8Rather, you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
This summer the church has been in the public eye. Not for the good it does, nor the lives that have been transformed by the power of the gospel, nor the missionary work it is doing domestically and abroad. No, the church is in the news for the public wrongdoing of some prominent ministries. Willow Creek and the accusations on its founder and former Senior Pastor Bill Hybels, and the Roman Catholic church for accusations of sexual misconduct by hundreds of priests to thousands of victims in Pennsylvania. I am not writing this post to gloat or pile on over the downfall of other ministries and I pray many of my readers will not fall into that trap either.
First, when any church is in the news for wrongdoing, the unbelieving world does not distinguish between church bodies, all they see is the church not living up to the strength of its convictions and OUR collective witness is harmed.
Second, I was on the campus of Willow Creek last week and they are determined to press on. I admire their resolve and commend them for their heart, but I also see a hurting community that has been rocked by this scandal. So, not only do they have my admiration they have my prayers.
Lessons to be learned from these events.
It is important that every congregation guard not only their doctrine (foundations of their faith) but also their Christian life and practice (public witness.) When a church leader falls it damages the church universal. No matter the names on the marquee we are all part of the larger body of Christ.
“A man on staff with Chuck Swindoll got sexually involved with his secretary. The church chose not to handle it in public, but rather to deal with this privately. The next year, 17 marriages of senior leadership people in the church broke up! Paul is clear that when a leader sins, he/she needs to be publicly rebuked so that others will be warned away from the same sin.”
Jack DeWolf, in a conference on conflict resolution in Spokane, WA, April 30, 1994.
In any of the situations, we hear about there are two sets of victims. Those who have been harmed by their accusers and those whose trust has been damaged. I am not lifting the second group over the first nor putting them on the same level. Those who faced the actual offense have a long road to recovery and they need our prayers. The members of the church also face a long road to recovery. Any church or church body that does not deal with that hurt is missing an opportunity to fix a broken trust, that could have an eternal impact on people’s faith life and the life of the congregation.
Our Church Universal is struggling with its witness to the world. We lift up those who are leading, those who are exhausted because they are being stretched so far. We pray for all church leaders, guard them against the attacks of the evil one. Help them identify those blind spots, those character flaws that the evil one will attack. Raise us Lord an army of prayer warriors to keep the church and its leaders in daily prayer. We pray for worship leaders, teachers, greeters, and other leaders. Lord, feed your church with the Word of God and may that Word of God also bring about healing and reconciliation. I lift up the Willow Creek family and the Roman Catholic Church and all others that have had events that have caused some to stumble and cause hurt to others. I pray for strength for the ones that are left grieving so much to keep the church running. Be with them, Father. In the precious name of Jesus. Amen
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