>Scandal-proofing your church

>Here’s a recent editorial post by Jonathan Acuff (author of “Stuff Christians Like”).

Editor’s Note: Jonathan Acuff writes the blog www.stuffchristianslike.net and recently released the book “Stuff Christians Like.” He writes for the Dave Ramsey Organization and lives in Nashville with his wife and two children. Follow him on Twitter @prodigaljohn.
By Jonathan Acuff, Special to CNN
Katy Perry is the greatest “pastor’s kid gone wild,” ever. It used to be Alice Cooper and we briefly considered giving the title to comedian Daniel Tosh, but at the end of the day, Perry crushes them both.
Of course, we Christians know Katy Perry as Katy Hudson, the gospel singer. But even though she’s left our musical realm, we’re ready to take her back. She and fiancé Russell Brand could be Christian music’s Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. Think about it Katy, think about it.
Maybe I’ll spread that as a “Christian urban legend.” I’ll just start telling people that rumor until eventually enough people believe it’s actually going to happen, Katy Perry is coming back!
It wouldn’t be the first Christian urban legend though. We’ve had faith-flavored folklore floating about for years. (Christians hate using Snopes to disprove things. Look it up, that’s somewhere in the Old Testament.)
One of my favorite urban legends was the one about the Satanist and the pastor on the airplane. (Doesn’t that kind of sound like a “Satanist and pastor walked into a bar” joke?) In this particular urban legend, a pastor asks the guy next to him on a plane what brought him to town. The Satanist responds, “I worship the devil and was in town to pray for the destruction of pastors across the country.”
I don’t know any Satanists, but I have to assume they do have conventions from time to time. In Vegas, of course, you can’t hold a Beelzebub Ball in Branson, Missouri. But that urban legend seems way to crazy to be true despite the fact that I heard it a dozen different times when I was a kid.
But based on the number of big pastors that have been involved in some wildly public scandals over the years, you start to worry that maybe it’s true. Maybe someone is actively praying that. Or maybe we’ve just got some really unhealthy churches.
I tend to put my belief in the latter. I don’t doubt for a second that there’s opposition to ministries all over the world, forces of evil that make Christopher Walken’s “The Prophecy” seem calm. But I think we as Christians can do a much better job scandal-proofing our churches.
In fact, I think there are four ways we can keep scandal at bay in our congregations.
1. Create an environment where it’s OK for people to fail.
Sometimes, we Christians confess “safe sins.” We sit in small groups and say, “I’ve got to be real tonight. I want to be honest, I want to give it to you raw like ODB in the Wu Tang Clan.”
So you lean in expecting some deep honesty and instead someone confesses, “I don’t read my Bible enough,” or “I don’t do very long quiet times.” If you’ve got a big neon sin, if you’re struggling with porn or a drug addiction, it’s really hard to follow the “I don’t read the Bible enough” guy.
So you fake it a little. You shine things ups. You start to use what people call the “Christian F-Word,” which is “fine.” How’s your marriage? Fine. How’s your job? Fine. As Christians, we’ve got to make it OK to fail. Not to justify it or support it, but to allow an environment where grace reigns, not judgment.
2. Go first.
The challenge of creating an honest environment is that you have to go first. You have to throw yourself on the honesty grenade, which is difficult. Because when you go first, you don’t know the boundaries. You don’t know what’s acceptable or OK.
You have to step out into the gaping void of a conversation and be honest. But when you do, when you go first and share your story and your life, you give everyone in the room or your family or your community, the gift of going second.
You give them the opportunity to go second and follow your lead. They get to step into the space you’ve carved out with your honesty. We’ve got to give the gift of going second.
3. Hold pastors accountable.
According to the Bible, Solomon was the wisest person who ever lived. He asked God for and was granted more wisdom than we can possibly fathom. And he failed.
So why do we think our pastors won’t? Why are we surprised when we treat them like they’re perfect, never challenge their actions and then they fall? It’s classic “CEO Disease” or just another example of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”
The pastor gets so big and successful that we don’t hold them accountable. We surround them with people who constantly tell them “yes.” We establish a different set of rules for them.
Instead, we need to surround our pastors with people who love them enough to tell them things they don’t want to hear. To challenge them and embrace the Biblical model of iron sharpening iron.
4. Look out for Aaron lies.
No one wakes up on a Tuesday and says, “I think I’ll wreck my whole life, throw away my ministry and destroy my marriage.”  We all take small steps toward the big, dumb decisions we make. And along the way, we justify the things we’re doing with the craziest excuses and lies.
Like Aaron telling Moses that he just threw gold in a fire and a calf magically popped out, we’ll create wild lies. We’ll say, “Oh that, that’s just what guys do!” Or, “That’s not an emotional affair, I just have a flirty personality. That’s nothing.”
We’ll pile lie upon lie until eventually the whole stack topples over. Scandals should never really surprise us. There’s a veritable ginger bread trail of lies the whole time. Seek truth and celebrate truth and don’t for a second accept that golden calves magically appear.
I don’t know what will happen with the latest scandal. I don’t know that minister. I don’t know that church. But I do know we’ll keep having scandals if we keep creating environments where people can’t be honest and we act like our pastors are perfect.
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I really resonate with his suggestion that people start becoming real with their failures and struggles. I think it was Tim Keller who tweeted that until we recognize the magnitude and depth of our failure, we won’t understand the width and breadth of the Gospel. But this type of self-disclosure won’t happen without a move of the Spirit of God. Confession of sin accompanied by repentance is one of the surest signs of revival and spiritual awakening. People don’t just confess sin to one another until they believe the full reality of what atonement supplies. We don’t come out of the darkness until the light truly is more desirable. What the author suggests is a great way to scandal-proof the church, but even more, it is nothing less than transparency in light of the Gospel.

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