Sister Aimee, The Bakker’s and Us
Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 2 Peter 2:2 (NIV).
Do you remember Aimee Semple McPherson? If you don’t, Ms McPherson started the Foursquare Church. She was one of the most famous charismatic preachers of the 1920s and 1930s. Her church still has 7 million members worldwide. That’s an amazing testament to the power of God’s Word because, like so many others, Ms McPherson proved herself all too human. In 1926, she was reported as kidnapped from a beach in California. Several weeks later, she was found in Arizona, where it was reported she had been living with a former church worker. Over the next 18 years, there were unconfirmed reports of other affairs and other shady behavior. “Sister Aimee” died of an accidental Seconol overdose in 1944.
Or there was Jim Bakker. If you grew up in the 1980s, you’ll remember the story of Jim and Tammy Faye: televangelists famous for their outrageous ‘prosperity gospel’ ways that ran contrary to the simple message of the real Gospel. It wasn’t surprising (but was tragic) how quickly the Bakker’s life disintegrated following the revelation that Jim had an affair with a staffer, then paid to keep her quiet. Jim and Tammy Faye divorced. He served time in prison; she remarried before succumbing to cancer in 2007. Jim Bakker was paroled in 1994, and in the 26 years since, has remarried, started another thriving ministry, and is back on TV again.
Those who are entrusted with the privilege of carrying the Word of God will find themselves under attack by the evil one. That shouldn’t be surprising. Satan doesn’t attack people when & where they’re strong: he hits us in our weak spots. He attacked Sister Aimee, and the Bakker’s, and Jimmy Swaggart, and the Schuller family. If you stand up and say “I believe in Jesus,” Satan will gladly paint a target on YOUR back. He’ll enthusiastically use others to do it.
But even worse than that is letting him lead others astray. Those entrusted with the Word of the Lord must always be on their guard that they are faithfully ministering it. If they don’t, Satan will hit those weak spots and exploit them. In doing so, he’ll wreak havoc on the trust and faith of others, and bring disrepute on good works that God has already done. When the Bakker’s fell, many thousands of trusting believers became disenchanted. Something similar happened to many people who followed Aimee McPherson.
It’s true: our God is much more powerful than that. But why put Him to the test? Wouldn’t it be much better to simply stay on the straight and narrow and not allow evil to gain a foothold? Sure, it would, but in our fallen world, that’s easier said than done. Temptations are tough to resist; I know this. So did Bakker; judge against God’s Word whether his current ministry is true to that Word, then respond accordingly. Forgive generously while moving forward wisely.
For further reading: Jude 4, 2 Peter 2:3
Lord Jesus, forgive those who work against You. Help me to stay true to Your way.
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