Reversing an Evil Trend
I am persuaded by a portent of danger in our midst of a frightening vulnerability to damning error if this bent toward neglecting the basic and practical standards God sets for leaders continues: If we continue to entertain confusion on these points, we will give place to a satanic darkness that will issue in a plague of spiritual death.
This is no idle warning. The wolf is already at the door, and he's wearing sheep's clothing. Already there have been leaders duped by a demonic doctrine secretly being taught by a former so-called charismatic leader. This false teacher spread a destructive heresy that suggests "immorality is impossible within the kingdom of God."
The concept is a bizarre twist on "kingdom teaching" that argues that after a person has entered God's kingdom they transcend earth's order and are thereby exempt from its laws—even God's. I will not dignify this corruption by explaining the convolutions and distortions of Scripture that underlie this error.
This stands as contemporary evidence that there are those who literally teach immorality and dilute marital commitment, exactly as the Word warns regarding the last days (see 1 Tim. 4:1-2). This is precisely what Jesus so forcibly opposed in the churches at Pergamos and Thyatira (see Rev. 2:14, 20-25).
We are wise to heed this warning. Unless the church shakes herself awake where seducing spirits are luring her away from a "first love" for the values of marital commitment and moral fidelity, a false definition of God's Person will supplant the pure glory of His real presence and give place to destructive delusion.
So what can be done to reverse this horrific trend and bring God's order back to the church?
First, heeding the Word—and with a renewed God-fearing alertness and Holy Spirit-enabled recommitment to marriage standards among church leaders—we must resist the devil. Where the infiltration of worldly marriage standards for spiritual leadership has given place to the penetration of evil that is destroying the foundations of so many Christian homes, a turnaround can be effected.
Psalm 11:3 says, "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" But Isaiah 58:12 says the Lord will enable us to "raise up the foundations" again. A return to the Word will give place to the Spirit's purifying and restoration.
Second, the issues of biblical requirements must be taught and administrated not only with evenhanded patience and grace but also with faithfulness to the truth. This is not a call to legalism but a call from a growing sloppiness called "grace in the name of love," but without love's commitments or grace's power. Neither love nor grace should ever be a label used to bandage over our neglect or self-indulgence.
Third, let us pray for fallen leaders earnestly, while pursuing practical means to help strengthen and secure them in their marriages. I believe the following possibilities would make a tremendous difference in reversing the current trend and bringing healing and restoration:
For example, all training for ministry leadership should commit to shaping ministry candidates for their marriage as well as for their ministry. In God's eyes my fidelity to my wife is as important as my integrity in handling His Word or my purity in relating its truth. All Bible schools, training centers and seminaries must become responsive to this call.
Next, all Christian media should accept the responsibility to monitor, minister, admonish and administrate with reference to God's standards for a leader's marriage and morality. Most networks, publishers and broadcast stations do this, but some do not. By God's grace a uniform standard must be raised, showing it is not enough that a leader merely be "successful" or that they "sell," but that they be "found faithful" (see 1 Cor. 4:2).
Finally, all congregations, denominations and other fellowships of churches should aggressively provide and fund nurturing resources for pastoral couples. It is not enough to provide "burn clinics" for those who have been wounded or fallen—there is a cry today to advance means of preventive care.
With such priorities pursued anew, a true visitation of miracle power can be expected. Jesus likes weddings. We know that because He chose one for His first miracle. It just may be that our giving His kind of attention to our marriages—especially to His expectations for those of us who lead—may give place to His last miracle visit!
Jack Hayford is founding pastor of The Church on the Way and chancellor of The King's University in Van Nuys, California. He has been married to Anna since 1954.
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