I’m sitting in my bed, second day in a row, battling the bronchitis beast that seems to have the most tenacious claws into my lungs. I’m tired of coughing. I’m tired of feeling sick. But that same overwhelm hits me square in the chest when it comes to the recent (many) high profile falls in the evangelical community–most of which revolves around sexual sin or sexual crime.
Initially I feel shock when I read about this or this or this or this or this or this. The sad thing is these are simply the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is out there THIS MONTH. My husband Patrick tells me, “The sad thing is, I’m no longer shocked.” Which is how things are turning out in my mind. It seems the Lord is cleaning house, and we are the spectators of this great outing of secrets.
What are we to do when leaders fall? How are we to respond? Does ranting help? How about determinations toward reformation? New policies? A deconstruction of a church model we deem feeds this narrative from nobody to mega somebody back to disgraced fallen one? Wringing of our hands? Resignation? Rage?
As Ed Stetzer aptly writes, “I just don’t see it as one fix because I’ve seen too many fall in too many ways.” This is a complicated issue, nuanced and thick.
In times like this I fall back to that grandmotherly advice we all know but live as if we don’t believe: you cannot change another person. I can only change me.
And me? I am in constant need of reformation.
The question becomes what can I do?
- I can confess my sins to people who are in community with me, determining not to keep them hidden.
- I can get on my knees, asking God to search my heart according to Psalm 139: 23-24. “Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
- I can dissect my life, particularly my most vulnerable times when I failed to have good boundaries or wise practices.
- I can openly admit my frailty to my accountability friends Leslie and D’Ann, and be honest with them.
- I can engage with my prayer team, giving them permission to sift me, try me, and speak truth to me.
- I can grieve my own encounters with predatory people in positions of power. (How’s that for alliteration?)
- I can pray for the victims of the offender–that they would find caring, open community, counsel, and healing.
- I can pray for those who have fallen–that God would grant them the gift of repentance and restoration.
- I can pray for the families of the fallen–that God would wrap His loving arms around them in their grief.
- I can run back to the Word of God, reminding myself that Jesus warned of wolves masquerading as sheep. And that we shouldn’t be surprised because Satan himself disguises as an angel of light.
- I can investigate my own local congregation to see what kinds of safeguards there are in place for victims of unwanted sexual advances and find out what kinds of policies my pastors personally have in terms of sexual integrity.
- I can write about the problem with thinking that power is what Christians need in order to bring this world back into order. Jesus made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant. The way up is down. The safest place is the lowest place, and the most dangerous place for the human soul to be is in power on top of a leadership structure that reveres that position. (And I am not talking numbers here. One could be a leader in a mega church or mega ministry or one could be a leader of a small congregation. Power differentials exist in both structures. The only difference is how many people you need around you to cover up your mess.)
- I can serve in my local context, face to face, with real folks facing real problems, instead of building some sort of “empire” around my words.
- I can keep my heart tender.
- I can forgive.
- I can process my grief privately with people who know me well.
- I can let outrage fuel my prayers instead of my platform.
- I can embrace small.
- I can be silent before the Almighty God, waiting for Him, listening to His perfectly beautiful voice.
- I can worship God with fervor, knowing that He ultimately will not disappoint me. He will not fall. He will always be faithful.
- I can read the whole counsel of Scripture to remind myself that God sees this messy world. He uses broken folks. And He’s way bigger than one person’s fall. His plan will continue on. He didn’t look down from heaven after David’s predatory sin and say, “Oh no! Now what will I do?” His multidimensional plan stayed resolute. The Messiah still came (through sinful lines). And we still have the opportunity to have relationship with Him. One man’s sin could not negate the plans of God.
- I can go back to all those narrow way, narrow road scriptures. Or the ones about folks saying LORD LORD yet not really knowing Him. There are wolves, yes, but there are also folks who are deceived into thinking they follow Christ, but have never really surrendered. It’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between a genuine follower and a faker because the words coming out of their mouths sound the same. Remember, you will know people’s hearts by their fruit, not their words.
- I can rest. God is on the throne. I am not. He is supremely intelligent. I am not. He knows all people’s hearts. I do not.
Getting this post out on a Sunday means probably few will read it, but that’s okay. I felt compelled to write it as a way for me to process what’s gone on as God continues his cleaning spree in the church. In light of that, I once again ask Him to please begin with me.
Oh how much the Lord loves His church. How He loves its shepherds. But He is zealous for His Bride, and He will protect her. So perhaps we should be less fearful of what He is doing and more grateful. He cleans so we can be safe.