The Christian church has seen its share of scandal over the past 100 years. I will not list the priests from the Catholic Church who have been accused of sexual abuse of children. In the protestant churches we have a full slate of candidates for the “most scandalous” award:
- Aimee Semple McPherson, 1920s-40s
- Lonnie Frisbee, 1970s – 1980s
- Oral Roberts, 1977 and 1986
- Jim & Tammy Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart, 1986 and 1991
- Peter Popoff, 1987
- Mike Warnke, 1991
- Robert Tilton, 1991
- Frank Houston, 2000
- John Paulk, 2000
- Douglas Goodman, 2004
- Kent Hovind, 2006
- Ted Haggard, 2006
- Paul Barnes, 2006
- Richard Roberts, 2007
- Bishop Thomas Wesley Weeks and Juanita Bynum, 2007
- Bishop Earl Paulk, 2007
See the wikipedia article here.
And now we have a senate probe of six of the major “prosperity gospel” preachers (Kenneth & Gloria Copeland; Creflo & Taffi Dollar; Benny Hinn; Bishop Eddie Long; Joyce & David Meyer; and Randy & Paula White.) For more about this, check this ABC news article.
Some of the evangelists in the list at the top were accused of sexual misconduct, homosexuality, or financial impropriety. Many of the accusations were proved to be true. Some of those who were exposed publicly have now returned to “ministry” (Jimmy Swaggart, Peter Popoff, & Robert Tilton all come to mind.) Whether they are guilty or not, the effect upon the rest of us is the same: Every Christian suffered a “black eye” as a result of the publicity involved with these accusations.
In the Bible, Paul told the church at Corinth (2Cor 5:12) that he was living so that the church there would have an opportunity to be “proud of [him]” and that they would be able to defend him against the accusations of those who take pride in what is seen (rather than what is in the heart.)
It seems to me that we, as brothers and sisters in Christ, have the right to EXPECT a certain level of integrity in each other. That is not to say that we cannot possibly sin or that we will not – at times – fail to live up to our own expectations. But our PLAN should be to live in such a way that other Christians will be PROUD to call us a brother or sister in Christ.
And, when a LEADER in the church suffers a moral failure, they have a responsibility to the rest of us Christians to NOT go right back to the same position of leadership – especially if they have not undergone extensive counseling & rehabilitation.
- Luke 12:48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
- James 3:1 Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
In an article on the ARK (a Christian Church in York, UK), the writer comments on whether a fallen minister should be re-instated. He states, “it is not wise to put a man back in the position in which he has betrayed the church and corrupted the testimony of Jesus.” Then he summarizes, “Don’t be put off when fallen leaders are put out of ministry and disappear off the scene – this is done because Jesus loves the church and those who do it love the church like Jesus.”
The problem has now escalated to a point that many non-Christians have no faith in the Christian churches. (See Barna’s research report.) The result is that many of our secular acquaintances refuse to go to church because “it is just full of hypocrites and money-hungry preachers.” It is difficult – if not impossible – to reach the lost with the gospel in a culture of distrust.
In an article “Bridging the Trust Gap” on the Christianity Today website, Pastor Mark Jobe gives some good advice about restoring the trust of the people in our community.
- “Building trust requires putting down roots and establishing personal relationships. But a church also needs to establish a corporate relationship with its community, revealing genuine care for the needs around it.”
- In Jer. 29:7, the Jews’ “wellbeing was tied into the peace and prosperity of the city in which they lived. This is the second way to rebuild trust in a suspicious culture—genuinely care for the wellbeing of your community.”
I cannot change what has happened in the past but I can live for Christ today. And, I can start to rebuild the trust that has been lost.
Each of us should live so that other Christians will be PROUD to be our brother or sister. And, in our absence, they will stand up and represent us against our enemies and those who question the trustworthiness of the church.
Likewise, I must never entertain accusations against my brother or sister. Rather, I want to have confidence in all my Christian family that they will NOT live in such a way that brings reproach upon Christ, His church, or His people. I desire to be proud of each member of my Christian family.
We have a long way to go…