Protecting the Pastor's Soul
Practical disciplines to keep church leaders in the race.

The phenomenon of celebrity pastors in the American church cuts two ways. When a mega-pastor succeeds everyone buys their book, attends their seminar, and emulates their strategy. And when a mega-pastor falls we all look into our own souls for evidence of similar frailty. Although the Ted Haggard story has been all but forgotten by the popular media since the election, there are many church leaders still reeling from the revelations. In this post we highlight insights from other blogs about how pastors can guard their souls from the self-destructive power of immorality.

Professor Scot McKnight address how the environment created by evangelicalism contributes to pastors hiding their sins, and the importance of developing the discipline of confession:

In evangelicalism, and the charismatic stream in which Ted Haggard swims, sin is bad and sin by leaders is real bad. This leads to a complex of features that creates a serious problem.
1. Christians, and not just pastors, do not feel free to disclose sins to anyone.
2. Christians, including pastors, sin and sin all the time.
3. Christians, including pastors, in evangelicalism do not have a mechanism of confession.
4. Christians and pastors, because of the environment of condemnation of sin and the absence of a mechanism of confession, bottle up their sins, hide their sins, and create around themselves an apparent purity and a reality of unconfessed/unadmitted sin.
5. When Christians do confess, and it is often only after getting caught, they are eaten alive by fellow evangelicals - thus leading some to deeper levels of secrecy and deceit.

Read more of Scot McKnight's post.

Pastor of Mars Hill Church, Mark Driscoll, outlines the precautions he takes to avoid compromising situations with women in his church:

Pastors should have their office at the church and their study at home. There is no reason a pastor should be sitting alone at the church at odd hours (e.g., early morning and late evening) to study when anyone can drop in for any reason and have access to him. Instead, a pastor should come into the office for scheduled meetings and work from home on tasks such as emails, planning, studying, sermon preparation, etc. I spend the vast majority of my time working from home. Some years ago when I did not, I found that lonely people, some of them hurting single moms wanting a strong man to speak into their life, would show up to hang out and catch time with me. It was shortly thereafter that I brought my books home and purchased a laptop and cell phone so that I was not tied to the church office.

Displaying 1–10 of 14 comments

Richard

December 09, 2006  5:28am

Leoskeo, I know what you mean about a sleepy congregation... those fed to much sugar on theology and creed. Those not having a clue that revival Himself ( as person) lives at the core of their being because the pulpit is trying to conform salvation rather than conform to salvation. Salvation is and never will be the so and so church, or the so and so church but the living and vibrant Spirit of God. I would be a poor soul, no, I wouldn't have it if I could not worship my Heavenly Father at all times and everywhere for loving me and mankind so intense, so undeniably.

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Richard Moszumanski

December 09, 2006  4:54am

No D.H. nobody is superhuman but there is the new creature and of course the Perfect has come and still is here... that is why He said in Rev 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

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D.H.

November 23, 2006  7:43am

1 Corinthians 13 says, when the perfect comes then that which is imperfect will be made perfect. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and until Jesus Christ returns, the perfect one, then Christians, even pastors and other leaders will have occassions when they fail. That is the whole point of forgiveness and compassion. The only man to walk this earth who has never sinned and will never sin is Christ himself. So we should all be willing to forgive everyone from the pastors to the infidels. By the way, if a pastor tells a lie should he resign his post and not be forgiven by his congregation? I believe all sins are equal and if you should be forgiven for one, you should be forgiven for all and be accepted aS a human who makes mistakes. Nobody is superhuman.

