Peace In Anxious Times

cascade creek environment fern

The Mindful Christian
Has there ever been a period when we as a people have been more influenced by the uncertainty of events in our lives? I cannot remember a time like this. We are assaulted on a physical level by the possibility of a virus entering our bodies, while on an emotional level we are experiencing a developing angst about the future. We feel vulnerable, and in some ways defenseless, about our safety.
Our brains, sensing this powerlessness and insecurity, does what God created it to do, kick in the fight or flight response. When that happens, massive stress hormones are released into our bloodstreams as an attempt to fight the impending doom. But the things we are scared of are not tigers or snakes, but rather the “what ifs” of our lives. What if I get the virus, what if I never get my job back, what if I go bankrupt, etc.? Since the body cannot fight this vague enemy, nor can it run from it, it instead freezes and feels the sense of anxiety that is created.

The question that all of us that call ourselves Christians have to answer is, do we have in our faith anything that differentiates us from non-believers? We are called to (John 15:19) recognize that we in the world but not of the world. What does that mean? It means that in our values and beliefs, we are to be different from the mindset of the world. So if the world gets caught up in the belief that we are vulnerable and susceptible to the “what ifs”, we are called to stand apart from this and think differently.

This does not mean that we should avoid the measures in place to reasonably protect ourselves. It just is true that we have resources to cope with the things that are out of our control. Humans like to be in control. Christians lean into the reality that God is in control.

A River Runs Through It

2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth is transformed and the mountains are toppled into the depths of the seas, 3though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake in the surge. Selah 4There is a river whose streams delight the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.… Psalms 46
This Psalm, one of my favorites, points us away from catastrophic thinking, and back to the Truth that God is at the center of all things. God is like a steady river that can be the quiet place of dwelling, when the external world seems as if it is fracturing. It is this resource, above all else, that gives to a believer a focus and resource that those who rely only on themselves or the government, do not have.

Peace That Passes Human Understanding

You will keep him in perfect peace,Whose mind is stayed on You,Because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3

Peace is the opposite of anxiety. It comes from a steady confidence that as we remember who God is, in all of His power and might, that we can shelter in the comfort of His wings. This verse points us to the fact that God will give us a peace that is hard to explain by the events of the world unfolding around us. This is because, the mindful Christian, stays mentally focused on the Truth that God is in control. Our minds stray, and get distracted, by the events going on around us. Peace does not come easily or naturally, but rather when we intentionally pursue a posture of keeping our mind stayed and settled on the Truth. The mindful Christian stays in the eye of the storm, where turmoil surrounds, but does not inhabit our inner confidence in God as our comfort and strong place of refuge.

Sanctified Souls
There has rarely been a time when we as believers have the opportunity to show an anxious world what it is like to experience peace in uncertain times. To be sanctified is to be set apart, to be different. In the herd mentality of contagious anxiety, part of the experience of “mass hysteria”, we as believers have the ability to stand apart.

15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,.. I Peter 3

When the world is in turmoil, we have the opportunity to show peace. It of course is counter-intuitive in a social phenomenon such as a pandemic. But it is the gift that comes from our daily and moment by moment mindful awareness of the river of trust that is offered to those who have placed their faith in God.

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14

The Discipline of Staying

The idea of peace that comes from letting our minds be stayed on God does not come easy. The mindful Christian develops an intentional process of focusing away from the anxious state of world affairs, and towards a full awareness of who God is and what he has promised. Mindful Christians remember who God is and when they stray mentally they keep coming back to what they know.

8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4

Drawing near is the discipline of the believer. We are like sheep that go astray, even in our mind focus. We must keep going back, learn to stay with the Truth, and God will honor this with the peace that passes human understanding (Phillipians 4:7)

A suggestion for a book that focuses on being a more mindful Christian is “Holy Noticing” by Charles Stone.

Male Isolation And The Church’s Vulnerability To The Sexual Abuse Of Women

man wearing white shirt brown shorts and green backpack standing on hill
Photo by Archie Binamira on Pexels.com

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. I John 1:7

 
It would be hard to challenge the notion that sexual abuse issues appear to be on the rise in the Church of Jesus Christ. In fact, some churches have been labeled by wise leaders (Don Cousins, Discovery Church, Orlando Florida) to have a culture that is vulnerable to immorality. Churches today need to recognize that a spiritual war is going on that must be met by humility and prayer. Pastors, elders, church leaders, and volunteers have been guilty of inappropriate sexual behavior, resulting in a predatory climate, unsafe to women. There is no greater assault to the name and reputation of Jesus Christ and His Church than the headlines of sexual acting out in the church. When this happens, it is easy to see how those outside of Christ dismiss the church as hypocritical, and not any different than the secular world.

