Non Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) and the Body of Christ

I have been concerned and grieved for years by the statement: “Our church required we sign an NDA. There would be no compensation if we ever spoke about what happened”. In other words humans who have been mistreated, abused or used in some fashion must keep silent or the church would, bluntly put, do harm to them and/or their reputation. It is my understanding that some churches are actually requiring signed NDAs in order to even become a member.

Non-disclosure agreement…disclose means to reveal; to allow something covered to be seen; to uncover. Non-disclosure is to cover-up, hide away. To agree with something is to consent; like-mindedness. An NDA is an agreement to hide something. In the cases I have encountered it has always been an agreement to exercise power over and hide sin. Also in my experience, such a requirement is demanded for the sake of a system – usually a ministry of some sort. So a Christian is asked to agree to cover-up wrongdoing for the sake of the system – or worse, for the sake of God’s reputation. It suggests that to speak truth is to hurt God and his name. How can this be?

How did we get here? C. S. Lewis summarized it well in a sentence (he was good at that!) from The Weight of Glory – “The root principle of all these precautions is the same: to guard the things temporal.” We are so dedicated to protecting our very temporal systems we fail to protect Truth, which is the name of our eternal God. We say: “How can you bring down such a dynamic preacher?” “You will cause our church to shrink”. “You will disrupt God’s great work here”. The system is primary.

I have been re-reading G. Campbell Morgan’s commentary on Jeremiah. It is stunningly relevant. He writes about how the temple in Jerusalem (a system), which was meant to be the Temple of Jehovah, required people not speak a word against it. It was treason to do so. But there was a split between religion and morality (sadly a familiar theme). Morgan says, “This conception that the city was the city of the King and therefore must not be spoken against was evidence of their forgetfulness of the true strength of a city” (p, 138). Isaiah reminded them. “Cry aloud …rejoice in this…that greatness in thee is Holiness (Jehovah)”. Their true strength was not silence about wrongdoing. Their true strength was holiness and holiness demands truth.

Our strength is not in the church or ministry system.  Our devotion is to be focused on hearing our God. We are easily hindered because of the buzz of temporal things. We are devoted to service, to systems, to outcomes, to fame. These externals are the Pied Piper of holiness. The externals lure us away from love and obedience to Jesus Christ. Frankly we often confuse the two.

Listen to this God we name as ours. “This is what the Lord says: Administer justice and righteousness. Rescue the victim from the hand of the oppressor” (Jeremiah 22:3). “For I the Lord love justice” (Isaiah 62:8). “I am the Truth” (John 14:6). “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (I John 1: 5, 6).

Jesus did not try to salvage the church of his day. He spoke clear and hard truth to religious leaders. His words were always an invitation into His light and likeness. NDAs cover ugly things. NDAs protect systems rather than precious humans made in the image of our God. NDAs require deception for the sake of the God of Truth. The exposure of Ravi Zacharias is an invitation to all people who name the name of Christ. There are many around the world who have been used, abused and mistreated and silenced by Christendom.  Victims have been told that the truth in their case should never be exposed. By maintaining silence the system is utterly failing to look like the God whose name they say they protect.

David French, in a recent and powerful article says: “Nondisclosure agreements—especially in Christian ministries—are poisonous and enable additional abuse. Do not trust instincts over evidence. Never say, “I know this man, and he would never do anything like this.” The goal of any organization facing claims of abuse should be discerning truth, not discrediting accusers. All accusers should be treated immediately—publicly and privately—with dignity and respect.” (David French, The Dispatch, You Are One Step Away from Complete and Total Insanity. Do keep in mind our Lord “trusted no man because he knew what was in man” (John 2:24).

Dear body of Christ, to cover up sin is to leave the sinner in his/her prison of deception. You leave him/her at the mercy of the cancer that will kill them. To cover up sin is to abandon those used and tossed out by individuals and systems. To cover up sin is to be utterly unlike our Lord. People of God, hear God’s voice in the horrific disclosure of Ravi Zacharias and the system that protected him. Tend the sheep; do not silence them. Tend to the systems of which you are a part and remember they are not your God. And may we all pray with Daniel: “For your sake, O Lord, let your face shine on your desolate sanctuary…O Lord, hear! O, Lord forgive! O Lord, listen and take action. For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by your name (Daniel 10:17-19).