It happened again, another high profile pastor of a large church was removed from ministry because of unwise decisions. When a high profile pastor falls it has affects that we may never realize. People who do not follow God use this as fodder for why the church is corrupt, hypocritical, why they do not believe, and why it is false. So often people “in the church” will discard them instead of praying for them because they do not understand the struggle many pastors and church leaders have as they work to spread the Kingdom of God and disciple others. James writes that,
Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment (James 3:1 HCSB)
As a former children’s pastor and an active children’s ministry leader, I take that verse very seriously. I maintain more strict interpretations of some things than someone who is not a leader might. I know that my personal life and the things that I teach will have a ripple affect into future generations and how they view God and living a life for Christ. You may think that sounds egotistical, but it is not, it is humbling. The children I teach today will grow, remember my leadership/teaching, and pass it on to the next generation which will influence the next. The leaders/parents will be influenced as well. If I fall, it would have a major impact and so I need to be careful, knowing that the enemy tries to stop people from sharing Christ crucified and living for Him.
Am I perfect? No. I have sin in my life and I have experienced consequences as a result of my sin, but I strive to live for Jesus. I know how easy it can be to make unwise decisions and those being used by God will face greater temptations (though sometimes Satan gets credit when it is simply human failure) as they embark on doing the work of God. The difference between a leader that continues and one that falls is their acknowledgement of their sin and desire to repent and “sin no more”.
Sometimes pastors and leaders are lifted up on pedestals as if they are perfect and do not sin. This is dangerous, especially if the individual begins to enjoy being on that pedestal, and dangerous for the people placing them there as they begin to put their hope in the leader and not Jesus.
I encourage you to pray for all leadership. So often they do not feel the support of membership, of parents, etc. They may feel alone, and when you feel alone, temptations are easier to fall in to as you seek comfort from anywhere you can find it. Don’t lift them up on a pedestal, but respect them and their authority.
As a pastor or leader:
- know that you have a greater responsibility and do not take it lightly
- know that God (the Bible) places a higher standard on you
- have people to keep you accountable – people that can ask you the hard questions, especially in areas where you struggle
- know your weak areas and find ways to strengthen them, and avoid them if needed
- stay in the Word and in prayer. Keep the armor of God on, Satan will attack on days when you are weakest
- get plenty of rest, times to relax away from ministry – even Jesus had times when He just needed to get away
- avoid the appearance of evil, the potential for false accusations
It is sad when any pastor or church leader falls. It is especially heartbreaking for those of us in ministry when we read comments from people demeaning the church and church leaders when so many of us are seeking to do God’s will, doing good, and leading others to Jesus.
So pray continually for your pastor and leadership – when pastors and leaders fall, it impacts all of us. And when a pastor or leader falls, do not discard them, pray for them for restoration.