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Slavic Pastor Vitaly Korchevsky Arrested for Stealing 17.5$ Million

Pictures of Pastor Vitaly Korchevsky in handcuffs being escorted by a FBI agent as he was arrested this week shocked much in the Christian Slavic world. He is alleged of taking part in an elaborate scheme which involved Ukrainian and Russian hackers and resulted in around 100 million in stolen profits from large companies.

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Pastor Vitaly Korchevsky being led away in handcuffs after he was arrested this week.

Vitaly a pastor of a Slavic Baptist Church in Brookhaven, PA and had once served as the chairman of the US Association of Slavic Baptist Churches is a man respected by thousands and is often invited to speak at conferences on, ironically, the topic of finances.

In fact in a recent financial seminar he said, “The question of finances is really a questions of honesty in two areas before God and others.”

What happened to this man? Who is he really? Was he ever really a good pastor or was he only hiding behind the facade of a minister so that no one would know what a thief he truly was?

I can’t answer these questions for Vitaly Korchevsky, only God knows exactly what’s going on in his heart and only the FBI knows exactly whether he stole millions of dollars.

There are, however, some bigger questions that these unfortunate events raise. The bigger question we must ask ourselves and do our best to answer is this:

Why do ministry leaders fall into sin?

This is not the first time and I think it’s safe to say, it’s not the last time that a high-profile ministry leader will fall to the dismay and shock of the church.

Of course it is always more shocking when a well-known and respected leader falls, but the truth is that all ministry leaders despite the scope of their ministry are prone to fall.  The same temptations, lack of safeguards, and spiritual laziness that may have led to Korchevsky’s alleged crime are all the same problems that can appear in your heart or mine.

I’d like to share with you a few observations that may help us understand why men and women in ministry sometimes fall.

Position can give a false sense of immunity from sin.

Positions of authority can be dangerous things in the church. We attach so much expectation, to those who hold important positions in the Christian world, we make them celebrities we invite them to speak at our prestigious events, we ask to have our photo taken with them after conferences, we watch them on YouTube and compare our unknown and untrained preachers to their amazing skills of elocution and theological acumen.

We expect our celebrity preachers to give us all the answers, to make our lives better, we want to be like them!

But we often fail to realize that they struggle with the same every day sins that we struggle with. We think that someone in their position must not have temptations of lust, anger, or greed. We think that they have arrived, that they are as close as you can get to a modern day Messiah.

Yes, we all know that kind of thinking is wrong, yet somewhere down in our heart we tend to feel that way, even if we don’t say it! The problem here is that when enough people tell you how amazing you are, how much you’ve blessed their life, how they want to be like you, etc…

  • You begin to believe it!
  • You begin to think that you have that position of authority because you really are so great.
  • You begin to look down on the petty struggles of everyone else.
  • You begin to feel safe and let down your guard.
  • You begin to sin.

Man is good at hiding his own heart.

Another important fact to remember is how good we all are at hiding what is in our heart. We can go for months, years, decades without anyone knowing the true condition of our heart.

Leaders who are in high positions are often insulated from the fellowship and accountability of your regular church member. Whenever they are enter a room everyone looks for them to speak a word of wisdom, to give some kind of edification. No dares pry into the leader’s life, and ask him how he’s doing, what he struggles with, where is temptations are.

The leader knows this and often in response he just pushes his own problems further into the depths of his heart where they can not be seen or heard by those around them.

It’s easy to make it a regular habit of hiding and the more you do it the more you’ll have to hide!

All sins start out small

The most common response when a leader falls into sin is “How could he of all people do that?!”

What we fail to understand is that almost all sins start how small, it’s a stray thought here a moment when we let our guard down while browsing online. These little sins have a sinister way of growing in our hearts.

They are like weeds in the garden, if you see them every day you hardly notice how fast they are growing, but when a friend visits after a month he can tell that you have been lazy in pulling those weeks!

So when we say, “How could he of all people do that?” we fail to see the process that led up to that sin, all the little steps, all the small compromises, all the insignificant half-truths.

The best example of this is King David, his sin of laziness resulted in adultery and murder.

Knowing theology is not the same as knowing God.

