Moral Failure part 1

In my last post I mentioned the fact that 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention within the church.  I don’t know about you, but I find these numbers to be pretty scary!  Here we are in a world that is lost and dying, yet those of us who are supposed to be leading the charge and training up others for the works of the ministry appear to be dropping like flies.  This is unacceptable and has to stop.  In my next few posts I will be dealing with this issue on the Rural Ministry blog.  Today I want to specifically address the issue of moral failure.

Moral failure can be defined in several ways.  There’s the obvious issue of adultery (or fornication for our unmarried readers), but it doesn’t stop there.  Moral failure also includes things like inappropriate non-sexual relationships and pornography.  None of us entered the ministry planning on having a moral failure.  In fact, I bet the vast majority of us even stated that it would never happen to us.  The first thing we must do to insure it never happens to us is to admit that it could happen to us.  I can’t begin to tell you how many couples I’ve spoken with in the past that were dealing with the issue of adultery that said “I never thought I could do something like that.”  We must realize that, given the right set of circumstances, anyone is capable of anything.

How do we protect ourselves against adultery?  There is one thing necessary for someone to commit adultery – opportunity.  If you eliminate the possibility of opportunity, you virtually eliminate the possibility of adultery.  This, however, is easier said than done.  I’ve heard many pastors say that they are never alone with members of the opposite sex that they are not related to.  While in theory I agree with this concept completely, reality can often times be different.  If you are in a large church, with multiple staff members and set office hours, this can be fairly easy to accomplish.  In rural ministry, however, we do not always have the luxury of staff members and office hours can be sporadic.  Even if we do have staff, that does not mean that they are always present.  I am fortunate enough to have an associate pastor and a secretary, yet there have been many times that I have been alone at church when a woman walks in.  Sometimes it’s someone needing to talk, sometimes it’s a church volunteer coming to do work, sometimes my associate pastor is out and it’s just me and my secretary.  So even though I do my best to avoid being alone with females, on occasion it happens.

So what do we do?  How do we make sure that we do not fail in this area?  Here is a list of suggestions:

1. Make sure you have a strong marriage.  I have spoken with many people over the years that have committed adultery.  In almost every instance, the person had a need that was not being met by their spouse.  That person then started to have that need met by someone else and suddenly things started to progress.  What started out as something seemingly innocent ended up in adultery.  Quite frankly, if my emotional and physical needs are being met by my spouse, I will not have the need or the desire to go anywhere else.  If you are concerned about your marriage, please do your family, your ministry, and yourself a favor by getting help.  If you do not know where to turn, contact me and I can help you find the resources you need.

2. Don’t be stupid. This may sound harsh, but it is a valid warning.  Even though we realize that being alone with a member of the opposite sex is sometimes unavoidable, we also need to be smart about these situations.  Do not purposely seek out a situation in which you will be alone with a member of the opposite sex.  If it happens, it happens, but do not intentionally cause this situation.  Doing so is just simply asking for trouble.

3. Listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. This may seem obvious, but all too often we can get swept up in the moment and forget to listen to the Holy Spirit.  Only the Holy Spirit knows who is innocently seeking advice and who might have ulterior motives.  Only the Holy Spirit knows which people are emotionally needy and will get an unhealthy attachment to you.  Stay sensitive to the Holy Spirit and respond accordingly to any cautions and warnings.

4. Stay accountable. I try to keep my wife informed when I have met with a female alone.  I tell her who it was, when it was, where it was, and generally the content of our conversation.  I know that some of you are thinking “but what about confidentiality?” In situations like this, I inform the female ahead of time that I will be sharing our conversation with my wife, and only my wife.  I’ve never had anyone complain about that policy, but if I did, I am not sure that I would continue the conversation

One final caution: We need to remember that all it takes is suspicion, not proof, to ruin our reputation.  Do not allow yourself to be put in a situation where suspicions could rise.

How about you – what guidelines have you put in place to avoid moral failure?  Leave a comment below.

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One Comment on “Moral Failure part 1”

  1. Bob Lyle Says:

    This is a very good article,and in my opinion, every minister – or Christian for that matter, male or female – should keep this kind of watch over their hearts. I look forward to your next post. Bob Lyle


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