Saturday, September 30, 2006

For the "Saving Bellevue" leadership

It appears you're done.

Your collective behavior has crossed a line, now using Scripture (specifically Ezekiel 34) to openly judge and threaten the members of the Bellevue staff with whom you disagree.

Rather than working for mutuality, healing, and moving forward as a church family, you have consistently engaged in tactics which can most generously be described as unfortunate.

Enough, honestly, is enough.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

i2, Brute?

For lack of anything else to fuss about, now the anti-Bellevue huddle has set its sights on the eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeevils of (drum roll, please) marketing!

Apparently, there's an ad for Bellevue's i2 Thursday night young-adult get-together that has the audacity to have within its frame a head-shot of a smiling young woman. Heresy, right? I mean, obviously, her first name must be "Jezebel" to allow herself to be photographed... smiling... and then to let her image be used as part of an advertising campaign!

Oh, but look at that.

It's disappeared from the site almost as quickly as it appeared.

But it was there, in all its glory. Let's pray it doesn't reappear.


And sure enough--what do you know?

It got misplaced. At "Saving Bellevue," anyway.

Were I to hazard a guess as to why it's not there anymore, I could come up with a few:

1) Sunspots.
2) Government conspiracy.
3) Sunspots caused by a government conspiracy.
4) The realization that, when the comments are read in context and in their entirety, the whole "Saving Bellevue" business is shown to have more holes in it than a good slice of quality Swiss cheese.

You can pick from my list, or submit your own suggestions.


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Just in case it gets misplaced

A transcript provided at the "Saving Bellevue" website of the September 24, 2006 meeting regarding allegations levied against Senior Pastor Steve Gaines and other staff members of Bellevue Baptist Church. I cannot vouch for its accuracy, since I was unable to personally attend the meeting (which took place after the Sunday evening service) and because the transcript's author is unidentified, but from what I have heard regarding the proceedings, it appears to be accurate.

I will comment in a subsequent post.

Meeting from Sunday Evening, September 24, 2006.

*In several places I have put an asterisk because I could not make out one or two words. It was no more than one or two words (literally) that were left out. They did not take out the meaning on anything. I hope this helps.


I’ll tell you what this is and what it’s not. It’s not a business meeting. It’s a time for information to be given to you from leaders of our church. And I’ve asked Chuck Taylor, chairmen of deacons, and I’ve asked also Harry Smith who’s worked for several years on our finance committee, and I’ve asked Chip Freeman who’s in our financial office. He is one of our best staff members here and he’s over our administration- business administration. I asked him to come and share and then I’m going to come and share. Chuck I want you to come, Chuck Taylor- I hope you understand what a jewel you have.

Chuck Taylor:

Thank you, pastor. You know the first thing I want to do is thank you for all of your expressions of love. To say we’ve been overwhelmed is actually an understatement. It’s amazing the letters- the phone calls- the emails- the hugs the words of encouragement and support. This is an incredibly loving church- a Christ-centered church. I just want to thank you for how you have supported our pastor and this church by your prayers- and by your encouragement. You know for a few months now we have been hearing a lot of shocking things. I don’t know how long you’ve been hearing it- I’ve actually been hearing it for about 4 months. The intensity has been growing on a larger scale. There’s a lot of things being said that are shocking-that are troubling. And people have been asking me why don’t we hear from the pastor. Why don’t we bring it before the congregation? Why don’t we hear a response from the leadership of the church? Is that an indication that there is truth and validity to the accusations? Well I want to tell you that our pastor and your leadership here at Bellevue have been responding but they’ve been doing it in a very private manner. Issues and concerns and differences between brothers is a very private thing. The only thing that should be on public display according to John 13:35 is the love we have for one another. This is the way the leadership has approached all of this. Now before our last deacons meeting we had asked all the deacons if they would submit to me any questions they had or any questions they were being asked that they didn’t know the answer to. And we got a lot of questions that were sent to us. And then we took those questions and gave them to the men that had firsthand knowledge- men of the church that had firsthand knowledge of what the truth is the allegations and accusations. And on Sept. 10, these men came before the deacons and shared with them all of the answers to the questions- brought truth to all the rumors and all the information going around. So tonight, we want to share with you the answers to those questions. Now, when we’re finished, if you have some questions, I want to encourage you to find a deacon, they have been well informed, they’ve been equipped. We have 186 deacons, all scattered throughout the congregation and all throughout the body of Christ. I want to encourage you if you have any questions find a deacon- ask them- if they don’t have the answers- they will get for you the answers. We also have committees. You know, forever we have heard that we are pastor led, deacon served, committee operated and congregationally approved. Committee operated means that every area of our church there are laymen who have insight and oversight in that area. There are chairmen of these committees. Find the chairmen if there is an area of concern that you have- I want to encourage you to find the chairman of the committee that has oversight and insight in that area. And if you don’t know who the chairman is, you can go to the library, the events registration booth, and you can find the lay ministry booklet. It comes out every year. The current editions are there- it will say, “Lay Ministry 2006-2007”. It will have all the chairmen, all the committees, the chairmen and all the members. It’ll even have all their telephone numbers. So I want to encourage you to get answers to the questions that you have, because these men that are on all these committees and stuff- they will help you find the answers to the questions and concerns that you might have.

Now, what I wanted to do is just to address three different areas of concern. And the first is is the incident where we climbed over a fence to go visit a brother. You know the main thing I want to say about that is that I apologize to my church for anything that caused embarrassment or disappointment. I publicly apologize to the family that we went to visit that night. We meant no harm. We were not coming in force to intimidate. We had met in Brother Steve’s office on Monday afternoon. This took place on Monday before the Friday evening where there was going to be an off campus meeting involved. It was Monday- we met in the afternoon in Brother Steve’s office some of us. We met to pray. To talk. To try and make some decisions. How to reach out. We had heard all the accusations and things that were going to be brought forth in a public manner. Didn’t matter who showed up, as far as we knew the News media might be there. What do we do? SO we made a decision that we would go to this brother and try to sit down and talk with him. It was out of love and concern for our church. And now the next day, and really let me just add it was an extreme measure, but for us, it was an extreme situation. And again, it was out of love for this church, and for this individual. The next day, a deacon brother contacted the gentleman we went to see and tried to arrange a meeting with him and whoever he wanted to bring with our pastor and church leadership. The meeting didn’t take place. Then on Friday, three deacon officers were able to sit down with this gentleman and just share with him and talk with him. That’s really all that happened. The main thing I want to say about that incident- we did trespass. I do want to apologize for embarrassing the church in that manner.

