What We Must Learn From the Zachery Tims Tragedy

by | Aug 17, 2011 | Blogs, Fire in My Bones

God has something sobering to say to us through the
death of this popular preacher.

Zachery
Tims’ story had a great beginning. As a young man he met Jesus and was saved
from a life of crime and drugs. He and his wife, Riva, moved from Baltimore to
Orlando, Fla., in 1996 to launch a church that aimed to restore families and pull
teens out of trouble. New Destiny Christian Center grew fast, mostly because of
Tims’ passionate preaching. He was soon a regular on Christian television.

But
things unraveled in 2009 when Tims was caught carrying on a yearlong affair
with a stripper he met in France. He admitted to an “indiscretion” and got a
few weeks of counseling, but he didn’t take serious time off for
rehabilitation. Riva divorced him for his infidelity. The billboards that once
featured photos of the happy couple were changed. By 2011 the roadside ads
featured a shot of Tims by himself, with this slogan: “A Family Church Meeting
Family Needs.”

“We don’t know yet exactly why Tims died in his room on the 37th
floor at the W Hotel in Manhattan. Police are still investigating. But I
believe this tragedy could have been avoided if Tims and the people in his
inner circle had followed the forgotten principle of biblical discipline.”

This
story did not end well. On Aug. 12, Tims was found dead—at age 42—in a New York
City hotel room. His four children lost their dad, and his church lost their
beloved leader. But while Tims’ family and friends are grieving their loss (and
I’m not minimizing that because the pain is real), I’m also grieving over the
fact that the wider body of Christ has yet another embarrassing religious scandal to
explain. We can’t gloss over this.

There
are so many aspects of this story that should cause us to lament. How did a
preacher get involved with a stripper? Why didn’t Tims put himself on the bench
for at least a year after his sin was exposed? Why did Christian television
keep him on the air after his affair became public? Why did his church continue
to attract crowds when people knew Tims’ behavior did not match the biblical
standards of morality required for church leaders?

It’s
especially troubling that the people closest to Tims—church elders, advisers
and mentors—didn’t hold his feet to the fire. They were in such a hurry to
“restore” him to the pulpit that they ignored his need for personal healing.
They were so eager to exonerate him from all wrong that they couldn’t wait to
see the genuine fruit of repentance—which takes time to develop in a person who
has been living a life of denials, deciepton and secret sin.

Now
a man is dead. We don’t know yet why Tims died in his room on the 37th
floor at the W Hotel in Manhattan. Police are still investigating. But I believe
this tragedy could have been avoided if Tims and the people in his inner circle
had followed the forgotten principle of biblical discipline.

Some
critics have called me a judgmental stone-thrower because I believe leaders
should step down for a year or more after a moral failure. In our permissive
culture we’ve lost the will to confront. God’s commandments have become
suggestions. Accountability is viewed as legalistic. Morality has been
redefined. And we’ve dropped holiness from our vocabulary.

As
a result of our spiritual laxness, congregations not only tolerate but
celebrate leaders who are unrepentant about their moral failures. As long as
adulterous preachers tickle ears and soothe guilty consciences with empty words
about prosperity, big crowds will keep the offering plates full. This fake
religious game is a mockery of all that is decent and godly.

I
won’t win any popularity contests for saying this. But I believe the Lord is
speaking a sobering message to us through the death of Zachery Tims. God will
not be mocked. As in the days of Isaiah, the Lord is saying to His people:
“I’ve had enough!” (Is. 1:11, NASB).

The
Lord is weary of our religious games. He’s going to close down the show.
Judgment begins in the house of God. The fire of His holiness is going to be
unleashed on the American church. Ministries that have been built on
personality, pride, hype, charlatanism, fakery and compromise are going to
crumble.

Leaders
who strut on the stage, pretending to be men of God while hiding gross
immorality, are on a collision course with the same God who struck Ananias and Sapphira dead in the book of Acts. We who
celebrate God’s kindness must also know His severity. We who love to preach
about His mercy must also know “it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands
of the living God” ( Heb. 10:31). We who sing about heaven must also warn
people about hell.

God
said to His wayward people in Isaiah 1:24-26: “I will be relieved of My
adversaries, and avenge Myself on My foes; I will also turn My hand against
you, and will smelt away your dross as with lye and will remove all your alloy.
Then I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the
beginning; after that you will be called the city of righteousness, a faithful
city.”

As
we mourn the death of Zachery Tims, let’s pray that the Lord’s fearful
judgments will lead His people back to true humility and faithfulness.

J. Lee Grady is contributing
editor of
Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. His
most recent book is
10 Lies Men Believe (Charisma House).

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

Spirit-Filled Pastor: Can I Ask God for Confirmation?

Spirit-Filled Pastor: Can I Ask God for Confirmation?

There are many incidents of God giving people a sign throughout the Bible. Although I believe God still does this, I also believe that we must be careful. Asking for a sign can be misleading if other factors are not taken into consideration. In Genesis, we find an...

Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: Are You Ready To Meet Jesus?

Man Who Spent 23 Minutes in Hell: Are You Ready To Meet Jesus?

The last words Jesus spoke to me in my 23 Minutes In Hell vision were, “Tell them I am coming very, very soon.” Then He repeated Himself and said again, “Tell them I am coming very, very soon.” The Bible is clear that Jesus is coming back to rapture His believers,...

The Best Way to Love Others and Yourself

The Best Way to Love Others and Yourself

I believe that other than the gospel regarding salvation through faith in Christ, learning to walk in love is the most important lesson in God’s Word. Jesus says that love is the most important commandment (Mark 12:28–31). The apostle Paul writes that love is the...

Prophecy: The Breach in Our Nation Will Be Repaired

Prophecy: The Breach in Our Nation Will Be Repaired

Praise be to Almighty God, righteous judge, holy of holies, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The earth is His footstool, and to His kingdom there is no end! Breached Births The Spirit of the Lord says this day: “There has been a breach—breached births, My...

10 Reasons the Apostolic Movement Is Essential to Gospel Expansion

10 Reasons the Apostolic Movement Is Essential to Gospel Expansion

The global apostolic movement is the most significant expression of Christianity today. This is the view expressed by historian Philip Jenkins. He talks about the rapid expansion of the church in the global south, much of which is reminiscent of the first-century...

Experience a Better Kind of Love in Your Relationships

Experience a Better Kind of Love in Your Relationships

Do you have any relationship struggles? Perhaps you want to learn how to love, for real. Too often today, people search for a fairytale love and are disappointed when the fairytale fizzles, which it will. Michael Gibson, author of Real Life Love, challenges folks to...

The Power of Godly Words Over Another Life—and Yours

The Power of Godly Words Over Another Life—and Yours

Have the words that others have spoken over you ever significantly impacted you? Words can birth destinies on the inside of us and bring hope to our hearts for the future. They have the power to ignite our dreams and give life to our souls. At the same time, negative...

RECENT ARTICLES

How You Can Foil the Plot Against Your Life

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Jesus warned us that we have an enemy, and he is a thief. He steals our joy, purpose,...
Activating Introverts in Evangelism

Activating Introverts in Evangelism

 Many believers mistakenly think that evangelism is only for charismatic, extroverted personality types. If they aren’t called to be evangelists, they shrink back from sharing the gospel with the lost entirely. The scriptural reality is that fivefold ministers, and...

Pin It on Pinterest

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]