Thursday, September 23, 2010

Eddie Long & How to Respond When Pastors Fail

Photo Credit: bruckerrlb
The allegations directed towards Bishop Eddie Long, pastor of Georgia's New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, have sent shock waves through the Christian community and raised all sorts of questions about the things he's been accused of doing.  As the pastor of one of the nation's largest churches, Bishop Long is a prominent figure in evangelical Christian circles and is one of the most recognized African American preachers around.

The things that he has been accused of are certainly troubling but I am not going to speculate on what has or hasn't happened.  Ultimately, God knows what happened and the truth will eventually be brought into the light.  Whatever ends up happening, it is apparent that the name of Christ has once again been soiled.  Whether it has been tarnished by young men that are lying or by an unrighteous preacher, the stereotype of hypocritical Christian ministers that are out for financial gain and sexual conquests is played out again before a watching public.

For those that are not of the faith, it is very easy to believe that all pastors are insincere and only out for personal gain.  Sadly, there is a small segment of clergy where this is absolutely true but my hope is that Eddie Long does not fall into this category.  But what of the untold number of pastors leading small congregations who faithfully and humbly serve their members and their community year after year, often unnoticed and under appreciated? 

There are countless men and women of God who entered into the ministry because they loved God and what to see their lives be used by God to make a difference in the lives of others.  I would like to think I am one of them.  We don't lead mega-churches, we don't drive very nice cars and don't live in opulent homes.  But we do faithfully serve God and live lives of integrity.

Very simply, pastors are human.  We like to think of our spiritual leaders as being a cut above the rest of us and that they don't have the same kinds of struggles as the average man or woman.  The reality is that not only do clergy deal with the same kinds of temptations as everyone else, but often they have no one to turn to when dealing with the internal conflicts of the heart.

Spiritual leaders are commonly placed on a platform in the eyes of their followers and viewed as being capable of doing no wrong.  When taken to the extreme, I believe the reverence and awe that is demonstrated towards some pastors is akin to idol worship where the spiritually immature have replaced their worship of God with the man or woman that teaches them the Word on Sunday mornings. 

When we have an improper view of our spiritual leaders, we are only setting ourselves up for disappointment when we learn that they are imperfect.  At times, we experience this when they don't meet certain expectations we have of them; at other times it comes when we learn that they have been living a secret lifestyle.  I say none of this to excuse unrighteous, sinful and, in certain cases, unlawful behavior.  When clergy sin they should be disciplined by their church and when they break the law, they should be prosecuted (whether they feel like God has forgiven them or not) and make appropriate restitution to their victims.

Spiritual leadership is a privilege.  It is not a right.  Through sin and disobedience, we can become disqualified from leading spiritually.  Just because someone we may possess certain oratorical skills or leadership gifts does not mean that character doesn't count.  It does.  When a person in a trusted position of spiritual leadership betrays that trust and does untold damage to others, it is not to be taken lightly. Over time, restoration can take place but it doesn't happen over night nor should the same level of ministry responsibilities in the future just be assumed.

A sincere man or woman of God will point people to Jesus and not to themselves.  They will walk in humility and extend the same type of grace to others that they have received from God.  They will lead with the gifts God has given them but will also admit when they are wrong.  They will not be in the ministry for themselves but for God and others.  

There are a lot of really great ministers out there.  Please don't let the public failings of a few (or allegations based in falsehoods) cause you to walk away from God.  Our eternal hope should be in Christ and not in man.  The gospel is for sinners and, yes, even clergy need the gospel every day.  I pray that in some way God will be glorified and more people will be drawn to him through this very unfortunate and unsettling situation.  

1 comment:

Benjamen Long, Pastor said...

My brother, I am certainly mindful of John 8:7 when considering this matter...!

While I would not hesitate to speak out about this matter if he were in fact undeniably...and proven guilty, especially by his own I refrain ...from doing what we "church people" have become notorious for doing...turning on, and eating our wounded.

This general of spiritual warfare, in spite of his methodology or practice is still responsible for raising the banner for Christ, and for leading many lost souls away from the nasty grip of satan...the ENEMY OF US ALL.

While this nasty sin of homosexuality is indeed running rampant through the church, it must also be said that it runs through the church of the "lost & confused', those who choose to ignore the Supremacy of God in Word and Deed. There are still "Mighty Men of Valor", who would bow down and lap like dogs, without hesitation.

We should seek to be in that number.


Lam 5:16, KJV - The crown is fallen [from] our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned!

As I have so often taught, and believe...Redemption, Reconciliation and Restoration must be preceded by Repentance...the acknowledgment of our deprivation and loss without God…an unequivocal and clear understanding in the stated truth that "all have sinned, and come short of His Glory. {Rom 3:23}.

Let's see this for what I pray is the intention of the Holy Spirit..."A WAKE-UP CALL".

The church of today has lost her spiritual anchor.

Plagued by scandal, fractured by schism, rendered powerless, irrelevant, anything but holy, she is adrift in a sea of excessive materialism, greed, mediocrity, compromise and Spiritual Death.

There can be no doubt whatsoever that most, if not all of the troubles in the Church today are due to a departure from the Word of God as the absolute sole authority in all matters of true Christian Faith and Practice.

Her confusion and lack of authority is evidenced by, and can be seen through the introduction and acceptance of various "alternative and pluralistic" heresies which attempt to ignore a pattern of lifestyle and moral poverty which typified the fallen state of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the foolishness which often typified a fallen Israel.

We so desperately need a ChurchQuake...and I believe it has begun.

and just like King David, he will be judged accordingly.