Just last week, I saw yet another “well known” pastor, have to step down. When I say “well known,” I don’t just mean that he’s “well known” (Joel Osteen and Steven Furtick are well known), but yet another Reformed guy that I read. I used to read Mark Driscoll, but stopped when he turned a bit too “trumpy.” But there are others like Tullian Tchvidjian, whom I’ve quoted in sermons, who have actually “fallen” due to sexual sins. Another pastor I really enjoyed learning from, Reformed but not Presbyterian, is Darrin Patrick of the Journey Church. He wrote Church Planter, which I didn’t find all that special, but he also wrote Dude’s Guide To Manhood. We used that book for our men’s bible study and I enjoyed the heck out of it. He has since written Dude’s Guide to Marriage.
When our “heroes” or at least people we look up to, fall into some sin and either have to take a leave of absence as John Piper (whom I also respect), step away from ministry forever or a season, we’re left with a bunch of questions. My first one is always, “What exactly did that joker do?” But particularly if he has written books, spoken at conferences, filled up our podcasts with sermons, we have one major question: “Should I throw away his books?” Or put it this way, what if someone you really respected fell into sin, and actually walked away not just from the pulpit, but from the faith in general? Should you throw out all that he/she taught you, seeing as now they don’t believe it or at least believe it as much as you thought they did? Here are a few thoughts to help guide us in such situations.
1.) Pastors, mentors, leaders will always at some level (or multiple levels) let you down. I don’t promise much as a pastor, but one thing I do promise-and I did with our core group-I will let you down. And Harbor will too. And you’ll let me me down. None of us are Jesus, and we will prove it sooner or later. You are always learning from folks who may be more (or less) spiritually mature in some areas, but are always in need of spiritual growth at the same time. Sometimes it shows more clearly than others! Grace has to be shown and received on a regular basis. Sadness, and even righteous anger are appropriate, but whenever there is repentance, we must not forget to extend grace.
2.) While the character of the evangelist/leader/pastor does make a difference in both evangelism and discipleship (I Thess 2:8), it does not have the final say. The gospel message is true regardless if the person who preached it fails to believe or apply that message in his/her own life. Paul reminds the Galatians
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”
The gospel is still the gospel, even if your former mentor/discipler/pastor doesn’t believe it anymore. That’s hard to take, but we must heed Paul’s warning.
3.) Remember that God inspired Solomon to write Proverbs, and there is no indication that Solomon continued in the faith of which he started. So if a pastor falls, or departs from the faith, you don’t need to throw away his books. We can still learn from those who will later fall down or walk away. You can still read Proverbs, even though Solomon’s life didn’t often espouse the wisdom he penned.
4.) More fame, more temptation. I used to want to be famous. I really did. Then I could write books. But the more I see famous pastors get fired because of their junk, the more I’m happy serving and reaching the people God has in front of me.
5.) If a fly on the wall could talk, we’d all be in a lot of trouble. We who are prone to point fingers probably don’t realize the depth of our own depravity. Whenever you see someone else sin, whether it be small or big, make sure to take that as your cue to repent from your struggle areas as well.
I’m pulling for Darrin Patrick. I still follow him on twitter, and have recommended Dude’s Guide to numbers of folks. I’ll continue to do so. The gospel is an announcement that doesn’t depend upon those who herald it, but upon Him who died and rose again for their shortcomings.
Because of that, I have hope for DP. Here’s what appears to be the heart (of which only Jesus knows for sure) of a man who respects the process of church discipline and its restorative, as opposed to punitive, purpose.
“In short, I am a completely devastated man, utterly broken by my sin and in need of deep healing,” said Patrick in an apology to his 3,000-person congregation. “The way that the Journey elders have demonstrated their desire to see me restored to Jesus, as well as their love for me, Amie, and our family is nothing short of miraculous and beyond gracious.”
I’m hoping for a new work to come out of this: Dude’s Guide to Restoration. That’s a book I’d read for sure.