I’ve had some pretty intense conversations over the past few months. As 2017 drew to a close, I was talking with a woman leader in the church who said, “This is the year that began with a women’s protest march and ended with the #MeToo hashtag.” The latter has led to the downfall of several powerful and rich men who had histories of sexually preying upon women.
Change happened because the women were no longer quiet, because sins were exposed and because the consequences of not dealing with that exposure far outweighed the temptation to deny or cover it up.
As I watched the domino effect in several professional arenas, I grew concerned that the church is often complicit to the same soul debilitating sins of sexual predators by coming to the defense of men in the pulpit, at the workplace and in their own homes while at the same time enforcing the silence of women or covering up the sin.
We don’t have to look to the Catholic Church or large scandals like that of Sovereign Grace Church to confront these issues. We can just look at ourselves. From my commitment to the local church, faithfulness to discipling women, and from my education and advocacy against human trafficking, I can tell you that secret sexual sins are destroying the men, women and families in your congregation.
When women are silent, men are not encouraged to hold each other accountable, to ask the hard questions, to seek wise counsel or therapy if needed. When women are silent, men are appointed to deacon and elder boards and are hired to positions when they are regularly searching porn on the internet, having emotional affairs on the job, running from their last or into their next affair—yes, even in the church. Just ask the women.
We have seen time and again that women are silent simply because no one asks them, and even if we ask, some women know better than to speak—either because of power, patriarchy or financial provision. There is no safety or protection for them to recover after the fallout. That’s the reality of being in a church where all of the leadership and decision makers are men. Therefore, the women keep silent, and everyone remains in bondage to the sins of the darkness.
If you want your congregants, including your leadership team, to live in sexual freedom, then you must create a safe environment for women to speak up with the loving care and support (including spiritual, professional and financial assistance) necessary to get free. You must also get honest with the men and leadership teams in your church.
There is great truth behind the sentiment: “You cannot conquer what you do not confront.” Luke 8:11 records, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought into the open.” God’s light exposes the darkness, and truth eventually comes.
Don’t wait for the sins to find you out. Ask the hard questions, get the staff trained and be ready to offer the redemptive and restorative aid that could bring hope, healing and deliverance for all who have kept silent in the church.
Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, an Outreach magazine contributing editor, is the visionary founder of Leadership LINKS Inc. and is the author of Mentor for Life: Finding Purpose Through Intentional Discipleship.