Thinking Out Loud

March 8, 2010

When Pastors Lie

Over the years, I’ve heard stories where people will say something like, “My pastor looked me straight in the eye and lied through his teeth.”   I’ve personally experienced things where a pastor can claim palpable denial of having said something, when in fact they did.   I’m not sure that “lied through his teeth” is the phrase I would choose, but there’s no doubt that these days the art of spin-doctoring is highly cultivated among professionals of all stripes.   Others claim to have been lied to outright by their priest, rector or minister.

The problem is, I still respect the office.  You may not respect the individual, but I still think you have to respect the sovereignty of God in placing people in charge of shepherding a portion of God’s flock.   At least until proven they are guilty.   In general though, most of the pastors I’ve met  had a considerable degree of integrity and most of the ones I know today are worthy of my trust.

But they aren’t perfect.   There are stories told by people in the hospitality industry of how pay-per-view screenings of pornography in hotels is either the same or higher than normal when there’s a pastor’s conference in the house.   That’s not the subject for this discussion, but if a pastor — presumably traveling at church expense — can think nothing of requesting Debbie Does Dallas (and it’s not a movie about the seminary) on the hotel’s movie-on-demand service, then they are clearly capable of doing anything else unethical.

So what does it look like when a man of God looks another man straight in the eye who is committing adultery with his wife?  How does he justify that action?

I can’t show you what it looks like, but I can let you hear what it sounds like.   This weekend I came across the website aka Pastor Mike Hylton Lied to You Just so He Could Sleep with My Wife.   Last updated in the summer of 2009, it’s a very sad story of a woman swept up in the arms of another man.   Both have children.

David Gray, the website’s author, sticks to the facts in what must be an otherwise emotional time for him.   But the highlight — about 3/4 of the way down the webpage — is the mp3 file of a phone call he made to both his wife and her pseudo-husband.    While the minister in question doesn’t try to lie to Gray, he is living a lie.

This is what justifying sin sounds like when you hear it over the telephone.   This is what rationalization sounds like when it’s spoken out loud.    You need to read a bit of the text to understand the story, but then you really need to hear the 6-minute (or so) audio transcript of the call.

People — all of us included — are capable of minimizing the most blatant sin.   Even people who’ve worked in vocational ministry, who have taken vows to be the shepherds of God’s flock.  Pray for your pastor, that he does not fall into sin, and if you take time to click and listen, pray for repentance, confession and forgiveness to take place in this particular story.

James 3: 1

(The Message) 1Don’t be in any rush to become a teacher, my friends. Teaching is highly responsible work. Teachers are held to the strictest standards.

(NLT) 1 Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.

(Amp.) 1NOT MANY [of you] should become teachers (self-constituted censors and reprovers of others), my brethren, for you know that we [teachers] will be judged by a higher standard and with greater severity [than other people; thus we assume the greater accountability and the more condemnation].

November 6, 2009

A Different Kind of Bible Translation

Jeff Snow is a guy we got to know shortly after moving from Toronto, Canada 20-years ago, to our current home in small town Ontario.   In a smaller town people in ministry often have to wear many hats, and we don’t know anyone who juggles them better than Jeff.   Whether working with Youth for Christ, hosting a radio show, serving on the town’s Character Committee, helping serve dinner once a week in a low-income ghetto, guest speaking at local churches, or leading worship in a variety of settings; Jeff brings with him the best of two worlds and two ministry models:  Years spent training for and serving in a local church setting and now eight years serving with Youth for Christ.

He wrote this recently for a YFC Newsletter, and we think we know Jeff well enough that we didn’t need to ask permission.   Guess we’ll find out soon enough…

I decided to back to school part-time this fall to work on my Master’s degree.  It was a bold decision.   It was an exciting decision.  Some weeks, I think it might have been a foolish decision.

The course I’m taking right now is Biblical Greek Exegesis.  Our assignments involve taking the Greek text of the New Testament and translating it into English.   Through the exercises, we hope to better understand the nuances of the language in order to better understand what scripture is saying.

As I thought about what we do at Youth For Christ, I realized that I didn’t start translating scripture a few weeks ago in this course, I’ve been doing it for years.

For example, I took a course this summer in Spiritual Formation, and the major assignment focused on the themes of Justification, Sanctification and Glorification.  For Talk-Time at drop-in, I’m going to share on these themes.   But if I used these three terms, all I would get is blank stares, and maybe a few laughs.

So I need to explain these important truths in a way that teens can understand.

Justification — When we ask Jesus to forgive us of the wrong things we’ve done that hurt ourselves, hurt others and hurt God, and rely on His death on the cross to pay the penalty of these wrongs things, then God declares us not guilty.   It’s like He looks at us through a “Jesus filter” and doesn’t see or remember our sin.

Sanctification — There’s more to knowing God than just saying “I’m sorry.”   We also need to say “Take Over,” and let His Holy Spirit guide and direct our decisions.   And the more we do that, the more we become like Jesus, and the cool parts of who He is become more and more a part of our lives, like His love, His patience, His self-control.

Glorification — When we ask Jesus into our lives and allow the Holy Spirit to live in us, it’s the beginning of life forever with God, not just here, but in heaven as well.  Jesus promises us a home forever with Him that goes beyond our wildest dreams.

We at Youth For Christ are in the translation business.   We do our best to take the timeless truths of the Gospel, and, without changing their inherent meanings, present them to a generation of young people in ways that they can understand and relate to.  We present them to a generation whose language and ways of learning are constantly changing and evolving.

Please pray for us as we translate the Gospel to youth.  And pray for our youth, that they will hear, understand, and believe.

~Jeff Snow, Northumberland Youth For Christ; Ontario, Canada.

If you are interested in supporting the work that Jeff does, use the Contact Us page on the sidebar so we can send you more information on giving by check or VISA.   Canadian tax receipts available. (Or leave a comment which we’ll delete; your e-mail will not be visible on the page.)

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