Once again the sexual sins of a major-league Christian leader have recently hit the headlines. Everyone was shocked. The sinner's family has been devastated. They will suffer the most as a result of his deliberate sin. A local church is suffering. The secular press has endlessly plumbed the depths of the man's hypocrisy. And the wider Christian community has been given a big black eye. The minister was immediately relieved of all leadership responsibilities. Credit the church governing board and others for acting swiftly. Now we're waiting to see how all of this will play out over time.
Several months ago a similar event happened at the church I attend. In this case it was a staff minister of music and worship caught in an adulterous relationship. It didn't receive the level of media attention as the above situation, but none-the-less it had a devastating impact on the man's wife and family, participants in the music ministry, church membership and attendees, and to some extent on the wider community. Sad! Sad! Sad! Discouraging, disheartening, disgusting, depressing.
Considering all of this, several thoughts popped into my mind:
First: Situations like this are not uncommon. It's a sad fact that through the years pastors and Christian leaders and many “ordinary Christians” have chosen to become involved in sexual sins with all of the horrendous consequences that result. We've seen it in the past. We will see it again in the future.
Second: I'm somewhat surprised that the revelations of sexual sin come as such a shock to people. Certainly we expect all professing Christians, and especially our leaders to live up to a high standard, and the overwhelming majority do. But the Bible is very clear and direct in informing us that we are all sinners saved by God's grace, and that includes our leaders.
We resist accepting the degree to which the Bible emphasizes human depravity. Check out Romans 3:9-18. Romans is the sixth book in the New Testament. Look it up and read the entire passage. There the Apostle Paul quotes passages from the Psalms that drive the point home. “All, both Jews and Greeks are under sin . . . None is righteous, no, not one.” Of course I like to think that this applies to other people and not to me. It's hyperbole, right? No, that passage applies to me and to you. HOW WE NEED A SAVIOR, A REDEEMER, someone who has a remedy for our sin! Even as redeemed people the potential to sin remains. So don't act so shocked. Instead, take a look inside. Check out your own situation and relationships to be sure you are not living in a place of condemnation.
And as you move about the community here's a suggestion. If you are ever in a situation where someone confronts you about a Christian in the church you attend who has brought shame on the name of Jesus Christ due to sexual sin, or any sin for that matter, just smile, and admit what has happened. Then inform them that while the situation breaks your heart, your church is a place where sinners are welcome because it's a place where sin is confronted, where repentance is common, and people's lives are changed because the truth that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for their sin has life-transforming power. The church is where sinners find forgiveness, cleansing and restoration, and encouragement to get on with their lives in a way that brings glory to God and helps others to trust Him and live in a way that honors Him.
Third: The impact sexual sin has within a family is always devastating. My guess is that no matter how much counseling is endured, how much prayer is offered, how much positive progress is achieved in reestablishing love, trust and intimacy, there remains some degree of damage that is never repaired in this life. Life together – if a couple remains together – will never be what it could have been. The tragic results of deliberate sin linger on. And with regard to the first situation mentioned, how does a wife ever recover when she learns her husband is attracted to other men as much as he is attracted to her. (“Where's my snub-nose 38?” she cried.)
Fourth: We have got to overcome the tendency to worship our leaders. I'll bet the church in Colorado will ultimately look for another pastor just like the last one. They have an empty pedestal. I'll bet instead of tearing it down they will find a new leader they can hoist back on to it. It's likely that their whole approach to ministry requires a charismatic leader whom they can follow. We need to avoid that trap. We need to pray for our pastors and leaders, we need to encourage them, and we need to keep an eye on them.
Fifth: How do you restore someone who has fallen? How long does it take? In the first situation there are several high-powered religious leaders who have accepted the challenge of assisting in the restoration process. I pray that with God's help they will be successful. So now an intensive and extended process of counseling will be undertaken. Some have predicted it could take three to five years to complete. Maybe so.
I'm no expert, and while there probably are issues that require attention over many years, I believe the fundamental job of recovery can be accomplished promptly. This is where many, if not most people will strongly disagree with me. Here's my bias. In my estimation our evangelical culture tends to be a bit soft and effeminate when it comes to dealing with this kind of issue. We need a more direct, masculine approach that gets people more quickly back on the track of obedience.
Regarding the first situation, instead of choosing counselors primarily from ones own circle of mentors, choose a qualified person from another group. Let me get right to it. In stead of placing him under the care of someone like Jack Hayford (a wonderful, capable Christian pastor), I think the “client” would make more rapid progress in recovery under the supervision of someone like Jerry Falwell. The process would focus more directly and intensely on the issue at hand with less chance for subjective elements to muddy the counseling waters and unnecessarily extend the process. Too often the counseling process mandates the, “This process will take many years,” approach. Sometimes it even deteriorates into a kind of “flesh management program” that never ends. (See Romans 7)
Sure, we want to get at the root of the problem, and perhaps you have to muck around in the dark corners of the human psyche to do some of it, but the fundamental goal should be three-fold: Achieving a clear recognition of the sin committed, coming to the point of true repentance, and the gaining of some reasonable assurance that the “client” will never do it again. If you can accomplish those three major objectives – and it doesn't take forever to do it - you can safely release the counselee to resurface and function in public, and then deal with the remaining issues over the short or long term as necessary.
