You’ve probably heard the news by now. It’s hard to grasp how big this is in the Independent Baptist world. I assure you I’m no rabble rouser, but this demands reflection. I sense a tsunami running through the ranks, bowling things over and destroying as it goes. Many of the thoughts I’m hearing, however, miss the whole point.
First, I take no pleasure in another man’s fall. Some out there are not doing as well as they imagine in hiding both their glee and the fact that it’s all a political game to them. You know the type–I stand taller when my enemy falls down. I know we are told it is doctrinal issues, but I haven’t been convinced it is so.
I know Mr. Schaap has literally wrecked his life. I always pity that sort of thing. I know there is an innocent wife who has been shamed beyond what any lady should endure. I know there is an ashamed congregation that is feeling all kinds of pain. I also know there are many pastors and college graduates who are horrified to answer for something they are in no way responsible for. Finally, and this is the worst, there are many who looked up to Mr. Schaap to such a degree, who hung on his every word, who followed his counsel, who are now struggling with the idea of walking out the church door never to return. Of course, we can wax eloquent about how they should never have looked up to a mere man to such a degree in the first place, and of course we’d be right, but it won’t change the fact that they did and that they stand bewildered today.
I do not, nor have I ever, counted Mr. Schaap an enemy. I have no desire to pile on, but we must call a spade a spade. What he did is egregious sin. That the girl was young enough to be his granddaughter makes it abusive and more perverse. Worst of all, he took the highest calling, a call to be a pastor of God’s people, and abused it.
Having labeled it the sin that it is, I pray he is restored as a Christian man in the spirit of Galatians 6:1. I pray someone is ministering to him. I do believe we need to feel something of “there but for the grace of God go I”. I pray for Mrs. Schaap and her family for healing. I pray for First Baptist Church of Hammond because a church crashing hurts us all. I pray for those who are feeling carried out to sea on the wave of this tsunami and can’t quite get their hands around what to think. I pray that they can see that Jesus Christ stands as tall as ever.
Let’s get this straight–we can’t change it. It’s been in the news and that can’t be erased. We must be on record as being on God’s side and make no excuses or cover up for such a grotesque thing. People are hurt and there’s no magic wand to take it all away. We must love and encourage and lift up those hurting and struggling as the Lord gives us opportunity. This is no time to have a marketing campaign to convince the world how great Baptists are. No, let’s just humble ourselves, go on, and be as Christlike as possible.
This should cause us to look at ourselves more carefully. (Gal. 6:1c)
There is, though, one more thing we need to do. We need to look at ourselves more carefully. Everyone is doing it to us and, perhaps, you feel defensive. Corrective measures are needed. We need a debriefing time here to analyze how did we get here. Every Christian group has scandal–such is the nature of sin. Still, what positive steps could be taken? Would you permit me to suggest a few-especially to the church’s leadership? Here they are in random order:
1. Church Leaders must have accountability.
I know we are told that “the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers” (Acts 20:28) and that we are to take the “oversight thereof” (1 Pet. 5:2). We do have a leadership role in the local church, but what New Testament example could you honestly cite that allows us to scold, yell, or manipulate? In fact, that same 1 Peter passage tells us that our ministering and leading not be that way, “neither as lord‘s over God’s heritage, but being an ensamples to the flock.” Please don’t imagine that it’s fine to degrade in the pulpit either. It’s the coward’s way to attack an individual under the cover of God’s sacred desk. We must be ethical and our leadership is open to honest scrutiny in the church. We should have honesty, integrity, and be fully above reproach in all we do.
2. We Pastors must extend that accountability to our personal lives.
When scandals like this come to light it tells me that the fallen pastor was able to go around with no one knowing where he is. It’s clear the wife wasn’t allowed to know either. Gentlemen, that is an abuse of our husband role. My wife always knows generally where I am and who I am with. She knows every password for my email, facebook, or any internet thing I do and can check it any time she likes. She can pick up my cell phone and look at any history she likes. In fact, if she picked up my phone in front of me, it wouldn’t even cross my mind to be concerned. She has full access to all bank or credit card information. There’s no way I could wine and dine another lady unless that woman paid for the whole thing! Plus, I’d still have to account for my time! It’s not that she even demands all of this, but I know accountability is a good thing.
3. We Pastors must maintain a sense of decorum and purity in all we do.
There’s a crudeness that is being accepted that is fully unacceptable. This is the age of shock value but we surely realize that we don’t have to take up all the habits of the age we live in. There are details of sin that don’t inspire us away from that sin. In fact, those details do the opposite. They fascinate us and lead our thoughts down dusty, dirty paths. A pastor trying to outdo the shocking statement he made last sermon not only puts himself under enormous stress, but also pushes himself to the edge of places dangerous to be. No wonder that circles that start doing this more find themselves in a rash of scandals. The pureness of God’s Word is greater than the filth of the world. That is doubly true in preaching.
4. We Pastors must cultivate our own marriages.
The Lord knew we men would need a lady in our lives. And yes, the sexual side is part of it. I encourage us all to look again at that beautiful lady we already have. Focus on her. Love her, romance her, enjoy her, immerse her in all areas of your life. You might find that you can have all the thrills you could ever want with the lady you already have. Look deeply into her eyes, really kiss her, praise God for her, and enjoy a wonderful part of life the way it was intended, and for the record, without sin.
5. Pastors must put the sheep first.
It’s time that every independent Baptist pastor quit imagining that his every thought is superior to those of the flock. The people I pastor (be careful here, read slowly, this may be a great shock to many of my fellow pastors) might know more than me about which house or car to buy, or who to date or marry, etc. A good pastor will show you when something is clearly a sin, but he lets you run your own life. You know what we have done? We are robbing those we pastor of something Baptists historically have died for–soul liberty. Instead of shepherding them into becoming stronger Christians, we stunt their growth by taking away that which is vital to becoming a stronger Christian–the ability to seek God’s face yourself.
6. Church Leaders must quit riding hobby horses.
Some like to ride some subjects to death. If you preach in great detail more than twice a year on adultery, you are a little over the top. If a preacher man preaches on women and their dress, etc., particularly with emphasis on body parts, all the time, then you are obsessed. We know where your thoughts are most of the time! People everywhere are starting to figure out that when you work things like that into every sermon it is likely because you are struggling personally in that area. Before you get angry remember that a day before a fallen pastor gets caught he likely would have ripped your head off for saying this. A word to the wise–make Jesus your hobby horse and that will never shame you. Emphasize the Gospel and you will never have any backlash. Could I put a little plug in for expository preaching here?
7.We Pastors must remember Who we serve.
Pastors face peer pressure just like anyone else. We want to be loved by the group we run closest to as much as anyone else. We must, however, live by principle. We must have an allegiance to God’s Word, not what our clique says is God’s Word. We must get to where we only need His smile upon us and then we will be free. Free to be the pastor the Lord asks us to be.
The tsunami has rolled through. Destruction is all around us. Let’s rebuild with Christ’s aid something stronger than we had before.
Follow-up Post: –The Backflow of the Schaap Tsunami