Every time I return to Malaysia, I get to hear what my parents have been up to in their ministries. Given their role as professors at a seminary and their background in counselling, they are often approached with pastoral and church issues.
One recurring and disheartening issue that I hear every time I return is the problem of marital affairs among pastors. This problem seems to be rife, seen through the increasing amount of pastors being exposed and disqualified for ministry every year.
As a young guy being trained for pastoral ministry, I lament and am afraid of this issue. But while I am saddened by the situation, I wonder why it happens so often. Of course, deep down it is always a heart and grace issue (which Paul Tripp tackles so well in ‘Dangerous Calling’). Yet, I think there are other things in place that doesn’t really help protect the pastor.
This is where Carl Trueman’s latest post ‘A Few Good Men, Not a Few Good Yes Men’ hits one of the spots. He highlights that there needs to be transparency and leadership accountability for those in ministry. I agree with this because I wonder how many of these marital affairs (both emotional and physical) could have been avoided if these pastors had people to watch out for them or if they had someone they could share their initial struggles with. It already doesn’t help when pastors (especially in Asia) are held up high in a pedestal where they are seen as ‘ideal men’. There, they are idealized as men who do not sin (or at least are less inclined to), have perfect families, and are ‘men of God’. This, as we know, is an impossible status to live up to because the one man who does not sin is currently sitting at the Father’s right hand, not in our churches. So not only do pastors have an unhealthy image to conform to – many struggle to confess need and sin to others – thus removing any possibility for transparency due to the fear of being judged or potentially losing their job (because they don’t conform to the ‘perfect pastor image’).
Therefore, I would like to humbly submit 3 prayer points.
Firstly, that congregants would not see their pastors as ‘super Christians’, but as sinners equally in need of grace. This does not mean there should be no respect for church leaders – if anything, there are biblical commands to honour them. However, please do not come under the illusion that they are incapable of the disastrous sins that we ‘normal Christians’ are inclined towards. Rather, love and care for them just as you would to other brothers and sisters. Prayfully, this will help pastors feel comfortable with being transparent because they know that their shortcomings will be received with the same grace shown by Christ. Remember, pray constantly for your church leaders because they come under enormous pressure and significant temptations too.
Pray that congregants would not see their pastors as ‘super Christians’, but as sinners equally in need of grace.
Secondly, pray for pastors who will be willing to humble themselves and see themselves not as messiahs, but as individuals who are also on the journey of being conformed to the likeness of Christ. Pray for pastors who not see themselves as those who will save their church members – but exist to point them to the Saviour. Pray for pastors who know it is okay to not be okay. Pray for pastors to not feel the need to hide behind a facade of perfection or godliness because they understand that the grace of God covers them.
Pray for pastors who will be willing to humble themselves and see themselves not as messiahs, but as individuals who are also on the journey of being conformed to the likeness of Christ.
Lastly – pray for more mature lay church leaders (and that existing ones would grow to greater maturity). Pray for church leaders that work alongside the pastor – not under the pastor (resulting in leaders either being bitter about the pastor or in contrast, being worshippers/servants of the pastor), nor above the pastor (resulting in leaders being like a corporate governing board who determine whether the pastor’s contract gets renewed based on his performance). Pray for church leaders who will love, support, and even pastor the pastor.
Pray for more mature lay church leaders.
I believe Trueman accurately says:
In the meantime, every minister needs good local elders, men whom he has not chosen, who see him each Sunday, who hear him preach and pray, who connect with him during the week, who see how he treats his wife and his children, who observe how he speaks to visitors, who know how he relates to his neighbours, to keep him accountable both to the Word of God and to congregation which he serves. Anything less, anything other, is simply unbiblical and in the long run a recipe for disaster.
 Hebrews 13:17, 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13, 1 Timothy 5: 17-20,
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