Perhaps you, like me, experienced mixed emotions upon hearing about the disgrace and downfall of a few renowned Christian leaders and mega-churches. Instead of bringing the light to a dark and needy world, they brought shame to the name of Jesus Christ.
I often struggle to name and process my feelings, so I started with 3 basic emotions. Naming and processing our emotions can lead to re-thinking success as a church body and learning. Even if we are not in an official church leadership role, applying the learning might help us to stay focused on the real Jesus of the Bible and not a leader or church.
I am sorrowful that:
- Our brothers and sisters succumbed to the seduction and harm of power, wealth, influence, and worldly success.
- They and their respective churches, organisations, boards, and fellow leaders were not alert to their personal and organisational blind spots and temptations and failed to implement preventive measures.
- Many people suffered abuse and harm; some were disillusioned and gave up on following Jesus.
- Some people put pastors, leaders, singers, and celebrities on a higher pedestal than the real Jesus.
I feel angry that:
- The precious name of Jesus Christ has been dishonoured.
- The reputation of the global church has been tarnished.
- Leaders abused people and their church or organisation instead of serving in humility like Jesus.
- I feel embarrassed as a man, that Christian male leaders harmed women, instead of providing a safe space and serving like Jesus.
- I feel anxious – would I succumb to the seduction of power, influence, and money? What are my blind spots that, if unaddressed, will be my undoing? Where might I abuse the power, influence, and money God has given me?
Learning from these debacles
Below is what I am learning and would love to hear your thoughts too. Please reply to firstname.lastname@example.org
1. We are all a little blind
All individuals, churches, organisations, and denominations have blind spots and temptations. Living wisely requires alertness and exercising humility by inviting others to reveal our blind spots. This is most challenging, especially for church denominations! I have never heard of any denomination inviting another to show them their possible blind spots, have you? All denominations seem to be overconfident in their doctrine and practice. Perhaps what we perceive to be our strengths, taken to the extreme, can become our weaknesses.
Jesus warned, “If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Matthew 6:23.
Check out Chapter 3 “Our Blind Spots and Blind Guides”
2. Watch out for all kinds of greed
Few Christian leaders would admit to struggling with greed. Yet Jesus warned all of us, “WATCH OUT! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.” (Luke 12:13) Power, influence, and wealth are seductive and addictive – irrespective of your faith, position, denomination, doctrine, and structure.
3. Bigger is not always better
Bigger, greater influence, and wider reach are not better if we cannot resist pride, independence, greed and worldly success. But if we’re part of a church that is not growing, watch out, or we might fall into the other extreme of ‘false humility’ and the ‘faithful remnant syndrome’. (See my next newsletter)
4. Redefining success as a church
It is tempting to point at some churches and denominations and accuse them of succumbing to the prosperity gospel or idolising their pastor or leader. However, I have visited many middle-class churches and denominations in Australia and 15 other countries. Most appear to practice the prosperity gospel, even as they preach against it. Consider the practice, not theory or doctrine, of our church or denomination:
- How do we, as a church or denomination, define success?
- What do we measure?
- Who or what do we put on a pedestal?
- Do our leaders take themselves off the pedestal by sharing their weaknesses like the Apostle Paul?
- Do the salary and privilege structure reflect Kingdom principles?
- What do our church meetings focus on?
Then compare with Jesus’ definition of success in the Gospels and in Redefining Success according to Jesus
In the next newsletter, let’s examine false humility in relation to Redefining Success as a Church – according to Jesus.
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You have heard me say often that the message of Redefining Success according to Jesus is not difficult in theory. The challenge is to put into practice – continually, through adversity or flourishing season, in poverty or wealth.
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Let’s connect with the real Jesus of the Bible and put only Him on a pedestal.