Monday, April 18, 2016

Small things can bring great harm

Solomon once warned us that small things can cause great harm. In Song of Solomon 2:15 he reminds us that the little foxes can destroy the vines. I thought of this verse when I recently read that another leader of a large church had been removed from his position because of misconduct.

Darrin Patrick, pastor of The Journey, a megachurch in St. Louis was fired as the pastor after church elders investigated some allegations of misconduct. While they emphasized that there was no evidence of adultery, they claimed that Patrick had engaged in inappropriate contact with two females. In addition, they said that they had been working with him for several years on some other areas of sin in his life including misuse of power, manipulation and lying, and lack of self-control which they claimed amounted to "deep historical patterns of sin."

Patrick joins other well-known ministers who have been terminated or resigned from their churches in recent years due to issues such as pride, misuse of power, and a lack of accountability.

In no way am I going to point a finger at Patrick or any other pastor who struggles with such sin in their lives. I do not know the circumstances nor do I want to. Anyone in a position of leadership, including pastors, will be tempted to misuse their power. Notice, I didn't say they might be tempted; I said we will be tempted. However brief the temptation may be, there will be times when it will come, and how we handle it will shape our ministries and leadership for years to come.

I am sure that Patrick and other pastors in similar situations did not get up one morning and decide they would begin to manipulate people, lie to them, and misuse their positions of authority. More likely, one day a "mispeak" was used to advance something that would benefit the church. I use the term "mispeak" because it is a popular term among politicians who somehow seem to get by with it quite often. Maybe the end result was good so the lie was overlooked. However, one lie often leads to another.

One misuse of authority also leads to another. After all, we can always justify it because we are doing the Lord's work, and what we are doing is to advance the Kingdom of God. One flirty moment leads to another. Again, it's all harmless because we would never follow through with anything physical. And then one day we stand before our leadership group trying to respond to allegations of misconduct.

God reminded Cain (Gen. 4:7) that sin lies at the door desiring to take control of his life. That same warning applies to those of us in ministry. Small, seemingly insignificant things can overtime grow much larger. We open the door, and suddenly a foothold that sin had in our lives becomes a stronghold that we cannot overcome.

At the very root of such sin is pride, and the cure for pride is humility. The best leaders I've known were very humble people. They recognized any success they enjoyed was not of their own doing. They are quick to give God and those who work with them the praise for the good things that occur under their leadership.

As a leader, there will be times when you will be tempted to think more highly of yourself than you should. When such times occur it is important to spend even more time in prayer, in reading the Scriptures, and in worship. Maintain a humble spirit, and you will be less likely to fall into the traps that pride can set for you.

Finally, let's pray for one another. Again, I am not criticizing any of these pastors nor should you. Rather, let's pray for them and for one another that we will not fall victim to Satan's snares.

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