Here we go again.
Another news of a Christian leader being investigated for inappropriate sexual behavior involving women he was not married to.
I heard about it through a Christian podcaster. The minister who broke the news sided firmly with the unnamed women who were not only victimized by Bickle but also manipulated to maintain their silence. Apparently, these allegations spanned decades.
My initial response mirrors the pastors who announced the news—shocked.
How did this happen?
Why does it seem as though abuse keeps happening in the church?
How many other Christian ministers are secretly sleeping with someone else or violating some other Scripture while simultaneously maintaining a pious public persona?
I wish I could supply the answers. I further wish these leaders would cease giving Christianity a bad rap. Their conduct helps explain the smattering of comments on social media after the news broke. Those who now identify as exvangelical declared how happy they are since ditching Evangelical Christianity.
Sexual and spiritual abuse by clergy is something I’ve written about (check out this older piece as well). I felt compelled to address the allegations surrounding Bickle, but because I didn’t want to repeat myself, I only wrote the following after searching my heart.
The result is a brief message for three groups of people—leaders, their inner circles, and the rest of us.
1. Christian Leaders
Do you work as a pastor? Minister? Bible teacher? Kids’ church volunteer? Whether you preach in front of an audience of 5 or 5,000, or whether you’re a musician, worship leader, author, or YouTuber, if there is at least one person who has benefited from your ministry, then you’re a leader.
And if you’re a leader in the body of Christ, my plea is simple. Please live by the Word.
That means stop seducing others—or worse, using Scripture to justify your actions or to manipulate fellow humans into subjugating their will under yours.
But since we all can miss the mark, if you did it, then stop sinning. Repent. This is the twin promise of 1 John 1:7 and 9, right? That the blood of Jesus is powerful enough to cleanse our sins, provided we confess said sins first?
Please don’t flirt with sin as though your action would somehow lead to no reaction. The God who blessed you with gifts and talents, which enabled you to build your platform, can easily expose your secret sins. “God is the judge. He puts down one, and exalts another” (Psalm 75:7, NKJV). As easily as He has promoted you to your current post, He can also demote you.
Besides, do you really aspire to stand before your Maker on Judgment Day, having to account for those who fell from their faith due to your failure to repent from your sins?
2. Inner Circles
On the day I heard about Bickle’s supposed indiscretions, I also received an email from another leader in the body of Christ advising us on how to pray for these perilous times. This particular female minister and Bickle ran in the same circles. However, to the best of my knowledge, this individual has no skeleton in her ministry closet. There has never been a scandal tainting her reputation.
But I still wondered. Did she know about Bickle’s sins and choose to remain silent? If they were close friends, how could she not know?
It’s hard to imagine that prominent Christian leaders who transgressed, especially in a sexual manner and over time, could pull off a serial sin without anyone else being in the know.
So, here is my plea to executive assistants, regular assistants, accountability partners, close friends, elder boards, drivers to-and-from the airport—am I missing any title that needs to be added to this list?—if you are privy to a Christian leader’s ongoing sin, please prioritize God’s Word over any loyalty to that individual.
Consider the crystal-clear warning Paul issued in 1 Corinthians 5:11: “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is a sexually immoral person, or a greedy person, or an idolater, or is verbally abusive, or habitually drunk, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a person” (NASB).
If there is a Christian in your life whose behavior matches this verse, do something. At the bare minimum, confront the perpetrator (Matthew 18:15). Take another person (or two) if the latter ignores your one-on-one confrontation (Matthew 18:16).
What if this intervention fails also? Raise a red flag for the church (Matthew 18:17).
3. The Rest
I have no idea where you stand on faith matters. Maybe you’re a bystander believer, growing increasingly tired of two-faced Christians. Or maybe you’re one of those exvangelicals I mentioned earlier. Perhaps you’ve been burned by a similar sex scandal involving your own church or minister.
Whichever category you’re in, may I exhort you to never lose your faith in Jesus? Don’t let mere humans (or their repulsive behavior) drag you out of your communion with the Son of God. No matter what happens, fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith (Hebrews 12:2). It’s tragic when those who are supposed to represent Him fail miserably. However, please don’t let their failures cheat you out of your eternal destiny.
But I also have a second ask.
Please refrain from plunging other ministers into the same hole as the questionable individual. Remember the female minister I shared earlier? I had to stop myself from interrogating her in my head. Unless there is news stating otherwise, I refuse to convict her as complicit in Bickle’s behavior.
The same can be said regarding other prominent Christians in general. Let’s not squint our mental eyes and regard them with suspicion, as though every well-known Christian leads a double life.
Let’s not dismiss them all as hypocrites just because they’re both believers and famous.
And let’s pray for truth and healing to prevail: for survivors of Bickle’s alleged abusive acts, his spiritual and biological family, and everyone who is affected by this disturbing news.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with them all (2 Corinthians 13:14).
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/allanswart
Audrey Davidheiser, PhD is a California licensed psychologist, certified Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapist, and IFSI-approved clinical consultant. After founding and directing a counseling center for the Los Angeles Dream Center, she now devotes her practice to survivors of trauma—including spiritual abuse. If you need her advice, visit her on www.aimforbreakthrough.com
The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.
You can read Rhonda’s full article here.
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