The past month has found me right in the midst of a move to a new home (hence the reason I haven’t posted in so long). As is inevitable in any move I began looking through old files and I came across a letter from Chuck Swindoll. As I read it I began to think about the hundreds of pastors and church leaders I’ve worked with from all over the world and two of the biggest obstacles to their work.
One of the biggest chasms between many pastors and their congregants is a lack of authenticity. So often it seems that a pastor will preach from the pulpit about how everyone else should live their life, but then never takes the time to explain the struggles he is facing in his own life. This often causes the church-goer to believe there is something wrong with them if they are struggling with something that seems to affect no one else. Over time this syndrome will cause many to view the pastor as having a “holier than thou” status and eventually they will walk away from the church disgruntled.
The other half of this deadly combination is a lack of accountability. Quickly eroding the trust and credibility of the pastor and just a small step away from becoming full blown hypocrisy, lack of accountability will cause the most moral of men to eventually fall. One of the most destructive things to happen to a church is moral failure by a pastor. Perhaps the single best method for preventing moral failure is accountability. (Anyone remember Proverbs 27:17?) Far too often a pastor is so busy tending to people that he fails to forge accountability relationships with others, however these relationships are absolutely vital if one hopes to have any defense against the giant bulls-eye painted on him by the Devil.
Becoming authentic and honest from the pulpit will require a tremendous amount of courage (at first) and the solicitation of feedback from trusted peers, but it can be done and it will become easier over time. Gathering a friend, or small group of friends, together to help hold each other accountable is much more difficult. It may even seem terrifying at first. Revealing your deep innermost struggles and temptations to another person may leave you feeling vulnerable and awkward at first. But with the right person (or group of people) and an atmosphere of trust and confidence, one can establish a line of protection against moral failure that will be exponentially more difficult for the Devil to penetrate.
Although I have written specifically about pastors, that by no means excludes any of us from needing to exhibit these characteristics in our own lives. How will those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus, come to have one if they look at our lives as inauthentic or holier than thou? How will they view me if I continually have moral failures and do little to prevent it from happening again? For me personally, authenticity and accountability are two areas I could do much better in and I plan to make an intentional effort to improve them starting now. How about you?