March 26, 2017

February 9, 2013

“Don’t believe your own press releases”

That’s an important piece of advice for all Christian leaders, especially clergy.

I am going to break ranks here - this sad story of a priest’s failure isn’t about liberal vs. orthodox theology, and it dang sure isn’t about liturgy.  So I hope you will read this and reflect rather than comment and snark. 

This kind of thing can happen to any of us.  I agree with Dave Kraft’s position, that most Christian leadership failures are about character rather than competence.  We are all capable of excelling in some area of ministry - pulling off something fruitful, creative, kingdom-advancing - only to use that as a rationalization for laxity in our character.  It can be the excuse for sexual indulgence, financial impropriety, refusal to correct errant people, cowardice in preaching or just about any kind of character-based failure.

“Don’t believe your own press releases.”  Always look to God’s news, “the Word of God, containing all things necessary to salvation.”  May we pray for one another and help one another do that, carrying out today’s Office lesson with all diligence,

My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:1-2, NRSV

Lay folks, I would suggest that intercession for the character of leaders is a vital prayer ministry that you can offer for your clergy, vestries (especially treasurers), and other lay leaders.



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When you go into a leadership or service position in your church, whether it be as a priest or pastor, elder or deacon, member of the vestry, offering counter or Sunday School teacher, you have to understand you are now a target for Satan.  And the more effective you may be in your ministry, area of service, or winning people for the Kingdom, the more he is going to try to go after you.  Scripture talks about us taking up the full armor of God for protection, but a lot of it is also just realizing that there is spiritual warfare going on all the time, and that you are a target and that Satan will do anything he can to tempt you or have you fall, especially in a way that brings disgrace on your ministry, your church, or Jesus.

All those old-fashioned rules about how someone in church leadership should behave to avoid temptation or accusations of improper conduct are there for a reason.  So too are all the checks and balances for accountability existing in a healthy church, even if they may seem like overkill.  They protect the church and they protect you.

[1] Posted by Jim the Puritan on 2-9-2013 at 03:02 PM · [top]

Thanks, Jim, for a good and wise comment.

We’ve really ignored so much of the Biblical wisdom, that we are in a real conflict with a real enemy with real consequences. 

The clergy manifestations of this are manifest, as the devil targets visible leaders to discredit the church. 

But I wonder how much the laity are part of the problem: do most of the folks in the pews even believe that there is an enemy seeking to destroy us and deprive us of the life offered by a loving God?  The pressure to keep the church a happy club, and the temptation to lower standards to accommodate “the members,” often come up from the pews rather than down from the pulpit.

[2] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 2-9-2013 at 03:59 PM · [top]

Good comments.  And while you’re at it, laypeople, volunteer to help count the offering, or to assist in some other way.  I am a treasurer.  I have to have a second signature on each check.  It’s a nuisance, but it also is for my protection, and to protect the parish.  Pray for people with the responsibility, and volunteer to help with the system of checks and balances which make it spiritually safer for them.  And if you haven’t got checks and balances and audit functions of some kind, put them in place now, before your priest or treasurer is tempted.

[3] Posted by Katherine on 2-9-2013 at 06:48 PM · [top]

Fr. Tim,
“The pressure to keep the church a happy club, and the temptation to lower standards to accommodate “the members,” often come up from the pews rather than down from the pulpit.” Really, is this what happened to the seminaries and bishops of TEC? Those in the pews are called “sheep”.

[4] Posted by Fr. Dale on 2-9-2013 at 06:49 PM · [top]

On the financial side, there are a lot of good resources here:

(Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability)

[5] Posted by Jim the Puritan on 2-9-2013 at 06:55 PM · [top]

Fr. Dale, the seminaries and the clergy orders are populated with people selected by a process with heavy lay input.  It begins at the congregational level. 

It becomes a chicken and egg question, really.  Did the clergy pollute the minds of the faithful, leading the faithful to put forward more heterodox clergy candidates?  Or did the people, with “itching ears,” put forward candidates who would tell them what they want to hear? 

Some of both, I suspect, and emanating from aspects of the denominational identity that placed worldly status above kingdom work.  The church of the upper class; the “thinking peoples’ church (so called); the church of Presidents; etc. etc. etc.

[6] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 2-10-2013 at 06:36 AM · [top]

It’s best to keep one’s self as far as possible separated from opportunities for sin. Clergy and money shouldn’t be allowed to get to close to each other. It is possible to set up systems in a church which make it impossible for the cleric to siphon money off of accounts into his own pocket. The first step is to have every check written looked at and questioned if necessary by the church financial officers, and the second is having a yearly audit.

[7] Posted by A Senior Priest on 2-10-2013 at 10:07 AM · [top]

Great points everyone, especially re checks and balances.

[8] Posted by MichaelA on 2-10-2013 at 11:31 PM · [top]

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