I have been reading a book about a group in Evangelical Christianity, and the author points out the failures of many of the pastors and leaders, and explains how they are disqualified for ministry because of their indiscretions. While reading this book, I saw the post from Driscoll and some of his past actions. These things together have me thinking about how we disqualify pastors. We look to 1 Timothy 3:1-7 as our guide, but I wonder if we really take it that seriously, or more camp on the things we think are heinous in our own eyes.
In the book I’m reading, the sins that are committed and disqualify the pastors are divorce, drug use, theft and embezzlement, infidelity and adultery. Now don’t get me wrong, these things are bad. I am not dismissing any of these things, but the list in 1 Timothy is a little different. I don’t want to deal with the divorce issue, Dave Miller wrote some great posts on this subject so I don’t really want to rehash it. What I will say is that I’m not lessening the significance of those sins. Drug use, theft, adultery, these sins are serious and need to be addressed. What I want to look at is some words by Jesus and some words by Paul and see if maybe we are off track just a hair.
I think most of us would agree that if a Pastor killed someone in his congregation, that would be reason to have him removed. . . and arrested and probably put in prison. Murder is a terrible sin, but Jesus said if you hated your brother, called him a fool, you will be liable to the fires of hell (Matthew 5:21 & 22). It seems to me if you are a Pastor who has gotten angry, insults his brother or calls him a fool is guilty, is that reason to have them removed as a Pastor?
What about infidelity (you knew this was next). If a man lusts after a woman, he has committed adultery in his heart. We all know that pornography is rampant in the church, even among Pastors. Lust doesn’t require pornography, it’s a battle most men (probably all) deal with. Should a Pastor be disqualified? If you say “not for lust, but for adultery” then you have pretty much just thrown what Jesus said out the window. Are we really going to look at the Bible and say we believe in every word? Are we going to say we love Jesus, but not do what He says? Are we more concerned with our law than we are with scripture? Hard questions, things I wrestle with.
Now we have Paul. Could Paul be a Pastor? He is the chief among sinners (I Timothy 1:15) yet Paul defends his ministry time and time again. Would we disqualify a guy if he use to persecute the church, if he was guilty of some of the things Paul did? We think “but Paul gave us the list of qualifications for a Pastor” but have we created a false ideal based on this list? If we take the words of Jesus and the words of Paul, who is really qualified? In order to be qualified, we must dismiss what Jesus said, ignore the “but I say to you” of Jesus and just focus on the act itself and not the intent. We have to turn away from being a disciple and become more like a Pharisee.
This is difficult, because what is the answer? If a man is an adulterous liar who has been divorced and stolen money, can we really let him teach and preach? Most of us would say “no of course not” but if he is angry, often says negative things about people, is strong and maybe even a little rude, looks but never touches and keeps his sins well hidden, can he serve? What is the standard we should hold our leaders too? Maybe we should do more work to find their sins and short comings, tell them they are not fit to lead or preach or teach or serve. In the book I am reading, many have been labeled as “unfit” because they sinned publicly. They were caught in a lie, they sinned and fell from grace. What happens if you or I fall from grace? Do we really want to serve in the structure we created? Just something to consider.