Ier Jonathan Notes Top Story

When Ministry Leaders Fail

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Ier Jonathan.

When one of your favourite pastors or leaders turns out to not be all you thought s/he was, it reminds you that God will expose us all in the end. Our secret lives matter.

One of my favourite preachers, teachers and apologists, Ravi Zacharias was posthumously exposed last week as someone who took sexual advantage of a number of young, vulnerable women and at least one case involved rape. The ministry he founded, RZIM, commissioned an independent investigation into some allegations late last year and I guess were so gob-smacked by what they found that they apologised to all his victims and published the damning report on their website. It was a sad and disturbing read. I felt sad for the victims, Ravi’s family and for Ravi himself. I’d enjoyed his teaching for years and often shared some of his quotes and sermons with friends. Ravi died at 74 last year, never really publicly owning up to these deeds. Mind-blowing. Lessons & takeaways for me were:

1) As I read that report, Jesus’ promise in Luke 12:3 kept reverberating in my ears: “Whatever is said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” We all have a secret life and it will be exposed one day. Ravi’s came out after he died. He had a super star funeral. VP Mike Pence spoke at his funeral. No matter. Ravi’s secret life was laid bare for the whole world to see. Ravi’s came some month after his death. Question for me and you: when will ours be exposed and will we be ashamed or proud when God exposes us for who we fully are? My new prayer is: “Lord please let me not be a disgrace to Your grace.” Lord have mercy!

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2) God NEVER hides His people’s sins & failures. Even His best workers. He did not hide Abraham & Sarah’s many failures, Moses’ disobedience, David’s adultery and murder of Uriah, Solomon’s idolatry or Peter’s betrayal. Ravi’s failures do not negate who God is. God is still God. And no body will escape His exposure & judgment. Everything will be uncovered and laid bare AND we will give an account of our lives to Him one day. Guaranteed.

3) Respect to RZIM. They did not cover up Ravi’s sin. They were honest and open. Many of our churches specialise in covering up the sins of their leaders and in persecuting those who call out sinful behaviour in their leaders in the name of “Touch not my anointed”. Such ministries and ministers are walking in darkness and not in the light and need to repent. Follow and defend them at your own peril. I pray that we will be quicker to not shame Jesus by walking in truth, no matter how tough it is. O Jehovah, may we not be a disgrace to Your name.

4) Christian leaders need to get over themselves and stop with this superstar nonsense. And their followers should stop encouraging them and threatening hell fire and brimstone for people who criticise them. The only truly important and sinless person is Jesus Christ. Sadly, many will not listen. Some of us are like the Israelites – needing visible idols to worship and to aspire to be like. It is a choice thing. Choose wisely.

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5) We are each in an individual battle for our souls and it is a fight to the end. It is our choice how we choose to navigate our path. None of us is without sin, it is how we deal with it in our lives that matters. Get an accountability partner (or partners) you can talk with about how you are really doing and pray with so you can help each make it to the finish line. Bottomline:

“This is the message we have heard from him (Jesus) and declare to you: God is light, in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (see 1 John 1:5-9)

Many of us live double and secret lives. Secret sex lives. Secret criminal lives. Secret families. Secret money lives. Secret lies of deceit, violence and God knows what else that ultimately hurt God and people. And like Ravi or David, we try to put up a good front and show the world our good side. But God is not deceived.

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Throughout scripture, from Genesis through to Revelation, God’s message and call is for us to repent, to come into the light, to turn from our sinful, shameful lives and turn to God. And if we have not yet been baptised, to be baptised for the forgiveness of sin and to start living right and in fellowship with others who also desire to walk in the light who can help us and who we can help (see Matthew 28:18-20 & Acts 2:36ff for more on this). It is a tough call but will be well worth it in the end but we must start practicing now how to live and walk in the light no matter how often we fall. May our Father see us faithful till we breathe our last. Amen.

  • Ier Jonathan-Ichaver is a Bible student, striving Jesus follower and social worker.

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