Let’s be honest. No one enters the ministry without a general concern for people. You may not be an extreme extrovert, but so much of what we do is caring for others. And because of that reality, we often find ourselves in a struggle to draw lines because we realize that by doing so, those lines will eventually separate people.
They’re not numbers – they’re not statistics or percentages – they’re real people. And in an attempt to build relationships rather than damage them (or even preempt them), we who care about people often fight against the need to draw lines – moral, philosophical, or doctrinal.
But a common issue arises when we refuse to mark boundaries. No one guards the gate.
Recently (and it would seem increasingly), there has been a growing number of pastors who fail morally and either have an affair, confess an addiction to pornography, or just simply lose any sort of moral (read Biblical) compass. And in most cases, the rest of us in ministry respond one of two ways:
- Some choose to label that person, blacklist them from ministry, and try to protect those in our care from that influence. Most times, this is perceived by others as judgment and condemnation.
- Others opt for a more “loving” approach, chalk it up to “just another sin” or just cover it up, and seek restoration to ministry as quickly as possible. Most times, this is perceived by others as approval and licentiousness.
And that conversation could go on forever – unfortunately because both positions believe so strongly in their own that they simply will not see the others’. And while I have some strong opinions of this, it’s one of those things that is always easier when you’re detached.
Recently, a good friend of mine let a beloved staff person go due to a moral failure. And while he and I had discussed the exact scenario before (when both of us were relatively disconnected from the issue), when it actually happened in his ministry, it was much harder.
And, common in most cases, both sides take issue with his response. He removed this person from ministry, getting them Biblical counseling to deal with his addiction, and seeking his restoration to the church body.
Some find this too lenient. Others find it too harsh – especially, because this guy will not be given another opportunity to serve on staff at this particular church. But I think it raises a very good thought in regards to hiring staff.
You need to differentiate between the person you’re willing to minister to and the person you’re willing to hire.
Paul had some strong thoughts in regards to the qualifications of elders and deacons. Perhaps they’d be worth another look for us.
1 Timothy 3:1-13
How else can we make that distinction?