We discussed how ALL men (and women) sin, even those in church leadership. (Romans 3:23) Can we just give up on church, on mankind, on the body of believers whom we love to avoid the pain of disappointment? No. In the book of John, Jesus speaks to the Pharisees who are about to stone the adultress woman, saying, Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her. (John 8:7b) So, we can only condemn the church when we are sinless ourselves. Many have left the body of Christ because of their disappointment in a pastor, deacon or elder. But man is not at the center of church, or at least he shouldn't be. So, when a pastor or other church leader sins, we need to consider prayerfully how we may have contributed and what the appropriate response would be.
Obviously, I did not suggest to my student that she was responsible in any way for her pastor's sins. She is just a child. But as adults, we have to also be careful that we aren't contributing to or paving the way for our brothers and sisters to sin. Some points to consider:
- God calls us to worship Him, not our pastors. (Luke 4:8) How often do we sit in the pews amazed as the words that are being spoken, how they connect to us and how the speaker seems to know our hearts? I am a great admirer of Beth Moore, and she strives to present herself merely as the conduit of God's Word, and yet at times, I still find myself admiring her rather than praising God for the message. It is so easy to give credit to the vessel, rather than the potter. When a pastor or anyone else speaks from the Holy Spirit, the words are exactly what we need to hear. We just need to remember that those words are from God.
- We must be mindful of actions and words that are not of God. We want to admire our church leaders. We want them to be more righteous that us. Sometimes we desire it so badly that we overlook when they behave or speak in a sinful way. Friends, we are not benefiting them. We are only maintaining our own rose colored view. God gives us a heart of discernment. We are expected to use it and treat our church leaders as we would any other brother and sister in Christ. If we do not call out their sin in a Biblical manner (for direction see Matthew 18:15-22), we are condoning their sin and do not love them. If you find yourself tempted to worship any person, consider Jesus' response to Satan in Matthew 4:10 - Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”
- Pray continuously for all who are in church leadership. The enemy loves nothing better than to bring down the righteous. Those who live a life that outwardly professes a commitment to Christ and the church are regularly attacked. Pray against self-righteousness. One of the greatest lies a church leader can believe is that it all hinges on his shoulders and he always know best. The idea that any church leader is somehow more righteous or closer to God simply due to their church position is not Biblical. The most righteous are humble in spirit. Remember, Jesus arrived on a donkey. Pray against fear. I have never seen any greater enemy of the body than fear. It breaks entire churches apart and causes godly men to bend to the world's viewpoint. Pray for health. Often, physical and mental health of leaders and/or their family members can be so discouraging and weaken the spirit.
- Bind together as the body of Christ. As believers, we are all in this together. When sin occurs, it works to divide the body. Do not let it happen. If you are hurt by sin in your church, do not turn from the body nor neglect worshiping with other believers. The enemy would like nothing better! Colossians 3:14-17 instructs us to put love above all else and even when we are hurt, disappointed or angry, we must remain in the body working through it all according to God's Word:
I must confess that I have been guilty of all of the above in the past, but God has everlasting lovingkindness and patience beyond measure. He continues to reveal to me, even through my students, why we, and I, follow Jesus. Our Lord and Savior is the only one worthy of our worship. He is the only one worthy of our praise. As I advised my student, lean into Him and He will be the light that pierces the darkness. He will be the comforter in the midst of our disappointments. He will make good what man meant for evil (Genesis 50:20).