I have never been a fan of The Gospel Coalition (TGC). There is too much hubris in their writing for my taste. If you are a regular visitor to this site, you know I think power and arrogance are two of the most harmful and dangerous aspects of church leadership. 

So I try to avoid places that revel in presenting themselves are the smartest, most important people in the room. 

Occasionally, one of their articles is so over the top that it becomes impossible to miss. And some get under my skin.

Earlier this week, they posted an article entitled Why We Shouldn’t Gloat When Leaders Fall

(I will not link to their site…you can find it if you really want to read it.)

If you just read the title, you would say of course not. As followers of Jesus, we hope for redemption and life. We shouldn’t rejoice when anyone falls. 

For most, that is relatively straightforward, at least for those close to us… of course, Jesus being Jesus, he raises the bar and says we should even think like this about enemies. 

With all of that, his could have been a very nuanced topic. 

But it is hard to do nuance when your only tool is a hammer.

Protecting the Wrong People

In the late 90s, I heard multiple sermons stating how “broken people hurt people”. We are all broken, and when we get close to others, our brokenness…our sharp edges can hurt others…and theirs hurt us.

Of course, regardless of their level of brokenness, the average person can do nowhere near the damage an abusive church leader can do.

About a month ago, I mentioned a national leader in my former denomination who has had to step down from his national leadership and local church roles [link]. His wife (national role) and son (local) did as well. At this point, the police are involved in the investigation.

Now, this person was also a significant player in making our move to Dublin a decade ago a traumatic experience. He’s part of the reason why that is our former denomination.  

Although he and others hurt us, I agree that I should not be gloating or rejoicing at his downfall. This stuff ends up being another reason for people to look at the church and slander it and the faith it holds. 

And again, I’m supposed to pray for those who have hurt us. I am to forgive (and not just seven times). So, without question, gloating would not seem to fit with what Jesus calls us to.

But.

At their church, people were abused. Rather than being protected when they reported the abuse, they were shamed. The abuser was protected, and the victims were victimised again. 

Think of the harm done to each person. 

Think of what each of those families has endured watching those they love walk through this…some for more than a decade. 

In the TGC article about how to treat leaders who fall, there was no mention of victims. Seriously. Not one. 

The only concern in the article is how the fallen… the abusers are talked about. 

On top of that, we know many of these leaders will be leading churches and ministries again…Heck, James McDonald is being platformed less than four years after being fired from one church for abuse. Now that he is facing a felony assault charge for punching a 59-year-old woman, his videos have been removed.

But of course, for how long? Perhaps until this latest scandal blows over. I mean, Driscoll is back…Lentz is back. I need to stop before my head explodes.

The rationale seems to be

“These people are so gifted, we have to get them back into ministry. So, please, don’t gloat when they fall…they will be back, and you don’t want to sully their good names and all the ‘glory they will bring to the kingdom”.

{Excuse me for a minute while I vomit}.

Okay, back to the original question. 

Should you rejoice when a leader falls?

Or maybe, unlike the TGC article, we should reframe the question.

Should we rejoice when victims receive justice? 

Should we rejoice when lies are exposed? 

Should we rejoice when those shamed receive honour?

Should we rejoice that there will be no more victims of these abusers at this church?

I think it is obvious, but the author of this article demonstrates that not everyone agrees.

God’s Wrath

I often struggle talking about God’s wrath because many hear those words and immediately picture an angry deity throwing fire and brimstone on any who frustrate him. And so I can sometimes lean into God’s Love and shy away from discussing his wrath.

But when church leaders abuse children…when they abuse women…when they abuse the powerless. When those brave enough to confront their abuser are shamed. 

When the pain causes victims to walk away from their community of faith. 

When they walk away from Jesus. 

What should the response of a loving God be?

Should the abuser experience comfort and blessing and remain in the spotlight? Or should they come face to face with God’s wrath?

Wrestling With This

As I mentioned earlier, this is a nuanced topic. I want victims to experience healing and wholeness…to encounter a loving God. While abusive leaders should rightly experience a God of wrath.

And I can still hope this encounter leads the abuser turning back to God. That does not mean they should not face the consequences of their behaviour. They should. It does not mean they should be restored to ministry again. They should not. 

But there is that whole Luke 6 thing: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

And while I haven’t mastered it yet, I keep trying to move in that direction. 

I even just said a prayer for the guy who wrote that article. Hopefully, he and others who shield abusive leaders will repent and work for justice in their communities.

Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash