Does this threaten our discipleship?
I am not an avid news watcher. Occasionally though, some things beg for my attention, especially things relating to the church. In recent days, it has been the allegations against Pastor Eddie Long that has stimulated my thinking. Beginning on September 21, 2010, three boys filed lawsuits against the pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, accusing him of sexual coercions.
Let me interject here and say that I am not a supporter of pastor Long. We would have some opposing beliefs – especially with regards to views on faith and the atonement. Nor am I a defendant of pastor Long. I do not have an opinion on his case. So, while it may appear that I am taking his side against these allegations, I am not. That being said, let me bring some things to your attention.
To begin with, we should be very careful when raising allegations against our leaders (1 Tim. 5:19). Not because they are above correction (1 Tim. 5:20-21), but because of the potential harm that the allegations will have. Let me explain. When charges are brought against a public persona (like a church leader), the public will notice. And, it will effect them in one way or another. It will disappoint some. It will anger others. Or, even worse, it will destroy faith. Things like this are never good experiences for the church – even if they are addressed and carried out biblically. They are hard on all of us.
I think that this is what Paul had in mind when writing to Timothy the above words. He was not saying that we should not confront sin in the elders, but that we should be careful to not make false charges against the elders. Because the fact is, no matter if the charges are true of false, the harm will occur and the elder’s reputation and instruction will be damaged. In other words, allegations hurt no matter what. So make sure that the allegations are real before they are publicly charged.
It is at this point that I am stirred to write. What are the effects of this situation? I don’t know that pastor Long has done anything at all. He might have. He might not. It is not for me to decide. Still, I have listened to some interviews with the prosecuting lawyer and she describes what I believe to be male discipleship. She has never mentioned anything about sexual coercion. Granted, I have not heard it all.
What I have heard her say is that Long invested time into these boys bringing them along with him on trips for ministry and casual meetings. She says that he prayed with them, taught them from the Bible, given them money, helped them in life and more. Does this require them to be close and personal? Of course it does. But it is not sexual coercion. Still, this is the allegation.
Now, one last intermission so that you don’t think that I am defending Long’s beliefs and behavior. I cannot recommend his doctrine and I cannot with good conscience argue that he is teaching these boys biblical principles. But, from what I gather, he is doing what the secular world might call, mentoring.
Think of it this way. Suppose it was not Eddie Long that we are talking about. Suppose it was someone like John MacArthur or John Piper who I trust “mentor” younger boys in the principles of the Bible. I am confident that they have numerous relationships with other men (young and old) where they are praying together, crying together, helping each other out and spending time with each other. This is what happens in discipleship.
Consider Paul’s words on this. He told Titus to “urge younger men to be self-controlled” and to “show yourself to be a model of good works” (Tit. 2:6-7). I can name several adult men who have taken younger men and brought them along in a way that molded and shaped young boys into good, disciplined, biblical grown-ups. There will be times when a hug means a lot and is useful. But it is not sexual any more than a slap to the toosh during a basketball game.
Here is my point. I wonder if this case is going to hurt the rest of us in the way we disciple those of the same sex? God has called men to raise up men from boys and women to bring up women from girls. This is our mandate. We must do this. So, do we have now to do it in a corporate way where there is no personal instruction? Will this situation bring us all into the secular or media courtroom? I hope not. But I do wonder.
I don’t blame Eddie, guilty or not. I blame sin.