Scandals, much of our society has an insatiable appetite for them. As soon as one reaches the end of its news cycle, many look for the next. Long intervals between real scandals were once satisfied by the fake in tabloid journalism. But now with the debasement of America’s culture, these gaps are short lived. Spin doctors have had to expand their practices, the digital commandos of social media daily answer the call to bear keyboards.
While in these last days, scandals are arising in greater frequency, but their impact has lessened. As a young teenager, the first scandal I can remember was Watergate. I remember that it had shocked our nation and brought a reproach on the Office of the President. Twenty some years later, Bill Clinton committed a sexually immoral act in the Oval Office and some in our society defended him, while others held a lackadaisical attitude. The tolerance of his dishonorable behavior tarnished more than how other countries looked at America, it affected how Americans looked at our nation.
Isa. 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil…
Hollywood and Washington are two fertile breeding grounds for scandals, and one might think that sex and money would be the top two most popular scandals. No, the number one spot is reserved for scandals involving the church, a ministry, or a minister. Now sex and money may be involved, but nothing grabs public attention than when a preacher is the subject of scandal. Before any shred of evidence is made public the kingdom of darkness mobilizes. Before any verdict is issued, religion speaks out. Both find themselves partnered together, whether willingly in ignorance with the goal of hurting people and discrediting the Church. The pass given to a celebrity or politician, is withheld from a Preacher.
1 Timothy 5:19 Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it can be confirmed by two or three witnesses.
Recently our community was rocked by a scandal involving a local church. The Pastor was accused of committing a crime involving money My heart went out to the congregation as my family at one time had attended that church, and we still have friendship with some of them. Knowing the man and his family who were wronged, he followed Lord’s instructions (Matt. 18:15-17) before going outside the church.
1 Cor. 9:27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
While the Pastor will have to answer to the charges, the church leadership bears some responsibility to it getting as far as it has. They were correct when it was just the person wronged making the accusation, but when he was joined by two or three witnesses, they had a responsibility from the Lord, to rebuke fairly and in love, seeking to resolve the issue, and restore the relationship with the wronged, and restore back to his office of Pastor. But they did not do that. What they did was villainize the brother that was wronged.
1Tim. 5:20 But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that others may take warning.
When it became public knowledge, the leadership then chose to deny and decry any public outcry. But they were outnumbered and outposted as the digital commandos took to their keyboards and launched post faster than a knife fight in a phone booth. Overwhelmed, the church was forced to shut off commenting on their own social media sites. Many of the comments were so vile and venomous that it left little doubt as to who was influencing the people making them. But the one comment that spoke to the consequences of this Pastor’s actions was,
“This is why I have no interest in going to church or being a Christian.”
This brought both sadness and anger to me. In prayer I wept for this person. I wanted to find him and let him know that not every church, nor every Pastor is like this. I called and texted some of my friends still at this church. I let them know that I was praying for them and encouraged them. It was when I began to pray about the situation that I got a check inside. I knew that the Holy Spirit was not hooking up with my prayer. I could not pray that the charge would go away, there were legalities involved. Then one Sunday my Pastor chose to minister to us, from the Word, how we should pray.
Pray first for those who were hurt. People are trusting of minsters and leaders, and it is through this trust, that their ability to trust God is exercised and grows. As leaders we are to take seriously the responsibility of teaching and protecting those the Lord has entrusted to us. Any conduct that would cause someone to turn away can hurt their lives. (Matt. 18:6,7)
Pray for the family of the one who has sinned. I can remember the moment that me and my wife learned of the situation, our hearts went out to the family. When there is a spouse and children involved, they become collateral damage. Suspicion rises, the spouse is looked at as having known. And then children are often the victims of the sharpest tongue.
Pray for other Christians. When something like this happens, new or young believers become tempted to turn away. Whether it be from embarrassment of association or doubt that this new life in Christ is real. In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he tells us that during his imprisonment that others were preaching the gospel from envy and strife, they were taking advantage of Paul’s situation. We saw this with this church. Some churches in the area sought after the confused and discouraged members as numbers to add to their own rosters.
Pray for unbelievers. I touched on this earlier with the person that said that this was why he did not want to be a Christian. At a time like this all churches, all Christians need to conduct themselves with wisdom toward those outside. There is no excuse for joining in with worldly condemnation and slander, but walking in love and unity will testify to our Lord’s wonderful grace.
Pray for the fallen leader. That he be filled with godly sorrow that leads to true repentance, and that God would grant him repentance that will lead him to the knowledge of the truth. That he would receive correction and that he would be restored to the calling that has not changed.
Then lastly, we need to pray for ourselves. That we do not become tempted to look around the beam in our eyes to condemn the speck in another’s. Before we reach for a rock, check ourselves. Pastors are people just like us, they will make mistakes just like us. Love covers a multitude of sins. So, as we have received, we should extend.