Moment of Honesty: Sexual Immorality Hits Hard on the Mission Field
In March 2017, The Washington Post ran a story making fun of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence because he has a rule that he never breaks – he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife, and he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without his wife by his side.
Mike Pence immediately became the laughing stock of late night talk shows. National media outlets aggressively attacked him and blamed his backwards thinking as the reason why women are kept from positions of power. The Washington Post did a follow up article taking it one step further, saying that Mike Pence’s ‘rule’ didn’t honor his wife – it demeaned her.
However, a few months later in October 2017, the #MeToo movement picked up serious traction as powerful men around the world began to fall from allegations of sexual harassment, while alone with women in their employ.
Suddenly, Mike Pence’s rule was not so laughable. Perhaps it never was.
Mike Pence’s rule came from a simple farm boy preacher named Billy Graham. In 1948, 31-year-old Billy Graham was becoming a bit of a Christian celebrity. Billy was surrounded by older, wiser men that had seen many great ministries rise and fall. They knew that temptations loomed for Billy and those around him and wanted to set in place a set of rules that would help guard against the common temptations that often loomed – money, power, …and sex.
Billy Graham, together with his team, went into a hotel room in Modesto, California and came out with an agreement that has become known as the Modesto Manifesto. Modesto Manifesto has become the bedrock of conduct for many ministries around the world, including BTJ. BTJ does not refer to Billy Graham or the Modesto Manifesto, but we do implement similar rules.
When people hear about the Back to Jerusalem vision of the underground house church in China, many associate it with a higher standard of holiness. The association of heavenly righteousness no doubt comes from the severe persecution and martyrdom that the Chinese church has endured over the years, but truth be told, the Chinese underground church suffers from the same temptations as every other Christian.
Sexual impurity is one of the biggest pitfalls for Christians – both on and off of the mission field.
This week, a BTJ missionary family is suffering because of infidelity. A group leader, on the ground in a closed nation with his family, had an affair with another missionary. It has been devastating for everyone on the field.
This missionary is not alone in his transgression. He is part of an underground house church network in China that formed after it split off from the mother church due to infidelity, on behalf of the founding pastor. That Pastor was one of the top leaders of the Sinim Fellowship in China – that saw another one of it’s co-founding members leave his wife in China and marry another women.
Infidelity is a major problem in the church and on the mission field.
According to recent studies by the Journal of Psychology and Christianity, as many as 65 percent of men and 55 percent of women will have an extramarital affair by the time they are 40. Those are not very promising statistics.
A Christianity Today survey found that 23 percent of the 300 pastors who responded, admitted to sexually inappropriate behavior with someone other than their wives WHILE IN MINISTRY.
Although Christian missionaries and underground house church leaders have faced countless spiritual challenges by their government, it seems that those challenges are not as great as those that boil within.
It has even happened on mission trips.
During a BTJ missions trip to a closed nation a few years ago, BTJ brought along a team of ministry leaders from around the world to serve together. One of those Christian leaders began working with a young refugee that she quickly developed feelings for. After returning back home to her home country, she started a secret online relationship with the refugee and eventually left her church, her husband, and her family to be with him. That secret romance, sadly, started on a short-term mission trip.
It is not always extramarital affairs that bring down ministries. Sometimes it can also be sexual abuse. I have worked with broken missionaries that have been haunted by sexual predators of their past and did not know how broken they were until they faced the trials of the mission field. One of our close coworkers at BTJ during my early years in China, had to deal with the emotional and spiritual challenges that arose when his wife confessed she had been raped by a mission leader when she was a young girl.
My wife saw similar challenges when friends that attended her missionary school in China claimed that they had been raped by a missionary dorm parent.
This week, we will be doing an honest and raw podcast exploring the challenges of sexual sins and the impact of them on the mission field. We will talk openly about the events that have transpired, how they have impacted BTJ and what Christian missionaries can do to avoid the same pitfalls.
You can download the podcast later on this week at www.backtojerusalem.com/podcast
I speak from experience, we must always keep guard over our hearts and minds.
So called “extreme measures” are essential in protecting your marriage.
The enemy will lure you into his trap just like he did to Adam and Eve. He’ll entice you with a lustful thought and a twist of God’s words…
Go extreme! Walls protect people from inside and outside forces of evil.
The ministry I worked for is very committed to following the Modesto manifesto. My team leader (male) broke his commitment to the Modesto manifesto and fell into deep sexual sin involving rape of a minor. While this was devastating for my team and I, I (female) was spared from much worse things that could have happened. I also knew my female team members were safe as there had never been an opportunity for him to cause them physical harm. The Modesto manifesto can be extremely inconvenient and rather awkward to follow at times and I’m so so grateful for every bit of that inconvenience!! It all seemed so silly at the time – he was the last person you’d ever think. I usually get a strong feeling about people but this one didn’t raise any alarms. But the pressure he was under changed him. Every second of awkwardness was forgotten when I could sit in his bosses’ office and say “I’m okay, and the other girls are okay too”
I always thought we were primarily avoiding the appearance of evil and making sure we were being above reproach, and for that alone it would have been worth it.
Ministry Leaders – embrace the awkwardness and take the lead in committing to the standards set by the Modesto manifesto. The women on your team will never tell you that they want to implement the MM but so many of us really do. People go into missions for all kinds of reasons and it’s not always Jesus. Leaders please stand up, take the hit, and shield those who serve along side you. And may the Lord bless as you seek to follow in his footsteps!!