Get Renew.org Weekly Emails

Want fresh teachings and disciple making content? Sign up to receive a weekly newsletters highlighting our resources and new content to help equip you in your disciple making journey. We’ll also send you emails with other equipping resources from time to time.

6 minutes
Download

Beyond the Headlines: Recognizing the Faithful Shepherds

The recent news that Robert Morris, pastor of Gateway Church in Southlake, Texas, was involved in a serious offense against a twelve-year-old girl over thirty years ago is exceptionally troubling. I grieve for the victim of his abuse. Jesus taught there are few sins more egregious than harming a child. Although all sinners can accept Christ, be forgiven, and be saved, the effects of sin can leave physical, emotional, and spiritual scars that last a lifetime.

I do not know Robert Morris personally. I disagree with some of his teachings, but over the years I have been impressed with his communication skills and rapidly expanding ministry. His congregation, Gateway Church, has grown into one of the largest in the nation and has had a global impact. Learning of his abuse of a child has left me heartsick and discouraged.

It was especially discouraging because news about Morris came days after the notification that another high-profile pastor, Tony Evans, had resigned. Evans is a much-respected Bible teacher, author, and radio host, who stepped down after 48 years with Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship due to an inappropriate relationship in the past that he concluded disqualified him from ministry.

I am always disappointed and sad whenever I learn of a pastor’s spiritual failings. I know the consequences their sin can have on their victims, families, and ministry. Worse, when a pastor resigns in disgrace, many people gloat and ridicule. Unbelievers point out the apparent hypocrisies as justification for their unbelief. Also troubling are Christian gossips using social media and other platforms to report or comment on whatever is false, ignoble, wrong, impure, ugly, and scandalous.


“I am always disappointed and sad whenever I learn of a pastor’s spiritual failings.”


The Bible says when one member of the body suffers, we all suffer. This is not a time to share and gloat over the failings of a pastor with whom we might have a doctrinal disagreement. It is a time to weep and examine ourselves. Like King David, we should pray, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24, ESV).

Church leaders are understandably discussing these challenging issues. Could God be purging the Church of spiritually weak celebrity pastors? How should we measure genuine repentance? Should a fallen leader ever be restored to ministry? What offenses would disqualify them from ministry for life? How much time should elapse before the fallen leader can lead again? How should we hold leaders accountable for undisclosed sins from decades ago? How can the church be more thorough in vetting its ministers?

While the failings of these high-profile pastors are disappointing, Christian leaders should not grow weary and lose heart. When Elijah felt alone, he became depressed and threatened to quit. He complained to God that he was the only faithful prophet. The Lord reminded Elijah there were 7,000 prophets who had not bowed the knee to Baal and urged him to get back up and fight the good fight of faith.


“The Lord reminded Elijah there were 7,000 prophets who had not bowed the knee to Baal and urged him to get back up and fight the good fight of faith.”


Let’s maintain that same perspective. Although a few prominent pastors have fallen, don’t be discouraged by the public exceptions. First, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. He alone is worthy of total trust. And He predicted there would be a great falling away from the faith in the last days.

Second, remember there are a host of pastors who faithfully spent their entire lives worthy of the calling they received. Many prominent pastors I’ve had the privilege of meeting finished strong, remaining faithful unto death: Billy Graham, W.A. Criswell, Adrian Rogers, Russ Blowers, Ben Merold, Wayne Smith, Howard Brammer, and many others.

There are scores of aging pastors living above reproach and striving to finish strong. These men I have met personally would be the first to say they are not perfect, and I may not agree with them on all matters of doctrine, but my spirits are lifted when I consider their life-long, faithful service. Great pastors such as Dave Stone, Max Lucado, Jack Graham, David Jeremiah, Rick Warren, Rick Atchley, Dave Faust, Don Wilson, Cam Huxford, Dudley Rutherford, Cal Jernigan, Steve Reeves, Ken Idleman, Tom Ellsworth, Tim Harlow, John Caldwell, Chris Philbeck, Roy Lawson, John Russell, George Ross, I could go on and on.


“Remember there are a host of pastors who faithfully spent their entire lives worthy of the calling they received.”


Many of you could immediately add to that list. Please do! May we all be encouraged and thankful for the thousands of God-honoring pastors in churches, large and small, who, day in and day out, serve the Lord humbly without a scandal against them.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” (Hebrews 12:1-3, ESV)


For more teaching from Bob Russell, visit www.bobrussell.org. Used with permission.

Get Renew.org Weekly Emails

Want fresh teachings and disciple making content? Sign up to receive a weekly newsletters highlighting our resources and new content to help equip you in your disciple making journey. We’ll also send you emails with other equipping resources from time to time.

You Might Also Like

A Cooperative Church

A Cooperative Church

Have you ever seen a gospel lesson mirrored in everyday life? I had one of those moments hit on New Year’s. I grew up in a family that loved to play games when we gathered. At the end of the day, the game itself didn’t really matter. We could drum up competitive spirit for just […]

More
Help Us Find Effective Disciple-Making Churches

Help Us Find Effective Disciple-Making Churches

Dear RENEW.org Network Leaders, Are you looking for models of disciple-making churches that you can learn from and imitate? I have both the responsibility and honor of being the point leader for RENEW.org Network (which focuses on Jesus’ teachings) and Discipleship.org (which focuses on Jesus’ disciple-making methods), two North American disciple-making networks. My short biography in the last fifteen […]

More