Now, the second thing I wanted to address is that it’s been said that Brother Steve negotiated his salary. Well, I’m one of only three men that was in that meeting. Brother Bob Sorrell, Harry Smith, and I- we met with Brother Steve and Donna. I want to tell you we met with Brother Steve- the pastor search committee did 3 extended meetings. I’ve estimated probably 16 hours worth of conversations. We talked about everything under the sun. We asked him every question that we could even conceive of. Then we allowed him to ask questions. I want to tell you that not one time in those meetings with Brother Steve with the search committee or as myself privately talking with Brother Steve on the telephone- not one time did compensation come up. We called Brother Steve for a fourth meeting. We said, “We’d like you to come to Memphis- we’ve got one more question we’d like to ask you”. He was gracious- he and Donna they flew to town. We met over at the hotel room, and we as a committee said, “Brother Steve, we as a committee, think God has led us to you- we think you’re God’s man. We’d like you to come be our pastor if our church votes to call you. ” Without missing a beat, Bro Steve said yes. Later, the pastor search committee adjourned- and three of us, Bob Sorrell, Harry Smith and, myself sat down with Brother Steve and Donna, and then we talked about the compensation. We laid out the package there before them. He was coming regardless of what he was being paid. Income was not the issue. It never has been- it never will be. There were some adjustments made. Just want to tell you this. In the compensation package, we did not discuss moving expenses and all those types of things to transition from Gardendale to Memphis. We did come up with some other things to cover- customary allowances for any church- any organization when you bring a senior person you do pay moving expenses- we did make some allowances and adjustments for that. I just want to stress that income was never a part of the discussions.

And then the third thing I want to talk about is video of Brother Steve telling Gardendale good-bye. I want to encourage you to watch that video in its entirety. It’s in our library. There’s nothing hidden. It’s a 50minute video. And in that video, you will be moved when you see how much Brother Steve and Donna and their family loved Gardendale and how much Gardendale loved them. It was tearing his heart out to come to Bellevue. God was in it. The only reason Brother Steve came to Bellevue was because God told him to come to Bellevue. And that video, somebody has taken a 3 minute clip from a 50 minute video to stay that Brother Steve did not like Bellevue. That video had nothing to do with Brother Steve’s opinion of Bellevue. He had nothing by respect for this congregation. But it’s all about the love that he had for the congregation that he had pastored for over 14 years. And he had come home that night after he left here and poured his heart out and the video is in our library. I encourage you to see it. That 3-minute video is completely taken out of context. Now one other thing just to add in Brother Steve’s coming- people are talking about the changes. Why are we doing this, why are we doing that. Why so many changes and all this stuff. When we talked to Brother Steve he did tell us of the things he would change. New leadership brings new ideas. But I want to tell you every pastor that we talked to- every one of them- told us about the change they would make. That’s a standard question we asked all of them. Not a one of them said we wouldn’t touch anything; we’d leave it the same. We will make change. We called him to lead us- to cast a vision, and we’re gonna follow our pastor. {applause} Praise the Lord. We’ve got a few more things to cover, so bear with us here. I wanted to share with you too something that every pastor whether we were talking to him as ours or just talking to him just about to get counsel and those type things. There was not a pastor that didn’t say it was gonna be difficult whoever got called to follow Adrian Rogers. They said this church will face great challenges. We just didn’t know what they would look like then. Well, Brother Harry Smith would you come on and work you way up here. Let me just close by saying this you know, ask yourself this question. If there was any cause for concern about finances why hasn’t one member of the finance committee, the budget planning committee, why hasn’t one member joined in the opposition? Not one. Not in the 2005 not in the 2006 has joined in that. They love God. They love this church. They are long time members of Bellevue. They want what is best- what is right. Not one of them has joined. If there should be concerns about bylaws, why hasn’t one member of the board of directors expressed concern about bylaws? You know for years many attorneys have served on the bylaw—uh—the board of directors. They know that stuff. Not one of them has expressed concern about that. And implying that if Brother Steve his trying to lead Bellevue to become a seeker friendly church, um, why does he still preach about sin, judgment, and damnation. You heard the message tonight. That’s not seeker friendly. {applause} He gives an invitation after every message. Seeker friendly churches don’t do that. I want to tell you after 14 years at Gardendale- you know one of the key indicators of the seeker friendly movement is to take the word Baptist or some denomination out of it- after 14 years at Gardendale, it is still called Gardendale’s First Baptist Church. And Brother Steve is a leader in the SBC. He has made sure that now whenever someone comes and joins Bellevue, we give them a Baptist Faith and Message Statement for them to read to know what Bellevue Baptist Church is all about. We’re not seeker friendly in the way that that is being used. God bless you. Thank you very much. Harry Smith is now going to come. Harry has been very very involved in compensation of our church. He knows the process. He’s been involved in it for years. For current staff and our pastor. * Thank you . {applause}

Harry Smith:

