Just today (November 13, 2023) I saw three stories about high profile Christian leaders who engaged in less than exemplary conduct. What in the world is going on with high profile Christian leaders?
First, I scanned an article referring to Francis Shaffer’s alleged abuse of his wife (link: Do Any of Us Really Know Christian Leaders and Pastors? Francis Schaeffer Allegedly Abused His Wife, Edith Schaeffer. | The Wartburg Watch 2022). The article reads [in part]:
In 2016, I posted the following post below titled Why Would an Orthodox, Gospel, Holy Spirit Filled Theologian Like Francis Schaeffer Abuse His Wife? I asked some rather tricky questions with which I still struggle occasionally. The reason I reposted it was due to a conversation on Twitter in which a person was startled but appeared to accept Schaeffer physically and emotionally abused his wife, Edith. I offered to repost my thoughts, which I have done without deleting anything.
This post was written seven years ago, and abusive church pastors and leaders continue to be in the news. Some might say that the stories of abuse have increased. I would agree. I continue to be concerned that followers of celebrity leaders or even a small-town pastor with breathless adherents cannot or will not accept that their leaders have clay feet. These followers frequently tell me, “I know my pastor, and he would never do anything like that.”
I have often responded that unless one lives with a person 24/7, one does not know what goes on behind closed doors. Since then, we have watched the fall of Christian leaders like Ravi Zacharias and pastors like Andy Savage. My journey into Lutheranism has helped me deal with everything I see and must write about. Those who continue to believe must accept that we will continue to see both the powerful and the not-so-powerful fall. Each time I think of Martin Luther: “Simul justus et peccator.” We who understand this should understand that men like Zacharias and the 300+ pastors, as documented by the Houston Chronicle walk among us and use our naiveté to prey on the faithful.
Second, close to where my wife and I live (middle Tennessee) the Pastor of a high profile mega church (Christ Presbyterian Church in Nshville, Tennessee) is going to resign because of creating a toxic work environment (link: Pastor Scott Sauls to resign from Nashville megachurch: report | Church & Ministries News (christianpost.com)). The article reads [in part] (emphasis added):
In May, Sauls was placed on indefinite leave, with the Nashville Presbytery, the regional authority for Middle Tennessee churches in the Presbyterian Church in America, also suspending him indefinitely. This followed an inquiry led by the Presbytery’s shepherding committee into a reported toxic work environment at the church, resulting in Sauls’ discipline.
Sauls admitted to misconduct in a May video to church members, presenting a different confession to the Nashville Presbytery in a private session. Details of the latter confession have not been publicly disclosed. Additionally, the Rev. Ian Sears, former chair of the presbytery’s shepherding committee, is dealing with his own misconduct allegations and has stepped down from his ministry and presbytery leadership roles.
Note that one of the Pastors on the shepherding committee is dealing with his own misconduct issues and has stepped down from his leadership role.
Third, I read a November 10, 2023 article about a high profile Pastor of a California mega church (link: Pastor Albert Tate says he’s in ‘daily fight with shame, guilt’ | Church & Ministries News (christianpost.com)) placed on leave because of his conduct. The opening couple of paragraphs read:
Just over a month after leaders at Fellowship Church announced that their charismatic founder and leader Albert Tate was placed on a leave of absence over “inappropriate text messages and questionable comments,” he apologized to his congregation Sunday and admitted he is in a “daily fight with embarrassment, shame and guilt” over his sin.
Appearing with his wife, LaRosa, at Monrovia High School in Los Angeles County, California, where thousands of the church’s members gather every Sunday to worship, Tate delivered a poignant confession without stating many details about the sin which will keep him out of his pulpit until January.
While I have no great answers, the obvious truths are: (1) high-profile church leaders are human beings, and (2) human beings possess a sin nature. The gotquestions.org website (https://www.gotquestions.org/sin-nature.html) explains the sin nature:
The sin nature is that aspect in man that makes him rebellious against God. When we speak of the sin nature, we refer to the fact that we have a natural inclination to sin; given the choice to do God’s will or our own, we will naturally choose to do our own thing.
Proof of the sin nature abounds. No one has to teach a child to lie or be selfish; rather, we go to great lengths to teach children to tell the truth and put others first. Sinful behavior comes naturally. The news is filled with tragic examples of mankind acting badly. Wherever people are, there is trouble. Charles Spurgeon said, “As the salt flavors every drop in the Atlantic, so does sin affect every atom of our nature. It is so sadly there, so abundantly there, that if you cannot detect it, you are deceived.”
The Bible explains the reason for the trouble. Humanity is sinful, not just in theory or in practice but by nature. Sin is part of the very fiber of our being. The Bible speaks of “sinful flesh” in Romans 8:3. It’s our “earthly nature” that produces the list of sins in Colossians 3:5. And Romans 6:6 speaks of “the body ruled by sin.” The flesh-and-blood existence we lead on this earth is shaped by our sinful, corrupt nature.
The sin nature is universal in humanity. All of us have a sinful nature, and it affects every part of us.
Like I wrote above, I do not have any great answers. The only thing I would say is place safeguards as best you can to protect the integrity of your Christian ministry, and every believer has a “Christian ministry” of some sort.
FYI, there is an interesting blog called The Wartburg Watch 2022 (link: https://thewartburgwatch.com/the-basics/) that appears to write about abuse and misconduct by church leaders. The blog began for the following reason:
This blog was started by two Christian women after watching what happened when one of their church, a Reformed baptist church, mishandle (in their opinion) a pedophile situation which left over 13 young teen boys molested and scarred. When they confronted (along with others) the church leaders, they were subjected to serious anger and even called liars. This pedophile was sent to prison for 13 years.
If You Are an Unbeliever
If you are not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you need to get ready!! Please (1) read through “God’s Plan of Salvation” so you can understand what God did for you through His only unique Son, Jesus Christ, and (2), from the bottom of your heart, pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” meaning every word. If you do, you will be reconciled to God – saved – through Jesus Christ.
God’s Plan of Salvation
In the beginning, God, who is holy, created the entire universe. As a part of His creative actions, He made humans (male and female) in His image to know Him. For a while, everything was right between God and our ancestors, Adam and Eve. But Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying God, whereby Adam’s sin was passed down to all of humanity, creating a separation between God and humanity. We cannot do anything to bridge that separation so that without God’s intervention, hell is our eternal destination. Fortunately for us, in His great love and mercy, God provided us with the only means of salvation through Abraham’s lineage by sending the Jewish Messiah, Jesus Christ, God’s only unique Son. While retaining His deity, God the Son became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, thereby fulfilling the Law, and died a substitutionary atoning death on the cross, taking on Himself the punishment for the sins of all people. Jesus rose from the dead, showing that God the Father accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, thereby exhausting God’s wrath against humanity. God now calls on every unbeliever to repent of their sins and completely trust in Christ alone that Jesus died for their sins and rose to life from the dead. Every unbeliever who repents and trusts in Jesus Christ will be forgiven of all their sins (past, present, and future) and born again as a new creation in Christ, possessing guaranteed eternal life with God.
Scripture References: Genesis 1:1, 26, 31; Habakkuk 1:13; Genesis 2:7-25; Genesis 3:1-7, 22-24; Isaiah 59:2; Romans 3:19-20, 23; 5:17-19; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Colossians 1:15; 2:9; Matthew 1:18, 20, 24-25; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:24; Hebrews 2:17; 9:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; 1 John 4:10; John 3:16-18; Mark 1:15; Acts 17:30; 26:20; Romans 1:4; 4:25; John 3:5-8; 1 Peter 1:3.
Lord, Jesus Christ, the only unique Son of God, thank You for Your free gift of eternal life. I know I’m a sinner who cannot save myself no matter what I do, and I deserve to spend eternity in hell. But, I know that because You loved me so much, You voluntarily died on the cross for me taking my sins upon Yourself, and You physically bodily rose from the grave showing that Your sacrificial death was sufficient payment to give me eternal life in Heaven. I now repent of my sins and completely trust alone in what You did for my eternal salvation. Please take control of my life as I now receive You as my Lord and Savior. Thank You so much for saving me. I am now Yours forever!
(Scripture references: John 1:1-4, 11-14; John 3:16; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:21-26; Isaiah 53:4-6; Mark 1:15; Acts 16:31; Acts 4:12; Romans 10:9-10, 13; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; John 10:27-29).
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