So another world-famous preacher with a global ministry named after him has been revealed to be abusive. He is the latest in a long and shameful line, and he won't be the last. Here's my two-pennorth.
People say it's a problem of, among other things :
a lack of accountability
a lack of focus on and involvement in the local church
a symptom of our embracing of the cult of celebrity
I'm sure these people are all right - it's all that and more. As for me I have been personally bruised and buffeted by a good number of these public, scandalous falls. Here's what I try and learn from them:
1) you can't think your way through - it's often the most brilliant people who wreck their lives
2) you can't rely on giftedness - some of the guys are the most gifted of their generation
3) money can be a huge temptation - so I have no direct access to church funds
4) power is intoxicating, so share it out and give it away (it's why we try always to have multiple elders, duh)
5) sexual attraction creeps up on you, so set strict safeguards on one-to-one counselling.
Here's a couple of practical situations over the years :
Once I was cornered into driving a particularly vulnerable lady to an evening meeting, alone. When I left the house Pat and I checked the time on the clock. When we arrived at the meeting I made a point of asking, "What time is it?" and remarking on it so people would remember. Things like this keep everyone as safe as possible.
A colleague found it difficult to work at home and felt too insecure to work alone in the church office, out of sight, behind locked doors. I point blank refused to share the office. "You're very strict about these things", she said. I'm still in my job, and so is she.
I don't have a church chequebook, though I am a signatory on the church account. To write a cheque or withdraw money I would have to contact the treasurer, just like anyone else.
I've never believed that I was intended to build a ministry, but rather to serve the Saviour by serving his church. I know that ministry and service are synonyms, but somehow they are also not exact synonyms, are they?
A friend once told me that the Lord had given him the assurance that he would never fall. That must be wonderful, but as for me, he has warned me that more intelligent, more gifted and more respected people than me have absolutely wrecked their lives and damaged the lives of countless others.
15 February : I want to add a couple things :
It's not enough to argue that the correct polity will safeguard everyone. It's essential, but insufficient.
You also need a healthy does of the fear of God and a real grasp of the seriousness of the gospel call to that holiness "without which no-one will see the Lord".
Add to this a distrust of yourself and an awareness of the deceitfulness of your own sinful heart.
Finally the best and most important ingredient is joy and satisfaction in Christ. "How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God"