Former Gateway Church Pastor's Endorsement Worth a Lot in Texas Politics

Update: In the Texas GOP State Representative race, Capriglione is easily defeating Mizani. At this writing with 458/705 precincts reporting, Capriglione has 11,224 votes and Mizani is far behind with 6,663. It doesn’t appear that the endorsement described below is having much of an impact.
………………………………………
Gateway Church still has some clout. Even though the church has laid off staff and Pastor Robert Morris’ children have left for church plants elsewhere, local politicians still want endorsements from Gateway-connected pastors. Here is a letter of sent by Texas State House of Representatives candidate Armin Mizani in his primary race against fellow Republican State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione (R-Southlake) touting the endorsement of former Gateway Church worship leader Walker Beach.

Beach doesn’t even live in Keller anymore. He is a pastor in Florida. However, apparently the Gateway name and aura still carries some weight in politics.
In the rarefied world of Southlake’s House District 98, one can’t be too conservative. According to a GOP insider in the area, Capriglione’s sin was voting for Joe Straus for Speaker of the House. Straus is conservative but blocked the “bathroom bill” which would have required people use public bathrooms consistent with their birth assigned sex. More specifically, the bill would have repealed anti-discrimination ordinances for LGBT people in Texas cities. Local Tea Party supporters wanted Scott Turner as the Speaker. Since Turner didn’t have the votes, Capriglione supported Straus, much to the consternation of the local tea partiers. Thus, Mizani has emerged as an alternative to punish Capriglione.
Even though Capriglione is sympathetic to the same ends, those pushing Mizani want him to roll back protections for LGBT citizens and any number of other Tea Party objectives.

Gateway Business Leaders to Feature Credit Card Mogul

_MG_2556Remember the Gateway Church program that puts a bullseye on rich people? Despite (or maybe because of) the layoffs and other woes at Gateway, the church is still hunting for rich folks via the Gateway Business Leaders program. On March 1, Gateway will feature two successful businessmen as a way to attract “C-level” business leaders with, as former Gateway pastor Bobby Bogard put it, “influence and large capacities of wealth.”

Gateway Business Leaders

Here is the announcement:
Gateway Biz Leaders
Notice that the last fellow, Jimmy Blanchard, started the largest credit card company in the world. This should make him less than a popular figure around the Gateway ranch since the church has been a big fan of Dave Ramsey’s credit card discouraging financial advice. However, given his influence and large capacity for wealth, he probably has one rather large bullseye on him.

Healthy in So Many Different Ways?

Not so long ago in January of 2017, Pastor Bobby Bogard was touting the health of Gateway. Now, with the layoffs of about 35% of the staff, he is no longer at the church. As a reminder of the rationale for the Gateway Business Leaders program, here is Bogard talking about Gateway’s “grace lane” to the rich and influential.

Transcript:

