Holding Pastors Accountable

christmas 063
Pastor Dean and Ruth- We sure miss them

This blog posting really makes me appreciate our pastor and his wife. They recently retired and we miss them and hope the best for them. Thankfully we never had to deal with the issues that are covered in this blog. Pastor Dean and Ruth were great and were an awesome example of living their life for Christ and loving each other and their family. They will be a part of our church family always.

I have a number of friends that are church leaders, pastors and such. A friend of mine emailed me about their Pastor not living up to the standards you would expect a Pastor to be. From my understanding the pastor at her church is living in sin, by having an affair out of wedlock and taking part in conduct that we are told not to participate it. She asked me about accountability and how to confront or if she should confront the pastor at her church. When I opened my email and read her question, it took me back to when we first moved to St. George. And it still comes to mind when I go through Mesquite, NV.

A pastor and his wife was at a casino gambling and I was shocked to see them there holding their winnings in their hands. I grew up in the Nazarene Church and this just wasn’t done. We are told not to gamble and to see the pastor of my church doing this, I was wondering what my fiend asked me. Those questions would be about accountability and being an example of Christ. I couldn’t wrap my brain around the whole idea and image of my pastor gambling.

This is me playing BINGO, lol
This is me playing BINGO, lol

Then I had to recognize my own sin and not the sin that my pastor and his wife was committing  In my mind, it was OK for me to be there gambling, but not MY pastor. I was holding him up to a higher standard than I had for myself and other Christians. I could come up with a hundred reasons why it was OK for me to be there but not him. Needless to say, I was just as much in the wrong as he was and I was wrong in thinking that him being there was the same as me being there.

I would think that we need to look at the issue at hand.  Should a pastor who falls into serious sin—or who is just accused of a serious sin—respond publicly and address the charges? Does he/she need to be open with his congregation? Or does the Bible give him immunity? Does his/her standing as a Christian leader give him/her permission to hide his/her faults from view?

With the way the media and internet are, I’m pretty sure that most have heard stories of pastors addicted to pornography, pastors who’ve been accused of adultery, pastors who don’t show the love of Jesus to their families and others. It would be very difficult for a member of the congregation to hold a pastor or church leader accountable.  It’s our moral and spiritual imperative to hold our pastors and leaders accountable no matter how hard that may be. (Ezekiel 3:16-21)

For me this is a hard topic, because of my friendships with pastors and church leaders.  Pastors are, like everyone else, ordinary human beings; fallen people who struggle with the flesh, the devil and the world. Like everyone else, they need Grace-giving & Gospel-centered leaders around them for support, growth and encouragement.  I had to go searching for the answers on this one and go to what the Bible says.

Rev. Sue Lewan
Rev. Sue Lewan and Rev Robb McClintock

One of my friends Sue is a pastor. She and I get into a number of conversations about life and her role as a church leader (pastor).  When asking her about her thoughts on this topic, this is what she said; “Life is not always under our control, just like everyone elses. We do the best we can. We try to be the best that we can be. But we fall just like everyone else.” Most pastors have tremendous issues, but feel trapped that they can’t be honest about them for fear of losing their position, respect, or influence among God’s people. Balance is a key ingredient in ministry.

What the Bible Says: God holds the pastor/overseer and the leaders of the church to a higher standard (James 3:1 is an example). He has given us high standards to use in determining who is qualified to be a leader (1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9). These two passages refer to the qualifications of church leaders who are biblical called elders. When a pastor or a leader violates these standards, they are no longer qualified to continue in their role. These qualifications include his gender, his high moral character, his relationship to his family, his ability to be a good manager, his knowledge of God’s Word, and he must be gifted or skilled in teaching.

Dictionary Series - Religion: moralIt seems that when you look at the qualifications (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1; 1 Peter 5:2-4) for pastors and deacons are  simple and clear. Many times people like to gloss over that these qualifications for pastors and deacons are the basic characteristics expected of all Christians.

