Bad things happen in churches. Sin rears its ugly head at all levels, including - sadly - leadership. And we should be saddened and shocked, but not surprised that this is the case. At a time when the UK news has been filled with stories of all kinds, the jailing of one minister has - rightly - still made the headlines. What are we to make of such a man's ministry? It's a key question - not just for this particular case, but for others. My wife sat under the ministry of one particularly high profile "fall from grace" for four years. There are plenty of others. And we remember being blessed, taught, built up, stirred, converted even under the ministry of such men. We saw churches flourish under their ministry. We saw baptisms, growth, planting, men trained for ministry. Are we to write all these off?
I don't believe so. Whilst never condoning sin in all its ugliness and barbarity, we must also acknowledge that God, in his sovereign ruling, can work through such people beyond themselves. Indeed, this is the story of ministry in its entirety. No minister is perfect - and though we pray against the kind of evil we have heard about this last week and lament it when it happens - we must acknowledge that there is deep sin in us all. The very fact that our sin has stayed in our hearts and not overflowed into action is a measure of God's grace. But we must never think that the ministry success we enjoy (such as we do) is in any way down to our own doing.
So, it is possible to look back on the ministry of someone who has since been discredited and give thanks that God was at work, despite everything. We can rejoice that people were saved. We can delight that churches grew. We can give thanks to God the Father for the way his Spirit delivered people from the reign of darkness and brought them into the kingdom of the Son. And we can do that whilst feeling deep remorse and sadness that one of our own succumbed to sin and for the pain and anguish caused to others. The two are not incompatible. Indeed, at some level, that is the story of every ministry.
And it should make us plead with God for our own hearts. We all need to put to death the deeds of the flesh. And this is a sobering reminder that there is work, dear brother, to be done in you and me.