I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing about the moral failures of Christian leaders. It seems like barely a month passes without some news of sexual or financial misconduct involving a Christian leader. There was a time heresy was the scandal, but sadly we rarely care about that today. It seems moral scandals are more destructive to the Church nowadays. Furthermore, in today’s cancel culture, the inclination to throw the baby out with the bathwater is much higher. Subsequently, it’s getting harder for the gospel message to be received through imperfect messengers. I confess that I often scrutinise the messenger first before deciding to listen to their message. However, this is a flawed approach, because as far as the gospel is concerned, the message is infinitely greater than the messenger.
Before proceeding, let’s review how Jesus intended the Church to function and grow. Paul tells us that when Jesus returned to heaven, He gave us gifts [Ephesians 4:8]. So, every believer has a spiritual gift. Additionally, Jesus also gave to the Church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Their primary responsibility is to equip believers for the work of ministry. So that believers can go out and make more disciples of Jesus [Matthew 28:18-20]. Thus, the Church is built up, both in quantity and quality of believers, until we’re united in our beliefs and reach maturity, which is the standard set by Christ [Ephesians 4:11-13]. That’s the blueprint for Church growth. The Church isn’t supposed to have superstars. Instead, we’re all meant to be disciples who know and execute the assignments given to us by our Lord, playing our part for His glory [Isaiah 43:7].
Nevertheless, I’m baffled that God took the risk to have us carry His message to the world, knowing full well what we’re capable of. Sadly, in our celebrity-obsessed culture, we’ve turned our ministers, who are flawed individuals, into superstars. We forget (and sometimes, they forget) that it’s the grace of God and not their brilliance that produces their results [1 Corinthians 12:4-7]. This deification of individuals often results in at least two forms of neglect. First, we neglect to pray for them because we don’t think they need our prayers. Second, we don’t insist on the right accountability structures around them because we can’t imagine them yielding to temptation. Consequently, they’re often left exposed physically and spiritually.
The Bible teaches that all believers are members of the same Body [Romans 12:4-5, Ephesians 4:4-6]. What affects one member affects the whole Body [1 Corinthians 12:12-27]. It’s also worth remembering that we have one enemy [1 Peter 5:8]. Our enemy often strikes where he’ll cause maximum damage. For instance, he went after Peter because he knew the impact Peter’s fall would have on the others [Luke 22:31-32]. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that he targets ministers more, especially the prominent ones because when they fall, they invariably drag a multitude down with them. So, if this is true, what should be our attitude towards protecting our ministers? Do you realise that they’re just as broken as you are, battling the same fleshly desires as you, but potentially with greater opportunities to indulge those desires? Does this cause you to pray for them? Our fervent intercessions can accomplish much [James 5:16].
One of my heroes recently got caught in serious sexual misconduct. While he’s responsible for his actions, I feel somewhat complicit in his fall. I’m desperately disappointed by his actions, and I’m really struggling to reconcile his private and public personas. But, as much as I benefitted from his ministry, I honestly can’t remember ever praying for him. I truly believe he started with good intentions but somewhere along the line, he seemingly lost his battle against the flesh [1 Corinthians 9:27]. His story is a caution to every believer. We’re all capable of similar or worse [Jeremiah 17:9] if we become callous to the convicting prompts of the Holy Spirit [Ephesians 4:19]. So, rather than judge and condemn those who fall, we should learn from their mistakes and reflect on how we can prevent ourselves and others from falling.
Taking some distance from individual cases, we must realise that the Body of Christ is under attack. We’re not fighting flesh and blood, but the kingdom of darkness [Ephesians 6:12]. Every fall that hinders the advancement of the gospel or eliminates a minister tasked with equipping the Body, advances the devil’s agenda. Nevertheless, Jesus promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church [Matthew 16:18]. Therefore, we know that the Church will be victorious. However, we must all do our part by praying for those sent to equip us. If possible, ensure that they have appropriate safeguards and accountability structures around them. This isn’t just their fight or their problem, it’s ours too. So be vigilant for the sake of the Body.
While society might cancel our fallen brethren, cancel culture isn’t the way of the kingdom of God. Imagine if God cancelled us for our failures [John 8:7]? God’s way is true repentance and restoration, following a full confession of sin. For this to happen, the offender(s) must tell the whole truth, and wherever possible, restitution must be made to the victims. For our part, we must protect the victims because Jesus always sides with the victims, and restore the sinner [Galatians 6:1, Matthew 18:15-17] because God doesn’t want anyone to perish [John 6:39]. Let’s remember that our mission is to reconcile the world to God [2 Corinthians 5:20]. Additionally, show compassion to those who fall, you don’t know how you’d handle their temptations, and pray and ensure that you’re adequately accountable to others with safeguards, so that you don’t fall too [1 Corinthians 10:12].
Lastly, as long as they preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, the integrity of the message will always supersede the failings of the messenger because it’s not their message.