Wednesday is for Prayer

Norwegian painter, Edvard Munch
Norwegian painter, Edvard Munch

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.

Moral Failure in the ChurchPray 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.

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6 thoughts on “Holiness and the Mega-Church

  1. This kind of spiritual declension of which we must all guard against has touched my family in a very tragic way. My brother-in-law actually lost his life due to the sin in which he entangled himself while serving as a minister in a small church. Many warned him but he failed to turn away until it was too late. His death rocked our family and the community of believers. I know only too well that what you preach here is the truth. Heed the warning, my brothers and sisters! Pray without ceasing for those in positions of leadership because Satan is very good at what he does and we are more vulnerable than we realize.

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    1. So sorry to hear of your loss and the personal tragedy in your family. I hope your sister is surrounded by brothers and sisters who have helped her pick up the broken pieces of her life and directed her heart to the Spotless Lamb of God.

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      1. Thank you, Marty. Yes, this trial has certainly brought her closer to the One who loves her perfectly and He is getting all the glory for the great things He is doing through such a tragedy; bringing beauty out of ashes. (Isaiah 61)

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  2. Amen Marty! When restoration of our wounded brothers is our goal, then grace and mercy will be available for us to help them while understanding our own need to cast ourselves continually upon God’s grace and mercy. I think the ‘cockroach syndrome’ is perhaps a greater sin in the eyes of God than the moral failure of leaders. The later is an issue of lust and greed, the former borders on murder! Thanks for your wise post brother.

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    1. I had not thought of that brother, but I think you are right. A critical spirit does border on murder and the internet is riff with it. God give us grace to choose a different path.

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