 
The Church, the Body of Christ, is supposed to be a community set apart from the ways of the world. The Church is to be a new community, reflecting the Kingdom of God, a family of loved and loving children of the Father. Interestingly, when sexual acting out happens in the context of the Church, the family of God, it is akin to incest- sex among family members. Just like in a real family, the violation of trust is powerful, because the assumption is that the spiritual maturity of believers should serve as a hedge against sexual acting out inside the family of God.

 
The Church, as an alternative family for many who have come out of the sexually abusive context of their own family of origins, should be the safe and trustworthy context in which abused people can feel secure and protected. But when the Church has sexual acting out going on within its family, it violates the foundational trust that abused persons are seeking as an alternative to their experience. If sexual acting out occurs, even within the context of the Church, where, really, can anyone go to truly feel safe? If pastors and church leaders, who are often seen as spiritual parental figures, can be predatory, where do God’s children, particularly women, go to feel safe?

 
The Church, reflective of Jesus, is to be the context in which women are elevated to a status of equal value with men. In my church, Willow Creek Community Church, two advocates of the egalitarian position on the role of women in the church, Bill Hybels and Gil Bilzekian, have themselves been accused of inappropriate sexual abuse of women. The core belief of the egalitarian position on women, you would think, should result in a high regard for women as other than sexual objects for exploitation by men. If men who claim to honor women and elevate their status, instead exploit them, how can women trust men in the church? Men in the Church should be safe to women, seen as co-heirs to the Kingdom. The problem, however, is that often men, who are formed in the context of a hyper-sexual secular society, simply bring their unhealthy needs and assumptions about women into the Church. They may be as likely as men outside the Church to approach their sexual needs in broken and predatory ways. So what is the problem, how has it been created, and what is the solution?

The Problem
As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17
Historically men were part of a Band of Brothers, not the isolated and lonely state of most men today. There was a hierarchy of male leaders, with elders at the highest place of respect, who governed the behaviors of the male members. In most cultures, boys were given the soft love of their mothers until they reached the time of what we now call early adolescence (13,14). At that point boys entered what has been called a “liminal” space, a time of training, a time called initiation, that starts with the “calling out” of boys to enter the beginning of manhood.
The best example of this in our day is a man that enters the Marines. He is initially a recruit, not yet a Marine, called into training. After the rigors of training, if he succeeds, he graduates and becomes a real Marine. In the Marines, he begins at the lowest level, based on his experience and training, and then over time graduates up the ranks.The training he receives helps him to internalize the values and behaviors of a Marine. He learns to discipline his own self-centered tendencies, respects a hierarchy of leadership, and slow but sure moves from being an individual to being a co-warrior.

 
With the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the fabric of this male connectedness started to unravel. Rugged individualism was propagated as the new male ideal. Dependence on other men was shamed, leaving men isolated and emotionally lonely. The rules and containment of the group broke down, and men, who crave structure and belonging, began to live separately from one another. Rather than collaborating with fellow men to accomplish shared goals, men began to feel competitive, further alienating them from one another. When men are competitive with one another, they are wary of trusting other men.

 
Feelings, the foundation of social connectedness, were frowned upon and even laughed about. In earlier cultures of male brotherhood, sexual behaviors that broke the rules were contained and even punished. The community could not afford to allow rogue men to pursue sexual gratification for their own selfish purposes. Women needed to feel safe, and it was one of the functions of the male brotherhood to provide and protect the culture, so women could feel secure. Men who were in connected communities knew each other, were accountable to each other, and could rely on each other to stay disciplined. The acting out behavior of any man would be quickly recognized and responded to in swift and strong ways. Women could trust this process, because all of the men shared the same cultural set of values and behaviors.

How Has The Church Perpetuated The Problem?

 
The Church should be the path back to the way that things were for men. The Church should have constructed rituals of initiation, structures of hierarchy, values of collaboration, and connections for lonely isolated men. But, in many ways, the Church has not been strong in going back to the way that I believe God intended for men to have community. The average guy who goes to church does not feel connected in any meaningful way. The church has not really addressed the break down of male community and its devastating effects. The accountability structures that were natural and normal in healthy male communities do not exist in the modern day church. Men, who struggle with emotional isolation and fear, do not feel a sense of safety to move towards other brothers in Christ. Instead, they suffer in silence, often using tried and true addictive behaviors to cope with their feelings. All too often these are sexual in nature. The catastrophic rise of online sexual sites has become a simple solution for a man to go from sad and lonely, to a sudden surge of sexual intensity. Sadly, the aftermath of this behavior is a growing sense of further isolation and shame. And so the cycle continues.

