Adam Hamilton finished up Session 3 with a sobering message about leaders needing to live above reproach so they don’t have moral failures. Here’s my recap/notes from his talk that just ended.
This is not an inspirational talk and I don’t feel a lot of passion about it. It’s about when leaders fall. For some of you this may be the most important talk and it may save you and your church.
June of last year I was headed to a service. One of the lead pastors came to me and wanted to talk to me. They told me that two of our pastors are involved in a extra marital affair and we need to talk about it after service. Felt truly sick to my stomach. Felt grieved. They were talented. I envisioned one of them taking my place someday.
A week doesn’t go by where some leader doesn’t experience a moral failure. Sexual immorality amongst clergy? 30% admitted to some sexual impropriety during ministry. A real and serious issue where many of us live and none of us are immune. Put ourselves in wrong circumstances with wrong people and bad things can happen. Billy Graham set up rules so he was careful and wouldn’t have moral failure. Part of the reason he is Billy Graham.
No two situations are exactly the same, but here’s how we do it at our church. Issues at stake are the soul and health of those who have fallen, and then those in the church who have been grieved and betrayed. Lives are in crisis all the way around.
Every situation is unique. In these failings it can be hard to regain trust. We’re a church that believes in redemption, though. How do we deal with this in our congregation? How do you deal with it when it’s a low-profile pastor versus high-profile pastors? People are going to find out and ask questions.
We had four options. First we could say nothing, but then rumors take over and you have to hope people help each other. Second option was to be evasive and say they were leaving for personal reasons. Third options was Scarlet Letter approach by announcing sin and distance ourselves from them. Fourth option was to approach crisis with transparency, honest and with compassion. Acknowledge the affair and discuss consequences. Remind people that church is for broken people and that we need to reach out to them and their families.
Sat down with staff and key leaders and shared with them first. Gave them time to unpack the situation. We started getting calls right away so I couldn’t wait till Sunday to talk to congregation when rumors would take over by then. Sent email addressing it and then saying we’d address it upcoming Sunday. Told people to show redemption and not believe rumors. Sunday service was big, some people who hadn’t been there in years. Curiousity factor. Some were ready for a stoning.
Told people about the situation. Preached a simple message on temptation and came back to John 8 at end. When preaching that I felt like a Pharisee in John 8. I said this is a defining moment for our congregation. “Who are we at Church of the Resurrection? Are we the kind of church that will stand with stones in your hand, or we will see them like Jesus?” He had compassion on the woman. We are not in a place to cast stones.
Saw the response in our church. Some people left the church who were upset that it was brought up in the church. No matter how you handle it, some will leave. Some stayed even though they didn’t agree with how we handled it. The vast majority appreciated the way it was handled. Numerous people joined the church because of that Sunday morning.
We have a staff covenant that is signed every year. We have policies of where you can go with people of the opposite sex. It may be over the top, but it is a policy. If it looks like a date, and smells like a date, then it is a date. You can have all the policies and it can still happen. Just helps in prevention.
Not just sexual misconduct, but general misconduct. I talk to staff about it every year and staff see it as the sex talk when I share with them.
We are all human beings with fundamental drives. We are wired for reproduction. Don’t need to deny it. We are wired for intimacy and companionship. When they cross with the sin drive it can lead to destruction.
We give of ourselves and we can be empty. We are vulnerable. Factor in stress and we head into directions we never thought. Romans 7:15-20
You work with coworkers on things to change the world. You’re on a team and its great. You have chemistry. You come home and your spouse wonders why you’re late. She doesn’t want to hear about ministry all the time. You go back to work and your teammate wants to hear about ministry. You go home and your spouse tells you to take out the trash. Go back to work and then you find yourself bantering back and forth with teammate. You’re flirting.
The moment of the maybe and you find yourself playing with it in your mind. When sin is rationalized, it’s a time of self-deception. Our powers of reason are diminished. We don’t stop to ask how it ends happy. Hundreds of small steps from the moment of maybe to when it goes through.
Nothing good ever comes from telling teammate about those thoughts within you. Feelings happen from time to time, but never share them with that individual. If you keep on path, the maybe becomes yes. Don’t let the devil ride, because he’ll want to drive.
So much easier when you don’t give up on Plan A. God can redeem, but Plan A is ideal.
I love my wife but of course there have been seasons where the marriage has been hard. So far we haven’t been unfaithful to each other. I say so far because it’s still possible.
Five R’s to resisting temptation
- Remember who you are – You are a child of God, a follower of Christ, a leader in the church, someone’s spouse and parent.
- Recognize consequences of actions – Will I feel better or worse after I do this? Will I feel more or less human? Will I feel shame? Who will be hurt by my actions? What will happen to the church if it came known? Fantasize about the worst possible outcome.
- Rededicate yourself to God – Stop, drop and roll. In those tempting moment, stop, drop and pray. It’s like taking cold shower. In the maybe we stop praying. We need to pray.
- Reveal struggle to a trusted friend – James 5:16 A secret has power when it is a secret. Confess it.
- Remove yourself from the situation. – Jesus talked about radical means to get rid of sin. Better to enter the Kingdom giving up things then destroying your family and church.
We’re held to higher standards as leaders. 1 Thessalonias 4:3-5 & 7 We’re called to honor God with our bodies. All of us are tempted as human beings. We all struggle at some point. There are consequences when we fall.
Our answer cannot be “We shoot our wounded”. We serve a Lord who was friends with drunkards, prostitutes, adulterers, sinners. The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost. First missionary to the Samaritans? The woman with multiple husbands in her past.
No one is beyond redemption. The gospel is for sinners.