Tuesday morning, I learned some shockingly sad news. It all started with a friend’s cryptic Facebook status. There was just something about it that made me curious enough to investigate. It didn’t take long for me to find out that Bob Coy of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale had “resigned” from his role as senior pastor due to “moral failure.” Simply put, he had extramarital affairs. For those who are not familiar with Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale (CCFL), it is the second largest church in Florida and the fourteenth largest in the nation with about 20,000 people attending.
I once was loosely connected to this church, although I was not a regular attendee. I took some missions classes there which later opened a door for me to travel with CCFL to Austria. I also spent a season as a student in their college, Calvary Chapel Bible Institute. This was a long time ago, probably about 13 years or so. Despite my involvement, I never really considered Calvary Chapel my home church or Bob Coy my pastor. In all honesty, it was more of a resource to me than a church; and I’ve never really been a huge fan of megachurches. So when I learned of Bob’s infidelities, I was most surprised by my own feelings. This situation seemed to hit close to home. It felt personal, and that was completely unexpected.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had connections to a church affected by sex scandal. Christ the Rock Community Church (CRCC) in Cooper City Florida, formerly pastored by John Wagner, was once my church home. I was very involved there. I sang in the choir and danced for special events, participated in community groups, and led some community groups as well. In 2003, John Wagner “resigned” as pastor to divorce Margie, his wife of 18 years, leaving her and their daughter for his mistress, a married woman from the praise team (who he married about eight months later).
Even more shocking was the invitation I received in the mail a couple weeks later inviting me to the opening service of his new church, The Church of Abounding Grace, only a few miles away. All of this craziness happened about a year after I had stopped attending CRCC in favor of a weekly home group in Margate. Although it was still heartbreaking, I was spared much of the hurt and devastation that other members went through, because I had already moved on.
Curious about what John had to say, I went to the opening service of The Church of Abounding Grace. The place was packed, and the media was there to interview people (myself included) after the service. I remember feeling deeply saddened and disappointed. I also remember the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when John Wagner came out and several congregants rose to their feet and applauded. It was appalling to see all the people who came to worship this charismatic man.
John taught about the woman caught in the act of adultery. I remember him saying, “I am that adulterous woman.” He then talked about how Jesus did not condemn her, but instead told the crowd, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” What was missing from this sermon, was the part where Jesus told the woman, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11). I shook John’s hand on the way out and looked him in the eyes. This man was in no shape to be leading a congregation. I saw pain, brokenness, and shame; and I felt sorrow because there was no repentance.
I’ve seen the damage that happens when people place all of their faith in a person instead of in God. When that person messes up (and they always do), people get hurt. When his sin is publicly exposed, those who idolized and placed him on a pedestal are left devastated and confused. Relationships are destroyed as people argue and take sides. It shakes their faith, because their faith wasn’t secure in the first place. The foundation was weak. Some people make it through the pain and disillusionment and grow closer to the Lord in the process. Others lose all hope and fall away, never to return; and that is tragic.
This brings me back to Bob Coy and what the members of Calvary Chapel are going through. This is a difficult time of grief, mourning, pain and confusion. My heart breaks for them, and I repent for my initial surprise for feeling this way because it is the wrong kind of mentality. Why would I be surprised that this feels personal? I shouldn’t be. It is personal. How could I think that I’d remain unaffected? As Christians aren’t we all part of the same body (Rom 12:5)? When something like this happens, it affects us all. That makes it personal. When one part of the body suffers, we all suffer (1 Cor 12:26). We’re family. We’re brothers and sisters in Christ (Gal 3:26-28). And we’re responsible for carrying each other’s burdens (Gal 6:2).
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