Saturday, November 21, 2009

PRE zent... ALMS!

It's that time of year again -- time for Bellevue's annual Love Offering Sunday. What started in 1934 as a means for the church to pay off their building debt has turned into an all-out dog and pony show during which all present in the worship service on Love Offering Sunday march to the front of the auditorium and parade past large boxes into which they drop their offering envelopes. Last year envelopes were available near each seat, and guests were encouraged to get into line and drop empty envelopes into the boxes so people wouldn't be stepping over each other and no one would feel left out. Of course, if a guest felt led to put a little something inside the envelope, I'm sure no one would have objected.

It's difficult to believe it's been four years since
this simple one-page announcement was made regarding the 2005 Love Offering. The prayer chapel, a colossal waste of money when a portion of the existing facilities which sit unused 6 1/2 days a week could have simply been designated as a prayer room, was never built. Many who gave to the 2005 offering have been asking for the past four years what happened to those plans. (Remember the proposed labyrinth?) Now we're told that money, which was reportedly set aside in a separate account, will be plowed into the "Vision 2010" plan which includes... taa daa... designating a portion of the existing facilities as a prayer room.

This year they've been much less specific as to what the love offering is for. Steve Gaines writes:

"This year's Love Offering is the first step in a multi-year effort to develop our people, ministries, and programs, and, when necessary, to enhance our facilities for the purpose of fulfilling our mission. Will we do everything we've planned? Probably not, because situations and opportunities will likely change in the coming years and we will adjust our plans accordingly."

This way they can pretty much use the money however they wish.

Speaking of 2005, my, how things have changed since this photo was taken!

With giving down significantly in the past couple of years and according to one source, "the money pit is awfully shallow," this year they've pulled out all the stops. From reminders in the weekly bulletin for the past month to large postcards and a full-color, multi-page mailout printed on slick, heavyweight cardstock (what did it cost to design, print, and mail that to every family in the church?) to
a video to "Love Offering Reminders" e-mailed to people who haven't set foot in Bellevue in years to automated phone calls from Brother Steve -- it's been an all-out media blitz. Here is the full brochure. The whole "Vision 2010" thing will be discussed in a future article.

This quote is printed in this week's bulletin:

"Lines that Linger" by Rev. Don Miller

"The church needs faithful members who are regular attenders, faithful members who know how to pray and do it, faithful members who bring others with them, faithful members who love God more than the world, and faithful members who know the tithe is the Lord's and give it."

Subtle, huh?

And this from page 18 of the brochure:

The Love Offering is primarily a love and thank offering to our Lord Jesus Christ who gave the ultimate love gift -- Himself -- and who loves us with a priceless love. As Bro. Steve has said, our gifts to the Love Offering are not tithes, but are gifts above and beyond our tithe. As you determine how much to give, prayerfully consider the following:

1. God knows the need.
2. God knows how much of the need He wants to meet through you.
3. What God desires to do through you He will provide to you.
4. When we give obediently as God has guided and provided, He gets the glory and we get the blessing!

The need this year is truly God-sized and will require us to increase our faith to reach our goals. Please prayerfully consider what God wants you to give, and obediently and sacrificially give as God directs you.

Do people really need to be goaded like this to give? After all, the Bible says, "God loveth a cheerful giver," not an intimidated giver.

There have been good articles on the subject of "tithing" on the
FBC Jax Watchdog blog and The Wartburg Watch this week, and they and their readers have already covered the subject in much more depth than I ever could. So without further ado:

A Look at the Doctrine of Storehouse Tithing

Ronnie and Johnny: Doggone It, How Can We Spread the Gospel If the Sheep Don't Tithe?

Rethinking the Tithe: Part 1

Rethinking the Tithe: Part 2

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Happy Birthday, O Purveyor of Baloney!

With any blog come trolls. It's an inevitable fact of life. Often simply ignoring them will make them go away, but it's sometimes difficult to resist the temptation to respond and even more difficult persuading others not to respond. Give them a little attention, and they always return to the scene of the crime.

In the early days of this blog we were occasionally visited by "RM," aka Randy McDonald, who claimed to be a Ph.D. pastor from Texas (a graduate of SWBTS). It wasn't difficult to find Dr. McDonald. He advertised his little church (that he started) as well as his "Christian counseling" service.

RM's comments (a "collection" of the best is here should anyone be interested) were usually caustic and seemed to only be meant to taunt and hurl insults at me and others posting comments. After a while he seemed to grow tired of us and faded into the sunset.

