Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A tragedy and warning

This story (and this one, and this one) from South Florida of a popular pastor's demise is tragic. It is also a sober reminder and warning that no one is beyond temptation. It is tragic that he did not have some faithful men in his life who could have kept him accountable and perhaps pursuing an honorable course. The reported stories contain enough sadness to make anyone who loves Christ's church weep. They also raise (and leave unanswered) so many other questions that an honest journalist could stay busy pursuing them for the next 6 months.

Pray for Brother Flockhart. Pray for the church...and pray for his enablers.

36 comments:

Greg B said...

This is probably more widespread than we think. While a chaplain in a CPE program we had 2 apply for a residency who claimed higher degrees from little known distance schools. The number and level of degrees were impossible to have earned in the time allotted. One lady even claimed to have recieved Ranger training in 1975. Women still don't recieve it in 2006. But the supervisor would have hired the lady if the 2 senior residents didn't know alot about higher ed and the military. I am sure many small churches and ministries would not ask questions if the person could preach or portray a great demeanor.
Greg

WorshipLeader said...

Pizzaz? How sad

scripturesearcher said...

A terribly tragic story that does
cause many of us to weep!!!

Surely Johnny Hunt knew enough to
prevent this from happening and continuing for as long as it did.

True - there are no perfect pastors and no perfect churches ~

but thorough investigations on part of pastor search committees would keep these things from happening.

Scott said...

scripturesearcher,

Johnny Hunt knew long ago about Steve and his money troubles at the church in Ga. Johnny reccomended him to that church and after he took money from the church Johnny still has been reccomending Steve to places. Should we forgive Steve? Yes! But after his first problems in Ga were enough according to scripture to have him Pastor no more. The article is totallt accurate about the money problems. We need to pray for Steve and the churches and especially for ourselves. May God protect us from the same sins!
What so sad is the statement from the man from West Palm. He could speak and grow a church ! I have already prayed for Steve and his family.

B Nettles said...

Are we perfect? No.
Should we forgive? Yes.
Wise as serpents, innocent as doves? Absolutely. Forgiveness does NOT mean endorsement or empowerment. It means that I recognize that I am no more worthy to stand before the throne than the one I forgive. It does not mean I am obliged to recognize them as a "great leader" simply because they seemed at one time to be that.

Even Paul often warns by name of people who are not to be trusted. What judgement do we pour down on our heads when we endorse as teacher or pastor someone we KNOW to lack integrity? James has warned of the responsibility of the teacher. What of the responsibility of the one endorsing the teacher?

The warning of Harber and Flockhart to us, pastors and laymen alike: As soon as we begin to act like God's indispensible gift to the church, we will find out that we are not!

Brian Hamrick said...

I was in Harber's evangelism class 6 years ago at SWBTS and remember playing against him in intermural basketball. Very sad to hear what has happened.

Brothers, we are not above accountability!

Jabbok said...

The resume system has fatal flaws. "Choose ye out from AMONG YOU" is a much better approach.

GUNNY said...

What is really whippin' me is the myriad of stories I'm hearing of those in ministry failing due to sexual meltdowns. I'm really getting sick of it. I won't go into any details, but these stories are getting a little too close to home.

In class yesterday at SWBTS I tried to put a little fear of God into the students in the preaching class. I don't want these guys to go forth thinking ministry is easy or that it couldn't happen to them, for that's when it can really sneak up on ya. Guys smarter, more educated, more spiritually mature, and certainly better looking than I have fallen in this regard.

Surely, if it could happen to them, it could happen to me. That scares the heebie geebies out of me and it should all of us.

Accountability is huge, but hard to come by in the ministry. That's why I'm so stoked about our Founders Fraternal and hope to see many more of them rise up. Pastors need encouragement and sharpening to keep watch over ourselves as well as the flock (Acts 20:28).

martyduren said...

I guess my question is, At what point does a man who hasn't been guilty of immorality disqualify himself from pastoral mininstry? Is there no end to the sins or number of "infractions" from which a person can be "restored"?

rockinrose said...

This is really sad. However, I would also have to lay part of the blame on the church that hired him because they did not perform a background check. I also think it is really sad that in order to be "qualified" to be a pastor of a large church a person must have a doctorate, an entertaining style, "church growth" skills, and a recommendation from Johnny Hunt. I Timothy, Titus anyone?

Mopheos said...

