Today C.J. Mahaney, a very prominent church leader, announced he is taking a leave of absence.
Over the last few years some former pastors and leaders in Sovereign Grace have made charges against me and informed me about offenses they have with me as well as other leaders in Sovereign Grace. These charges are serious and they have been very grieving to read. These charges are not related to any immorality or financial impropriety, but this doesn’t minimize their serious nature, which include various expressions of pride, unentreatability, deceit, sinful judgment, and hypocrisy.What to make of this? First, I found his letter to be pretty open. There are clearly issues and right or wrong he is seen as being at last partially to blame. That comes with the territory of being a prominent leader. Whether or not he really is to blame is something that I don’t know but I appreciate the tone of his letter if not the proposed solutions.
I believe God is kindly disciplining me through this. I believe I have by the grace of God perceived a degree of my sin, and I have been grieved by my sin and its effects on others. I have had the opportunity to confess my sin to some of those affected in various ways by my sin. And I am so very grateful for their forgiveness. But I want to perceive and confess any and all sin I have committed. Although my experience of conviction has already started—and this is an evidence of God’s mercy—I’m sure there is more for me to perceive and acknowledge. Even with the charges I disagree with it has been beneficial to examine my soul and ask for the observation of others. And I am resolved to take responsibility for my sin and every way my leadership has been deficient, and this would include making any appropriate confessions, public or private. Most importantly I want to please God during this season of examination and evaluation.
What is really going on? Mahaney takes a leave of absence. Piper likewise took a lengthy sabbatical. Francis Chan left his position entirely. Something in the water?
I think we are seeing the fruit of the cult of celebrity in the church on a grand scale and also a very visible example of what happens on the local pastor level. Pastors great and small have an inordinate, unhealthy and unbiblical amount of responsibility and expectations placed on them. The staggering statistic of burnout and general dissatisfaction are right in front of us all the time. The solutions being tossed about generally are aimed at treating the symptoms, not the problem. More vacation time or a raise is not going to change the unhealthy dynamic between a pastor and “his” congregation.
It takes a far better man than me to deal with the combination of adoration and expectation that accompanies any pastor and exponentially so when the pastor is famous and “successful”. We absolutely must get away not only from the cult of celebrity but also the one man show mentality that is found in so much of the church. God has not called any one man to shoulder the burden of ministry in a church. Some men are indeed called as elders/pastors but for the purpose of equipping the rest of the Body, not to minister perpetually to them. Until we get away from a “one and all the others” model of church and start to have a real rather than theoretical priesthood of all believers, we will continue to see this happening both in the big stage and in the local church.
This is a great time to pray for C.J. Mahaney and for the church.