Proverbs 30:10 Do not slander a servant to his master, lest he curse you, and you be held guilty.
Thank God for all the faithful ministers who have kept their integrity and continue to minister faithfully. We cannot begin to understand the pressure upon these men and women who have sacrificed so much to obey the calling God has placed upon their hearts. They have faithfully stepped forward to serve and help the deep spiritual and physical needs of many people without complaining, even though many who have been helped do complain about the pastors. The difficulty in having to live their lives in a fishbowl per se, where everything they say and do is observed, analyzed, and taken apart to see if there are any hidden agendas. This is a difficult way to live. I, for one, could not live under that type of constant scrutiny. Now God, on the other hand, can scrutinize me all He wants because He will have a solution for whatever He finds that needs correction in my heart.
Unfortunately, many ministers who have crashed and burned through sin do not always have the option to be corrected and reinstated through disciplinary structures that in most cases do not exist. They are often automatically banished from everything, including attending the assembly they once served in. The judgments are harsh and arduous to live with, and most of the time these fallen and rejected ministers say, “It will be best for all if I just move on.” Move on to what? Usually, they disappear into obscurity. Cain, while being banished, had expressed the feeling correctly. Gen. 4:13 But Cain answered the LORD, “My punishment is too great to bear! 14 You have banished me from the land and from your presence; you have made me a homeless wanderer. Anyone who finds me will kill me!” The banishment is bad enough but the feeling of constant rejection is the same as being killed over and over again.
This is a controversial subject within the church, and hard to delineate the boundaries between a minister who has fallen in sin and a wretched person on ministerial staff who unrepentantly practises sin. Therefore, to be explicitly clear, I am not advocating the reinstatement of child-molesting priests and ministers who have not repented of their iniquitous behaviour and have not owned up to their deviance that is truly mala en se. Nor am I saying to bring back the abusive wife-beating pastors who justified their cowardly acts of brutality by using the Bible as justification for their outrageous cruelty. Like many of you, I am stuck with discerning these cruel actions and have no way to determine if true repentance has taken place. Only God knows. My concern and what I’m bringing attention to is the many ministers who have been caught up in a sinful mess that overtook them, and they did honestly repent but have been left hanging for the public to lash out at by using self-righteous anger as the standard for judging those who have fallen from the congregant’s standards. At this point the slander and judgments are merciless, and who can live with that over one’s life? Prov. 30:10 Do not slander a servant to his master, lest he curse you, and you be held guilty.
This is a difficult area to maneuver in and most likely is the reason most disgraced ministers just move on to live their lives in obscurity. Being banished from the ministry or the church assembly that the fallen pastor once ministered in, is a traumatic experience. Some might say, “Well these pastors/ministers betrayed our trust and fell into sin, how can we ever trust them again?” I would say in the same way you are trusted after you sinned and repented of what caused you to utterly fall. Prov. 24:16a For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again. The difference between the fallen ministers and so many of the judgmental congregants is that the fallen pastor got caught, and exposed. In contrast, the ones casting final judgment, haven’t been exposed yet. The problem with this type of condemned exile is if there had been some protective measures in place to support and protect the ministers from themselves, there might not have been so many casualties of lost ministries. Plus, there would not have been so many hurt people, who left the church when the pastor had been chucked out.
If there were healing structures in place, to protect them from themselves, there might be stronger ministries available. I know of a pastor from another country who was caught embezzling the church funds because he was unwisely allowed (by the board) to be a signing authority on the bank accounts. The real hurt here is that he had a clear insight into helping so many people receive the Lord as their saviour. People came from all over and would be saved because this pastor believed in the saving grace of Jesus. However, this fallen pastor’s heart was full of fear when it came to believing the provision of the same saviour, even though he taught that God is our provider.
Yes, the hypocrisy is evident as he preached, “Do as I say, and not as I do.” Was there much conviction in his sermons of God being the provider of our lives? I’m not sure, but I know this pastor understood the redemptive power of the resurrected Lord to save any soul. His faith was strong in that area and the conviction of faith led many lives to accept Jesus as Lord. I agree that the trust factor will have to be re-established with some failsafe measures alongside the reinstatement of the pastor, (if it were to happen). In this particular case, the pastor would have no access to any of the monies available in that assembly’s governance, thus protecting the pastor and the people, but allowing his anointed ability to lead people to Christ to continue in the kingdom of God. Another help for this pastor could be that he would have other ministers speaking into his life concerning the provisions of God. The Lord is not finished with him and he has to learn how to trust God for his life in the area of God’s provision.
Failure is not the end, failure is not a death sentence. Neh. 1:9 But if you return to me and carefully observe My commands, even though your exiles were banished to the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place where I chose to have my name dwell. We need to realize that our sense of fear – or what scares us in life – is different than other people’s fears. We all fall in our walk because we are immature in different areas of faith. We are not all maturing in all areas of spiritual life at the same time. I am fortunate to have good friends who keep me accountable for the work and ministry I am involved in at this time. This helps me stay on track, but this is not available for all ministers. The sad thing is that in some cases certain ministers have taken advantage of the fact they have crashed and burned so they could get out of the ministry. It was too hard for them to keep up with the public’s perceived standards. So they quit and used the event to run away from the whole thing. A book could be written on all the sadness occurring on top of the slagheap where many of the fallen have ended up.
Can these fallen servants of God ever become the paragons of solicitude? I don’t know because that type of transparency requires strength in God which not many find. What is lost in all of this is that our salvation is not in our works but in the finished work of the cross and sacrifice of Jesus and His blood only. I know that what you focus on will eventually focus on you, and if the repentant soul has changed his or her focus through Christ, is it possible to become the ministerial servant of the Lord again? I realize this topic will be open for debate, as it has been discussed often at our regular Friday morning breakfasts with the men I meet with. We all have to consider the verse in the book of Luke that so easily bothers the modern Pharisees of the church. Luke 6:35b For He is kind to the ungrateful and evil. I happen to like this verse because I was once ungrateful and evil until Jesus took me in and washed my heart with His blood.
As the Christian community shakes their heads in bewilderment at this whole predicament, of fallen ministers, the only one laughing his head off is Satan, who robs, kills, and destroys the hearts of many who have tried to live up to the standards of the church, while forgetting that true righteousness only comes through Christ our Lord. As the old Hymn says “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” This was their problem in the first place. They took their eyes off the One who saved their souls and started working the church system as their atoning security. The commonplace of their pastoral job became their enemy and spiritual laziness seeped into their hearts. Yes, revival is needed throughout Christendom so that we may all be reminded that Jesus is Lord and it is His kingdom we are building. Thank God, the mercies of the Lord are new every morning for anyone who needs them. Amen!