"Bob Larson achieved fame at the age of thirteen when his first hit song was published. He had his own rock and roll band at fifteen, and performed on radio and television over the next years until his career took him To Convention Hall in Atlantic City."FAs often is the case with Bob Larson, reality never quite matches up with his press releases. Sharla Turman Logan, the keyboard player for "The Rebels" (Bob's former band) stated that she knew Bob at thirteen, but "never heard of any hit song."F And although they did in fact play to a capacity audience at Convention Hall in Atlantic City, there was a little more to the story than meets the eye. It seems that they played one song -- at a Lions' Club convention.F The drummer's father was an officer in the organization; HE booked the gig.
The song: A parody of "Charlie Brown."F
Larson's penchant for prevarication can also be seen in his aborted medical career. On January 5, 1993, Bob publicly claimed that when he entered the ministry, he was "only a few credits away" from receiving a degree in chemistry, and then, going on to medical school.F Yet, Bob graduated from high school in 1962, attended McCook Junior College for one year, transferred to the University of Nebraska, and left there in September of 1964.F
Unless he truly was a phenomenal student (and there is no evidence of that), he would not even have been close to graduating after two years. Maybe not a "lie," but certainly a gross exaggeration.
Bob Larson would have you believe that he was independently wealthy before he entered his ministry, and that he was really doing it for his love of the kids. In a 1992 interview with Michael Roberts of Westword magazine, he explained his wealth this way:
"`A caller came on the air the other day,' he says, `and made the comment, `Is it true that you were a self-made millionaire before you began the ministry?' I said no, but I was very close to it, and I had traveled lecturing professionally for a number of years, before I ever got involved in the ministry, and was making very, very large sums of money at the time'."FAnd on a Denver radio broadcast, he attributed some of his wealth to his `success' in the music world: "I have been involved in gainful employment for 30 years; I was making a pile of money as a teenager, playing in rock and roll."F But once again, Larson's proud words shatter on those unforgiving rocks of reality. During his 1991 divorce, he and his ex-wife gave the following testimony:
"Q: [by Mr. Plaut, Bob Larson's attorney] Mr. Larson, would you tell us as far as lifestyle goes how you and Mrs. Larson have lived, starting again at the beginning of the marriage and bringing us up to date.First, even if Bob made a pile of money playing rock and roll, it was all gone when he married Kathy during 1968. Second, if he was nearly a millionaire when he opened the ministry, and barely a millionaire now, he cannot possibly account for his statement that "there was really no serious escalation in [their] lifestyle until the last few years." Therefore, either he lied in court ... Or on the air. When the dust settles, this much is obvious: Bob did not make his fortune in real estate, rock and roll, or anywhere else. OHe made it from the ministry -- he has not held a real job since he dropped out of college.F What a tangled web we weave ... when we practise to deceive!
A: Well, the lifestyle was pretty austere in the beginning. OWe had no possessions at the time of the Omarriage. I had a car that I was making payments on and a few hundred dollars in the bank. And it was pretty much that way for quite a while, until I got involved in selling books and speaking. And then, as Mr. Guthery pointed out earlier, Othere was really no serious Oescalation in our lifestyle until the last few years, when the cumulative success of building the organization allowed the organization to compensate me much better than they had."F
"Q: ([To Mrs. Larson] By Mr. Frazin [her attorney] What exactly did you do -- what were your duties when you first got started with the ministry?
A: [Kathy Larson] As Bob described, when we first got the min istry, we had a car with payments and a little trailer we pulled behind the car. And eventually then we bought a trailer house we pulled behind the car ... OIt was a very humble beginning...."F
In the Evangelical Press interview, Larson claimed: "`World didn't talk to radio station owners' ... `We have not had a single radio station cancel us or be less than 100 percent supportive'."F But in a fundraising letter dated January 27, 1992, he told his contributors that "Satan did everything possible to destroy me last year ... Ofour of our top ten stations forced me off the air."F
Another station, KSLR in San Antonio, reportedly was sued by the Ministry after it pulled Talk-BackF, even though Larson claimed in a news conference that he "would never sue a brother."F If World's people had talked to Larson's former affiliates, they would have caught him in yet another lie. On his March 17, 1993 broadcast, Bob Larson publicly charged that the Mormon church had spawned a sinister scheme to destroy his ministry, and that he was forced from the air in Calgary as a result of their effort.F However, when I spoke with that station's operations manager, and played her a taped excerpt of Bob's on-air claims, her response was one of astonishment. "It wasn't like that at all,"F she said adamantly.
