Sexual Abuse in the SBC: The Hired Hand and the Wolf

Mix these domineering and fearful men together, introduce innocents who trust them both, and we have a recipe for wolves to run wild in the fold where the flock should be safe.

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Leadership is an idea that is tainted by the world's branding. The stench of selfish self-preservation that clings to leadership even in churches could make us question that a good God would set up leadership for local churches; especially as we consider sexual abuse in Gospel preaching churches. Yet God did exactly this and He is good.

The flaws in our Christian subcultural views of leadership have caused deep damage. Jesus called for us to not lord over one another (Matthew 20: 25 – 28). (Sidenote: I think many of us want to be lorded over by men instead of resting in the goodness of our great Lord. There is nearly always somebody who will fill our desires of being lorded over, and love lording over us.)

In our culture we have celebrity church leaders who are not known, really really known, by their congregations. They, in turn, try to find complementary personalities who will help them build their churches. What kind of men are drawn to being celebrities within religious circles? Not good men, but either fearful or domineering men. Fearful men build cautious churches that are unprepared to deal with the true depravity that is on display in sexual abuse cases. Domineering men, those who like to be feared as many pastors I've met do, often like to domineer in ways that are outside the pulpit. Sometimes, they want to domineer over somebody in a sexual way. Mix these domineering and fearful men together, introduce innocents who trust them both, and we have a recipe for wolves to run wild in the fold where the flock should be safe. Domineering men are often wolves, consuming others to satisfy their appetites.

John 10: 11 – 13
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” 

Jesus tells us how good shepherds behave. They stay, they fight for their sheep, they die for their sheep. Hired hands aren't prepared for risk; they survive. These men do not have pastoral hearts. They might be great leaders, speakers, motivators and visionaries. They might have style, intelligence, knowledge, pedigree, and charisma. But they shouldn't lead churches if they don't have the heart for the sheep.

What we are seeing now is the fallout of a least a generation of hired hands playing the part of pastors. They don't want to risk their jobs, their reputations, their church's reputations… they don't want to risk anything. So they don't fight the wolf. They often won't even expose wolves as wolves. Story after story of sexual abusers being brought to church leadership but not being exposed shows a problem with our culture of leadership.

“…He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” 

Pastors who do not fight for the wellbeing of their sheep show themselves to not love the sheep. He was caring for sheep to get paid. Maybe the pay was for status or respect, or maybe it really was the money. But a hired hand's motivation wasn't driven by care for sheep. To run from a wolf, a pastor shows himself to not be a shepherd but selfishly engaged for his own gain. Sexual abuse of vulnerable churchgoers is clearly a way wolves are attacking God's sheep.

Good shepherds, with the heart of Christ the true Good Shepherd, will fight the wolves. They will do this even as the wolves turn and attack them. Shepherds will oppose wolves, even at the cost of their own reputation or even role as a Pastor. Fighting wolves always has a cost; look at the cost the Good Shepherd paid. Any Pastor with the heart of Christ will be willing to pay as much is necessary.

Don't let hired hands be your pastor. They'll leave you to the wolves.

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