I think Jabbok has hit the nail on the proverbial head - American evangelicalism (to say the least!) has embraced other than biblical criteria for the recognition, installation and sustenance of its leaders. A quick survey of the standards given Timothy (and Titus) by Paul reveals at least two or three objective measures which were probably breached (apparently multiple times) in pastor Flockhart's life, and known to be breached by someone(s) close to him and his ministry. He should have been forced to take a sabbatical in order to address these issues, and failing satisfactory remission, would be unfit for continued oversight of God's household.

But the church seems largely disinterested in such a process. One wonders how many men are in leadership positions who are, for example, subtly pugnacious or arrogant, but excused from such because they can "shuck the corn," as they say. It's no wonder the church is in such dire straits - qualified leadership (and a fellowship that knows it!) is one leg of a three-legged stool which Paul declares essential to the well ordered church.

We are working to develop a pastoral internship (thanks for the example, Mark Dever) in our fellowship for just such a reason - the future hope of the church and the cause of the gospel depends upon some serious reform in this area of church life. Thanks for the sobering, humbling reminder, Tom.

Grace and peace,

Timotheos

J.R. said...

It is interesting to me that so many seem to have such inside information on the situation surrounding Steve Flockhart, MBC, and FBCWPB. It is also interesting to think that so many people are willing to make claims about Johnny Hunt and his alleged "knowledge" of these events. From a person very close to these events - I would encourage you to make sure that you understand all the facts before making your remarks. Mistakes were made - families have been devastated - churches (more than one) have been greatly impacted and the Kingdom has taken another hit. Pray that restoration will take place. His grace is sufficient. Christianity = the only army in the world who shoot it's own wounded.

slmayes said...

In my study I have posted a quote from John Piper that I read regularly: "Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God." I pray that God would give me a hunger and thirst for Himself and that I will not seek to satisfy those desires with other, lesser things.

Satan can use so many things (goal to serve a larger church, desire for a bigger or better house) to lure us for the purpose of destroying us - like cheese on a mouse trap. Instead, we should be storing up treasure in heaven so that our hearts will be focused there rather than on the comforts of earth.

Ben said...

So many things are so tempting to say. Fortunately, my self-edit button is mostly working at the moment.

Suffice it to say that if I were a doctoral student who was actually working to earn my degree at a certain Baptist (as opposed to Calvinist) seminary today, I'd be exploring my transfer options.

Mopheos said...

JR, your point is well taken, and I apologize if my post assumes too much of the articles and other info circulating about pastor Flockhart.

To the degree that his situation is accurately reflected and reported, it would only serve as a reminder of the widespread approach that the western church appears to have increasingly taken with respect to its leadership.

I pray yet that God would be glorified in it all, and Steve Flockhart, his family and the churches he has served would see God working together for good in it all.

Timotheos

Kim said...

I was shocked when I clicked on the first link and saw Steve’s name. He played a significant role in my spiritual development when I first started going to church and for that I will always be grateful. I am deeply saddened not only by the situation, but also, it doesn’t appear that he has had anyone in his life who loved him enough to confront him. We do not demonstrate our love for each other by enabling each other.

If what is being reported is accurate, I do pray that there will be godly men to come along side of Steve and shepherd him to restoration.

Blessings,
Kim

Pastor Shane said...

So, how common is it at Liberty's seminary for Caner to personally take money from people who are enrolling?

Is anyone really supposed to believe that??? Really?

Talk about a closing in of ranks! Ick!

Bill Moore said...

I agree with the concern about Liberty. For the president of the seminary to admit a student personally, not to mention dealing with the money, without that student's having gone through the recognized application and acceptance process creates questions about the credibility of the seminary. I take it that Flockhart was accepted as a DMin student. I cannot imagine any of our SBC seminaries accepting a DMin student with nothing but Covington degrees.

Bill

Stephen A Morse said...

On Wade Burleson's site (I have no idea how to post html here) Dr. caner wrote a very brief explanation about this and I think someone on Marty Duren's blog or someone elses pointed out that Dr. Caner wasn't even the President at the time or something like that.

We need to be very careful about how we look at this! I see so many empty accusations (unfounded and speculationed) being refuted as though they were the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Obviously there is something very, very wrong here but what is it exactly and what are we doing by continuing the commentary on something that we know so little about?

Tom, thank you for posting this in such a brief and concise manner. We DO need to pray for everyone involved, maybe even talking to God about it more than we talk/blog to others about it!

Bill Moore said...

Stephen,

Wade really said nothing about Dr. Caner's response concerning this matter. There is something very wrong with a person's being admitted to an accredited doctoral program with degrees from only Covington. Do you disagree with that?

