One of this mornings Star Press headlines is greatly disappointing and sickening. It’s the story of a pastor being arrested, after a lengthy investigation, for inappropriate relationships with young boys in his congregation.
This is one of those headlines that does a lot of damage to the Church. Instead of hearing about all the wonderful things Christian churches are doing all over the world, we are told the deeply troubling story of a pastor that allegedly used his position for extremely troubling acts.
Whether or not he is found guilty, this will leave a scar on the Church. People who already have a sense of distrust towards the Church will not have much confidence in the Church after reading this story.
Unfortunately, these things happen way too often. And, it’s not always some kind of sexual sin that does the damage. The real issue is when pastors and leaders in the church use their positions of authority to feed their egos and sinful desires.
And, now, the Church is put in an awkward position. How do we respond to something like this?
Of course the victims need to be provided with counseling, surrounded in prayer, and supported as they process the events that have taken place.
But, what about the pastor? I believe in justice. I believe in discipline. I believe that, if he is found guilty of these charges, he needs to face the penalties that a court of law imposes on him. I believe that, if he is found guilty, he has done things that disqualify him from leading a congregation. Yet, I also believe this man needs counseling. I also believe this man needs prayer. I believe that healing can take place in his life. And, that’s difficult to type…because right now I’m angry about this…the damage truly goes beyond one local congregation.
Paul is quite clear about the requirements and expectations of Christian leaders. We are to be above reproach. While the tasks sounds unattainable…it is what we strive towards. John Wesley urged all to strive towards perfection. While perfection may be impossible to grasp in this world, it is our goal.
In 1 Timothy 3, Paul writes about the expectations of Christian leaders. I love the way the Message puts it:
If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a new believer, lest the position go to his head and the Devil trip him up. Outsiders must think well of him, or else the Devil will figure out a way to lure him into his trap. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)
I believe these events should remind Christian leaders of the expectations set before us by Scripture. I believe these events should challenge us to strive towards perfection.
These events should also remind us that we are not perfect. While it is easy to “t-off” at someone who is on the front-page of the local paper, we need to be wise…we need to be careful. We need to take steps to protect ourselves. A pastor really should not even put him/herself in a position where these kinds ofaccusations can be made.
So, this morning, I am reminded of what is expected of me. And, while I do stumble and fall, I’m daily striving to live up to the call.