Gateway Church will be 17 years old this Easter.  We’re a spirit filled Charismatic church without the weird or the goofy.  I’ve seen the weird and the goofy, believe me in  my charismania days.  Um, we have over 30 thousand in attendance on a weekly basis.  That’s six campuses, with 26 services. I say all that to say this, big is not always better.  Big is not better. But what we are at Gateway Church is we’re healthy and I wanna talk to you about healthy church.  We’re healthy in so many different ways.  And health is probably one of the main ingredients of our success.  In all of the growth that we’ve taken place we’ve remained a healthy organization and a healthy church.  A healthy ministry.  A healthy people.  A healthy staff.  Healthy pace.  And so, part of our secret sauce is that we’re healthy.  Our goal is to become healthy, not to fill buildings with people.  Because here’s the deal.  If we can become healthy, we will see people filled with God, and then the principle of ‘healthy things grow’ right?  So that’s a value that we hold.  Healthy things grow.  And so church growth is really a byproduct of a healthy church.
Number two is people.  We’re all about people.  That’s our slogan, it’s been our slogan from the very  beginning.  I’m gonna drill down to some of this in just a minute.  I wanna fly by on a 30,000 foot view, okay?   But, we’r e all about people.  And the reason we’re all about people is because  God’s all about people. Am I right?  And so if we’re all about people because God’s all about people, it’s because we know God loves people, and if God loves people  we need to love people.  But how many of you know, sometimes, in our journey we love Jesus with all of our heart.   Right?  It’s just some of the people He hangs out with that we have a  problem.  C’mon somebody?  And so, God loves people.  I love what Johnny shared, man.  I love the fact that John Maxwell is passionate about a million souls, because souls are people.  People have problems.  People have issues. People have transition.  But God loves them in every season of their life.  He never turns himself away from people.  And so, if you help people, God will send you more people, because God loves people. I’ll say that again.  If you love people and you help people, God will send you more people.  Why?  Because God loves people.
And so as we, as we, look at health, and as we look at people, there are some considerations that we go after in preparing ourselves to be healthy and to love people.  And that’s number one is: We’re always asking ourself, who is are target?  Who’s our bullseye?  Do you know who your bullseye is?  Your bullseye, not that you’re not gonna reach all people, because we’re gonna reach all people.  We’re gonna be all things to all people, to reach all people.  But there’s something that God has gifted you with.  There’s a Grace Lane that you have.  And that Grace Lane is directed to a bullseye.  And who is your bullseye?  Who are the people God’s called you to reach?
And so, as we look at our bullseye, God has called us, to reach professional people.  That’s our bullseye.  We’re still gonna help the down and out.  We do it every week.  We’re still gonna help single moms.  We do it every week.  We-we’re still going to uh, look and help marriages and blended families.  We’re gonna work through their issues.  But our bullseye is the business professionals.  Matter fact, in one of our depart- we have a whole department that’s built towards reaching business people.  I’m talking about people with influence and large capacities of wealth.  That’s our bullseye because we feel like that’s something God’s graced us to do.  And if we can reach our bullseye, it will create a ripple, if you will, so that we can reach the others more effectively.

 

Top Ten Blog Posts of 2017

In 2017, the following ten posts received the most page views:
10. K-LOVE’s Pledge Drive: Money Behind the Music (2017)
9. Former Newsping Pastor Perry Noble Incorporates Second Change Church (2017)
8. American College of Pediatricians v. American Academy of Pediatrics: Who Leads and Who Follows? (2011)
7. After the Demise of Mars Hill Church Mark Driscoll Landed on His Feet with Over One Million in Donations (2017)
6. IRS and Postal Service Agents on Scene at Benny Hinn’s Office (2017)
5. Mark Driscoll Spins the End of Mars Hill Church (2017)
4. A Major Study of Child Abuse and Homosexuality Revisited (2009)
3. Former CFO at Turning Point Claims David Jeremiah Used Questionable Methods to Secure a Spot on Best Seller Lists (2015)
2. What’s Going on at Harvest Bible Fellowship? James MacDonald Resigns as President of HBF (2017)
and the #1 post is:

  1. Open Letter to Gateway Pastor Robert Morris from a Former Member of Mars Hill Church (2014)

 
Some past posts have aged well. The 2009 post regarding child abuse and non-heterosexuality has been in the top ten nearly every year since 2009.counseling image 2 Readers continue to be interested in Mars Hill Church and various players surrounding the demise of that church.
Although the page views don’t show it, the story that continues to be covered here and almost nowhere else is the Gospel for Asia saga. The target of federal scrutiny and two RICO lawsuits in the U.S., GFA has also initiated and been involved in various legal actions in India. Although the scope of the GFA empire dwarfs other organizations I have examined, it continues to fly along under the radar.
For a profile of my work and the role blogging has played in it, see this lengthy article by Jon Ward in Yahoo News earlier this month.

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The learn more about the sexual identity therapy framework, go here.

