Wednesday is for Prayer
I once met a man who collected the names of former pastors who had destroyed their own ministry and marriages by sexual or financial misconduct or relational abuse of power. The inside cover of his Bible was nearly black with ink and he was about to start a new list on the back-inside cover.
Recently, the news of a number of mega-church pastors stumbling into gross abuse of power, infidelity, and pornography has made national news. Some have taken this turn of events with hand-rubbing glee, as a chance to dump more scorn and abuse on the mega-church phenomenon or the pastors of all mega-churches, or the Church in general, or pastors as a group. Critics multiply like cockroaches.
Multiplying cockroaches may mean that there is a food source to feed on but it doesn’t mean cockroaches are paragons of virtue and wisdom.
I have seen many small church pastors stumble in exactly the same way and even house church leaders. It isn’t a “big-church-produces more” issue but a “big-church-produces-more-notoriety-and-public-scandal” issue.
David is the only man in all of Scripture who is called a “man after God’s own heart” and he stumbled in his abuse of power, infidelity, and pride. I take it then, that none of us, male or female, is more than an opportunity away from stumbling in the same way.
Cultivate your passion for Christ, every day. Cultivate it. Cultivate your love for your spouse every day. Keep the passion for holiness at a high pitch or run the risk of spiritual bankruptcy. At our church, we write it into every job description and make it a part of performance reviews, “Maintain a visible, vital, and easily discernible love for Christ and his Kingdom“ and “Maintain a visible, vital and easily discernible love for spouse and family.“
It is the PRIMARY job description for all our people. We hired them because they can do the tasks assigned, but if either of these two primary responsibilities are out of line, it will destroy their ministry and much more.
Pray for these brothers and sisters who have fallen and command media scorn. But use their fall to warn your own soul of the dangers of spiritual declension. Ministering out of hypocrisy is dangerous not only to the body of Christ but to our own souls.
And let’s end the speculation and opinionated made-up percentages to paint all pastors or all mega-church pastors with the same dark palette. I heard one blogger say “98% of all pastors are ego-maniacs.” These kinds of percentages plucked out the thin air are an insult to the thousands and thousands of faithful servants of God. They aren’t based on research or knowledge but personal conjecture. And they aren’t helpful. At the same time, Jesus implied that moral failure in the ministry would happen.
In fact, the warning that we get in the New Testament is clear. Both from the mouth of Jesus (“it shall not be so among you” [Lk. 22:24-27]) and Paul in his warning to the Ephesians elders, (“from your very midst … savage wolves will arise” [Acts 18]), and the evidence of the task theology of the epistles, every one of them addressing problems in the early church and many of them involving leadership, —all of these are proof enough that these are not new problems.
Narcissism and authoritarianism is a huge problem in all leadership both inside and outside the church. But the size of churches is not the determinative factor. I have seen extremely abusive small churches as well as house church leaders. We might expect more from leaders but we shouldn’t be surprised that we get less. The material God uses is human, sinful, in need of redemption, sanctification, and grace. So let me say it again.
Instead of jumping on the critical bandwagon, let’s pray for these brothers and sisters. Show some mercy. But use their fall to warn your own soul of the dangers of spiritual declension. Ministering out of hypocrisy is dangerous not only to the body of Christ but to our own souls.