No Real Accountability

 
A leader at Willow Creek Community Church (WCCC) shared with me that he had gone to the senior leader of the church and proposed that the church develop accountability structures for the men of the church to stay on top of potential sexual acting out behaviors. He was met with a response that basically said no, we do not need that, and then implied that maybe the leader that proposed this had a problem.

 
WCCC is a church that, in my opinion, is structurally set up for vulnerability to adulterous acting out. Its leader lived a non-accountable life. I have not found one person who said that they had a sense of knowing the insides of the senior leader. The senior leader was isolated, hyper-competitive, unwilling to be governed, showed little empathy, and did not share his struggles or emotional pain. By his behavior he set the template for the average male leader at WCCC. The average male leader at WCCC had to look good, stay in shape, use Willow speak, and endorse the vision and values of Bill Hybels. They often lived in fear of failure, and had no real place to go to get comfort or reassurance for their feelings, and felt a fear of being looked at as weak if they admitted to emotional struggles or even anger at their spouses or fellow employees. This is a culture where all forms of sexual adultery can be a rife alternative to healthy coping.
In healthy cultures it is normative to share struggles and get help. In toxic cultures of competition and fear, it is viewed as weak and dependent to seek help.

Cultures like WCCC, with high perfectionistic demands and lots of emotional isolation, can easily become the “cultures of immorality”, where the evil one proposes sexual sins as the solution to the painful pressure and isolation of many men.

Catch 22

 
In some ways, the modern church culture has created a “Catch 22” for church leaders, particularly pastors of smaller churches. We pay them to be icons of spiritual health, place them on idealized pedestals, and place a perfectionistic demand on them to be holy and righteous. Pastors pick up the signal that they could be punished somehow for admitting their weaknesses and emotional struggles. They may feel anger towards their parishioners or their spouses, but do not believe that it would be acceptable if they shared these struggles. Since churches do not give pastors healthy options for dealing with their intense feelings, why are we so surprised that they often resort to unhealthy, sinful solutions?

 

Pornography viewing is on the rise among pastors. Acting out sexually is growing. Why? Because we place so much pressure on spiritual leaders to be so perfect, that they cannot bear that kind of burden. They are set up to fail. If we do not normalize structural ways to allow pastors to be simply members of the community of men and women, we are creating conditions for sexual failure. We have created an elitist view of leadership, that becomes a barrier for leaders to simply be one of us, broken and in need of community.

 
My son, pay attention to my wisdom,
and listen closely to my insight,
2 so you may carefully practice discretion and your lips preserve knowledge.
3 For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil.
4 But in the end she is as bitter as wormwood, and as sharp as a double-edged sword. Proverbs 5

 

What Is The Solution?

 
7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. Titus 1

 

When a church is vetting a male leader for employment, the first question that should be asked is “How have you been intensively involved in a male community that is honest and transparent about feelings and sexual impulses?”.

 

Ask these questions: 1. Who do you share with related to anger feelings regarding your wife or children or fellow employees? 2. How is your sex life and are you struggling with fantasies of sexual gratification? 3. Is there a women in your life that you have become enamored with. either sexually or emotionally? 4. With whom, besides your partner, do you share your feelings? 5. What impulses do you experience and who do you share these with to hold you accountable? 6. How aware are you of tendencies to be prideful or to be critical of others, and who do you share this with? Etc.
If the candidate is offended by these questions, cross him off the list.

 

No leader is too great or important to not have down to earth accountability. Any church that does not demand this is culpable in the potential acting out behavior of its leaders. There is no reasonable justification, in the current climate of sexual acting out, for any leader to not be intimately connected to a community of men who will ask tough questions and hold leaders accountable. The safety needs of women in the Church are dependent upon this strong position. Mega-churches, like WCCC, may tend to attract somewhat narcissistic leaders, who, by virtue of their successes elsewhere, may be offended by a demand for their accountability. Too Bad! The painful consequences of the WCCC narcissistic leaders, who were unaccountable, should support the absolutely essential requirement of a leader’s willingness to enter the crucible of personal vulnerability!

