Prior the standing ovation, I tweeted that the church would do a standing ovation since it is a typical, knee jerk, ignorant attempt to manipulate people which is frequently used by abusive churches. I believe that this response was premeditated. Sadly, many unthinking people in the church were easily suckered into this phony show. One person who did not stand up and applaud said that those around him appeared irritated that he went against the grain. Maybe, deep down inside, they were a bit uncomfortable by their response?
That entire church service was shocking to me. Jules Woodson was abused by Andy Savage. She was then re-abused by the members and pastors of Highpoint Church. Instead of thoughtful words and a subdued service, indicating a minimum understanding of the gravity of the situation, the church leaders presented a raucous, circus-like show with an entertainer up front screaming that Andy Savage was *worthy.*
Savage received a standing ovation to his confession of a sexual incident with a 17 year old student in a youth ministry. Chris Conlee actually implied Jules Woodson should be on the same path to healing as Andy Savage! Seriously?. Do I really have to explain to pastors?
As I watched this mess, I wondered how a church could screw up this badly.
I was dumfounded by members of Highpoint who attacked Jules Woodson via Twitter, threatening her that they were going to expose her. Some daft lady said that she had the gift of *spiritual discernment* and that Savage was innocent of molestation. I saw dippy Scriptural *explanations* made by members who apparently don’t know the difference between a pastor and a king or between crime, sin, repentance and restoration.
HighPoint got their city on a hill moment and it was a huge fail. They should hang their heads in shame.
As painfully pointed out here in an analysis of the inappropriate behavior of the church,
"Religious leaders use forgiveness theology as a cover, and as an avoidance, of accountability," Brown told The Washington Post. "And it's a way of further shaming victims. 'What a bad girl you are, you aren't forgiving.'"
Donald Miller recounts in his article "How To Spot a Manipulative Church Leader",
I am eternally grateful the first minister I encountered was such a good man.
Because the second minister I encountered wasn’t.
A committee was put in place to replace our pastor and the committee decided to hire a dynamic young man from Louisiana. The man had been a traveling preacher, moving from church to church to perform revivals and to tell people about Jesus. He was a tall man and loud. He flailed his arms as he spoke. He talked about God’s power, about God’s wrath, about God’s love and to be honest, he was quite moving.
He was incredible at getting people to respond. He had a sharp sense of humor, would occasionally say shocking things to test our loyalty and see if we would turn on him or go with him. He knew the Bible inside and out and knew how to play human emotions like a fiddle. On any given Sunday, we would experience a range of emotions from guilt and shame to fear and sometimes joy.
I even remember his first sermon. It was entitled “Appoint those you trust and trust those you appoint.” That should have been an obvious sign to everybody. He was saying, without question, if you hire me to be your pastor, I am the boss. You must never question my authority.
Soon, the entire congregation fell under his spell. We loved it when he delighted in us but feared screwing up. One Sunday, he snapped at the man working in the sound booth so sharply the man turned red from embarrassment. The pastor, realizing he’d gone too far, explained ferociously that God is a God of excellence and wouldn’t stand for mistakes, even from volunteer sound guys. He then quoted a passage about how we were supposed to be perfect even as Christ is perfect.
Looking back, this was all manipulation. People who care about the truth understand they are capable of self-deception and surround themselves with accountability. This pastor got rid of the accountability. He drove off any elder who wouldn’t submit, once again, quoting scripture and spinning the Bible so that those questioning his motives looked like infidels. He even said he felt justified using violence against them, simply because they refused to trust the leader God had appointed.
What made the situation so difficult is that the church in fact grew ......
Indeed. There is an excellent article here on spiritual manipulation in the church. We live in an age when popular churches increasingly mirror the manipulative techniques of pop culture in a misguided attempt to corral followers into the Kingdom of God. But there is little of value to be gleaned from a culture rapidly descending into paganism. While the church can (and should) avail itself of useful technology and advances, caution is paramount when it comes to incorporating the methods of a fallen culture, no matter how popular or successful in the world. A service can be so technically perfect that it becomes more performance than worship. Such a service is adept at manipulating emotion and response much like a Hollywood blockbuster, instead of depending upon the Holy Spirit to move as He wills.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: "He catches the wise in their craftiness" (1 Cor 3:19, NIV)