Rebuilding our Witness and Reputation

rebuilding our witness and reputation

I didn’t get much sleep last Sunday night. I was grieving for the body of Christ, as another body blow to its reputation landed in its gut. I’m writing this less than a week after the Matt Chandler (Village Church in the USA) announcement regarding his leave of absence, after having engaged in an inappropriate social media relationship with a woman. Whatever the facts of this case may be (we are not going to explore them here), it is just one in a lengthy string of celebrity pastors and Christian leaders who have fallen. Regardless of tribe, distance, or church size; this hurts the entire body of Jesus.

In this blog, we have been talking about rebuilding. Especially rebuilding after Covid. What if there’s other rebuilding which needs our attention? What about our part in rebuilding the witness and reputation of the body of Christ? You may say, “we had no part in destroying it, why should we be concerned about rebuilding it.” Or “those are other churches with other kinds of leaders.” While there may be truth in that, we are not altogether separated from these issues. I still remember the faces of shock and grief, as I read a letter from the EFCC Home Office to our congregation, a little more than two decades ago, which announced the resignation of our EFCC President at the time. I think the questions for us remain. We have a part to play. But what exactly is that part?

Charting a comprehensive solution clearly requires something outside the scope of this blog. However, some great books addressing some of the issues are out there. It would be healthy for us all to give these matters some thought. Here are three recommendations:

  • A Church Called Tov – Scot McKnight & Laura Barringer
  • Celebrities for Jesus – Katelyn Beaty
  • When Narcissism Comes to Church – Chuck DeGroat

Finally let me talk about two things that I believe matter greatly:

Character Matters

We are the church of Jesus Christ. We are disciples. The finished product of discipleship is to look like Jesus. While this will not be accomplished in this life, that is the journey we collectively help each other travel. Jesus says those who abide in him will bear fruit. That fruit should include the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When the church of Jesus Christ empowers and emboldens leaders who are far more concerned with results and growth than the pursuit of godly character and fruitfulness, we are flirting with disaster. I’m not saying this is the case in every single scandal, but the telltale signs of this have been all over most of them.

Church Culture Matters

We must be intentional about developing and maintaining church cultures built on the foundational pillars of humility, servanthood, and accountability to one another. We are all servants. Submission is the posture of a disciple. Walking with each other in that posture is how we grow.

Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back unto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Gal. 6:1-3

Most of the leaders who have crashed have been the product of a church culture that seems, at least to me, opposed to the verses quoted above. In an attempt to manufacture the “bigger and better” church there is a trend that Christian writer Skye Jethani has called the “Evangelical Industrial Complex.” He identifies the product being produced in this Complex as the celebrity pastor. After all every major enterprise needs its CEO and protecting the “brand” becomes imperative. I suspect he is right. For each of these crashed leaders, a culture was in place that enabled a style of leadership to develop, unchecked at times, which ultimately led to a crash. Understand, I’m not making excuses for their bad behaviour. These leaders made terrible choices that they didn’t have to make. The above quoted passage goes on to talk about personal responsibility and the fact that we reap what we sow. However, culture still matters.

You may still be saying, we aren’t that kind of church, why does this matter to us? Well, we love to copy “success.”

Haven’t we all been tempted at times to adopt principles, methods, or a church model from somewhere else just to get results?

And let’s be candid, some of this stuff just appeals to our fleshy desires. It feels good to be called the “chief elder.” I have heard that term bantered around at a conference by church leaders. It seems innocent in and of itself – and may well be — but when does it begin to infect a culture with pride and protectionism as opposed to humility, servanthood, and accountability?

I’ve got far more questions than answers these days, especially about this topic. But let’s continue to talk as an EFCC family about the part we play in helping rebuild the witness and reputation of the body of Christ.

Neil Bassignthwaighte
ServeCanada Director & Interim Prayer Catalyst