Is Elmer Gantry Alive and Well?


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Bible Reading: 2 Peter 3: 17 -18

Grow in the special favor and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:18

ELMER GANTRY WAS the slimy lead character in Sinclair Lewis’s novel by that name. Gantry-a greedy, lustful, hypocritical evangelist-preached one thing and lived another. His words, his sermons, and his life were all fake.

Elmer Gantry was a made-up man. But plenty of scandals have ruined real preachers. One televangelist was disgraced by revelations of extramarital sex and his subsequent cover-ups of the scandal. Another televangelist’s condemnations of the first one crashed down around him when he was forced to confess his own ad­diction to pornography. With cameras and microphones snooping out every ugly detail of these and other scandals, more and more people have bought the “Elmer Gantry myth.” That myth is the mistaken belief that Christian preachers, evange­lists, and leaders are all crooked hypocrites.

The media coverage misses the many evangelists and preachers who continue to Serve God with utter integrity and humility. Think of the evangelistic ministry career of Billy Graham. Over a span of sixty years, Dr. Graham’s preaching has reached millions, and his life has never contradicted his preaching. Even so, Graham confesses that from the start of his ministry, “I was frightened-and still am — that I would do something to dishonor the Lord.”

Billy Graham, Luis Palau, Charles Colson, Dawson McAllister, and Charles Swindoll are just some of the well-known Christian leaders, whose lives are true to their teaching, proving that the Elmer Gantry myth isn’t true.

Way back in the first century-before investigative reporters and worldwide me­dia-Peter warned Christians, ‘There will be false teachers among you …. And be­cause of them, Christ and his true way will be slandered” (2 Peter 2:1-2). That’s why Satan works so hard to spread the Elmer Gantry myth. He wants the truth to be squashed by false accusations. He wants the preaching of godly men and women to be smeared by the sin and hypocrisy of others.

Christian leaders aren’t the only ones who need to heed Peter’s warning to guard against error and grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Each of us has the po­tential to bring disgrace down on other believers. But keep your focus on getting close to Jesus, and you won’t make your faith or your fellow Christians look foolish. After all, God has the power to “keep you from stumbling,” and he “will bring you into his glorious presence innocent of sin and with great joy” (Jude 24).

REFLECT: Have you been disappointed by a Christian leader? Who can you look up to as an example of living close to God?

PRAY: Pray that the Christian leaders in your life will stay faithful to God.


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