkly different than Hunt’s.  Before Ergun’s sermon…let me pause, I use that term loosely.  Caner just mentioned a bible passage and then talked about himself for 45 minutes.  I don’t think Allan Taylor, the education minister at Woodstock liked Caner’s 45-minute talk about himself much either as this July 29 tweet might indicate:

taylor tweet

Before Caner’s sermon began, a prerecorded video of Johnny Hunt was played for the crowd.  In the video Hunt, stated:

“Ergun, I love you my friend.  I’m grateful for the way God has used you and is using you.  Thank you for your humble spirit and the way you’ve just desired to serve…just know that Woodstock welcomes you this morning…thank you for honoring us by being here today…Woodstock, know that you are in a for a real treat.”

We were not, as Taylor’s tweet implies, in for a treat.  I’d never seen Johnny have to plug a guest preacher so much before.  Yet, he plugged Caner.  Perhaps he did so because he knew people had reservations about Caner. Caner is a known charlatan who is known to have used off-color racial language in the pulpit.  According to initial reports coming from Brewton-Parker, Caner used such language at the offense of many. At a chapel service at the school and a third of the student body walked out in protest of Caner.  This incident precipitated what many believe was a forced resignation.  However, Caner using such language was Caner being Caner…the same Caner that Johnny Hunt, Newsong, and Tony Nolan have known for years.  The reader may be perplexed at the point as to why I bring up Newsong and Tony Nolan.  Along with Hunt, these individuals have preached at conferences with Caner for years. Their connection is more than spiritual (and financial).  Hunt’s daughter is married to a member of the Carswell family, of Newsong fame.  Tony Nolan recently preached a revival at Brewton-Parker where it was claimed that 120 souls were saved at one time.  Johnny Hunt was on the board of Liberty University when Caner was the Dean of the theology school there.  Thick as thieves, they are.

Ergun Caner is one of Johnny Hunt’s big time buddies.

I am not.  I was just a pew-sitting, rank-and-file member of Johnny Hunt’s church.  I wasn’t one of his celebrity associates, he was just my pastor.  I couldn’t even get a meeting with him to talk about my concerns with Ergun Caner.  Maybe he would have met with Will the Winner.  When I tried to talk to the church about them, I was escorted off campus.  I was escorted off along with John Day’s own nephew, who had accompanied me to church that day.  His nephew is not a Christian.  We were on the way to Sunday School class when we were forced to leave.

I tried to warn my church about Johnny’s friend, Ergun Caner.  I was kicked off the campus for doing so.  I haven’t been back.  I drove off with John Day’s nephew and left the Johnny Hunt highway in my rear-view mirror for good.  I know of at least three other families that have left church in the wake of this scandal…out of hundreds who ignored or endured it.

Ichabod.

The Political World of American Evangelicalism

We live in a political world. The one we can see and can feel; But there’s no one to check, it’s all a stacked deck. We all know for sure that it’s realBob Dylan

All this is water under the bridge.  I’m not bitter and I now have a pastor who’ll take a meeting with me.  He’s a great man, though, you’ve likely never heard of him.  He’s not an evangelical celebrity, he’s just a guy who will take a meeting with little pew-sitter like me.  I bring up these events of the past to show that we’ve let certain personalities in evangelicalism become too big to fail and those who speak out at their local church, like me, will just get escorted out the front door for dissenting.  CB Scott was fired from his job at Brewton-Parker for not pledging to keep his mouth shut about Caner.   Not fired in the wake of this latest Caner scandal, was Brewton-Parker VP, Peter Lumpkins, who recently likened Caner to Elijah.  The band plays on.  The political intrigue continues.

