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Gal. 6:1 is not “Cheap Grace” for Leaders who Abuse



In the summer of 2019, I was made aware of a file that had been put together regarding Todd Bentley, an evangelist, who had already been restored to ministry more than once after moral failures. The dossier alleged severe acts of clergy sexual abuse (CSA).


The next day, Rick Joyner, a recognized leader in the prophetic movement, made a video condemning those who brought forth the accusations. Joyner was a board member for Bentley’s ministry and had refused to meet with the whistleblowers—a clear violation of 1 Timothy 5:19—so they went public. Joyner had overseen at least two of Bentley's restoration processes that did not seem to produce a lasting change in character.


I woke up the following day and wrote an open letter to Rick Joyner. I could not understand how he had no interest in even reviewing the allegations. Why was he attacking the messenger? Later, Joyner would write that the whistleblowers’ sin of “faultfinding” was worse than Bentley’s sexual abuse: “The way some have tried to deal with Todd is much more terrifying than anything Todd may have done or is accused of doing.”


Later that afternoon, as I prepared to post the letter on Facebook, I understood that it could be the end of my ministry. I am part of the charismatic movement. I understood that many people respect and admire Rick Joyner, and taking this stand could significantly affect our support. But I could not just sit back and watch while someone attacked the whistleblowers, those seeking to expose someone they believed to be a danger to the body of Christ. To my surprise, the response was 99% positive. It turns out that most believers deeply desire leaders who will protect people from sexual abuse and cover victims.


Galatians 6:1

But the question remains: does Scripture have an expectation that a minister caught in CSA should be restored to ministry? Earlier this year, Charisma founder Steve Strang cited Galatians 6:1 in saying that he hoped Mike Bickle (recently accused of CSA) would be back preaching soon.


Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”

In context, Galatians 6:1 has nothing to do with ministers exclusively. It refers to any believer who finds themselves trapped in a chronic sin. Secondly, the restoration that Paul speaks of here has nothing to do with preaching or congregational authority. It is about being restored to Jesus and the body of Christ. And I pray that this will one day happen for Mike Bickle. Still, there is nothing in Scripture that would suggest that someone caught in multiple accounts of CSA has any business ever being back in a position of spiritual authority over others. Paul speaks about sins that disqualify a minister from preaching (1 Cor. 9:27). In 1 Timothy 3, he lays out the standards for leadership, which include being “faithful to his wife.” In 1 Corinthians 6, he says that sexual sin is particularly grievous as our bodies are the “Temple of the Holy Spirit.” Constantly quoting Galatians 6:1 as a prooftext to restore leaders who have sexually abused others is an abuse of Scripture.


Way too Early!

When Strang shared this, there still had not been a full investigation into the allegations surrounding Bickle. It was quite premature to speak of restoration to ministry. Soon after this, it would come out that Bickle allegedly engaged in a sensual relationship with a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old. (Strang fortunately took down the videos where he called for Bickle’s restoration but has not issued any apology.) Strang is not alone.


Rick Joyner initially referred to the allegations against Bickle as a “nothing burger” (again, ignoring 1 Timothy 5:19). However, in a recent sermon, Joyner addressed it again—and to be clear, this was after the credible accusations of being with teenage girls came forward: “We believe in restoring people. We believe in Galatians 6:1, it says, ‘if a man is caught in any trespass’” emphasizing any, I assume to include abusing teens, “‘you who are spiritual restore them.’ We are committed to that. I think you are going to be seeing … hearing from Mike again.” Where was the concern for the victims? Why is there an obsession at such an early stage with restoration to ministry?


Houston, we have a problem!

Please hear my heart; I’m not seeking to publish salacious comments from well-known ministers to tickle our ears. We have a leadership crisis in the charismatic world. Paul tells Timothy to take allegations against elders brought by two or three people seriously (1 Tim 5:19). But many of our leaders cannot be bothered, so they allow predators to continue to prey. And then, when we find out that there is merit to the allegations, our only concern is the restoration of said minister. Where is our broken heart for victims?


