Karl Lentz, the American Hillsong pastor, was recently fired from his mega church for sexual misconduct. He is just another statistic among an already disappointing ‘pastor’s hall of shame’ who have brought disgrace to the Church and our Lord. Again, the church is left trying to pick up the pieces, while the world looks at this state of affairs and scoffs. The world is watching.
I’m sad and angry!
I am sad and heartbroken for the stain that this puts on the church, and for the brokeness that this causes to his family and the church. Our sin always brings pain, but when a public leader is involved there becomes a greater amount of people hurt.
I am also angry that it appears more and more, that men like Karl Lentz, who I do not believe are qualified to be pastors, are put into leadership roles (e.g. Lentz was doing shots at a bar with a celebrity, his messages are more self help and not scripture filled, and he couldn’t share the true gospel message when people asked him for it).
It is tragic when they fall because they hurt so many people in the process. Yet, I think the greatest tragedy is the stain it places on the church. The church is described as the bride of Christ and is called to be holy and blameless (Ephesians chapter 5, verses 25-27).
The church is to be different than the world, not of the world.
The ongoing crisis in the church
Sadly, this isn’t just a singular event in the Church. When standards are lowered, behaviour follows. If I expect my children to clean my bathroom to a high standard and keep them accountable for it, I can expect a clean bathroom. If I lower my standard I can’t blame them for doing a worse job, but that’s what I’ll get.
Our culture wants exactly what Paul warns Timothy about in 2 Timothy chapter 4, verse 3, “For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires.” We do not want pastors preaching the word of God, rather we want entertainers who entertain us with hints of truth.
Our culture bases pastor’s criteria on their coolness factor, their sensationalism, and their charisma, rather than how dedicated they are to faithfully preach the truth in scripture. It is no wonder we continue to find ourselves in the same situation.
Not the world’s standards
When selecting someone to lead the church, the Bible has very clear standards for the men that we should call to be our pastors. The Bible, which should be the authority over every Christian’s life and every church, needs to define who is to lead God’s people. Ultimately, if we want to call our churches to a higher standard, we need to expect that starts in leadership.
So what should we look for in a pastor to lead God’s people, to shepherd the flock, to teach the truth? One might think we want them to have great personalities, be able to tell great stories, or draw a crowd because they are vibrant and good looking.
But look at the men God used in the Bible to lead His people. Jesus was nothing special to look at, John the Baptist preached in a camel’s robe, and Peter was a fisherman.
If you think about selecting men to lead that meet the world’s standards you could think of Saul, the first king of Israel. He was ‘the guy’ to lead Israel and yet if you read the story of 1 Samuel we see how that turned out. Instead, consider Israel’s second king, David. He was a man after God’s heart, not chosen according to man’s standards, but God’s.
What is the Bible’s standard?
All I can do is mention a few criteria of a pastor (also called elders) that are found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. The list is very humbling and includes: being above reproach, sexually pure (yes there are men like that in the world), not lovers of alcohol, humble, and self controlled.
Yes, God has set a very high standard for those in leadership and furthermore, James chapter 3, verse 1 gives us a sobering reminder that, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”
God knew that not everyone can nor should be an elder. It is a high calling to be an elder. And to be honest if the shoe doesn’t fit, you can’t wear it.
Please hear that I am not saying that elders are without sin. However, there are certain sins that would automatically disqualify them from their position. This does not mean they are no longer saved, but pastors are people who are to represent the church as a whole. Therefore, they need to be held to a higher standard as many lives depend on it.
Please pray for your pastors. Pray that they would be the men of God that He has called them to be.
Genevieve Wilson is Canadian. a happily married home-schooling mum of 3, whose passion is to see people come to know Jesus. She is a seminary wife to her amazing husband.