Christian leaders and character
Over the years there have been multiple incidents of Christian leaders caught in adulterous relationships and other character-related issues. At times the response of the non-Christian public has been that this is a confirmation that there is something wrong with Christianity. People would say that is why they will never attend a church or consider having faith in God. I understand the way people feel and understand the related skepticism and derision. I believe however that some important considerations are being ignored that we should clarify.
First of all, someone who is a Christian leader, pastor, priest counsellor etc. is supposed to serve as a representative of the kingdom of God on earth, and representatives are required to live what they say, or they fail to remain representatives and become mis-representatives. Leaders have no exemption from following the commands of God because of their position. In fact, the Bible clearly states that they are to be held to an even higher standard than followers. In the book of Timothy, the qualifications are plainly laid out: 1 Timothy 3 New King James Version (NKJV)
Qualifications of overseers: This is a faithful saying – If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover, he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
Qualifications of deacons: Like-wise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
This shows us what the standard is. If persons who are leaders fail to live up to the standards, they disqualify themselves as representatives and they should be appropriately disciplined. If a CEO or an employee of a company fails to follow company policies and protocol, we don’t say the company is no good, we discipline or fire the employee because they are misrepresenting the company. There are many Christian leaders who are misrepresenting the gospel and as such they should be dealt with according to kingdom policy.
Some Christian leaders who have fallen want to continue without any penalty or discipline and even blame the congregants, the devil, haters and their victims for their lack of character. This is unacceptable – and if allowed to continue will certainly erode confidence in the entire faith. There is no doubt that the tenants of the Christian faith allow for the ultimate living experience and the best possible life. The Bible tells us to love one another, do good to one another, be kind, live in peace, to be charitable and to live a pure life. If this were not attached to any particular religion, I am sure we would say that is a beautiful way to live. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Christianity (or more specifically kingdom living). There is something wrong with the people who misrepresent it and who refuse to live by what the Bible obviously says.
If we are intelligent people, we should be able to see clearly that those who adhere to the tenants of Jesus are the most awesome people who are a great benefit to all people whether they are Christian or not. I believe we need to hold Christian leaders accountable to the faith they profess including the qualifications and disciplinary procedures outlined in the Bible.
If you “fall” or make a mistake and have an error in judgement and sin against God, you ought to do what King David did and repent and ask God to forgive you and give you a “clean” heart and a right spirit so that you may return to your calling. Leaders who have misrepresented their calling or abused, and do not follow the Biblical plan make a mockery of the Christian faith; and puts them in a position that God allows no one to occupy – and that is the position to be above or exempt from his commands. No matter who you are you must follow the tenants of the kingdom if you say you want to represent him. Some of the lame excuses and pity parties that leaders put forth to excuse themselves from what they tell members to follow is frightening to me. We all must be held to the same standard as leaders and that standard is even higher than what is acceptable for ordinary believers. If you mess up it’s time to confess, face discipline, ask for forgiveness and go through the prescribed restorative process if you qualify to be restored. Plain and simple, there is no other option.
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.