Brant Hansen opines on the recovery of Gary Smalley, noting how Gary went from all-good to was-bad-but-now-all-good without any real mention of what came between… the “bad” part. The IMonk takes note and adds on about the cult of Christian celebrity, somewhat tongue-in-cheek at points: “If you believe the entire Christian celebrity culture is a dangerous and polluted waste of mind, heart and money, you must just want to be difficult.” Put me down for just wanting to be difficult.
Just tuned in? At issue is the way in which the Christian culture makes celebrities of people, and the way that they ignore stories of people who struggle, waiting for them to “get better” and come back with a great recovery story. Everyone loves a good recovery story… but nobody wants to hear about sin before it’s become a thing of the past.
Basically, sin isn’t an acceptable subject unless you’ve gotten over it. We want to hear about current victories over past sin, not current struggles with present sin. If you’re still sinning, go away and come back when you’ve gotten over it and have your life back together.
Thinking of my CLB, I remember distinctly the feeling that if I had any sins I was struggling with, I needed to keep them to myself. We valued transparency, but not that much. One little slip and we’d lose the leadership positions we were in. Unless you were high enough up the food chain, that is, where confession of ongoing struggle with sin would net you a bit of a break from ministry until you came back and said it was no longer a temptation. I watched it happen, and learned the ropes. “Brokenness” was apparently not caused by struggling today, but by having struggled yesterday and gotten over it today. This way you could walk around saying you’d “been broken” but still “had victory.” Christians don’t like a mess. If you weren’t high enough up the pecking order, you pretty much had to go away and come back when you had a better recovery story that used enough past tense verbs. The “Before” story was okay, but sub-par. The “After” story was laudable. The “During” story was simply unacceptable.
The “during” is the part where there’s trouble. It’s the part that we don’t want to hear about, and the part where we leave people alone. It’s the part where those who struggle most need help and support and the part where they’re least likely to get it. How terribly sad. If they come through it okay, they’ll have lots of support and friendship… but who needs that kind of fair-weather friend?
New theory: if you aren’t struggling with anything that would be considered a sin anymore, you’re not qualified for leadership. It’s kinda the opposite of the way I saw it practiced… but an ongoing struggle is authentic and honest. The non-struggling leader, on the other hand, is self-deceived… and to be honest, deception is a sin I can live without in a church leader. So go away and come back when you’ve got an “After” story about thinking you don’t have any sin, okay?