The Man or The Message?

Bishop Eddie Long. Pastor Ted Haggard. Rev Jim Swilley. Television news channels have relayed to the “nth” degree the stories of these flawed charismatic men of God so I will not rehash their alleged indiscretions. Rather, let’s consider how the actions of flawed church leaders can have devastating effects on followers.

I once knew a young man who held his pastor in the highest regards. The young man sat rapt through every sermon and was the first to volunteer for whatever service was needed at the church. While volunteering one Saturday afternoon, the young man walked into the pastor's study and found him in a compromising position with a married female member of the congregation. Disappointed, the young man walked out of the church to his car then drove off. He never looked back and he never returned.

Men are not perfect. Men are born in sin and face daily temptations. King David, for example, from whose lineage our Lord and Savior is descended, was a man of great faith (the Psalms are testament to that) but he also succumbed to his passions and sank deep into sin (2 Samuel 11). Faith should be placed in God, never man. By nature, we tend to hold dearly what can be seen and heard and touched. Which is why there are pastors and church leaders with almost fanatical followings. These men and women are often placed on pedestals much too high for them to keep their balances. A fall is almost inevitable. And when they fall, there are some who fall with them. Not in the literal sense, but in the sense of disappointment and soul-wrenching questions regarding the leader's moral and spiritual compass as it relates to the follower. "I believed in him. What does that say about me?"

While it is good to support and respect our church leaders, we must be careful that we do not make gods of them. As messengers of God, they provide and an important and self-sacrificing service. But they are not saviors nor can they provide salvation. Jesus is the way and the light. Believe in Him. Receive the message from His chosen vessels, but don't confuse the two. Faith in man will lead to disillusion. Faith in the Lord will lead to enlightenment.

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