Diminished Value Of Men’s Ministries In The Church

 
In most churches women’s ministries are far more active and vibrant than men’s ministries. WCCC abolished formal paid staff for men’s ministries years ago. It is my belief that the senior pastor did not value a strong men’s ministry because, at some level, strong, aware, mature Christian men could potentially confront his unhealthy isolation. I was annoyed that Bill Hybels would not just be another guy at a men’s ministry event. He allowed the hierarchical and elitist mentality to exist whereby he did not see himself as an equal to other men. That elitist mentality, driven by competitive and hierarchical values, is the absolute opposite of the collaborative and horizontal ideas of a body of men. Any church that allows a pastor to not have deep and accountable relations with other men is going down a path to potential destruction.

 

The real solution to the sexual acting out behaviors in the church is a return to the initiation and containment structures of the past. The culture of male isolation and hidden sin has resulted in a true spiritual and emotional emasculation of healthy male strength. We must understand the fact that the Evil One, the great divider, is thrilled with the current state of men who are weakened by living in isolation. When men do not understand healthy strength, the kind that is used for Godly good, they default to the counterfeit forms of strength, such as sexual aggression, which can lead to toxic masculinity. Men need a path to transition to manhood in a healthy way. Our culture and churches allow secular structures to initiate boys. These are primarily the media, internet, sports, gangs, fraternities, video games, or the military. The Church must provide healthy alternatives.

 
The exposure of sexual sin at WCCC and other churches simply reveals the symptoms of a toxic culture for men. How many women must be assaulted and damaged by the unwanted intrusion of male sexual aggression before the church wakes up to its complicity in supporting a model of male isolation. The church has vacated its role as the primary socializers of boys becoming men that existed for many years in the past. Men’s ministries should be one of the most essential ministries in the church. Most women, if asked, are thrilled when men create community that helps them to stay accountable to Godly ways of living. They know that healthy men, who are initiated by wise Godly men, are going to have a deep respect for women and are going to be sexually safe in the community of men and women that is the Church. And mothers, who pass off their sons to a community of wise Godly men, feel confident that the wisdom of God will be the foundation of how their boys/men will grow to maturity.

 

Years ago I, along with some other leaders at WCCC, developed a ministry called “Passage To Manhood”, which created the kind of ritual structures that allowed for a formal process of helping boys move across the threshold from boyhood to manhood. It was a low incidence program at WCCC, and so was not supported. This needs to be pursued again in the church so that the church becomes a haven of safety for women, rather than a place of vulnerability.

Willow Creek Community Church: A Culture Vulnerable To Immorality?

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18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Romans 1 

Hiding And Vulnerability To Immorality

Although the above passage is usually thought of in the context of unbelievers, it can also apply to believers, who move away from the Wisdom and Truth of Scripture. When a church suppresses the Truth, verse 18, they open themselves to all forms of immorality. Truth is like light, it seeks to be revealed. All attempts to suppress it will fail and the efforts used to keep it secret will be exposed in time. 

Sin festers in the darkness, in the hidden things of this world. Organizations like Willow Creek Community Church (WCCC) have created a culture of hiding. This church is one of the most secretive organizations with which I have personally been associated.  Even today, after two years of the traumatic revelation of sinful sexual behaviors, that were suppressed until the church was forced to acknowledge them, the church culture is still one of hiding. You would think that after years of hidden immoral behavior on the part of the senior pastor and others, the church would go overboard in the opposite direction, revealing things to the congregation in real time. But no. Even as recently as a few months ago, at least three immoral sexual behaviors on the part of former staff members and the visionary co-founder of the church, have been revealed. One of these was forced by the coming forward of a victim, the others have not been publicly acknowledged by the leadership of the church. 

A former senior staff member of WCCC, in assessing the situation at the church, came up with the concept that a “culture of immorality” may exist that has not been addressed and changed. From his perspective, this is a spiritual battle, in that the church may be captive to the deceiving spirit of the Evil one. After all, scripture clearly states that Satan is the father of lies and operates in the currency of deceit and truth suppression. He is in fact a thief and a liar. So only his influence could guide an organization into suppressing the truth. God  wants authenticity and transparency, so His grace can abound. Satan’s goal is division and secrecy, because he in fact knows that this is the fertile soil where sin breeds best. So when the siren sound that beckons to protect flaws and sins by deception and suppression is listened to, hiding becomes the fabric of life. Any organization that shows such a high focus on external image and suppression of truth is not following the guidelines of scripture. Satan’s great lie is that of promoting looking good, but not being good. At an organizational level, this in fact is what WCCC’s culture has created. It is in this kind of vulnerable culture, of secrecy and darkness, that immorality flourishes. 