Over a year ago, I wrote about Caner’s ill-fated hire at Brewton-Parker.  So did James White, so did Mark Lamprecht, so did a lot of folks. The Trustees at Brewton-Parker listened to men like Johnny Hunt instead.  Ergun Caner and his friends were too big to fail…but they did.  Then they tried to sweep it under the rug…again.  People didn’t listen to my warning.  We need to use this latest incident as a catalyst to change the culture of evangelicalism.  Ergun Caner is not the problem, the environment is.  It’s a political world.  I said it a year ago, and I’ll say it again:

“To the best of my knowledge, Dr. Ergun Caner does not manage the financial stewardship of any Georgia Baptist church. Dr. Caner is just a man who was looking for a job in his field and found one. The Georgia Baptist leaders, specifically the trustees of Brewton-Parker, entrusted with the task of hiring the President of the institution are the ones responsible for installing Dr. Caner in that role. They dropped the ball. These men are the ones who should be held accountable by Georgia Baptists. These men and the institution they lead should be defunded immediately.”

Jesus said He would build his church.  Let’s stop looking to mega-pastors and personalities to do it for Him.  We don’t need another hero, we have Jesus.

“Thinking about formulas, what we’ve done. I’m 71 today, y’all know that? 71…and in the 50 years, I’ve been in the ministry…I’ve watched formulas, formulas of man’s opinion of how to do church. If you do this, this, this, this and this, you’re going to be big, big, and bigger…and I’m telling you, it’s like a virus! And it’s everywhere! And you know what, it sells. Publishers are grabbing these things and they’re heralding these mega-churches wherever they are and they’re heralding mega-preachers who’ve become gods and their selling their stuff and here’s the problem…people are buying it like you wouldn’t believe. They’re sucked right into a message that says, ‘You can build God’s church!’ when Jesus himself said, ‘I will build my church.’ Man’s creativity, God does not need. He’s needs man’s willingness to surrender to him.” Wayne Barber, preaching to the congregation at the church were I grew up on July 27th, 2014, the day of I was escorted out of FBCW.

To all the people who valued Johnny Hunt’s recommendation over the documented evidence of Caner’s incorrigible charlatanry…

I told you so.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

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The True Issue: an Open Letter to Johnny Hunt from a Concerned Church Member of First Baptist Church of Woodstock

Again with ALL due respect, (Johnny Hunt) the true issue is not Ergun, it is the leadership you are influencing by allowing this. You will be held accountable before God and man” Ryan McCollister

In my recent interview with the Pulpit and Pen Program, I was asked if I knew of any other members of First Baptist Woodstock who were upset that Ergun Caner had been invited to fill the church’s pulpit. I responded that I knew at least one but, the fact is, there are more. Some of them are not currently willing to express their feelings publicly. At least one more person, in addition to myself, has shown himself willing. Yesterday, after much prayer and forethought, another member of First Baptist Church of Woodstock made a public statement about the situation at First Baptist Church of Woodstock. He did so via a Facebook post. With his permission, I have reproduced his open letter to Johnny Hunt here. His only condition in granting permission was that this reproduction glorify Jesus. I pray that it not only glories Jesus but fairly represents my brother in Christ.

Before presenting the letter, allow me to give a short introduction of Ryan McCollister

I personally know Ryan to be a God-fearing, Christ-honoring man. He demonstrates a Christ-like love for his wife. He shares the gospel in season and out. He is a hard worker. He studies the Bible diligently and is in the process of earning a Religion degree from Liberty University Online. When my family and friends gathered to celebrate the first birthday of my daughters, it was Ryan whom I asked to do the honor of asking the Lord’s blessing of the occasion.

Ryan moved from Ohio to Georgia so that he could be a part of First Baptist Woodstock. This move is a clear demonstration of the respect that Ryan has for the ministry of Pastor Johnny Hunt. Please keep that in mind as you read his letter. I assure you, he wrote it with a heavy heart.

Ryan wrote…*

Pastor Johnny,

With ALL due respect, I will not be at FBCW this Sunday and, like most, it’s not because you are not there.