Just before this, but after the accusations of abuse with teens came forth, Bethel Pastor Kris Vallotton felt the need to publicly express his love for Mike Bickle during a Sunday message without mentioning Bickle’s alleged victims. The backlash was instant and intense, and Vallotton issued a video apology to anonymous victims a few days later. If one can mention that they love Mike Bickle, why can’t they say they will fight for Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2, Tammy Woods, and TH?


We must ask ourselves, why are we in the charismatic movement in such a rush to restore people who have broken trust with the body of Christ (not to mention their families) to positions of authority? Galatians 6:1 is not some cheap grace, get-out-of-jail-free card to put abusive pastors back in the pulpit.


Misplaced Love

“Ron, don’t you have compassion for these ministers?” Yes, very much! But I have more compassion and concern for the weaker ones than I do for the powerful. Secondly, having spiritual authority over others is not a right but a sacred privilege. If you abuse that privilege, you can be disqualified (1 Cor. 9:27). Thirdly, if I genuinely love the fallen minister, the last thing I will talk to them about is a restoration to public ministry—but their marriage and family. The fact that ministers are publicly talking about the restoration of Mike Bickle before we even know all the facts and victims reveals something abhorrent and unbiblical in our leadership principles.


It was so strange that after Vallotton apologized for hurting and confusing so many people with his affirmation of love for a victimizer who has not come clean, he tweeted out: “Redemption is not just for victims, it’s also for the victimizers!” It is not that I don’t agree with the message—Jesus died for everyone. My concern is that we seem fixated on redeeming perpetrators while ignoring the perpetrated. I responded: “There is a time for this message. That time is not now.” It would seem that God is not highlighting in this hour our need to put more preachers who have committed CSA back in the pulpit (we are pretty good at that!), but that we have been derelict and negligent in protecting victims.


Dietrich Bonhoeffer coined the phrase “cheap grace” in his classic, The Cost of Discipleship. The man who would be martyred by Hitler wrote, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” When we dispense grace without recognizing that it is precious and costly, we do no favors to the fallen minister. If we love them, then the last thing we will be talking with them about is restoration to the very thing that feeds the narcissism that led to their abuse in the first place. We will focus on restoration to Jesus and the healing of their soul.


Footnote: The sad truth is we don’t even understand what restoration is. I would encourage everyone to listen to Julie Roys’ interview with Dr. David Pooler, an expert in CSA. He says restoration to ministry is the exception, not the rule. And often, when we do restoration, it is so inadequate that while the person might be restored to ministry, they have not yet experienced the true restoration of being restored in their soul.

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Another great resource is "Due Process" by Dr. Dan Juster who has republish his book multiple times over the years because "grace" is constantly being abused. Dr. Juster rightly states that true love must seek abusers to seek and find true repentance. It is not loving to leave a person to be lost in their sin. True love exposes sin (in a spirit of gentleness & humility) so the person can come to the end of themselves, turn from their wicked ways, repent, and allow G-d to search their heart to expose the root of their sin so they, their marriage, and their family can be healed. This is love.

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Gordon MacDonald has a balanced approach to restoration. He wrote Rebuilding Your Broken World. The best short bio of him I have found in https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/daily/clinpastor0928.htm.

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MacDonald is the exception. The question remains: did the woman work for him or serve him in some capacity? Because adultery is terrible by itself, but when one is in a position of spiritual authority over someone else, it is not only adultery but abuse. When it is in the church, it is clergy sexual abuse. If someone abused kids, we would NEVER allow them to be in children's ministry again. If you cheat with people over whom you have spiritual authority, you cannot be back in senior leadership, in my opinion.


But MacDonald went through both the discipline of leaving the public eye (that feeds the narcissism) and got intense counseling. Many today do neither.

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Shalom from Israel! I am Ron Cantor and this is my blog. I serve as the President of Shelanu TV.

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