Robert Morris Announces The Table Church Plant in Austin

In September, I first disclosed that Gateway Church founding pastor Robert Morris’ son Josh was going to plant a church in Austin, TX. This news represented a sea change at Gateway because the plan had always been for Josh to take over Gateway when Robert retired. This past weekend, the elder Morris made it official and announced to the Gateway congregation that the plant in Austin was happening.
The church, to be called The Table Church, is slated in early 2019 to open in the second wealthiest area of Austin: the Lakeway/Bee Cave area.  Morris will be assisted by Chad Sykes and Cole Novak. Morris disclosed this change and others this weekend and posted his announcement on the church Facebook page earlier today:

(Transcript at the end of the post)
It will interesting to see how this happens over time. Planting a church requires financial commitments and this means that Gateway is apparently going to expand just after a significant and painful staff downsizing.
Morris then outlined the new lineup of campus pastors.
GW pastors
Looks like there are already several good churches in the neighborhood. I wonder why Morris targeted this one?
 
Transcript:

I want to let you know, some changes, that are coming up, before I go into the message. And that is, that, um, we’re making some transitions with some campus pastors, so I’m gonna introduce to you all the campus pastors in a moment, just by at least showing you their pictures.  Most of them are not able to be here.  They’re at the campus. But we’re also making a transition here at the uh, Southlake campus with our campus pastor.
Pastor Josh Morris has been serving as the campus pastor of the Southlake Campus uh, but I wanna get you the, give ya a little behind the scenes, um, information on this.  Uh, about 3 to 4 years ago, um, I started feeling like that Pastor Josh might be, in 10 to 12 years, my successor and to take the church here.  And so I talked to the Elders about it. And we began preparing him for that. Putting him in, in different departments. We have two succession plans in essence.  One for when I’m 63-65, which is like 30 years from now, ya know, so.
But, ha, but the other uh emergency plan, ya know, if an airplane went down or something like that and um.  And it’s like life insurance. Ya hope ya never have to use it but ya oughta be wise and have it in place. So, uh, we were preparing him for that. And in August he came and met with me and said, ‘Dad, I just um, I just don’t have peace about, uh, taking the church at, just,  I feel stress when I think about it. And, um, I’ve been talking with Hannah and Hannah asked me, ‘would you ever want to plant a church.’ And he said, I actually said, ‘No. I don’t think I want to do that’. And he said but it’s been kind of going off in me and now the Lord’s actually put a city on my heart. And, but I need to talk to you and see what God is saying. Ya know, through you.
And I said, ‘Well, I think then since God is stirring this, then that’s the way we need to go. Um, God will take care of whoever is to uh,  take my place when it’s time. Uh, we’ll get back on a succession plan, for whoever God says.  Uh, but he’s praying about it.  I felt strongly as well, that this is what God is speaking to the Elders, all the Elders prayed.  We felt the word from the Lord.  So, next summer, they’re goin- Josh and Hannah, will move to Austin, Texas and plant a church in our state capital.
So, also Chad Sykes will be an Associate Pastor there and then Cole Novak is going to go to be the worship pastor, Cole wrote the song Open the Heavens that we sing, that’s all over now. I was actually listening on uh, the uh Christian radio station that’s on the XM Satellite and I thought, I know that song.  And I know that kid too, ya know, so uh, so, I just, I know these people. So, ah. Um, so anyway.  So we’re beginning to start making that transition. It won’t be called Gateway Church because there’s already a Gateway Church in Austin and it might be confusing, we felt like. Um and like  we pra- planted Preston, and we, we called that Gateway Church. But we planted Tim Ross in Irving and called it Embassy Church. So It’s going to be called Table Church.  Uh, ya know Pastor Josh has something in his heart about coming to the table and the Lord’s table.  And then just fellowship around the table.
So it’ll actually be Table dot Church. So if you know of someone in Austin, the church will probably start around the first of 2019, but there are a lot of moving parts to that. But they’ll move this next summer to get started and build the Lead Team and things like that. So, I’m, I’m excited about it. I really am.
We still have an emergency succession plan in place, just so ya know, if something did happen to me. Um, a guy with a little bit of experience, Pastor Jimmy Evans, would actually step in. And take the church as the interim pastor and then, we’d find ya know, what God is saying.  So but.  Nothing’s going to happened ahem, so.  I’ll be around.  So.
Uh, but I wanted to let you know who then will be stepping in as the Southlake campus pastor. And so, you just stand up there, Pastor Mark Jobe, is gonna be the new Southlake campus pastor. So, uh. And I, uh, I prayed about it and I’ve known Pastor Mark for many years and of course Pastor Mark and Sandy and then you probably very familiar with Kari Jobe, his daughter and one of th-our worship pastors that travels and ministers and now lives in Nashville so she can travel more and do what God has called her to do with her husband.
And so, anyway. Um, uh, but, so I just wanted you to know all the campus pastors cuz there’s been some switching some around.  So if we can put that up. Where you an kind of see. So uh, the Dallas Campus, of course, is Pastor Tom Lane.  Uh, at the Frisco Campus, Jelaini Lewis, NOW at the Grand Prairie Campus there’s Pastor Steve Thompson stepping in for Pastor Mark Jobe. At the North Ft Worth Campus Pastor Mondoe Davis. Uhm, and then at the North Richland Hills, Pastor Stokes Collins and just to comment at North Ft Worth it was Pastor Marcus Brecheen.  He’s helping us now in the church network that we’re starting to help other churches. And then Pastor Stokes it was Pastor Byron Copeland. Pastor Byron is now overseeing all of the campus, campuses and campus pastors. You have to have someone in that spot to be able to oversee all of them. And then Mark Jobe at the Southlake campus.  So, I just wanted to make you aware of what was going on.
And then just put Josh and Hannah on your radar. I think, uh, you know, umm, I don’t mean to say this wrong. Lemme say this the right way.  The Enemy targets state capitals. (nods head) Would you agree with that? So, why not a church, let’s target it for the Kingdom of God. And um, see what we can make a difference there. So.
And the church is actually gonna be west.  Kind of west of Austin. But take in that whole west Austin portion Bee Cave Lakeway, if you’ve ever been down there it’s just a huge grow- growing area so. Awright.

