In the wake of the news surrounding Bishop Eddie Long, I think a lot of critical issues are being missed. There’s the crowd that yells, “Hypocrite!” and the side that prays the allegations aren’t true. When asked what my thoughts concerning the matter are, I simply explained it as such: I’m more concerned about the black eye these allegations are giving the church. Yes, it’s problematic if this man of God was sleeping with under-aged boys; but my bigger concern is the room for error and judgment that is brought to the church. This situation could possibly serve as “confirmation” to non-believers: a reminder of why they don’t believe or go to church now. In addition, if proven true, the allegations could derail even some of the most faithful Christians. It’s problematic for the church. It’s hard to get believers to participate, testify, and act on God’s behalf as it is, add to that a scandal…and God’s work could fail to be done.
It’s my position to refocus everyone; to bring rationale to the concept of being “called.” Yes preachers are called to a higher standard, but that doesn’t make them immortal; it doesn’t make them gods. What I would like the naysayers and speculators to understand, is that preachers are people too. I’ve heard all kinds of remarks about, “Why is a preacher driving a $300 thousand dollar car?” or “Why is he spending money on this type of house, chartering jets” and etc. My response to all of these questions has been, “It shouldn’t matter.” Those same persons would admonish believers not to put their hope in MAN because he is human. “He’s not God,” they would advise. But on the flip side of that, these same people feel as though men and women who are called or who choose a life of the cloth should be paupers. How is okay for me to live a life of excess, but then expect my spiritual leader to all but live in rags? He has to be able to justify his need for driving a luxury vehicle, but it’s okay for me to lease, buy or own one.
It’s hypocrisy. The fact of the matter is, those things are mere distractions. As long as the pastor didn’t steal the money from the collection plate to buy the things he has, and is not doing anything illegal to maintain it, it shouldn’t matter what he drives, how he chooses to fly, or where he chooses to vacation. The reality is, just like most people in the world, pastors are underpaid, overworked and downright unappreciated. Regardless of whether they’ve chosen their lifestyle or have decided to be obedient to the calling of God, they are people too. Meaning, they’ll make mistakes, they hurt just as much as the next person, and need your prayers, concern, and support.
We’re quick to point an accusatory finger, but how much time have we spent praying for these leaders? What? Are they supposed to preach three times on Sunday, oversee bible studies on Wednesday nights, visit the sick and shut-in, perform weddings and funerals, pray for your family and the other congregants, raise productive children, and maintain a healthy marriage all on their prayers alone?
If reading the partial list of what a typical pastoral week could consist of overwhelmed you, just imagine what living it would be like. My suggestion is not to worry about what the pastor is driving or where he’s vacationing, the type of home he lives in, etc., but to spend time in prayer for him and to watch his character. If by his actual actions (not your perceptions of what a pastor should look like and drive) he is not living up to standard, find another pastor who is and then pray for the one you leave behind. Remember that when people: pastors or laymen, sin, it’s against God, not US.
Isaiah 58:6-9 (Contemporary English Version) says, “I’ll tell you what it means to worship the Lord. Remove the chains of prisoners who are bound unjustly. Free those who are abused! Share your food with everyone who is hungry; share your home with the poor and homeless. Give clothes to those in need; don’t turn away your relatives. Then your light will shine like the dawning sun and you will quickly be healed. Your honesty will protect you as you advance and the glory of the Lord will defend you from behind. When you beg the Lord for help, he will answer, ‘Here I am!’”
Notice that there isn’t a specification to leaders of the church only. Make sure you’re falling in line as well. We are all called to be ministers and speak on God’s behalf, and at the end of the day, preachers are people too.