‘Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.’ (Ephesians 5:11)

I believe in grace, mercy, and forgiveness wholeheartedly and I live it out. I believe in church discipline as well. You and I choose not to do specific things, say specific things, and post specific things because we know the consequences it will cost. Here is the problem I have; I would keep this private, but everything that has happened and has kept on happening is in the open public. The SBC is openly promoting/protecting it.

If I or any other of my preacher friends had done what Ergun has done, we would never preach in a SBC church again even if we did publicly repent of the same type of actions.

Think about it… If you can get fired from a high position at Liberty University for continual false testimonies, recently sue the brethren for exposing the false testimonies to the masses, lose in court and be reprimanded and commanded by the judge to repay the legal fees of the defendants, still make a $130k+ salary that Georgia Baptists fund at a different ‘Christian college’, and to still be chosen to come and preach at my church over THOUSANDS of Holy Spirit filled, God called and gifted SBC preachers who are walking blameless and could be called to fill the pulpit then there is something seriously wrong!

A house divided will not stand and it has been crumbling!!

Holy Spirit please open the blind eyes and unlock the deaf ears and move on your people!!!

Open public sin calls for open public repentance!

Johnny Hunt, I’m heartbroken! I truly thought your leadership would prevent things like this from happening. You are passionate about exposing the prosperity gospel for being a lie. None of those who preach such heresy are prominent preachers in the SBC. Yet, a individual who is prominent in the SBC and is known to have openly and consistently spread his false testimonies gets invited to preach to our church, to our babes in Christ!?

I know exactly why Ergun Caner refuses to openly publicly repent; it’s strategic. His books and trainings that have impacted the military have made him more money and notoriety than imaginable. If he openly repents, true revival may break out but it will inevitably cost him dearly. The federal government will get involved and he may spend many years in prison and have to pay out thousands of dollars. This has nothing to do with Calvinism or hatred towards Ergun, or lack of grace; it has everything to do with integrity and a passion for Gods Truth! I was a big fan of Ergun and he had influenced me greatly in the past…until The Lord convicted me while listening to his materials. I was taking notes and noticed the HUGE inconsistencies.

Again with ALL due respect, the true issue is not Ergun, it is the leadership you are influencing by allowing this. You will be held accountable before God and man. As John Maxwell has said, ‘everything rises and falls on leadership’. I love you pastor and I’m on your team but if something is not done about this I may no longer be under your influence and leadership.

The cost of following Jesus may cost us nothing but it will cost us everything even when we are in the wrong.

Sincerely,

Ryan McCollister”

In my opinion, Ryan gets it. This is not about Ergun, this is about an environment in which a man like Ergun can flourish. I hope you’ll follow Ryan’s example and speak up. I hope you’ll follow Jesus’ example by holding sinners accountable and calling them to repentance.

To all reading this blog and following this issue: May the Lord be the judge between you and me.

*I edited the letter slightly for grammar and context to make Ryan’s intent more clear.

**Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

The Determinist, the Apologist, and Emotional Captivity: What Was Not Discussed in My Interview with the Pulpit and Pen on First Baptist Woodstock, Johnny Hunt, and Ergun Caner

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”  The Lord Jesus as recorded in Luke 14:26

Last night J.D. Hall interviewed me for the “Radio Free SBC” segment of the Friday July 25th edition of his Pulpit and Pen Podcast.  This article is meant as a companion piece to that interview.  I wrote this late.  Forgive typos.

The subject of Friday’s “Radio Free SBC” portion of the Pulpit and Pen Program is the tragic invitation that Johnny Hunt extended to the charlatan Ergun Caner to preach at First Baptist Church of Woodstock on July 27, 2014.  Since I am a member of FBCW who has vociferously objected to the propriety of such an invitation, J.D. Hall was interested in hearing more about my perspective on the matter and thus he asked me to be a guest on his program.  I was happy to share my perspective and am grateful to J.D. for the forum.  I look forward to hearing the program tomorrow when the podcast is posted.  However, there is one additional facet of my experience at First Baptist Woodstock, one that wasn’t covered in the interview, which I’d like to share here…my emotional reaction to the great injustice perpetrated by my church and my pastor.

During our interview, JD and I didn’t really talk much about emotions and feelings.  We talked a little about how indignant I felt, but we mainly stuck to rational argumentation and discussion.  What else would one expect from the both of us, giving our mindsets?  After all, J.D. Hall is a staunch Calvinist and I am a logically-minded Christian apologist.[1]  Men such as us, more or less, tell it how it is.

Ask a Calvinist about the justification for God ordering the extermination of the Canaanites in the Old Testament and you’ll likely get an answer like this:

“The Canaanites weren’t elect.  They were vessels prepared for destruction.  Just look in God’s word. Read Romans 9:22. How dare you question the sovereign God of the universe!”

Ask a Christian apologist about for justification of God ordering the extermination of the Canaanites in the Old Testament and you’ll likely get an answer like this:

“Well, you really can’t even have objective moral values and duties unless they are grounded in God.  So, it really doesn’t even make sense for a finite being such as yourself to question the justness of our Holy God.  Without God, moral values and duties and even a sense of ‘justice’, are purely subjective matters of opinion.  In such a case, murder and genocide can’t be universally condemned but can only be viewed as matters of preference.  Thus, your question is really just nonsense if you think about it.”

For a person dealing with an emotional objection, such answers go over like Mark Driscoll at a Beth Moore study. People are thinking beings as well feeling beings.  I know this; however, I rarely remember to put forth any emotional arguments for God.  I read a book on doing so.  I even asked a lady apologist for advice.  It turns out, that sometimes people just need to understand the emotional side of things.

I think people may be having an emotional rejection to believing that Johnny Hunt is leading his church in a bad direction.  My strictly-business way of approaching the matter just isn’t getting over.  Someone in my Apologetics Sunday School class (of all places) pointed it out to me last night:

erin

I haven’t been considering the emotional side.  This is quite the blunder on my part, especially since this experience has been so emotionally wrenching for me.   One of the reasons, I think, that members are refusing to leave First Baptist Woodstock as it refuses to right this wrong is because the church leadership is holding them emotionally hostage.  Church members are “plugged in” to their church.  To take a stand, they’d have to take up their crosses and leave friends or family behind.  Doing so hurts.  I know because I am doing it.

Missing Miss Mona

“And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple—amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” Matthew 10:42

There are a lot of kind, servant-hearted people filled with the Love of Christ at FBCW.  One of them is a sweet, old Iranian lady who works in the FBCW nursery named Miss Mona.  My wife and I absolutely adore her.  When our twin girls were first old enough to be taken out of the house to church, we started bringing them to Miss Mona in the nursery.  It was hard for my wife, a first time mother, to leave our children with anybody.  However, she always had peace of mind when leaving them with Miss Mona.  Miss Mona was always so excited to take care of a pair of twins.  She fawned over our girls and always thanked us for bringing them.  She always asked us to bring them back the next week and said, “I take such good care of your babies” in her thick Farsi accent.

One Sunday, I came to church to substitute teach Sunday school and dropped of my babies with Miss Mona.  After class, I picked up my babies from dear Miss Mona and never returned them to her.  She had watched them grow up for weeks; now she doesn’t know whatever became of them.

One day, after not attending Woodstock for some weeks, I got a postcard from the nursery looking for our family.  Miss Mona missed the babies.  It was one the most heartbreaking piece of mail I ever received.

I used to love to listen to Pastor Johnny preach.  It was his preaching that first drew me to visit FBCW. Now, after finding out what kind of man he is, I am loathe to hear him speak.  Johnny’s spiritual gift is exhortation.  At this point, he couldn’t so much as exhort me to take out the garbage on trash day.  Still, I found myself telling my wife, “We need to go back to Woodstock; Miss Mona needs to see the babies.”

But we haven’t been back.  We miss Miss Mona.  We miss our brothers and sisters in Sunday School, too.

