Many events in recent days sadly make this letter necessary. A major sexual abuse scandal in the SBC and the disgraceful demises of well-known mega-church pastors1 have left many, probably tens of thousands, disillusioned with the church, Christian leadership, and Christ Himself.
Dear friend hurt by the church,
I weep with you. So do countless others.
What horrible things have been done by those who name the name of Christ! This is the exact opposite of what the church is supposed to do—minister life-giving truth to a sick world and display the manifold wisdom of God to the universe (Ephesians 3:10). Now God’s people hang their heads and the watching world mocks. Undoubtedly, these scandals will shipwreck the faith of many.
Two phrases ring in my mind, “God will not be mocked” (Galatians 6:7) and “Your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).
We all have a thousand questions and want answers that we won’t soon get. Even though it may feel like you’ve been tossed overboard and are drowning in a sea of hurt, lies, and betrayal, you can hold onto these truths:
Sin is serious. We all sin and we are all hurt by sinners. Beware, this hurt may plant the seed of bitterness or unbelief in our heart—exactly what the devil wants. When the pain of being sinned against is great, let us mourn. May sin’s bitterness make the gospel’s sweetness more palpable. May we examine ourselves because we have the seeds of the same sins in our heart. May we repent in tears of our own sins.
Biblical church leadership structures and accountability matter. This isn’t a sexy thing to talk about but it’s absolutely vital if we want healthy churches, healthy leaders, and protection from sin’s destruction. If the framers of the Constitution thought it necessary to have checks and balances between the branches of government, believers who suspect their own sinful hearts should welcome such measures with open arms. Wise leadership does as much as it can to prevent future disasters and moral failings.
Human failure does not negate the goodness of God’s design for the church. Yes, the church has hurt you. But healing will only truly come from the ministry of the church. We need to cry on the shoulders of other Spirit-filled and Word-led believers. It may take time to trust again, but know there are godly, humble, and genuine shepherds who can walk with you in the healing process. God gave church leaders for the building up of the church “building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood” (Ephesians 4:12–13). Man’s failure doesn’t mean God failed you or that His purposes will fail. He is still accomplishing His purposes for you and this world in spite of sin. Trust Him.
We can’t give up on Jesus. We’re promised in His Word that we will have trouble in this world (John 16:33). We are promised that wolves will enter the sheep pen and seek to devour the flock. If you’re nursing a wolf-bite, cling to the promise of Romans 8:28 that God can and will use this for good. There’s a 100% chance of that. Re-read the story of Joseph (Genesis 37–50) to see how God can bring good out of evil. Look at our Savior hanging on the cross to see that truth on full display.
Friend, my heart breaks for you. You can’t escape your situation, but you can respond in a way that pleases God. Will you respond in faith or will you respond the way the enemy desires and make a bad situation even worse?
Praying for you.
Your friend in Jesus,
Jeremiah 17:5–10 seem appropriate:
Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
1 I’m thinking of two pastors near me, Bill Hybels of Willow Creek and James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel.