I'm getting sick and tired of being sick and tired whenever another pastor falls...
Why do so many pastors fail?
This past year, we’ve seen a couple of ‘larger than life’ pastors fail.
The fallout is huge.
Public humiliation for the pastor and the church. The church suffers a dramatic (and sometimes catastrophic) fall in attendance and finance. And the testimony of Christ is tarnished. All because of one man’s indiscretions.
It happens in churches of all sizes, from the very small to the mega mega.
As I was reading this morning, this passage from The Message version of Romans 2 18-24 caught my eye:
“I have a special word of caution for you who are sure that you have it all together yourselves and, because you know God’s revealed Word inside and out, feel qualified to guide others through their blind alleys and dark nights and confused emotions to God. While you are guiding others, who is going to guide you? I’m quite serious. While preaching “Don’t steal!” are you going to rob people blind? Who would suspect you? The same with adultery. The same with idolatry. You can get by with almost anything if you front it with eloquent talk about God and his law. The line from Scripture, “It’s because of you Jews that the outsiders are down on God,” shows it’s an old problem that isn’t going to go away.”
In his writing, Eugene Peterson has helped me understand some key things about this passage of Scripture and why so many pastors fall:
1. Beware if you think you’ve got it figured out. Honestly, as church leaders, when things are steadily ‘up and to the right’, it’s really easy to think that as long as things stay on that trajectory, we’re doing pretty good. In fact, we’re doing better than most. Add in the fact that those around us keep telling us how great we are only compounds the problem. It’s very easy for us to start to believe what people tell us about ourselves. We really ARE pretty great. We really ARE great leaders. We really DO have this thing figured out. Caution Will Robinson. This is the pride that comes before the fall.
2. Who is guiding you, pastor? Who is holding you accountable? Who is keeping you from stealing when you’re preaching ‘don’t steal’? Or ‘keep yourselves sexually pure’ while you are defiling yourself and others sexually? Who has the right to tell you (and the freedom to tell you) that you’ve gotten a little too big for your britches? That you’re taking a little too much freedom? That you’ve become arrogant or abusive to those around you? You need that person. If you don't have that person... find him/her (and be sure it's someone other than your spouse).
3. In my experience, a lack of accountability over the long-term produces a spirit of entitlement in a leader. It’s human nature. When left unchecked, this lack of accountability produces a spirit that allows justification of increasingly abhorrent behavior. If you ever catch yourself justifying sin… even the slightest sin… with the thought that “I deserve it because of all I’m doing for the church or for God”, you’ve started down the same slippery slope that myriads of church leaders that are no longer in ministry have succumbed to.
4. This problem is not going away, but it doesn't have to be your story. This is not a 21st century problem. The problem is not the megachurch. Or American culture. Or even theology (although I do believe out theology can play a major part of our mindset). This problem is “an old problem that isn’t going to go away”. In essence, it’s a sin problem. And sin is ugly, my friend, snatching you up in it’s grip before you know what hit you.
None of us wants to end up like ___________________.
(And the truth is _________________ didn’t want to end up like _________________ either.)
Make the choice today to stay on the rails. Watch for the warning signs. Heed the signals. If you think you’ve got it all figured out, you don’t (and your arrogance may be your final act of leadership).
More on this in a future blog post.
But for today, do this one thing: humble yourself. Admit to yourself, to God, to your staff, to your board, that you don’t have it all figured out. Invite input. Act with integrity. Show compassion.
If you can’t take this one step, humbleness, your future fate may already be sealed. You just don't know it yet.