Thoughts on another pastor’s fall

Yesterday I learned that David Yonggi Cho is going to prison. Here’s the scoop:

David Yonggi Cho, the 78-year-old leader of the world’s largest Pentecostal mega church, was recently convicted of embezzling $12 million and sentenced to serve three years in prison. (You can read the entire story here).

The following are my unfiltered soul rumblings…

I’m devastated. This man has been a giant in the other world in which I live… the world of the church. He has written books, created paradigms, and showed lots of pastors “how to do it.” He has effectively built a church that has brought honor to God and resulted in hundreds of thousands of lives being transformed… and now this. I feel betrayed. Angry. and even a little skeptical… for if David Yonggi Cho succumbed to temptation then who isn’t vulnerable? Are there any trustworthy spiritual leaders?

I’m not as surprised as I used to be. Over the last decade of my life I’ve watched many leaders fall; leaders ranging from political (e.g. Mark Sanborn) to religious (e.g. Ted Haggard). I’ve staggered and been nauseated as I learned, multiple times, of personal acquaintances and mentors who have made irresponsible choices that have led to their public disgrace and put a dent in the reputation of the organizations they represent. I used to be surprised… I’m not so much anymore.

I’m scared. I’m a leader. I’m also a man. The things that led to every other leaders failure (e.g. sex, power, money) could also lead to mine. I promise myself, my wife, my children, my accountability partners, and my God that I’ll not fail. I’m sure these leaders said similar things before succumbing.

I am grateful for the men and women I know who consistently model integrity. There are men and women who live lives of integrity. They are gentle and courageous souls who quietly live lives of righteousness. They remain consistent when the times are good and equally so when suffering is required of them. I am grateful to know people like this… I’d name names but I know some of them read this blog and I don’t want to embarrass them. I am grateful for you.

This is to be expected. Not to be a Debbie Downer here but if you believe that all of humanity is smeared by sin then you can expect that ugly monster to rear its head and crash a life. I believe that God rescues us from the damaging control of sin, but it is absolutely necessary to continually nurture our relationship with Him and “run from” those things that would make us vulnerable to bad choices. Check out what St. Paul said to his protege in ministry, Timothy, on this subject.

OK, enough “soul rumblings”. Here are a few things I am doing in an effort to live a life of integrity:

  • Every day I put my face in the Bible. God gives warnings about this stuff and instruction on how to live a strong, long life of integrity. I really need to have this conversation with God every day… because I’m vulnerable to stupidity if I don’t… and often vulnerable even when I do!
  • I pray with my wife every night and give her a kiss before we go to sleep. This daily ritual reminds me of my spiritual and relational responsibility to my family. It keeps me humble before my wife as I talk to God, out loud, in front of her.
  • I have accountability partners who ask me anything and everything about my life. I tell them the truth.
  • I share my mistakes/sins in appropriate environments. Be wary of a man who never admits to being wrong. (You wouldn’t believe how many times I just edited that sentence! I had a pretty sophomoric way of saying that… but cleaned it up because of the nature of this post). On the other hand, I also like to hear, and share, successes so that others can see how it’s done! Sharing just failures leads to a sense of pessimism. We all fail. And we can all rise!
  • I have hope! I have hope because of this piece of wisdom from the Bible – “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again….” (Proverbs 24:16).

OK, the ladies are all getting out of bed… it’s time to get ready for school so I’ve gotta wrap this up.

Today I encourage you to pray for those in leadership, and then do a self-check… how’s your integrity level?

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