Steffanie Rivers

*Atlanta, Georgia is only a three-hour drive from my hometown, so I’ve been there countless times before. I happened to be there on business just ten days ago – the weekend before the allegations against Bishop Eddie Long became headline news.

And it was during my trip that a friend and I spoke about the Atlanta-based megachurch pastor, not realizing that he was about to become the focus of a scandal. It all started when I told her I live in Dallas and she asked if I attend the church of BishopTD Jakes.

Jakes, like Long, also leads a megachurch with membership that reaches into the tens of thousands. He’s written a number of books that have been turned into stageplays and movies and his Sunday morning services are televised around the world. Although I assume most people worship at The Potter’s House – ironically the name of Jakes’ church that looks more like a coliseum – for spiritual and emotional wholeness just like it says on the website, I’m sure others attend just to be in the atmosphere and could care less about their spiritual growth.

When I told my friend that I never had been to The Potter’s House she seemed surprised! Why pass up the chance to meet Jakes seeing as I live in the next county. Afterall, she said, New Birth (the church where Long pastors) is her regular Sunday morning worship spot – that is if she manages to get there before the parking lot is so full she has to park a half mile away, walk or wait for a shuttle ride to the front door and sit in the overflow room watching the service on a big screen monitor. These are the very reasons I don’t even think about going to the Potter’s House.

Worshiping at New Birth, or any other megachurch for that matter, is too much like trying to get to the big concert; I have to leave home three hours early to beat the traffic to get a good parking space up front to get a seat near the stage. All so I actually can see the performers without the benefit of a big screen and actually can hear what’s being said without Dolby surroundsound. Then I have to leave before the event is over so I won’t get caught in traffic trying to get home. I like a good concert every now and then, just not every Sunday. I prefer to worship at a church where the service is less about being part of a show and more about the word of God. Even when I don’t make it to church, God is at my house!

And have you seen what some people wear on Sunday morning? I’m not sure if they intended to show that much skin or they just came straight from the nightclub, realized they didn’t have time to change and headed straight to church.

The fact that preachers like Jakes and Long have church memberships that could fill a high school football stadium doesn’t mean they are doing anything wrong. Afterall, the Bible says Christians should live prosperous and healthy lives.Good health and worldy possessions aren’t against the rules.It does, however, mean that to whom much is given much is required (Luke 12:48). Pastors, regardless of whether they lead a mega or a storefront church, should hold themselves to higher standards and avoid the appearance of wrong doing.

Long addressed his congregation last Sunday about the allegations against him saying that he’s not perfect. But I didn’t hear him say he is not guilty of what he stands accused. It should be no surprise to anyone in a position of power when he becomes a target of lies. But when the words and actions of that leader add to speculation of wrongdoing he should be held accountable. If he can’t control himself there’s no way he should be in charge of leading others.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Send questions, comments or requests for speaking engagements to Steffanie at [email protected]. And see the video version of her journal at youtube.com/steffanierivers.