Scot McKnight’s fourth point deals with the hypocrisy of much of popular evangelicalism —
Fourth, emergents were burned by the lack of integrity among popular evangelical media figures. They watched or heard the stories about Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart and the fall of leader after leader both national and local. Knowing what the Bible says and what leaders are (perhaps) doing behind closed doors creates irony, if not cynicism. For some, the lack of integrity among leaders casts doubt on the whole institution of the church. Emergents compare what Jesus had in mind and what Paul saw come to pass with what is going on, and decide to start all over again as if for the first time—this time with authenticity.
Umm … it’s true, you know, that there’s a definite problem within the preaching class. And the Churches of Christ are far from immune. I personally know an astonishing number of Church of Christ ministers who’ve committed adultery or otherwise shown an embarrassingly low level of integrity. Yes, we’ve got an integrity problem.
However, the notion that it’s a good idea “to start over again as if for the first time” is absurd. Starting over isn’t the solution.
First, starting over rejects the goodness and accomplishments of the vast majority who do have integrity. Judging those who’ve gone before so harshly is a mark of immaturity — a sort of spiritual adolescence — I think.
Second, just because you think you have integrity hardly means no one else does. Moreover, just because you think you have integrity doesn’t mean you do. Many of those who’ve fallen here among the evangelical churches thought they had integrity, too.
Third, Jesus spent his ministry working with sinners — prostitutes and adulterers. The question isn’t whether Christians sin — they do — but whether God helps them overcome sin with the help of their brothers in Christ. And leaving isn’t helping.
On the other hand, obviously enough, we really need to get our act together. I mean, this constant flow of adultery, spousal and child abuse, and financial irresponsibility coming from our ministers has to be dealt with. We need to get better at preventing such behavior.
And I don’t know how, but it would really be helpful if we could figure a way to see it coming. What drives men with delightful wives and immense talents for God’s kingdom to stray sexually? Is it ego? Abuse as a child? An inability to relate to women other than sexually?
I really wish someone would tell me how to see these things coming! After they happen, we often learn why the minister was driven into such sin, ruining his family and career, but how do we see it early enough to prevent it?
Anyway, I’ve posted some thoughts that should help prevent some of this, but we need lots more answers than I have.