Billy Graham: His Grandson and His 'Rule'
The tragic news hit the cyber-fan yesterday. Tullian Tchividjian, grandson of evangelist Billy Graham, admitted to adultery. According to the reports, his wife first began an adulterous relationship, after which they separated. During that time, he also committed adultery. He admitted to his sin and (rightly) stepped down from being a pastor.
How should we as Christians react?
Pray: Stop gossiping and start praying - for Tchividjian, his wife and children. Adultery is a sin which hurts everyone in a family. We want to see them healed and restored. Though adultery is an evil, we should be slow to cast stones since we are also prone to temptation.
Give Space: Lead pastors are often overworked and take miniscule breaks to actually pray, study the Bible and be with God. Church leadership should make prayer and personal Bible study part of their pastor’s job description. A pastor should be a friend of God and that takes time – time he often feels he doesn’t have.
This may have been a factor in the Tchividjian tragedy as his recent public teachings reflect the error of ‘hyper-grace’ – an extreme teaching on grace which lacks the fear of the Lord.
Befriend: Lead pastors are some of the loneliest people I know. Often their wives are too. As church leaders, they are always expected to have their act together. Others bring their problems, sins and failures to them. But who do they bring their problems to? Who does the lead pastor confess his sin to? His leadership position surrounds him with people but also puts a pressure on him that keeps him from sharing his brokenness.
The only thing your pastor needs as much as your prayers and his own time with God is friends. Friends for both him and (if he’s married) his wife are essential for their own spiritual health. They need vulnerable relationships where they can participate in the ‘one-another’ commands of the New Testament.
I am human and I need to be loved,
Just like everybody else does
- The Smiths
Rethink the Rule: ‘The Billy Graham Rule’ is an idea that has emerged over the last thirty or so in some church circles as a means of guarding against sexual immorality. It is unfortunately named as Rev. Graham never intended it to be a rule. When he was young in the ministry he began getting national media attention who were hungry for news of a scandal. In order to protect himself under such pressure, he made a personal rule never to be alone with a woman.
Other people have taken that personal decision by Graham and, unfortunately, made it a watershed of integrity. Much pressure has been put on pastors of small churches to adopt such a rule even without media following them. The result is that few pastors have deep and meaningful friendships with women.
What is most sad about this, is that there is no evidence that adopting this ‘rule’ has helped rid Evangelical circles of sexual immorality one bit. Some argue that things are worse. In relation to Tchividjian, one commentator said that he should have obeyed his Grandfather’s ‘rule’. But is it really that simple? For most of his life and ministry Tchividjian both practiced and advocated the rule. Obviously the couple was not in a healthy place as the wife was in an ongoing adulterous relationship.
Keeping men and women in separate rooms may make sexual immorality technically impossible, but it does nothing to address the pain, loneliness and brokenness that drive people to adultery and other destructive actions (porn, alcoholism, drug abuse, etc). Pastors - like all Christian men - need to engage with women as real friends and not see them foremost as potential adulteresses. According to Scripture, they are to be sisters and mothers. Godly cross-gender friendships can give health and strength in ways that are unique to same-gender friendships. The more meaningful friendships a man has with women, the less likely he will be to objectify and use women. For men and women, these family relationships are a deterrent to sexual immorality.
It is much rarer to lust after a sibling than a stranger.
For more on healthy spiritual leadership, check out Elijah Men Eat Meat: Readings to slaughter your inner Ahab and pursue Revival and Reform (Get Here)