With great sorrow, we are reminded once again by the news headlines that the enemy has a special target for spiritual leaders. I myself have reflected anew on how twice I followed a predecessor who disqualified himself from ministry, leaving thousands of Christ followers heartbroken and dismayed.
Why does this happen? And what compels men of such great kingdom influence to throw it all away?
I am reminded of a captivating conversation I had years ago with one of my heroes of the faith and a treasured mentor, Pastor Peter Lord. For 30 years he served as Sr. Pastor of Park Avenue Baptist Church in Titusville and authored many books including the 29:59 Plan, which helps believers spend time with God in authentic prayer. Even into his 80s, Peter remains active in mentoring dozens of leaders in that region.
The Mighty Have Fallen
As we enjoyed these rich moments of fellowship he began to muse about all of his colleagues over the years who have not finished well. Some he spoke of by name, expressing the heartache of watching very good and gifted men self-destruct through moral failure. We also discussed some recent high-profile instances that have brought new devastation to the hearts and spiritual homes of the faithful.
Pastor Lord then asked, “Why do you think this happens?” I felt like a mosquito being asked by an eagle about the skills of flying. I politely posed a few ideas, then quickly deferred to his wisdom on the topic, assured he had given it some deep thought. He responded with one word: “Neglect.”
Our Subtle Neglect
Benjamin Franklin noted, “A little neglect may breed great mischief.” It was George Bernard Shaw who described neglect as “the laziest and commonest of the vices.”
Pastor Lord went on to explain that these fallen leaders were not so foolish as to wake up one day and intentionally throw away their integrity, honor, family and ministry in some abrupt violation of all they knew to be true. Rather, he noted, they simply began to neglect their relationship with the Lord, and over time the erosion robbed them of love, purity, discernment and resolve. Like a snake in the grass, disaster struck.
Satan’s Sinister Strategy
Our spiritual enemy is brilliant, an expert in human behavior, and evil in all of his intentions toward every believer. He is especially so toward spiritual leaders, not because they have greater intrinsic value but because their demise is strategic. I am often reminded that in bowling it is very difficult to get a strike if you do not hit the head pin.
Pastor Lord’s wisdom confirmed a truth we must all understand. Satan’s most relentless temptation in our lives is not the lure of blatant acts of moral stupidity, but the daily willingness to neglect our love for Christ in the smallest of ways. Lucifer knows that the Great Commandment is to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Neglect entices us to a partial, perfunctory affection for Christ while maintaining the outward activity of “a Christian life.” Soon, we leave our first love, while still embracing sound doctrine, like the Church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7. Eventually, our spiritual core is compromised; our love wanders from Christ to the empty allure of the world. Calamity creeps and captures us with unexpected ease.
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