Well there are a lot of things I’m thankful for, and one of them is that Chuck Taylor is my deacon chairman. Fellow church members, Brother Steve asked me if I will talk to you tonight about the financial process that our budget and compensation for our staff go through each year. And as Chuck has already mentioned, there are a few of our members who you’ve seen either by email or website that are not happy by the way our church operates. And as you’ve also heard, our church for many years has been a pastor led, committee operated, and congregationally approve church. This model has worked well for us. Under it, our church has grown, and we’ve seen advances in our church. It’s been a model for the SBC. For many churches it’s been an example to follow. But there’s some people that don’t like the model. They feel like it is not effective and they feel like there should be more information disclosed to the church. They feel like compensation for some of the staff members should be furnished, along with other financial information. They even believe that some of the expenses of the church are not appropriate. Well I believe in and support the model that our church operates under. And I believe that at any other large church like Bellevue it would be hard to operate any other way. I’ve also heard the comment that a few of the people run the church. My name has been associated with that group. I have never volunteered or asked to be on any leadership role or position at Bellevue. And I really believe that to be true of all the leadership at Bellevue. The pastors have always chosen who will be in leadership positions, and they have brought those names to you as a congregation to approve. The committee on committees, which you’re familiar with, meets all during the year. They select over 600 members-volunteers to be on the different committees, the various committees we have at our church. Once these committee members are selected, in a business session they are approved by you- by the congregation. It’s at this same meeting that our budget is approved each year. Now each of - most of the committee members serve for 3 years, and then they have to be off the committee before they can be asked to be on the committee again. In addition to these committee members, we have many Bible study leaders, and we have other volunteers who serve in all different aspects of our church- different service aspects. And many of them serve for more than 3 years at a time. That’s great, because they do a good job. And now let me talk to you for a minute about our budget process. Our budget process starts off with the Budget Planning Committee. Then it goes from there to the Finance Committee. And from there to the deacons. And from there to our congregation for approval as I mentioned while ago along with the committee on committees report. The budget planning committee is selected each year by the pastor. And it’s made up of those who are past and present members of the finance committee. Some of these men that have served on this committee have been John Crawford, David Coombs, David Purdue, Brian Miller, Jeff Arnold, Jeff Pearson, Mark McDaniel, Wayne VandeerSteeg, and myself. And the first thing that we do when we meet- the budget planning committee meets with the pastor, the associate pastor, and the executive staff- is they sit down and they talk about what kind of increases (are seen with the marketplace) as far as staff increases. And before we leave that meeting, we come up with a percentage number that we give the executive staff to work on for staff increases for the coming year. Now, in the last 3 years, we’ve asked the staff-the executive staff team to use those increases both for merit increases and for cost of living increases. Now, also there was a grade system that was devised several years ago by an outside consultant. This grade system was used in setting compensation- or keeping up with compensation for our staff. The consultant that helped us with it, he used other churches and the business community to use in setting up the grade system. And then, there’s a compensation committee which is a sub-committee- and I may be telling you more than you want to hear, but I want to tell you how it works- then there’s a sub-committee of the budget planning committee that is called the compensation committee. They meet with executive staff to look at possible future staff decisions that might come up in the coming year. And also look at increases for our staff. Once they finish their work, they bring this information back to the Budget Planning Committee- the full committee- where they review and they approve, and of course this becomes a part of our budget. At this point in the meeting, the executive staff leaves the meeting, and the associate pastor gives the budget planning committee their recommendation for increases for executive staff. When they’re finished the associate pastor leaves, and the pastor gives us his recommendation for the associate pastor’s increase. Then the pastor leaves. Then we set his compensation for the coming year. That’s the process, and that’s how it’s worked, and it’s worked well over the years. Now, during the year personnel changes that happen as new people are added- that’s always been handled in the past by the office of the pastor. Now, in this past year, that same thing has happened. Those increases and additions are handled the same way. Now, Bro Steve where he came from in Gardendale, they had a committee that helped him with this. And he’s asked the budget planning committee if they would help assist the office of the pastor in the future with any new staff additions and also with their compensation. In setting their compensation, the grade system that I talked about earlier is also used. Now with the staff members that have been hired this year, I kinda just took it on myself, and I went back and I looked at the people who were added and I looked at their compensation, and in my opinion, they all looked very adequate and acceptable. I think they were all fine. You know, I just learned this afternoon about another issue that’s on the website. You know, I don’t read the website. I have to confess, I don’t even know how to pull it up. {applause} My wife could show me, but I really don’t want to read it. I just didn’t want to see it. But I did hear today that our associate pastor had received a one-year salary- a bonus- and that the decision was made by 3 people. Well, I just want to tell you it’s not true. And I want to tell you the facts are that about two years ago before Brother Steve came, and while Dr. Rogers was still our pastor- and with Dr. Roger’s approval- a pension benefit was given to our associate pastor. Not one that he’s received yet, but one he will receive in the future. But this is the same benefit that was offered and received by our former pastor, our former associate pastor, and our former minister of music. Now, the full budget planning committee and the full finance committee approved this benefit-this pension benefit. So it was not 3 people, it was probably more like 15-20 people. So this is—I don’t know where the credibility stops you know, but I’m just telling you, that’s not true. And that’s what happened. Now, I had down, Chuck, too to talk about the pastor and salary, but Chuck did such a good job, I’m not even going to say anything else about it except to add one more thing. After the sub-committee approved the compensation package, it was taken to John Crockett, who was our chairman of the finance committee last year, for his approval. And now on a personal note, last year you gave… I’m sorry, now on a personal note I want to tell you I love Bellevue. It’s God’s church, it’s your church, and it’s my church. And I loved Dr. Rogers, and I miss him. I love Brother Steve, and I am so thankful that he’s my pastor. {applause}Last year, you gave me one of the greatest blessings that I could ever have- that anybody could ever have. That was to allow me to be your deacon chairman. And that was a blessing and a privilege and a responsibility. And I asked our deacons last year if they would help me with 3 goals for our church. One goal was to be a praying church. One was to be a friendly church. And one was to be a unified church. I asked them if they would take the leadership role in helping our church in those 3 areas. As we traveled last year we could see the friendly churches and we could see the difference. And we all knew that without a praying church we would not find God’s man for our church. And of course we knew that we needed to be a unified church. Tonight as your brother in Christ, I’m asking you to join with me and be an example for our church as we help our church to be a praying church, a friendly church, and a unified church. God blesses our church in so many ways. And you know I just can’t imagine that if we weren’t where we were supposed to be that I can’t imagine that God would be blessing us like He has this past year. I’m asking you tonight, to help us put this aside and lean forward so we can serve Christ together. Thank you so much.

Chip Freeman

I'm Chip Freeman. I'm the church administrator, and I've been responsible for the finances for the church for the past 5 years. My profession, I'm a CPA, so I deal with the facts. So, tonight I would just like to present to you the facts. Now let me start by saying, you can have total confidence in the way the money is received and the money is disbursed here at BBC. There are numerous checks and balances, as well as internal controls in the financial arena of the church. And I just wanna give you a few. There is accountability daily, there's accountability monthly, then there's accountability yearly. Let me give you some examples. On a daily basis, any time that the offering is received, it is safeguarded. It is protected. There is more than one person in the room counting that offering- it is safeguarded- that offering. Also, daily when someone on staff is to request a check for disbursement, that request has to go through multiple layers of approval. It has to go through supervisory approval. It has to go on and on and on until it's been established that, yes, it is a necessary business expense of the church, and yes, it's needed, and we have budget funds to pay it. So, the request has to be approved, and then before the check is even printed and mailed, another layer of accountability-- it has to be signed by 2 different members of the finance office. And they're doing the same thing. They're looking to make sure that it's been approved. They're making sure it's a necessary business expense to the church. They're making sure that everything is clear and everything is done right. So that's daily going on here at BBC. Now as you know we live in a world of electronic commerce, and we do occasionally need to use a credit card to make a purchase. And I want you to hear me. We have very few credit cards in the name of BBC. But they're subject to the same level of scrutiny. The purchase has to approved. The purchase has to be well documented before the credit card bill is ever paid. And those credit cards are only used for necessary business expenses of the church. No credit card has been used for personal expenses- especially not our pastor's credit card. They have not been. So, I want you to know that. Daily controls... Monthly we have strong accountability for the finances at BBC. Every month a group of 12 godly men who serve on the finance committee- they look at everything that's happened over the past month financially. They look at every dollar that's come in. They look at the way it's been spent. They look against the budget items that have been spent. And they ask all kind of questions as they look through and oversee the financial transactions of the church. These are godly men; they love Bellevue. They want Bellevue to be done right- in the utmost of excellence. And they do that every single month. You can have confidence- confidence in knowing that. And they know that their name is on the line- not only is the church they love on the line- their name because they're members of the finance committee. And they're not the same members every year. Each year some people rotate off- some new fresh people rotate on. So, there's a 3-year commitment, just like all the other committees here are Bellevue. So you've heard of some daily accountability-monthly we have accountability- yearly this church has financial accountability. Each year the church has an external audit by a firm called "Brundidge and Payne" (unsure on spelling) They're an independent accounting firm. And they spend an entire month scrutinizing the churches financial activity for the prior year. They look at everything that was spent. They look at money that came in- how was it handled? They look at controls- now, they're an independent accounting firm. And each and every year- you can have confidence knowing this- each and every year, we have received the highest rating the audit gives to a company- the highest one. Matter of fact, {applause} Praise the Lord! And some years, they'll follow up with comments which is separate from the report- they'll say hey look at these things, maybe you wanna do something a little better- we can help you make a suggestion here. They do that sometimes on occasion- we appreciate their comments. You know this year they had no management comments. They said things are being done there in such a professional and proper manner. We have no suggestions- no comments to make. So, that was just this year. {applause} And they present their report by the way to an audit sub-committee. A group of laymen independent from the staff, so that if they needed to talk to that committee about something they're concerned about they have the freedom without the staff being there-without the staff being in the room. So, just another layer of accountability, guys. We also have a budget planning committee Brother Harry just talked about. Guys, they're also made up of some gifted laymen that love this church. And they oversee the church's setting, the planning, and the spending of the entire church budget. Guys, there's accountability- there's a lot of accountability financially over this church. I want you to know that I started my career 14 years ago in public accounting. And I've worked in many public and private companies. All of which hold themselves to generally accepting accounting principles and also, many of them to governmental standards. And I can assure that after being here for 9 years, BBC holds herself to an even higher standard of financial controls and accountability than these large, multinational companies- a higher standard. And you know {applause} Let me give you two reasons that come off the top of my head. First, we have a tax exemption that we are protecting here at the church. And you don't want to do anything that would jeopardize the tax exemption of the church. But second, and most importantly, we're doing our work with money that has been given to the Lord, and we are continually working on this staff as unto the Lord. It's all unto the Lord {applause}. I'm telling you the facts. And friends, it's a shame for someone to bring suspect to the way that the finances are handled at our church. There is so much false information and innuendo out there that it's only shedding doubt. That's all it's doing. But you need to hear from me- you need to hear me the financial integrity and accountability and the internal controls have always been strong at this church. So, now you know the facts. You can have the total confidence in knowing the way that the money is handled at BBC- it's handled with integrity, it's handled with accountability. Your tithes and your offerings are being used to minister the gospel to a world that needs Jesus. Thank you for the privilege of serving. {applause}

