Like many of you, I have often heard pastors say “I wouldn’t want to follow anybody who hasn’t been through something!”
The statement is intended to be a prerequisite to (and for some, a badge of honor in) ministry because of the presumption that the leader will appear to be more “human” to their followers if they exhibit culpability. Certainly God uses imperfect people (Moses, Noah, David, Paul, you, me…) to exercise His will in the earth, but one cannot expect to wallow in sin and expect to “pick up where they left off” when they have been restored.
I recently read an interesting article by John MacArthur:
Gross sin among Christian leaders is a signal that something is seriously wrong with the church. But an even greater problem is the lowering of standards to accommodate a leader’s sin. That the church is so eager to bring these men back into leadership is a symptom of rottenness at the core.
Some have claimed that a leader’s failure makes him more effective in shepherding fallen people. That is ludicrous. Should we drag the bottom of sin’s cesspool for the most heinous sinners to lead the church? Are they better able to understand the sinner? Certainly not! Our pattern for ministry is the sinless Son of God. The church is to be like Him and her leaders are to be our models of Christlikeness.
We must recognize that leadership in the church cannot be regarded lightly. The foremost requirement of a church leader is that he be above reproach (1 Timothy 3:2, 10; Titus 1:7). That is a difficult prerequisite, and not everyone can meet it.
Neither John MacArthur nor the bible is suggesting that you can’t be restored from sin – that premise is the very core of the Gospel message. There should be a realism, however, in placing people back in areas of responsibility after they have shown ill-judgement in leadership.
This is one of the (many) reasons that I am continually irked by Jamal “The Prince Pimp of Baltimore” Bryant. Bryant is a notorious false teacher who has lied about his education credentials, marital fidelity, and his seemingly insatiable sexual appetite (click this link for an overview of his antics). When forced last year to admit an adulterous affair with a young woman in his congregation (suspected to be in her late teens) resulting in the birth of a child, Bryant tried to excuse his behavior by comparing himself to David and Bathsheba. He received little-to-no “counseling” and never relinquished the reigns of his church club.
Should Bryant be forgiven? Certainly if he repents before the Lord (and his family) and seeks to right the wrongs he’s made. Should he have remained in leadership at his club? Certainly not – especially since he probably would’ve removed a Deacon or Minister guilty of similar transgressions if pressed to do so.
MacArthur sums up his article by saying:
What should you do in the current crisis? Pray for your church’s leaders. Keep them accountable. Encourage them. Let them know you are following their godly example. Understand that they are not perfect, but continue nonetheless to call them to the highest level of godliness and purity. The church must have leaders who are genuinely above reproach. Anything less is an abomination.
We must continue to hold our Pastors and leaders to a standard parallel to the charge they have in preaching and teaching the glorious Gospel. Anything less brings reproach upon the Name of the Lord. Are they perfect? No Should we just put them back behind the bookboard no matter what they’ve done? I don’t think so.