Megachurch Pastor Resigns Over Moral Failure: what does it mean?

moral-failure2Another famous preacher has fallen.

Moral failure is what they’re calling it in the news.

It is my single biggest fear. Perhaps it’s because I have witnessed the cultural aftershock every time a Christian leader falls into scandalous sin. It could be that I’ve been up close with one too many people who felt the pain of a moral failure first-hand. Or perhaps it’s because I have come alarmingly close to far too many “failures” of my own. I could fall tonight.

I feel this. I can only imagine what my pastor-brother is going through. It pains me to think about the conversations he had to have with his wife and children. I hurt for his family and his church and the Ft. Lauderdale Christian community. It breaks my heart.

Some people want blood: Shoot the offender. Here’s another example of mega-religion gone bad. Others call for a pardon. Let he who has no sin cast the first stone, we say. Nobody’s perfect; God understands. There are no easy answers.

What constitutes a moral failure anyway? Why are some sins more “scandalous” than others? Funny you never hear about a pastor being disqualified for arrogance or gluttony or gossip; just sex or fraud. Does it make a difference if he came forward and confessed instead of being caught? Do we treat this differently if he was a small group leader in a church? What about a drummer in a church worship band?

Here are some random thoughts directed toward our little tribe to chew on in a moment like this.

1. Sin is no joke. It always kills. It always hardens the heart. It always deceives. It always has consequences. It’s not that God won’t forgive. Of course he will. It’s just that the longer we delay our repentance the greater the gravitational pull of our darkness. I think about the children of professing Christians who are forced to silently watch their parents make decisions that violate the will of God. They will pay a price for years to come. I’m not throwing a stone. I can sympathize with the restlessness of a cheating husband. I have seen the pain of the scorned wife. I relate to the allure of materialism. Here’s the point: Deal with your darkness. It’s not just going away.

2. Sex sins are different. Enough of the idiotic cliché that says a sin is a sin. Let’s get real. When we sin sexually, it’s different. The apostle Paul said that when a man sleeps with a prostitute he becomes one with her. There is some sort of a soul-tie that happens when we engage in sexual sin. It messes with your soul. If you have been in sexual sin, I beg you to repent deeply and quickly. This often means reaching out for healing.

3. You’re not wired to thrive as a lone ranger. I’m always reminded of how inspiring the life of David was – until his friend Jonathon died. While he was a nobody, and while Jonathon was around, he was slaying giants and writing scripture and living boldly. But post-Jonathon he’s a different story. He commits adultery and murder and a governmental cover-up; he numbers the people and his family falls apart. Position, success, and prominence are too dangerous to endure on your own. It seems we have a need to be deeply known and deeply loved AND deeply accountable – especially when we ascend to our “thrones.” I always wonder if a fallen pastor had any Jonathons.

4. We have to rediscover the forgotten discipline of confession. When we confess our sins to God he forgives us and cleanses us (1 John 1:9). But when we appropriately confess to each other we have the opportunity to be fixed: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, THAT YOU MAY BE HEALED.” (James 5:16) What sort of friend should you goto to confess? Someone who would actually respond with a healing prayer.

5. A warning to fellow pastors: One of the most dangerous things about ministry is that it can be learned. With enough talent and hard work, you just might get good at this. What a pity. One of the saddest verses in all of Scripture for me involves Samson, who had been on a slow but steady decline away from God. When his hair was finally cut, he got up to shake himself just like he had so many times before, but he did not realize the touch of God had left him. Don’t become a professional.

6. A plea to people who love their leaders and elders: Pray for them! Of course we believe in the priesthood of all believers. But let’s be honest. This is a career path unlike others. If a salesman has a moral failure, we shake our heads and move on. If the president has a moral failure, he obviously gets to keep his job. But in this line of work you lose everything. And don’t forget Mondays. Just ask a pastor what their soul goes through for about 24 hours following intense ministry every weekend. Pray.

7. It’s easy to get cynical when you hear about another Christian failure. But cynicism is soul-laziness. You cannot love people and be cynical at the same time. Choose love.

