Observations on Three Mega-Firings
For me, this past year has been the best of times and the worst of times.
The best? I’m a Great Commission-meets-Great Commandment guy who is radically blessed by a collaboration of nearly one thousand congregations and ministry groups banding together in my home city to invite friends, colleagues, and neighbors to explore God. Seven big questions of faith. Seven sermon presentations. Seven small group conversations. A score of ministry partners from Alpha to Awana to Chicago Bible Society to Billy Graham Center to Fellowship of Christian Athletes to Kindness Outreach to Navigators to Pray.Network … Unprecedented cooperation across urban neighborhoods and suburban communities. A John 17 collaboration many of us have prayed for and worked toward fervently for the past 25+ years.
No one could be more excited than me. Except the Evil One. God’s Public Enemy #1 who was well aware of an authentic and diverse expression of the Church across Chicagoland resulting in widespread promotion of the Explore God campaign and the telling of real life stories of Christ-followers: young and old, rich and poor, city and suburb, minority and majority cultures, The Enemy knew he needed a strategy to deflect or discredit the Gospel witness of the everywhere, everyday people of God. His goal: the worst of times.
And, sadly, we, gave a grand assist to his endeavors.
Three high profile firings. Three men of God. Three well known and respected Christian organizations. Three front page stories.
Three men of God? I personally know these individuals and believe each one is a true believer, daily working so that many others become fully devoted followers of Christ; discipled upon the pillars of orthodox Christian faith; practicing justice – loving mercy – walking humbly with our God.
Three well known and respected Christian organizations? These two congregations and this ministry organization have had significant impact in their local communities as well as across the nation and beyond. Thousands of lives transformed by the Gospel message. Leaders trained and equipped. Many under-resourced and voiceless cared for and empowered. Trend setters yet anchored to biblical truth.
Three front page stories? Truly stunning news. Private (and disgusting) conversations played on a major Chicago radio show. News of one firing breaks at their national conference. A torrent of blog postings began a debate that ended in a firing and eventually widespread resignations. A Shakespearean-worthy tragedy played out on the air waves, in print and online, and in large auditoriums. Just how the Enemy hoped it would be. The worst of times.
“God forbid!” is everyone’s initial response (as it should be). We scurry to search for credible information, hoping the worst accusations are untrue or at least mischaracterized. Eventually, we are all devastated by the revelation of a painful truth.
But, is knowing what happened, events and details, our only responsibility? Certainly not. As Christ-centered believers, we are called to a deeper and wider responsibility. Each story is, yes, about one individual. But what about those who have been harmed? And, while we are grateful for their service, what must we learn about why each leadership team was slow to call their leader to accountability? What is a ministry’s responsibility to the Church in their community? And, what must we learn about the mind-set that permeates members in mega-sized, charismatic-leader-led, ministries?
While the media focuses on exposing the sordid weakness of a Christian leader, the Church (both members and leaders) must focus on the sin these stories exposed. But not merely the sin of the leader. The sin of the Body of Christ as we enable, ignore, permit, then when unable to do otherwise, we simply expel, the mega-gifted spiritual celebrity.
Is it possible mega-churchianity has become a religious version of corporate culture values, so that, when disaster strikes, leadership resorts to damage control and too quickly moves to re-inspiring the membership toward a bright future?
Oh for a Nehemiah! “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Then I said…” (1:4-5). Oh for men and women of God who’s first reaction is to stop business as usual (days, weeks, even months!). Shed tears. Become filled with sorrow. Refuse to eat. Then, when finally approaching the Living God in prayer, declares: “We have sinned in our actions against You. We have not kept (your) Laws” (1:7). A leader who had not sinned, praying as if he was complicit in the sins of others. No excuses. Just bold, naked truth. A prayer of desperation. Prayed from a heart of humility.
Pondering these mega-firings (and how they have been handled), I have been hounded by questions appropriate regardless of a ministry’s city, size, scope, or the stature of the fallen leader.
- When we each first heard the sad news, was prayer our first response?
- Was our first prayer to protect status quo, personal convenience, or to ask God for a full revelation of truth and his will?
- Have we begun to pray for the fallen leaders’ spouses? Their children?
- Do we know how to biblically pray for fallen leaders? Conviction? Contrition? Confession? (Luke 15:17: the prodigal son returned when he saw himself as he really was)
- Do we know how pray for leadership that failed to discern the problem or respond to concerns presented to them along the way?
- How will we insure we discern and choose new leaders by the leading of the Holy Spirit? Leaders who hold authority humbly rather wield it as power to control… Who submit their talent and skills to be used as serving gifts of the Spirit.
- What needs to change if our congregation/ministry has embodied corporate values or responds to problems with damage control?
- Did anyone call for a lament-and-repent response? A full-stop to lament (Nehemiah’s “we have sinned”) and then repent (what must we do to turn in a new direction?
Too much is at stake for us to merely move on from these mega-firings. I am praying for the Lord to raise up men and women who will lead us to pray first, pray always . . .
“Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name.
We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen!
Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” Daniel 9:18-19
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