Truth Suppression Strategies (TSS)

WCCC has for years operated on the assumption that a few elite leaders and managers are the ones that control the flow of information to the rest of the congregation. And, as has been developed elsewhere, the church operates on a high degree of control of information that threatens the perfectionistic image of the church. Any problems that risk breaking through to the congregants or the outside public’s awareness of sin or flaws must be met with  Truth Suppression Strategies (TSS). TSS are implemented when there is a red alert to the possibility of negative information getting out to the public. It reminds me of the storm troopers of Star Wars that come to attack whatever is a threat to the rule of the dark forces. 

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Pexels.com

As a 30 year attender at WCCC, I have witnessed the church going from looking so outwardly good, to slowly but surely peeling back the veneer to reveal years of TSS that operated in the deep state of the organization. What is incredible is the fact that for so long WCCC was able to prevent the revelation of multiple sinful problems due to  well orchestrated TSS. The most prominent forms of the TSS range from the heavy handed power consolidation at the top of WCCC, whereby the ruler, Bill Hybels, had such control over the elders and leadership structure that he, by force of personality, could prevent anything negative about the church or himself, from seeping out. Bill Hybels is the architect of the TSS at WCCC. As has been identified in earlier blogs, it is the dualistic pathology of his inner life that laid down the blueprint for the organizational suppression of truth. He has such an intense need to look good that he built a church structure around this model of perfection. Anything that threatened this outward facade had to be met with the TSS storm troopers. 

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TSS are a collection of approaches with the same objective- to get around potential negative information and either prevent them from seeing the light of day, or destroy the sources of potential bad press. Kill the messengers and victims. Kill their reputations, kill their legitimacy, and never allow the potential image destroying reality of their message to surface! These approaches are pretty standard ways of controlling the narrative of a person or organization. See the NBC, Fox News, and Harvey Weinstein, stories. 

As I have analyzed the TSS that WCCC has used in responding to the revelation of sinful immorality on the part of Bill Hybels and other leaders, specific approaches have been uncovered. One of the primary TSS has been that of discrediting the very realities of the experience of victims. Elders supported the attacks on victims by colluding with the perpetrator to call the women liars and  colluders. Although the elders later gave a tepid apology, they never entered into accepting the level of pain they had inflicted on these women victims or one of the elders, Betty Schmidt. That approach worked initially. The elders themselves lied when they presented a rationalization that they had gotten in front of information about Bill Hybels’s sexual immorality by hiring a bogus attorney connected to the church and biased in favor of finding Bill innocent. A weak foundation was then laid to justify saying they had done their due diligence, and could confidently support Bill Hybels’s innocence. They used TSS by not going outside the church to find a truly objective and unbiased investigator of Bill’s behavior. But this Truth Suppression Strategy is so clever! Find a biased investigator who concludes in favor of the perpetrator, so elders can get behind the conclusions of this prejudiced person, and seek to steer, like a red herring, the focus of the congregation away from the truth. See everyone, the Emperor does have clothes! 

Another TSS is to gaslight the victims. In short, gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse “in which information is twisted or spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity.” Essentially, gaslighting is a tactic used to destabilize your understanding of reality, making you constantly doubt your own experiences.

Most of the time, this tactic is used to further uneven power balances with abusive partners, making you second guess yourself when you feel as if you are being abused or attacked. (from everyday feminism).

There have been multiple stories of victims being labeled as psychologically unstable or even ill (ie. Pat Baranowski), thereby discrediting their realities about how they were abused. Another gaslighting technique used was to reverse the culpability from the perpetrator to the victim, by suggesting that the victim was angry at the rejection of the perpetrator and so decided to accuse him or her. Incredibly, at WCCC, a church that supposedly has an egalitarian view of women, female elders entered into this process. The goal of this TSS is to annihilate the credibility of the victim by attacking their legitimacy. This form of the TSS is particularly cruel, since it has no regard for the traumatic damage inflicted on the victims who are not believed. It’s’ only objective is to PROTECT PROTECT PROTECT the church! Protect its founder. 

