You have probably heard me say multiple times that our job as the Watchmen/Watchwoman or Watchers on the wall will never be done until the Lord comes back to earth and takes us home. If you have ever heard me talk about the second coming, I would love to have it happen right now, even as I am typing this letter. I have always dreamed of the Second Coming happening while I am with my family, so we can enjoy the beauty and the majesty of His coming together. We are told we cannot even fathom what Heaven will look like and I can’t wait for that day. Think about it, our work of protecting Christ’s Bride will be done. We will no longer have to watch for the wolves in sheep’s clothing but be able to rejoice in peace. Knowing that no one will hurt another child of God and that no more tears will be shed over the atrocities that have plagued the churches for so long. But since the Second Coming has not happened yet (still hoping), I must continue to warn you on what we need to be watching for in protecting the flock.
As I write this I can’t help but wonder what He is thinking about us right now. Maybe not us who serve to watch over the church but the church itself. Seeing an article from the Washington Post “The Sin of Silence” by Joshua Pease causes me to think. I asked myself are we being silent about sins that are going on in our church right now where we should as the Watchers for the church be talking about them? Now before we get into this blog you may be saying “wait a minute; the Washington Post is really not favorable to the Christian belief”. Maybe, but this article speaks volumes of the sexual abuses that go on in churches across the United States and churches that stand by and let it happen.
Our daily Google Alert, advising us of things going on in churches across the country, has articles on sexual abuse at a church almost every other day. Let me repeat that, almost every other day. In 2017 I read at least 84 articles of sexual abuse or rape that had happened in different churches across the country. That is over one case a week. While reading these articles on these terrible crimes I would say that over 50% of those cases the suspect was staff or a well-known member of the church. The Washington Post article confirms it does not matter the size of the church or what denomination, however the article mostly directs its writings against the evangelical church. The author points out a disturbing trend showing that in many cases the church puts the blame back on the families and victims of the abuse and even told the victims they were “overreacting”. Victims feel betrayed because no one in the church believes them. Most of these stories reported that the church had a “blaming and disparaging attitude toward victims”. Other times when the victim reported these horrendous crimes to law enforcement or outside agencies, the church accused the victims of “tearing families apart and it was their fault” because of them coming forward and talking. Many of these stories that were told in this article point out the fact that most churches do not know how to handle these types of attacks on the church members or avoid the issue altogether. It goes on to say that some of the predators came back to the church and asked for forgiveness and were let back into the flock. Isn’t that what we as Christians are supposed to do? Aren’t we supposed to forgive? Do you feel caught between a rock and a hard place?
We are expected to protect our children however when we don’t, who can they trust from this point on? This abuse takes years to overcome as we see in this article. The article talks about victim Rachel Denhollander’s experience. At an early age she was abused by a college-aged church member and the church turned a blind eye and failed to protect her. In the article it states how “she blamed herself and if anyone ever abused her again she wouldn’t mention it”. Later, she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar the doctor for the USA Gymnastics program and because of what had happened to her as a child in the church, she didn’t report it at first. Why? Because she felt that no one would believe her because of what had happened to her at her church that said, “no one believes victims”.
When I was growing up, a part-time minister and high school teacher was accused of sexually molesting boys at my church and school. He had been a substitute teacher in my class on multiple occasions, and I had been to Bible studies with him. It was devastating to everyone involved. This person was well received and liked. Most people couldn’t believe the news but when stories started to come out about things this person had done, people began to realize that there were red flags everywhere. No one paid attention because most didn’t want to believe it or were afraid to say something because of how well he was liked, his family’s connections and his position in the area. The first couple of victims were told to keep quiet about it and when the truth came out, it was devastating for all. How could this have happened and why didn’t the students stand up to this teacher? Why hadn’t someone listened to those that were complaining about the incident? The thing I remember most is that the school and church where this monster had molested children didn’t ever talk about it. The very next day it was forgotten about, nobody talked about it and to this day I do not know how many were molested by this suspect and if they ever received the help they needed.
