Reformed “Spotlight”: What About The Victims?

The same celebrity-worship that contributed to the pastor’s fall is still skewing extra pastoral attention to him to the omission of the lesser-known victims

“I personally know the tremendous confusion and distress that results when a preacher that God has greatly blessed in your life falls into sin. Many questions arise: Was I deceived? Is it all a deception? Was the blessing a delusion? Are other preachers just the same? Who can I trust?”

 

It’s good to see that The Journey church has set up a Member & Attender Support Page. No doubt this must be a time of spiritual crisis for many in the congregation as they try to understand how a beloved pastor can sin so grievously. I personally know the tremendous confusion and distress that results when a preacher that God has greatly blessed in your life falls into sin. Many questions arise: Was I deceived? Is it all a deception? Was the blessing a delusion? Are other preachers just the same? Who can I trust? Why would God use such men to bless so many people? Was God not able to stop him from falling?

In such painful and puzzling circumstances a support page is a good pastoral use of technology. I especially liked the way that various preachers were invited to send living and vibrant video messages of pastoral and prayerful support towards the congregation and also to the fallen pastor and his family.

But, there’s something vital missing from all this. What about the victims? According to the church’s letter to their members, the pastor had hurt many people along the way over many years. His sins included:

  • Refusal of personal accountability (I Pet. 5.1)
  • Lack of self-control (I Tim. 3.2)
  • Manipulation and lying.
  • Domineering over those in his charge (I Pet. 5.3)
  • Misuse of power/authority (I Pet. 5.3)

Each of these sins involves a victim, perhaps many, and most of these wounded sheep will now be scattered across many churches, or perhaps even churchless through disillusionment. But watch the videos and read the statements. You would think these were victimless sins. Yes the pastor and his family need prayer and support, but the victims need it first and foremost.

I’m not picking on The Journey, it’s just that this gives such a sadly typical example of the way most churches ignore or forget the victims. Usually it’s not done deliberately but rather thoughtlessly. Oftentimes, it’s because the victims have moved on and are no longer part of the church. Sometimes, crisis-management is just so focused on survival that the wider consequences are not thought through. But it’s also possible that the same celebrity-worship that contributed to the pastor’s fall is still skewing extra pastoral attention to him to the omission of the lesser-known victims.

One way to put this right would be to post a “Victim Support Page” with similar videos, but this time directed towards these bleeding sheep for whom this disciplinary intervention came too late. Whatever support and care is being poured into the pastor and his family, the victims deserve double that. And if the victims can face it, the pastor himself should be involved in reaching out to each and every victim to ask for forgiveness before any consideration is given to any future ministry role.

Yes the pastor needs grace. But the victims need justice.

David Murray is Professor of Old Testament & Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog, Head Heart Hand, and is used with permission.