Wednesday, October 9, 2013

When a Ministry Leader Falls

I have been an Awana Commander for 4 years, and involved in Awana much longer. In that time I have learned to expect the unexpected. Cars that break down right before club. Flooding rains. Leaders facing depression / illness / lost jobs / family strife. The constant tension between sports and church activities. Our adversary does not like seeing God at work amongst youth, and so he tirelessly attacks those leading vibrant ministry.

Nothing could have prepared me for last week however. About 2 hours before church I learned that one of my leaders had been arrested for a series of armed bank robberies spanning 6 months. Wow. Talk about getting blindsided.

The first night was a flurry of activity such that I didn't really have time to digest what had happened. His role had to be filled on short notice – and naturally most of our standby “in a pinch” volunteers were out of town or otherwise occupied. I talked with a couple of key individuals that needed to know, but otherwise kept an eye on the news to determine when to address it publicly (I did not feel it was my place to “break the news,” so to speak). Church staff reviewed his background check to make sure we had not overlooked anything (if you run a children’s ministry, you do screen your volunteers for a criminal history, right?). I was too stunned and too numb to do more than simply get through the night.

A week has now passed. The initial shock has worn off. Many of the kids know what happened, and some of them are asking difficult questions. Questions such as, how can a Christian do such a thing? How can someone we trusted do this crime? How can I trust other leaders?

Throughout the Bible I read of God-fearing men and women that failed miserably at one point or another. Abraham twice said his wife was his sister, fearing a king would harm him to take her. Samson allowed his wife to compromise his Nazarite vow. David couldn't keep his hands off his soldier’s wife, and then had the man killed to cover it up. Peter denied knowing Christ mere hours after saying he would never deny Him. Romans 3:23 is pretty clear – all have sinned. Not most, not some, not just the “bad people” – all. Isaiah 53:6 says that we all have strayed from the Lord. Romans 6:23 leaves no room for doubt – the penalty for that sin is spiritual death (in other words, Hell). Not the penalty for murder, not the penalty for robbery, not the penalty for adultery, the penalty for sin. For all sin. Whether I take a piece of candy without permission, or I commit the most heinous crime imaginable, by God’s accounting the final consequence is the same. There may be significantly different consequences today (prison for one, a scolding for the other), but in both cases I will give an accounting before God in the end and if left to my own merit will face eternal judgment.

Thankfully I am not left to my own merit. When Christ died on the cross, He covered the sins of every believer. His sacrifice was enough to cover every sin – if I trust in Him for that salvation. Because of Christ, I don’t have to trust in my own self. I don’t put my trust in my pastor, or my friends, or my parents, or my teachers. I rely on them for guidance and teaching, and most of the time they will be honorable, but they are fallen sinners just like me. If my hope is in anyone besides Christ, I am bound to be disappointed eventually. That is the point I hope to teach the clubbers under my care: put your hope in Christ and in Christ alone. Only in Him will their trust never be broken.

As 2 Corinthians 9:15 says, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.”

Do you have something to add? A question you'd like answered? Think I'm out of my mind? Join the conversation below, reach out by email at david (at), or hit me up on Twitter at @dnlongen