Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Shane Garrison: Christian life is not a journey to perfection; rather a walk in grace and truth
News cycles reeled last week after the arrest of well-known prosperity preacher and pastor Rev. Creflo Dollar Jr, pastor and founder of World Changers Church International in College Park, Ga. Dollar was released on bail after allegedly choking his 19-year-old daughter during an argument in their home.
Pastor Dollar came to the pulpit the following Sunday to a packed auditorium and to the reception of a standing ovation. His congregation showed unfailing support for their leader and believe he is innocent of all charges. Prior to his sermon, Pastor Dollar denied all allegations saying that there was a family argument that got “emotional” but nothing more. He asserts he was simply disciplining his daughter and things “escalated.”
This brief look into the private life of celebrity pastor has brought to bear the undeniable interest of the media and public into the domestic affairs of spiritual leaders. The pastor’s home life, no matter if one is leading a church of 50 or 5,000, always generates a lot of interest.
Some have even named the pastor’s house a glasshouse where everyone wants to look inside finding out what really happens behind closed doors. Church members, neighbors, complete strangers are eager to get a look what the preacher does in private.
There is something voyeuristic about seeing how a pastor treats his spouse and kids. Undoubtedly people want to know how he deals with everyday pressures in comparison to their own lives. Does he yell in frustration at his kids? Does he spank with his hand or a belt or at all? Does he and the wife get into heated debates using swear words? The world wants to know.
Even the more mundane daily rituals are tantalizing tidbits of information. Does he do chores around the house like laundry or dusting? Does he watch R-rated movies? Do they have a filter on their internet? Is the checkbook organized or are bills laying everywhere? Inquiring minds want to know.
But when the glasshouse cracks, when obvious sin seeps into the pastor’s family, it becomes headline news. As the glasshouse shows signs of wear and tear, the peeping eyes increase.
However, two overarching principles about ministry and family need to be identified and spoken to. First, pastors, ministers, priests and their families are sinful, morally broken people. They make mistakes. They have conflicts with each other and within themselves. They have real issues that arise at times, inevitably making their way out in the public square.
This should not be a surprise to anyone, no matter if a believer or not. The Bible is very clear on this issue. No one is perfect. Everyone is sinful (Romans 3:10). That is life. That is the reason Jesus came, died and was raised again. Sin was the human problem that the Gospel, or the Good News of Jesus, came to fix (Luke 19:10).
Secondly, pastoral ministry has and will always include living in a glasshouse. So here’s my personal invitation: look in and enjoy. You are free to take a peek. There will be cracks at times in the walls. There will be messes and mistakes strewn all over the living room floor. There will be good days and not so good days, and you are free to witness them all.
But remember when you look in, the Christian life is not a journey into perfection for those in ministry or otherwise. The Christian life is a continual walk with Jesus in grace and in truth, through growth, correction, failure, forgiveness, reproof, assurance – all surrounded by God’s love and mercy.
You are welcome to look inside the glasshouse, but don’t be surprised by what you see. Our house, like your house, always needs to be fixed up.
Dr. Shane Garrison is an assistant professor of educational ministries in the Campbellsville University School of Theology. He additionally serves as the president of Maple Trail Ministry Consultants and as an interim pastor in various Kentucky churches. Garrison has published several articles on Christian Higher Education in the Campbellsville Review and Baptist Educator. He has a bachelor’s degree in religious education from Campbellsville University, a M.Div. and a master’s in Christian Education from Southwestern Seminary, and an Ed.D. in Leadership from Southern Seminary. You can follow him at shanegarrison.org or on Twitter at @shanegarrison.