Lysa Leaving: The Importance of Church Membership for Bible Teachers

“She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She looks well to the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
‘Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.'” Proverbs 31:26-29

A couple of years ago, I read an article by Christian blogger Michelle Lesley entitled “Leaving Lysa: Why You shouldn’t Be Following Lysa TerKeurst or Proverbs 31 Ministries”.  In her article, Michelle listed several good reasons why TerKeurst’s ministry was one to be avoided.  I have since been thankful for Michelle’s work because not longer after I read her article my wife came home with the book Twelve Women of the Bible: Life Changing Stories for Women Today.  This book advertised itself as “based on teaching from Lysa TerKeurst”.  My wife had been given the book by a local church which was planning to study it in a small group.  I was wary of letting my wife participate in a study involving Lysa TerKeurst material so I examined the book.  It didn’t take me long to find improper biblical application in the form of an absurd statement about the spelling of the word “messiah”:

The Greek word Μεσσίας has no bearing on the English words “mess” and “message”.  Furthermore, the typical “mess” for a modern American evangelical woman has more to do with Cheerios in the minivan, screaming kids, and the all too rare opportunity to take a long shower than it does to with being five times divorced, a member of a despised ethnic group, and so ostracized as to have to wait until the other women have gone to come a draw water from the town well (as the woman at the well was).  I informed my wife that she wouldn’t be participating in this study and the book promptly found its way to my heresy shelf.

I can’t say that I was surprised given that Michelle’s article had informed me that TerKeurst was a member of Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church.  Take special notice that I didn’t write “Jesus Christ’s Elevation Church”.  I wrote “Steven Furtick’s Elevation Church”.  That place is too much of a mess to belong to the Μεσσίας.  Since local church membership is essential to the Christian life, it’s safe to judge a Bible teacher by the church with which she fellowships.  Lysa TerKeurst is a part of one of the worst churches in America.

Lysa would do well to leave it.  Unfortunately she has not.  She is, however, as she reported on her own blog earlier this week, leaving her husband of nearly 25 years.  She shared the following with her readers.

“My husband, life partner and father of my children, Art TerKeurst, has been repeatedly unfaithful to me with a woman he met online, bringing an end to our marriage of almost 25 years. For the past couple of years, his life has sadly been defined by his affection for this other woman and substance abuse. I don’t share this to harm or embarrass him, but to help explain why I have decided to separate from him and pursue a divorce. God has now revealed to me that I have done all I can do and I must release him to the Savior.”

The various writer’s at the Pulpit & Pen found this turn of events disturbing.  First and foremost, a marriage covenant was broken and the parties involved are no doubt experiencing deep emotional pain and the beginning of what will be lasting heartache.  God hates divorce and so should we.  Second, TerKeurst’s detailed revelations of her husband’s sins are inappropriate.  Why did TerKeurst find it necessary to reveal the lurid details of Art’s sins?  Clearly, when someone is in business as the “Proverbs 31 Woman” there is pressure to present an image of fidelity and faithfulness to the covenant of marriage.  Thus, many of her reader’s will justify TerKeurst’s actions as something that needed to be done to demonstrate that the divorce was “not her fault” and is the result of her husband’s infidelity,  but should detailed information about how Art met his mistress and how he he has been engaging in substance abuse be made public?  Isn’t this embarrassing for their children and the rest of their extended family?

Situations like this should be handled in a private manner according to Matthew 18.  Initially, the situation should have been handled between TerKeurst and her husband.  It should next have been handled between the couple and two or three brothers from their church.  If necessary, (according to TerKeurst her husband is not unrepentant) it should have finally been escalated as a matter to be brought before the entire church.  Perhaps this was done and perhaps it wasn’t; it’s not clear from TerKeurst’s blog .  If it was, Art should have been “handed over to Satan” in accordance with 1 Corthinians 5:5.  Though, his wife claims she has handed Art over “to the Savior”.  None of this requires the public revelation of a private matter of sin between a couple.  Furthermore, if TerKeurst’s book customers and fans require explanation, all that should be necessary is a statement that she is in good standing with her local church.  Yet, this is not how the situation was handled.  Art’s sin was explained in detail to the public.

It’s unsurprising that this kind of thing would come out of Steven Furtick’s den of narcissism, showmanship, and false teaching.  Church membership matters, especially when trials come and sin must be dealt with.  Consumers of women’s Bible study products should take this into consideration.  Over and above that, Christians should take the TerKeurst family into their prayers.  As long-time attenders of Elevation Church, they are like sheep without a shepherd.  It’s easy to forget that celebrities suffer pain and heartache just like the rest of us.  There is an object lesson here about the importance of church membership with regard to popular teachers, but more importantly there are at least two very real and hurting people.  It’s really none of our business what happens with the TerKeurst’s private lives if we are not members of their local church.  Her teaching should be judged by its fidelity to the Bible and by her standing in a local church.  On those two counts, she should be avoided whether her marriage is at the Ritz or on the rocks.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

 

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Seth Dunn

Masters of Divinity in Christian Apologetics, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
Member of the Evangelical Theological Society
Certified Public Accountant

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