A few years back I read a news article about a Pastor in Pennsylvania that was caught lying to his congregation as well as the local newspaper, going into great detail about a Navy SEAL career he never had. He had created elaborate stories about his experiences as a SEAL, working them in as sermon illustrations when he could. But eventually it came to light for all to see that he never was one. None of his stories had any fabric of truth to them. He had been sharing lies from the pulpit and eventually through mass media. I was bummed.
When we hear things like this I think our first response is shock, then possibly anger, and finally some judgment. “How could a man of authority who claims to know God and walk with Him, do something like this?” We’re disgusted, and disappointed.
But I’ve stopped to consider how God sees this situation. First of all, He hates sin. He hates deception. And He knew the lies that lay in this Pastor’s heart before they were ever publicly uttered. YIKES!
But, He also knew of the deeper broken places in this man, broken places so similar to those that are found in all of us. Maybe there were painful insecurities resident in this seasoned pastor; insecurities never dealt with that can cause a man to create a more impressive image of himself; insecurities that caused one lie to develop into a grandiose fabrication.
God already knew that this man, like the rest of us, still had broken places that needed attention. God was not shocked when they came to light for all of us to see. In fact, God in His love and mercy probably had something to do with these things coming to light. He saw them all the time and still loved this man. He was not taken back by the public fall. The sin was not more offensive to Him when it became public than it was when it was shrouded in secret. All along God saw a man so similar to the rest of us – afraid to admit weakness and the deep hidden sin that was still resident in him. God saw it hidden there and longed that it would be revealed so that it could be removed. God so loved this Pennsylvania pastor and so longed for him to have freedom from hidden sin, that surely He allowed the fruits of brokenness to become public. God is so merciful to us, that if we won’t expose the dark places in us, He will, so that light can come in.
So lets talk about us now. Guess what? Being in ministry does not mean that you are emotionally whole. It doesn’t mean that you’ve dealt with the wounds from your past or the fears you have about your future. Being in ministry doesn’t mean that you’ve found emotional freedom or wholeness. You probably still have untouched, unsurrendered places in your life that cause unhealthy and sinful behaviors. I do.
I wonder about our friend in Pennsylvania, how could his story have gone differently? How could the church have avoided another scandal gone public?
I think a good starting place is found in being honest with one another about our broken places and the sin we hide. What if we created a culture where it’s ok to admit to being fractured? We all began that way and still remain that way in some places of our heart. What if someone who had walked with Jesus for 30 years could still admit to another that they had an area of sin they battled with, or one they had kept secret? Within that kind of culture; pastors, leaders, and church members might be able to admit their sins to one another and together experience the kind of and healing and victory talked about in James 5:16.
How many of us continue to serve in ministry, appearing to have our lives together, while living with sin on the inside, and the constant torture of fearing that someone next to us might find out? God didn’t intend for it to be this way and I know that it doesn’t have to be. A culture shift can start with you. What needs to come into the light today so that you can be free? God sees it all anyway. It’s actually more ugly to Him when hidden than it is exposed. He desires for it to come into the light so that the roots can be removed.
If you find yourself in a spot where you feel that you have no one to talk to about matters such as these, Elim Fellowship is here for you. Mark Scorsone and the rest of us on his leadership team would be privileged to walk with you in a way that brings wholeness and restoration. Let’s move together toward creating a culture where it’s safe to expose our own sin quietly to another so there isn’t so much loud talk about it publicly.
Josiah is a lover of Jesus, husband, and father. He and his wife Laura serve as the youth pastors at Zion Fellowship in Canandaigua, NY. They strive to love and serve teenagers in the same way Jesus does. Josiah has a passion for preaching God's Word and calling young people to authentic Christian living. Josiah has ministry credentials through Elim Fellowship and serves on the Elim Fellowship Youth Committee.