Friday, November 10, 2006

Lack of True Christian Community

My close friend Mack called and asked me an important question: “Do you think fellow Christians have treated Pastor Ted Haggard’s very public sin properly?” It is Mack’s opinion that many Christian leaders have been pharisaical in their response to the situation. He feels they are a poor example of the Christian community and a poor example of Christian forgiveness and restoration.

One of the saddest things I saw was Pastor Haggard, in a car with his wife and children, when reporters pushed a microphone in his face and asked if he had gay sex with a prostitute. Did his wife have any inkling of what was going on? The poor children, their time in school during the next few months will be best described as tough. My heart aches for Pastor Haggard, his wife and children. What he did was a sin, we can’t deny it, but we must pray for forgiveness, restoration and protection.

I fill in for pastor’s who have to be gone for a week or I fill in short-term in the case of sickness or other issues. People will discuss with me opinions or concerns about their past pastor or current pastor, whatever the case.

One common theme is that pastors seem distant from the people. A friend of mine who graduated from seminary two years ago said they are taught to be cautious of relationships inside their congregation.

We the body, put pastors on a pedestal, some pastors love that attention and position. Yes, we expect a higher standard, but with their raised expectations we come to expect perfection. Not possible on this side of heaven. We fail to realize they are just like us, sinners, battling, walking and working out their faith, and many times we don’t do it real well. Yes, even though he is on the pedestal he is a sinner, just like us.

In James 5:16 it says we should “confess our sins to one another” (and to God also, my comment), but today we see little if any confession occurring horizontally - one person to another. Yet, if our pastor or pastor’s wife came to us at the first temptation of a sinful desire, to use drugs (Haggard’s case), have an illicit sexual affair (Haggard’s case) or may have committed such, what would we do?

I came upon a blog entitled It has an interesting insight. I quote from a person responding to an article written on the site.

“Many of the sin issues we see in the lives of Christian leaders reach epic proportions because the body of Christ is not practicing true community. Real community recognizes that pastors are no different than us within the church community. They are fellow brothers subject to the same temptations we are, but while we may allow ourselves the grace of confession to others in the community, we don’t allow pastors the same grace. Pastors know that in most cases, even confessing the slightest sin will get them removed from their role as pastor. I fear that’s a double standard; we hold pastors to too stringent of a standard. They feel the need to cover up any and all things to preserve their jobs. I’ve known pastors blackballed from their denomination for sinning in ways that the ordinary guy in the pew does without even thinking. That kind of bombastic knee jerk reaction perpetuates the problem.

A real community will allow pastors to confess their sins without the fear of life destroying consequences. Yes, all sin has consequences, but if we do not have the “grace” to nip “small” things in the bud before they bloom into monstrosities, then we are setting up our pastor for a major fall.

Almost every pastoral fall begins because the pastor knows that people will overreact. Our congregations treat him as a person apart from us, so why should he think any different? This problem lies at the core of almost every noted pastoral failure of the last century.

We must allow our pastors to be human. We must include them in our community and bear their burdens just we would others. We must not be surprised by our pastor’s sins. We must extend them the same grace we are willing to extend to our “ordinary” brothers and sisters. Only then will we stop the relentless pastoral tragedies that can afflict your church and mine.”

I could not have said I better. In James 5:16 it says, “Confess your sins to one another and you shall be healed.” Does your pastor have a brother he could confess his sins to without fear of rejection? Does his wife have a sister she could confess her sins to without fear of rejection? If not, is our church a true community of believers? Or are we just playing games?

Pray for pastors, families and our churches.

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