Steve Gaines

I want to thank Chuck, and I want to thank Harry, and I want to thank Chip. Chip, by the way, was considering going to another company- he came back totally on his own. We prayed with him through that situation. But I tell you I'm so glad Chip came back- I love this man of God- he's a sweet brother in Christ. Well I've got- I've already preached once haven't I? I want to share a few things with you. I'd a lot rather preach a sermon than do what I'm doing, but I feel that as a shepherd, I need to do this. I want to do it- in a prayerful and hopefully genuinely humbly way. Where do you start? I don't really know, but one of the things that concerned me that I read in the paper was the Bellevue was staffing a sister church in town. And I appreciated so much the answer that Bob Sorrell had- the retired former associate pastor. He said, in no way is that the case. Brother Bob retired from Bellevue several years ago. He has asked Jim Whitmire- also retired from Bellevue, Peggy Perkins a delightful lady, also retired from Bellevue, then another staff member who was from Bellevue- David Smith to help a sister church that has gone through a great deal of struggle and heartache. Friend, we're not staffing them. We're simply some people that have served here under a great man of God- Bob Sorrell- are trying to help a sister church in need. And I think that that's the focus of that (*?) I don’t want it to be said that we're staffing some other church. We're simply helping other people, and if we can't do that as brothers and sisters in Christ, we're in trouble. Amen? {applause} Bellevue is not running Germantown Baptist Church.

Let me talk to you about something that was pretty amazing to me. That was that I had a dream and that that caused me to do something. We have a member of our church- I've met him. The Lord has saved him- he's an awesome person. And he gets excited, and I can appreciate that. He says amen quite a bit. And that's fine. But it was getting to the point where it was a little hard for me to concentrate on my preaching while that was going on. The Bible says you ought to handle things like that in public. By the way, it says you handle anything like that- in private rather- you ought to handle it in private- and any confrontation like that. And so, I woke up on a Monday morning - it happened the day before- I woke up, didn't have any dream. I told Mark Dougherty- I said I really want us to talk to this church member and just ask him in private in a very simple way if he would not say that as much. Just kinda back off a little bit. Well somewhere between that and- somewhere- I was told, somebody said you had a dream or a vision about this in the night and that's why you told this man that that's the case. I never had a dream about that. I never told anyone I had a dream. No staff member I've talked to- three of the staff members involved- None of them said that I said that I had a dream. I want to read to you and I'm not trying to devote my little devotional book. If you want to know what I believe, by the way, I believe I put it in print. 365 pieces of my heart.

Feb. 2 God's Steadfast Word is talking about the prophet who has a dream may relay his dream, but may him who has my word speak my word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain declares the Lord. Is not my word like fire declares the Lord? Like a hammer that shatters the rock.

Now that's the scripture, here's my commentary.

The Bible is God's reliable word. It should be the ultimate authority for every Christian. It consists exclusively of 39 books of the Old Testament and 27 books of the New Testament. People have tried to add to the Bible with false revelations, claiming special visions and dreams from God. God warns against such bogus spiritual guides by giving us 3 vivid descriptions of his steadfast word. First of all, God's word is like grain. The messages of false prophets are straw compared to the grain of scripture. Today some claim to have special words from God- perhaps an apparition in the field, or a message from a so-called prophet. These must be examined in the light of the Bible, and must never- that's italicized- be considered as being on the level of scripture. Secondly, God's word is fire. Jeremiah said that God's word was fire in his bones that it had to be spoken. As we shared today, scripture still burns to the stubble of false ideas. It blazes in the people lives with the power of salvation. Thirdly, God's word is a hammer- it's a spiritual hammer that shatters the false ideas of men. His word will have the final say- it's the ultimate hammer of truth that can destroy the lives of the evil one and his false prophet. Last Paragraph. We do not need to lust for a vision, prophecy or dream. We need to hunger for the written word of God. In the Bible, we will find the grain we need to feed our hungry souls, the fire we need to keep us ablaze for Jesus, and the hammer we need to shatter the false ideas of our pagan, confused society- including sinners. Who needs a dream when we have a Bible? {applause}

I guess on the website that that is mentioned. I don't want to try to guess, but it can only be I think one of two things. That I had a dream and tried to cover it up- or that I'm some wide-eyed mystic that that's how I get my vision for Bellevue-through dreams. I just want you to know that there's absolutely no substance to either of these suggestions.

We've already talked about the fence, and I want to join Brother Chuck and we're representing the others that were involved- the four of us- we absolutely.. that was a mistake obviously, we shouldn't have done it. We were so desperate to try to protect Bellevue- we were so desperate- we actually were in prayer meeting. We thought of that verse that Jesus said If you're at the alter, and you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift at the alter and go away- first be reconciled with your brother. It took us quite a while to find where he lived. We did, we climbed over that fence, and it was not by the way- if you go to the website, they have this big tall gate and with all do respect, look at us and do you think that we... {laughter} It was the little bitty white fence about that tall next to it that we went over. And I want to say, I join Chuck, I say to the family, I hope you know we never- there was no intimidation at all- we just wanted to be reconciled. And we're sorry, and I want to tell you as a church, we're 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 and it was. It was a mistake of the head and not the heart. We do not have bad hearts, we were trying to reconcile. {applause}