While reading this article I felt sorry and cringed for the innocent in these churches and other Christian organizations as the names of their churches were posted in print for what they did and didn’t do. How would your flock feel if they turned on Bay News 9 and there was a picture of your church and the TV commentator describing to the public, “Sexual misconduct by minister or member at local Bay area church”. If in fact, you were a part of the church leadership that gave bad advice or looked the other way, be prepared for the firestorm that is going to hit your church. I don’t know how your church will survive the onslaught of reporters on your property and your members not wanting to be associated with the church anymore. The sad thing about this situation is the people that were seeking answers on believing in Christ will probably walk away, telling everyone about the hypocrites going to your church. And of course, the incident may have happened in one local church but every house of worship in the area must answer for this churches’ sins. In Matthew 12:35-37 “The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
So, what are we as the Watchmen\Watchwomen on the wall supposed to do in situations like this?
The first thing we must do is protect and provide help to the victims and their families, not ridicule or blame them. At the same time, we should demand the church to get local law enforcement involved; that is not an option. How do we handle a request for grace from the convicted and do we just place that person back into a situation where they are doomed to fail? The answer to this is NO, not just NO but Heck NO. We would no more put a person who has been convicted of embezzlement or grand theft in charge of our offering and accounts than we should put this type of offender back in a position of power. When you look at it, the position of power was the start of the downfall of the offender in the first place. So, we as the Watchers on the wall must advise and make recommendations to the church on how to handle these situations. I would recommend that if the victim still comes to your church that you consult the victim and pay attention to their needs. You may want to recommend that the offender go to another church and even help them to get to know someone at that church, while advising the leadership of that church of the situation so they may handle appropriately. If you accept the person back who repented, guidelines must be discussed. In our Verbal De-escalation course, we talk about setting limits. If a person who has sinned against Christ repents and wants to come back to the church we must set limits. The purpose of the limits is not to punish, but rather help the person that sinned. Pray on the limits and understand if we set these limits too high, there is a greater chance of failure than success. We must be firm and supportive but sometimes it takes a little time to build that trust and both sides must be patient in the process. We need to explain to the church that allowing this type of behavior to go unchecked is only going to hurt the church and other church members. We need to make the church understand that if this person does the same thing again and they have knowledge of this type of activity and did nothing about it, get their checkbook ready because you will be sued.
These types of articles are hard to read because of the history of churches. Church supported colleges and other religionist organizations have hidden, covered up or even denied sexual abuse on their campuses. These places of worship eventually fall and fall hard. This type of activity will leave a scar on your church for years and will be hard to overcome. Now let’s talk about the victims. Talk with any sexual abuse victim and they will tell you it takes years to recover, it will rock their religion, and effect their relationships with other people. If the right steps would have been taken in the beginning to protect these victims, their soul would not have been shaken to the core and the perpetrator might not been able to abuse someone else. You must understand, we in law enforcement know a predator does not stop until it is captured. They continue to prey on the weak and when churches enable them by not reporting the activity, the church is an accomplice, just plain and simple. Christ Himself said “And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:2-16. I don’t know about you, I am looking forward to seeing my Savior, not a millstone.
Protect your church, watch out for these wolves in sheep clothing and when caught, do the right thing for Christ’s Bride. We must start explaining to our churches that we are either the predator or the prey when this activity is happening in our church. We must draw a line in the sand and say no more. We are searching for those that want to come to the church and fellowship and worship the Lord. We must protect the church from the wolves looking for sheep to slaughter. When Christ comes back and we all get to go home, I am hoping for a great celebration for all of you who have protected Christ’s Bride. At this festivity I pray to hear Christ say “well done good and faithful servants.”
“But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.” Nehemiah 4:9
Jim has many years of law enforcement experience and has run the safety team at his church for several years. TSA was formed after he realized God's calling when multiple churches reached out and asked him to present at their church.