What We Must Learn From The Death Of Zachery Tims.
August 18, 2011
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I do not always agree with J. Lee Grady but this time (as a brother in the Lord) I like his honesty. This time he looks into the recent death of Pastor Zachery Tims and gives the charismatic community a heads up that I think we can all learn from…
Zachery Tims [is said to have] met Jesus and was saved from a life of crime and drugs. He and his wife, Riva, moved from Baltimore to Orlando, Fla., in 1996 to launch a church that aimed to restore families and pull teens out of trouble. New Destiny Christian Center grew fast, mostly because of Tims’ passionate preaching. He was soon a regular on Christian television.
But things unraveled in 2009 when Tims was caught carrying on a yearlong affair with a stripper he met in France. He admitted to an “indiscretion” and got a few weeks of counseling, but he didn’t take serious time off for rehabilitation. Riva divorced him for his infidelity. The billboards that once featured photos of the happy couple were changed. By 2011 the roadside ads featured a shot of Tims by himself, with this slogan: “A Family Church Meeting Family Needs.”
This story did not end well. On Aug. 12, Tims was found dead–at age 42–in a New York City hotel room. His four children lost their dad, and his church lost their beloved leader. But while Tims’ family and friends are grieving their loss (and I’m not minimizing that because the pain is real), I’m also grieving over the fact that the wider body of Christ has yet another embarrassing religious scandal to explain. We can’t gloss over this.
There are so many aspects of this story that should cause us to lament. How did a preacher get involved with a stripper? Why didn’t Tims put himself on the bench for at least a year after his sin was exposed? Why did Christian television keep him on the air after his affair became public? Why did his church continue to attract crowds when people knew Tims’ behavior did not match the biblical standards of morality required for church leaders?
It’s especially troubling that the people closest to Tims–church elders, advisers and mentors–didn’t hold his feet to the fire. They were in such a hurry to “restore” him to the pulpit that they ignored his need for personal healing. They were so eager to exonerate him from all wrong that they couldn’t wait to see the genuine fruit of repentance–which takes time to develop in a person who has been living a life of denials, deciepton and secret sin…
Now a man is dead. We don’t know yet why Tims died in his room on the 37th floor at the W Hotel in Manhattan. Police are still investigating. But I believe this tragedy could have been avoided if Tims and the people in his inner circle had followed the forgotten principle of biblical discipline.
Some critics have called me a judgmental stone-thrower because I believe leaders should step down for a year or more after a moral failure. In our permissive culture we’ve lost the will to confront. God’s commandments have become suggestions. Accountability is viewed as legalistic. Morality has been redefined. And we’ve dropped holiness from our vocabulary.
Are elders and deacons of these days too quick to restore celebrity pastors back into the pulpit? Are scriptural admonitions being ignored when installing leaders into office? Are elders holding the feet of church members and leaders long enough into the fire of scripture and observing church discipline?
Good questions there indeed. Quite sobering too.