Now, the Gardendale resignation video. This is going to be the most emotional one. They've taken a 3-minute statement out of a 50- minute resignation. I left here, I think it was July 10th-was that the date?- and we went home, we drove home. We're home now, but we drove what was home then. We got to Gardendale at 5 till 6. The service started at 6. And when we walked in the sanctuary, the place was packed. My girls couldn't even walk in. They turned around and fell back into my arms and Donna's arms and cried knowing what we were about to do. And when I walked in there, they were worshipping God, and they knew what was coming. And when I- finally it was my turn, Mark Harris handed it over to me- he's our minister of education. And I walked up there and somebody just blurted out- We love you Brother Steve. And they all stood up like you've done. And I cried and they cried. In the middle of that tape, the 3 minutes they got in there, I was tired; I was bone tired. And I was hurting- my spirit was raw. Now, you've gotta understand what I'm about to say. I didn't want to leave Gardendale Alabama- not because I didn't want to come to Bellevue-- I didn't want to go anywhere. I didn't want to come to Bellevue, because I didn't want to leave Gardendale. I didn't want to leave what God was doing. For 14 years I had prayed over that place- for 14 years, I had led people to Jesus- for 14 years I had done funerals, weddings- for 14 years I had poured my life into that place. Now, when I was sick and couldn't even tie my shoes, they kept me as their pastor. And when I couldn't even comb my hair, my wife had to comb my hair for me, they kept me as their pastor. And I did everything I could- even telling them I'm gonna stay with you- I'm not gonna go any place. And I meant it with all of my heart. And every time I would turn around- I withdrew my name- not that the committee offered me this job and I said no to it- I withdrew my name from the process. I called twice- Chuck says 3 times-several times. I did everything I could to stay in Gardendale. And in this video- and you've gotta understand- I went there when I was 33 years old- and I was 47 when I left. These people we loved each other, and you know what we're gonna love each other the same way, and we're getting there. It just takes time {applause} I thought I loved Donna after the first year- you remember your 1st year anniversary? Oh I love you. I'm gonna tell you something, brother, after 26 years, I'd die for her. {applause} What I said to them was- I didn't memorize it- I'm like Harry, I don't like to go to the website. I didn't really look at what they had on there. It said something about "Didn't I tick you guys off?" Now, you gotta remember, we're in Alabama, ok? Not in cultured Tennessee- we're in Alabama. {laughter}I asked them- I did- I did everything I could to tell them you know what I thought was right with Gardendale- and what I.. and I said what I thought was wrong with Bellevue. I wasn't saying that I thought that Bellevue was bad or anything like that. They lifted that totally out of context. You know what, you can take 3 minutes out of just about any sermon or just about anything you want and miss the whole point of the whole sermon. Listen to me, if I didn't have any respect for this church, I would've never come here to try to be your pastor. I loved Dr. Rogers. There is nobody- listen I never had a better friend on this earth than Dr. Adrian Rogers, and if anybody's implying that I've ever demeaned this church or his ministry or anything else- that is simply not true. I want to encourage you- like Chuck said- if you want to watch it, don't watch the little 3 minute thing on the website. You go watch the whole 50 minute thing, and you see my heart and see that I'm simply trying to pour out my heart to my people to try to affirm them. They were crying. I was crying. It was a tough night. But I want to tell you, I have never and never will do anything to demean this church or to put this church down. I love this church. I'm gonna give the rest of my life in service to the Lord through this church. And anything I said in that video had nothing to do with me trying to degrade this church in any way. So I want you to know that. {applause}

Why don't you preach on Wednesday nights? {laughter}Why did we use Dr. AG with all these preachers we have here? Dr AG is one of my dearest friends. First of all, why don't I preach on Wed. nights? I'll tell you why. I have children. I have school-aged children. I can't be out every night of the week. {applause}I have volleyball games, I have things to go to and I am there every time I can be. And I don't miss much, because they've got one person that can be their daddy. {applause} I chose on Wed. night to save that where I wasn't preaching. And I go to committee meetings, every three weeks I have a - right now I'm trying to meet all the deacons. Every 3 weeks, I meet with 5 deacon couples. We have a dinner and we get to know one another. That's been wonderful. I have committee meetings on those nights, and also during the entire fall I went to meetings like with Phil's group- the youth. I've been in all those age groups. I've been in all kinds- and we're doing- listen to me, we are doing every- Donna and I-we- we are doing everything we know to try to get to know you folks. Wed. night is a night that I need- I go visiting on Tuesday night- then I go... I'm meeting on those Wednesday nights. If I didn't do what I do on Wed. nights, I'd be gone 4 or 5 nights out of the week. I cannot raise a godly family and be gone every night of the week. {applause}

There's different guys all the time- no consistency, so I brought Dr. AG here. I wanted Joe Jernigan. You might remember about that time though, he had a lot of health problems. Well, who's preaching now? Same guy I wanted then. I had to get Dr. AG- but now that Joe is- listen, Joe Jernigan could be out here pastoring a church just as big as Bellevue {applause}

Now, Rick Warren, Bill Hybel- seeker sensitive movement. And if you go to the website, it seems like that's what whoever's in charge of the website- they're really afraid of all this. I've never even read a book by Rick Warren. You say, you haven't read… I haven't even read-- the book that this church went through, Purpose Driven Life. How many of you have read that book? Come on, get ‘em up. I've never even read it. This staff back in 1996 went through the Purpose Driven Church. Dr. Rogers, Jerry Falwell, James Merritt, Elder Townes, OS Hawkins, most of them past presidents of the SBC- Jerry Falwell- all these guys wrote an endorsement for Rick Warren's book- including Dr. Adrian Rogers- wrote an endorsement. I've got in right there- you can read it- on the inside- back in 1996. And then when his other book came out, this church went through that. Just in the most recent theological journal, they call it the journal of missions and evangelism I believe for Mid America Theological Seminary- an article by Rick Warren on missions is in there. It was just this last spring. I'm not here to defend Rick Warren or not. If you're saying- do you believe in church growth? I believe in people being saved. I believe in people getting their hearts right with God. But if you're talking about watering down the gospel, you think that's me? You haven't heard me preach. {applause}We're not seeker sensitive because we have some folks up here holding microphones. We’re not seeker sensitive because of that. Guys, listen to me. I am a Baptist. Somebody said, what would you be, if you weren’t Baptist? I guess I’d be ashamed. I don’t know- I’m just a Baptist. {laughter} Now, that was tongue and cheek, by the way. I was kidding. {applause} I’ve never read the book. Donna is saying get back to your notes, Steve. Okay. I’ve never read the book. And I’m not in that movement.

Music at Bellevue. On the first day I came here, we got together all the folks- Dr. Whitmire, John, everybody. And I said I want a 50/50 split. 50% hymns. You don’t know anybody that loves the hymns more than I do. And I’m not trying to brag, but I could quote half of them by memory- or more. And we will always, listen to me, always- you say where are we going? We went there the first day. We will always sing the great hymns of the faith at Bellevue Baptist Church. {applause} (*a few words muffled from the applause) The other- the non-traditional songs. The Bible says, Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We’re gonna sing songs that your children listen to. Songs that are coming up and that most of them are singing to God, and they’re all based on scripture. And I promise you, it will be based on Biblical theology. And if we sing one that happens to squeak by, and it wasn’t that good, you know what- you won’t hear it again. You won’t hear it again. We’re gonna sing songs that magnify Jesus, that are based on the Bible, that..- what we’re trying to do is minister to everybody. Listen to me, I’ve told you many times- I’m like a broken record on this- I don’t want to have one traditional service and one non-traditional service. I want to have one worship service for all the services so that everybody can go. {applause}

Personal use of the church credit card. I’ve got one. You wanna look at it? Here it is right here. {laughter} There it is. I have- I’m 48, I’ve had a church credit card since I was 30 years old. I have never ever never not one time used a church credit card for personal use. Not one time. Not one time. {applause} And in fact, I’ve turned in since I’ve been here and at Gardendale, I’ve turned in every receipt, wrote down every detail on it- it’s all. And I asked Chip. I said Chip, would you just go back, I said I know I didn’t do it, but just so that I can say this, go back. He looked at every statement. I don’t know how long it took him to do it. He looked at every receipt. There’s nothing there. There’s nothing there for any of our guys that have church credit cards. There’s not many of them out there anyway. So, folks, don’t go there. That’s- there’s nothing to that. I’m just looking at my notes, trying to finish up.

