Currently in the news across America is the most disturbing news of an American pastor, recently retired, who is being charged with multiple murders amid allegations of a string of sexual abuse of women that took place over a number of years. Bearing in mind that something similar occurred in the USA catholic churches especially in the Boston diocese, to do mostly with minors, and elsewhere we are now hearing of this as it affects other churches as here this case is related to a United Methodist Church minister. Not wishing in any way to pre-judge the outcome of this case we know of several church ministers who have been found guilty of atrocious crimes and have served or are serving lengthy prison sentences. In my book STAND UP TO THE DEVIL I made some pointed remarks about false people and in particular false leaders in the church. All Christians everywhere need to be vigilant first for themselves and those whom are in their care but also to those of the household of faith for we are our brother's keeper and we are duty-bound to lookout for each other. The relevant section is reprinted here.
True leaders are like genuine shepherds of ordinary sheep whose sole concern is for the safety, health and welfare of each and every sheep of that fold. It is for good reason that Jesus referred to himself as the good shepherd for he is the quintessential example of peerless leadership, “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” – John 10:11-14. In exercising this care the true shepherd will leave the ninety and nine safely in the fold and, braving all weathers and dangers, will boldly seek out that one sheep that has got into difficulty and needs assistance.
The Bible puts it like this, “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.” – Luke 15:4-6. Now look around you today and see how many leaders qualify under the criteria specified by Jesus Christ and you will see why religion is in this perilous state.
We have leaders who are full of themselves, egocentric, self-serving, self-seeking whose sole objective is to elevate themselves and lord it over the flock, whose aim is to look after themselves rather than the flock, feather their own nest and set themselves up as intermediary between the people and God. These modern-day Nicolaitans not only prevent people from coming to God and making a commitment, but worse they become a stumbling block to those already committed to the Lord and they cause some of them to turn away from the faith just as happened in Jeremiah’s time, “My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace.” – Jeremiah 50:6
It is true that the world has a dearth of good leadership right now and the consequences for the world is being felt as we witness unnecessary wars, inept economic management, clumsy social policies and out of control lawlessness among other maladies but it is the situation in religion where the dearth is most acutely felt. Leaders of the church are called out of the world, set as watchmen over the flock and purged of the motivations, ambitions and carnality of the fallen world so that they may freely, fervently and fully serve God and his people.
What we have are fake leaders who do not represent God, do not know and therefore cannot articulate the vision and will of Almighty God, have no sincere love for the flock and are woefully lacking in their responsibility to warn the people of error. Ezekiel put it like this, “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the words at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, when a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; but thou hast delivered thy soul.” – Ezekiel 3: 17-21.
You are to watch out most carefully for fake leaders and not be fooled or be taken in by them even when they have great charisma and appear so enlightened and progressive, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” - 2 Corinthians 11:13-15. One of the bizarre consequences of fake leadership is that in your efforts to stand up to the Devil and his demons, you will find the fake leader, instead of being your ally and asset to bolster your valiant stand, turns out to be the Devil’s agent working to undermine and destroy you. The moment you recognize him as a fake, and therefore fully on the Devil’s side with all the nominal Christians, is the moment you advance another step towards victory.
Predators are everywhere and we need to take seriously the warning of Peter to believers world-wide, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour." (1 Peter 5:8) There are paedophiles in the church, there are rapists in the church, there are people in the church whose sole function is to do the maximum harm to the greatest number of people and they hide behind the famous tolerance and compassion of church members to keep them anonymous; this should not be so.
No church is authorised to keep unrepentant renegade leaders and unruly members in its rank for to do so would be a flagrant violation of the apostolic teachings foundational to the church and set a bad example to all believers. Many times the "bad apple" is known and often would pay no heed to his evil ways and would often resort to quotes like, "Let him that is without sin cast the first stone" (John 8:7) or "first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." (Matthew 7:5) or "Touch not the Lord's anointed and do his prophet no harm." (Psalm 105:15)
There is a proper approach, an acceptable way of dealing with renegade leaders and unruly members bearing in mind that the prime objective is not to kick him out but to get him to become a true member of the church. We are told that those who are spiritual should go to him and get him to change his ways for conversion is required not censure, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted (Galatians 6:1). When this does not work then the example given us by the Apostle Paul must be firmly applied and the assembly move forward in unity.
There was a man who wanted to live with his father's wife who was his step-mother and in fact was doing so and thought that because he was part of the larger grouping in the church he was untouchable and here is what Paul said, " I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person." (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)
Therefore put away from among you that wicked person says Paul. The church can and must take the necessary action to preserve its principles, traditions and mandate for to do otherwise would be a gross failure of sacred duty.
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Amen, Dr. Ward! I have been reading about the Great Awakening and heroes like Steubal Stearns and Daniel Marshall. (My wife and mother-in-law are direct descendents of Marshall, and his home place in Appling, GA, is not far from our home.) These courageous soldiers of the cross and others like them spoke out against, were beaten, and arrested for daring stand up against the unregenerate ministers of the Church of England. Their stand exposed the false prophets and God used them to usher in the Great Awakening that saved our nation. We need such leaders today to expose the apostate leaders in our churches and denominations today and stand on the necessity of the New Birth for all of those in the pulpit.