Ted Cruz May Face Senate Challenge from Gateway Church Wing of TX GOP

Robert Morris and Ted Cruz Wilks BrosAccording to this column from Bud Kennedy, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) may face a challenge from the religious right. Bruce Jacobson, the VP of Media and Executive Producer of James Robison’s “Life Today” television show, is considering a primary run against Cruz.
James Robison is an apostolic elder at Gateway Church. Although I haven’t seen it, I have also heard that Gateway Church pastor Robert Morris made a video in support of Jacobson. Apparently Morris stopped short of an endorsement but was viewed as giving Jacobson a boost.
Given Gateway’s financial problems, I wonder who paid for the video.
According to a Facebook thread describing Jacobson’s possible run, the opposition to Cruz comes from Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.
If this potential revolt materializes, it would be a turn around for Robison and Morris who previously supported Cruz. Robison is on President Trump’s evangelical advisory committee and is said to have regular access to the President.
Cruz is already facing two primary challengers, Stefano de Stefano and Dan McQueen. Several Dem candidates are lined up in the primary to challenge him in the 2018 election but in Texas, the GOP primary winner will most likely keep the seat for the Republicans.
Jacobson’s challenge is reminiscent of David Barton’s flirtation with a 2013 primary challenge to Sen. John Cornyn. Barton’s Wallbuilders colleague Rick Green said Barton might run if he got enough Facebook likes.
In reading for this post, I was reminded of this line from Michael Gerson’s fine column in today’s WaPo.  Gerson said:

There is no group in the United States less attached to its own ideals or more eager for its own exploitation than religious conservatives.

Gerson then asks:

Do religious right leaders have any clue how foolish they appear?

I doubt they do, but they do. Jockeying for political power and influence is antithetical to the Gospel.
 

What's Going on at Gateway Church?

_MG_2556There are some interesting things happening around Gateway Church, the fourth largest church in America. Some sources inside and outside the church think more changes are coming for the Southlake, TX megachurch. First, a brief review.

Season of Pruning

I was first to report that Gateway Church planned to lay off as many as one-third of their staff and that the church was deep in debt. Gateway called this a “pruning” in preparation for growth. Apparently, the church is still in that season of pruning since the growth hasn’t come.
Here are two new items.