Some Random Thoughts About Pastors and his/her flock (Christians)

  • Contrary to popular opinion, pastors and deacons are not part of a super-spiritual elite group who are closer to being morally perfected or above correction.
  • Pastors and deacons are sinners saved by grace, sinners who are regular people who do and will sin!
  • Pastors are to exemplify what the Christian life looks like (1 Peter 5:3).
  • Christians are expected to live their lives in a manner worthy of the gospel. Pastors are simply men who exhibit maturity in their faith and live humble and consistent lives.
  • The terms “blameless” and “above reproach” are the initial words used in the two major qualifications lists. These words are used to describe both pastors (Titus 1:6) and deacons (1 Timothy 3:2).
  • Being above reproach does not mean that one has achieved sinless perfection, this is impossible in fallen man. To be above reproach refers to a level of maturity that is exemplified in consistency. Inside the church this means that one must live in line with the gospel and biblical pattern for a faithful life. Being above reproach outside the church means that non-Christians cannot point their finger and discredit ones profession of faith in Christ alone.
  •  Throughout the New Testament the “ability to teach” (Acts 20:31; Titus 1:9; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 5:17; Hebrews 13:7) stands apart as the only qualification held to the office of pastor that is not obligatory on every other Christian. In other words, everything listed as obligatory on pastors is also obligatory upon all other Christians except the “ability to teach.”
  • The pastor is to be able to “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” (Titus 1:9) One of the primary roles of a pastor is “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry” and this is accomplished by teaching and passing on the faith. (Ephesians 4:12-13a, 2 Timothy 2:2).

This is a quote I found online and find it so true:

Chuck Colson
Chuck Colson

We all miss the mark, and some of the best preachers are actually a “repentive product” of their sin.

Chuck Colson  = prison ministry, former prisoner
C.S. Lewis = former atheist, and great apologist

“Pastors are simply men/women who exhibit maturity in their faith and live humble.”

Pastors and Church Leaders Needs our Prayers;

Why do pastors leave the ministry?  Of the most common issues are “preference for another form of ministry, the need to care for children or family, conflict in the congregation, conflict with denominational leaders, burnout or discouragement, sexual misconduct, and divorce or marital problems.”  Before we point the finger or throw stones at them, let’s consider a few things.  The apostle wrote: “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching…” (1 Timothy 5: 17).

Pastors have a high rate of depression.
Pastors have a high rate of depression.

In closing, here are some stats about Pastors and Church leaders.

  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • 90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
  • 80% spouses feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.
  • 70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.
  • 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
  • 50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
  • 4,000 new churches begin each year and 7,000 churches close
  • Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year
  • According to one survey, only 23% of pastors report being happy and content in their identity in Christ, in their church, and in their home.

See how you can pray and serve them & their families:

pray4pastorLet’s face it: It’s easier to criticize a pastor than to be a pastor.   We have little or no idea what it means to be a pastor.  Here are a few examples of what most pastors suffer from, before they literally burn-out (from Disciple Makers).  See how you can pray and serve them & their families

  • chronic fatigue  (exhaustion, tiredness, a sense of being physically run down)
  • difficulty sleeping (waking in the middle of the night and finding yourself unable to return to sleep)
  • decreased concentration (can’t finish things)
  • anger at those making demands
  • self-criticism for putting up with the demands
  • cynicism, negativity, and irritability
  • a sense of being besieged
  • exploding easily at seemingly inconsequential things
  • frequent headaches and stomach aches
  • changes in appetite resulting in weight loss or gain
  • shortness of breath
  • increased irritability (men tend to get angry more; women tend to cry more)
  • social withdrawal
  • depression
  • feelings of helplessness

As the body of Christ we should love, care & appreciate our pastors today.  My prayer is that as you reflect on these things, you would see how your churches treat pastors; and that you would lead a group to make sure that faithful pastors receive the honor they deserve but hardly ask for.”