It wasn't like that at all. That theme reverberates throughout any discussion concerning the antics of Bob Larson ... but nowhere is it more pronounced as in his financial information. For years, Bob has been claim ing that he is fighting to stay on your station, clev erly painting the misleading impression that the Min istry is on the knife-edge of financial disaster. But if its' audited financial statement is any indication, the Ministry is in the very flower of fiscal health:
BOB LARSON MINISTRIES CONSOLIDATED BALANCE SHEETF DECEMBER 31, 1991 ASSETS Current Assets: Cash and marketable securities $ 1,767,708 Other current assets 332,580 --------- Total current assets 2,100,288 Fixed assets (net of depreciation) 937,351 --------- Total assets $ 3,037,639 ========= LIABILITIES AND FUND BALANCE Current liabilities $ 396,022 Long-term debt 498,117 --------- Total liabilities 894,139 Fund balance 2,143,500 --------- Total liabilities and fund balance $ 3,037,639 =========During 1991, Bob Larson Ministries had a surplus of more than $246,000F ... and in 1990, that surplus was over $500,000!F We should all be in such desperate financial straits.
Larson's difficulties with the truth spill over into his personal financial situation as well. On the air, Bob has stated that he draws a $69,000 F yearly salary from the Ministry ... which not only seems reasonable, but downright modest. But as might be expected, documents filed with the Jefferson County (Colo.) District Court in connection with his divorce F -- signed under penalty of perjury -- tell a different tale. The following is an estimate of Larson's compensation package for 1990, based upon that information, documents filed with the Internal Revenue service, and interviews with former BLM employees:
Bobby E. ("Bob") Larson Estimated(A) Personal Income from Ministry Activities Year ended December 31, 1990A) The 1990 income figures are derived from the statement of monthly income provided by Bob Larson to the Jefferson County (Colorado) District Court in an affidavit signed under penalty of perjury. All other notes will be explained in the endnote section.
Direct compensation - Bob Larson Ministries (BLM): Salary $ 81,500 BLM - Prorated bonus 25,000 BLM - Expense allowance 33,000 BLM - Retirement allowance 50,500 BLM - Housing allowance: Mortgage payments 22,512 Utilities, etc. 4,980 ------- Compensation - Bob Larson Ministries 217,492(B)
Direct compensation - BLM subsidiaries: BLM Canada - Consulting fees 51,084 Salary - Int'l Broadcasting Ntwk. (IBN) 40,000(C) IBN - Auto allowance 4,344 ------- Total direct compensation from Ministry activities 312,920
Compensation - book sales: BLM - Secular advertising for books 72,833(D) BLM - Ghost-writers' compensation 20,000(E) BLM - Imputed profits on book sales 80,000(F) Honoraria 12,000 ------- Total compensation from Ministry activities $ 497,753G =======
From this information, it appears self-evident that the _real_ mission of Bob Larson Ministries is to minister to the extravagant financial needs of Bob Larson! The kids are just an alibi.
