Thursday, September 28, 2006

Open letter to pastors and leaders of the cause

A friend wrote to me the other day about two youthful pastors with whom he was friends, who were on the cusp of falling into sexual sin with someone they worked with in their churches. This is such a grievous, painful and destructive scandal in ministry. Honestly, I have to confess, that I have little compassion (at least in the abstract) for pastors who are unfaithful to God, their wives, their children, their ministries in this way. Unfortunately, it is becoming all too common.

In many churches in America, the corporate culture is often that the pastor is a kind of bombastic, positive energy, big-faith, can-do, larger-than-life-figure. Keeping up the image can be intoxicating. My observation has been that this is especially true in ethnic churches, many charismatic and Pentecostal churches, and churches influenced by the “health and wealth” movement. Those aren’t the only churches and pastors that fall victim, but there seems to be glut of these stories coming out of those situations / theologies.

Keeping up the image of the positive, on-top-of-it-all super Christian sometimes leads to thinking that you are indestructible and above normal temptations. That leads to no defenses in place and all of it adds up to a disaster waiting to happen. The same process can take place in any church, white or black, rich or poor, large or small. The pastor thinks he is larger than life, above temptation; he stops making the investments he needs to make in his home life and in his walk with God. Meanwhile, he sees great “advances” for the gospel in his work at the church and subtly begins to invest more in the church and the relationships he has there than he does in his faithfulness to God and his wife and family.

What to do (black or white or anything in between)?

1. Run, baby run ! (1 Cor. 6:18; Heb. 13:4; 1 Thess. 5:22) Exhort your brother to run away from the slightest hint of immorality.

2. Pray for him and tell him you are praying for him ! (Gal. 6:1)

3. Hold him accountable to observe / obey the word. (Matthew 28:20) Don't just tell him what is right. Hold him accountable to do what is right.

a. End the relationship
b. Repent
c. Confess it to God
d. Take steps to remove himself from the temptation.
e. Renew his passion for his wife

4. Start being vulnerable publically with your church. Let them see your struggles in the journey of the Christian life.

For the love of Christ brothers, co-workers in the vineyard of the Lord, don’t bring scandal upon your Lord and the body of Christ. Don’t destroy the security of your wife and family.

4 comments:

Craver VII said...

4. Start being vulnerable publically with your church. Let them see your struggles in the journey of the Christian life.

Yes. That's how we know what to intercede for each other. If we give our best friends the impression that everything is always perfect, we won't get help from the people who love us the most.

And yet, it's just so haaaard to admit guilt. Not because we don't want help, but because we are ashamed. I don't want people remembering how bad I am each time they see or hear me.

halfmom said...

What can I say but amen!

clc said...

hello pastor marty,
i must confess, that ever since i read this entry i was a little disturbed. not because of your conviction or your counsel because i whole-heartedly agree. but in my observations and experiences, the following has not been true:

"My observation has been that this is especially true in ethnic churches, many charismatic and Pentecostal churches, and churches influenced by the “health and wealth” movement. Those aren’t the only churches and pastors that fall victim, but there seems to be glut of these stories coming out of those situations / theologies."

i can see how one would think this to be true. and perhaps according to your experience it has. but when i look around the evangelical church, adultery has mainly been evident to me in white, mainstream evangelical churches, where power structures and the cult of personality are at large.

for example:

the latest scandal involving the head of the national evangelical association: ted haggard

the evangelical lutheran bishop who was forced to step down

the issue at bethlehem baptist (granted this was about 10 years ago)

and this is not mentioning the financial debaucles of ralph reed (former head of the christian coalition), gary ezzo (of growing kids god's way) to name a few.

when it comes down to it, i think it is pride and power, not theology or ethnicity that ultimately lead to one's downfall.

ChosenRebel said...

Thanks for your post. Sorry if my case seemed over stated or unfair. It's true that "mainstream" evangelicals have fallen in this regard as well but I still stand by the observation that these theologies that over emphasis triumphalism and victory are traps for this kind of behavior. As for Ted Hagard, (I never trusted the guy) he falls into the camp that I was concerned about. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America is evangelical (with some exceptions) in name only.

I completely agree with you that "when it comes down to it, i think it is pride and power" that leads to one's downfall. But to say that theology has no part, or that the culture within certain pockets of the church, ethnically or situationally defined, has not part seems to not square with the majority of the public scandals.

Bottom line: avoid pride and the drive for power and make sure your theology is centered in both the cross AND pentecost, the pain AND the triumph of the gospel. Make sure that your heart is influenced by the Scriptures declarations rather than your culture or subculture's desire for upward mobility.

By the way, when I have shared some of these thoughts with black pastors (who I interact with on a weekly basis) they have agreeded that this is a problem.

Pray for me, that this would never be an issue in my own life.