Celebrate the Faithful!
For every unfortunate story of an embattled pastor and ministry, there are thousands of stories of those who are faithful that go untold. Similar to mainstream news media, the only stories that garner attention are those that are negative.
I’d like to remind us of the thousands of unknown, faithful pastors who have been married for 40, 50, or 60 years or more to the same husband or wife. I’d like to acknowledge the pastors who have maintained their integrity, and solemnly uphold the Biblical criteria of what a Pastor should be. Those who take seriously their oath and ordination to live by the following Biblical standards:
This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil (1 Timothy 3:1-7 NKJV).
For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. (Titus 1:7-9 NKJV).
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, (Jude 1:24 NKJV).
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 NKJV).
But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14 NKJV).
We Still Exist!
To those who may be wondering, “Can church leaders still be trusted? Are there still good churches out there? Should I even bother to attend church anymore?” My answer to you is yes, yes, and yes! There are many faithful and trustworthy Pastors around you, empowered by God’s Holy Spirit to live holy and represent Jesus on earth as God intended. We may not make the news often. We may not have best-selling books. We may not have thousands of church members or large church buildings with great financial resources, but we do exist!
We still hate sin, shun lies, and love righteousness. We still believe that there is nothing more seeker-friendly than sharing with seekers the need to repent of their personal sin and embrace the righteousness that only comes through faith in Jesus Christ. We will not cast a stone, because we count ourselves among those most in need of God’s saving grace each day (1 Timothy 1:15).
We still delight in delivering sound Biblical doctrine upon which our lives, our families, and our nation can be built. We still esteem the holy and precious name of Jesus as the greatest name on earth! We still welcome the fullness of the Holy Spirit and His gifts, who empowers us to live holy as true witnesses for Christ in the earth. We need Him and are unashamed of Him! We still have no desire for the things of this world and have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24). We still believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ that secures eternal life with Him and rescues people from the eternal flames of hell.
We still believe that the grace of God is not primarily intended to cover our sins, but to keep us from sinning. That the true grace message is a message synonymous with a message about Christ-like character and holiness unto the Lord. That the grace of God empowers us to flee sexual immorality as did Joseph (1 Corinthians 6:18; Genesis 39:12). We know that Jesus our High Priest is powerful enough to keep us from falling when we entrust ourselves completely to Him.
His Truth Still Marches On!
So where do we go from here? In the chronicles of time, Willow Creek will not be known as the greatest tragedy in Christendom. Unfortunately, Christianity has had a history of scandals, moral failures, and sinful deeds that serve to remind us of our great need for a Savior. The Bible is full of various accounts and stories of God’s forgiveness, redemption, and enduring love. The Scriptures remind us that God is somewhat doing the best He can with what He has to work with on earth. People like me. People like you. People like Bill Hybels.
May Bill and his family, the Willow Creek Community, and those affected by this great tragedy heal and find peace in God’s infinite mercy and love. May Christians and non-Christians not lose faith in the Church of Jesus Christ because of its flaws and failures.
I’ll leave you with this exhortation—to turn your eyes upon Jesus! Not me, not Bill, not the Pope, not anyone.
Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV).
Friends God is faithful. He changes not. His truth still marches on!
[Part 3 of 3]
James E. Ward Jr. is a pastor, author, and entrepreneur who speaks nationally and internationally on cultural and spiritual issues. James is pastor and founder of INSIGHT Church in the north Chicago suburb of Skokie, IL.