But the uncontested crown jewel in the labyrinth of Bob Larson's lies is the claim that HE wrote his best-selling novel, Dead Air. On his Jan. 29, 1993 broadcast -- which he called "the most candid, direct program I've ever done"F -- he said that:
"Lori did help me some with the writing of this book, primarily in just adding a little color ... and contrary to what the article states, the book was nearly completed -- Oshe had nothing to do with the plot, the characters O... anything in the book whatsoever."FIf Bob was telling the truth, then Lori Boespflug's role in the writing of Dead Air was minuscule at best. Thus, it seems strange that Bob's attorney, William T. Abbott, would offer him this advice:
"With the passing of each day, I become more and more concerned about your potential liability to Lori in connection with Dead Air and its sequels. The time table is immediate. You will soon know if Dead Air is to be a publishing success and, quite possibly, if theatrical rights are to be optioned. Assuming success, Oand knowing the role Lori has played, it would amaze me if she is not sufficiently astute to use the opportunity to both secure her financial future and to launch her own literary career."FThe logic here is inescapable: If as Bob insists, he wrote Dead Air, then there wasn't any need for advice. As such, that letter never should have been written in the first place -- and it couldn't possibly be stolen, as he has asserted. On the other hand, if he did not write the best-selling novel that bears his name, then he has knowingly and deliberately deceived his nationwide audience. Either way, I submit to you that Bob's credibility is absolutely shot.
For even when Bob `bares his soul', he lies through his teeth.
1 "Bob Larson `Talks Back' About World Magazine Investigation," Twin Cities Christian [Mpls/St. Paul, MN], 18 Mar. 1993, p. 5A, col. 5.
2 Bob Larson, Hell on Earth (Carol Stream, IL: Creation House, 1974), author biography on dual jacket.
3 Jon Trott, "Bob Larson's Ministry Comes Under Scrutiny," Cornerstone, Vol. 21, Issue 100, Feb., 1993, p. 18, advance copy, courtesy Jon Trott (hereinafter, "Cornerstone").
4 Jay Grelen and Doug LeBlanc, "This is Me, This is Real," World, Vol. 7, No. 32, 23 Jan. 1993, p. 11 (hereinafter, "World").
5 Cornerstone, p. 18.
6 Bob Larson, "Talk-Back With Bob Larson," Radio broadcast, Jan. 5, 1993.
7 World, p. 11.
8 Michael Roberts, "The Evil That Men Do," Westword, May 27-Jun 2, 1992, p. 12.
9 Bob Larson, "Prepare For War," Radio broadcast, Jan. 29, 1993.
10 Larson v. Larson, No. 91 DR 226 (Jefferson County (Colo.) Dist. Ct., Filed Jan. 28, 1991), Record, p. 111-112 [emphasis mine].
11 Ibid., p. 146 [emphasis mine].
12 Based upon discussions with BLM insiders, I consider his publishing efforts to be an integral part of his ministry work. BLM staffers do the lion's share of the underlying research, editing, and possibly writing for many of "Bob's" best-selling books.
13 "Bob Larson `Talks Back'," p. 5A, col. 4.
14 Bob Larson, Letter, Jan. 27, 1992 (ghost-written by Lori Boespflug; the stations were owned by Salem Communications, Camarillo, CA) [emphasis mine]. Copy on file.
15 Arthur Matthews (Senior Editor, World magazine), Telephone interview, March, 1993; my call to KSLR has not been returned.
16 Ibid., ibid.
17 Bob Larson, "Talk-Back with Bob Larson," Radio broadcast, Mar. 17, 1993.
18 Name withheld by request, Telephone interview, Mar. 18, 1993. Copy of letter on file.
19 Bob Larson Ministries, 1991 Consolidated Balance Sheet, p. 2 (Obtained from Bob Larson Ministries, Aug. 12, 1992, copy on file).
20 Ibid., p. 3.
21 Bob Larson Ministries, 1990 federal Form 990, p. 1 (copy on file).
22 Alan Dumas, "Air Raid!", Rocky Mountain News Sunday Magazine, 22 Sept. 1991, p. 14-M; see also Bob Larson, "Prepare For War," Radio broadcast, Jan. 29, 1993.
23 "Affidavit with Respect to Financial Affairs of Bobby E. Larson," Larson v. Larson, ibid., signed July 12, 1993.
24 Bob Larson, "Talk-Back With Bob Larson," Radio broadcast, Jan. 29, 1993.
25 Ibid., ibid.
26 William T. Abbott, Letter, July 8, 1991 [emphasis mine]. Copy on file; see Corner stone, supra note 3, p. 41, for a complete text of the letter.