A clear motivation for the level of protection of the senior leader is the concept of the Key Man. Bill Hybels, at WCCC, was  the Key Man in the insurance structure of the church. When a church is covered for liability or other forms of insurability, a Key Man is identified who is so important that they must be treated in a different way. That is why, I believe, that Bill Hybels was restricted from high risk activities such as piloting his own plane.  The assumption in a mega-church of WCCC’s size is that if the Key Man goes down, the financial implications are huge. Therefore, at all costs, the Key Man must be protected against culpability. The attendants to the Emperor must create a veil of impenetrability around the Key Man. As a result any threat to the image and power of the Key Man must be eliminated at all costs! Anyone that threatens the power or prestige of the Key Man must be neutralized in some way.

As an aside, although the policy of the Key Man concept is to limit risk, the reality is that Bill Hybels engaged in the high risk behavior of sexual behaviors toward women in the church and elsewhere.  This can only be explained by the fact that individuals like him, who believe in their own celebrity, become so entitled that they believe they can control risky situations. He made a calculated decision that he could control and suppress the truth getting out. In this sense, he not only put himself at risk but the whole church as well. I have always said that entitled people hold within themselves the seeds of their own self destruction. They combine being risk prone with entitlement. At some point, they make decisions that they cannot completely control and so get exposed.

 

Can any real Christian imagine that Jesus would endorse the Key Man concept of the current mega-church model? The very concept bakes in a motivation to protect the financial value that the key man represents. It therefore adds an incentive to suppressing information that could damage his ability to keep the church functioning at the financial level that it has attained. Would Jesus endorse the concept that any man or woman is so financially important that we should give him or her a pass on morality? The ends do not justify the means. I attended a service at Discovery Church in Orlando last Sunday and was refreshed by hearing its pastor, Don Cousins, former pastor at WCCC, say emphatically that there are no celebrities in the church except Jesus. He is the only Key Man!

Then there is the concept of the “key men or women” to the Key Man. Enter the Elder Response Team (ERT). The task of the ERT in the structure of TSS is to get around negative information and do whatever is necessary to eradicate its potential damage to the Key Man and therefore the church. Discrediting the stories of victims continues in this process. As I have blogged elsewhere, the ERT created a “Star Chamber”  court that stacked the power imbalance clearly in favor of the ERT over any potentially harmed individual. Multiple stories of intimidation exist about how the ERT used TSS to catch and minimize the damage to the church’s reputation. The head of the ERT, who was a clone of Bill Hybels, was the “key man” for the Key Man. He helped clean the messes. Things from destroying evidence (ie. shredding evidence of a relationship shared by victim Ann Lindberg), to powering up on vulnerable individuals in intimidating ways was the MO of the ERT. 

Current TSS

The question at this time in the history of WCCC is have the TSS been eliminated? The reason that immorality flourishes in organizations that hide and suppress the revelation of sin is that at some level, individuals who sin in the organization will not be exposed. So the underlying message is that one can sin, or act out sexually, and  they will either get by with it, because of their power, or if found out, will not be exposed publicly.  WCCC should publicly call out Bill Hybels for his sin and call him to repentance. Why? As a signal to others that sin will be exposed. But because the culture of WCCC was formed and is still sustained around the TSS of the past, there is still a commitment to protecting the truth in ways that the leadership believes will not do damage to the image. The current elders, in many ways, are no different from previous elders and leaders. They do not share the truth in real time. There have been affairs among high profile leadership staff, some as recent as a few months ago, that have not been exposed to the people of the church. WCCC is like a dysfunctional family that looks good on the outside but works hard to suppress damaging truth. 

 

Transparency Supports Healthy Moral Choices

Going back to my opening thoughts about immorality, I believe that even the current culture of limited sharing of truth keeps WCCC vulnerable to continued immorality. When secrecy is endorsed at an institutional level, as it is at WCCC, then, by implication, the message to individuals is that secrecy is acceptable. But every sinful behavior is sustained by secrecy. Every affair that occurs is done in secrecy. Every sexual acting out behavior that exists in an organization is supported by threats to victims to maintain secrecy. Secrecy is the petri dish in which the cancer of sin is free to metastasize. The current elders have just replaced the former elders by being the gatekeepers of truth. They have resisted, by mainly passive aggressive efforts to look like they are addressing the secrecy issues, becoming a transparent organization. And because of this they are culpable in sustaining a culture that is vulnerable to ongoing immorality. All the behind the scenes decisions they are currently making, without sharing openly with the congregation, are simply a continuation of the elitist view of leadership, that a select number of people can know or suppress the truth. Elder updates are so bland and so insufficient as a source of real information, that they are offensive. 

Luke 8:17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.