A Good Name in Ministry

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.

Othello Act 3, scene 3, 155–161

In the fantasy world of corrupt spiritual leaders, and by corrupt, I mean far more than the Creflo Dollar types, a “good name” is highly valued. After all, these leaders have built impressive organizations with a wide outreach and many expensive assets.

As the injured limp or crawl away from these ministries and word begins to circulate about what happened to innocent people, the common strategy from organizational leaders is to run smear campaigns for cover.

There is so much literature written on this behavior the web is choked with it. At stake is the “good name” of the leader and ministry. It must be preserved. The terrible “slander” of the “good name” must be stopped, even if it means lawsuits, behind the scenes threats and outrageous lies.

But a good name is far more than a public image solid enough to keep donations rolling in. A good name is far more than the holographic image projected by media, an image untarnished by any financial impropriety, DUI arrests or lurid sexploits.

A good name is supposed to represent an entire person, not just an image. In the minds of malignant narcissist leaders, including the self-deprecating variety found so often in fundamentalist Christian circles, anyone who dents that image, questions something or holds up a mirror to them about the harm they are doing behind the scenes is the one who must be destroyed, threatened, intimidated into silence. Their name must be mud-spattered.

The rationale for a leader’s legal threats, for example, is the protection of their “good name.” The fact that their own malicious and ungodly behavior has generated the cries of pain heard by the public is neatly covered over. The simpletons who listen to these leaders cluck and shake their heads. “Such a shame, so terrible.” In the distorted thinking of these useful tools of the narcissist, it is impossible that their beloved hologram could possibly engage in harm to innocent people or family members. It’s easier to believe the narrative cleverly spun by the Good Name. It requires no moral courage, no discernment, no critical thinking or godly analysis if fans just go with the legend instead.

In this way, enablers and sycophants help fuel the destruction machine for innocent people and their names. When evidence and testimony of witnesses is ignored in favor of the hologram’s teary-eyed stories, you have a cult mentality, not a Christian organization.

It is ironic, and sadly so, that as judgment descends on this country, the true state of the hearts in many evangelical and conservative ministries today is one of the reasons for it. The idea that Scriptural instructions are for everyone else but leaders is an entrenched one. It isn’t said or thought outright. It simply is the operating principle for many. Of course, this never ends well.

The good name of a manual laborer matters as much as that of someone in the public eye. And the name is only as “good” as the character behind it. When there is no transparency in donor-supported ministries (i.e.the names of those on boards of donor supported ministries should be public), no responsible and professional boards of directors who actually “direct” rather than serve as human rubber stamps, the good names of those departing these dysfunctional ministries get harmed. They are labeled as malcontents, slanderers, rebels, divas, nutcases, and so forth and so on.

I have news for anyone harmed by these outfits. The word ICHABOD is written over the door frames of the facilities. Any glory has departed. Whether it is ten months or ten years, any organization claiming to be Christian where there is no compassion, no heart for truth (that means listening to more than one party involved), and no concern for the souls on staff, has a bleak future.

What an avoidable tragedy it is. I believe that God honors repentance in individuals and by leaders of organizations. It is so rare, however, that I cannot name a single case of it.

There has never been more of a need for light in the darkness of our times. Sadly, neglect of first things, ambition, idolatry and opportunism in the name of ministry have weakened the underpinnings of Christian organizations all over. Like the bridge in Minneapolis a few years ago that came crashing down from bolts that quietly rusted away, ministries risk a similar demise.

At stake is more than the “good name” of temporal leaders. It’s the good Name of our Savior and his Gospel that hangs in the balance. Those who are harmed are not to blame for crying out and supposedly besmirching the Name of Above All Names. The squelching of  the victims of spiritual abuse to avoid public scrutiny is not the solution. Addressing abuse and making amends (and restituion, if necessary) to those harmed is the answer. When this does not happen, the bolts on the bridge continue to deteriorate. Tick tock.

P.S. A pastor was once asked by a journalist to explain an unsavory situation he was involved with. “We are Christians, we don’t air our dirty laundry,” he said pompously. No, sir, instead we fail to wash the laundry until the stench is so bad the wider world takes note. Something to think about.

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Little Things

Our little girl in ruffly socks and white shoes, ready for church. Sunshine pouring in at the window. An unexpected kiss on the cheek. They are the little things that make life sweet.

