Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear. – 1 Timothy 5:19-20
I believe this instruction is a word of caution for as it did with King David when he sinned with Bathsheba and against Uriah, her husband, the fall of a church leader gives occasion for the enemies of God to blaspheme. If a legitimate sin has been committed against you by a church leader do not let their fall lead to your own. They failed, God did not, they sinned against you, God did not, they owe you an apology, God does not. You still owe Him your very life and human failures can never diminish the goodness of God. We have talked about the why questions in previous chapters and Fractured Fellowship causes them too but in this case, we have the answer and that is; God uses fallible human beings as leaders in His church because He has no other resource to draw from. Every pastor, every church leader, every Sunday school teacher has the capacity to fail and hurt others, and God is responsible for none of it. It just doesn’t make sense to give up on God when humans fail.
Many years ago I had signed up to be a follow up counselor at a large evangelistic outreach and was very nervous as it was my first time doing anything like that. As the event wrapped up and those who had made commitments to the Lord were being paired up with counselors I was assigned to a young woman with two small children. What followed is etched in my mind forever. I introduced myself by saying; Hi, my name is Barry, to which the woman burst into tears and began to weep so loudly it scared her kids and attracted the attention of the field supervisor who was nearby. When the woman got control of her emotions she said; I have been having an affair with a pastor and I had to recommit my life to the Lord tonight and repent and his name was, you guessed it, Barry (not me). This was why the woman burst into tears when I introduced myself as she had been so hurt by someone who should have protected her and not taken advantage of her vulnerability and now here she was, deeply wounded by a church leader.
This is the type of scenario we are considering, when church leaders commit sins against the very people they are supposed to protect. It is certainly not limited to the sexual realm but this seems to be the most frequently publicized public failure of church leaders. So what now? A biblically identified sin has been committed and the biblical model for confrontation has been followed yet whether or not repentance came, the wound is there. How do you move forward? How do you Dance with this Scar? We have already discussed the need to distance this from God for He is incapable of sin and is not the initiator or tempter with evil. (James 1:13) The second thing to note is much like our opening chapter that you have to get moving again and reengage in a church community again. I have heard time and again people say things like: I have been hurt by the church too many times, I just don’t want to go through that again.
My hurting friend, Fractured Fellowship hurts but you must move ahead as a part of the body, you, like those in our first two chapters must get back into the flow of things as a member of the church and it is going to expose you to the opportunity to get hurt by the fallible folks who attend every church.
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. – Hebrews 10:24-25
No matter how you slice it Hebrews 10:25 says, go to church, don’t forsake the assembling with other believers. Some argue that this doesn’t mean the church corporate as we know it, but yes it does. It means exactly that. The Greek word for “assembly is; episynagōgē. Epi, meaning upon and synagoge is where we derive our word synagogue, which speaks of the physical gathering place for worship and study of the word. Hebrews says do not forsake upon synagogue-ing ourselves together, like some do. Some of the angriest and bitter people I have ever met are those who have been hurt by someone in the church yet they are closer to the cure for anger and bitterness than anyone in the world. Yet like so many other things that hurt us, the lack of justice or acknowledgment by the perpetrator leaves them wounded and they never get around to Dancing with the Scars.
Excerpt from “Dancing With the Scars” now available on Amazon.