Now that you are totally disgusted with my crude, superficial, unenlightened, uninformed comments, please restrain yourself as best you can because I am about to reveal my true barbarian inclinations. Let me suggest a direct, effective initial path toward restoration with regard to the worship leader. I think three or four of the elders should have taken him out behind the church, in back of the dumpster, and beat the crap (you know with I really mean!) out of him with an intensity that would forever impress on him the significance and magnitude and unacceptability of what he had done. On second thought, recruiting a few of the guys on the parking crew would have been more effective. They have extensive experience dealing with the more raw, objective expressions of human perversity as they attempt to fulfill their traffic directing duties. They would be better prepared psychologically and physically to do what needed to be done.
It's amazing the power such an experience has to focus the mind and enable a fellow to grasp the enormity and gravity of the situation in which he finds himself. A person usually straightens up fast, and then, with a clear mind and in cooperation with counselors, professionally trained and certified and credentialed of course, they can iron out the remaining more delicate aspects of their situation over time.
Sad to say, the direct approach to behavior modification I'm suggesting is probably not feasible, in fact, it's probably against the law, so I am not recommending it. Shoot! Guess we'll have to get along with the, “This process will take many years.” approach.
I remember an incident many years ago when I was in the military. One fellow found it nearly impossible to take showers. His behavior developed into a major social problem within the community of G.I.'s. Subtle comments and gently offered suggestions were tried, but the offending guy ignored them. So one evening he experienced the direct approach. Yes he did! Several fellows grabbed him and, in spite of his strenuous efforts to escape he was dragged kicking and screaming into the gang shower, stripped of all his clothes and scrubbed down with a big brown-bristle brush and a bar of Fels Naptha soap.
After removing a couple of layers of his epidermis he was rinsed off, handed a towel and counseled that it would be a good idea for him to take showers on his own in the future. Guess, what? No more problem. From that time on he was Mr. Clean. He may have had other psychological problems needing attention, but the immediate problem was quickly and satisfactorily taken care. Oh, yes, there's nothing quite so effective as the direct approach.
Perhaps it's against our laws to be too direct in attempting behavior modification, but it seems to me the Lord does it. Remember Jonah's three days in the stinkin' belly of the big fish? Could the Lord be charged with evangelist abuse? The direct approach sure got Jonah to do what he needed to do. Sure, his attitude needed longer term attention, but his behavior sure changed fast. And for society at large that's what is most important. You can delve into his relationship with his mother, or the effect that his bed wetting experiences in high school had on him, but that's, as I like to put it, is something to consider after business hours.
And remember Jacob wrestling with the angel. The angel gave him a whack on the hip and Jacob walked with a limp for the rest of his life. Was that direct or what? A life-changing experience. Would you consider it patriarch abuse?
Peter denied the Lord three times, once with a curse. Now I know adultery is the mother of all sins, but denying the Lord, and that with a curse, is not something to brush aside. How long did that restoration process take? The Lord LOOKED at Peter, and Peter was crushed. Fifty days later, on the Day of Pentecost, he was the headline evangelist at one of the most important evangelistic crusades in history. He got THE LOOK and he never again denied the Lord.
I've never physically seen Jesus, but in the process of reading the Bible on several occasions by the Spirit of God I have gotten THE LOOK. Life is never the same after THE LOOK! You simply can't go back to your old way of living.
I'm in favor of repentance and restoration, and I prefer that it be sooner rather than later. I can think of a few who have experienced it. Sandi Patti's journey was not easy. It took some time, but she is back on the concert circuit. Three cheers for her. So is Michael English. And Jim Bakker is back on TV raising funds for a new international ministry center. So I expect to see a minister of music restored, and I don't think it should take a decade to do it and I want to know how it is progressing.
So what to do in the meantime? It troubles me that after a big Sunday expose, months go by with no mention of how he and his wife and family are progressing in the restoration process -if there is one. I haven't even been able to scratch up a morsel of gossip. If I could find out where he is working, if he is working, I might “bushwhack” him. I've had jobs where I sometimes had to take extreme measures to make my pitch to a prospect. So on a few occasions I just showed up unannounced at their place of work hoping I would get in to make my pitch. Sometimes it worked.
So I thought if I could find out where he works, someday I'd just march in and try to see him. If successful I'd tell him that I missed his ministry, that I thought his behavior was disgusting, that I hoped he was truly repentant, that he was making good progress in the restoration process, and that someday he would find a new place in ministry. Then I'd just ask how it was going. Maybe some day I'll do that, for my own satisfaction if for no other reason. Since I'm not getting any information through the church, maybe I should just take direct action myself and go to the source to find out what's happening.
In-the-meantime I have a three part prayer that I pray everyday. Assuming and believing that he is truly repentant, first I pray that he makes very positive and rapid progress in restoring the best relationships possible with his wife and family. Second, I pray that he makes very positive and sooner-than-later progress toward new opportunities for future Christian ministry to whatever extent the Lord has that planned for him. Third, that if he is not repentant but is continuing to walk in disobedience, that the Lord will beat the you-know-what out of him, and do it by delegating the job to a few husky members of the parking crew, or by whatever means He considers most appropriate.
I think that about covers it. It's time for me to take my medication and lie down for a little nap.