And there goes another.
I've been a Christ-follower ever since I can remember, and I just turned 44. My whole 44 years on earth have been spent as a Christian, surrounded by Christians, listening to the teaching of Christians. I've seen a lot.
When I was seven years old, my family left a church my parents helped start because the leader had become larger than life. A boisterous, friendly, big personality, he quickly took the role of the reason the church gathered, the One who delivered the sermons, the guy everyone wanted to follow. Amongst other abuses, there were accusations of infidelity and outrageous aggrandizing pride. He blocked our view of Jesus.
When I was 12, I learned that my sweet Sunday School friend's dad, a deacon, had left a string of women in his wake, and her mom was leaving him until he could get his act together. I couldn't understand my young friend's pain because I hadn't experienced that kind of betrayal, but I knew that nowhere in that story could I see Jesus.
When I was away at college, I learned that the man I had called my pastor throughout junior high and high school had confessed to an affair. And then another. The women began to speak out, to come forward. I was dumbstruck. Him? But he was kind, humble, like Jesus. I saw Jesus in him. How did he find himself thinking he was a replacement to Jesus? What made him place his hope in something - someones - other than Jesus?
I had never seen Jesus in the televangelists who acted like buffoons, so when they fell like dominoes in the '80's and '90's, I could roll my eyes. They weren't like the godly men I had grown up around. But they did have something eerily in common with all of the men I had seen fall, the men like Doug Phillips and now Mark Driscoll. It doesn't matter what their particular sins are, they all - each one of them - forgot the gospel.
I've written down this path before, so I won't repeat myself except to say that we must never, never, never, never, never, never, never forget that day at Calvary, the One who stood in our place and took on all of our failures, and who covers us with His perfection so that God sees Him instead of us.
Then we won't get in the way of other people seeing Jesus.
Doug Phillips, Mark Driscoll, you, me . . . we forget Jesus and then we begin to think that something, someone, somewhere is going to define who we are instead of resting in the perfection that is Jesus.
Do you see the danger?
If we don't, by our pride and our self-promotion, become a boulder that keeps others from seeing Jesus, we tend to look for someone who we think is the answer and voice of Jesus, and soon they become the boulder that blocks our view. Don't let anyone get in the way of your sightline.
Today, I'm thankful to be in a Christian community (church) where the leaders try to get out of the way as much as they can. But unfortunately, I don't trust them as far as I can throw them. I don't trust me as far as I can throw me, either. Chalk it up to half a lifetime of experience, but I've seen firsthand how quick we all are to try to find our worth and significance in either the world and what it offers or our religious, moral behavior and self-righteousness. Both are an abyss.
How can leaders avoid the abyss? Get out of the way of Jesus. Put your hope in Him. Preach about Him. Take yourself out of the equation.
How can followers avoid the abyss? Get out of the way of Jesus. Put your hope in Him. Listen to Him. Take yourself out of the equation.