The church is broken.
I know of no other way to describe the barrage of events that we are seeing unfold today in Pennsylvania and Chicago.
In Pennsylvania, over 300 priests have been accused of sexually abusing more than 1000 children over the past 70 years.
Bishops, charged to hold priests accountable and protect churchgoers not only covered up the abuse, but often participated in it. Even the Vatican was aware of these evil actions and did nothing. Their official statement on the actions, coverups, and victimization now that it has become public?
“We feel shame and sorrow.”
I don’t think “shame and sorrow” adequately communicates how the rest of the world thinks they should respond. Based on Jesus’ teaching in Mark 9:42, I don’t think I’m out of bounds to say He is not satisfied with their “feelings”, either.
These actions are evil, devoid of love and the gospel, and they will have to give an account for their lives in this life and the next.
For those who vilify the Catholic Church and point to ongoing failings within that system of religion, Evangelicals are reeling from the revelation that one of our most prominent pastors in the last 50 years groomed and sexually abused several women that he worked with.
Bill Hybels revolutionized the church movement in America at Willow Creek Community Church. “Willow” reaches an average attendance of 25,000 each weekend on their campuses. He is generally referred to as one of the father’s of the modern megachurch movement. Even high profiled pastors and authors who worked with him are now accused of lewd and inappropriate behavior behind closed doors.
The response of Hybels and his leaders was to deny, blame the women, and seek out a 3rd party crisis communication PR firm to mitigate the damage done to their church and beloved pastor’s reputation.
These are just the latest stories to hit the news and we all know there are likely more. To be fair, these are allegations and the accused have not had their day in court to defend themselves. The number of victims coming forward, though, is staggering.
The church is broken.
I don’t know of any other way to describe it.
I don’t just mean in the way that the “C”hurch is supposed to broken over sin and before God, struggling between our flesh and spirit.
I mean, it has become something that it wasn’t supposed to become.
The standard of success for the church in America is 1) how many people attend your church? 2) how big is your budget? 3) how big is your campus and 4) how far does your pastor’s name reach around the world.
Jesus said we should be known 1) by our love, 2) by our fruits, 3) by our brokenness, and 4) by the work of the Holy Spirit in us.
Strong, charismatic leaders that could rival any of the greatest CEO’s in US history are leading a new lucrative business system that cannibalizes the gospel and turns it into their own business plan.
Well known pastors wear the most exclusive brands, fly around in private jets, own multimillion dollar homes, and have personal security teams to keep undesirable people away from them.
One well known pastor expects his congregation to stand for him whenever he walks in the room and clap for him when he makes an important point in his sermon. He even has a team for other up-and-coming pastors that will come to their church to teach their congregations to do the same.
The church is broken.
Jesus said this about the church.
Acts 1:8 (ESV)
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
John 13:35 (ESV)
35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Mark 9:42–45 (ESV)
42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. 43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell.
Luke 14:11 (ESV)
11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Matthew 20:16 (ESV)
16 So the last will be first, and the first last.”
And, the “Beattitudes”.
Matthew 5:2–12 (ESV)
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The church is broken.
What we celebrate as “successful” is often anything but in the eyes of Christ.
The truth is, you can not follow Jesus without humility and brokenness, but you can lead a church to new heights, as evidenced by some (but certainly not all) in church leadership, today.
While there are a great many problems in churches today, let me also emphatically say that there are good churches serving their communities. Pastors of small and large churches, alike that love Jesus and are committed to walking with Him, leading through humility and brokenness and demonstrating the best parts of the gospel.
The church will be broken, but let it be broken in the way that Jesus intends…
Broken to our sin, our selfishness, our self-righteousness, and the search for our own self-glory.
Let us weep for and respond to the victims of this abuse with love, compassion, and grace, showing them that Jesus is not represented by these who have preyed upon them.
Let us recommit to truly following the way of Christ instead of using the gospel simply as a means of our own success.
The answer has been and always will be Jesus. He is watching, we will still be judged, and He is still offering a better way through his own crucifixion, resurrection, and offer to be our Savior.
Let us seek out the better characteristics of loving others, humbly recognizing the glory of God and abandon the search for our own.
Let us be the church as Jesus called us to be, even when others use that name to describe something totally different.
As Paul challenged himself, let us also accept this challenge to…
Philippians 3:12–14 (ESV)
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.