Friday, 12 June 2015

When Church Leaders Act Like... Christians!

The good news:

Matt Chandler & TVC apologised for subjecting Karen Hinkley to 'church discipline'.

The bad news:

It took so much blood, sweat and tears (& bad publicity) to achieve this result.

The worst news:

Everyone is taken by surprise by a church leader acting with humility and compassion.

As one reader commented:
"Here is a guy teaching them about Jesus week after week (and the leaders set themselves up as specially annointed to lead) and when something like this goes public people are thrilled when they FINALLY, after so much publicity, act in a Christian manner."

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Empty Apologies from 'Leaders'

One evening, in the midst of all the crap that was happening at church, I was driving to our elders meeting and thinking that if elder J wanted pre-eminence so badly that he was prepared to tear us all apart to achieve it, then I'd just quit and let him have what he wanted.

Imagine my surprise when, early on in the proceedings, J said that he wanted to apologise for 'overstepping his authority". I was dumbfounded. Was it possible that he was really acknowledging the damage he was doing in the name of his own ambition? Had he really repented?

Well my hope was short-lived to say the least.

No, apparently he was just doing what he'd been told to by board member M. There was no sincerity in his 'apology' at all, and it soon became apparent that neither of them thought J had done anything wrong - they were just hoping that if an apology was issued, it would shut us up.

Worse, they then played the, "we've apologised" card which meant that any further protest regarding J's behaviour simply showed how 'unforgiving' we were.

Some time later, after being told how much time J and his wife had had to spend dealing with the "words of iniquity" which he said had been spoken over them, I asked if he'd dealt with any of the 'words' he and his wife had spoken. He just yelled at me angrily about "praying mercy" for the elders. (Whatever that was supposed to mean.)

The same thing happened when board member D 'apologised' to me months later. In his book it was a done deal, so when I asked him how he was going to try and make amends for the consequences of his behaviour, he accused me of abusing him.

The tragedy is that this seems to be a standard play in the 'christian leaders' rulebook. Say some things that include the word 'sorry', maybe talk of 'lessons learned', and off you go - free to continue in exactly the same way you did before.

In the past few weeks alone, there have been ample opportunities to observe this phenomena at work in the western church. My question is, "How many times do we need to see this before we understand!?"

Saying sorry means nothing unless your behaviour changes. This goes for all of us, but for 'leaders', aren't they supposed to be... well... leading in this?

Yes, there is grace.

Yes, there is forgiveness.

But no, that doesn't mean abusive, controlling leaders should continue to be 'in ministry' when there is no evidence of actual repentance! (And it's highly inappropriate that they be given a standing ovation for saying they forgive the very people they've abused!)

I know I've written on this topic before, but when a reviled tax-collector knows more about what repentance looks like than those who claim to be in charge of God's church, then something is seriously wrong!

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Kings and Other Despots

Back in the day, there was a concept known as the "Divine Right of Kings". This meant that if you happened to be lucky enough to be born into the right family, you got to rule - no questions asked.

You got to do and say whatever you pleased and no-one had the right to challenge you. You got to dictate to others how they lived and what they believed.

You had God himself in your back pocket!

Today, there are still some people who think they are entitled to power, privilege and respect with no questions tolerated. Many of them call themselves "pastors".

The only difference I can see is that these days dissenters aren't beheaded.

They are hounded from churches and shunned. They are discredited and silenced. And they are threatened with legal action.

And for too many people, this is normal christianity!

But as the exposure of scandal and abuse in the 'church' increases...

and the appalling hubris of 'pastor' after 'pastor' is revealed... 

I think about the only King who truly had 'divine right' on his side. 

And I thank God, that he chose to give up that right.

That he chose to humble himself. 

That he chose to serve.

(Luke 22:24-27)