“Hey hey, I can’t meet you here tomorrow, No say goodbye, don’t follow.” Jerry Cantrell

I miss Steve Kennedy, our Sunday School teacher.  He taught my wife more about the Bible in 26 weeks than she had learned in 26 years of going to church.  Steve is one of the most knowledgeable theologians I’ve ever met.  He has a Divinity degree from Liberty online, but he isn’t a professional minister.  He’s just a guy with a regular job who loves to teach about Jesus.  He used to teach my wife and me. Now he does not.

I miss Shirley.  She works for the church in administrative capacity. She is an elderly woman who attends our apologetics class.  She reminds me of my grandmother. Most fundamentalists Shirley’s age aren’t interested in apologetics, but she is.  I think that’s so neat.  She always had a word of encouragement for me and was always so open about sharing her life experiences.  I heard wisdom in her words.

I miss Lauren and Bonnie.  They are sisters who run a wedding dress shop.  They minister to people who have been abused trough human trafficking.  Lauren cries almost every time she opens up because she loves Jesus so much.  She always wears heavy purple or blue eye shadow.  I wonder what tragedy those painted eyes have seen through her ministry.  Whatever they have seen, I see her as someone he keeps her eyes on the Lord.

I miss Sharon.  She is Shirley’s friend.  Her husband is Jewish.  He waits in the car during the sermon and most of Sunday School and then he comes to pick her up.  Sharon wants to see her husband come to Christ and goes to apologetics class to become a better witness for Jesus.

I miss Kirk.  He’s a landscaper. He’s a dad who brings his young son to Apologetics class.  I think it’s because he knows that his son is going to grow up in a world that is hostile to our faith and he wants to prepare him.  It does my heart so well to see a dad lead his son like that.  I wish everybody did.

I miss Jeff.  He works in the produce department at the grocery store.  Jeff got in an accident when he was little and it stunted his mental development.  The doctors said he wouldn’t make much of himself.  He hasn’t let his limitations stop him from working hard and engaging in the theologically heavy discussions of apologetics class.  This guy, who the doctors said would never be all there, invites Mormon missionaries to his house so he can share the true gospel with them.

I miss Steve.  He works in graphic design.  He’s Puerto Rican, he used to be catholic but he came out of that religion to find Christ.  Now he has an interest in apologetics.

I miss Lara.  She doesn’t fit the mold of ultra-conservative republican Cherokee County Redneck.  She’s a (gasp) democrat, but she drives a long way to get to FBCW to participate in apologetics class.  Sometimes, she brings chocolate chip cookies.  They are really good.

I miss Erin.  She’s a single mom.  She doesn’t go to the ladies Sunday school class.  She comes to our little diverse group.  She doesn’t say much, but when she does (see the tweets above), it makes you think.

I used to pray with all these people every week.  We shared our needs with each other.  I haven’t seen them in months.

These names are just some of the people I miss from church.  I don’t go there and I don’t give there because I know it’s immoral to support the errant leadership of a church like First Baptist Church of Woodstock.  I wonder, does mega-church Pastor Johnny Hunt know the voices and names off all the people I miss?  I do.  I know for darn sure that Johnny knows the name of his good-old boy buddy Ergun Caner.

I think Hunt knows that every-day members like me are so plugged into his membership that many won’t leave no matter what he and the other leaders do.  They hold people emotionally hostage.

I hope that soon and very soon, people will pick up their bibles, turn to Matthew 10:37-38 and realize that following Jesus sometimes mean leaving loved ones behind.  I hope that individual everyday people at FBCW will start looking to holding each other accountable and look away from the cult of personality of Johnny M. Hunt.  It’s quietly tyrannical.

