Stories about scandal in the church seem to be more common these days. While it may seem like a recent phenomenon, there have been more public reports of abuse in the church in recent years. We may hear about many stories of sexual abuse in the Catholic church, it is not limited to this church alone. There are many cases of scandals in the evangelical world as well. It is disheartening when we hear about another incident of a pastor being inappropriate and abusing their power. It can also be challenging to process, especially when it impacts your congregation. Pastors have a responsibility that we have entrusted to them specifically. When a scandal occurs, full and public repentance is imperative. Here are five reasons ministers should be held to a higher standard of accountability.
They answer to a holy authority.
Taking on the role of a pastor should not be taken lightly. As ministers of the Gospel, you submit to a higher standard and answer to a holy authority. This is not a role that should not be taken lightly. The Bible tells us a pastor must be upright. Titus 1:7-8 says, “Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless – not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.” A pastor is supposed to genuinely love what is good. He is also called to be self-controlled. This comes to all areas of his life: including relationships, finances, and money. They can’t practice immoral living and be a leader of the church.
A minister’s character is essential. People in the church will turn to their pastor for guidance, and they pay attention to their character. It is hypocritical to think that leaders can participate in immoral behavior while members are told to live their lives free of sin. Some church body members glaze over a double standard, but not those who are faithful and educated in Christ. It’s sad that we live in an age where we have to declare that character in the church matters. Pastors who practice behaviors like stealing, adultery, or lying, can damage the church body beyond repair. Pastors should not practice these behaviors in any of these destructive forms.
They are major influencers.
James 3:1 tells us, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” The book of James talks about the kind of faith that produces good works. Those who are called to leadership in the church are called to a higher standard. This is because of the great influence they wield as teachers. As ministers, their words and their works carry greater weight than those who aren’t teaching. When teachers fall, they will bring down many people with them. God will also judge teachers of the Word according to the impact they have on those who lead.
They are called to advance the kingdom of God.
The church is blessed with many ministers, and God expects those ministers to develop and use their gifts to advance His kingdom. Second Timothy 4:2 says, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of the season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” Ministers should hold themselves to a higher standard, also knowing that they will be judged more strictly. Ministers are also called to follow the counsel of Galatians 5:13 which tells us, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Those who are faithful leaders give up the rights to “gray areas” to set themselves apart from any questionable behaviors. A minister in leadership who is unable to limit their own freedoms for those they influence, may not be ready to assume that role.
They will be judged more strictly.
Those in the ministry are judged more strictly. Many chose the ministry who have no business being in the role. These people are not gifted to teach or are morally qualified. You can’t be an effective minister and morally bankrupt. The Bible says not many should become teachers. Before people choose to be in the ministry, they should ask themselves a number of questions. One of those questions is has God called me to this role? Another question you should ask is my personal life free from habitual sin?
They have spiritual authority.
Ministers have spiritual authority. Problems show up when ministers take advantage of this authority. If your pastor teaches on the topic of authority actively in church, constantly reminding those in the congregation that he or she is in charge, there is a problem. In an unhealthy ministry, the minister starts to take on the role of Jesus in people’s lives. There are people in the church who are told that they can’t leave the church unless the minister approves this decision. There are also those who abuse their power by telling victims they abused in the church that God will be upset with them if they share what happened to them. Any pastor who pushes these ideas is abusive, power-hungry, and trying to manipulate those in the congregation.
While most ministers are not setting out to abuse their title and role, you should pay close attention to those in church leadership behaviors. Be mindful of what your minister is setting out to do. Ask yourself if your pastor is focused on being a disciple of Christ or focused on matters of self. You should be suspicious of ministers who make the ministry about themselves and participate in behaviors that are counter to God’s Word. A pastor should be a person of integrity. They are upright in their relationships and also how they treat others. They also should be the ultimate example to their flock. If your pastor has done something that has violated a member of the church or the church’s trust, it needs to be immediately addressed and handled appropriately.