How Should We Respond When a Pastor Falls to Moral Failure?

Pastor J.D. discusses that moral failures should cause Christians to ask, “Where am I susceptible to the same sin?” and strive for a culture of accountability among church members and leadership.

A glimpse inside this episode:

  • Back in 2007, I sat in a conference filled with ministry leaders, listening to a prominent pastor share some sobering statistics:
    • In the U.S., 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
    • 50% of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.
    • 80% of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged in their role.
    • 50% of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but they have no other way of making a living.
    • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
    • Almost 40% of pastors polled said they had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
    • 80% of pastors’ wives feel that their husband is overworked.
  • Over half of pastors’ wives surveyed said that the most destructive event that has occurred in their marriage was the day their husband entered the ministry.
  • Not long ago, that same pastor—the one who had warned us about pastoral burnout and moral failure—was removed from pastoral leadership in 2016. He had abused his pastoral authority, shut out any attempts to hold him accountable, and pursued inappropriate relationships with a couple different women.
    • I know this man loved Jesus in 2007, and that he loves Jesus today. And I know he sincerely believed what he told us in that conference. But that didn’t prevent him from becoming one of the statistics he dreaded.
  • Galatians 6:1–2
    • The first thing we should ask when something like this happens is not, “What was wrong with them?” but “Where am I susceptible to the same sin?”
    • The seed of every sin is in every human heart.
    • We should be accountable,
  • …and hold our pastors accountable
    • I asked Paul Tripp, pastor to pastors, why this keeps happening. He gave me on two reasons why pastors fall:
      • Lack of peer community. Exacerbates 2nd problem…
      • The forget the power of indwelling sin! As Paul said to me these pastors keep believing the first half of 1 Timothy 1:15, but the stop believing the second: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners … of whom I am the worst.”
      • Things that grow in a secret garden always grow mutant.
    • The shepherd is still a sheep.
  • Trend of pastors not being close to anyone:
    • Better is a neighbor nearby than a brother far away (Proverbs 27:10)
    • Your “brother” may be your closest friend, the guy you can share anything with.
      • He gives incredible counsel and always looks out for you. But if he’s 100 miles away, he’s actually not as valuable as a guy you met six months ago in your small group.
    • Isolation is the problem.


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