NOTES TO THE ESTIMATE OF LARSON'S 1990 MINISTRY INCOME:
B) Documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service show Larson's total compensation from Bob Larson Ministries to be $222,237 -- almost $5,000 HIGHER than the figure reported in the affidavit. Note also that a $175,000 bonus, ostensibly paid as compensation for the forbearance of salary by Larson in previous years, has not been included in this calcu lation; according to courtroom testimony, it was paid in 1989.
C) According to sources within BLM -- corroborated in part by courtroom testimony -- IBN's primary function is to distribute Larson's "Talk-Back" radio broadcasts; any business it conducts with other ministries is, for the most part, purely incidental.
D) According to BLM sources, Larson does not reimburse BLM or IBN for air time spent promoting his books. The "retail" value of this `incidental' benefit is staggering ($10 per 1/2-minute spot x 2 spots/day on each station x 170 stations = $3,400/day -- or over $800,000/year! Still, there IS something to be said for volume discounts. The figure used is a quick approximation, based on a rough estimate that 1/60th of the "Talk-Back" air time is dedicated to "book promotion," and his program is substantially subsidized (55-60% of the total cost of air time, based on estimates from radio station managers) by locally-based commercial advertising.
E) This figure was based primarily upon the testimony of Lori Boespflug, who claimed to have spent over 1,000 hours during 1990 on the writing of Dead Air, and has time sheets to prove it. Larson has since publicly admitted that his research staffers produce so- called "briefing books," which he uses as the research for his many books. He has not, however, confirmed staffers' allegations that they do most of the writing and editing. The $20,000 figure is therefore conservative, but not unreasonably so. Incidentally, Boespflug told me that she was "about 90% finished" with Abaddon when she was fired by Bob Larson; it will be interesting to compare her draft copy with the final published product.
F) This figure was based upon testimony from several sources -- including an agreement between Larson and Dead Air publisher Thomas Nelson. Evidently, at the close of 1990, Larson and his lawyers drew up an agreement which enabled the Ministry to benefit from the sale of books as "premiums," but prior to that, it is believed that Larson garnered most of the benefit from book sales.
G) According to courtroom testimony, the total income reported on the Larson's 1990 fed eral income tax return was $403,310, of which $39,300 was directly attributable to tax able dividends and interest. If Larson's pre-tax income from Ministry activity in this estimate was reported as expected, he should have received roughly $70,000 in bona fide royalties, after expenses -- which is in line with reasonable expectations.
Ken Smith, a CPA, is a second-year law student at the University of Denver. He also has a Masters Degree in Taxation at the University of Denver.
May 20, 1993
The wicked man flees though no one pursues,
but the righteous are as bold as a lion.
-- Prov. 28:1
Mr. David Neff, Managing Editor
465 Gunderson Dr.
Carol Stream, IL 60188
Re: "Bob on the Block"
Dear Mr. Neff:
I respectfully submit the following statement for publication in your magazine -- with the proviso that it be printed in its entirety, and afforded exposure similar to that of the aforementioned article. Moreover, it is not to be edited without my express written approval. Considering that CT "quoted" me without ever bothering to conduct an interview, I am certain that you will understand when I say that I am not overly impressed with the competence of your editorial staff.
As you have indicated that Mr. Morgan left you "with the impression that he had interviewed [me]," I will, for the moment, assume that he was acting on his own, and that you are indeed committed to reporting the facts (and saving CT's reputation). Hence, you should be willing to do whatever it takes to redeem yourselves, and I fully expect that you will afford me total and complete cooperation. But you ought not forget that I will be making this information widely available within the evangelical community; the eyes of Christendom are upon you.
Please be apprised that I will also send copies of this letter and the supporting documentation to the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Dallas Morning News, and 60 Minutes ... not to mention Cornerstone and World magazines.
CT on the Block?
CHRISTIANITY TODAY. Founded by Billy Graham. Nurtured by the likes of Harold Lindsell and Carl Henry. For decades, the name was synonymous with journalistic integrity.
My, but how the mighty have fallen!
