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Daily Thought - Yet Another Mega-church Pastor’s Fall From Grace

Discussion in 'Thoughts for Today' started by anthony wade, Jan 18, 2013.

  1. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. – 1Timothy 4: 16 (NIV)

    “It’s always distressing when a spiritual leader acts in a way contrary to his beliefs and teachings, but spiritual leaders are men susceptible to sickness, weakness, stumbling and sinning.” Such were the words of the disgraced former mega church pastor Jack Schaap as he faced the judge during his recent guilty plea for taking a 16 year old girl across state lines for the purpose of having sexual relations with her. Distressing indeed. I know that many Christian leaders do not like discussing events such as this, perhaps because it hits so close to home. To our own vulnerability. To our own sinful natures. It may be easier on us all to sweep it under the rug and pray for all involved but then we lose a teachable moment. A moment where God is reminding us of warnings He has already provided for us in His Word. Jack Schaap is right. Spiritual leaders at the end of the day walk in the same flesh as everyone else. They are susceptible to the same temptations as everyone else. They have the same sin nature as everyone else. The sooner we all realize that and stop pastor worshipping the better off we all will be. But while many Christian leaders feel for Jack Schaap I feel for the young woman in this case, for the 15,000 congregants at this church, and for the bevy of non-believers who read the titillating headlines and allow it to confirm for them that they need not bother with the church. Jack Schaap will have the next ten years in prison to get right with God. But it is exactly instances like this that damage the witness for Christ permanently amongst believers and those on the outside of salvation looking in. That is where the silent crime is and that is where the silent victims reside.

    So with this sad story as the backdrop, let us turn back to the Word of God in the key verse. It is a verse I have written about before but it bears re-examination in light of this latest fall from grace. The Apostle Paul is writing to his protégé Timothy. Paul knew the calling God had on Timothy, to be a preacher and to be a pastor. Yet this verse is not only meant for would be pastors but it has direct application for all believers. Because the schemes of the enemy are the same beloved; regardless of the call on our lives. He does not change them because he need not. They work so well. Paul warns Timothy here that he needs to watch two things closely – his life and his doctrine. This same admonition applies for us as well. Let us look at the two of them more closely in relation to the sad events from the First Baptist Church in Hammond.

    Paul warns Timothy to guard his life first. Everything in our lives affects every other area. We are not beings that compartmentalize things very well. When asked for some explanation of how he could have fallen so hard, Pastor Schaap said that his church was going through financial woes, they had just laid off staff because of it; he was working 100 hours per week and was dealing with depression over the situation. Beloved, that is not a life that is being watched very closely. That is a life veering insanely off course. I am willing to accept everything Schaap says at face value. Are they excuses? Of course not. We are all responsible for our actions regardless of how crazy things might be in our lives. But they do provide context especially in light of this Scripture. This is exactly what Paul was warning Timothy about. It is exactly what God is warning us about today as well. Guarding your life before things get out of control. In Pastor Schaap’s case it seems he fell prey to the heretical church growth theories where he had taken on the responsibility of God to add to his fellowship. If God gives the vision, then God provides the resources. So if you find yourself lacking resources it is time to review the vision. In a church that measures its tithes in the millions – finances should not be a problem. If they are, then it is time to scale back what you are doing. That applies for us as well as spiritual leaders. The modern evangelical mantra of God provides the increase fails to realize that sometimes He provides the decrease as well. Sometimes God has to minimize our super-sized dreams that have run ahead of Him. The 100 hours per week of work alone should have been a big enough warning sign:

    Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.In vain you rise early and stay up late,
    toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep tothose he loves. – Psalm 127: 1-2 (NIV)

    We have pastors across this country building their own church houses. They labor in vain. Likewise we ourselves run the exact same risk when we plot and plan without God as our builder. He isn’t a consultant. The end result of failed expectations is usually manifested in the worldly realm of “mental illness.” We who understand the spiritual realm of course understand demonic attack. When we do not guard our lives we leave ourselves exposed. When Nehemiah returned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and was facing an attack from the enemy, he understood this concept:

    The Jews who lived near the enemy came and told us again and again, “They will come from all directions and attack us!”So I placed armed guards behind the lowest parts of the wall in the exposed areas. I stationed the people to stand guard by families, armed with swords, spears, and bows. – Nehemiah 4: 12-13 (NLT)

    Who is guarding the exposed places in our lives? Those places we are most vulnerable? Those places the enemy is likely to attack because he knows we are weak there? Beloved – guard your life!

    The second area Paul exhorts Timothy to watch closely is his doctrine. I am sure this seems less important than guarding your life but I assure you it is not. What we believe is equally important because it is what forms everything else we do in our life. If your doctrine is rooted in a prosperity preacher then you will eventually find fault in God when that lottery ticket doesn’t come through. If you follow the latest self-help pastor then you may improve your temporal life but you may not be saved. Realize that there is a pseudo-Christian denomination that follows the teachings of a man from the 1800’s who had 34 wives, two of which were only 15 years old and claims Jesus visited him and gave him a new gospel. He claims that he found golden plates that angels translated for him and he re-wrote major portions of the Bible. You may hear that and dismiss it wondering who would be so foolish as to follow that? It is called Mormonism today and there are over 13 million followers. That is 13 million people who are not watching their doctrine closely and will be severely disappointed when they discover that their religion was false. Hear me very clearly – we do not all serve the same God. Jesus said that He is the way the truth and the life and none come to the Father except through Him. Period – end of story – despite what Joel Osteen might say on his next Larry King appearance.

    So how does the watching of doctrine play out in the case of Jack Schaap? It turns out that the number one complaint over the 12 years he ran First Baptist is that his preaching became more sexually focused as years went on. In his 2005 book, “Divine Intimacies” Schaap dives off the doctrinal cliff repeatedly. He wrote that when someone accepts Jesus Christ they do so as a lover and that they are engaging in “spiritual intercourse.” He stated women as being inferior and that men needed to take control of their wives. Is it any wonder then that his fall would be in the realm of sexuality? Is it any wonder that the devil attacked him in the area of sex? Sexual spirits exist beloved whether we want to admit it or not. I have heard some recent “worship” music that may as well be pornographic. Women hear me well - Jesus may be the lover of your soul but He is not your physical lover. We all will be attending the Wedding Feast of the Lamb but there is no honeymoon. What things like this do is it distorts our doctrine by using sexual spirits and then when the time is right we find ourselves attacked in the very area that we stopped guarding.

    Pray for Jack Schaap because a fall like this is obviously devastating. But let us also learn from it. The Bible isn’t a collection of quaint sayings, old tales and poignant poetry. It is the divinely inspired Word of Almighty God. In it is a verse from Paul to the would be pastor, Timothy that applies to everyone today. Watch you life and your doctrine closely. I guarantee you the devil is.

    Rev. Anthony

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