Thinking Out Loud

March 8, 2012

A Message to Elder Evangelical Statesmen: Retire Graciously

I’m not sure the mystery writer known as Bene Diction has connected the dots on the last three (almost) consecutive posts that ran on his blog on March 6th and 7th. To me the common theme is inescapable.

First, we have John Piper make pronouncements as to the message behind the run of tornadoes in the U.S. heartland that left dozens dead and thousands homeless. This is nothing new. Piper is required to have a take on everything. It’s in his job description. Just as sure as the morning DJ on the local radio station will fill time between commercials pontificating on the events of the day prior, so also does JP feel compelled to weigh in on everything from soup to nuts.  Bene D links to Chaplain Mike at Internet Monk, who in one of his most heated posts ever, spares no words to express his disdain for Piper’s analysis:

After directly attributing these devastating, death-dealing storms to the sovereign, all-controlling God, Piper comments on what he might be trying to teach us. Despite his own warning — “We are not God’s counselors. Nor can we fathom all his judgments. That was the lesson of Job. Let us beware, therefore, of reading the hand of providence with too much certainty or specificity.” — Piper goes on to read three lessons in the storms:

  • Like Job, we should just submit and say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
  • We should heed Jesus’ words in Luke 13:4-5 and take every storm as a divine warning to repent.
  • We should not think that God’s people themselves are exempt from such judgments.

This is a pastor’s message in the immediate aftermath of a terrible disaster.

How comforting. How helpful. How sympathetic. How sensitive. How pastoral.

Not.

But then, a day later, Bene D. reports on the firing of three family members from the Crystal Cathedral/Hour of Power; a media ministry conglomerate now just a shadow of its former self. Lesser people would have waved a white flag at this point, but apparently the church and its television broadcast are soldiering on.  Bene links to the Orange County Register:

…On Sunday, Sheila Schuller Coleman is expected to give the sermon.

Meanwhile, the Hour of Power program, which once reached millions of viewers across the world, will replay previous episodes for the next few weeks while leaders “determine a new direction for the show.”

“Organizational changes affecting ministry leaders are never easy to make, especially when it involves individuals who have devoted their lives to this ministry and have served with great distinction,” John Charles, president of the Crystal Cathedral Ministries, said in a statement. “This was a very difficult decision the Crystal Cathedral Ministries board of directors prayerfully deemed was necessary in order to make a change in direction for the ‘Hour of Power’ and reverse recent declining donations and viewership.”

Five other individuals were expected to lose their jobs in the reorganization.

“Because of privacy concerns, we won’t identify them,” the spokesman wrote in an e-mail.

This is the latest shake-up for the troubled ministry. Last month, Schuller Coleman was removed as the chief executive officer and president of the Ministries and replaced by Charles, who had previously held different positions with the Cathedral.

Then, on the same day, Bene D. reports the apology (sort of) from end-of-the-world date-setter Harold Camping, with the spin emphasis on the people who delved into Bible prophecy as a result of his flawed prophetic calendar. For this, he links to the Family Radio ministry website via Strang News:

Yes, we humbly acknowledge we were wrong about the timing; yet though we were wrong God is still using the May 21 warning in a very mighty way. In the months following May 21 the Bible has, in some ways, come out from under the shadows and is now being discussed by all kinds of people who never before paid any attention to the Bible.

Do you see the connection? All that’s missing is Fred Phelps and the guy who was going to burn the Qur’an, whose name we have thankfully forgotten.  

Ministry organizations and individuals who have contributed greatly to the spiritual life of many have a sell-by date, and it’s time to disappear graciously and start writing memoirs. Memoirs that can be edited by others, as opposed to media statements and blog posts which appear all too quickly.

I say this with empathy. Having already reached an age where I have been sidelined from certain activities — worship leading is apparently now a young man’s game — I know that being silenced is not easy to take. But in the case of the men and women at the center of these three stories, it’s necessary.

Time does not permit me the luxury of fleshing out this topic as fully as I would like, but perhaps some of you can continue in the meta. Meanwhile, I want to add one extra story.  James Alexander Langteaux is a former senior producer for The 700 Club, who is the author of the forthcoming (April) book, “Gay Conversations with God – Straight Talk on Fanatics, Fags and the God who Loves Us All.  In an interview with Phil Shepherd at Huffington Post, he’s asked how he thinks his former boss, Pat Robertson will react when he comes out of the closet in a major way:

“…Well, after the uproar that resulted from Pat’s comments of dementia being grounds for abandonment in a marriage union, I’m not sure that really matters much…”

In other words, in Langteaux’s eyes, Robertson has already lost his voice.

Joining the dots in Bene Diction’s stories, John Piper, the Crystal Cathedral and Family Radio have lost their voices, too. 

Just as today’s younger communicators need to earn the right to be heard, the elder statesmen of the Christian church need to see that the ‘wisdom of age’ is not a respect automatically granted. Rather, it needs to be proven on a regular basis by statements that continually reflect that the person in question is wise.

In the end, the only expiry dates on credibility in ministry life are the ones we create for ourselves.

Advertisements

Blog at WordPress.com.