I found out something by accident the other day that has left me profoundly saddened and thoughtful. There is a pastor from whose teaching I have benefitted in the past, and I happened to know, because I followed him on Twitter that he had preached through a book of the Bible recently that I have been reading. I had heard his first several sermons in the series some time ago via podcast, and when I finished reading through the book I went to look up the rest of the series since I thought it might be helpful to listen to it. When I pulled up the church website, I was astonished to read a statement on the front page that this man is no longer a pastor or elder at the church and has been disqualified and to contact the church if you require more information about the situation. I cried. It truly grieved me to read that statement, and to see that all of his sermons have been taken off the church website, including the series I had gone to find. I really and truly did not expect such a thing. I do not know what happened or what he did, and I don’t need to know, but I do pray for the whole situation. I may not know, but God knows it all, and I pray for restoration and healing and for the health of a church that is left grieving and hurting in the wake of whatever it is.
I’m not naming this man or even speculating on what happened, because this is not a gossip blog or a watchblog, and you probably don’t even know who he is, and who it is isn't all that important to the rest of this post. He’s not a certain big-name pastor who has been all over the evangelical twitter verse and blogosphere and who many of us are not surprised to see in the predicament he is in. No, this is someone else less famous, but who I’d heard of through another ministry I listen to and I had appreciated what I’d heard of his teaching. I told my husband that I’m surprised at how much this unexpected news bothers me, and how sad it makes me. He wasn’t my pastor, I’ve never even been to the city where his church is or heard him in person. But in this internet age, I had listened to his teaching, read one of his books and very much liked it, and learned from his contributions to the other ministry where I had first come across him. Here are some things that this has served to remind me and that I’ve been thinking about as I ponder just why it bothers me so much:
- Be careful not to hold any man or preacher or teacher in too high esteem. Even the best man is only a man at best, and capable of disappointing. It is Jesus we worship, not any teacher or preacher, no matter how much we may like them.
- Never assume you know a public figure or know what is going on behind the scenes. Learn from men who preach the Word well, respect your leaders for as long as you have no reason not to, but ALWAYS be like the Bereans and search the scripture for yourself to be sure what someone says it means is really what it says. Let it be the Word of God that draws you, not the charisma of a preacher.
- PRAY for your pastors and elders and church often. Ask God to guard their hearts and to keep them true to the command to pastors to guard their life and doctrine closely. Pray for them diligently to stay true to Jesus and His word and to steer clear of anything that would bring dishonor to the Kingdom, the Church, and the Lord.
- PRAY for yourself and your family. We need God’s grace daily for persevering faith. Never assume that we can stay faithful in our own strength and never assume that we are immune from temptation or deception of various kinds. Pray for wisdom and grace to persevere and steer clear of any appearance of evil and any wrong thinking that would dishonor our Savior. Stay humble before Christ. Stay close to Christ and in His Word daily.
- Trust in Jesus to bring restoration and reconciliation when sin occurs. The gospel is the power of salvation to those who believe. He saves us to make us holy. May we live increasingly holy lives before Him, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Rest in Christ. It is to Him that I answer. I do not have to impress anyone with my words and actions. I have to live every day as unto Christ. He is my Savior, Lord, and High Priest. Don’t try to overthink things. Stay in the Word and follow Jesus.
I think two of the biggest things I keep thinking about are the need to pray for our pastors and to personally walk humbly and obediently before our God. Think! Let what we say and how we act match who we are, publicly and privately. God knows our hearts, even the secret things we think are hidden. Guard our hearts against spiritual pride or presumptive attitudes toward God’s grace. His grace IS amazing, but it is NEVER an excuse to be lax about sin in our hearts and behavior. Let every one of us take heed lest we fall. It is only by God’s grace that we stand. This is true for everyone, not just public figures like pastors. The verses in Timothy that exhort guarding one’s life and doctrine are written to the pastor, but it is a true exhortation for every believer. Guard your life and doctrine. Stay true to the Word. Pray daily for the grace to cling to Christ as He holds you in the faith that saves.