It’s disturbing how many of the pastors that I grew up idolizing have fallen.
My early years in ministry were shaped by pastors like Perry Noble (alcohol abuse and divorce), Mark Driscoll (abuse of power), Rob Bell (heresy) and the list could go on.
Straight out of Bible college, I worked under a senior pastor that I highly respected for his years of experience growing large churches.
But after God called my family to a new ministry opportunity, my mentor was caught in an affair. It wrecked me and many in the church.
Just this week, I was stunned to hear the news of allegations against Bill Hybels that forced his resignation. I pray they are false. But with our history of fallen pastors, could you blame us for being a bit skeptical?
WHY DO SO MANY PASTORS FALL?
Be careful before you start blasting megachurches. It isn’t just a megachurch problem, scandals of other churches just don’t make the headlines.
Every time a pastor falls, we need to remember two things:
First, this is why we put our faith in Jesus, not man.
If you make people into idols, you’ll be disappointed.
People make terrible gods.
Second, we are no less susceptible to sin than they are.
We’re all just one poor choice away from falling.
If we are ignorant, we will repeat the same mistakes.
May their mistakes be a warning to us all.
THE ONE MISTAKE ALL FALLEN PASTORS MAKE
The pitfalls in a pastors life haven’t changed. They’re as old as sin itself.
The Bible warned us:
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world (1 John 2:15-16).
Every fallen pastor in history repeated the same fatal mistake. They got caught up in a love for the world.
That love manifested in one of three ways: the desire of the flesh (sex/addiction), the desire of the eyes (covetousness/money), or the pride of life (power).
Fallen pastors allowed the temptation of sex, money or power to erode their soul until it crumbled.
And remember: These three killers are after us all. No pastor is beyond their reach.
The resilient pastors who survive decades of ministry identify these threats and make a conscious effort to stay far away.
For example, consider Billy Graham and his team’s Modesto Manifesto.
Graham saw the many failures of other evangelists, so he met with his team in Modesto, California, and they drew a plan to avoid these traps.
- To avoid the temptation of sex, Graham made a rule never to be alone with a woman other than his wife.
- To avoid the temptation of money, Graham took a set salary and practiced financial transparency
- To avoid the temptation of power, they decided to never criticize other pastors or exaggerate their numbers.
While some might criticize these kinds of decisions, and perhaps we could make some modifications today, we should all learn from Graham’s example.
It’s a tale of two Bills: You have to wonder if Bill Hybels would not be facing accusations if he had practiced the same rules as Billy Graham.
We need guidelines and procedures to keep ourselves from straying anywhere remotely close to temptation.
Here are a few examples of rules you might want to put in place for yourself to protect your integrity:
Sex: Never be alone with a member of the opposite sex. And today it may even be better never to meet alone unless in a public setting with anyone regardless of gender because it only takes one false accusation to ruin your credibility.
Flee from all compromising situations. Never comment on another person’s body. Never travel alone with a member of the opposite sex.
Prioritize your marriage, and pursue your wife.
Money: Open the church budget. Be transparent about staff salaries, ministry budgets and where all the money goes.
Also, think long and hard before you buy a big house, designer suits or fancy cars. Although you may be able to afford them and there is nothing inherently wrong with these things, you need to avoid even the perception of greed.
Make it your mission to be the most generous person in your church.
Power: Decentralize the power. Have a board of elders that aren’t just your best friends. Put systems in place to limit your ability to make huge decisions alone.
Also, treat your staff and church members with respect. I’ve known many pastors who are brutal behind closed doors with their staff members but angels to their church members.
I’ve also worked in environments where the boss reminded the staff weekly that he could fire them. That’s no condition to work in.
Wield your power with extreme care. Don’t let it go to your head. Pride is the silent killer of many ministries.
Please, don’t be the next case study of a fallen pastor. Learn from the age-old mistakes of others.
What procedures do you need to put in place to fortify your integrity?
This article originally appeared here.