One of the greatest truths and encouragements in the Bible is that God uses deeply flawed men and women to accomplish His purposes. The clear teaching of Holy Scripture is that man’s sinful nature must be battled moment-by-moment in our lives. As one example, the flawed man Moses was used by God to lead the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt. The Washington Post reported this week that Bill Gothard resigned from the ministry he founded, the Institute in Basic Life Principles, after allegations of sexually harassing women who worked at the ministry and failing to report child abuse cases. According to the website, Recovering Grace, 34 women said that they had been sexually harassed, and four women have alleged molestation. I have read many of their stories on that website, and each story is tragic.
Some of my readers might not be familiar with Bill Gothard. During the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Gothard regularly filled 20,000-seat auditoriums with Christians (mostly), but also non-Christians, who attended his weeklong seminar focused on applying Biblical principles to modern life. During those years, more than 2.5 million people attended, and his seminars were particularly popular with home-schooling families. I confess that I did attend on a number of occasions, first in college, and then several times after college. I was first invited by an Eastern Orthodox sister from my college dormitory Bible study. I found the seminar to be a transformative experience for me. After attending, I remember that I stood before a large group of several hundred college students, most of whom were Christian believers, and encouraged them to attend an upcoming seminar. To “close the deal,” I offered those who came that if they didn’t find it to be an important seminar for them, I would give them double their money back. Of those in attendance that night, about 80 came to the seminar at McCormick Place in Chicago. Fortunately for me, no one ever asked for their money back. Further, some would later return to other seminars with their friends and family. (One would pay the attendance fee the first time, and then you could attend subsequent seminars for free.) One dear brother in the Lord, a college classmate and a close friend to this day, attended and later brought his father, a devout Christian believer. His father later would bring his friends, some of whom were not Christians, but they became Christians at the seminar. (Mr. Gothard would invite people to follow Christ on Thursday evening of the seminar.)
As I look back upon my life, besides my parents and Rev. Rosheger, my beloved youth pastor, there has not been a greater and more positive influence in my life than Mr. Gothard. Of course, I never met him personally, and have no personal knowledge of the allegations against him. While I have been blessed to sit under the teaching and ministry of some exceptional, godly clergy throughout my life, Mr. Gothard furrowed deep a path for me as a Christ-follower. During times of youthful sturm und drang with my parents, I would remember his teachings on what it meant to obey practically one’s parents, and his teachings brought me very close to my parents until the day they died. At a time when many churches were silent and confused about the so-called sexual revolution, he stood for sexual purity, and clearly articulated why God established His standard against promiscuity. He taught me how to be a good employee, serving my employer with a Christian attitude, as Joseph served his pharaoh. Mr. Gothard encouraged his attendees to study and meditate upon the teachings of the Book of Proverbs, and I believe that inculcation of those principles contributed to some modicum of success in my professional and business life. His teachings on tithing and gifts, as well as avoidance of debt, influence me to this day. On the bookcase in my home office still sit the seminar’s manual, and a number of his books.
Moses, the Bible teaches us, was someone who became nobody. God took that nobody, and then made him someone for God’s glory and for His purpose. Mr. Gothard, at 79, is almost the same age as when God called Moses at the burning bush. We don’t know what the future holds for Mr. Gothard. But we do know that our God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is One of second chances. Such has happened before. God took a murderer, Moses, and made him the much-loved leader of the Israelites. Ironically, it was Bill Gothard who taught me that about Moses.