Poor Blacks and Rich Pastors

Pastors are no longer solely interested in getting people to Heaven; they’ve devised intelligent ways to make good money while reaching out to souls.” Mfonobong Nsehe, Forbes Contributor

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” Revelation 7:9-10

 

 

(A commentary by Seth Dunn)

While reading an article entitled “Top 10 Richest Pastors in the World 2014”, it’s hard not to notice one thing that almost every man on the list has in common. Seven out of ten of these men are black. When considering that Billy Graham doesn’t really belong on the list since he is not the pastor of a local church, only two members of the list are not black: Joseph Prince (an Asian) and Benny Hinn (a Greek). The list, again with the exception of Graham, is full of prosperity preachers. This certainly seems peculiar given that there is not one black person among the ten richest people in the world. Why are black people, worldwide, comparatively poorer than other races and cultures while black preachers, worldwide, are comparatively richer and more influential than other preachers? Where is all the prosperity, about which black prosperity preachers are preaching, in the black community? It’s certainly not in the congregation. Sadly, it’s in the pulpit.

Consider the black church in the United States. It is not uncommon for pastors in majority black churches to have perks such as automobile and clothing allowances. In fact, it is sometimes necessary for black pastors to have such allowance. Many black congregations expect their preachers to appear exceedingly prosperous. After all, who is going to take seriously a sermon about God’s material blessings given by a man with no gold watch, no fine suit, and no Cadillac? Absolutely no one. Further complicating the atmosphere in the black church, especially mega-churches like those founded by Creflo Dollar and Eddie Long, is the absolutely authority vested in the senior pastor. Many black pastors are not subject to boards and elders or committees of deacons, but only to the Lord himself…and how could God’s man ever be wrong?

What is to be done about such a sad situation? The solution is a simple one: share the gospel. Be open to inviting people from other races and cultures to your church. No church should be “black” or “white” but Christian. Furthermore, don’t just assume that because a person is in church, that he is in a good church. In fact, investigate any flashy pastors at churches in your town until you are sure that they are not fleecing their congregations while preaching prosperity or liberation theology. (While you’re at it, investigate the Pentecostal churches. Prosperity Pentecostalism is seems to be more a function of poverty than of race.) Learn the message of such churches. Just as “white” churches can become more concerned with American politics and the modern nation of Israel than God’s plan for the world, “black” churches can become caught up in black liberation theology, the prosperity gospel, or the social gospel. Be prepared to preach the gospel and not politics. Politics have failed all of us, none more so than the black church. Since the 1960s, society has seen a decline in black employment and 2-parent black households. At the same time, the black church has experienced a rise in rich, prosperity preachers. There’s a disconnect there. Like the great disconnect between God and man caused by the fall, there is but one solution to fix it: the gospel of Jesus Christ.

(A reflection on the above by Kofi Adu-Boahen)

“At this point, some will argue, “What right does Bro. Seth have to say these things about the ‘black church’?” I know they will because this is the usual response when someone who isn’t black says something about the ‘black church’. Well as a young man of African descent whose father has been a Pentecostal pastor for close to 15 years and who has moved in ‘black church’ circles, I’d like to add my perspective as someone who has seen it all from inside.

The reality is that the ‘black church’ of recent years has failed in its ability to self-reflect on its many failings. Slogans designed to discourage any sort of critical thinking include:

Judge not…

Don’t put your mouth on the man of God…

Don’t be touching the Lord’s anointed…

Don’t be a Uncle Tom now…

I experienced this firsthand when I went to the Strange Fire Conference last October and heard Pastor Conrad Mbewe’s two fantastic messages addressing issues relative to the state of much of the church in Africa. I came home only to hear a popular Ghanaian radio show here on my side of the Pond state in no uncertain terms that Pastor Mbewe has engaged in the sin of touching the Lord’s anointed and that people should steer well clear of his teachings. No discussion of the issues he raised, no thoughtful reflection as to whether we need to clean house in our circles – just closing down the ranks and ending any and all dissenting discussion.

In the last few years, as I’ve thought on this issue, a verse from Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians regarding their misbehaviour at the Lord’s Table has stuck with me. It’s 1 Cor 11:31: “But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.” Is it no wonder large segments of the ‘black church’ have been left to their own devices when we clearly shut down our spiritual immune systems (or had them shut down for us) through constant exposure to the false gospels Bro. Seth mentioned in his article.