Whether Dr. Caner circumvented the normal application/acceptance process or not, I do not know. However, that is what the Palm Beach Post article implies and was not refuted by Dr. Godwin of Liberty.

Bill

Gavin Brown said...

Unfortunately, charisma covers a multitude of sins.

J.R. said...

Again, I reiterate my previous concern back around post 14. I love how so many are willing to cast judgment based on their assumptions. From the perspective of a person who served on staff for three years with Flockhart and has been to FBCWPB to speak, etc. since his arrival, let me encourage you to seek out what really happened. Like I said before - Were mistakes made? Yes. Is he dealing with the consequences? Yes. Did he have people around him who loved him enough to confront him? Yes. No one is trying to hide the truth. The sad reality is that for many it seems that the truth is not quite a big enough story.

Stephen A Morse said...

Bill

Are we talking about the same post the Wade put up on his blog?

Wade put this insert into his blog:

"(Update: Dr. Ergun Caner has commented on this post and has offered an explanation that sheds more light to the above paragraph, and the arrangement Mr. Flockheart had with Liberty, than the Palm Beach daily newspaper article gave. I appreciate Dr. Caner's response. Further, it was not Dr. Caner's, Dr. Hunt's, or Dr. Falwell's responsibility to check into the background of Mr. Flockheart --- it was the pulpit committee's)."

Ergun Caner wrote in the comments:

"Just for clarification:

He is a member of the Center of Ministry Training, which was started before I became President. No monies are ever paid to me, the staff, or anyone else at the Seminary for that matter. They pay (and begin the DMin) through that line item in the University budget. They must follow the process all schools have. He did not start until registration had already begun. THAT is why the database was slow in catching up in registration."

I am just asking us to comment on what we know and keep the commentary to relevent issues.

If Liberty wants to recognize certain institutions that is their priority and not this post's point. If you don't approve of it then that's fine (for my part I agree with you) but this post's subject was a broken church and pastor.

GUNNY said...

Great quotes and both true ...

slmayes said...

In my study I have posted a quote from John Piper that I read regularly: "Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied with God."


Gavin Brown said...

Unfortunately, charisma covers a multitude of sins.

Bill Moore said...

Stephen,

Thanks for inserting Dr. Caner's clarification. I saw Wade's comment but not Caner's.

Tom's OP is about a troubled pastor and a church, but the article linked included this about Liberty and Dr. Caner. The over-arching issue is integrity in the ministry and concern is raised when it appears that a school's application process is circumvented. While I agree that Liberty can accept prerequisite degrees from wherever it wishes, as least on a limited basis, I find it difficult to believe that any regionally-accredited seminary would accept into its DMin program an applicant whose only earned degrees came from Covington.

Please understand, this is no "rush to judgment," as another poster charged. This is a concern that I have for integrity in the ministry, and that includes those places entrusted with theological education.

Bill

Tom Bryant said...

This is such a sad story. It just happens too often.

There just has to be a better way in calling new pastors than the meat market approach most churches use.

Maybe that's what happens when we call a pastor primarily because he is "evangelistic"

PhotoJoeAZ said...

I was a part of a church that was greatly harmed by its pastor-- who was already known as divisive and, as another poster aptly said, "subtly pugnacious" by the elders that sent him to plant this church. These sending-church elders now recognize their error, but the pastor in question was so full of "pizzazz" and charisma, that he was excused of being rough around the edges.

The ultimate fallout of the church, however, was exacerbated because of the enabling of a key elder. The other elders had already left the church in protest. This one elder continued to support the pastor, even when it was obvious to most of the sheep that he was "beating" some of us (in subtle, manipulative ways).

The worst part about the whole situation was the lack of real repentance on the part of the pastor once his sin had been confronted. He spoke repentance to some individuals, but his habit of self-defense and equivocation was far from penitent.

There are still men who were elders or deacons who have been so wounded by this situation that, along with their wives, they have found it hard to trust another church. It is very sad. I hope they trust in the Lord first, and are able to heal from the major hurt this pastor caused in order that they may find another local body at which to serve and grow.

I bring this up to simply echo the importance of choosing leaders who exemplify Christ, not only in their preaching, but in their manner. The alternative can be devastating.

The Lord wants shepherds in his church, not just orators.

george d. said...

"I bring this up to simply echo the importance of choosing leaders who exemplify Christ, not only in their preaching, but in their manner. The alternative can be devastating."

