Over the past week, a ‘scandal in fundamentalism’ has unfolded. There is nothing new about ‘pastors’ sinning and disqualifying themselves from ministry. Unfortunately, this happens hundreds of times every year. However, the news that Jack Schaap – Pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond Indiana, and Chancellor of Hyles Andreson College – has been fired and referred to police for sexual relations/abuse with a teenage girl , is particularly significant. First Baptist Church (Hammond) is the largest church in the Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) movement and Hyles-Anderson College is one of the most hardline and vocal proponents of KJV-only Fundamentalism.
Many InFocus readers mix within Fundamentalist Circles and have probably heard Jack Schaap preach or heard his controversial comments on You Tube. As I reflect on the varied reactions to the unfolding events, I see people rejoicing in his downfall. I also see others who are close to him who are down-playing the seriousness of the situation. While it is easy to draw conclusions on the details of the scandal, we miss the point if we don’t consider our own relationship with God. But as for the grace of God, there go any of us. Here are 5 lessons I am reflecting on:
1. Watch Your Style:
One reason many are ‘smug’ about this scandal is that Pastor Schaap was so uncharitable and ungracious in his preaching. His sermon style was aggressive, attacking and generally hostile to everyone – particularly those who failed sexually. So when he is now exposed for his hypocrisy and sexual crimes, should he expect a gracious and charitable response?
2. Hobby Horses:
The main issues that Jack Hyles and Jack Schaap were known for were ‘high standards’ and ‘KJV onlyism’. They derided and separated from others Christians over these issues. This manufactured division meant they removed accountability from their lives and instilled a false sense of pride in the own purity. Regardless of your personal convictions, these issues are not the gospel. Making them key issues led towards false teaching territory.
Growing up, I worshipped in a church that followed the HAC movement. A ‘term’ I heard over and over again was ‘Man of God’. It was used to build up the authority of the preacher and put down the questions of the congregation. This elevation of the pastor to this level of semi-diety goes against Matthew 23:8, and is a recipe for scandal. It is possible to follow Jesus and believe the fundamentals of the faith, without ever stepping foot in an IFB church. We need to tear down idols to man or a movement, before we can truly know and worship God.
4. Guard Your Heart:
All of us are sinners. Sexual sins are particularly strong in this technology age. While accountability structures are important and great helps, we all must quietly evaluate what we want to do in those alone moments. Our old nature is still with us and we must put it to death everyday. Daily repentance and dependancy on God will help keep us from the slide into adultery.
5. Pray for Justice and Mercy:
We must pray for the victims of this scandal. The teen girl(s), Mrs Schaap, church members and the community in general have all been let down. For many in the Hammond area, this church was the face of Jesus. In the name of true justice, no cover up must occur. If criminal charges are laid, Schaap must be prosecuted. True repentance will see the culture at Hammond change radically. There is mercy available in Christ. While Schaap must never pastor again, if he repents there is forgiveness. We have been forgiven much and we must not refuse forgiveness to others.