The Branding of Pastor Robert

Pastor Robert Morris appears to be differentiating himself from Gateway’s brand. He is populating a slick website — pastorrobert.com — and is doing the same with his sermons on a separate Youtube channel.  He also has a new radio brand with the Worship & the Word with Pastor Robert Morris product.
It seems unnecessary to put the sermons on a separate page since they already exist elsewhere. Perhaps having content available on the church website and a separate website serves Gateway in some manner. It could also be a sign of Pastor Robert following the branding example of Pastor Mark (Driscoll). Time will tell.

A New Church in the People’s Republic of Austin

Two sources have told me that earlier this month during the Gateway staff meeting, it was announced that Robert Morris’ son Josh is going to plant a church in Austin, TX. While that may not seem like much to outsiders; at Gateway, it is a sea change. Numerous former members have told me over the years that Rev. Morris’ son is the apparent heir to the throne at Gateway. The younger Morris is an engaging speaker and knows the church intimately. It seems reasonable that he might step in as his father moves toward more of a “Pastor Robert” brand. However, just as Rev. Morris is moving content and products toward “Pastor Robert,” Pastor Morris the younger appears to be heading for the People’s Republic of Austin.
It is hard to tell what to make of these items. Perhaps these moves are not related to the financial woes of Gateway. Whether or not they are related to the financial issues, it might be wise for members to ask how the church can afford re-branding and a church plant when other promised projects are on hold.

James Robison: Are We Going to Rip Amazing Grace from Hymnal Because John Newton Was a Slave Trader?

Gateway Church apostolic elder and member of Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board, James Robison, today asked God if Amazing Grace should be removed from the hymnbook because John Newton was a slave trader. Although he doesn’t mention Confederate statues, in a video titled, What Must We Do When All Hell Breaks Loose, Robison appears to signal his views on removing symbols of the past. Watch:

He first asks God to release healing and asks for peace, joy, and wisdom. He quickly goes to preaching and seems to debate God over Confederate symbols. At 3:38, Robison says:

We’ve made many mistakes; we have failed throughout history, but Father to go back and root up and tear down every memory, even of those who failed but perhaps were moved to positive change. Are we going to rip Amazing Grace out of every hymnbook because John Newton was a slave trader? Are we gonna go back and attack Wilberforce because he was a member of a parliament in Great Britain that once encouraged and supported slavery? Are we gonna refuse to recognize what you did in spite of our wrong when your grace moved us to respond to your wisdom and apply it? As it has happened in our country, help us to move away from the horrors of the past and the wickedness of things that were in place far too long. And thank you for the corrections that have come and stand against all hatred, all racial tension and division. Even the sectarian, and political and partisan divide. God would you move us together to be a family.

He then prays for Christians to unite and not use the Bible as a “club.” Finally, he asks his audience to trust God for a miracle.

What Does His Prayer Have to Do with Charlottesville?

While Robison didn’t mention the Charlottesville protests, his words certainly point to that context. His prayer is unusual in that he seems to make a case to God that there is a problem with rooting up symbols from the past. The symbol at issue in Charlottesville was the statue of Robert E. Lee. Although Robison didn’t defend the Lee statue directly, it seems reasonable to think he was referring to efforts to remove the statue.
The problem is that none of what Robison prayed relates directly to the Lee statue in Charlottesville. John Newton was a slave trader but did change his mind late in life and supported Wilberforce’s effort to end the slave trade. Wilberforce and the British parliament is an even further stretch for a comparable situation. Wilberforce helped bring the slave trade to an end in Britain. Despite the Lost Cause myths surrounding Lee, he wasn’t a figure who should be honored with a tribute. In any case, Lee wasn’t a hero and didn’t end up on the right side. Perhaps, Robison has been a victim of bad history.
According to Robert Morris, the pastor at Gateway, Robison has Donald Trump’s personal cell phone number and takes his calls “two or three times per week.” Perhaps Trump’s stance on this issue has been informed by Robison and those who think like him. If so, I hope someone close to Robison can educate him about Lee and the pain those Confederate symbols cause to many African-Americans.
As for me, I continue to believe Christians should get behind the movement to remove Confederate statues and tributes from the public square and place them in museums or other locations where the evils of slavery and racism are described.

Why Does Gateway Church Charge for Entertainment and Pizza?

