Monday, January 29, 2007

Fallen Ministers and Charismatic Credibility

(Wow, just got this in my email. Need to think about it some more. What do you all think? This was written by J. Lee Grady who is editor of Charisma Magazine)

We’ve reached a crisis point. How do we restore fallen leaders in a redemptive way and protect God’s people at the same time?

Suppose you go to the hospital and your surgeon accidentally removes your spleen instead of your appendix. Then you learn that this same doctor cut out the wrong organ from Mrs. Johnson’s abdomen and amputated Mr. Smith’s right leg instead of his left one. Oops!

I guarantee that this quack would lose his medical license no matter how friendly he seemed during office visits. And in this country, thankfully, he could move to the next town and open a surgical practice. We have professional standards that apply not only to doctors but also to dentists, bankers, teachers, lawyers and even cosmetologists.

Unfortunately in our quirky world of independent charismatic churches, there is no such thing as an enforceable standard of professional behavior. A hair stylist has to obey the rules, but our preachers don’t. We make up the rules as we go.

Case in point: Paul Cain, the celebrated charismatic prophet who appeared in countless conference pulpits during the 1990s, stepped down from ministry in 2005 after he was publicly confronted by three high-profile church leaders, Mike Bickle, Rick Joyner and Jack Deere. They brought disciplinary charges against Cain because of a pattern of homosexual behavior and alcoholism.

Cain admitted his failures, stepped down from ministry and initially agreed to submit to a regimen of accountability prescribed by a group of men who knew him. But a few weeks later Cain announced that he was moving to California to find restoration from a different group—a church that Bickle, Joyner and Deere knew nothing about.

Then, 12 months later, voila! The church in California announced that Cain was “restored” and ready to preach again.

Bickle, Joyner and Deere did the right thing by releasing a statement on Jan. 21, which said, in part: “We cannot say with confidence that this is a genuine restoration that is according to the principles of God’s Word. It will be harmful to [Cain] and others if he is released prematurely and then relapses into his past failures.”

Thank God someone was bold enough to demand a higher standard—at a time when so many Christians have gone squishy and spineless on biblical morality. It is time for leaders in our movement to show some tough love and adopt some stringent policies about biblical restoration.

Cain’s situation is an opportunity for us to examine our movement’s credibility crisis. We need clearer guidelines on how to handle a leader’s moral failure. Here are four:

1. Forgiveness is immediate. God’s mercy is amazing, and He is quick to forgive a fallen leader who repents. God does not require us to wallow in shame or self-pity. We can eagerly embrace the redemption that Christ purchased for us.

2. Personal restoration is a process. Repentance is not just feeling sorry for making a mistake. A leader must have heartfelt humility and a genuine sense of brokenness for the way his or her sin hurt others. If the leader is in denial about his failures, true friends must confront his deeply rooted pride and deception.

3. Restoration to ministry should never be fast-tracked. Many experts suggest that a fallen leader should step down for a minimum of three years in order to find full healing in his or her own life as well as in marriage (especially in the case of sexual sin). Some denominations only require two years of rehabilitation, but those of us in independent churches have required even less time. As a result of our hurry, there are many unhealed, unhealthy leaders in the pulpit today—as well as congregations that feel exploited by spiritual traitors.

4. Restoration should involve people who know the fallen leader. If a leader fails morally, he will be tempted to run across the country and find a new set of friends who are wowed by his charisma but don’t see his dark side. But true restoration must include reconciliation with the people hurt by his or her actions.

I know some will complain that I am being “judgmental.” The truth is that I know several ministers who fell morally and then returned to their pulpits in God’s time, not theirs. Restoration is possible and it should be our goal.

I will stand with the apostle Paul, who drew unpopular lines in the sand, demanded character of church leaders and warned early Christians to avoid the self-restored Lone Rangers of that era. If we don’t draw some lines today, the flaky prophets and carnal con artists will bring all of us down to their level.


Denise said...

I am in agreement with you on this my friend.

Lisa said...

Well put, Beth! Our leaders need accountability.

Unashamed said...

The apostle Paul advocated that pastors be "above reproach". To be honest, I think three years is lenient, but that's just my subjective opinion.

On the flip side of the coin, there should probably be more done to protect called pastors from being capriciously "fired" from their calls. (Biblically speaking, is that even possible?)

Beth said...

I'm still not sure about this. Growing up, I was part of an organization that was heavy on the oversight, heavy on the bureaucracy, heavy on the discipline. At the time, it all seemed a little too "law-oriented" and not enough "grace-oriented".

However, more recently I've experienced the other end of the spectrum and find myself somewhat uncomfortable with the "cloudy" system of discipline for some independent charismatic/Pentecostal congregations.

The suggestions put forth by Grady seem reasonable to me considering the ultimate importance and responsiblity of a pastor's job. However, there still obviously needs to be a significant amount of grace as we are all fallen sinners and no man or woman who is called to lead is perfect.

I'm still confused however about where the balance may be found.

sara said...

I agree with Anita.

Restoration to the Body, and forgiveness are one thing (and there are steps outlined in Scripture to do that) while restoration to a position of shepherding is quite another. I am willing, as a Christian, to extend mercy and grace. But I am not willing to sit under a pastor who has fallen into these kinds of lifestyles. Maybe that sounds harsh, but this is a man that needs to be able to guide me, lead me and has authority over me. I don't want to be thinking "who is he to counsel me." I don't want to be worried that he will be making passes at me or my children or husband. These are serious, serious things that actually happen.

I also agree with Anita that more should be done to protect pastors from untrue accusations (and also from temptations because we're all human). The best system I can think of (and I'm certainly not the best thinker on these things) is a system of accountability even before an accusation is made. Maybe there should always be a second person present during counseling sessions. Maybe a pastor should willingly submit to a high degree of scrutiny so that there is no question ever of his being trustworthy. Above reproach. Above even the appearance of wrongdoing.

I hear your concerns too, Beth. The histories we carry with us certainly color how we see these things. We don't want the pendulum to swing too far in either direction but to base our decisions, as best we can, on what the Bible has to say.

Debbie said...

When we proclaim christianity, we are automatically held to a higher standard. As much as the world wants to bury their head in the sand they will raise it quickly when someone in authority has fallen. And they are quick to recall scripture for the sin that has been committed and spread it abroad.

Being aware of sin in the church and what is being done about it is on their(world/sinners) mind. What message are we sending them if it is not dealt with appropriately?
That sin is not as bad as we have tried to make them believe? As loving as our God is, He is also protective of His church. He expects us to restore our fallen into the fellowship, but imo, not to their position.

How do we deal with it? I think that is based on case by case basis. I have found that when a person has truly repented, the last thing they want to do is return to their post.

I have to agree with Sara on the point of sitting under someone that I no longer trust. That being another issue as well. When that trust has been broken, it has to be earned once again. I don't think there is a specific time frame for this.

This being another reason, as we read in Acts, to have a governing body consisting of those filled with the Holy Ghost. I feel that this alone would take care of the majority of things in the church today.