“There shall be no more tyranny. A handful of men cannot seize power over thousands. A man shall choose who it is shall rule over him. . . . We give all we have, lives, property, safety, skills . . . we fight, we die, for a simple thing. Only that a man can stand up.”  James Otis, from the novel Johnny Tremain

Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Mid-Size Church

“I seem to recognize your face. Haunting, familiar yet, I can’t seem to place it. Cannot find the candle of thought to light your name. Lifetimes are catching up with me” Eddie Vedder

I’ve only been a member of Woodstock for a couple of years.  I wasn’t saved there.  I wasn’t baptized there.  I didn’t grow up there.  Do I know what it would really be like to stand up and leave over the evil Johnny is perpetrating on his people?

A couple of years back, my granddad was in the hospital.  My wife and I went to visit him on a Sunday.  That evening, I got the idea to stop by the church where I grew up for the Sunday night service.  I hadn’t been there in over ten years, since my family moved from Chattanooga to Cartersville.  The church had sold the building and moved.  It was a different place…but the people were the same.

When I walked in a saw an old lady named Pasty.  I hadn’t seen her since I was a teenager. I couldn’t even remember her name at the time but I knew that I knew her.  In my mind’s eye, I could see her in the parking lot of the old church where I’d see her at the same time every Sunday.  Patsy has known my mother since before I was born.  Seeing Patsy made me feel like I was home.  It was a Sunday night service, there was no choir.  We met in the dark, concrete floored youth area…but I knew the preacher and I knew the people.

I wept.  I was home.

It’s hard to leave home, but sometimes Jesus asks us to do so, carrying our cross along the way.  For me, First Baptist Church of Woodstock had become home, but it is a corrupt place, and it appears that it will not change.

Injustice: Thoughts on Hobby Lobby and the Local Church

Now for the rational argument….

I don’t know any fellow Southern Baptists who were indignant over the recent Supreme Court decision to exempt Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. from the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate.  We all seem pretty satisfied with what appears to be a decision to respect religious liberty.  If there is anything in the adjudication of the Hobby Lobby case with which to be dissatisfied, it is the narrow 5-4 margin by which the Supreme Court made its decision.  The Supreme Court was very close to dealing a blow to religious liberty in the United States.  Only one vote prevented it from doing so.   Now, this doesn’t amount to anything where results are concerned.  As my daddy once told me, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.  Yet, we almost had a big problem on our hands.

I ask you fellow Christian, “What would you have done if the Supreme Court’s decision had done the other way?”

Would you have protested?  Would you have sought to have the law repealed?  Would you call for more drastic measures?  Would you have been able to honestly say to those who supported the contraceptive mandate:

“ We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

I don’t think I could.  I can’t say the same to anyone who supports Johnny Hunt.  No matter what good he has done in the past, he has proved himself inadequate today.

I’m moving on.  I’m pressing on.  Who knows where I’ll end up?  There is a potential for a seminary graduate coming out of FBCW.  Churches recruit ministers from there.  I may now be anathema in the Georgia Baptist Convention for speaking out on the Pulpit & Pen program against Johnny Hunt.  So be it.  I ain’t going where I don’t belong.

If you are enduring corruption quietly, it might just be because you are exactly where you belong.

Wake up.  Strengthen what remains.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

[1] Or, at least, I am studying to become one

Turn the Page: Patterson Goes the Way of Solomon

*Please note that the following is my personal opinion.  It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled.  Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

“So the Lord said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant.” 1 Kings 11:11

Page Patterson is a big deal in the Southern Baptist Convention…and he deserves to be.  He’s done much to make the convention better and his influence will be long lasting.  (Students study him in seminary.  I’ve studied him in seminary.)  As President of the Southern Baptist Convention, Page Patterson appointed the committee that revised the Baptist Faith & Message, the confession most widely employed by Southern Baptists, and presided over the historic session of the convention in which this revised confession was adopted.  Patterson currently serves as the President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS), a position he has held since 2003.  Unfortunately, Page Patterson’s ministry seems to be coming to an inauspicious and disappointing end.  Using his influence and authority as President of SWBTS, Page Patterson has reportedly allowed Muslim (this has been confirmed by Patterson, himself) and Mormon students to enroll in the school.  This is flatly unacceptable and unjustifiable.  To make matters worse, if that’s possible, the admission of the Muslim student seems to have been done with a degree of secrecy (as if Patterson knew he was doing something wrong and sought to hide it).  Patterson should be removed from his office for this transgression.  However, it is doubtful that he will.  His influence is much too great; it spans generations.

