In the institutional realm of church congregations and ministries, where the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment and community joy reigns, an ominous force lurks in the shadows, threatening to undermine the very foundations of faith. This power is darkness, Night, death, and lies, and it targets its prey with careful execution over long periods when necessary. The darkness will extinguish the flame in some of the best and most influential people in the world using scandalous means that are uncomfortably common. My main point in this blog is that darkness is old and crafty, and positions of power are targets, so we as leaders need to take the advice of JR Woodward and be keenly aware of the past, strive for righteousness, and imitate the proper source. Unfortunately, man has repeatedly ignored important history lessons and continues to succumb to scandalous behavior.
I will explore the phenomenon of pride from a spiritual perspective that sheds light on the existence of supernatural powers and spiritual warfare. Its origins juxtaposed with the present, and the role it plays in the downfall of society and the church. Finally, I will indirectly echo Woodward’s soul-searching call for metanoia, or as he describes it, The Kenotic Journey, in our personal lives and leaders in faith.
Scandals are so universally old that they predate time as we know it. Darkness is present in the second verse of the Bible, “darkness was over the face of the deep,” and has retained influence for an indescribable duration. We learn it is associated with disorder and chaos from the ancient meanings and It becomes even more clear that darkness is different from the light in verse 4 when he “saw the light was good,” and he “separated the light from the darkness.” It’s important to note here that light receives “good” status in verse 4 and darkness not only gets omitted from being “good,” it is also separated from the light, which I believe sets the stage for a spiritual war that we all participate in today.
In darkness’ defense (which is uncomfortable to say), we do not see “good” on day two or seven, but the chapter does end with, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” But that raises the question, did God make the darkness or was it a byproduct of free will by the rebellions in the heavens? I have heard similar questions or arguments regarding the creation of sin as we know it such as, “Is it created by God or also a product of free will?” My personal opinion, although getting slightly off-topic, is that darkness was intentionally snubbed on the good status. Also, my understanding regarding days two and seven is (also held by many scholars such as Oxford’s Dr. Lennox); that the revealing of the expanse didn’t involve creation and was an act of revelation (revealing). The Hebrew words bara (create) and asah (restore, reveal, unveil, bring forth) help illustrate the context i.e. “He created the heavens and the earth,” and he “restored, revealed, unveiled, and/or brought forth the expanse.” Gen 1:28 is another interesting scripture, the word “replenish” (the earth) is used in translations like the KJV, and “fill” is used in many others. I believe this adds credibility to the pre-existing world which also helps us understand the origins of darkness.
It’s extremely sad to see spiritual defeats of any kind but it should also serve as a warning that we are all susceptible to the powers of the dark. Pride is a malevolent force which in many cases, can be tied to or lead to, greed and sexual misconduct. Take this source for what it is worth, but I googled “religious leaders who have fallen” and was introduced to a spiritual wall of shame (or spiritual wars) of large influence in Christianity, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, and others. The darkness is a pervasive and destructive element that has the potential to entangle families, distract men and women in power, and allure even the most dedicated preachers and individuals working within the church. In his book, The Scandal of Leadership, JR Woodward exposes the spiritual Powers (he capitalizes them in this collective context), and notes prominent figures that have succumbed to the pressure of pride, domineering leadership, and expulsion from their communities of faith.
The Scandal of Leadership
Leadership failures are heartbreaking to read about or witness on any scale. But it should come as no surprise. The shadow of domination was present in ancient scandals (Lucifer) and walks hand in hand with the Powers that are present today, on large and small platforms. From the small congregation to the mega-church, darkness prevails in micro and macro spiritual conflicts of influence that have lasting effects on institutions and individuals for generations. JR Woodward respectfully references some of the infamous public stories (spiritual battles) in church leadership, such as Mark Driscoll and the dismantling of Mars Hill (referenced 31 times). I paused from the book to listen to the podcast recording on YouTube that was also referenced several times, Who Killed Mars Hill? My initial reaction was through a lens of war, similar to a visit to Pearl Harbor, or Ground Zero, but in the spiritual realm. Learning about the grand scale of Mars Hill, Willow Creek, Hillsong, or countless other multi-congregational networks that fallen victim to similar temptation, are sadly massive blows to the unified Body of Christ. Woodward offers hope to the reader and makes his argument clear through many detailed and rational sources and perspectives that ultimately lead to “identity formation and telos” through Jesus.
“Something cool goes here.”
I am intrigued by cosmology, the supernatural, the origins of light and darkness, angels, demons, and misconceptions in the Bible. My interest is both awe and knowledge, for the benefit of relating God’s story to anyone in simple terms. Not to be confused with witchcraft, sorcery, or dark praxis of any kind. I’m especially fascinated with biblical typology. The examples are almost infinite and I’m constantly seeing the connections in the text, stories, and cyclical paradigm in which the Bible and the characters in it, fall short of the kingdom, and yet are redeemed through Christ. I’m drawn to the actual connections and believe that it is the fingerprint of the Holy Spirit that gives confirmation and undeniable validity to the Bible. As I’m reading Woodward’s book, I cannot help but see yet another correlation and type between sin (and the spiritual powers), Satan’s fall from leadership, and similar leadership failures in the church and society. Typology is unspoken prophecy that may have positive or negative outcomes. They can serve as warnings that can be applied to our leadership, families, and the church. This isn’t anything new, so why do we continue to blow it?
Conclusion | It’s confirmed by the masses… “Leadership is in a crisis.”
I found The Scandal of Leadership by JR Woodward to be extremely beneficial and a great reference for my Project Portfolio that deals with the declining health of society and the church. Woodward and others concur with our buzz phrase from Cape Town, “leadership bankruptcy.” David Fitch opens the forward of Woodward’s book with this bold statement, “It is clear that the Western church of Jesus Christ is in a crisis of leadership. In the midst of devastating moral failures by church leaders of every kind, our structures of leadership have clearly betrayed us.” Woodward’s book and philosophy confirmed many of my arguments in my project and calls for a similar action plan that involves awareness, offensive and defensive combat, and a kenotic lifestyle built on the model and foundation of Jesus Christ.
The Righteousness of God Through Faith | Romans 3:23
23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
 Woodward, JR, The Scandal of Leadership, 431
 Gen 1:2, ESV
 Gen 1: 4, ESV
 Gen 1:31, ESV
 Woodward, 38
 George, Daron. Portland Seminary/George Fox University, DLGP01 Blog Bio.