J. Robert Clinton of Fuller Seminary has found that 70% of leaders do not finish well. Over the past few years it has become very apparent to me and a host of others that many who begin to run the Good Race of God do not finish well. Something happens to them at the beginning, or during their race, that causes them to falter and fall. Many never finish at all. All along the course we see the bleached bones of fallen believers who have succumbed to the snares of the evil one and to self imposed failures. The path that they run is pocked with moral traps and secret sinkholes at every turn. These traps litter the road of life like so many explosive mines just waiting for their next victim.
This phenomenon is not relegated to the layman in the pew, but is sadly being seen in those whom God has called to be his pastors and prophets. The very men that God has called to live and lead exemplary lives before His people are failing at an alarming rate. It seems as though there is some satanic sharpshooter perched in a tower just above the running field who is picking off the leaders in the race as well as those who are running close behind.
It appears that not a week goes by that I do not hear of some child of God falling to some heinous sin. The lost world giggles with glee at each fallen runner as they privately and publicly use this fallen Family member as an excuse to justify their own immorality and unbelief. Many of these unbelievers ridicule all Runners, and take these defeated disciples and their stumblings and use them as nails to secure the coffin they have prepared for God.
It reminds me of an old story about a group from a local community who began to notice the almost lifeless and helpless bodies of their neighbors and friends floating down a river. They all became very alarmed at the seriousness of the situation and called together a symposium of their greatest minds and most gifted leaders.
After much discussion and analyzation, they formed teams of rescue workers to retrieve those who could be saved. One team used the human chain approach and joined hands as they wadded out into the raging waters to help their fallen friends. Others used ropes and pulleys that stretched across the expanse of the waters so that the victims could be pulled back to shore. Others built elaborate powerboats that could cut through the waves and torrents to obtain access to their fallen friends.
Day and night the rescue went on. Day after day and week after week, fallen neighbors and friends were being pulled from the floods. Some even noticed that the numbers of those being rescued were growing exponentially. Every day more and more came floating down the river.
One day a young man began to ponder the problem. He asked himself the very important question: “Where are these people coming from and how are they coming to be in the water?”
So, the young man walked up-stream for several miles until he came to a place in the river where at one time it had been spanned by a Perfectly Unblemished Rigid and Exquisite bridge. For some reason the bridge had fallen into disrepair. Gaping holes could be seen in several places and entire sections were missing in others. It appeared that the whole structure could fall at any moment. There he saw hundreds of his friends and neighbors blindly falling into the water. Evil forces were pushing others, and some were willingly jumping into the rolling waters. He also noticed that many of those who had been rescued earlier were again falling into the water. After surveying the situation and thinking about it for some time he had an amazing revelation and came to this conclusion: “We must do everything we can to stop our friends from falling, jumping or being thrown into the water. If we do not, the flood of fallen friends will never end and our labors will be in vain.”
My sentiments are the same as that young man. Rescuing those who are fallen is important, but more so, is that we help our brothers and sisters from getting into this fallen state in the first place. We must stop the headlong rush into destruction.
It has been my observation in social media blogs and outlets that some Christians are flaunting and using the unmerited Grace of God as an excuse to indulge in acts that are more than questionable. It appears that their new-found freedom in Christ has become a license to sin. (I am sure they would argue that their actions are not sins at all.)
When I was a youth pastor in South Texas I was sponsoring a group of boys at a local summer camp. There were boys there from every walk of life. One of my responsibilities was to make sure they went to bed at the proper time and stayed in their respective bunks until morning. In the wee hours of the morning I was startled awake with the sound of a loud thud that sounded much like a melon being thrown to the ground. I jumped up and ran toward the sound. There on the floor was Juan. He had fallen from the top bunk onto the cement floor.
I asked him how that could happen and he said, “Well Pastor Tim, I guess I just got too close to where I got in at.”
It is my humble opinion that many Believers today are staying too close to where they got in at! Too close to the old life they left, and the sins that so easily pull them back in. There are so many Biblical principles that point us toward a new life in Christ and away from the old. Principles that teach us to be examples to other “weaker Believers” and not to use our freedoms in a way that would cause others to fall back. We must encourage one another to, “Stand fast in the liberty with which Christ has set us free and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage.”
We must warn those who run the race, and we must equip those who are members of the Family with the tools to live Godly lives. We must rebuild the bridges of holiness and purity that have fallen in disrepair. We desperately need the Power of Purity to flow through our members unimpeded by the impurities of this world. We must guard our own hearts, and run well the race that is set before us. The best way to accomplish this is not to stay too close to where we got in at.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.