When I brought the Bob Larson story to _CT_ in July of 1992, the evidence indicated three points of serious concern: Larson did not write "his" best-selling novel, _Dead Air_; he was getting an exorbitant compensation package from the Ministry, and he was grossly misrepresenting the Ministry's financial needs. Still, despite the fact that two Christian journalists checked my findings independently, Tim Morgan's article, "Bob on the Block," scarcely even alluded to them. Further more, Morgan steadfastly refused to interview anyone with information which would be construed as harmful to Larson. To say that Morgan performed a `whitewash job' on Larson would be a colossal understatement. But did he do so of his own volition ... Oor was he _specifically_ ordered to write a pro-Larson Opiece? That is the question which _CT_ must now answer.
Without question, the most glaring miscue in the CT article was its blithe dismissal of Lori Boespflug's claim to the authorship of "Larson's" best-selling novel, _Dead Air_. As _World_ and _Cornerstone_F magazines both duly noted, it was buttressed by a wealth of documentary evidence, including a letter from Larson's own attorney. What's more, Larson authenticated that letter himself ... by claiming it was "stolen."F After all, if he HAD written _Dead Air_, that letter never should have been written in the first place, and thus, could not possibly have been stolen. Hence, by definition, Larson has to be lying about something, and any cub reporter with the intelligence of a common garden implement should have been able to recognize it. As such, it seems utterly inconceivable that a respected senior reporter like Morgan could have overlooked it. And even if, perchance, Morgan was unable to recognize that fact on his own, it was spelled out for him in graphic detail in my pamphlet, _The Two Faces of Bob_.F
Although I would have preferred not to mention it, there is a salacious aspect to this story which, in light of Larson's allegations of sexual improprieties on Boespflug's part, must come to light. While it is true that she was fired for living with a man, as the following excerpts from an "employment contract" signed by both her and Larson suggests, there was more to her dismissal than met the eye:
MEMO TO: BOB LARSON FROM: LORI BOESPFLUG RE: EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT 5/29/91 --------------------------------------------------------------- It is my understanding at this date, that to remain employed with Bob Larson Ministries that the following conditions be in effect:That document, in confluence with others which _CT_ has had in its' possession for roughly nine months, exposes a multitude of Larson's sins. First, it is clear from Boespflug's stellar personnel reviewsF and prodigious salary increases that Larson was ecstatic with her job performance. Second, the `business reason' given in the contract for the need for her to break off the relationship is facially ludicrous. There is thus only one plausible explanation for those peculiar provisions: Larson was hopelessly infatuated with her ... and insanely jealous, to boot.
1. My cellular car phone be returned to the organization, and I no longer retain sole usage. I also understand that any phonecalls made to 469-**** are to be reimbursed by me as personal calls, misusing organizational property.
5. All gifts and items of any merit or value [including, among other things, a diamond frog broach valued at $2,800 F that you have extended to me for any reason have been returned to you as of this date.
6. I will cease any outside friendship and/or contact with the man that installed my carpeting C[whose number, incidentally, is Clisted in Paragraph 1 of said Agreement], due to the confidentiality and secure nature of my job should my position be re-instated [sic]."F
According to Boespflug, Larson continued to insinuate himself into her life ... writing passionate love sonnets, and calling her at all hours to make certain that she wasn't seeing anyone else. He tailed her to various and sundry locations, and even tracked her down at her daughter's dance recital. There, he fired her -- in full public view -- on a Saturday night. He called her a slut, a whore, and otherwise totally humiliated her.F
Even though I originally brought the story to _CT_, I was not treated with any more courtesy. In fact, when I heard that CT was to interview Larson, I called managing editor David Neff, asking to be inter viewed.F Shortly thereafter, I sent a letter to Neff, insisting to have such an opportunity.F Still, my polite requests and veiled threats fell on deaf ears -- as did those of Christian talk-show host John Stewart,F who is known for, among other accomplishments, his role in the expose of Jim Bakker. It is difficult to imagine how any objective reporter could even begin to be so obtuse.