Then we were joined by "Brady." "Brady" didn't claim to be anything. In fact, a pastor is about the last thing I would have expected this potty-mouthed character to be. (He sent an obviously fake photo of himself to someone once and claimed his name was "Brady Davis" while rebuking me and others for not revealing our "real" names.) Most of his early comments were published, but after a while they were so over the top I began rejecting them. However, as with all controversial comments, I directed them all to a special folder where I didn't have to see them. Here is a collection of "Brady's" rejected comments and some personal e-mails to me and others. (Where's that bar of Lifebuoy when you need it?) All I knew was the e-mails were coming from a suburb of Dallas, Texas and that we were getting frequent hits on the blog from someone in that same suburb. You never know when something that seems meaningless today might prove to be useful in the future, and so "the Brady collection" was stored away, largely forgotten, in the nether regions of my hard drive for all these months.

Back in the spring of this year, a new blog came on the scene. The Wartburg Watch, authored by "Dee" and "Deb," two women in North Carolina, deals with a variety of topics with the underlying theme being abuse in the church. A couple months ago a new commenter calling himself "Cooper" appeared on the WW (not to be confused with R.E. or Ralph Cooper, another occasional but friendly commenter on that blog). Immediately I knew I recognized "Cooper" from somewhere, and it didn't take me long to remember where.

"Brady" often resorted to certain unique phrases. One of his favorites for me was "o purveyor of filth" or "o purveyor of dirt." Not "oh," but "o". He harped on "why don't you request a meeting with Dr. Gaines?" and sarcastically called people "spiritual giants." RM used the same tired arguments, using much the same wording, not only with me but with Tom Rich of the FBC Jax Watchdog blog. Now, "Cooper" was using some of those same catch phrases on The Wartburg Watch. His "pet name" for them was "o glorious wenches." Again, not "oh," but "o". Here is a collection of some of "Cooper's" work. More than once he claimed he is living on welfare.

It was evident from all these men's writings that they were especially angry towards women. Perhaps they had issues with their mothers. Or perhaps there was an ugly divorce in one or more of their backgrounds. Whatever the reason(s), the venom just dripped from "Brady's" comments and e-mails to me. And I just smiled, knowing that eventually he'd slip up.

Well, folks, it took a while, but a few weeks ago he slipped up.

Randy McDonald's "church" seems to be no more. In fact, the phone number in the ads for the church turned out to be his personal cell phone number, and the address for the "church" changed several times.

Dr. McDonald's main occupation seems to be refereeing tennis matches for high schools and small colleges, and he has a blog. Perusing the front page recently I discovered this gem:

"In order to fully enjoy all our blessings, I am taking my two children (Brady on the left, and Phoebe on the right) to the lake today so they can chase ducks and swim all they want... "

"Brady," huh? Coincidence?

Recently an anonymous poster calling himself "Plano Man" showed up on Christa Brown's blog. Want to guess where RM lives now that he's single again? Here are some of his comments. Note his use of the phrase "o glorious Pharisees."

If there was any doubt at that point, the pieces all came together when McDonald posted this collection of articles on his blog. (Or here should those articles mysteriously disappear.)

I suppose you've figured out where I'm going with this. If it isn't obvious by now, "RM," "Brady," "Cooper," and "Plano man" (and I strongly suspect some others who've recently posted on the WW -- "Maude," "Jeff," and "Silly Boy") are one and the same. The same man who claims to be a Southern Baptist pastor and a personal friend of Dr. Rogers.

Many more interesting tidbits were learned about Dr. Randy McDonald by simply perusing the internet and further evidence of his multiple personalities was uncovered, but I think you've gotten a good idea of the heart of the man. It seems "truth in advertising" is an area Dr. McDonald stuggles with. In this 2001 letter to the Baptist Standard he claimed to have been the president of the SBTC (Southern Baptists of Texas Convention) board of directors for two years and a board member for five years. He was promptly called out by two people the following week, one being the man who actually was the first president of the then-three-year-old organization. Talk about having egg on your face! Not a pretty sight, is it? This kind of behavior was bad enough coming from A CErtain 20-year-old kid. Coming from a 62-year-old Ph.D.'d "pastor" it's beyond belief.

Today is Randy McDonald's birthday. Maybe it's time to "man up" and start acting your age, RM/Brady/Cooper/Plano Man/et al.