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Home > Issues > 2010 > Spring > Let's Live What We Teach

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Let me try to answer those questions, and I'll talk honestly about what's happened in our church since we've implemented the moral-lifestyle policy for volunteer leaders. Hear me out to the end, and you'll either find yourself inspired or grateful you haven't tried it.

Who has to sign the document?

Not every volunteer at Resurrection must sign the moral-lifestyle policy. That's a critical point, one not to miss. We want to communicate two truths simultaneously: (1) you can struggle with anything and serve in this church, no matter where you are in your journey, but (2) to pastor those who are vulnerable, to lead, or to teach, we ask for more, as Scripture does (James 3:1; 1 Timothy 3).

Who falls into this second group? First, those who lead the vulnerable—children's ministry leaders, youth leaders, and prayer ministers. Then, those who teach—preachers, teachers of adult and children's classes, leaders of small groups. And those who lead—our pastors, board members, and leaders of various ministries, like men's and women's. We include those who lead worship—musicians, choir members, Scripture readers, Communion servers. We tell our musicians: "You're leading God's people in worship, so your role is one of spiritual leadership. We want our congregation to know that the people leading them don't look Christian on Sunday but act differently on Monday."

That still leaves many open positions for people who are struggling more deeply; we want them to connect to the community through service. They can help with men's and women's ministries, host small groups, usher, greet, serve on the sound team, help with hospitality, and so on.

Which sins go on the list—and why?

We debated this for months. We know acutely that we all are sinners (Rom. 3:9-19) and that Jesus saved his hardest words for religious leaders who crush people with impossible demands (Matt. 23:4). The principles that helped us move forward were these:

1. We aren't trying to create a comprehensive list of what God cares about, because he's already done that (in the Bible). We aren't even creating a comprehensive list of what our church cares about. What we're doing instead is listing several "leading indicators" of the condition of someone's soul—particularly live issues for our leaders in our church right now. This means that your church's list, if you develop one, can and should look different from ours.

For example, when our list began, it included a high percentage of sexual sins, because among our youth leaders, those were common leading indicators of a soul moving out of obedience to God. Now the list includes issues seen more in adults later in life, like physical and verbal abuse of others.

2. We want to watch for issues that could endanger our people. As Resurrection has grown, it's become harder for our pastors to know each person's struggles. But our responsibility to protect the flock hasn't lessened. So we weren't willing to settle for "Don't ask, don't tell." The one place that many churches get serious about expectations for leaders is a child-protection program—yet while they run a criminal background check, they may never ask direct questions about the person's lifestyle.

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Kevin A. Miller is associate rector of Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois.

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Belle Unruh

September 08, 2013  2:06am

I admire this policy. You are right, more is expected from teachers and leaders. We should all aim to live a godly life through Christ, but if we are not, we should not be trying to lead others.

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