From the Elephant Room website:
What do you do when a staff member fails morally? How bad is bad enough for dismissal? What responsibilities does the church continue to have to the former staff member? What if the failure involves a higher-profile pastor in your area or circle of influence? Is it ever acceptable to name a fallen pastor publicly? Can a fallen pastor re-qualify and be restored? In the same church? How soon is too soon? What safeguards can be established to help those who sincerely desire to remain faithful?
Session 6 - Help
Cordeiro, Loritts, MacDonald
We’ve all seen it. A pastor we’ve loved and benefited from and then on national TV saying I’m sorry. Much more frequently it happens apart from the TV in our churches everyday.
What do we do when a good man falls morally?
What you do begins prior to the fall. The need to be spiritually healthy and emotionally healthy. There also needs to be a strong sense of the responsibility you have in leadership that I am the desired destination in which others need to arrive.
I don’t want to place an unrealistic burden, but there is a need to be held to a higher standard.
I am, if on a church staff, it’s not just my area of expertise but I am a steward of the ministry itself and the message as a whole. It’s not just my walk with Jesus but my responsibilities to others.
When someone falls into sin, Galatians 6 is our attitude and Matthew 18 is our approach. Restoration in gentleness considering yourself.
We should never be joyful over confronting someone over sin. The goal is restoration. It’s not about being embarrassed. I want to do all I can to get them to spiritual wholeness.
Some people say how far is too far. If a man even thinks of sex with another lady, he’s already committing adultery. We need to understand the heart condition of our staff.
If that’s the standard, we can just vacate all our churches now. Lust, adultery in the heart, a single incident, I think most would say that’s not disqualification. But when you do cross the line and you’re no longer exemplary. How do you go about it?
Remove him immediately from the position he’s in. Partly for him and for others. Now you need to get him healed. Put a mentor on him and look at his correct-ability. It’s not just confession but contrition we’re looking for.
Do they have to be off the staff or can they be in a non-ministry role? We don’t want to be punitive.
We keep them on pay, but we remove the authority. It’s like putting him in a contagion ward and get him help.
Devil’s advocate. I work hard to put my tithes in, we’re barely making ends meet. I really don’t want my tithe to go to that.
You have to watch the correct-ability. If it’s not really repentance, you have to tell him to move on.
If they’re trying to protect their reputation, they have not repented. The lack of willingness to do whatever is asked, they have not repented.
The sign of repentance is brokenness. The greatest exposition on this is Psalm 51.
80 to 85% when I’ve confronted the confession does not come. There is a lot of sin management that comes along.
There has to come a point in time where you’re no longer playing games with your self for others and to say I just want to be right before God and others.
There are actual things repentance does according to the Scriptures.
When I pull them in to the contagion ward, I ask, why could you not self correct. My prayer is that we have the spirit of God in us that we can self correct.
I’m paying you 8 hours a day to work it out with your wife.
We do counseling and say we will reinstate you, probably not to the same position.
Have you ever had a leader fall that you didn’t see coming.
Yes. You ask questions. But here’s the deal. Sin has been around for a while. Ever since I became a pastor, I realized we’re really good at hiding our sin.
I look for personalities where they avoid authority, talk about spiritual things and avoid certain conversations. We tend to broadcast more than we intend to.
I find that people get quiet before things go sideways. Have you seen that?
I have. One of the things I say is you’ll be ready to come back when your wife tells me you’re ready to come back not you.
You can tell about a man’s marriage by the countenance of his wife.
Sometimes we think we’re being merciful and kind and gracious when really we’re restoring them some soon. They have to be broken of it. There needs to be a degree of health and consistency. Affirmation from his wife or others that know him.
The tension in our church that restoration to fellowship is not the same as restoration to leadership.
If you fall morally, you go back to go and do not collect $200. You’re starting over. You can’t do it in weeks or months. We’ve had a policy that if a pastor disqualifies himself morally, he may be able to restore to pastoral ministry…but not in our church. Maybe somewhere else.
In our church if there is a relationship with intercourse, they'll never be in leadership in our church again.
I would add one thing. A book never written. A lot of times there’s an accountability structure for the pastor but not the wife. I’ve been in on more cases where the wife is the guilty one than the pastor.
Don’t just hold the man accountable but also attend to the care and counsel of the wife.
You can have ministry idolatry working shoulder-to-shoulder but not be friends and face-to-face.
Come clean before you get caught.
If the question is when is a person ready for ministry again, I’m going to always fall on the side on protecting the congregation.
Spurgeon says you’re ready again for ministry after moral failure when you’re known more for repentance than for your sin.
Couple observations and some confusions. There was a time when I’d hear the severity and cringe. I have to think about it some more.
The problem is that the only thing we’ve ever talked about is sexual failure, especially when 1 in 6 women is beaten by someone who says he loves her.
We have another kind of problem that nobody says anything about.
In my experience when there is something unhealthy going on in the house, it is a symptom of other things going on in the house. To assume the woman knows when the husband is ready to come back, you might leave the rabbit with the wolf. It’s wrong to assume there’s nothing going on with the wife.
We need to see the dysfunction that produces the sin in the first place. Our whole spiritual legality is whoops you crossed the line and you’re gone. But we don’t see the pus that is under the blackhead.
Very few people will tell you what led to their sin. But there’s something going on in that house, and in millions of houses. Not just sexual sin.
There are angry out of control men as elders and we need to talk about this too.
Our church is only six years old, and we seem to be focusing on the individual behaviors. We need to monitor the culture of our staff. What can I do to make the culture of being on staff healthier and help prevent these moral blow ups.
We operate in a philosophy that ministry isn’t balanced and that there will be rhythms so there needs to be integration. My wife’s chief role is caring for the pastor wives.
I’ve been giving date nights to all staff members with gift cards and babysitters on the church. I say that not to brag but to show that it’s important to me to put some systems in place for the culture. And providing off ramps as well.
One of the things that’s important is to build a culture of holiness on staff. If we’re not careful to put a positive air pressure by expanding on holiness of God and our need to love one another.
We’re so reactionary in trying to keep people from sin but the way I overcome sin in life is not in focusing on the weakness but having a passionate heart for Jesus. If I love him more. If I see his vision for me.
I never talked to anyone who fell morally who was also consistent in their times with the Lord.
That’s not a cure for sin, but what I’m saying is an authentic hunger for Jesus leads to holiness.
Certainly there are standards and pragmatic things to do, but we need to create cultures where holiness and passion for Jesus are everything.
We need to remind people you are representing Jesus. This is not your gig.
You can teach what you know. But ultimately you will reproduce what you are.
I remember years ago when I was traveling with Campus Crusade, I asked God that before I had an opportunity to bring shame on Christ and my family to kill me first.
Too many people listen and believe in us. I don’t want to be used of the devil to knock them out of the race.
Ministry is not a right. It is a privilege. When it comes to our moral obligation, there is a lot at stake.
If we go away, the ministry will go right on. We’re not as important as we think we are.
When we disqualify ourselves morally, our first reaction should not be when we can get back in the pulpit.
The preceeding were summary notes from the Elephant Room. These are not direct quotes but rather a play by play intended to give an overview of each conversation at this year's event. I encourage you to watch this year's conversations once available for fullest context. - Jake