I sit here in my study with a book that I had cause to dig out today as I was listening to the latest episode of the Holy Post podcast. This particular podcast discussed among other topics the continuing fallout from the leadership crisis that has hit one of the largest churches in America and kind of the ‘independence day mothership’ of the megachurch movement.
If you’re in the evangelical bubble, you’ll know precisely the church and the celebrity pastor that I’m talking about. If you’re not, it adds nothing to my point to name names. The new information I heard today, was that it seems that some allegations regarding inappropriate behavior towards female staff occurred as early as the late 80’s. Nothing of course was done about it because this person’s ministry was oh so ‘fruitful’ (read: effective).
It is worth also noting that despite all the allegations and the resignation of basically the entire senior staff of the church and organization, no actual confession has since been forthcoming. Nonetheless, it’s hard not to have something like this bring up the following question, regardless of the eventual result of investigations.
Back to the book on my desk. It is a book that was given to me and Alycia as we were doing our pre-marriage counseling. Ie; it’s a book for new couples to prepare them for marriage. It is a book written by someone who is now embroiled in a scandal. Today, after hearing the podcast I couldn’t help myself, I had to dig it out and find out when the book was authored. It turns out that the first print run was 1994. So, here’s the sum up; there is ‘Christian’ relationship/marriage advice being given by a person who may well have been persistently and consistently unfaithful, at least in the way the sermon-on-the-mount defines it.
It’s hard to know now what to do with this text. A bit like the Bill Cosby book on Fatherhood sitting on my shelf that I haven’t gotten around to throwing out yet.
This evening as I recounted my day to my wife, she asked a question which I think we struggle with (and will struggle with) more often than we’d like to think:
“What do you do with the life’s work of one who has fallen?” Especially when some of that work was so brilliant and helpful.
I took a long pause, thought hard and eventually answered: “We read the Psalms don’t we?” I’m aware it’s not a theologically watertight answer. But it’s the best I’ve got.
If I have been to 50 funerals I would say that about 25 of them would have had Psalm 23 read out at some point. Who would have known that the author of those words would eventually be going to have one of the most cataclysmic (and now famous) moral falls in the history of this planet? Yet we read it nonetheless and find huge comfort, not because of the person who wrote it but because what it speaks of is true no matter who’s mouth it came out of.
This is precisely why it is of the first importance that the only ‘biblical hero’ we have is Jesus/God himself. God is not limited by the failing of those whom he chooses to use and moreover, just because someone is extremely gifted does not mean that they do not struggle with sin. Sin is crouching at every leader’s door it desires to have him or her possibly even more than most. Therefore, if you hitch your entire spiritual wagon to a particular author, speaker, guru then what’s left when they do something that reveals their brokenness? 3 years ago I wrote in my journal these words: “If your faith rests on the opinions of men, what happens to your faith when those men prove unworthy to hold that opinion?”
The wonderful news is, that if God can redeem and restore David, he can do so for anyone. This is not to for one moment make light of anything that may have occurred to anyone on a position of vulnerability in a church context. But it is to say that nothing about the situation caught God off guard.
Many people are calling for us to pray for the church that has been affected, I have heard calls to pray for those who have made allegations and rightly so. Even prayer for the leader at the center of it all. But there’s an invisible victim. You see, what particularly grieves me about the ‘marriage book’ on my desk is that it is not a single author. It’s not just another American celebrity pastor resource. It is co-authored by he…..and his wife. Who’s praying for her? Because you know how the saying doesn’t go; “next to every great man is a great woman.” If you know the situation I refer to, pray for her too.
This brings me to the plank in my own eye. When I see things like this happen I pray that I may not completely blow it. I pray that I might remain aware of how deceitful my own heart is and that I am no less susceptible to bringing dishonor to the name of Jesus.
I have been given more than I could have ever dreamed of by God, and I would give it all for a solid guarantee that I will never fall. Since we cannot know the future, there is no such guarantee, and maybe that’s one of the most effective ways of God keeping me on my knees. For until we learn how to pray on our knees, we will never be able to pray whilst standing tall.