And then, one thing that really kinda concerned me. I heard about this, and I saw it. They- somebody tried to say that you know when I… You might know that the Lord called me- confirmed my calling right out here by one of these little lakes. On May 21st, I was reading in Judges chapter 6. And I was reading through that in my One Year Bible. I didn’t go out and pick that. It was just there. And I read that in there and it said, “The angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, and said the Lord is with you, O valiant warrior. He said, O Lord, if you are with us, why are all these bad things happening to us? And the Lord,” verse 14, “Looked at him and said, Go in this your strength, and deliver Israel from the hand of Mideon. Have I not sent you?” Now, what God used to speak to my heart was, “Go in this your strength”. You know why? I have (his condition- I cannot make it out and hate to butcher it by attempting to spell it something like Myosteneus Gravis) I was asking, Lord am I even strong enough to do this? Am I? Are you gonna give me the strength? “Go in this your strength. Have I not sent you?” I read this passage and I saw Bellevue. And again, I was reading the Word of God. Didn’t have a dream or anything. Then I looked out there and just saw the Lord. Just like how do you know when you’re saved? How do you know when God calls you to preach? How do you know when God calls you to a church? You just know it in your knower. And I knew deep in my heart that that’s what- God wanted me to spend the rest of my life here. Now, listen. In the middle of this phrase it says, “Go in this your strength,” and listen, “deliver Israel from the hand of Mideon.” And somewhere on this blog it says something like this, “Exactly what does Dr. Gaines think he needs to deliver Bellevue from?” I don’t think I need to deliver us from anything. Listen to me, the more I get- by the way Chuck was talking about this- I’m drowning in love mail. Praise the Lord. Amen. I’m drowning. {applause} I’m not here to make this a Gardendale. I’m not here to change this church or anything else. I’m simply here- I’ve got one agenda: I wanna go after God. I want this church simply to do what it’s always done. That is to love the Lord, to love lost people, to win lost people, and to glorify God. That’s all- that is my agenda. There it is right there. {applause} Just stay up. We’ll go to the house. Or Mexican food, or wherever it is you’re going. I want to say this about Mid American Baptist Theological Seminary. I have heard this so many times. We’ve heard you don’t support Mid America. Listen, I have understood, literally the heart of Dr. Rogers. You’ve got to understand, he was my “Pa”. Now I know about the relationship between Bellevue and Mid America. I understand the story. And I don’t know anybody that I respect more that Dr. Gray Allison. I love Mike Spradlin. Listen, I’ve got friends over there. Jerry Bloom (unsure on name*) teaches over there preaching. And I came from First Baptist Dyersburg. Stan May (unsure on name*) he teaches missions over there. I’ve known Stan since I got saved. Two months after I went- I got saved- I met Stan. We’ve been friends for almost 30 years. So, I know a lot of these guys over there. We’ve got different guys in our church from Mid America. I preached over there this last week. And this last year when it came budget time, I’m the one- I’m not trying to take credit, I’m just trying to tell you- I’m the one that recommended to the finance committee. I can’t- I don’t sign any checks at Bellevue. I can’t, listen- I don’t have control over the money here. I simply made a suggestion that we up what we already give to Mid America by $1000 a month. The finance committee approved it. The church approved it. We upped that on my watch. And, as far as Mid America goes, Mike Spradlin has preached here. Gray Allison has preached here. I’ve got other professors I’m gonna have preach here. I preached there last week. As far as I’m concerned, all that depends on me- whatever that is- Bellevue will always, always support Mid America Baptist Theological Seminary. {applause}

I just want you to pray that God will not let us get distracted from the main thing. I want you to pray that God will put a hedge of protection around everybody- even those who have some differences. I want you to pray that all of us will walk in wisdom. That we’ll walk in forgiveness, that we’ll walk in Christ. That we’ll be like Jesus, we’ll be Christ-like, not condescending. I want you to pray that accusations will stop. I want you to pray that finger pointing will stop. And I want you to understand that this church is not in some major crisis. This church is simply going through something that I firmly believe is gonna make us stronger, because we’re more focused on prayer when we go through these times. We’re more focused on what really matters. And what really matters is not all these little accusations, fault-findings, and all that stuff. What really matters is there are people going to hell right out there, and it’s our job to love each other, and to win people to Jesus. {applause} I wanna say again, I’ve never had- I’ve never had a better deacon than Chuck Taylor. Never worked with a better guy. {applause} I’m gonna ask him to say a word of prayer, but don’t leave. We’re gonna- every Sunday night we sing a song. (*) As soon as Chuck gets through praying, we’re gonna sing “There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit” in what {Congregation: in this place}You go ahead and join your hands. Join your hearts. Now, guys, as far as I’m concerned- let’s move on. Let’s move on. Let’s pray and then we’ll sing.

Chuck Taylor

Gracious Father God, we thank you for meeting with us tonight. Lord, we thank you for the sweet unity that carries us in the place. And that is because of your presence here with us. Lord, thank you for everyone that came tonight. And Lord for the message here tonight, and who we are in Jesus. Lord it is for your glory. May we leave this place, Lord, humble. Lord, seeking to do your will. Remembering Lord that there is a gospel out there (*) as soon as you walk out these doors. May we be, Lord, your witnesses, your shining light. And Lord, as we’ve already said. May they know we are your disciples by how we have love one for another. Amen.

Let’s sing together.

More bootleg audio

Pastor Gaines likes to keep his Wednesday nights relatively free, without the need to prepare and preach a sermon. This, we learn from the "Saving Bellevue" gang via surreptitiously-obtained audio now on their site.

If my failing memory serves, Pastor Rogers didn't preach that many Wednesday nights over a 32-year period. But, since it's Pastor Gaines in the crosshairs (and yes, I used that term deliberately, if metaphorically), it's just one more thing to pile on him about.

The accompanying text to the audio:

Why Steve Gaines doesn't preach on Wednesday night.

Turn Audio Up

Why don't you preach on Wednesday Night?

Tonight is Wednesday Night. What is Steve Doing?

Click on Above link and go to today's date.

Where does the revenue go the Revival Preacher & Music Leader receive?

Who pays the stand-in Preacher when the Senior Pastor is Preaching away at Revival. Is this why it is called a Revival?

I was told Bellevue paid Johnny Hunt $5000.00 for preaching at Bellevue on Wednesday night in Awesome August. Please advise if this is incorrect.

REVIVAL 2nd Baptist Church Union City, Tennessee
Begins: Sunday September 24th, 2006
Ends: Wednesday September 27th, 2006




Guess it wouldn't occur to anyone to actually ask why they were in Union City. Could it be, oh, I don't know, because they had agreed to participate in the revival quite awhile back?

And a note to Jim Haywood: I notice you, or whoever's helping out, seemed to have removed Adrian Rogers' audio from the front page of your site. Kudos. Go with that feeling, and dump this "Wednesday Night-gate" nonsense, too.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"Wherever the truth takes us"

Hot off the "Saving Bellevue" scandal-sheet presses:

On Sunday September the 24th, Steve Gaines told the Bellevue family that 100% (then he corrected himself and said almost 100%) of the deacons supported him. Steve Gaines knows this is not the truth but yet he had no problem saying it in front of 4,400 people.

This is not about choosing sides. It is about seeking the truth wherever the truth takes us.

