““Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. Therefore, this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says to these shepherds: “Instead of caring for my flock and leading them to safety, you have deserted them and driven them to destruction. Now I will pour out judgment on you for the evil you have done to them.” (Jeremiah 23:1-2)
At some point in time, a Christian will be hurt by a pastor.
Lately many have read of pastors committing acts which were vicious, and sometimes acts upon another individual which were even criminal. Yet they do happen. The sad reality is, sometimes good pastors do very bad things. But why? Why would a pastor hurt another member of his flock? Why would a good pastor who truly loves God stumble and fall into moral depravity? Or succumbing to the passions of the flesh, or worse, manipulate people who are in his care and betray their trust, sometimes to a point where the people become victimized by the actions of a pastors actions. The fact remains, that many times, for whatever reason, a pastor will lose sight of his duties and in the end people will get hurt.
Anytime a Christian becomes hurt or even betrayed by another believer, even a pastor, it’s always due to one thing and one thing only – sin. When God establishes a pastor into a pulpit, he does so with the idea that this man he has appointed will lead the people into truth – perfect truth – which can only come by the teaching and preaching of the cross. Yet when men, even good men, get away from the truth of the cross (the atonement) it will begin to lead him into subtle error to the point where he will begin to allow things to sway his emotions, even teachings. When a pastor allows himself to stray from the cross as his main focus not only in his pastoral duties, but also his personal life, then by doing so he subjects himself to becoming deceived, deceived by pride, and pride is one of the worst areas a pastor can fall into, because when pride steps in, it can only lead to one place – spiritual disaster. Yet pride in the life of a pastor will also breed a man who not only loses sight of his calling and mandate, it allows him to begin hurting those around him, which sometimes can lead to spiritual abuse.
Pastors fail because they have failed to allow their walk with the Lord to keep them in the one place which protects them from individual failure – the cross. Pastors commit acts of sin because they have allowed their flesh to become unchecked, they fail to submit themselves to the cross daily. Notice what Paul said in this matter of dying to the flesh, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Paul gives us, even those who serve in leadership and are called to shepherd, the prime example for the leader, to yield daily to the Lord, allowing them to be humble in their walk and life and duties as pastor. That is the reason, the #1 reason why men fail, why pastors, even good men of God fall into areas of sin, because they have failed to keep to the source where every one of us must be yielded to. As I have stated many times in the past, pride is the #1 enemy of a pastor or preacher and servant of God. And that pride, if not dealt with, will grow and become a beast within itself and become a stumbling block to that man or woman of God he is using.
Some might ask how God can still use a man or woman who has obviously fallen into this area of their life where they are hurting others? We must remember that God calls each and every person in this life, those who have accepted that call, he raises up, yet there are times where men, even good men who truly love the Lord and desire his will, fall into those areas of weakness as I’ve outlined previously in this article. We see examples of men doing bad things yet the spirit of God rested upon them, Samson, David, Gideon, Jonah, Moses, Lot, Noah, many prophets, Peter and Paul. The truth is we are flesh, we have faults and weaknesses, and men have feet of clay. Yet for a season it’s God’s desire to use certain men, even those who might error in their life and ministry, but it’s never a justification for bad behavior, for God will deal with each man or woman in due season if they do not repent.
We should examine ourselves in the faith and examine our walk with Christ every day, so that we might never step out of that place of safety and security – the cross. Yet, even then, bad things happen and our only response should be to forgive. Forgiveness never means accepting what has been done, but it allows the person who has been hurt by another person, especially a pastor, to reveal the love of Christ in their own life, just as God forgave them for their life before the cross. Yet that never justifies nor approves of someone who is hurting another person or flock, God holds those men accountable and will, if not repented of, bring them under judgment. Yet we never seek retaliation – God’s judgment is enough.
One of the things God revealed to me as to why some pastors fail to love their people and end up hurting them is because they have no one to be held accountable to. No one is an island, and no one, not even a pastor, is above correction. When a pastor or spiritual leader refuses to be corrected, it goes back to my original point – pride. Humility never allows a man of God to rectify the situation and instead, the pastor behaves as though he can do no wrong, and sadly I’ve seen this occur in my life with others who believed they were “untouchable” by correction and the results were tragic. In one particular case the pastor refused correction from the prophet and upon warning, that pastor had a massive heart attack and his health and abilities were greatly limited to such a degree he had to step down and his church has all but fallen into ruin. Make no mistake, when a man or woman of God refuses to be corrected after God sends warning after warning, that man (or woman) risks the ultimate correction – death. God uses his right to call men home who refuse to be corrected.
So what are the warning signs of a pastor who has fallen into areas where they are walking the line of creating a problem within the church? They are the following:
1. They become focused on power.
2. They are controlling.
3. They put demands upon people which are not scriptural.
4. They begin to try to meddle in the private life of a believer.
5. They are self-absorbed.
6. They create new teachings which manipulate people for control and even financial gain.
7. They refuse to submit to correction.
8. They see themselves above the people.
9. They cut ties from others who appear to be a threat to them in the church.
10. Their word is above the word.
If you are sitting under a man (or woman) who are demonstrating these attributes, even though they are otherwise good men (for not every pastor is perfect) then it’s time to re-consider attending that church and instead, find another place to worship. That is sadly the only solution. Especially when someone has violated the sanctity of their pastoral vow. If a pastor has abused a person, no question, you need to leave that situation immediately and leave no room for further abuse, God will judge that individual in due season. This is not an issue of loyalty. It’s an issue of integrity. Doing the right thing means leaving the wrong thing, thus maintaining your loyalty to God and not some man.
The fact is, none of us are perfect and we all stumble along the way, however, no matter of stumbling must ever approve of, or allow abuse of any kind in the pulpit. God’s grace is not a permission slip for abuse, nor is it an allowance for men to do bad things. For every good pastor who is trying and is still learning, it’s easy to deal with that individual while they are willing to submit to instruction. However, to those who would continue to ignore these warnings, God makes it clear that everything that is hidden will be revealed and his judgment is certain.
Paul reminds Timothy of the mandate of the pastor and everyone who is in leadership, who walks in one of the 5 fold ministries of their solemn duty; “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2)