Summary: God has called our leaders to influence those under their care for the Kingdom and not their own gain.
Shepherds of The Soul
We are down to the last section of this wonderful letter written to the Hebrews. The letter is over 1900 years old and yet, as we have been studying together for the past several months, I have continuously been amazed at how powerful, relevant, comforting, and challenging this letter is to those of us who are seeking to live our lives for the glory of God today. I hate to see our study of Hebrews come to an end, but I praise God for the blessing of our time together gathered around God’s Word – gleaning priceless nuggets that we can carry with us for the rest of our lives.
As we take a look at the last section of Hebrews this morning we come to a section that is a touchy subject in our day. Whenever people today hear the word “authority” or the phrase “obey your leaders,” many bristle and automatically call their best defense mechanisms to the ready. Whether we are talking about supervisors on a factory assembly line, CEO’s of corporations, teachers in a classroom, politicians elected by the people, or priests and preachers in a congregation – many are leery of placing their trust in those who hold titles or positions of authority today. I will tell you that there is good reason for this atmosphere that is so prevalent today. As a matter of fact, our day is not the first to experience this reluctance to trust people in places of authority; people have questioned authority figures for the longest time.
We’ve looked with cynical eyes at people in places of authority because we have seen how power has a tendency to corrupt. Chuck Colson, once President Nixon’s right hand man who went to prison for the corruption of Nixon’s administration, has said many times, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Other than what I hear on television and read in magazines and newspapers, I do not know so much about the pervasiveness of corruption in politics and the business world. I do know that the abuse of power by those God has called to be His servants in the Church breaks the heart of God, damages the faith of many sincere followers of Jesus, and causes cynics and skeptics to say, “I told you so.”
I remember when Connie and I lived in Plano, Texas and there were high profile ministries that we attracting thousands of people from across the metroplex. In one 60-minute “Prime Time Live” television program the walls of some of these huge ministries began to crumble like the walls of Jericho. Robert Tilton, W.V. Grant, and Larry Lea were the subject of the investigation, and when the program was over the evidence of ungodliness was overwhelming. Because of our time limits let me just give you one of the stories, the story of Robert Tilton.
Robert Tilton was the pastor of the 8,000 member Word of Faith Family Church in Dallas when the program aired. He also had a television program called, “Success In Life” that was broadcast in 235 markets in the United States alone. He bought 5,000 hours of airtime a month and made a reported $84 million a year. Pastor Tilton’s trademark pitch on the TV program was his $1,000 “vow of faith.” If you would send in your $1,000 then he promised continuous miracles and unlimited blessings from God. He told his viewers that he personally prayed over every request that accompanied the $1,000 gifts as he taught those who watched by TV and those who sat in the pews that God had destined for them to be wealthy, healthy, and prosperous. In December of 1991, Robert Tilton said, “Being poor is a sin,” while looking into the TV camera and millions of people responded by sending in their money. (Robert Tilton, Success in Life, recorded 12/14/91)
Then Prime Time showed video of thousands of prayer requests that Tilton’s employees had dumped in the trash. The envelopes were emptied of the monetary gifts, but the prayer requests were still in place – they had never even been looked at.
After the program on ABC aired Pastor Tilton’s ministry began to collapse. Three years after the expose Robert Tilton was completely off the air, he and his wife had divorced, and he had sold his mansion in Florida and his 12,000 square foot parsonage in Dallas. Tilton had once employed over 800 people, but within three years of the truth coming to light he had laid off 70% of his staff. Membership at his once-thriving Word of Faith Family Church had dropped from some 8,000 members to 320. Today, the Word of Faith Family Church is not home to Robert Tilton any longer. He is now trying to make a comeback as a traveling evangelist, but the only churches that will let him in the door are small churches that remember Tilton’s prime – before Prime Time.