8. We have to become more fluent in grace. Most Christians functionally believe that the saving work of Jesus will forgive them, but it’s going to be their own hard work and striving that will grow them. Somehow we MUST come to grips with the reality that the same work of Jesus that justified us is precisely what we need to sanctify us. We need to learn to APPLY the gospel of amazing grace.

Beware, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another daily, as long as it is called “today”, that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13)

Did you catch that? My heart gets hard! Your heart gets hard! But we have the power to melt each other’s hardened hearts. The grace of God through the people of God has no equal. This means it’s not too late for this fallen pastor in south Florida. And it’s not too late for you.

 

22 Comments »

  1. Just curious- what if you are the victim of rape or sexual assault? Does that require “repentance” if you were not a willing participant? I understand reaching out for healing, but it seems a bit too presumptuous to tell those victims to “repent” of a sin they didn’t want to commit in the first place! (just a few thoughts)

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  6. It’s a good post but there’s a key ingredient that must be spelled out: The Power of the Holy Spirit needs to be spelled out here boldly. It’s not our power but the Holy Spirit that will convicts men’s heart. The Holy Spirit also has the power to sustain us during these times of weakness if we humble ourselves otherwise we don’t stand a chance.

  7. It’s a good post but there’s a key ingredient that must be spelled out: The Power of the Holy Spirit needs to be spelled out here boldly. It’s not our power but the Holy Spirit that will convicts men’s heart. The Holy Spirit also has the power to sustain us during these times of weakness if we humble ourselves otherwise we don’t stand a chance.

  8. Reblogged this on Peyton Wells and commented:
    May we never be so far above the simple yet profound act of accountability that we shame Jesus & be forced to resign from full time ministry. 😦 I’m not gonna cast a stone, but we must learn from his mistakes. Poor guy, it’s all public & stuff. lol. #getitright

  9. The ” Spotlight “,the ” Limelight ” instead of being under ” Gods’Light “. The daily job of professionally preparing words or humbly being an oracle of the Word. As the years go by the hardness of heart that lets the voice in our head and from those close to us say it’s ok for you to have this, I certainly deserve some of that. Whether ” Mega Church ” , 2 or 3 gathered in My Name, the magnifying glass remains the same. Pastors,Shepherds, leaders are not with out sin, mistakes, bad judgement or losing their way. The same forgiveness applies to all that walk this earth. However the world will quickly pick up this rock of sin to stone the entire body of Christ. Let’s be our Brothers keeper. Be his/her eyes when blinded by wealth, greed, high minded and put the spotlight on the sin that is at their doorstep while help can be found.

  10. Thank you for your heart felt message of love, life, grace and reality. My heart goes out to Pastor Bob, the faith community in South FL, and The Bride. He will come again for His Bride and I am saddened for the loss for all!

  11. A hard heart will heap the pride of sin ,that’s wart we do when we judge there is the one thing we are to always do and that is love.
    Love the Lord, Love your neighbor, love your self,
    It is hard to do all when you fall but if we who are called by his name are doing what we are told then the gift of love will come forward..

    Pastor you have wisdom beyond your years I pray you never have to endure this but know this. You are loved well beyond your performance, and duty.
    2nd commandment applies. Thank you for your wisdom and for answering the call to serve.
    Mike c

  12. Thank you for this timely post. A condom fell out of our young son’s wallet yesterday, and we are trying to find the best ways to respond for his sake and his girlfriend’s sake. We all need Jonathons in our lives!

  13. Thanks for the word Pastor Mike. My heart aches for these men of God that have fallen but it is a call to men to be alert and on guard. Thanks for reminding us.

  14. this breaks my heart but my first thought is forgiveness we dont always understand these things but the devil is real never ever let your guard down give him an inch & he will take a mile.untill we meet jesus we are all at risk don’t be fooled its satins job to rob steal & destroyl ets not judge if we do we are no better then his sin.therefore lets all pray for this man.

  15. Accountability, tempered by grace makes all the difference in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ. Sadly, many men (in my opinion, the most vulnerable to sexual sin) don’t get it. Thank you for sounding the alarm Pastor Patz.

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