Darrin Patrick was removed from his position in the Acts 29 organization and from his pastoral position in the Journey Church for running over people and pushing his own image and agenda. Mark Driscoll was forced to resign from Mars Hill Church after allegations of plagiarism, belittling staff, and misappropriation of funds. Perry Noble was dismissed by his church for his alcohol abuse and issues within his marriage. Tullian Tchividjian was let go for infidelity and dismissed from his ministries.
These are just some of the latest pastors to fall in their positions of leadership, and I must be honest these are only the ones that we hear about because they are the high profile leaders. The statistics for senior pastors failing in or leaving ministry (for moral, ethical, physical, or spiritual reasons) are startling to say the least. But what was even more startling is the amount of pressure that is placed upon these leaders to heed the calling God gave them.
Simply looking at the link above for statistics shows the undue stress these men and women are under and one can only imagine the added pressures of caring for an entire church body. That is not to say that simply because someone is a pastor they will fail, but we must acknowledge that as purveyors of the Gospel of Christ, it is easier for that to happen to those in ministry for these reasons and more:
- We tend to believe that whatever happens in a ministry is because of our works not God's.
- We convince ourselves that the ministry is ours not the Father's.
- We believe that without us the ministry will falter.
- We take all of the hurts, needs, and desires of our parishioners and place them on ourselves.
- We become convinced that we can do all things through me who gives me strength.
- We become the end-all and be-all because people trust us and give us the room to do what we see fit.
The sad reality is that failing in Christianity is a part of life. We are sinful in nature and because of that we will fall, but too often we say "no not me." I am guilty of that. When I read of Noble's removal not only did I say "God not again," I also inwardly said, "God thanks that I work in youth ministry where this won't happen to me."
How foolish am I to believe that this is a problem strictly associated with those in senior pastor roles? Sin afflicts us all, and we must take steps to combat sin in our lives! We must look to having the proper safeguards in place no matter if we are a volunteer, an elder, a youth pastor, a children's worker, or the executive pastor. Sin will always look to corrupt what God has necessitated for good, and we must not allow for that to happen. Satan would love nothing more than to see the Bride of Christ falter and fail. So what can we do to safeguard the church of God? First let's look at how to protect the ministries we serve in, and then how to help others - especially senior pastors - in their ministries.
- Always cover the ministry you serve in prayer. Jesus constantly prayed for His disciples and the calling God had given Him. We should do likewise.
- Have accountability within the ministry. Allow for other leaders to speak into your life, your leadership style, and what you do. This helps to keep us humble and focused on the reality that these ministries are not about us but about the Father.
- Ask yourself if the ministry would succeed without you, and why or why not. A good ministry will carry on without you because it is God-centric not you-centric.
- Do you find yourself calling it "your ministry?" Maybe practice calling it God's ministry and yourself the servant.
- Take regular breaks from your ministry. Our staff team takes a monthly recharge day. It is a paid work day where we do not come into the office but instead make sure our spiritual walks are where they should be. It looks different for each person. For some it includes reading their favorite Christian books, others take prayer walks or some take time away to pray, and others just get the rest they need to recharge.
- Be willing to accept change and critiques. One of the hardest things to do is change, but we must be willing to because God calls for us to be vulnerable and eager to hear the Father's direction.
- Talk to and listen to your spouse and children. Ask them for their honest input. Have you changed since being in ministry? Do you find joy in what you do? Do you spend enough time with them? Are they resentful of the ministry you serve?
These are just some ways we can safeguard the ministries we serve, but what about our senior pastors? These men have such a weight on their shoulders that can be understood by only those who have held these roles. I stepped into such a role at 23 and held it for roughly two years, and it almost made me walk away from ministry. To those men who serve faithfully in this position day in and day out for years on end: THANK YOU! The stress these men face is huge and daunting; we must fight for and with them as they face daily attacks from the evil one. So what can we do for them? Here are a few ways to love and support your pastor:
- Send them a note of encouragement and thank them for what they do.
- Take them and their family a meal or dessert and thank them for their sacrifice and love for you and others.
- Stop into the senior pastor's office to talk. Ask how they are doing, how you can pray for them, or ways that you can help outside of the ministry you serve.
- Ask your senior pastor to go on a prayer walk in the community and pause to pray for them specifically.
- Regularly engage with your senior pastor. So often it is easy to revert to our silos and rarely interact with other ministers, but we must engage! Have lunch together, take breaks together, have dinner at your homes, go on double dates.
- Ask your senior pastor to be your accountability partner. Go beyond Covenant Eyes, and actually sit down and share life together. Encourage one another and pray together.
- Pray for them daily. These men of God need our love and support, but also heavenly support.
To say that we are above failure is foolish and asinine. That is a lie of Satan and must be met with the truth of the Gospel. We are all fallen but we are redeemed in Christ and it is only through His power that we can accomplish anything. We must stand firm and not lambaste or lament these men who have fallen but pray for restoration, reconciliation, and protection for our ministries and those who lead them. Let us rise up in prayer and humility to serve the bride of Christ and honor the Great Shepherd who allows us to tend His flock.