1) The anti-Bellevue folks have, collectively, developed what passes for mental telepathy. Some or all of them can now read the minds of people, and know beyond the shadow of any doubt or peradventure (to coin a phrase) whether or not another person knows something to be true!

2) In front of "4,400 people"? Precisely that number? Not 4,398 people? Not 4,415 people?

Let's see the official head-count, and photographic evidence that precisely four thousand, four hundred people were in the congregation to hear Pastor Gaines speak. Not a person more, not a person less.

Pastor Gaines corrected himself, but it appears in the "Saving Bellevue" misguided zeal, little things like numerical accuracy are thrown under the bus. Let's see if they correct themselves, or if they even notice the irony in their latest little commentary.

Never mind that the anti-Bellevue group chose sides as soon as they started publishing and granting interviews--remember, it's wherever the truth takes us.


UPDATE: I find this absolutely fascinating.

The above-quoted material from "Saving Bellevue" has been removed. Mental telepathy, double standard, and all.

And what's that sound? Why, it's the sound of silence on the "Saving Bellevue" website; apparently, Adrian Rogers' audio remarks are no longer being misused there.

Why were those items removed? It couldn't be because they should never have been there in the first place...

Could it?

UPDATE 2: Pastor Rogers' audio remarks have returned.

Do the words "copyright infringement" ring a bell to anyone?

They should.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The wrong kinds of clips

The anti-Bellevue folks are now collecting their own press clippings, supplying links to web-published articles which mention them (favorably, of course); the latest actually has something to do with "ethics," supposedly, though the web article itself does a good job of regurgitating rumors and only attempts "balance" at the end of the piece.

(It is gratifying to see what else pops up on the first page of the Google search result produced by typing in "saving Bellevue"--in this day and age, there's more than one way to provide balance.)

When you visit the "Saving Bellevue" site, though, you'll be treated to another kind of clipping as well. This one, however, is an audio clip of Adrian Rogers speaking on character and integrity. The irony is particularly thick, two layers of which I'll highlight:

First, nowhere on the site is there an indication that the audio clip is approved for use by anyone who would have authority to give such approval. Even if it's from a legally-purchased videotape, DVD, audio cassette, or CD, slapping it on a website for dissemination is a different matter entirely. (If you're an attorney who can either amplify or dispel this observation, please let me know.)

Also, the audio clip gives the not-so-subtle impression that Adrian Rogers, were he still with us today, would endorse the rumor-mongering and gossip that serve as the foundation and superstructure of that site. Noting that this is far from certain is a vivid understatement.

The site has gotten so bad that people who write faux "epistles" for it are now referring to themselves in the third person. Let me tell you, Mike Bratton would never go for something like that, because Mike Bratton does not stoop to that level. Mike Bratton is the kind of man who values objectivity over self-aggrandizement...

(See what I mean?)

Seriously, though, when your list of "facts" has more "I's" than a sack of potatoes, something is fundamentally wrong.

And when Mr. Sharpe, Mr. Haywood, Mr. Manning, Mr. Saba, Mr. McClerkin, and the hangers-on who veil themselves behind varying levels of anonymity all figure this out, perhaps the molehills they've tried to transform into the Himalayas might actually be addressed.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

As long as they spell your name right

Hey, it finally hit the local paper.

Kudos to the Memphis Commercial Appeal (Disclaimer: Memphis Publishing Company, their parent organization, is a former employer) for reporting both sides of the goings-on. They seem to be just as willing as WMC-TV to take a website counter's tally as accurate--never mind the fact that they can be set to pretty much any number desired--but on the whole, James Dowd did a good job of reporting.

Except for referring to Josh Manning, who helped disseminate the nonsense via blog, as "Manley" later in the article.

But, hey again, both Mark Sharpe and he got quoted, to match up with Jim Haywood's interview on WMC-TV. Let's examine their quotes, shall we?

First, from Mr. Sharpe:

"I knew when I opened up that I'd be demonized and ostracized and my life at Bellevue would never be the same," Sharpe said. "But all I've ever wanted was the truth."

The truth? Or a venue for personal opinion?

Mr. Sharpe, you're being disagreed with, and that's pretty much the beginning and the end of it. Except for the fact that you're being prayed for.

People come to visit you, trying to talk with you, and they're suddenly trespassing and intimidating. Mr. Sharpe, last I checked, both behaviors are against the law; I note that you've granted interviews and offered your personal opinion at length, but if these things really are what you say they are, why haven't you called the sheriff's department?

And now, from Mr. "Manning" (not "Manley"):

"I hoped to establish a dialogue and provide a forum for church members to discuss their concerns," Manley said. "I think we've done that."

Could you have been misquoted? Could you have meant to say "some church members"? Not all church members' comments are aired in the so-called "forum," so you'll forgive me for thinking something got lost in the interview.

Oh, and I guess congratulations are in order to you folks--Mr. Manning, Mr. Sharpe, Mr. Haywood, et al--for your "2006 Controversy" section in Bellevue's Wikipedia listing.

Just the truth, right? Discussion among church members, right?



Monday, September 18, 2006

I trust everyone's pleased?

Tonight at 10, a local television station (WMC-TV, Channel 5) will air a report about "a website spreading 'concerns' about a Mid-South church." What two words were in the middle of the television screen?

"Saving Bellevue."

(Wonder what "Mid-South church" they're referring to?)

And I highlighted the word "concerns" because that's how it was delivered on-air--as though the "concerns" weren't as innocuous as one might think. Hopefully the report won't take the anti-Bellevue nonsense at face value.

More after the report airs... I have a request to play Superheroes now that's much more important.


EDITED TO ADD: Would you believe it? We were having so much fun I didn't tune in until after the story aired. However, the WMC-TV website carries the video.

Let's see just how much pride the few-and-far-between anti-Bellevue people are feeling after this story. Some quotes, which I attempt to share thusly, and like so:

"Is there a rift at one of the Mid-South's largest, most powerful churches?"

"Tonight, a new website is hinting at battles brewing at Bellevue." (Don't you just enjoy the alliteration?)

"According to a counter at the bottom of the page, it's already had more than 30,000 hits." Let's be honest here, people. Counters can say whatever one wants them to say, and can be set to start at any number one chooses.

One bit of illumination was the identity, which was not public knowledge until tonight, of the individual in charge of the so-called "Saving Bellevue" website: Bellevue choir member (at least, I think he still is) Jim Haywood. Jim, I don't mind telling you how disappointed I am at your choice of tactics--and the next time I see you, I'll talk with you about your poor choice in person. For now, though, this will have to do.

"The older people," you say, are the ones who are the most dissatisfied? Are their personal preferences supposed to supersede the decisions of any other group in the church? And do you believe that "the older people" monolithically share precisely the same tastes in music and worship styles?

You've facilitated the spread of lies, half-truths, and innuendo in the name of "saving" a church which--despite the best efforts of a handful of people, including your own self--isn't in any particular peril.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Went to a garden party

If you're old enough, you'll have that Ricky Nelson tune stuck in your head for several days. You're welcome...

Tonight, my wife and I actually got a night out together. We were able to help a friend celebrate his birthday; since he's sure to have opened his present from us by now, I can tell you that everyone should be so blessed as to receive dulce de leche as a birthday present.

(International food aisle, Wal-Mart. I'm telling you, you'll love it.)

