From The Pastor At St. Paul's UCC, Freeburg, IL

Why Imposters Love The Church

I found this blog post by Russell Moore very sobering. It’s one thing to deal with problems out there, outside the church – political campaigns, global warming, etc. It’s something else to deal with this kind of problem inside the church. It’s far more personal, and (to me at least) far more scary.

The blog post is about why spiritual imposters are attracted to the church. By “spiritual imposters”, I mean predators. I think about Dennis Rader, the notorious BTK killer who confessed to at least 10 torture-murders while he was a leader (and at one point president) of his Lutheran church (click here for the beliefnet article on how his church struggled with it). If you google “church predators” you’ll get lots of scary articles about child sex abuse in churches. Much of the response that I’ve seen has to do with developing “safe church” policies – of course, we turn to protocol and policies to deal with a spiritual problem! Moore’s post is not about policies, whistleblowing, coverups, etc. It’s about the spiritual issue of why wolves are attracted to the flock.

Moore points out something I think is important – that this issue is not unique to our time. I think we like to think we’re unique – a form of Lewis’ “chronological snobbery” – that we’re dealing with an issue no one’s faced before, or that we’re uniquely equipped, or un-equipped, to deal with it. But we’re not unique, at least according to Scripture:

The New Testament warns us, of course, about spiritual impostors. Sometimes these “wolves” are there to introduce subtly false doctrine. But, just as often, it seems, these spiritual carnivores hold to true doctrine, at least on the surface. But they use this doctrine and service for predatory ends. The sons of Eli, for instance, use their priestly calling to co-opt the fat of the offering and to lay with the women at the altar (1 Sam. 2).Virtually every New Testament letter warns us about the same phenomenon [emphasis mine](e.g., 2 Pet. 2; Jude).

This ought to be a warning to small town churches who think “it can’t happen here”. Oh yes it can, believe me. I’ve certainly become more aware of that this past decade. And it ought to be a warning that what’s needed is not just whistleblowing, policies and protocols (all secular tools which just don’t require Jesus). It requires faith. The real kind.

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