With the recent scandal in the Catholic church and another scandal involving author and pastor Bill Hybels, many Christians’ faith wavers. Discouragement abounds. Some abandon their faith altogether, certain that if prominent leaders are hypocrites, then Christianity itself is hollow. But, a Christian response to the recent church scandals should compel us to search the scriptures. Here are some points I found that speak to this.
There were problems with church scandals even as early as Paul
1 Corinthians 5:1-2: It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among the pagans-a man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? (emphasis mine)
2 Corinthians 11: 3-5: But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. But I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super apostles.” (emphasis mine)
All pastors are vulnerable
Church scandals feature prominently throughout church history, going all the way back to Paul. Church leaders committing sexual sin, promoting their own Gospel, and more shouldn’t surprise us. We should expect it since the devil seeks to destroy the Church, especially those in leadership.
Our pastors are not superhuman. They are human beings with weaknesses just like everyone else and of course, the devil targets them right where it hurts. They need our prayers, encouragement, friendship, and sometimes rebuke. If we were subjected to constant spiritual attack, any of us might fall if not for the support of our brothers and sisters in Christ. How much more so our pastors and church leaders? Without our prayers, encouragement, and friendship, they may fall into depression and despair. When was the last time you invited your pastor over for dinner or told him you enjoyed his sermon? If you are like me, not often enough.
Are you following a leader or The Leader?
Recent church scandals rock us because we mistakenly put our faith in those leaders. They taught the Bible, they represented Christ on earth as ambassadors for Heaven. Or, so we thought.
Ultimately, our disappointment stems from admitting to ourselves that we chose the wrong leader. We feel deeply hurt because the person broke our trust, committed awful crimes, and all this time, we joyfully submitted ourselves to their leadership. We rightfully grieve over the lost relationship and the crimes but sometimes, we go too far. Sometimes, we doubt God because we thought that by following this leader, we were following Jesus. The truth is that we were following a leader, NOT The Leader. We need to return to The Leader and recognize that people are not replacements for God.
Do not be discouraged. Jesus said this would happen. Hold fast to the truth.
Matthew 24: 9-14: Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (emphasis mine)
(For additional thoughts on end times and false prophets, click HERE)
The recent church scandals exposing false prophets were foretold several times in the Bible, starting with the prophecies of Christ. However, let us not be among those whose “love will grow cold,” but instead stand firm to the end. Jesus separates the wheat from the chaff. He exposes every evil deed and judges the wicked. Let us continue to be ambassadors of God’s grace and truth. Let us demonstrate a Christian response to recent church scandals and show the light of true Christianity. We follow only one Leader—Jesus Christ.