Repentance…we are all called to it. But it’s one of the hardest things to do. To repent means we have to admit what we have done wrong. And sadly, in the Christian church, there have been many wrongs that we don’t want to admit or see.
Recently, I’ve been reading the Roys Report, but it’s not easy reading. The Roys Report is investigative journalism (by Christian journalists) into the inner circles of well-known Christian businesses, as well as congregations and leaders, such as the recent Hillsong scandals, the alleged (and seemingly confirmed) misconduct of Ravi Zacharias, and the bully-ish behavior of leaders in some other mega-church congregations across the nation. I usually do my own extra research to make sure that the information I’m reading isn’t biased. Like I said, it’s not easy reading, but it is eye-opening and backs up what I’ve seen on a more local level.
In the past few years, one of my daughters experienced what it means to be in a church-based environment that seeks to protect the reputation of their leadership over protecting the spiritual welfare of their flock. And while I do not believe that mega-churches are inherently wrong, I do believe that getting to that point means that sometimes the leadership can put themselves in a position that is not healthy for the them or their congregation. People start turning a blind eye to the small things…even when something doesn’t feel “quite right”. That leads to spiritual blindness from both the congregation and the leadership. So unless the leadership constantly checks itself, a humble spirit can easily be replaced with ego and the idea that they are the only ones who have the answers. The leaders can then become more celebrity than servant.
Those in leadership are in a unique position that can easily shake hands with corruption and pride, if not kept in check. And if the leaders of churches or Christian based organizations lose their humility and repentant spirit…what then?
The church is supposed to be a safe-haven…a place for people to come and be healed; unfortunately, it has often become a place where people are harmed or feel like they have to leave their congregations to get healed. This is not new, but it is growing in frequency. People are afraid to speak up because they are worried about losing the family they have found in that congregation. Will there be repentance from the leaders and reconciliation? Or will the leaders simply cover up the problem at the expense of the members who have finally found the courage to speak up and speak out?
We, as Christians, must be willing to address the sin of spiritual abuse of authority in the church, just as much as we should address any instances of physical and sexual abuse. And as the church, we must be careful NOT to place pastors, worship leaders, or “popular” Christian business leaders on pedestals. Christ is the only one we should worship, not those who happen to be standing on the stage or writing the checks.
In the case I referenced earlier — I advised my daughter to go the senior pastors of her church and tell them about her concerns and the hurt she had experienced. I believed that the leadership would listen and model behavior that would help bring healing. Unfortunately, I was wrong. And this behavior was as harmful, if not more so, than the original issue with the other staff. She was not the only one who felt that there had been spiritual abuse in the discipleship ministry program she had been part — but I think she may have been one of the few to speak up. There are many fine people in that congregation who would be appalled and hurt to know what has happened. And there would be many who wouldn’t believe it. We don’t always want to see what is clearly in front of us.
If there is a lack of biblical leadership and love and/or signs of abuse of spiritual authority happening in your congregation, then there needs to be repentance and a reformation or change in leadership. We cannot, as the church of Christ, willfully place people in leadership positions who have charisma and “look the part” without first making sure that they have a heart for Jesus and his heart for others.
We are all called to be servant leaders, but the emphasis has to be on the SERVING part. Jesus washed people’s feet…and he laid down his life for us. Do we do the same? Or do we pull the rug out from others, causing them to stumble and fall? And when this is becoming more and more prominent in our leaders, there is a deep rooted problem in our church “culture”.
We have to lead by serving, not by insisting on having our own way. Otherwise, we will not be helping to heal the broken…we will be making a mockery of the Gospel and what Christ has called us to do. We must be willing to admit our failings and ask for God to heal those broken places.
As stated earlier, this definitely applies to all of us. I am not dressing down the church — I am part of the church body. But it doesn’t just apply to Christian congregations. If you claim to be a Christian based business, and your employees are leaving more hurt than they came in, how is that building the Kingdom of God? How is that any different than the way the world chews up employees and spits them out?
The church has to do better. The world is a messed up place…and from the looks of recent reports, it seems that the church has been part of the problem.
Jesus didn’t say that the world would know us by our fabulous worship songs.
He didn’t say that the world would know us by our books or blog posts.
And he didn’t say the world would know us by the charismatic sermons that we deliver.
He said that the world will know we are His disciples by our LOVE.
So how do we cast off the image we’ve created for ourselves and instead, remember that we are dressed in HIS righteousness alone? How do we get out of the way and get back to focusing on Jesus? How do we get back to the place of LOVE?
Repentance— it’s the u-turn God provides. It’s what we all need to get back to our calling in Christ.
Acts 17:30 – “God overlooks it as long as you don’t know any better – but that time is past. The unknown is now known, and he’s calling for a radical life-change.
I John 1:8-9
Proverbs 28:13 You can’t whitewash your sins and get by with it; you find mercy by admitting and leaving them.
2 Timothy 2
You can find the Roys Report for free online.
The most recent investigation is here: https://julieroys.com/ramseys-best-place-to-work-say-no-and-out/