“Never, never pin your whole faith on any human being: not if he is the best and wisest in the whole world. There are lots of nice things you can do with sand; but do not try building a house on it.”
Much of the history of men has been filled with wars, famine... cruel men laying heavy burdens on the average person. Since post World War Two the world we know has been relatively peaceful in countries ruled by governments that were accountable to its people. It was not by any means perfect… as there are many failed leaders in the last century within North America. In recent years however there has certainly been an increase in the number of leaders who have fallen from their status of respect and honour.
It is undeniable that we are seeing a seismic cultural shift as men and women we lifted upon pedestals fall from their lofty positions. We don’t have to think for long before dozens of faces and names come to our minds. In some parts of the world it may be difficult to name a political, a faith or a business leader who still walks with integrity and honour. Situational ethics has become the mantra today and marketing has overtaken substance. Outcome matters more than process today...
Even deeply intelligent and respected men like Ravi Zacharias have fallen away. Ravi was one of the most influential theologians of the last couple of decades. Rumors began surfacing of sexual misconduct by Ravi which influential leaders everywhere pushed aside thinking surely a man who could argue so effectively the truths of the gospel would not be capable of such obvious abuse… but it was found after his death that indeed it was all much worse than anyone had imagined. Ravi’s ministry had developed a culture that so deeply held him as infallible that no one dared question him about strange behaviors, odd transactions or for that matter the growing accusations of those who were abused by him. The world… and particularly the Christian community was absolutely mortified and shocked when the truth was finally revealed.
My wife and I attended a church for nearly 15 years which deeply impacted us. The Lead Pastor was a passionate follower of Christ… he so deeply impacted me that I changed my parenting style based on his example. He was a great parent and appeared to be a great role model. The Church grew so large it launched a worldwide ministry that helped other Pastors.
Things began to change over time... Bible studies became competitions on who spent more time in prayer or who had more devotions. Within the church staff and volunteers, things began to shift into camps... groups that aligned with the worldwide ministry and groups that did not. The culture became like a Church version of the hunger games. Conversations moved into dark corners so people would not get in trouble for dissenting opinions. Questions were silenced hastily and soon the church had a nasty split as leadership ousted the dissenters one by one using pressure, manipulation, gaslighting and in some cases outright character assassination. There was talk of a "pray out list" which the founding pastor left on his desk... if that were true I cannot imagine the difficulties from a cultural and individual standpoint that could have caused. All decisions were filtered through how the end result would impact the "ministry". All of this left many young adults disillusioned and some even deconstructing...
It would be easy to become angry with such leadership however there is no point in that. The leadership no doubt believed they were right... perhaps they even thought they were spirit led in their decisions... even if that meant misleading people. The heart is truly deceitful...
Many in the congregation felt compelled to support the church even if they felt uncomfortable and a bit pressured to commit. It was all rather difficult to watch and be a part of for our family.
When things like this happen... we discover quickly... albeit we do not know it... where our faith lies. Does it rest on the projected image of a celebrity pastor or movement? Are we disillusioned because the people we thought were infallible fell? These are questions that we alone can answer if we care to know...
AJ Swoboda says in his book "After Doubt" "we need to make a shift and stop propping up Christian celebrities and placing all the pressure on them to hold up our faith". Our faith must be founded on Christ alone... not in the projected image of a Mega Church or ministry. We must look at these as tools or vessels and not as something to be revered or honoured.
Christian leaders must realize as well that their role is a large part to create cultures that encourage questions and a pursuit of deeper understanding of our faith. In the same way that exercise works in the physical body so to there must be resistance if we are to build strength within the Church. They must also be adamantly pointing to Jesus alone as worthy of our praise.
Whether it’s a political leader who promises change for the better… a boss who promises they will listen to their staff and lead with compassion… a boyfriend or girlfriend who appears to be near perfect at first experience… or a pastor or religious leader who is charismatic and strong, we keep placing our trust in mere mortals to make our world brighter and better… and over and over again the people we idolize disappoint us and our hopes are razed... leaving us destabilized and disillusioned.
Even the great Martin Luther penned an Incredibly anti-Semitic letter not long before his death that likely fed into the persecution of the Jews.
Our fellow man will fail us almost without exception. All the men or women who's story's appear in the Bible were deeply flawed. Beginning with Abel in Genesis and ending with John in Revelation... each person except Jesus was shown in their flaws trying to grow in holiness and faith or running from it! The Bible is a book of first hand testimonials that describe God's broken relationship with man and the restoration of that relationship.
Many in the Church in North America are placing their hope in the next pastor, the next teacher who appears to live above the fray… and while we should support leaders that do good and follow Jesus's teaching… we must stop idolizing mere men and women.
The Church is called to prepare the way for the coming age... at which time Christ will rule with justice and we will finally have a leader who is incorruptible... we are not unlike the Isrealites however... we want a king or queen to rule over us and have the relationship with God for us! We don't want to elevate the one who truly deserves our adoration and devotion and instead elevate more broken people.
A leader that protects power, or title or position is not worthy of our adoration... there is only one who is worthy of our devotion and adoration and He will rule with Justice... He will care for the individual as much as the group...
"a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory"
Let's be the change...