Ministry Today sponsored a “Summit on Integrity” back in November. With scandals being reported almost weekly, the gathering of ministers was designed to address steps for strengthening ministry marriages, integrity in finances and truthful disclosure, purity in sexual morality, being examples in our communities of influence,and revolutionizing the present climate of suspicion and loss of influence presently characterizing ministry leadership.
Here are a few examples documenting why such a sacred convocation was absolutely necessary:
>Some studies seem to indicate that one in eight ministers (who are still in their leadership position) have committed adultery, and up to 37% of ministers “have been involved in inappropriate behavior with someone in the church” (p.19).
>In a Leadership journal article called “Restoring Fallen Pastors”, Eric Reed transparently declares that no one knows how many of the 19,200 pastors required to leave ministry each year do so because of a moral lapse.
> Peacemaker Ministry states that of the 1,500 pastors who leave their assignments every month in the United States, moral failure is one of the three main causes.
> Pure Life ministries reports 37 percent of Pastors admitted to struggling with pornography.
Locally In LaGrange
>Pastor commits adultery,splits the church,divorces his wife, and then cohabitates for years with the adulterous.
>Married youth minister attempts to seduce the Pastors teenage daughter, the sin is covered, he resigns telling the congregation, that like Martha, he has been to busy in ministry and not spending enough time with Jesus.
>Pastors wife discovers he is in an adulterous relationship.Forced to resign and confess to congregation, it comes out that he flagrantly lied during his supposed confession.
>Worship minister commits adultery, is allowed to remain on staff only to commit adultery again.
>Wife of a minister is discovered to be involved in a lesbian relationship and confesses to congregation.
>Pastor is fired or forced to resign from multiple congregations for moral failure but continues to Pastor in the area.
>Even more recently is a congregation with whom I had been affiliated, the Pastor was discovered to be very uncharactered, had marital issues,and sorely lacked financial integrity. Congregants assumed a posture of denial sustained by enabling leadership. This eventuated in the Pastorhaving to be removed two weeks ago because of marital infidelity.
These national and local illustrations are mere tokens of the moral crisis among ministers today. It behooves the church to prepare itself to address the issue of restorative justice that must be effected when ministers of the gospel disqualify themselves from public ministry.
Restoration is defined by The Barnabas Ministry as, “The process of the renewing of the mind and the rebuilding of relationships which have been severely damaged or destroyed by the immorality of the pastor or Christian leader with the goals of the restoration process to see the person restored to God, to himself, to his family, and to the body of Christ.”
I agree heartily with this emphasis that refrains from targeting restoration back to public ministry.Why? Infidelity involves more than breaking of the marriage vows. At it’s heart is the evil leavening of ones entire character through antinomian covetousness, idolatry, deception, illicit sex, covenant breaking, lying,stealing and moralizing hypocrisy.
John Armstrong lays out the following principled points that are worthy of consideration in his book, “Can Fallen Pastor’s Be Restored”.
1) Adultery is a unique sin (I Cor 6:15-20). “Its uniqueness . . . is not in its degree of evil but rather in the direct way sexual sin strikes at the body, and through the body, at the whole human personality” (p.61).
2) Therefore immorality “has such serious and lasting consequences that its reproach never fully departs in this life (Prov 6:32,33)” (p.48). Thus adultery is a greater sin than most others because of its consequences, which include the destruction of trust, which is so important to Christian leadership (see pp. 52,53).
3) “Adultery by pastors . . . is an even greater sin than adultery in general. Why? . . . Their sin becomes a grievous public assault upon the nuptial image of Christ (the groom) and the church (His Bride), because the pastor is called upon to be a role model of purity as an under shepherd in service to the Bridegroom Himself” (pp.68,69).
4) A pastor who has committed sexual sin no longer meets the qualifications of an elder since he is no longer above reproach and blameless (I Tim 3:2).
5) “In general, men who fall sexually have followed a pattern of deception, misinformation, and outright lying for months, if not years. . . . All sin is deceitful, but sexual sin seems particularly able to deceive and to harden the human heart of those caught in its follies” (pp.105,6).
6) The early church held to complete disqualification from pastoral ministry when an elder had sinned sexually (chapter 7). (These arguments are repeated in chapter 9).
Some may immediately point to King David’s pre-meditated adultery and murder. While that really is “apples to oranges” since David was serving as a government ruler and not in the office of pastor, very few who appeal to David apply all that God said with the full implications of his sin. Yes, David was forgiven, but the prophet told him the sword of judgment would never leave his house. David’s sexual iniquity trait had severe consequences upon his own family and the people he governed, even though he received God’s forgiveness:
*The child of David’s sexual pleasure becomes sick unto death
*A loyal trusted friend is murdered to cover David’s sin
* David’s oldest son by Ahinoam rapes his half sister
* Absalom imitates David’s sin on a grander scale by pitching a tent
upon the Palace roof and has public sex with David concubines before all Israel
* One son is murdered by another son
After considering the full impact of David’s iniquity trait, we shouldn’t be so quick to cite him as an example in order to minimize the sin or the pain that is comensurate with infidelity.