Healthy Versus UnHealthy Vessels

The next couple of paragraphs may be hard to read and I promise you that they are equally hard for me to write but we have to admit that a major reason the church is so unhealthy is because its Pastors are sick.  Even as I write those words my heart is broken because I love Pastors and I am one myself and I know how hard of a task we have in this day and age.  But I also know my own heart and I have talked with enough Pastors to know that we have a serious crisis occurring across the church.  As Pastors and church leaders we need to take a careful look at our own lives and make sure that we are fit to lead.

Not long ago I was having coffee with a Pastor friend of mine who showed me a picture of himself and three of his friends from seminary.  He then went on to tell me that out all three of those friends ended up having to leave the ministry as the result of moral failures.  We both sat there for the next hour sharing with each other the stories of men that we knew who had one time had heard the call of God on their lives to preach the gospel but at some point had ended up falling into sin.   It would be easy to try to say that these men had never been converted or that they were simply wolves in sheep’s clothing, but the truth is much harder to deal with. In each case, we agreed that these were genuine believers, who loved God and wanted to serve the church but ended up falling into sin and lost their ministries.  What happened to them is actually much simple and much scarier— they simply didn’t take care of their own spiritual heath and they slowly drifted into a heinous sin that ruined their family, cost them their ministry and destroyed the church they Pastored.   But what is even scarier is that this is not the worst thing that can happen.

Over the years,  I’ve seen Pastors who neglect their spiritual lives but instead of falling into some heinous sin they simply grow cold, uncaring, and cynical.  They don’t wash out of the ministry, but instead keep on showing up week after week, with no life, no vitality, and no passion.   Rather than being ministers of life, they’v become carriers of the deadly spiritual pathogen known as lethargy.  These are Pastors who have not been caught up in such blatant and gross sins as sexual immorality or greed, but instead are plagued by a host of seemingly smaller, easier to disguise sins, that are equally as appalling to God as their more grandiose cousins, but far easier to justify and rationalize in the mind of the Pastor.  Rather than ruining their life and ministry in one quick moment, this situation leads to a slow wasting away or rotting of ones life and ministry.

An unhealthy vessel will either bring rot or ruin to the local church, but there is another option— we could turn around and take the necessary steps to return to Spiritual health.  Over the past couple of years, I have talked to many former Pastors whose lives and ministries were ruined by sin, but there have been others who upon recognizing their condition repented and came back to God.  It wasn’t an easy path, but their lives have been turned around and they are now examples of God’s grace and mercy rather than of another Pastor who washed out of the ministry because of a moral failure.  The question that I have to ask myself and you will have to ask yourself is, “Which one am I going to be?”

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The Consequences of Pastoral Sin: Part 1

Bathsheba Goes to King David
Bathsheba Goes to King David (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Over the past several days I have posted a series of articles dealing with the problem of unconfessed sin in the life of the Pastor.  Over the next couple of days I would like to share with you some of the consequences of Pastoral sin.  This is of particular importance because the Bible shows us that sin in the life of a leader can have greater consequences.

 

Sin in the Life of a Leader Can Have Greater Consequences

 

We all know the story from 2 Samuel 11-12 of how King David fell into sin with Bathsheba.  One of the haunting verses in that episode occurs when Nathan the Prophet confronts David with his sin and says, “because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.”⁠1  The phrase that I want to draw special attention to is when God says, “by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.”  I doubt that it ever crossed David’s mind that in committing his sin with Bathsheba that he might embolden God’s enemies and give them occasion to blaspheme the name of the Lord, but that is what his sin ultimately accomplished.

 

As Pastors we have to accept the fact that our lives are on constant display for others to see.  This is a natural part of being a leader and anyone who isn’t ready to accept it should get out of the ministry.  We are God’s representatives before the church and when we fall into sin it comes with enormous consequences.  I have observed at least three major consequences that occur when Pastors fall into sin:

 

1.) When a Pastor is Caught in Sin it Causes the Congregation to Question the Integrity of their Next Pastor

 

Jim and his wife Nell were so excited when Good News Baptist Church extended the call for him to come to be their new Pastor.  Jim was fresh out of seminary and anxious to get started in his first Pastorate.  For the first few months, Jim and Nell were in their proverbial honeymoon period with the church and they could not have asked for a better reception.  The people of Good News were excited by the new energy and enthusiasm that Jim and his wife brought to the church.  But as the months went by Jim started to notice that things were beginning to cool off.  He had come up with a list of several ideas that he wanted to implement to help the church grow but was meeting with some resistance.  Some of the members whom he had counted as close friends were now starting to distance themselves and he started to sense that something was wrong.

 

Jim did not know it when he was called but a Pastor a little more than ten years earlier the church had caught their Pastor in a sexual affair with one of the women in the church.  Rather than deal with it openly the church decided to cover it up and try to deal with it as quietly as possible.  Unfortunately for Jim, this meant that the church had not dealt with the matter Biblically and in the vacuum of silence the people had never come to any closure or resolution.  The church appeared on the surface to be fine but for over a decade just underneath the surface a putrefying abscess had grown and was eating away at the soul of the church. One of it’s chief effects was to create a deep-seated mistrust of Pastors among the congregation.

 

That deep mistrust came to the surface one night during a business meeting when Jim recommended to the church that they start looking into hiring a secretary to help him with some of the administrative tasks.  Good News Baptist Church has never had a paid secretary before and Jim explained how now that the church was growing it was important to try to free up some of his time from administrative duties.  As Jim explained how the time he was spending putting together and printing the weekly newsletter and bulletins could be better used in ministry activities he noticed a change come over the room.  Suddenly, Brother Richard Johnson, one of Jim’s of closest friends and a loyal deacon was on his feet.

 

“Brother Jim,” Richard almost shouted, “I am against this motion and want to urge everyone here to vote against it.”  Shocked by this statement Jim said, “But Richard if we are going to grow we need to be able to free up some of my time, so that I can be dedicated to the work of ministry rather than so many administrative tasks.”  Jim thought that this would bring some clarity to the issue, but in truth the statement only served to enrage Richard even more.  “Pastor,” shouted Richard, “this is a waste of money and you know it! I’ve been a member of this church for twenty years and every Pastor we’ve ever had printed the bulletins and newsletters and I don’t see any reason why you can’t do the same.”  Then Richard dropped the bombshell, “Just because you are too lazy to do your job doesn’t mean that we need to pay someone else to do it for you!”

 

Those words cut through Jim and Nell like a knife.  They considered Richard to be a friend and were shocked that he could make such a hurtful statement.  Jim humbly withdrew his motion and closed the business meeting in prayer.  As he and Nell laid in bed that night praying about what had just happened, Jim began to realize that something deeper was going on.  He didn’t know what it was then, but he knew that something  besides money must be driving his friend to act so rudely.

 

The next day Jim called Richard and they went to have lunch.  Jim began the conversation by saying, “Richard, I’m confused about what happened last night.  Did I do something to offend you or to hurt you?”  As the two men talked Richard eventually opened up and told Jim about the situation with their previous Pastor.  “When Pastor Daniel got caught having an affair it just tore me apart.” Said Richard, “ He and I had been good friends, he was the one who lead me to the Lord and baptized me.  To discover that he was a fraud was one of the hardest things I’ve ever dealt with.”  Richard did not realize it but along with many other members of the church, he had become mistrustful of Pastors in general because of their experience.

 

Come back tomorrow to learn about the second consequence of Pastoral sin.

 

 

 

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1 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. 1995 (2 Sa 12:14). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.