The other day I started a short series dealing with how Pastors can guard their hearts against unconfessed sin. Here are parts 2 and 3 of this series.
2. Deal with sin the moment it is discovered
Pastor, let me stop right here and beg you to deal with sin the moment that it is recognized in your heart. Don’t delay. Don’t put it off. Don’t think that you can wait and deal with it some other time. Sin is like a cancer that will eat away at your life, it will steal you joy, rob you of your ministry, and take everything that you love away from you. Pastors know better than anyone in the church the dangers and the consequences of sin. We see the sad results of sin-filled lifestyles on a daily basis and yet sometimes we are the worst people in the church for delaying repentance and thinking that we can deal with the problem later.
The moment that God reveals the sin of pride, or lust, or materialism, or whatever your favorite sin is, deal with it. Drop to your knees in prayer and confess it before God, seeking His forgiveness and cleansing. Delay will only make matters worse and usually ensure that your sin will touch a wider circle of people. Putting repentance off until another day will lay down an additional layer of callousness and apathy over your heart and if you are not careful one day your affection and love for Jesus will grow cold. Pastor do not delay when sin is discovered in your heart! Run to Jesus, confess your sin and receive His forgiveness.
3. Establish and Maintain Accountability
One of the common links that I have observed among Pastors who have fallen into deep sin is that there has been a lack of accountability in their lives. In fact, I would argue that a lack of accountability is one of the primary occupational hazards of going into the ministry. A large number of you reading this book will work within small, single staff churches, where there is no one looking over your shoulder or maintaining accountability. Others of you serve in multi-staff churches but still have very little in the way of supervision or accountability. If you are like other Pastors, you will have to set up a structure for accountability in your life. This means having someone with whom you will open your life and maintain a level of transparency. Someone whom you give the right to ask you some of the hard questions about your spiritual life and conduct.
Earlier in the chapter I shared the story of Steve with you and how his addiction to pornography has grown over the years to the point where now he is actively engaged in an online affair with another woman. Steve is still functioning in the role of a Pastor even though his sin is growing worse every day. If he does not stop soon, his sin will eventually be discovered and it will ruin his marriage and his ministry. But all of this could have been avoided if he would simply have established and maintained a level accountability with another brother in Christ. If he had someone who had been asking him the hard questions or who had permission to take a look on his computer to see where he had been spending his time, Steve could have avoided the heartbreak that is almost certain to destroy his family and church.
Pastors need to establish and maintain accountability not only in the area of sexual purity but also in how they handle church finances, their families, their time, and their spiritual lives. Perhaps there is one person in your life, another man in the church or ministry who can hold you accountable in all of these areas. If you are like me, however, you may have several friends who each hold you accountable in different areas. For instance, my friend Larry is basically my accountability partner in the areas of my marriage and spiritual life. My associate Pastor Cliff holds me accountable with areas related to the use of my time and I have other friends who each have their niche when it comes to holding me accountable. Each of these friends is a vital part of my spiritual life and helping to make sure that I don’t wreck my life and ministry on some unforeseen, uncharted island of sin.
Unconfessed sin is the single biggest threat to your ministry. It is the number one killer of Pastors. Sin is like a cancer that silently and subtly eats away at your life and ministry. There is no more important issue that we deal with in this book than the problem of unconfessed sin. Sin is rebellion against God and will separate us from His presence. Sin will tear you away from the people you love the most and keep you from accomplishing your greatest purpose in life. Sin in the life of the Pastor is particularly dangerous because it always hurts other people. Sadly when sin is discovered in the life of the minister, church members will end up questions not only the integrity of their next Pastor but also the gospel itself. Therefore, we need to take special care to maintain our time alone with God and to deal with sin as soon as it is recognized in our lives. One of the best tools for doing this is to open our lives up to a trusted friend who will hold us accountable.
- Pastor! Guard Your Heart From Unconfessed Sin: Part 1 (joebuchanan.wordpress.com)
- Unconfessed Sin Distracts from the Mission (joebuchanan.wordpress.com)
- When Pastors Fall People Lose Confidence in the Gospel (joebuchanan.wordpress.com)
- The Consequences of Pastoral Sin: Part 1 (joebuchanan.wordpress.com)