I got a news alert this morning that a lead pastor of one of the Hillsong campuses was busted in a sex scandal. Not the first of this kind of crisis to rock the megachurch monolith.
The late world-renowned evangelist and Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias went to his eternal rest under a cloud of suspicion regarding sexual misconduct. Allegations have not only multiplied since he passed but have been corroborated. Turns out, while he brought the message of Christ to the masses, he existed in a very different world than we thought.
The evangelical Christian church. Praising God, filling mega-churches, supporting missions around the world. Trump worshippers, anti-maskers, and vaxxers, extending love to everyone as long as they fit a very specific profile.
What do you do when your faith leaders turn out to be anything but faithful people? What happens to your faith when the people you’ve looked up to as leaders, mentors, and examples show you just how very human they are?
The answer for many is to leave the entire thing. Rid oneself of the toxicity and hypocrisy of it all. Flee from the piety of the dishonest and never look back. It makes sense.
When people of faith who profess to live a life of Godliness live secret lives of anything but, a lot of folks are going to get hurt. Departing from the mess that is sometimes organized religion is logical to anyone who has suffered a crisis of faith as a result of the incredible letdown that occurs when things like this happen. I get it.
But here’s something to remember. The church is made of people. People are the church. And people screw up. Christ is not the church. He is above all of it. He does not screw up. When those whose very humanity—riddled with all their faults and shortcomings—reveal how very lost they truly are, it’s not Christ that is the problem.
My very bold statement: Christ and the church are not one and the same. So, when the church and its human leaders let you down, the fault lies not on Christ. If anything, He is the only good that will ever be found in all of it. Human beings are flawed. Christ is not.
The blunder of many believers, of people of faith, lies in exalting humans to being on par with Christ. Unconsciously or not, that is always a grave error. I have heard of pastors referred to as men and women of God, which is to sometimes elevate flawed humans to quasi-deities. So very wrong and blasphemous. Men and women work for God; they are not, in any way, working in the same realm as Him.
So, what does all this mean? The pastors and spiritual leaders who have lied, cheated, and abused while hidden behind a pulpit are as culpable and subject to accountability as any person. And they must be held up to their wrongdoing. It is Christ’s mercy and forgiveness that any redemption can be found.
But they don’t hold the keys to transformative faith, to a walk with Christ. That is entirely between an individual and Jesus Christ himself. The flaws and failures of the clergy, teachers, and the entire movement itself are on the people. Christ is the one that can be trusted, always, in any situation.
Persons hurt by the pain inflicted within church walls are often right to leave it to find the safety, integrity, and dignity they deserve. But departing from Christ entirely isn’t where it’s at. If anything, He’s the one completely capable of healing you.
Your walk through life doesn’t have to be a solo endeavor, even if your faith background has let you down. Humans are flawed little specks in the big scheme of things. Bet the ranch on Someone much, much bigger … and completely trustworthy.