Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Under a Robe

We are surrounded with churches that are helpful to the community and to other parts of the world. We live in a world of nice churches with nice ministers. Church leaders around us have convincing conversion stories. We hear how the Lord has changed their lives and how they have decided to follow the Lord’s calling. When lies and betrayals come from church leaders who are personable and charismatic, it is inconceivable to think of them as liar or thief. It is easier to think of them as people who are called by God to lead his people.

A letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul addresses overseers as leaders who are above reproach (I Tim 3:2)--however, we have lightly taken this verse. We have avoided accusations against preachers or teachers because we want to live at peace with everyone especially with our church friends.

What do we have to learn from pastors from Brazil who smuggled money to Florida or from Ted Haggard who was caught with a male prostitute using meth? We need to learn how to discern a pastor’s sermon, and we need to be accountable to outside institutions to maintain our integrity. A pastor’s sermon is a window to one’s soul. We can tell what a pastor is experiencing when we listen carefully to his sermons. This means when a pastor is struggling with sexual immorality, one might preach against promiscuity. When a pastor is preaching about tithing, one might be subtly suggesting an increase on his salary. Just as we advice our friends to walk in the right path, we must encourage pastors to live above reproach.

Recently, I heard of a pastor who opened his own bank account to deposit church tithes. When members of the church directed their concern to the bishop, they were told that as the pastor, he can do what he wills. Is this an appropriate response to thieves hidden under a pastor’s robe? No. We must continue to be vocal about maintaining the integrity of pastors. We must begin at Bible Schools and Seminaries. The training of pastors, academically and practically, is the first step to thriving in ministry. It means taking classes in Spirituality. This also means being accountable to God, to ourselves, and to our community. We have to go further than merely studying Theology or preparing for a sermon. We have let other people teach us, correct us, and rebuke us. We cannot afford another pastor who lies, steals, or commit adultery no matter they are great preacher with incredible personalities.

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