I’ve had a few people wanting my opinion on Jack Schaap who recently fell in the ministry. I don’t typically respond to this type of thing.
First of all, I think megachurch pastors get enough attention from the media and bloggers. You can find his story anywhere online. When a big pastor falls, it’s gonna be news. Big news. I don’t blog about it. In fact, I weep about it. Whether it’s a big pastor who shepherds 1,000 or a bi-vocational pastor who leads 20, it’s always tragic.
There are no winners. A family is torn asunder. A church is left with questions. And in the wake of a megachurch, thousands are left wondering, ‘Why? How could he do this to us?”
The pain will be there for years to come. I’m not here to excuse the actions or sin of Jack Schaap. I fell from ministry three years ago and interviewed a lot of pastors, looking for reasons for why we fall. I published those reasons in my book. I don’t make excuses for our sin. We sinned. End of story. We did it. We committed adultery. We crossed the line. We broke the seventh commandment.
There were reasons that led up to the breaking of that commandment. There were circumstances that were common in each broken pastor. Isolation, poor relationship with spouse, church conflict, and overly high expectations. Could the fallen pastor have sought out help before falling? Sure. His sin was his own. But the church culture has a lot to do with the 1,500 pastors who fall each month due to moral failure, conflict or burnout.
I don’t excuse Pastor Schaap’s actions. Apparently, he, a 54 year old man, was involved with a 16 year old girl. He committed adultery.
There has been a lot of vitriol spilled his way in the past few weeks and that’s what I’m concerned about. But it’s not anything new.
Pastors are some of the most trusted people in our society. We look up to them. We honor them, we don’t expect them to sin greatly. And we shouldn’t. Scripture holds them to a high norm. They should be held to a high expectation.
The statistics on pastors are alarming and I quote them in my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World”:
- 80% and 84% of pastors and their wives are discouraged and dealing with depression
- More than 40% of pastors and 47% of their wives report they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and unrealistic expectations
- 77% said they did not feel they did not have a good marriage
- 71% said they were burned out and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis
Again, I’m not making excuses. When someone sins, it’s not because of statistics. But this is the world pastors live in today. There is a dangerous culture pastors live in.
I did take exception to an article written by Ed Stetzer for the Christian Post. I had Dr. Stetzer for class at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has set the bar for church planting in Southern Baptist life and has written several books which I highly recommend. He is a caring man who would do anything for his students and goes out of his way for people. He would give you the shirt off his back if you asked him to. When I had him for class, he loved me, cared for me and wanted to see me go in the right direction. I think he is a great attribute to the Kingdom of God.
He wrote an article called, “Call It What It Is: It’s Not Adultery. It’s Abuse.” Fair enough. I agree with many of his points. Schaap crossed a serious line in engaging in an affair with a girl. She was much younger than him. When an older man seeks out the attention of a younger girl, there are problems. Stetzer lines that out clearly and I think he does that well. His best point is one that hits home to me:
Don’t say, “But it is legal for a 54-year old to have sex with a 16-year old in Illinois.” Listen to those words before you say them. Consider your daughter.”
I have three daughters. And I would be horrified if I found out any of them were in an affair with a man that age. I would be absolutely sickened.
Stetzer calls upon those in Schaap’s denomination to take action; to make sure young girls are not victimized. I would add to that – “Southern Baptists (among others), make sure you are doing what it takes to care about the young in your congregations, because it is happening frequently as well. Check the police blotter.”
Southern Baptists currently have no program to care for fallen pastors or their victims. Is it their job? I don’t know.
Back to the Stetzer article. He says:
IFB friends, your movement has had way too many scandals, and many of you have expressed concern about such– so speak up now. (There are plenty of lists of such scandals already.) Secrecy and circling the wagons breeds this kind of behavior and is destroying children and your movement. Your young pastors are leaving and your children are in danger.
Again, I agree. Something needs to be done. Maybe there are serious issues within that organization. But it has to start with the pastors. These men are under tremendous strain. With 1,500 men leaving the ministry a month, something is happening. It’s not limited to Independent Baptists. It’s across denominational lines. It happens to all of us.
We can’t just throw Jack Schaap out the door. He needs restoration. I’m not talking about putting him back in the pulpit. I’m talking about the one thing Dr. Stetzer missed in his article. And I apologize to him directly if he wasn’t meaning to write about it.
We have to go directly to the pastors who fall, as soon as they fall, and attempt to restore them to the faith. If I’ve quoted Galatians 6:1 once, I’ve quoted it a thousand times: Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Galatians 6:1, ESV)
Bro. Schaap doesn’t need criticizing online (and I understand that most of Dr. Stetzer’s article was aimed at the IFB). He needs a band of brothers to seek him out, to restore him, to encourage repentance in him. At the same time, this young lady needs people to surround her, to help her, counsel her, love on her.
It may be a time for a clarion call to the Independent Baptists. But guess what? It’s happening across denominational lines. Every day. It’s happening right now in the Southern Baptist Convention. It’s happening in Methodist Churches, in Presbyterian Churches, in Episcopalian Churches. Until we recognize that our pastors are weak and in danger, it won’t stop.
Let’s not lay the shame and blame at one denomination’s doorstep. It’s a sin problem that isn’t going away any time soon unless we deal with the church culture at large and begin to help our pastors understand what is at stake before they fall.
All pastors are moments away from a fall. All pastors are weak if they don’t know what’s at stake and see the warning signs. Bro. Schaap was just the latest man who fell, due to his sinful nature and to temptation. It can happen to us all.
One final point I agree with. Having an affair with a 16 year old makes my skin crawl almost more than anything else. We must protect our children. Regardless, in the sight of God, adultery with a 16 year old or a 40 year old is sin nonetheless. If Bro. Schaap repents and seeks out the path of holiness, we are to support him, regardless of what he has done. Why? Because he is forgiven by God. That’s a tough thing to do for many people. We don’t support his sin, we support the man forgiven and redeemed by God.
Christ loves his children. Even the fallen ones. Like he loved the woman caught in adultery in John 8. He stood beside her while people wanted to stone her. He was the only friend she had that day. But he was all she needed. Bro. Schaap needs friends in the Christian community right now. And so does this young woman. So does her family. I pray that the fellowship of Christian people near them will respond in kind, as Christ would.