The defamatory assault that Morgan perpetrated on my character was more subtle than that on Ms. Boespflug, but it was effective. You will note that unlike other individuals mentioned in the article, CT neglected to list my credentials: I am a certified public accountant, with some eight years' experience and a master's degree in taxation, and thus am well qualified to render an opinion as to Larson's finan cial situation. But by calling me a "Denver-area resident [who has] made it his avocation to distribute material critical of Larson,"F Morgan makes it appear as though I am an ignorant stevedore with some kind of mindless vendetta against him.
To correct _CT_'s litany of blatant misrepresentations would require more space than their editorial staff has the courage to grant. But suffice it to say that while Larson did not receive a salary from his ministry during the early 1980's, the evidence suggests strongly that he was quite well-compensated for his time. For instance, he bought the building the Ministry currently occupies from one David Kramer on October 2, 1985 for $1,415,000,F and, on December 31, 1986, he sold it to the Ministry for $1,800,000.F OIn less than 15 months, Larson earned a tidy profit of $385,000 ... Oquite astounding, given the fact that the Denver real estate market Owas in a general downturnF during that period. This is "public information": something that any competent investigative journalist should have been able to find, had he been put on notice of its possible existence. And I put _CT_ on notice myself. By the same token, the evidence is painfully clear that Bob's "one-time, board-initiated bonus of $150,000"F was not included in his 1990 "reported income" figure of $403,310.F After all, the Ministry's 1990 federal tax return clearly listed Bob's total compensation as $131,879.F If Morgan can find Bob's $150,000 bonus anywhere on that return, he truly has missed his calling ... we need him to begin work on trimming the federal deficit.
When a man with the eloquence of a Bob Larson falls in disgrace, we _all_ lose a little something. His are the pitiable acts of a desperate man, who has long forgotten the noble cause to which he Ohad dedicated his life. And although he has inflicted great anguish upon my family, I do not think it appropriate to return insults in kind. His cure is beyond my power, but he will be in my prayers; I hope that he will also be in yours.
But the Bob Larson story is now far more than the mundane tale of a miscreant minister caught with his hand in the till. It is about the world's number one publisher of Christian literature -- Thomas Nelson Publications -- rewarding Larson's dishonesty with a contract for the sequel to _Dead Air_. It is about Christian radio station owners, like KLTT's Jack Mortenson, who censored the anti-Larson editorial written by _Denver Christian News_ editor Joann Bruso.F And now, it is about respected Christian voices like _CT_ and the _Evangelical Press_ -- which evidently have become willing complicitors in a scheme to sweep Larson's malfeasance under the proverbial rug. They have exchanged the truth for a lie ... and a couple of dollars' change.
I do expect that you will take further measures appropriate to rectify this unfortunate situation -- including, but not limited to, the immediate and unconditional dismissal of Morgan, a profuse and public apology to both Ms. Boespflug and myself, and the prompt publication of a feature article concerning the Larson affair. Please be further advised that, should this dispute fail to be resolved to my satisfaction, I fully intend to vigorously pursue any and all legal remedies at my disposal.
