Spare me the story of how Francis Chan and David Platt are suffering for Jesus. They have nothing on Smyrl.
Twenty years ago if he would have fallen into disfavor with the heavies at FBC Jax, one minute he would be there then "poof" gone the next. When they wanted you gone, you were gone, like Alfredo in "Godfather II". But with the magic of technology, we've been able to watch what happened to Jim Smyrl almost real time, and best of all the church leaders couldn't control the message. They couldn't whisper in people's ears and shape how people viewed Jim. Instead, we were able to follow Jim real time, this blog got the word out early and often about what was happening. We saw an uglier side of Jim's former boss and son through their tweets about him, and we've been able to even discuss his departure and new church plant non-stop. He's been able to get the word out about his church plant at virtually no cost, and to tweet his transformed views of church and ministry.
Imagine - Jim didn't need Maurilio to fly in and design a website and LHBC marketing campaign, or make "Fresh" banners and stich fruit vendor aprons to be stretched across the stomachs of the ushers (ok, not everyone will get that - think - April 2006, "Fruit of the Spirit"...."Fresh").
I have been critical of Smyrl for some of his views and statements about Catholics, priests, Muslims, Obama voters, his exaggerations about a FBC Dallas commercial, and his criticism of Lifeway for selling "The Shack". He is a staunch storehouse tithing teacher - believes it is a sin from which one must repent for not giving 10% of their income to their church - he says so in this Theology Driven Ministry materials.
But when I read some of his Tweets, it seems that now that he has abruptly had to leave FBC Jax, he is beginning to see things differently...not so much theologically, but how he views ministry and church and service and lay people.
For example here is a sampling of his Tweets the past month:
Jim has decided to be bivocational. I'm told that this is not just a short-term thing, like taking a job until he can get enough revenue to go back full time as Les Puryear planned earlier this year. No, Jim believes his calling is to be bivocational, and not to spend precious dollars on large salaries and buildings. If this ever catches on (won't be in my lifetime), Jim can say "I was bivo when bivo wasn't cool".
Then this tweet:
Interesting. I hope that he shares his transformation with his congregation, and with other pastors.
Jim and his family are selling their home - apparently they are downsizing. Unheard of. I didn't think I'd ever see the day when a mega church pastor would actually take a pay cut, move to a smaller house, and not look for the next big gig with a land deal and beach condo. I hope you do well at your new job, Jim, and make the big bucks and buy a house larger than the one you had. Maybe you can even buy Mac's house when he moves and you're a VP at your bank.
One of my favorites:
I assume that is a reference to Mac's habit of retweeting all the nice things others say about him. Kinda creepy.
And this one:
Jim is realizing that things in the church are pretty cush; that all the things pastors complain about like anonymous emails, complaining church members, and egads, having to speak 2 or 3 times in a WEEK...are all minor inconveniences. He is now in the real world where the church members he's been preaching to for 23 years spend the overwhelming majority of their waking hours.
Another classic from Smyrl as he gets ready for his first day on the job in corporate America:
Yep. He realizes now that at work, he is not "God's man". His coworkers, and his customers, and his bosses, don't give a hoot about his Ph.D. in preaching as it has no practical relevance to the banking industry. He is not "Doctor Smyrl", he is "Jim". His bosses don't care what he thinks about whether Hebrews was written by Paul or James or Luke. His critics will not be recalcitrants, they will be customers he must serve. His bosses will want results. He may even get anonymous feedback from within his company on whether he does his job well, and he won't be able to spit on them and throw them in the trash can as Jerry Vines said he does. They will measure his performance and productivity. Jim now lives where the hardworking church members work, the ones that paid his salary for the last 23 years.
Yes, welcome to our world, Jim. But it is not bad. It is hard work, but it is good work. You are now a contributing member to our economy. You are not living solely off the nickels of people giving their money to God. You will pay full taxes on your income, and you get no housing allowance.
Good luck to you, Jim, and to those who are brave enough to leave their comfort zone known as First Baptist Church of Jacksonville to join you at LHBC. I think they will find it incredibly refreshing to be away from what is going on these days at First Baptist Jax. Sometimes we don't know the tyranny under which we exist and tolerate until we remove ourselves, or are removed, and go elsewhere.
I hope your experience at FBC Jax will make you more humble, more appreciative of hard-working lay people, and that you will share your experience and what you learned with as wide an audience as possible to continue to make a difference.
We'll be following your church's progress. And maybe I'll pop in some Sunday to say hi.