What a great quote, photojoeaz. It's easy to look Godly from behind the pulpit, but the mark of a true, Godly preacher is what he looks like the rest of time.

Paul said...

Warning to prospective pastors ….the “pastor driven church” is a pitfall. No accountability from the flock and endless adoration is dangerous. Learn and apply the lessons from FBCWPB now.

Even though the accountability laws and process are available, they are abused by leaders in order to keep their way. When the flock has asked and pointed out need for all to follow procedure and process, the heavy boot of pastor driven church has come down to squash such obedience.

Build into your ministries accountability from the beginning. Give no foothold of temptation. Resist from the outset and build strong hedge against adoration and affection directed to the wrong person. Lest as time grows and your head, it will be too much for you to resist.

Want a living example; FBCWPB in its current state and the driving to get it to this state.

Paul said...

Warning to prospective pastors ….the “pastor driven church” is a pitfall. No accountability from the flock and endless adoration is dangerous. Learn and apply the lessons from FBCWPB now.

Even though the accountability laws and process are available, they are abused by leaders in order to keep their way. When the flock has asked and pointed out need for all to follow procedure and process, the heavy boot of pastor driven church has come down to squash such obedience.

Build into your ministries accountability from the beginning. Give no foothold of temptation. Resist from the outset and build strong hedge against adoration and affection directed to the wrong person. Lest as time grows and your head, it will be too much for you to resist.

Want a living example; FBCWPB in its current state and the driving to get it to this state.

Paul said...

Warning to prospective pastors ….the “pastor driven church” is a pitfall. No accountability from the flock and endless adoration is dangerous. Learn and apply the lessons from FBCWPB now.

Even though the accountability laws and process are available, they are abused by leaders in order to keep their way. When the flock has asked and pointed out need for all to follow procedure and process, the heavy boot of pastor driven church has come down to squash such obedience.

Build into your ministries accountability from the beginning. Give no foothold of temptation. Resist from the outset and build strong hedge against adoration and affection directed to the wrong person. Lest as time grows and your head, it will be too much for you to resist.

Want a living example; FBCWPB in its current state and the driving to get it to this state.

J. Gray said...

j.r.,

Who exactly has cast judgments? I read through allt he posts, then saw yours and felt it was out of place. I don't see people "shooting the wounded", I see people discussing the incident.

Is that not allowed? Since when has discussion of an incident equalled casting judgment?

I understand you are close to this man, and want to defend him. That's fine. But I don't think he has been attacked here.

GUNNY said...

deines said...

"I bring this up to simply echo the importance of choosing leaders who exemplify Christ, not only in their preaching, but in their manner. The alternative can be devastating."

What a great quote, photojoeaz. It's easy to look Godly from behind the pulpit, but the mark of a true, Godly preacher is what he looks like the rest of time.


One of the difficulties in the typical pastor search is the limited amount of time in which such character can be ascertained.

Sure you can take the family out to eat and all that, but everyone's on their best behavior. The beauty of raising up your own from within is that you have a better idea of what you're getting, the good, the bad & the ugly.

It's interesting to note the qualifications for an overseer in 1 Tim 3 are primarly concerned with character & integrity, more so than doctrine and/or skill set ("apt to teach"). In my mind, however, understanding the necessity of ethos of a teacher/preacher, those other things help elaborate on being "apt to teach" (i.e., not just a clear communicator or dynamic dramatist).

Laurie said...

I've read a few blogs about lack of accountability. Let us remember that our "accountability" is only as good as our willingness to be honest. It is OUR own responsibility to be willing to be held accountable. No one can make us tell the truth, they can probe, but ultimately we must take responsibility for ourselves. So, to say it's a shame someone didn't have faithful friends to confront him is assuming too much. Point is, place responsibility accordingly. I have "accountability" partners that have been devastated by things that I have not allowed them to hold me accountable for; that does not mean they were not there for me when I made poor decisions, it means I was not willing to be honest w/ them. We're all human, we all make mistakes, God can heal & restore when we let Him. I love all the individuals involved & I pray for healing & restoration.

solus Christus said...

Let us be reminded with the words of Robert Murray M’Cheyne: “It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.”

May God give the pastors and future pastors of His church the grace to be holy men.
That is the only way that stuff like this will be avoidable.

Larry said...

It appears Flockhart had been picked by the big boys as another rising star. Apparently, they chose him because of his ability to draw a crowd and work the SBC mega-church model. Just reinforces the truth that numbers nor the ability to obtain them equates to God's blessing.