_MG_2556One of the arguments I often hear in favor of megachurches is that they offer so much more than a small church can. They have programs for every age and with all of the tithe money, they can create larger events involving more people for a larger impact. If that is true, then why charge for these events? Why not take in all of that money and then pay to give away the Gospel?
Let me take Gateway Church as a case in point.

Pizza is Extra at Gateway

Gateway Church took in about $139-million in 2016. By any measure, that is a substantial level of giving by those who believe in church. However, Gateway’s policy is to charge a fee to youth group members for their pizza at youth meetings. Members are asked to give more money to help students who can’t pay the fee. I don’t understand this from a church which takes in $139-million.

Entertainment is Extra at Gateway

Currently, Gateway Church is putting on Godspell as their summer musical production. However, tithing isn’t enough to get you a ticket. You have to pay from $10 to $26 for admission to the church to see the play. 

Gateway Church Godspell
In addition to giving your creative members something to do, this could be viewed as a community outreach. However, why couldn’t this be free to the public? Isn’t that what the funds are supposed to go for? Outreach?
There is another show I will mention but I do so not knowing if the show is a Gateway event or a Michael Jr. event (what does “organized by Gateway Church” mean?). Michael Jr. is a professional comedian who attends Gateway Church. He is planning a show at the church in September with admission prices ranging from $20 to $35. He also has some kind of formal relationship with the church and has given performances for free in the past. Perhaps, Gateway’s financial problems are worse than they are letting on.
If I was a giving unit at Gateway, I would wonder what is up. The church has funds to sponsor an inaugural gala but not a summer musical or pizza for youth group kids. I suppose the gala is one of those things that a small church can’t do, but then I don’t understand why any church should do that.
Consider the title an open question. Readers, let me know what I am missing. Perhaps Gateway is wisely spending the funds on lots of ministry. If so, it would be good for Gateway to open the books and let the members know where the funds are going. Mars Hill Church resisted that until the bitter end. It would be a shame if Gateway failed to learn from that situation.
 

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Gateway Church Now Pruning Senior Staff

_MG_2556Gateway Church is still pruning the vine.
I confirmed today that Associate Senior Pastor Bobby Bogard has been let go at Gateway. Bogard was the head of Gateway Network and the pastor who famously said God had given Gateway a mission to rich people. In a speech earlier this year Bogard said:

And so, as we look at our bulls eye, God has called us, to reach professional people.  That’s our bulls eye.  We’re still gonna help the down and out.  We do it every week.  We’re still gonna help single moms.  We do it every week.  We-we’re still going to uh, look and help marriages and blended families.  We’re gonna work through their issues.  But our bulls eye is the business professionals.  Matter fact, in one of our depart- we have a whole department that’s built towards reaching business people.  I’m talking about people with influence and large capacities of wealth.  That’s our bullseye because we feel like that’s something God’s graced us to do.

If it is also true as I have been told that many of Bogard’s former staff have also been let go then the Gateway Network may have some trouble hitting the bulls eye.
The website still has Bogard’s bio but I was told that there have been so many changes that the IT department is having trouble keeping up.
Two sources from the mega-church community have informed me that more layoffs and changes may be coming in October.
Gateway’s troubles may not end there. Gateway sold bonds to help finance rapid growth and some of those are going to come due over the next several months. Some of the 55-million in debt that Gateway leaders reported earlier this summer might be related to the maturity of those bonds. Alas, if the church doesn’t have the funds to make good on those commitments then there may be more pruning to come.
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Gateway Tightens Belt More, Discloses Large Debt to Staff

Staff at Gateway Church are being asked to tighten their budgets even more as the church is working to reduce $55-million in debt.
According to sources in the Gateway Church Ministry Staff meeting earlier this week, pastor Todd Lane said that budgets would be cut by 10%.
The church had earlier disclosed significant staff cuts. Of late, sources within the church have said that additional cuts have gone as high as 50% of staff in some departments.
On the up side, pastor Tom Lane showed pictures of his visit to the White House. The picture below comes from Rodney Howard-Browne’s Facebook page (Lane is the last person on the right).
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