It was William Shakespeare who once said,
“Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.”
(Sonnet 94, line 14)
It’s an apt description of the heartbreaking situation whenever the moral failure of a Christian leader is involved. For whenever one who is supposed to be a model of Christian faith and godliness becomes ensnared in sin, the reproach on the Gospel is far greater than if the person never knew Christ at all.
Just take, for instance, the latest scandal involving Carl Lentz — lead pastor of Hillsong NYC — who acknowledged on social media this week that he had been “unfaithful to his wife”. Even GQ Magazine had previously run articles on Lentz, whom it labelled as the new generation of ‘hypepriests’. But now he has had his employment terminated and faces the long and difficult task of rebuilding the trust in his marriage and three teenage children.
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Our time at HillsongNYC has come to an end. This is a hard ending to what has been the most amazing, impacting and special chapter of our lives. Leading this church has been an honor in every sense of the word and it is impossible to articulate how much we have loved and will always love the amazing people in this church. When you accept the calling of being a pastor, you must live in such a way that it honors the mandate. That it honors the church, and that it honors God. When that does not happen, a change needs to be made and has been made in this case to ensure that standard is upheld. Laura and I and our amazing children have given all that we have to serve and build this church and over the years I did not do an adequate job of protecting my own spirit, refilling my own soul and reaching out for the readily available help that is available. When you lead out of an empty place, you make choices that have real and painful consequences. I was unfaithful in my marriage, the most important relationship in my life and held accountable for that. This failure is on me, and me alone and I take full responsibility for my actions. I now begin a journey of rebuilding trust with my wife, Laura and my children and taking real time to work on and heal my own life and seek out the help that I need. I am deeply sorry for breaking the trust of many people who we have loved serving and understand that this news can be very hard and confusing for people to hear and process. I would have liked to say this with my voice, to you, in person because you are owed that. But that opportunity I will not have. So to those people, I pray you can forgive me and that over time I can live a life where trust is earned again. To our pastors Brian and Bobbie, thank you for allowing us to lead, allowing us to thrive and giving us room to have a voice that you have never stifled or tried to silence. Thank you for your grace and kindness especially in this season, as you have done so much to protect and love us through this. We, the Lentz family, don’t know what this next chapter will look like, but we will walk into it together very hopeful and grateful for the grace of God..
Sadly, Lentz is not alone. There have also recently been a number of new — and sadly it seems, also credible — allegations of sexual impropriety against Ravi Zacharias. None other than Christianity Today is reporting that:
Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) has opened an investigation into allegations that its late founder and namesake sexually harassed multiple massage therapists who worked at two day spas he co-owned.
Three women who worked at the businesses, located in a strip mall in the Atlanta suburbs, told Christianity Today that Ravi Zacharias touched them inappropriately, exposed himself, and masturbated during regular treatments over a period of about five years. His business partner said he regrets not stopping Zacharias and sent an apology text to one of the victims this month.
There is always something incredibly tragic when a Christian leader falls. Indeed, I often remember the words of another pastor who said to me,
“Our lives are either going to be an example or a warning.”
It was only a few months later, that this same young man had succumbed to temptation and is now no longer in paid ministry.
The words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:12 stand as an inspired and timeless reminder of the challenge that is before each and every one of us:
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!
But it’s especially pertinent for leaders of God’s people since the impact of their lives often has — for better or worse — a much deeper impact. As the great Puritan pastor and theologian John Owen, once said:
“If a man teach uprightly and walk crookedly, more will fall down in the night of his life than he built in the day of his doctrine.”
[Photo: Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz at the Hillsong Conference at Allphones Arena in Sydney, New South Wales, on July 3, 2005. Toby Zerna / Newspix via Getty Images]