Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Leadership Divorces Pushing Church to Crisis

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A senior church statesman has warned that a rash of high profile Christian divorces has brought the church to a point of crisis. Jack Hayford says that if churches do not take a tougher stand against divorce, especially among leaders, they are opening themselves to being led dangerously astray.

The founding pastor of The Church on the Way in Van Nuys, Calif., an internationally recognized and respected leader, sounds the alarm in an article in the February issue of "Charisma" magazine. "We are at a point of crisis," he writes, citing "failure... evident across the spectrum, from renowned evangelical Bible preachers to charismatic evangelists, and from noted national youth leaders to ascending Christian TV superstars."

Hayford says that while the level of breakdown of Christian marriage is tragic enough, the crisis is "amplified" when it involves high-visibility leaders. "Sheep follow shepherds and multitudes mimic the more visible," he writes, blaming "confused and biblically unfocused thinking."

He says that too many churches are unaware of the clear biblical qualifications for ministry leadership-that include marital commitment and moral fidelity-and fail to apply biblical leadership standards-which might include a time away from ministry--when they are violated.

"Our society lauds and pays its athletes, entertainers and persuasive leaders just as long as they 'keep the show on the road,' but that's not the measure God calls the church to apply. Character, not merely charisma, is the mark of a spiritual leader."

Hayford warns that if churches continue to get marriage wrong, there "is reason to prophesy widespread deception on other issues" too. "The 'itching ears' characteristic forecast for the last days represents the mind-set of some of those in church leadership today. It's a setup for delusion with disastrous consequences."

The chancellor of The King's College and Seminary in Van Nuys, himself married for 46 years, Hayford avoids naming individuals, but refers to one "highly visible" leader who remarried a week after his divorce was finalized, maintaining: "God didn't call me to marriage. He called me to ministry." Hayford also mentions a "former so-called charismatic leader" in the Atlanta area who was spreading a false doctrine that suggests immorality is impossible within the kingdom of God.

"Unless the church shakes herself awake where seducing spirits are luring her away from a 'first love' for the values of marital commitment and moral fidelity, a false definition of God's person will supplant the pure glory of His real presence and give place to destructive delusion," he says.

He urges a renewed commitment to marriage from leaders, and clearer teaching and administration of biblical standards in leadership. "This is not a call to legalism, but a call from a growing sloppiness called 'grace in the name of love,' but without love's commitments or grace's power." Hayford says that the issue of divorce is a tender one, and a divorced or fallen leader should not be condemned. "But neither can we permit a casual treatment of their tragedy, for God's Word is never to be lightly regarded on these points. How a believer lives unto Christ is measured in terms of marital fidelity, and how a leader leads in His name is to be judged the same."

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