Over the weekend, I fished around on Facebook and Twitter to get an idea of what people thought of LeAndria Johnson's recent announcement that she is pregnant with her fourth child. If you don't know, LeAndria Johnson was the third season winner of the BET hit show Sunday Best, has won a Grammy, produced and sung on #1 Billboard albums, an entire gamut of successes that many new Gospel artists will never see in their lifetime. Her story is one that we hear frequently; a single mother whose life was heavily centered around the church and has had her own share of ups and downs prior to the bright lights of the stage.
Her recent announcement has caused many to praise or rebuke her for a number of reasons. A recent Twitter search of her name proved that some church clichés will never die, i.e. "He who hath no sin cast the first stone", and while others feel that at some point, we should grow in the things of God to the point where making mistakes of this magnitude are a thing of the past.
I don't want to make this post about LeAndria and her shortcomings. I do, however, want to use this as an opportunity to explore the responsibilities that come with being a believer and leader in the body of Christ. This isn't limited to those who are in big positions, either. This is applicable to all of us who say we believe and even those of us who don't.
The overarching themes of this post are growth, responsibility, and obedience. There is much to explore and there's no way I can hit it all, but here goes...
Hebrews 6:11-14 (NLT)
There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don't seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God's word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn't know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.
As believers, we are expected to grow like a child does. When you are young in your faith, God only expects for you to get the "milk"; there's more room to make mistakes because you're growing, learning, just like a child does. Verse 14 tells us that as we grow in life and in Christ, we have developed the "skills to recognize the difference between right and wrong" as a result of "maturing". If you can say that you've been a believer for x-amount of years and you're still making the same mistakes, you haven't grown as you should. Just imagine if my 7-year-old daughter was still wearing diapers and eating jars of Gerber: wouldn't that seem strange? How much more, then, should we grow year to year in our walk with Christ? [1 Peter 2:2, 1 Corinthians 3:2-3 supports this]
In recent months, many Christian leaders have found themselves in hot water when the lives they lead behind closed doors suddenly were exposed to the public. From Eddie Long to Pastor Zachery Timms and many other leaders in the Body of Christ, this year has been a year of exposing -- that age old adage "what's done in the dark will always come to light" has reigned true for many in recent months. Some would argue that we are all imperfect, just fleshly beings that can't be regarded so highly that those who follow these leaders should fall and stumble because of their imperfections.
I beg to differ.
The bible tells us that leaders in the church are held to a higher standard -- first and second Timothy both explore the expectations of church leaders (I Timothy 3:11) noting that their failure to be in right standing with God can have a greater impact beyond their own personal lives.
We have a responsibility to people. Yes, we are imperfect, but the charge to live upright even when you think no one is watching is clearly stated in the Word. Ephesians 5:10-14 (NLT) says:
Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them. It is shameful even to talk about the things that ungodly people do in secret. But their evil intentions will be exposed when the light shines on them, for the light makes everything visible."
We have a responsibility not only to God, but to the people we lead. If for any reason we are found to be living a life of perpetual sin behind closed doors, we have the responsibility to shine light for the sake of repentance, not ridicule and judgment. I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference. (Revelation 3:19, NLT)
The great and most important part about reproof and reprimand is that it should evoke a spirit of love and repentance to God and a sense of responsibility to the people to make things "right" with them. We (the body) are charged in James 5:19-20 to love people back into the fold (which would require us to acknowledge the wrong publicly, right?) and guide them back to their original standing in God. We are even told to "confess ours sins to one another" so we may be able to address our issues and be made whole. How else do we do that lest we publicly confess them?
At the same time, leaders (and yes, even us regular folk) are supposed to set themselves apart -- be different from the world -- in order to be used by God. No amount of talent, gifting, or anointing can replace the power of obedience.
In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work. (2 Timothy 2:20-21)
What sin does is make it harder for us to be used by God. Had I never had a child out of wedlock, it would have been easier for me to navigate my purpose; certain hurdles I wouldn't have had to overcome had I been obedient to what I knew to be true. Thank God for grace, mercy, and second chances.
What Really Matters
God is über concerned about winning souls -- and will win them at any cost. He will use the broken, beat up, and damaged to reach people to bring them into the kingdom. He will use singers, ministers, bishops, pastors, clerks, stay at home moms, firemen, bankers, anyone who is willing to use their life as a testimony to win souls. He is also excessively concerned about our personal lives and wants to see us do and be better. He expects for us to grow and change in Christ every day. He will always deal with our personal lives privately before allowing our sins to consume us and embarrass us publicly. And even then, He will use people to draw us back unto Him in order to get ourselves right and be more effective than we were before -- but we must be willing to grow, take responsibility, and be obedient to his direction.
I'm a single mother. I know the shame that comes with announcing to friends, family, even strangers that I was having a child out of wedlock. I know the feeling of judgment that even people in the church dish out, in their own way, disqualifying you because of your recognizable sin. LeAndria's troubles are more than just a sign that she may need to take a break from ministry -- it's a sign that all of us need to take some time to reflect on our own personal lives to ensure that we are growing exponentially in God.
While I don't know what's next for LeAndria, I hope there are people in her life who are loving her towards repentance and a change of heart. Her gift is too great, her life too precious to perpetually lose ground in God's kingdom. God's grace and mercy isn't to be "pimped", used as means to continue in our sin because we know that forgiveness is available. Eventually, we all must grow up and answer for not only our own lives, but the lives of those we are responsible for -- directly or indirectly.