It is profoundly wrong that so many Christian institutions seem to be deliberately set up to insulate their leadership, from any private or public criticism, and designed to keep bad news from seeping out. It is past time for our institutions and our institutional leaders to act in ways that demonstrate they recognize and believe that our sinful nature applies to them as well to ordinary people.
Watchdog groups such as MinistryWatch and the Roys Report have extensively noted, many Christian ministries are run like family businesses. Ravi Zacharias’ ministry was a family affair: it was named after him, and his wife and several daughters were on the board or employed by the ministry at six-figure salaries. The same is true at Liberty University, where Jerry Falwell Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps and his son is a vice president. I could name many other similar Christian celebrities. The reality is the Christian celebrity culture is toxic.
Ravi Zacharias was the head of an international, $40-million-a-year apologetics ministry devoted to explaining and justifying Christianity to a watching world. The position brought him international fame and fortune. When he died there was an outpouring of hagiographies of him from Christian circles.
But increasingly, evidence shows that Ravi Zacharias was guilty of significant levels of adultery and sexual abuse, and lying. Ravi lied about his academic credentials, claiming degrees from Oxford and Cambridge, along with a fake doctorate. Worse was his years long sexting scandal with a married woman that he repeatedly lied about and, more recently, the discovery that he was a part-owner of a number of “massage clinics” where he sexually abused women.
Zacharias and his ministry apparently spent years denying, obfuscating, and covering up piles of evidence of his misconduct. Finally, after Ravi’s death, the executive committee of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries has admitted that there is credible evidence that he engaged in sexual misconduct for many years. In a statement clearly designed to claim a show of transparency, the board noted: “We are heartbroken at learning this but feel it necessary to be transparent and to inform our staff, donors, and supporters at this time, even while the investigation continues.”
In truth, the board seems to have been far from transparent. Only now, almost a year after Ravi’s death, and after years of obfuscation, has the board finally admitted that the stories about Ravi are true. To its credit, the board hired a law firm that has already investigated and authenticated many of the allegations and has engaged victim-advocate Rachael Denhollander as a consultant and a separate compliance firm to evaluate RZIM’s board. But frankly, for many, this comes far too late.
Thank goodness for the Francis Chan’s of this world who recognise that Jesus did not want an Institutional Church. He walked away from his church of 5000 to set up Home Churches without paid pastors or buildings. These churches are set up as the church is described in the Book of Acts. Look at the requirements Paul outlines for church leaders there. Also, the ante-Nicene churches were simple and free. They found their unity in wholehearted devotion to Christ, not in a systematic theology or set of doctrines.
The Last Reformation Movement initiated by Torben Sondergaard is a good example of what God is doing in these last days. Take a look at my recent post “Obedience and Listening to the Holy Spirit” and watch the video. It gives two great testimonies of the type of people God is using to complete the Great Commission before Jesus returns.