Overcoming Toxic Spiritual Leadership l Luke 12:1-12 l Chapel Hill Church Gig Harbor
Good morning, Chapel Hill! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Gunnar, and I’m one of the pastors here. It’s good to be with you this Sunday. And it’s actually great to be back home after some travel. This last week, all of our pastors and some of our elders attended what is called General Assembly. This is an annual gathering for church leaders across our denomination, the EPC. And this year’s gathering was such a blessing. We enjoyed worship and fellowship with fellow believers across the country. We celebrated what God is doing in and through the churches in the EPC. And, the real exciting part… we conducted business.
And I have to say, out of all the committees working on business, I think the one I was on had to have been the coolest. Ready for this? It’s called the “rules and overtures committee.” Sounds pretty fun, right? OK, so even if it’s not the coolest team in the world, I’ll admit it is still super important work. To give a key example, one of the recommendations we made this year was to strengthen our church policies in order to protect and listen to and care for victims of abuse in our churches. And I am so proud to be a part of a denomination that cares about this. Because this issue is becoming increasingly prevalent.
Wherever you get your news or your entertainment, chances are you’ve noticed that there seems to be a new scandal popping up every week in churches across our country. Another leader who has gone off the deep end and left a trail of victims in their wake. And that leads us to a pressing question: how do we respond to spiritual leadership gone wrong?
You’ll recall a couple Sundays back, Pastor Mark taught us about the qualities of that sort of broken leadership, three hallmarks of spiritual leaders gone wrong: hypocrisy, pride, and malpractice. And where we pick up today, Jesus turns to his disciples and teaches them how to respond when they encounter them. Luke, chapter 12, beginning in verse 1:
“In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore, whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Here is the main idea of our passage and our message today: When we face spiritual leadership gone wrong, we are called to be fearless, faithful followers of Jesus. Let’s unpack that from the text where we find three don’ts: Don’t be like them. Don’t be afraid of them. And don’t abandon your convictions.
1.) Don’t be like them
First, don’t be like them. Remember, Jesus is giving this talk about the very people he has just chastised. And he boldly gives his followers a stern warning… He says, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”