Happy Sunday.

spring

Lost in the Dark

highwayI dropped someone off at their home recently in a part of town I am not really familiar with. I had a lot on my mind and was deeply engrossed in thought. It was about 10 o’clock at night, and I was anxious to get home. I had been driving what seemed about 10 minutes when a thought shot through my mind like a laser. I had absolutely no idea where I was.

It was a barn that told me I was way, way off the path home. I turned around, convinced I had missed my turn only a mile or so down the road. Except it wasn’t the right road. I knew I was going west, but after three miles, it was plain that I was totally lost. Every mile, I was getting deeper out into the country. No lights anywhere.

How in the world had I ended up there? Where had I gone wrong? I turned around again, thinking I had missed a north/south highway that would get me to I-94. Except there was no north/south highway. Was this the Twilight Zone? I had been deeply engrossed in thought, but never had I been lost like this. Driving  back the other way again, I was completely baffled, not seeing anything that looked remotely like it should.

There wasn’t even a highway sign that told me what I was driving on. I turned on a small, unknown road that went north and stayed on that for a while. Nothing but more darkness and farm land. I felt a prickle on the back of my neck. This was just bizarre.

I turned back to get on the other road that at least was bigger and decided to stay on that. Finally, there was another, larger road going north that looked like it might lead somewhere besides a dead end. Lights ahead. Aha. Civilization. Suddenly, a massive church loomed out of the darkness. But that was a shock. It looked like the big Catholic church on the southernmost end of town! Now I was really worried. How did I get home from there, and how in the world had I ended up so far off my way home?

I pulled into the parking lot of the church and then started laughing. It wasn’t the church I thought it was. I knew this church and it was only half a mile from the Interstate.

Greatly relieved, I got on the freeway, mulling over how such a silly thing had happened. I had made a wrong turn, clearly, but just how off I was didn’t hit me until I looked at a map of the area after I arrived safely home. One wrong turn in the dark, and I had been hopelessly lost. Were it not for that large, well-lighted church, I probably would have turned around again and been more lost than ever.

It occurred to me how very much this is like our culture. Lacking any moral and spiritual landmarks, society is wandering around, headed hopelessly towards disaster. No landmarks for morality, no clear view of our Creator, and the result is  confusion that oozes from the headlines every day.  A nation lost in the dark.

A country is made up of individuals, and the overall state of the country is the result of a complete lack of moral/spiritual landmarks. We are driving around on dark roads, thinking we know best, but we really don’t. All the while, we are either going in circles or headed towards the abyss. That church, looming up in the gloom, was a landmark to me. It showed me the right road to take. I had something sure and fixed in my mind.

That is what the Word of God is in our times. We are not left to guess about God’s design for the family, about what is expected of us, and we are not left alone to fulfill what is required of us. We have Jesus, the One who lived perfectly for us on our behalf, and who took the penalty for our sin for us. Without that landmark, we live deluded lives, driving around, thinking we know the right way. We do not.

I am grateful for the Solid Rock, the landmark of God’s Word that tells us of Jesus Christ. In the darkness of our times, the Word of God is also a bright light to our path. If we are wise enough to heed its message, its Author, God himself, will see us safely home.

He is Risen!

Ye sons and daughters of the Lord,
the King of glory, King adored,
this day Himself from death restored.

When Thomas saw that wounded side,
the truth no longer he denied;
“Thou art my Lord and God!” he cried.

Oh, blest are they who have not seen
their Lord and yet believe in Him!
eternal life awaiteth them.

Now let us praise the Lord most high,
and strive His name to magnify
on this great day, through earth and sky:

Alleluia!

sunrise

Exultet

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam’s sin to our eternal Father!

This is our Passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is the night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
“The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy.”

The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Therefore, heavenly Father,
in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church’s solemn offering.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
The strife is o’er, the battle done;
Now is the Victor’s triumph won;
Now be the song of praise begun.
Alleluia!

chains

Early Morning Message: Love Never Fails

Our little Emmy came in at 6am today and asked me if I wanted to hear what she had learned this week at school. I share it here on Good Friday, because of the supreme love of God for us in our sins and the sacrifice of his only Son on the cross for us. God’s love never fails.