by Jared Musgrove
I think what I’m concerned for most is our imagination. In the wake of one scandal of a fallen Christian leader after another (with the fallen-condition promise of likely more), I’m quite worried about our Christian imagination. It’s the imagination that is key to church scandal. The minute we read, hear, or scroll the news, our imaginations run wild. Rarely to holy or informed places.
But there is a way to help one another’s imaginations when the scandal strikes. It takes a community to care for souls in shock. Small group leaders are essential in such times of devastation, questions of trust, and attack on our Christian imaginations.
There are practical ways a leader may lead in batting down the gossip, speculation, and the lack of self-control so widespread in the wake of leader scandal. The first is to recognize that your church leaders and staff are likely stunned as well. They are church members first. This is also their spiritual family. As well as their vocation. A small group can take this into account in order to pray for and tangibly minister to a hurting staff of ministers and pastors, regardless of the size.
When the scandal comes, direct your small group to ask questions openly and honestly, and preferably personally, of an elder or pastor within the church. Speculation among members is the wrong use of imagination. But being proactive and productive with your questions, even if you do not get every detail you want, will help you shepherd each other’s imaginations with right information.
Consider together that though it is desirable that everyone hear the same news at the same time and in the same way, that is rarely the case. The nature of news travel in this century aids neither clarity nor with ending speculation. It is most likely that your church’s leadership team tries their best to be the ones to share and shepherd minds and imaginations through terrible news, but they aren’t always allowed to be the ones leading with the information. Method and best practices are all too often overrun by the way news now travels. Your leadership is doing their best with an awful situation. Is there ever a perfect way to share terrible news?
Model for your group members the approach of asking questions rather than engaging imaginations in gossip. Or leading one another into a type of destruction and disunity fueled by unchecked imaginations. And tongues. Lead your members to scrutinize their information and imaginations.
And remind them that there is sadly no playbook to exposed or exposing sin. It’s awful every single time. Every instance is unique because there are singularly unique souls, families, and local churches affected. If you’ve seen one church leader scandal, you’ve seen one church leader scandal. Sin doesn’t conform to our predictions or expectations. Every situation is sadly unique and hurtful. Lord have mercy on us, for we are sinners.
And that’s why we really need our imaginations re-arrested in times of scandal. Small group leaders, lead imaginations to the one Leader Whose only scandal was dying unjustly in our place so that He might be a propitiation for our sins. Jesus is the Leader of His church. Though His under shepherds disappoint and even wound at times, His leadership is without compromise or an iota of sin. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Imagine that together in your small group. The gospel is the only balm to harmed church bodies and minds. Help your group members confront the existential crisis of leader scandal by reminding them of the gospel, together.