Maybe if more prominent voices in our own circles began asking difficult questions, you wouldn’t get all in your feelings that someone ‘outside the family’ had to point out why the house is a mess.

[Contributed by Seth Dunn and Kofi Adu-Boahen]

*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.

Marketing 316: 25 Traditional Heroes and the Art of Persuasion

Marketing 316: 25 Traditional Heroes and the Art of Persuasion

 “Manufacturers of alcoholic beverages, such as beer and hard liquor, will often use the bandwagon technique of associating their product with the ‘in’ crowd.” George N. Root III, Demand Media

In order to earn my business degree from the University of Georgia, I was required to take a course in the Principles of Marketing.  In this course, among other things, I learned about marketing industry terminology and a variety of tried and true marketing techniques.  Perhaps the most important marketing term I learned was “target market”.  A target market is a group of consumers towards whom advertisers gear their advertisements.  For example, the target market for those who advertise household cleaning products is housewives and thus advertisements that are meant to sell household cleaning products will be geared towards entertaining and informing housewives.  Two notable advertising techniques about which I learned were: the Bandwagon Effect and the Celebrity Endorsement.  The bandwagon effect uses (perceived) peer pressure, a herd mentality, and even social pressure to entice a consumer to make a purchase.  For example, every TV-watching American knows that “choosy moms choose JIF” when buying peanut butter and that Kix Cereal is “kid tested, mother approved”.   Such advertisements are mild forms of Bandwagon Effect advertising.   Celebrity endorsement advertising uses the influence of famous people to sell products; every TV-watching American knows that celebrity endorsement advertisements are legion.  The most outstanding celebrity of endorsement of the past few years was brought to us by Quaker Oats, the makers of Gatorade; what drinker of Gatorade doesn’t remember wanting to “Be like Mike”?   These marketing principles that I learned long ago were brought to the forefront of my mind last night when I read a blog post at SBC Today by Connect 316 director, Rick Patrick entitled “25 Traditional Heroes”.  In his post, Dr. Rick Patrick appears to use the (very secular) advertising techniques mentioned above as tools market his organization, Connect 316.  I wondered why Patrick was using worldly marketing techniques to push a theological agenda.  I also wondered where someone with a theological education learned of such techniques.  As it turns out, Patrick likely learned about them in the same place that I did: business school.  Patrick’s undergraduate degree is a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing from the University of Texas at Austin.   He put his degree to good use (and I don’t mean “good” in a moral sense) when he penned his list of “25 Traditional Heroes”.

Patrick’s Target Market

Rick Patrick’s Target Market appears to be active Southern Baptists who have not signed his traditional statement.  As national director of Connect 316, Patrick’s influence becomes greater in the southern Baptist Convention with every new signer of the Traditional Statement.  In fact, when signing the Traditional Statement, one in required indicating his level of influence in the SBC!

trad1

One can indicate if he is a “Baptist Faith and Message 2000 Committee Member” (which is ironic since the existence of the Traditional Statement implies that the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 is an inadequate statement faith), a “Former SBC President”, a “Denominational Leader, or just a plain old “Church Member”.  As one can see from the graphic above, “member of the priesthood of all believers” is not an option.   Rick Patrick states the following before providing his list of “traditional heroes”:

“If you wish to identify theologically with the doctrines and ministries of those who are listed, you may register your convictions by signing the Traditional Statement”

Connect 316’s website lists everyone who has ever signed the traditional statement along with his level of influence.  Before signing the traditional statement, someone in Rick Patrick’s target market can see just what kind celebrity bandwagon onto which he is jumping.  It’s a bandwagon full of “heroes”.  All of these “heroes” have, according to Rick Patrick, “clearly disaffirmed Calvinism.  To Patrick, this seems like a point of pride.  To me, it just seems sad.  I don’t know a single Southern Baptist Calvinist who doesn’t have the highest respect for God’s inerrant word and a heart for evangelizing the lost.  Why would anyone want to disaffirm the notions of people like that?  Whatever the reason, Rick Patrick has resorted to marketing techniques to do so.