I’m convinced this is one of the biggest dangerous especially in the world of Christian colleges and seminaries. When we equate Bible knowledge with spiritual maturity we are in a dangerous place and place where we may likely fall into sin.

They claim to know God, but they deny him by their actions. They are detestable, disobedient, and disqualified to do anything good. (Tit 1:16)

John Piper gives us a good warning here.

“Why is it that people with PhDs in theology commit adultery? They don’t know God.

You can read theology ten hours a day for forty years and not know God as beautiful and all-satisfying — as the highest treasure of your life. Who cares about knowing God the way the devil knows God? He hates everybody. His knowledge of God helps him hate people.

We’re talking about knowing God here in 1 Thessalonians. They don’t know God. They don’t know God for who he is — infinitely valuable, infinitely beautiful, infinitely satisfying — why your soul was made. There are more pleasures at his right hand, more eternal joys in his presence, than you could have in ten thousand sexual trysts.

If you know that, sin will have lost its dominion in your life.”

Our Response

When leaders like Vitaly Korchevsky fall it’s a good reminder for us of the insidious nature of sin. It’s easy to call down judgement on the fallen leader and maybe we can rightly do that. However, more importantly it’s a time for us to take a step back and examine our own lives.

  • Are we treating our leaders like celebrities and putting them in a dangerous place?
  • Are we isolating ourselves from the fellowship of other believers by placing ourselves on a high pedestal?
  • Are we allowing those small sins to turn into big sins?
  • Are we pretending that our theological knowledge equals spiritual maturity?

These are the questions we should be asking ourselves.

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I am a pastor, missionary, and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Ukraine since 2007. God blessed me with a wonderful wife and 5 amazing children! My greatest passion is to teach, encourage, and exhort others to turn to Jesus, who is Savior, Lord, and God!

  • One of the downfall of athletes I remember from when I played was reading their own press. That carries over into a pastor’s life. This has got to throw people for a loop. Was this a Robin Hood thing or a “line-my-own-pocket” thing?

    • Oh, I really don’t know if it was Robin Hood or “line-my-own-pocket” however, some of the press releases did mention that he personally owned a number of houses.

  • Paul Darmantchev

    I find it ironic that you use the quote of John Piper as a point to your arguments for why a leader could fall in to sin when the quote itself doesn’t hold up to the very scrutiny your are writing about. That’s not to say that I disagree with you. Just found the quote to come off extremely arrogant.

    • I don’t see why you disagree with the Piper quote. The idea is simple, just because someone has knowledge of theology, doesn’t mean that he knows God personally and is walking with Him daily. If we fail to see that, we put ourselves at great risk.

  • Ellis

    Don’t want to sound disrespectful – but “arrest” is not same as “convicted” – you must have spent too much time in Soviet Union, since there arrest is almost same as convicted or guilty.
    I’m not here to defend or accuse – but as you did say in your remarks _ ‘you don’t know what is on his heart’ – then you switch into blaming and accusing him and how he fell into this trap. You should remember simple fact from US – ” innocent – until proven guilty ” or simply recall how many times Paul or many other believers were in front of the courts for some “trumped up” charges.
    You really need to be careful with your statement and act “neutral” not just say that you are.

    • Thanks for the comment Ellis, I think you misread my post concerning Vitaly’s guilt or innocence.

      I wrote the following, “I can’t answer these questions for Vitaly Korchevsky, only God knows exactly what’s going on in his heart and only the FBI knows exactly whether he stole millions of dollars.”

      I did not accuse him of anything, rather I simply stated the fact that he was 1. arrested, and 2. alleged in taking part in an illegal scheme. Both those points are true. I hope and pray that he is innocent and cleared of all wrong doing for God’s glory!

      • Ellis

        Hi Caleb, I’m not trying to get into some polemic discussion but I want to be clear – when someone says:
        “… Thesame temptations, lack of safeguards, and spiritual laziness that led to
        Korchevsky’s thievery are all the same problems that can appear in your heart
        or mine.”

        It implies that a person saying “that led …” is not simply neutral and hypothetical but
        rather very accusatory, fact based and judgmental with a very clear bias
        towards the “easy blame” – not something what even US law practice allows…. and
        especially not anything that out Lord permits to do.

        • You’re right Ellis, thanks for pointing that out, I’ll see if I can edit that text a bit.