Today I am saddened to hear of another pastor who has fallen morally. I did not know Gary Lamb personally but have felt connected to him because he is a church planting pastor who blogs and twitters. Because of his success he has spoken at church conferences. According to his confession letter which was posted on his blog yesterday, he has been having an affair with his personal assistant for the past 6 weeks. This pastor is married to a beautiful woman and they have young children.
In the past few years you have probably heard of pastors who fell morally. Maybe you have even had to hear your own pastor confess to this sin. I have certainly counseled more than a few people who had a Christian spouse who committed adultery. What can we learn from them? How can we ensure that the same thing does not happen to us? Here are 10 lessons for Christian Leaders but any Christain can apply…
1. Get Real. Most people don’t plan to have an affair. And most of them think it could never happen to them. Be smarter than this. I don’t care who you are or what you do, we are capable of any sin. When you think you are above adultery you are unwise and Satan is laughing all the way to the bank. You will never have the protection you need before first knowing that you need it. Before you can get real you really need to know yourself. How well do you know yourself? I suggest seeing the best counselor you can find at least once every couple of years. Although we may be shocked by the news of a person falling into sin, we can usually be assured that the problem has existed in some form for many years. Serious problems have long root systems. Problems don’t just happen; they usually start small in one’s early years, then grow and grow. The person may have struggled with a problem for decades. Be real with a professional counselor and deal with your issues on the front end of a potential moral failure.
2. Ask For Accountability. By accountability I don’t mean people who have you on a pedestal and think you are all that. Surround yourselves by godly men (or women if you are female) who are going to be in your face honest and see you for what you are, a sinner saved by grace. It would be great to have 2-3 men to hold you accountable but you have to have one. If you don’t have accountability it is because you don’t want it. Not because you can’t find it. I read that when Howard Hendricks holds a pastor accountable he will ask him 10 questions and the #10 question is “now which of these have you lied about today?” Have men on your accountability team who have the guts and courage to challenge you.
3. Guard Your Daily Quiet Time. Are you having daily devotional time? When Todd and I do church consulting we are amazed at the number of pastors who are not consistent in having a daily devotion. It’s so easy to buy into the lie that Sermon Prep, Bible study, prayer for God’s blessing or prayer for his people is a quiet time. It is not. The lack of a regular devotion is not a schedule problem it is a love problem. If you are not faithful in your devotional life your ministry will never be from an overflow of your walk with God. Without this what you are building will eventually crumble.
4. Keep Short Accounts With God And Others. If you have unconfessed sin in your life you are vunerable to bigger sin. Deal with it. Small things grow into big things.
5. Write A List Of The Consequences. I heard a Nav Staff conference speaker by the name of Skip Gray share once the consequences have already been decided, you simply make a decison regarding the cost. I challenge you to stop what you are doing right now and type out a list of the consequences that an affair would have on your life, family and ministry. Be detailed. Print the list out and keep it in your wallet. Share it with your accountaility group and read it on a regular basis.
6. Take Time Off. Maybe your church thinks you are Samson and admire you because you are such a hard worker. I’ve been a pastor and I am in full time ministry now so I’m going to be candid with you. If you don’t take time off you are so full of pride that you stink. Not to mention selfish which I will touch on in a minute. God created the heavens and earth and then on the 7th day he rested. When you don’t take time off you are living in disobedience to Scripture. God has a reason for every principle in the Bible. Trust that God is smarter than you are and take your off time each week. And take at least 2 weeks vacation each year. If you try to tell anyone you can’t afford it you are living in la la land. Show me a person who is not taking regular time off and I will show you someone who is not right with God. If you are not taking time off you communicate that you love the ministry more than you love the God whom you claim to serve.
7. Establish And Write Out Integrity Convictions. A few of mine: Never travel alone with person of opposite sex. Don’t have one on one meeting or lunch with opposite sex. Etc. Etc. These may sound rigid to the world but will help to protect you. I will meet with two or more men for a lunch or meeting but never one on one. Scripture tells us to avoid even the appearance of evil.
8. Enable Your Wife To Interview Any Potential Assistant. Years ago I heard Miles McPherson, Pastor of The Rock Church in San Deigo speak about the built in radar that women have. His presentation was funny but true. Women are naturally intuitive and can usually see things you will not. If your wife has a gut feeling listen to her. If you are smart you will.
9. Date Your Wife. Sex is great and is a wonderful gift from God for a married couple. Do you want maximum sex? Would you like your wife to initiate sex so often that you feel like you are newly married? Romance your wife. Romance does not start in the bedroom it starts days before. Date her. Minister to her. Treat her like you did before you knew you had her. Talk to her. Listen with the heart. Ask her questions. Hopefully you know what communicates love to her. Affirm her. Pray with for her and with her. Don’t allow unresolved issues between the two of you. Studies show that sex is more satisfying between two people who are committed, married and love each other. Remember that love is a choice. If you need help with how to romance your wife please invest in some books on the subject. It will be money well spent. And you will be glad you did. Promise.
10. Guard Your Eyes. Remember the childrens song with the lyrics Be careful little eyes what you see? This song communicates the biblical principle of guarding your heart. Webster defines guard as keeping safe from harm. How well do you guard your heart? Your eyes? Last January Todd and I had a pastor share with us that he and his pastoral staff view R rated movies. Their reasoning was so that they would be in touch with the culture and relevant. They also frequented bars to help them stay in touch. Same with TV shows. People (and especially men) are visual and nudity on screen or seeing sex scenes will not help you to live the holy life to which we have been called. Do you struggle with lust? Trash on the screen will only fuel an unholy life.
This is a huge issue to address on a blog. You could write a book on each lesson with plenty of Scripture to study. This post is not even the tip of the iceberg. Later in the week I will talk more about root issues, holiness and restoration. What would you add to this?
When a Christian leader falls, it should cause all of us who are born again to fall on our knees and ask the Lord to help us be loving and compassionate. God very plainly says to us in Galatians 6:1, If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day is out. stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. (Msg)