Just last week, another evangelical superstar bit the dust. His demise? Cavorting with a young woman – not his spouse. His spectacular and scandalous fall from glory is a familiar scene. Pastors are prone to sin. In fact, the devil often pursues pastors harder, because he knows that their downfall makes a big mess. The wake of a fallen pastor is littered with the debris of shattered expectations, disillusioned saints, and disappointed disciples. The world notices, watches, and mocks the Christian faith. Jesus is despised because his followers sin.
It’s time for pastors to take their calling seriously. Here are eight things that a pastor should never do.
1.Act like you can’t sin.
Pastors, like every other human being on the planet, are fallible. If you think you’re above sinning, think again. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Let anyone who thinks that he stands, take heed lest he fall.” The first step toward failure is to think you can’t.
2.Counsel alone with the opposite sex.
Whether you’re a man or a woman doesn’t matter. The only person of the opposite gender you should counsel behind closed doors is your spouse. Otherwise, this practice is totally off limits for pastors. When an unmarried man and woman meet in private, regardless of what really happened, others will assume the scandalous. Your testimony and effectiveness will go up in flames.
3.Be financially motivated.
Near the top of the biblical qualifications for a pastor is this little line: “not a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:3). When you try to blend money-loving avarice with a people-serving ministry, you have a combination of oil and water. They don’t mix. “You cannot serve God and money.” You’re a pastor, not a profiteering business executive driving for a bigger bottom line.
Today’s church is characterized more by in-reach than outreach. Look at the church’s budget, the bulk of our labor, and the majority of our programs. They are not reaching a lost and dying world. Instead, they are providing more comforts, entertainment, feeding, and activity for the in crowd. Kingdom-building doesn’t mean a gym expansion. It means pursuing those who are without, and sharing the life-changing news of Jesus. You should not neglect discipleship of your people, but neither should you neglect God’s command to “make disciples.”
5.Prefer elegant speech rather than Spirit-empowerment.
Part of the job description for most pastors is speaking – a lot. Too many pastors, unfortunately, prefer cute phrases, cliché platitudes, and scripted one-liners rather than reliance upon the Spirit for power and anointing. True power comes when we admit our weakness and self-forgetfully fall into the presence of the Spirit. Your words don’t build the church, save a soul, or rescue a sinner. That takes the Spirit’s power alone.
6.Promote pet-positions over biblical truth.
Nearly every pastor has one – or two…or ten. It’s that pet position that you feel strongly, hold dearly, and talk about constantly. But is your cuddly pet position truly biblical? Is it rooted and grounded in God’s Word? Watch yourself here. As we head into election season, leave your Republican Party or Democratic Party membership at the church door. Lay aside your denominational label, doctrinal distinctive, or preferred music style. Preach Christ, not your pet fad. Preach the Bible, not your bias. Preach the whole counsel of God, not a tangential aspect of systematic theology. Get back to what really matters.
7.Travel by yourself without accountability.
When pastors fall, it is often when they escape the confines of their home turf and travel. Pastors may feel the tug of adult video-on-demand in a solitary hotel room, or the nearby red-light district of a downtown locale. When you travel, whether it’s to a conference or a speaking engagement, make sure you bring a travel companion, ideally your spouse. You’re not above sin, and you need protection.
You are mere mortal, even if some people think you’re a spiritual superman. Just because you preach doesn’t mean your struggle with sin is over. Just because you’re a pastor doesn’t mean you have it all together. You are a leader, and you must safeguard your heart, mind, and spirit. Never stop praying. Remember your calling! Your calling is a glorious one, and with this huge blessing comes huge responsibility! Stay close to God!
The world craves the example of genuine Jesus-followers. What we need is not more pretend religion. What we need is the raw, unadulterated word of God proclaimed by men and women who live it out on a daily basis. If you value your calling, love your people, and adore Jesus Christ, take heed unto yourself and your doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16).
The pastoral calling is full of pitfalls. There are dangers at every turn. There are perils to avoid. Your calling demands caution. It is no easy task.
But God delights in giving grace. He finds pleasure in showering us with mercy. He rejoices in giving us strength. He provides power and wisdom without holding back. God is your source of refuge, strength, and might. As you stand by him in faith, He will defend you with his grace. Trust in our mighty God, and you will stand fast!
March 2012 Urban CNY