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Heed the Warning of a Fellow Servant

-Barth and Sally Middleton

Reading newspaper accounts of scandal in the lives of church leaders we don’t know is hard enough. Imagine our distress when we received a personal letter about someone we greatly admired that began, “It is with a heavy heart that I write to inform you that Pastor _______ has resigned. __________ met with the Board to confess a long-term problem with accessing adult pornography on the Internet.”

We struggle to comprehend the fall of this special servant. From the beginning of his ministry, we thought of 1 Timothy 4:12 as this pastor appeared to “set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” He reminded us of Paul with a zeal to present the Word of God boldly and accurately. We’re still shocked.

As a Christian leader you are a target of the enemy. So are we. Forget any idea that private sin will not affect public ministry. You may hide sin for a while but Proverbs 10:9 says, “The man of integrity walks securely but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.”

Jesus instructed His disciples to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.” To help us avoid temptation while using our computers, we position them so that whoever walks into our office can see the screens. If this is not your arrangement we urge you to change it now. Also, when an unsolicited e-mail arrives, if the title or sender is even a little suspicious, delete the message without looking at it. Immediately empty the trash bin so there is no second opportunity to see what was sent.

Other Culprits

Computers are not the only culprits that can lead to cracks in character. Ask yourself these questions:

  • When an ad or magazine arrives in the mail with suggestive advertising photos, do I throw it away immediately—even if I might be interested in the product or other parts of the periodical?
  • Do I refuse to watch TV programs or read books that stir up wrong thoughts or condone standards and speech contrary to God’s Word?

You’re a leader! You know the Bible says you can be strong in the strength of the Lord (Eph. 6:10). You know you can resist the attacks of the devil (1 Peter 5:8-9) and refuse to give in to temptation (James 1:12). Those who lead strive to be like you, drawing courage and direction from your faithful example. If you succumb to the adversary your followers will question the truth you taught and did not model. People will wonder why you did not claim God’s almighty power and secure victory.

We hoped the pastor we mentioned willingly confessed his sin and chose to forsake it. Instead we learned he was caught and then repented. If you are a leader who is serving while hiding sin, please choose to repent. The price is too high for any momentary pleasure you are receiving.

Great Loss

Can a fallen leader be restored to his former leadership status? Not quickly. Not easily. Not even likely. Even though people forgive the leader they may have trouble trusting him. Even if he works hard to repair the damage, things will never be the same.

We pray for the pastor mentioned here. We have no idea what to say to him other than we are sorry for what has happened and that our love for him is very great. Although he has started to recover we grieve for what he has lost. We wonder how he feels each Sunday, separated from the congregation he led, seated in the audience of another church. We wonder why this pastor ignored inevitable signposts that indicated he was headed for trouble. We thank God for using this sad scenario as a warning to us to be very careful.

Should leaders be proud if they have not experienced a major fall? Definitely not! Leaders stay true to God’s Word only by His grace, not by their own strength. Their credibility is built by good character and consistent service.

Valuable leader, be alert and avoid making choices that could lead to a colossal collapse and a heartbreaking letter being written about you.

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