In March 1967, Patterson met at Café Du Monde in downtown New Orleans with Judge Paul Pressler to hatch a plan to take over the Southern Baptist Convention.  At the time, the convention was drifting towards liberalism and away from a commitment to biblical inerrancy.  Things were so bad that in 1971 the SBC approved a resolution advocating legal abortion and faculty members at seminaries were teaching that the Bible wasn’t true.  Patterson and Pressler conceived a plan to remove liberal influence from the convention.  To do so, they would need to see that a succession of conservative convention presidents was elected.  The presidents would appoint committee members.  Committee members would appoint SBC agency trustees.  The SBC agency trustees would hire conservative missionaries and seminary faculty.

Their plan worked.  In what became known as “the conservative resurgence”, the influence of liberals was purged from the SBC.  Thanks in part to the conservative resurgence, the Southern Baptist Convention is the only American Christian denomination that has not seen a precipitous slide in membership as the United States has become a more secular culture.  In 1990, leaders of the conservative resurgence gathered at Café Du Monde to celebrate Patterson and Pressler; both of these men received plaques commemorating their work.  Celebrants sang “Victory in Jesus”.

I, for one, have personally benefited from the influence of Page Patterson and the conservative resurgence.  I have the blessing of studying in a Southern Baptist seminary free from liberal professors who have no interest in seeing a risen Christ proclaimed.   Where I go to school, I see no academics looking for a mere paycheck to teach their esoteric subject matter.  I see men of God, both faculty and students, looking to better Christ’s kingdom by training up evangelists and Christian ministers.  I’m thankful for them.  Praise God for their influence on my life.

For an inexplicable and unjustifiable reason, Page Patterson has, in direct violation of the schools mission statement, polluted the atmosphere he helped create by admitting Christ-denying non-Christians to the Christian training ground that is SWBTS.  To paraphrase a righteously indignant character from The Lord of the Rings, “Patterson! A minister should know better! There is no curse in the tongues of men for this treachery”

Well…except maybe in the Psalms of Imprecation.  It’s time to go for the juglar, here.  There is yet one conservative southern Baptist in this convention that still draws breath!  I’ll use my breath to pray against the evil being perpetrated against Christendom by Page Patterson and speak out against it.  Like an elderly King Solomon, Patterson has turned away from the wisdom of God and towards something altogether different.  Some may think such prayers harsh.  I think them justified and practical.  Patterson is too big and too ensconced to be fired or forced to resign.  He must be removed by Providence.  In the wake of the Louisiana College and Ergun Caner debacles, no one would be reasonable to expect justice for the Southern Baptist Elite from the trustee system.  We have no Jimbo Fisher to replace this Bobby Bowden.  Lighting won’t strike twice.

As heroes of the past all stumble and fall all around us, as in case with Johnny Hunt to name one, young Southern Baptists can stand up and demand the accountability and transparency that congregations deserve from their leaders.  I know I will…and I can tell you that some friends of mine and I sat around a table at Café Du Monde ourselves quite recently.  We’re not going to stand for this.  I pray, if we succeed in righting the ship or even abandoning with a faithful remnant, that we don’t suffer the same unfortunate fate as Page Patterson and his commemorative plaque.

Look upon Patterson’s works, ye mighty, and despair.

No matter what happens, we can take comfort that the Lord will never fail us nor forsake us.  Unlike our fallible human leaders, the Lord is not a man that he should repent.  My hope ultimately rests in Christ, the chief cornerstone.  I hope yours does, too.