Phoney Rabbis, Lost Discernment and the Eddie Long Disaster

by | Feb 8, 2012 | Blogs, Fire in My Bones

Why did people applaud Bishop Long’s bizarre “coronation” in Atlanta?

Question of the
week: What should you do when a megachurch pastor is accused of serious
financial and/or sexual misconduct?

A.     Ask the pastor to step down so he or she can
receive ministry, and then conduct a thorough investigation.

B.     Flatly deny all allegations and wait until
the storm blows over.

C.     Use church funds to pay off the people who
made the sex abuse accusations.

D.     Ask a guest preacher to call the pastor to
the stage, wrap him in a 312-year-old Torah scroll and
ask an “expert” in Old Testament language to declare him a “king” so he can be
exonerated of all wrongdoing.

“True restoration requires a lengthy
process of repentance, restitution and inner healing. If we practiced biblical
restoration on a wide scale, the cancer of immorality that is eating the church
alive today would go into remission.”

Until Jan. 29, when Bishop Eddie Long of Atlanta was
coronated on the stage of New Birth Baptist Church in front of thousands of his
congregants, I would never have dreamed of option D in the list above. I
thought I had seen it all. Yet the odd ritual (I hesitate to call it a “Jewish
ceremony”) performed by Denver minister Ralph Messer is now
officially the most bizarre religious video ever posted on YouTube. (If you are
one of the 16 people in the world who have never seen it, click here.)

After the 14-minute video clip went viral, it pretty much
angered everyone—the Jewish community, especially, but also many Christians who
don’t believe it is kosher to put a pastor in a chair and parade him on a stage
like he is The Most Highfallutin III.
When Long and Messer realized the video had sparked an embarrassing
controversy, Long apologized for it while Messer downplayed the ceremony as a
sincere attempt to “honor” the embattled bishop.

Watching recent events at New Birth play out in the media
is like viewing a train wreck in slow motion. I hurt for the innocent people
trapped in this mangled mess—people who deserve better leadership than this.
Here are three lessons I hope we learn from it:

1. We must guard our pulpits. The apostle Paul
warned that the church would be preyed upon by imposters, liars, false teachers
and greedy opportunists. He also told Timothy to be on the lookout for men who
focus their teaching on “speculation” and ear-tickling doctrines. “For some
men,” he said in 1 Timothy 1:6-7, “have turned aside to
fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law,  even though they do not understand either
what they are talking about or the matters about which they make confident
assertions. (NASB)”

For some reason, many charismatics today are wowed if a
Bible teacher pulls out a Jewish prayer shawl, wears a yarmulke,
recites a Bible verse in Hebrew or claims to know the numerical value of an Old
Testament word. He gets extra points if he understands biblical feasts (or can
show you how to obtain financial blessings through a “Day of Atonement
Offering”). I believe there is certainly value in understanding the Hebrew
roots of Christianity. But if we aren’t careful this can also become
idolatry—or an opportunity for charlatans who have lots of “Jewish” products to
sell. Note: If someone’s teaching does not point his hearers 100 percent to
Jesus, don’t buy it.

2. We must raise the standard of holiness. When a
church leader falls into serious sin or scandal, those around him should—if
they truly love him—cover and rehabilitate him. But covering a leader who has
sinned should not involve cover-up. True restoration requires a lengthy
process of repentance, restitution and inner healing. If we practiced biblical
restoration on a wide scale, the cancer of immorality that is eating the church
alive today would go into remission.

3. We must reclaim biblical discernment. What
appalled me most when I watched the Eddie Long coronation video was the fact
that people in the audience applauded this blasphemous spectacle. It is bad
enough that a leader allowed it to take place on his platform; it is even worse
that thousands of people watched without flinching, and went home thinking
their pastor was now a king in God’s eyes. Lord have mercy.

The people should have immediately fallen to their knees
and begun praying against deception—or run out the doors in disgust. With so
little discernment among “Spirit-filled” believers today, it’s not hard to
imagine that an anti-Christ figure could boldly march right into a church,
climb in a leather chair and be anointed as a king. Oh wait … I think that has
already happened.

J. Lee Grady is the former
editor of
Charisma and the director
of The Mordecai Project. You can follow him on
Twitter at leegrady.

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