Like Billy: The Celebrity Endorsement

Apparently, Rick Patrick wants to seem relatable to simple Baptists.  On the “About” Page of the Connect 316 website, right next to a picture of himself, Rick Patrick explains what Connect 316’s brand of “Hobbs-Rogers” traditionalism is. It’s “a fancy way of saying that we believe in the kind of salvation doctrine one might hear at a Billy Graham Crusade.”   (Yes, “fancy”, just like Grey Poupon)  In his “25 Heroes” post, Rick Patrick doubles down on his celebrity appeal to Graham.   Billy Graham is listed as Rick Patrick’s #1 “Hero” who has “clearly disaffirmed Calvinism”.   This appears to be a ringing celebrity endorsement for Connect 316, except for the fact that Billy Graham hasn’t signed the traditional statement.

trad 2

Are there no computers or pens at Billy Graham’s house?  I don’t know, probably. I do know what Billy has in his library though.  I’ve got one Charles Spurgeon book in my house and it was a gift from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

graham spurgeon

Social Pressure in the Schoolyard

Rick Patrick knows that few, if any, Southern Baptists outside of active convention life read the SBC today blog.   Do that math; the SBC claims 15.74 million members.  940 people have signed the statement as of tonight.  0.00597% of Southern Baptists have signed Patrick’s traditional statement.  That’s not very many.  However, every day, pew-sitting lay Southern Baptists are not Patrick’s target market.  (Don’t be confused, Patrick and the other aspiring power-brokers at Connect 316 likely desire oversight of the cooperative money that lay people send to the convention.)  Patrick’s target market is seminary students, Baptist college professors, and pastors.  These are the people who will drive the future direction of the Southern Baptist Convention and the monies it controls.  Take notice that three of the “heroes” on Patrick’s list are employees of a particular seminary.  Patrick states that this seminary is “regarded as generally favorable in espousing Traditional Southern Baptist soteriology”.  Well, that much is true.  However, in my personal experience, it’s hardly anti-Calvinist.  I have taken systematic theology courses at this school.  My theology textbook was written by Millard Erickson, who is described as “moderately Calvinistic”.  Interestingly enough, before I entered seminary, I was quite wary of Calvinism.  After taking Systematic Theology and being taught about it objectively, I now have no fear of Calvinism at all. I have been taught by Calvinist professors and non-Calvinist professors at my seminary.   I’ve not witnessed any theological prejudice.  The subtle implication from Patrick’s post is that such prejudice exists.  Imagine a student like me who has considered getting a PHD at the seminary.  Would such a student, after reading Patrick’s list, feel socially pressured into a signing the traditional statement?

A List Divided Among Itself Cannot Stand

#9 on Patrick’s list is John Bisagno.  His byline reads as follows:

“Pastor of Houston’s First Baptist Church from 1970-2000, Bisagno has written 25 books, baptized 15,000 souls and preached 37 international crusades.”

I happen to own John Bisagno’s “Pastor’s Handbook”.  Allow me to quote some passages from Bisagno:

“I have recently visited three or four churches with a Starbucks-like lobby. Lots of coffee. Lots of couches. Lots of overstuffed chairs. Lots of fellowship. Lots of love. I liked it.” (p. 254)

“Just for fun, go to Disney World in Florida. Study the shuttle system and learn from the best. And why not have shuttles with upbeat music, free candy, and Mickey Mouse (oops, make that Moses) painted on the side.” (p. 384).

Megachurch pastors like John Bisagno learned marketing from the secular business professionals at Disney.  Marketers like Rick Patrick are apparently listening to advice from Bisagno. Learn from Disney.  That’s what #9 on the list “heroes” like John Bisago did to build their megachurches.   Examine one more quote from Bisagno:

“Give major priority to a sharp, ‘with it,’ children’s ministry. Study churches that ‘get it,’ such as First Baptist Springdale , Arkansas; Grace Presbyterian, Houston, Texas; First United Methodist, Woodlands, Texas; and many others. Reach the kids and you will reach their parents.” (p. 290).

