So I've been trying to keep quiet on this whole Bishop Eddie Long situation. But this morning got me P-O'ed on so many levels.
First of all let me say this: Fortunately or unfortunately, it no longer shocks me when I hear of some church leader or personality involved in some kind of indescretion. I've learned over the years that it does no good to put anyone on a pedestal and treat them as though they are God himself. You will only be disappointed.
Secondly, I've also recognized that someone else's shortcomings shouldn't have anything to do with my own salvation and how I relate to God. At the end of the day, I have to give an account for my own life, not for Eddie Long's, not for Ted Haggard's, not for Jimmy Swaggart's or whoever else. At the end of each day, I have to deal with my own pain, I have to deal with my own guilt, I have to deal with my own issues. My belief in God came from the discovery that I had an advocate to help me deal with these issues in a real way–I did not become a believer because of any dynamic speaker. It was because the WORD OF GOD penetrated my heart and I made a decision to follow HIM meaning God–not a man, not a church, not money, not power…
Now. That being said, it angers me that people are using this Eddie Long situation to say this is why they're not a Christian or why they don't go to church. Really? Yes, the allegations are disappointing. Yes it is shocking. The allegations against Eddie Long are serious and they should be investigated. But don't get it twisted. Eddie Long is not going to save you. The biggest problem I have with this situation is that people look at this and think that it's indicative of God and Christianity and it is not. God is holy and we are not. That's why he sent his Son, who is holy, to stand in the gap for us.
What is wrong with the church is not that men are coercing little boys to have sex with them. What is wrong with the church is that many have abandoned the biblical mandate for discipline, correction and accountability. The Bible calls for the church to be a place for believers to gather, to worship, to encourage one another, to hear God's Word, and to hold one another accountable for living a life of holiness and righteousness before God. Does that mean that all Christians are automatically made perfect people because they become Christians? NO! All of us fall short in some area…the church is meant to be a place where we can come together as believers and work on those issues. Everyone in a church should have accountability–including pastors. The Bible lays out a specific process by which to confront a brother or sister in Christ who is involved in some shady activity. The Bible says that the fellow Christians are to go to that person and talk to them. If they don't repent then they are to take the issue to the elders and leadership of the church. If they still don't repent then they are to take the issue to the church body and if they still don't repent then that person is to be excommunicated and "delivered over to Satan." (see Matthew 18:15-20 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-13).
Sadly, in many churches, pastors go unchecked, with no level of accountability. When pastors get to the level of celebrity status, no one in the church is bold enough to say no or to question or to push back when something isn't going right. I've seen it happen time and time again.
It was a blessing for me when I joined Buckhead Church in Atlanta to hear Andy Stanley say to the congregation on more than one occasion that if he ever said or did anything that was outside of the scriptures that we were to check him. He also mentioned on a number of occasions that he had a group of men that he met with periodically who would ask him tough questions to make sure that he was walking in integrity and to pray with him through any shortcomings or issues.
Yes, pastors are an authority figure in the church. But pastors need to be held accountable for living a life of godliness as well. If there is evidence against Bishop Long, it will be given in court. If there were shady dealings going on, there should be elders members and accountability partners throughout all these years who were supposed to question, who were supposed to say, "hey, it might not be a good look for the pastor to take young boys on exotic trips and give them expensive jewelry…" There was supposed to be someone who said "maybe it's not such a good idea to bring this media circus into this sacred building on this holy day. It might bring harm or confusion to the members and seekers who are part of this assembly and distract them from Christ."
In all my 35 years of being in church, I've never even heard of such a thing as a small group or community group until I got to Buckhead Church. Small group is another avenue for believers to gather together every week to not only study the Bible but to get into each other's business, to step on each other's toes. Small group opened up my eyes to a level of authenticity and vulnerability that I never experienced in church before. I grew to love the concept of small group because over time, members start to feel comfortable enough with one another to admit that they struggle with sexual sin, with anger, with drug addiction, with whatever. I've been blessed to be involved in small groups where we've dealt with these issues. We've talked about them openly, we've prayed about them together, we've checked with one another each week to see if there was progress. The purpose of accountability is not to embarrass people or to judge. It's to restore. It's to help one another be the best that we can be.
One of the problems with the church is not that people do bad things. It's that in many churches there is no standard of checks and balances for members and for the leadership. God laid out this standard in his Word. Some churches just don't follow it. Please don't be fooled into letting this Eddie Long situation turn you away from God. Ultimately, you have to deal with your own heart and your own standing with God. And please don't let this situation turn you away from church, either. Not all churches are corrupt. There are churches out there that are following the Bible. Does that mean that they are perfect churches? NO! It means that they are following the biblical mandate for what it means to live out God's Word in the world today. Good pastors, and good churches do exist. Buckhead Church/Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta is one. Blueprint Church in Atlanta is one. Restoration Church in Washington, DC is one. Believe it or not, there are others. It may be hard, but FIND THOSE CHURCHES…And I dare say that if one of those churches eventually falls out of line and stops following the Bible, leave there and find another…
More and Part 2 to come…