Pastors and Moral Failure

“The preacher of the Word is not a salesman or a showman; he is a spokesman! Hence our theology of proclamation must be closely wed to our theology of devotion” ~ David Larson[1]

A week rarely goes by without us hearing about some pastor or other resigning from ministry due to a moral failure. Several weeks ago, Bob Coy, a pastor in south Florida, announced to his congregation that he had fallen into sin and would be stepping out of the ministry. Just this week the Christian Post reported a story of Pastor Reggie Weaver, one of the few black Presbyterian pastors, who resigned after confessing to an adulterous relationship after only nine months on the job. Such stories are heartbreaking and lead one to wonder why so many pastors are falling.

What can pastors do? Here are some of my thoughts:

Believe it can happen to you. This was a piece of advice given to me by my former pastor in Hawaii. As a pastor, you must believe that you can have a moral failure. You cannot live under the illusion that it can’t happen to you. You must operate under the assumption that given the right set of circumstances, you would commit adultery (or whatever the sin might be).

Talk to your wife. Undoubtedly, this will not be an easy conversation. But it must happen. If you feel yourself being tempted to sin, or you are struggling with impure thoughts, tell your wife and ask her to pray for you. If there is a woman at the church that makes you feel uncomfortable, tell your wife and make sure she is always with you when she’s around.

Set parameters. This may seem kind of basic, but make sure you are never alone with another woman. If a lady asks to meet with you for personal counseling, make sure you’re not the only person at the church and see to it that the door to your office is open. Another possibility is to ask your wife to sit in with you during the counseling session. If the woman asking to meet with you says it is a private matter and asks to have no one else present, then you really need to make sure your wife is with you!

Feed your soul. A survey I read recently indicated that over sixty percent of pastors in the ministry admit to having almost no devotional life; that is, they fail to read the Bible consistently and they don’t set aside regular time for prayer. In addition, they aren’t in a small-group of sorts where they have other friends or pastors praying with them. (I recommend taking Andrew Purves’s advice, which I wrote about here.)

In addition to all this, feast on the gospel. Preach it to yourself. Revel in it. Enjoy it. Share it. Saturate yourself with it. Remember what the crucified, heaving God-Man did for you.

[1] The Anatomy of Preaching: Identifying the Issues in Preaching Today (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1989), 48.


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