The Fall of a Megachurch PastorBy
I was in my office scanning Google news one afternoon when I read about the pastor of a megachurch in Florida who had been accused of sexual improprieties. I literally said, “Oh, crap!” Not very spiritual I know.
So many writers and pastors work hard to show the good news of God’s love yet this ugliness gets splashed over the front page. No wonder so many have a jaded view of the church.
As I thought about this pastor and his family I prayed for them. Having been a pastor for 10 years I can tell you the temptations are near constant. And my church was miniscule compared to his.
You have some of the greatest people in a church but also some of the weakest. You have people with their lives together yet some who are hurting leaving them and yourself vulnerable.
My spiritual mentor, a veteran pastor, once told me, “Never put yourself in a situation where you are tempted or could be falsely accused.”
He added, “Never be alone with another woman unless in a public place. If you need to meet with a woman in her home take your secretary or your wife with you. If you’re meeting in your office leave the door slightly open with your secretary close by.”
His point was don’t leave yourself vulnerable to temptation or accusation.
As I pastored I followed his advice. And thankfully came through unscathed. I finished with my marriage intact, my relationship with my children strong and my reputation unspoiled. And that was all worth it.
Yet I have a humble empathy for people in leadership positions who have those temptations pressing on them daily.
I remember when President Clinton had been accused of sexual misconduct. The prevailing statement was, “What he does in his private life is private. It makes no difference.”
Yet, what each of us does in our private lives impacts others in ways we often don’t realize.
We all, whether in a leadership position or not, are bombarded with temptations everyday. May or may not be sexual temptation. Really doesn’t matter. What matters is what we do with it.
Because if we give in to it and respond in ways we know are less than constructive it impacts those around us and ourselves. It obviously has devastating effects on our marriage, family and friendships. But it also destroys our self esteem and vitality. It crushes our potential to live happy fulfilled lives.
The bible says, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13, NLT)
Really goes back to what I learned before. Be careful. We will be tempted. Yet God, in his grace, allows us a way out. We have to take it, though.
What helped me then? What continues to?
First, I realize I will be tempted. I expect it. And it will come where and when I’m most vulnerable. We’re each vulnerable in different areas. So I don’t expose myself where my weaknesses are. And if I inadvertently get in a position that isn’t good I get out quick.
Second, I choose the high road before I’m tempted. I value my marriage, family, happiness and self esteem first. Short term illicit behavior may be exciting. But in the long run it’s devastating. I remind myself of that continually.
Third, I stay focused on the blessings God has for me as I walk with him. His blessings are so much greater than the temporary pleasure of a stupid moment. Why would I shortchange an extraordinary life for a momentary thrill? Makes no sense.
And finally I realize that if I fell God still loves and forgives me. In a strange sort of way, that sets me free to live positively. Yes, the consequences would still be real. But the thought of God loving me as his child makes me not want to disappoint him. And that gives me added motivation.
All of those together help me day by day choose to live in ways that are pleasing to God and that I know build a positive life.
Never stumble? Well, of course not!
Nah! Not really. But thankfully not in the big issues.
And that’s made all the difference in a strong marriage, a great family, good friendships, self esteem and a deep peace.
A great quote by Thomas A. Kempis, “Purity and simplicity are the two wings with which man soars above the earth and all temporary nature.”
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