When Celebrity Pastors Crash and Burn

When Celebrity Pastors Crash and Burn

Tragically, we’ve been in a season of celebrity pastors crashing and burning as of late. We’ve been witnessing leaders, whom we admired, be exposed for backstage lives of deception and for making ungodly choices. Sadly, these choices have ended up damaging their marriages, children, reputations, and legacies. These would include recent pastoral celebrities such as Bill Hybels, James McDonald, Joshua Harris, or Marty Sampson (of Hillsong).

In one sense, the fall of Christian leaders is nothing new. Many professing Christian leaders have failed badly for thousands of years. On the other hand, there seems to be times when there is a fresh surge of leaders who “suddenly fall” with rapid succession. This is always tragic.

As I’ve watched some of the recent crashes and burns, it has been with a sense of grieving, confusion and—if I’m honest—some anger. How could some of these pastors be so incredibly gifted and influential, have such massive impact, and yet at the same time, be so deceitful and duplicitous? Where is the repentance, transparency and humility they talked about for so many decades? What about their churches? What about the people they abused? What about the people who are now left confused and disillusioned? What if these pastors never repent?

This clearly leads to some hard questions such as: Could someone be a truly gifted pastor, and yet be a spiritual phony? The Bible and Church History tell us that the answer is a sobering “Yes.” The Puritans were profoundly concerned about the danger of “unconverted ministers.”

SO…how do we respond when those we admire collapse morally? Here are at least ten reminders to help us think biblically:

1) Remember to pray for such individuals, for their recovery and/or salvation.
2) Remember that all human beings are capable of incredible deception and evil. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is desperately wicked and beyond cure.”
3) Remember that any of us is capable of moral disaster.
4) Remember that remarkable gifting and impact is not an automatic guarantee of true salvation.
5) Remember it’s not wrong to have heroes, we still need them!
6) Remember that God will bring all things into the light of His judgment.
7) Remember that we can still profit from these pastor’s teachings—if they were based in Scripture and wisdom—even if they are now disgraced.
8) Remember to repent daily and plead with God to stay truthful, tender and holy.
9) Remember that the gates of Hell cannot stand against Christ and His Church!
10) Remember that God is still on the throne and rules the nations.

by Jay Childs, Senior Pastor
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