Kenneth L. Smith
P.O. Box 280305
Lakewood, CO 80228
Endnotes, enclosures; cc's listed in the endnote page
1 Jay Grelen and Doug LeBlanc, This is Me, This is Real," World, Vol. 7, No. 32, 23 Jan. 1993, p. 9.
2 Jon Trott, "Bob Larson's Ministry Comes Under Scrutiny," Cornerstone, Vol. 21, Issue 100, Feb. 1993, p. 41.
3 Bob Larson, Radio broadcast, 29 Jan 1993. Tape on file.
4 Copy attached. (Included with the Open Letter)
5 Lori Boespflug, Interview, 16 Jun 1992; supporting document on file; indepen dent witness available.
6 Copy attached. (Included with the Open Letter)
7 Copy attached. (Included with the Open Letter)
8 Lori Boespflug, Telephone interview, 13/14 Jun 1992.
9 Phone records on file.
10 Copy attached. (Included with the Open Letter)
11 John Stewart, Telephone conversation, 17 May 1993.
12 Tim Morgan, "Bob on the Block," CT, 17 May 1993, p. 41.
13 Copy attached. (Included with the Open Letter)
14 Copy attached. (Included with the Open Letter)
15 Basil Katsakos (certified appraiser), Telephone interview, 17 May 1993.
16 Morgan, ibid., p. 42 (allegedly quoting Ken Smith).
17 Copy attached. (Included with the Open Letter)
18 Copy attached. (Included with the Open Letter)
19 Joann Bruso, Telephone conversation, 29 Jan 1993; confirmed by KLTT station manager Brian Taylor in a later conversation, and evidenced by an out-of-place reference to 1Tim. 5:20 in the DCN's March editorial page.
Global note: Ms. Bosepflug has requested that I not use her married name, on the ground that she fears continued harassment from Mr. Larson.
cc: John Stewart, Lori Boespflug, Jim Dobson, Hank Hanegraaff, Harold Lindsell, Harold Myra, Doug Trauten, others as listed.
As is mentioned elsewhere in the Christian Press Report, we hope that the items we publish will, first and foremost, inspire our readers to pray. Second, we hope that our news stories will lead you to praise, protest, or take other appropriate actions.
Ken Smith's expose on Bob Larson is no exception.
However, as the editor of the CPR, I must say that I have been very relunctant to print Ken Smith's article. I believe that matters of church discipline should be handled by the church, rather than by outsiders. Ken Smith, by his own admission, is not a Christian (or, in his words, "no longer a professing Christian").
Over the past few years the immoral, sinful practices of many prominent Christian leaders have been exposed. Unfortunately, more often than not, it wasn't the Church that called the charlatans, adulterers and thieves to task, but rather the world.
Shouldn't that be one of the jobs of the Church? Paul, in writing to the Corinthians about the sin they tolerated in their church, said,
...what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges... (1 Corinthians 5:12-13).Jesus himself established clear rules for dealing with believers who sin:
And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have on your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a gentile and a tax-gatherer (Matthew 18:15-17).Yet, many Christians are very reluctant to apply those rules. Instead, they often point to Matthew 7:1-5...
Do not judge lest you be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?In hiding behind these verses, while ignoring the balance of the Scriptures dealing with the issues of judging and church discipline, many Christians miss wonderful opportunities for ministry and reconciliation. Look again at what Jesus said: "If he listens to you, you have won your brother."
Here's what Paul told the Galatians:
Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted (Galatians 6:1).James, too, encouraged the church to be discerning when it comes to the issue of discipline, and penned this wonderful motivation:
My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins (James 5:19-20).Jesus' warning recorded in Matthew 7:1-5 addresses not so much the act of judging, but the attitude and motivation behind the judgment. The other verses quoted here clearly show how the church's approach should be different: firm but loving.
What can we do, though, when the Church (including Christian journalists, writers and publishers) refuses to confront sinful behavior by one of its own?
Like I said, I was reluctant to print Ken Smith's article, mainly because Ken is not a part of the Church.
Nevertheless, Otruth is truth. Truth is not ambiguous. That's why I hope that Ken's articles will indeed inspire our readers to pray - pray for Bob Larson, pray for the Christian press, and also pray for Ken Smith (please also pray for Ken's father who, at "press" time, was hospitalized with a ruptured aorta).
For the record, I have been able to verify some of the information Ken has presented, have talked with one of his main sources (who himself is known by others in the Christian community as a respectable Christian), and have sought the counsel of several Christian leaders - all of whom encouraged me to go ahead and publish this information.
I do not necessarily agree with all of Ken's views. For one thing, I happen to like _Christianity Today_ (a magazine known for trying to present a well-balanced point of view on even the most controversial issues), am a great fan of _World_ (which I consider to be one of the finest Christian News Magazines available), and appreciate the ministry of the _Evangelical Press Association_ (without whom Christian journalists and publications would miss lots of information and support).
I am confident, however, that in publishing this information, the Christian Press Report is doing the right thing. As always, we welcome letters and E-mail responses from our readers.