FBC Springdale, which Bisgano holds up as an example to be studied and imitated, hired a Disney-World set designer (a lost Disney World set designer) to build a “Toon Town” for its children’s ministry.  The church also constructed a fire truck baptistery with a confetti canon in which to baptize young children.   When Page Patterson, the President of one of Rick Patrick’s alma maters heard about this fire truck baptistery, he exclaimed, “This is blasphemous!”  Page Patterson is #2 on Patrick’s list of “traditional heroes”.

#2 and #9 apparently have some differing opinions on what constitutes blasphemy and a worldly marketing strategy.

At #9, marketing program graduate Rick Patrick has made a hero out of man who seeks to make the church look more like the world rather than the other way around.  I, for one, am not impressed with megachurch growth strategies.  Most SBC churches are less than 100 members and they don’t look a think like $tarbucks and Di$ney World…but I guess I’m not “with it” and just don’t “get it”.

The In-Crowd

Jerry Vines, #6 on the list once put on an eschatology conference called the “Acts 1:11” Conference at North Metro First Baptist Church.  For $60 (all major credit cards accepted), a customer could go hear a series of eschatological talks from popular evangelical preachers.  CDs of the conference are still available from Jerry Vines Ministries for a cost of $40.   Conference speakers included: Dr. Ergun Caner (Ergun didn’t make the “heroes” list but his brother is a Connect 316 Director), Dr. Danny Akin (didn’t make the list), Dr. Paige Patterson (#6 “hero”), Dr. David Allen (#21 “hero”), Dr. Richard Land (#7 hero and Connect 316 Director), and Junior Hill (#20 “Hero).  Isn’t it peculiar that all of these “heroes” seem to be friends with Jerry Vines and command big speaking fees?  I wonder, young Baptist, if you want to ever command such speaking fees if you should sign the traditional statement?

A Personal Reflection

Just this week I was listening to a sermon podcast on my drive to work.  As I sensed the preacher drawing his sermon to a close, I instinctively started singing a hymn of invitation.  There I was driving down the interstate by myself singing “I surrender all”.  It was just second nature.  I am a Baptists of Baptists, dedicated on to the Lord on the 30th day.  (That’s a close approximation; my mom has the exact date written down somewhere).  I am Rick Patrick’s target market.  I’m a non-Calvinist seminary student. So why do I so roundly reject his agenda and that of Connect 316?  It’s man-centered, market driven, and political. Connect 316 isn’t a theological organization it’s a cabal.  I think if it’s leader, Rick Patrick, was concerned with theological arguments, he’d argue from scripture instead of using celebrity bandwagon marketing techniques.

SBC numbers are falling and all the impressive baptism stats from these “heroes” aren’t saving any more lost people.

Jesus said, “I will build my church.”  It’s not going to be Rick Patrick and his 25 “heroes”.  It’s was, it is, and it’s going to be Jesus Christ and I, for one, am going to stand there under His grace and in His light crying “Worthy is Lamb who was slain”!

Do you know why I think the Connect 316 crowd hates Calvinists so much?  Calvinists aren’t impressed with their slick talk, emotional manipulative, marketing jive.  You tell a Calvinist that Bailey Smith (#12 “hero) is “is the only SBC Pastor in history ever to baptize 2,000 people in a local church in one year” and they just aren’t impressed.  Ain’t that what the Bible says to do?  Calvinists just give our Holy God the credit and move on.  They don’t need a book about Bailey Smith’s baptizing method.  They don’t need a leadership conference. They don’t need to turn church into Starbucks.  They don’t need tickets to the Jerry Vines show.   They don’t need Rick Patrick’s marketing degree.

They know no man out-preaches and out-baptizes the Holy Spirit.

Rick Patrick and company should just give up their political power grab and focus on their local churches.  Isn’t that what Baptists are supposed to do?  Stop fighting.  Stop politicking.  Stop trying to trick everyone with marketing schemes.  Stop trying to promote yourself and all your buddies.  We’ve got a pastor drought right now.  Let’s step up and fill the local church with shepherds and prayer.  Let’s agree to disagree on the specifics of soteriology and start living out a Baptist ecclesiology.  Fellow Baptists, wake-up.

How about we stop making heroes out of convention men and start praying for Jesus to do a work in his Church?

Jesus said, “I will build my church.”

[Contributed by:
Seth Dunn]

*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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