What a Church COULD Do When Their Pastor Has a Moral Failure
Recently I spoke to a man about a church which many years ago suffered the anguish of losing a pastor to moral failure. The church has never recovered from the situation and to this day still blames that pastor for the difficulties they have faced. The beautiful facilities are almost empty on Sunday mornings and they have been through pastor after pastor since that man left. Interestingly, the fallen pastor long ago was restored, and, in fact is now pastoring a small church where God is blessing in a marvelous way. Yet, the church still is struggling in the “aftermath” of his fall.
I have seen this happen over and over again, and it always seems to follow the same pattern. The church struggles for a very long time and continues to use the fallen apastor as the scapegoat for all their struggles. In fact, often their bitterness and resentment towards him grows as time passes. It is my contention that it is not his fault. Do not misunderstand, there is no doubt that his actions caused the struggles to begin, but it is their reactions that causes the continued slide of the church. There is only so much blame that they can place on that pastor. They must take responsibility for the way they respond after the fall. Let me offer some possible things a church could do to prevent years of bitterness and struggle.
- They could come face to face with their own sins. What could be more logical than for a church who has seen the fallibility of their pastor to examine itself to see what sins are in the lives of the members. If he could fall to his faults, why not the individuals within the church. Rather that resentment, they could experience revival. Self righteousness is a terrible sin and often members become so when they see their pastor fall.
- They could come to a greater understanding of the grace of God. Why should that pastor not feel the grace of God’s people when he has fallen? A church could see this as an opportunity to truly show forth the grace of God towards this man and his family rather than becoming bitter and hateful.
- They could become examples to other believers of how a church handles restoration. Occasionally I hear of such a church, which handled the moral failing of their pastor with grace and love. Of course there are feelings of betrayal and disappointment. That is only natural. However, there needs to be churches which exemplify the proper way to restore a fallen one, even if it is their pastor.
- They could seize the moment to seek God's face in a humble and powerful way. One of the worst mistakes I have seen churches make in this situation is to have far too many business meetings and far too few prayer meetings. When the pastor has fallen, there is more need than ever for a church to seek the face of God. Yet, few churches do it. They are too busy being angry or feeling sorry for themselves to pray.
- They could ask God what it is He wants them to learn from the incident since God knew it was going to happen before it did. Do we far too often think that these things somehow catch God by surprise? Well, they don’t. God knew this was going to happen before the man ever became the pastor of the church. Could it not be that God allows it to happen for his purpose? Why do we fail to apply Romans 8:28 to these situations?
- They could seek to reclaim the life of that man who failed the Lord and disappointed them. “Ye which are spiritual restore such an one…” Are our churches proving their lack of spirituality by their refusal to restore this fallen pastor. I am not suggesting they should restore him to the position of pastor. Nor am I suggesting that it is best for him to stay at the church he pastored after his fall. Sometimes it is best for him to leave. However, until he can gather himself and make such a move, the members should begin restoring him in his relationship to the Lord.
- They could remember the pastor’s family and truly minister grace to them. These are the true victims of a pastor’s fall. Think of the wife and children who have had the rug pulled out from underneath their lives. Love them. Treat them with kindness and grace. Do not neglect their needs.
- They could remain unified rather than coming apart at the seams bickering over what to do. A pastor’s fall can tear a church apart at the seams. The aftermath can bring fighting and division among God’s people. That ought not to be and will not be if the people are walking in the Spirit rather than in the flesh. It is sad to see churches r=torn apart and then blame the former pastor for their own lack of unity.
- They could decide not to cast blame but give forgiveness. Perhaps this is where it all begins. The church must decide to forgive that one who hurt them. I do not mean AFTER he has apologized. I mean before. I have heard of churches where the church refused to forgive because the pastor had not yet asked for it and after he did, they actually voted on whether or not to accept his apology. Then they send a letter informing him of their decision. Are you kidding me? That amazes me, yet it is not all that unusual. It is almost as though they feel they are doing him a favor for doing what they ought to do. That is absurd and God will not bless it. Forgive for Christ’s sake.
- They could praise the Lord for His goodness rather than feeling sorry for themselves. A “woe is us” attitude is not Christlike. God cannot bless that kind of behaviour. When a church feels sorry for itself because of the devastation of a pastor’s fall it is revealing its lack of appreciation for the abundance of God’s grace in the lives of each person in that church.
- They could be aware of the lives which are at stake. The tragedy of these situations is that the weakest Christians are often made to stumble by the failure of the stronger ones to do what is right. This is sad. I wonder how many Christians are out of church and away from God because of the way a church handled the pastor’s fall. Sadly the church usually blames the fallen one for these casualties rather than taking responsibility for being strong for them.
- They could determine to show a heathen world how Christians behave even in the face of scandal. Most scandals are made worse by the wrong reactions of the people within the church. The world watches to see if we were following the Lord or only the man. They see the church go into decline and instead of seeing what God can do with tragedy, they see what Satan can do with it. Brethren, that ought not to be.
So, these are some things a church could do. Some do, but most do not. Sadly they languish in their anger, hurt and victimhood and allow the church of God to be harmed. Some never recover because they never face the truth that is not the fallen pastor who is responsible for their future. It is their faith and obedience to God that is. any churches would continue to see the blessings of God if they would do these things. Make no mistake my friend, they could do all these things...if they chose to.
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