In recent months, there have been several reports of pastors of large organisations, who having succumbed to the temptations of fame and celebrity, have now journeyed upon the slippery slope on which God puts a man when he exalts himself or is exalted by others.
The degree to which men fall of course depends on the height to which they have risen. Indeed, the rise of the popular preacher is at odds with the Christian Church.
The word of God must bring change because it is alarming, and life saving. The word preached from the pulpit must drive the truth into our flesh just as the nail drove pain into the body of our Messiah. You see, the word is a salve for a painful situation, not a sweet or a reward for an unruly child.
Anyone in leadership should be aware of their popularity and the degree to which others depend on them or have come to depend on them. I wrote in my recent article ‘ The lame are healed,' that the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘My people are not living the lives they should’.
The article goes on to speak about how, to a greater degree, believers are being spoon-fed the gospel and forgetting the highway we are all called to walk.
The problem, when a high profile leader falls, is that his misdemeanour is broadcast from beyond the walls of the church. Good leaders are the watchdogs in such places, but when they want to emulate the ways of others, they too will fall with them.
The one called to lead the brethren, is called to the front. He must distance himself from others. His role is to lead and not make friends. He can make a brother or a sister but friendships are whimsical.
We are called to help each other through difficult times — warn, rebuke, encourage and discipline one another through the directions scripture offers us.
2 Timothy 3:16-17. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
There are safety protocols for ministers because the road out there is a place of shadows.
If love and forgiveness abound, then there is no course for issues to be paraded in public. God has given us the means to deal with misdemeanours in the community of faith.
A passage we know so well — one which is often said during a wedding ceremony truly embeds the course of true love for one another.
1 Corinthians 13: 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Love covers a multitude of sins but that does not mean we can continue to sin!
What has come to light in all of these reports is the level of sexual sin among the brethren.
If you are in a prominent role and in the public eye, the potential to sexually sin or commit infidelity will be very close by. Why? Because it began in the garden and set a precedent as the root of all temptation. Sexual sin, is synonymous with idolatry and adultery. The propensity for man to commit these sins is so great; that is why the scriptures speak of it and warn against it so emphatically.
The body of Messiah, has been given the authority to sort sin out and forgive it from amongst itself. If you forgive a man his sin then the Father will forgive us of our sin.
Matthew 6: 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
Sexual sin is transferrable. It works down the chain. Everyone is affected by it, and thus we see pastors who have aligned themselves with the organisation falling because of their own sexual misconduct. It is sad news for the people and shaming for the body.
It is as if the body is being crucified again. I am not talking about the crucification of our Christ but about what crucifixion meant. The crucified were criminals who were publicly hung along the highway for all to see. They were often naked and thus shamed. Amongst the Jews of the times, it was considered custom not to look upon such a person.
Jesus taught us how to pray, and boy do we, every one of us, need to, everyday. If a person is in leadership then he needs to pray for himself and have others pray for him. Much is required from him because much is given.
I know of ministers who openly acknowledge sexual temptation. It is a powerful spirit. We have to remember that even thinking about such a things is considered as if we have done it.
Such discipline upon the flesh must be given and every thought taken captive. The flesh must become numb to the nudges and pushes of temptation's hand. The only way it can do this is to die and for the person to consider themselves nothing and to rid themselves of any debase thought.
Having said this, I make the caveat that unless man has been eradicated of the total feeling within his body, then he will be tempted by it. It is only the Holy Spirit that can arrest such a desire from a man. A man’s love for God alone keeps his fidelity.
A leader contends with the depths of his own weaknesses daily and he also has to deal with others too. The daily battles will soil his garments. However, we know that the ones we wear before God can be changed. We must remind ourselves of this.
I would ask that you bear this in mind; a Pastor will bear the problems of others. He will fast and pray for his flock, without telling them, but who will do the same for him?
Going into the battlefield of life’s problems, contaminates the soldier. He is mudded from the stench of the trench. The pastor’s acquaintance with sin tarnishes his glossy silk suited appearance and squeaky clean eloquent exterior.
Jesus walked among the leper and the dust. He was contaminated and joined in with the unclean and outcast of society but yet He did not sin.
The way a pastor protects himself is to make sure the priestly robes are seen by all. This is how a soldier is reminded of whom he serves. All serving soldiers know they respect the office and the uniform.
In church, this is forgotten and so lines are crossed and boundaries moved. If sexual sin is tolerated, then it will be the weapon used to bring down those who tolerate it.
It does not matter what a Pastor or congregant does in their known or perceived walk in the faith. It does not matter how many times you read the Bible or go to the weekly meetings or how much you give to charity or how many causes you are involved in — what matters is how long a man spends in the presence of God, talking with Him and listening. The world knows and recognises such a man. Often it’s the worldly who see it first.
Scripture tells us that we have all sinned, and yes, a believer does sin too. So that does not make the Pastor perfect. He sins along with everyone else. When we are not saved, the sin of the world is our partner. He comes with us into everything, but he is not our friend. But thanks to God’s grace a believer has the strength to withstand sin’s advances and not succumb to its temptation. Sin stands at the other side of the road, waiting for us to fall off the kerb. When once this wretched nature dwelt within our hearts and homes, the tidal wave of repulsion allows no purchase for him.
The Pastor represents the high priest among his tribe. He functions among other priests and whilst offering the sacrifice for others he must offer one for himself too.
During the sacrificial offerings of the priests, as written in Leviticus, we see that a process of consecration must come before any sacrifice is offered before the Lord. The offering must be acceptable and done so correctly by the priest observing the protocols of his service and election.
When we come to minister to the Lord, we, as living sacrifices must be presentable to Him. If we have observed the way of the Lord and live according to His statutes, then we know that we are presentable and pleasing to Him. Unfortunately, these ways are not taught to any extent and thus we attend our meeting with Him in presumption, offering Him a tarnished offering, given with very little thought. Why? Because sin has found its way back into the house. How? Because it changed its name to ‘tolerance’. And now anything goes. The people cannot now distinguish between the profane and clean.
So, we need to set something clear; the pastor is responsible for the offering. Our duty is not to make his job difficult. If he has not set quality and compliance control in place, then believers are going got get a shock when they find all of this out.
If all of this is not enough to contend with, leaders are subject to causal effects. The weight of the needs of the people, the adulation and praise from his flock, and the ministry and status they have built together will feel the force of God’s dissatisfaction. He will remove it all and humble the proud.
The problem with the mega ministry model is that what happens within them reaches beyond the banks of their pool, into the ocean of people. What they do touches everyone who comes to the water’s edge.
Let us continue to pray without ceasing for those who are called to serve and pray for us, for they have to give an account to God.
1 Timothy 2. I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles 8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God…… 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.