Marvelous music, lots of laughter, and a chance to show some love for a man who has unfailingly shared Christ and encouraged the faithful for several decades. And as usual, I was with the prettiest woman in the group. What could dampen, even slightly, a night like this?

The whispers.

I'm confident the guest of honor didn't hear them, which is good. He didn't need to hear them, and surely wouldn't have appreciated them. But they were there, at the edges of the get-together, two and three and four people at a time.

"Well, (insert name here) takes care of (insert area of staff responsibility here), so don't you think he knows about (insert rumor here)?"

Little things, in hushed tones, floating around the edges of the gathering.

The people who have been stirring the anti-Bellevue stew seem to be putting their spoons away for now (Talk about torturing a metaphor... my apologies), but the after-effects of those actions and that mindset will hang around for awhile.

In things like whispers at a birthday party.

Tomorrow, I will write about something else. I promise.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Just in case

My comments on some of the "anti-Bellevue" blogs don't, as a rule, make it through the approval process. In case this latest one doesn't, I've taken the liberty of reprinting it here. I quote myself thusly, and like so:

"Someone told me..."

"I don't agree with (insert name or program here), so they need to..."

"I think (insert name here) is just making too much money, so..."

"Well, (insert name here) says (insert slur here) about (insert name here), so it has to be true..."

"You know, I'm just struck in my spirit that (insert slur here)..."

"Gee, I hope this doesn't get into the local media... Wink, wink..."

How unfortunate.

I encourage those of you who've contributed to all this nonsense to engage in some prayerful introspection. Your personal opinions about what should or should not go on at Bellevue--and about who should or should not serve there--don't, frankly, serve as the be-all and end-all.

Yes, I know that's harsh, but it's the truth.

To those who actually signed their names to their remarks, I applaud your fortitude, even if I don't applaud your unfounded attacks.

Do we have perfect people on staff at Bellevue Baptist Church?

No. Neither do we have perfect people in the congrgegation. What we should have are brothers and sisters in Christ who work together, even if some of us don't always get our way.

Have some recent situations been handled as elegantly as they could have been?

Probably not. However, there's been enough inelegance to go around, particularly on the part of people who seize upon the slightest opportunity to point at a staff memeber and scream "Off with his head!"

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Seriously--go back and examine what you're saying and writing.

If you can't see the problem, go back and examine it again, because it's there.

And if you want to discuss this in greater detail, I'm incredibly easy to find.


EDITED TO ADD: Surprise, surprise, surprise. (Like my Gomer Pyle impression?)

Someone who couldn't bring herself to sign her name, and who submitted a response loaded with standard personal disparagements of Bellevue's Pastor, Associate Pastor, Minister of Music, "and the others" made the cut.

My above-quoted missive, submitted earlier in the day, did not.

This must've been what got her post over the top--I quote her thusly, and like so: "I shall continue to pray for you and as a woman, my place is not to stand and speak, but to pray and intercede."

Ma'am, whoever you are, your post (presumably made to other Bellevue members) is standing and speaking. If you felt your place was to just prayerfully intercede in matters, you wouldn't have written what you did.

Unfortunate. Only the anti-Bellevue remarks (and yes, that's exactly what they are) get to see the light of day over there since it's an anti-Bellevue party they're having.

On the other hand, when you folks feel comfortable enough to post comments (and I know you're out there reading, since I see the stats), your comments regarding Bellevue may be either pro or con.

Or, maybe a little of both... Kind of a "surf and turf" thing...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Being less polite

After reviewing my previous post, I had to admit that--as my wife so often observes--my inner diplomat was in high gear. So, let me be less obtuse and more up-front in commenting on the pseudo-issues some are attempting to gin up at the church where my family and I are members: Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tennessee.

The church which experienced the "tectonic break" is a nearby church, Germantown Baptist. Since their difficulties were well-publicised, I'm not telling any tales out-of-school by lamenting the difficulties that church has recently endured. Matter of fact, some friends are among those serving in interim capacities at that church, which makes me very optimistic that good days are ahead for that church.

But on to the matter at hand. One of this links you'll note to the right is a link to a rudimentary website with the lugubrious title "SavingBellevue"--something else I can't help but laugh at whenever I read it. The hearsay- and whine-laden website links early and often to a Blogspot site grandly known as "BellevueTruth." Unfortunately, comments are no longer allowed on that blog, so the sarcasm, disingenuous remarks, and general fantasy have neither checks nor balances against their proliferation.

These twin outlets have allowed various types of hacking and slashing at the current leadership of Bellevue Baptist Church (particularly Senior Pastor Dr. Steve Gaines) with practical impunity.

Don't like the Pastor's priorities? Why, call him names!

Don't like the music choices? Why, disparage the Minister of Music!

Don't like the way a dispute's resolved? Why, go public!

It would be easy to just ignore such nonsense; however, these tirades against Bellevue and the people God has called to serve in various capacities needed, so I've been led to feel, a counterbalance. Such as it is, here it is. I'll continue to monitor the nonsense, and respond as conditions warrant.

And I'll actually write about other things, as well. Yes, I know, you're all atwitter with anticipation...


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Faux rescues

A church in my neck of the woods recently experienced an explosive, very-public tectonic break. To call it merely a "church split" would to be to condemn with faint praise. Everybody has an opinion about it, so it seems, and mine--from an outsider's perspective--was that the now-former pastor made some poor choices, which came back to bite him. After the dust settled, one of my thoughts was that the church where my family and I attend and participate was blessed, in that the same thing couldn't happen here.

Or so I thought.

Some of the same precursors are manifesting themselves even as I type. An "anti" website has formed, along with an accompanying blog; slurs, accusations, and half-truths are flying like weapons in a John Woo movie. From the perspective of someone who isn't exactly an "outsider" this time, the accusations are hyperbolic, and the slurs and half-truths are embarrassing. Professing Christians who don't like someone's salary, management style, or worship style wrap themselves in both anonymity and righteous indignation while referring to church staff as "cowards" or "the mafia."

Here's a tip our church's former pastor used as a rule of thumb: If you can't sign your name, your criticisms mean nothing.


EDIT: Let me clarify something. Not for a second do I believe that my current pastor has behaved in the same fashion as the pastor who precipitated the earthquake at his church. Quite to the contrary--I wonder just how reserved I would be were I to receive the same level of unfortunate, misguided commentary he's had to deal with in recent weeks.

EDITED WAY AFTER THE FACT TO ADD: After receiving a letter from someone affiliated with Germantown Baptist, I do see where the phrase "precipitated the earthquake" could be perceived as an indictment of sorts against Pastor Shaw, and for that I apologize to anyone affiliated with GBC who was injured by my imprecise remark. Very often people with the best of intentions set off a chain of events they did not anticipate, and did not desire. No doubt such was the case at Germantown, and may even have been the case at Bellevue.


Why does the world need one more blog?

1) As a Christian, it's part of the gig to share your life, and how Jesus Christ has changed you for the better. So, I'm sharing.

2) Over the years of contributing to various websites, people have actually said they've appreciated things I've written. We'll see if a concentrated dose has a better effect.

3) I seem to have more free time than I used to have--so, I thought it would be interesting to try this out. Keeps me away from eBay and ("Mildred, what's this Start Rek thing this boy's talking about?")

4) You tell me. Follow along from time to time, and let me know when you like something.

5) Or, when you don't.