Shocked. Confused. Heartbroken. These are the emotional reactions we have when we hear about a well-known pastor losing his ministry. It is a disappointing and disheartening reality that has become all too common in recent years. When a pastor becomes disqualified from ministry, it hurts his family, his future, and his church. Not only that, but it casts a dark cloud of doubt over the ministry as a whole, further confirming the cynical views of those who oppose the church and the cause of Christ.
Just within the last few years we’ve seen multiple well-known pastors disqualify themselves for ministry through adultery, alcohol abuse, inappropriate contact with women, abuse of authority, mishandling funds, and, most recently, mishandling sensitive information regarding sexual assault. Although some may point fingers in judgment toward these men, I think the most common internal reaction from other pastors is, “That could be me.” If you are not prepared and watchful, you may be next.
How can we, as ministers of the gospel, avoid making the same mistakes that have led to the shame of these pastors? There are seven encouragements to my brothers in the ministry that I’ll share over the next two weeks. Here are the first three:
Faithfully Practice Spiritual Disciplines
Of all believers, pastors ought to be leading the way in spending time in the word and in prayer. Every day as a pastor, I am reminded of my total dependence upon God. Devoting ourselves to reading God’s word and to prayer is how we say, “I need you God; apart from you I can do nothing.” We are never too busy to devotionally read God’s word and pray; in fact, we are too busy not to! Martin Luther said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” I believe one of the core issues in the moral failure of pastors is a diminishing personal relationship with the Lord. The apostle Paul said, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Gal. 5:16).
[bctt tweet=”Of all believers, pastors ought to be leading the way in spending time in the word and in prayer. Every day as a pastor, I am reminded of my total dependence upon God.” username=”joenate_lafleur”]
Recognize the Presence of Spiritual Warfare
The apostle Peter warns us, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). We are called to be soldiers in this world, fighting the good fight of faith, ready to stand and ready to suffer for the cause of Christ. We must be alert, we must be discerning, and we must be equipped with the armor of God to stand against the devil’s schemes. Earlier in the same letter, Peter said, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Pet. 2:11). Recognize, as a leader, that Satan would love to take you out because of how much damage would result. “Resist him, firm in your faith” (1 Pet. 5:9).
Abide in the Truth of God’s Word
We are commanded over and over again in the New Testament not to be deceived or led astray by false doctrine. When we think of a fallen pastor, we tend to think mostly of moral failures, but an even greater danger we face as pastors is doctrinal failure. We have seen countless pastors begin their ministries faithful to the word, but over time “drift away from it” (Heb. 2:1), and begin to teach distortions of the truth. We must abide, persevere, endure to the end in the true gospel of Jesus Christ! We must not be like the Galatians who were “turning to a different gospel” (Gal. 1:6) or like Hymenaeus and Philetus who “swerved from the truth” (2 Tim. 2:18) and therefore “made shipwreck of their faith” (1 Tim. 1:19). The gospel still works! It is the greatest news in all of history – we need no other word.
[bctt tweet=”We are commanded over and over again in the New Testament not to be deceived or led astray by false doctrine. When we think of a fallen pastor, we tend to think mostly of moral failures, but an even greater danger we face as pastors is doctrinal failure.” username=”joenate_lafleur”]