A Message From the MBC Executive Director
Abuse of any kind grieves the heart of God. Unfortunately, the Church is not immune from instances of every kind of abuse, even though the community of Christ-followers should be the safest place on earth for any person.
When abuse strikes the local church, it does great damage to Christ’s name, His mission to redeem the world, and His people’s ability to credibly share the gospel. Every Christian should feel the pain Jesus feels when those who often seem the least among us – those whose angels behold the face of God – become objects of ridicule, violence, or wrongful pleasure.
The consequences of abuse are widespread and long-lasting. They take away innocence, ruin marriages, divide families, split churches, and sully God’s reputation.
This realization should do more than distress us. It should stir us to righteous anger and move us to action. Specifically, the very possibility of abuse in our churches should teach us that we need to:
(1) Prevent abuse. Every local church member should be trained to identify and report abuse. The Southern Baptist Convention’s Caring Well ministry, and the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home’s Stewards of Children are two excellent ways to equip our people to safeguard the local church against those who prey on the innocent. For staff and volunteers, don’t rely on background checks alone, which catch fewer than 10 percent of abusers. Get proper training.
(2) Report abuse. Aside from laws that require certain people to report real or suspected abuse, every person who has a reason to believe abuse is happening should speak up – to those in authority in the local church, and to the appropriate law-enforcement agencies and other governing officials. It is no crime to report suspected abuse – but it may be a crime if you don’t report it.
(3) Target abuse. Every church should have clear policies that protect against the likelihood of abuse and require the immediate report of any suspected abuse. Properly trained, every church member is an effective deterrent to abusive people and their devious schemes. No person in the church – whether a leader or a layperson – should be ostracized for sincerely reporting suspected abuse, even if the allegation proves unfounded or the accused ultimately is acquitted.
(4) Love the abused and the abuser. Our local churches should never compromise what is right. We should call sin what it is – a violation of God’s perfect standards, which are for our own good. Local churches should take swift and decisive action in church discipline when known sin invades a congregation – and report suspected criminal activity immediately to the appropriate authorities. At the same time, church leaders should minister to abuse victims, including family, friends, fellow church members, and the greater community – all of whom experience in varying degrees the effects of abuse. Finally, churches should pursue justice on behalf of the abused, accountability for abusers and their enablers, and healing through prayer, counseling, accountability, and appropriate restoration. For the abused and the abuser, some scars may last a lifetime, but the redeeming love of Christ – who suffered the punishment for our sins – is sufficient to redeem even the deepest pains.
When it comes to the deep darkness of malicious sin, we should follow the one who is the light of the world. Jesus made it clear: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). And He commissioned His followers to be salt and light in a sinful and fallen world (Matt. 5:13-14).
While we know there are distinct spheres of responsibility among our churches and denominational entities, Missouri Baptists are unified in our desire to prevent abuse, protect the vulnerable, and respond appropriately to victims of abuse in our churches. As the SBC has launched its Caring Well initiative, the MBC Executive Board is reviewing and improving its policies and processes to help our affiliated churches educate their members about this abominable sin and equip them to prevent it from ever happening.
Dr. John Yeats
Take action now.
Contact one of these MBC-approved ministries to educate and equip your people.
Caring Well, an SBC Initiative
Stewards of Children
The Missouri Baptist Children’s Home offers this two-hour training that features video of survivors of sexual abuse and an interactive workbook. The prevention training gives people the skills to create safer environments. It makes them more willing to intervene in unsafe behaviors by adults with children. For more information, contact David Burch at the MBCH.
This five-part safety system focuses on protecting our children from the devastating consequences of sexual abuse. It includes: sexual abuse awareness training; skillful screening; appropriate criminal background checks; tailored policies and procedures; and monitoring and oversight.
There are also other areas where you can work to protect your church. Do you have a church security plan? Are you doing all you can to ensure that paid staff and volunteers are vetted properly? Do you have a policy that clearly states the circumstances under which your property may be used for ceremonies such as weddings?
These are challenging issues. Negligence in any of these areas could result in harm to the very people God has placed in our care. Fortunately, there are excellent resources to help your church address these issues.
Strategos International has more than a dozen training programs to help equip and prepare your congregation against the threat of an armed or unarmed intruder.
Choice Screening is the exclusive partner of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Choice specializes in church administration and creates personalized screening packages that focus on your specific needs and budget.
Church Bylaws and Policies
The Whitehead Law Firm partners with the MBC to provide free downloadable model church bylaws and policies on human sexuality and marriage. (Note: This is not legal advice and does not substitute for an attorney.)
Counseling for Pastors and Their Families
The Missouri Baptist Convention has partnered with Christian counselors around Missouri. Confidential, financially assisted help for Missouri Baptist vocational or bi-vocational church leaders and their families is available.