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Deborah

November 21, 2006  11:44am

Scot McKnight talked about the need for a "mechanism of confession." I have found that my Savior, Jesus Christ, has been quite sufficient in fulfilling that role. I enjoy several accountability relationships, but Jesus is my only priest. Being subject to "accountability relationships" (I'm not sure "enjoying" would be the right verb here) and practicing a discipline of confession can be two very different things. "Jesus & Me" spirituality can lapse into a mockery of "confession" which does nothing toward rooting out sin in one's life. Jesus was Ted Haggard's "only priest," too, but we've all seen how long it took him to finally own up to the depth and breadth of his deception - for a while, it was "I bought the drugs but I never used them," then "I used drugs, but I only had a massage," then finally "I've been sexually immoral." He's now doing what he should have been doing all along - confessing to fellow pastors who can help him in his recovery.

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Sheerahkahn

November 16, 2006  12:33pm

I have a novel idea...how bout we do away with the whole centralized authority thingy in the church. Spread the responsibility amongst the elders and deacons...I'd bet that would resolve the embarrasment of these episodic events.

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Kristen

November 16, 2006  10:38am

It's so hard to balance appropriate safeguards against being so strict that you're unable to do your job. Speaking from the perspective of a parishioner, I am appalled when I read about churches prohibiting ministers from ever being alone with women – so it's perfectly fine for the singles pastor (for example) to meet up with a young man in the congregation for lunch but not a young woman. Ummmm ... no. There's got to be a better way to protect yourself from yourself than keeping half your congregation at arm's length. Mark Driscoll's suggestion, to my mind, solves the inequity problem by keeping EVERYONE at arm's length. Come in to the church for scheduled meetings but whatever you do, don't be available to lonely, needy people. The problems of sin and temptation are real. But there simply HAS to be a better solution than blocking yourself off from the people you're supposed to be serving.

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Anne

November 16, 2006  10:17am

The problem is not that someone messed up, people! What is really to be discouraged is speaking hateful things against others of different faith (or no faith), practice, sexual orientation etc. Jesus never preached fire and brimstone messages against sinners. There is nothing wrong with being against sin and sinful practices, but the more hatefully you preach against them, the more one has to wonder - when is it all going to blow up in your own face? For goodness sakes - read Phillip Yancey's "What's so Amazing about Grace?" before lashing out in a very un-graceful manner!

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Curtis

November 15, 2006  11:18pm

I think one of the biggest shames is that church leadership continues to underestimate the pervasiveness of pastoral sexual addiction. One survey found that a third of all pastors surveyed had viewed pornography in the last month (The Leadership Survey, 2001, in Leadership Journal). I think the idea of confession is a step in the right direction but considering the amount of workplace surveillance that is acceptable nowadays, it might be more appropriate for there to be someone in the church in charge of monitoring websites visited by pastors. Perhaps this job could be done by an ethics panel within the church that conducts spiritual assessments of the leaders as well as directing them to people they can confidentially confess to (like therapists). This is by no means a cure-all but would likely be humbling enough (for who likes to hear that they need to be constantly monitored) to keep pastors from thinking of themselves as spiritual giants.

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Michelle Van Loon

November 15, 2006  7:16pm

Geoff Baggett said of Jennell Paris' post: "Her personal experiences are, I believe, an unfortunate anomaly." I've had the same sort of "anomaly" in my experience at the last few non-demon congregations my family and I have attended. Jennell, you're not alone.

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HigherGround

November 15, 2006  5:59pm

My comments to "bishopdave"'s remark: Our focus should not be on "being exposed" vs "cover-up". The truth of the matter is: our sin, our dark-side, will eventually catchup with us. It's a matter of time. Our focus should be on "Guarding our heart". We must desire to serve our God so much that we choose holiness over "darkness" in order to make us clean vessals to do God's work. The choice is ours to make. We cannot keep our "dark-side" and serve God at the same time. We can only pick one. I choose to believe that Paul, Timothy, Peters and others are among the great cloud of witnesses. We should desire to be a member of this great cloud of witness as well. Hebrews 12:1 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." There are two types of God's servants: those in this great cloud of witness and those who bring disgrace. The only way not to lose membership in the first "class" is to guard our heart counting on the active interaction with the Holy Spirit INSTEAD OF by our own will power. Let's maintain the right perspective.

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