The headline is not new. I remember as a young man, seeing the story of a Christian leader Fall and then another. I saw one ministry completely be destroyed, along with putting families that received their livelihoods from that ministry out of a job through no fault of their own. The other ministry, transitioned to refocusing upon the mission, under new leadership, and continued.
The question of the day is not do leaders Fall but when they do, what do we do? Specifically, what do we do when a Christian leader Falls? Cancel culture is hip today, but it’s been around for a long time in the church world. Now, Heresy is heresy. I ain’t talking about that. Heresy should be silenced (1 Tim. 1:3-7, 4:1-3, 6:3-5; 2 Tim. 1:13-15, 2:2, 14-26,3:16-17, 4:2-4, Titus 1:9, 10-16).
God’s Word is not silent on this matter. Actually, the Bible presents an unedited account of godly people’s lives. Judah thought he was buying a prostitute and ended up committing incest. Messy, sinful, gross. He repents. Rueben takes his father’s surrogate wife. Amnon assaults his sister Tamar. Samson is sleeping over at Delilah’s quite often. And on goes the story. Immoral behavior was a sin many engaged in in the Old Testament and even to the present day among the people of God. And we all know the story of David’s adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband and his repentance in Psalm 51. So what do we do? Do we throw away a ministry because of sin? We are all sinners. In no way am I saying that to minimize the effects and harm done upon others. But we are Christians first, not the court of public opinion.
Every single person is a sinner. We are all an adulterer at heart. We have all flirted with sin. We have all rebelled against a holy God. If we think that we are without sin, we are deceiving ourselves. Yes, deceived and deluded if we think we have achieved greater human holiness through our church attendance or avoidance of whatever sins are most egregious to us. The Bible says that all of your self-righteousness is filthy rags. Literally, the filthy rags it is talking about are menstrual clothes, used tampons. That is what your goodness is like in God’s sight.
So our first question needs to be who are you? What is your condition in God’s sight? You must start here before addressing someone else’s sin. Get a clear picture of your standing before the Lord.
“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” I Timothy 1:15-17 NKJV
Once we have a clear picture of ourselves before God, we can clearly see how we are to confront, in humble yet Spirit-boldness, sin in another.
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.” Galatians 6:1-4 NKJV
Scripture tells us exactly how to process allegations and the Fall of our Christian leaders, specifically elders:
“Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear. I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality. Do not lay hands on anyone hastily, nor share in other people’s sins; keep yourself pure. No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities. Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden.”
I Timothy 5:17-25 NKJV
An accusation must have 2 or 3 witnesses, no smearing of a persons name because one person slanders them. When an elder is found to be in sin, due to the testimony of multiple witnesses, he is to be rebuked before all. Why? Because by nature of the office, of the leadership role a fallen elder tried is to be rebuked in order that others may fear. I began this article talking about how I saw ministry leaders fall as a young man. It scared me. In a good way! How I grieved for the damage done to the name of Christ, to the sin of those leaders, for their families, for the employees losing their livelihood because of this.
I want to zero back to David and make an application. I don’t know David’s entire ministry and timeline of when he wrote every Psalm that he authored. This young man, seeking God in every twist and turn and maintaining a humble heart before the Lord was forgiven and restored by the Lord. David, however, would always bear the black mark upon his record. His family would suffer lasting consequences because of his sin. His sin (though forgiven by the Lord in his repentance) hurt people. And this was not the only time. What of the prideful census and the plague….what of bringing the Ark on a cart in disobedience to the transportation instructions of the Lord?
The Lord did not throw out David’s ministry because of his failure. Because of his nasty, perverted sin. The Lord granted David repentance from his sorrow, and restoration. Jesus restored Peter. We still sing and pray the Psalms of David, messages are still preached of how THE LORD worked through this very imperfect man. David, flaws and all, is still the model of a man after God’s own heart.
So here is my application. I know it is hip to cancel everyone and everything. I could mention names: Joshua Harris, Ravi Zacharias, Cory Asbury. Each of those men have come under attack/fallen for different things. Either their change of faith, sexual allegations or theology criticized. If you know me, you would know that I would heartily recommend you steer clear of the teachings of Elevation, Saddleback and Willow Creek. You would also know that I am very leary of Hillsong, IHOP, and Bethel music. But does that mean that we throw everything out? Is there nothing profitable or praiseworthy? Personally, some of my favorite praise songs come from the 90s by Rich Mullins and Hillsong – “Awesome God” and “Shout to the Lord.” The three music streams I mentioned certainty have errors but also have some edifying material. I wasn’t alive when John and Charles Wesley were alive, but we sing hymns today that at least one of them authored. I certainly have major problems with some of their theology, especially John’s and his character was wanting in many ways. Martin Luther, was a pretty strong-willed fellow, and it seems too often we are willing to grant him a pass on his temper because of the time in which he lived. Yet, we still quote and learn much from Luther as well as sing hymns he authored.
My point today, is let’s think biblically. Let’s be careful of speaking definitively and finally regarding someone’s ministry. If it is heretical, by all means denounce it. And by that I mean denying the Trinity, the person and work of the Lord Jesus, salvation by grace through faith, the sinfulness of man, the integrity of the Word of God. And if someone has repented, I am not saying we should not upholding lasting consequences; however, we are called to be a people of redemption, forgiving as Christ has forgiven us. There is a lot of noise in America today and a lot of loud bickering amongst church folk publicly, but there is not much prayer, humbly seeking to restore a wayward member of the family.
A ministry done in the name of Christ lasts. It bears fruit. Stand for truth. The Lord’s truth. Be humble and consider yourself. Always seek restoration and forgiveness as much as it depends on you. Remember, our redemption draweth nigh!
Lastly, let the Lord carry the burden. Rest in Him. We don’t have to be judge, jury, and executioner—Christ is! Our control is an illusion anyway. The Omnipotent, Providential, Magisterial King of the Universe upholds all things.