But thou, O man of God, flee these things

Guys, what’s the deal?

If you’ve been paying any attention to the evangelical world lately, then you’ve noticed what seems to be an epidemic. Pastors are committing, being caught in, and/or confessing to sexual sin.

Recently, the entire elder board of Willow Creek Community Church resigned in the wake of their mishandling of sexual harassment claims against founding pastor Bill Hybels. I could recount many other well-known and not so well-known pastors who have confessed, or been found in, similar circumstances.

Why now?

First, this isn’t a new problem, but it is a new time. The #metoo movement has empowered victims to speak up. Unfortunately, I’m confident enough in mankind’s sinful nature to believe that this type of sin has always been in our churches. The spotlight, however, is turned toward the issue right now.

Second, social media and the internet have created an atmosphere that holds the church and its leaders accountable. When manipulative and cowardly leadership spiritually abuses those who point out their sins, the victims are often pushed out of the church and have no recourse. The blogosphere provides that needed outlet. So, the logical outcome of more people speaking up is that we hear about more instances of fallen leadership.

But, how do we, as pastors, respond when we hear of yet another pastor, staff member, or seminary professor losing their ministry because of sexual sin?

First, we shouldn’t be surprised. Pastors are human and just as vulnerable to sexual temptation as anyone. This fact doesn’t lessen the impact of their actions, but it does put the situation in perspective. Pastors are people, and people are sinful.

Second, we should be reminded with each new story that we are one dumb decision away from being that next guy. It’s easy to condemn those who have fallen, but few Christians start out their day by saying, “I think I’ll commit adultery this afternoon.” It is a gradual process. By slowly relaxing our spiritual guard, we are susceptible to temptation.

Remember Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

Third: STOP IT!

Unless you need additional help because of a sexual addiction issue, you can stop the sexual sin in which you are involved or overcome the temptation you are facing. Preacher, if you truly know Jesus, then the Holy Spirit lives in you. You have the spiritual ability to stop or avoid. When you surrendered to Jesus as Lord, He rescued you from slavery to sin. You have been buried with Him in baptism and raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). Salvation brought your dead spirit to life. Live like it.

Stop!

Flee!

Fourth, if you are married, cling to your spouse. Not only is your wife the most important person in your life (besides Jesus), she is also your most important ministry partner. Protect yourself by never meeting with another woman without her. Listen to what she says about women in your church. Pursue her. Flirt with her. Love her. All other women are to be treated as if they were your mother or sister (1 Timothy 5:2).

Don’t be the next guy to fall.

Be God’s man—a faithful husband and pastor.

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