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Moral Precautions for Ministers

Major changes in attitude and behavior have occurred in our culture in regard to sexual purity. Those changes have been felt in the Christian community, and even among church leaders.

For every widely publicized instance of clergy sexual misconduct, numerous lesser-known pastors and other Christian workers are felled by sexual immorality. High on the list of "moral land mines" inherent to ministry are ego-feeding flattery, debilitating criticism, and the stress and fatigue of endless tasks. Further, the naive notion that "it could never happen to me" sets one up for temptation and failure. Paul's warning is well taken: "If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).

Helpful advice is offered by Randy Alcorn in a direct and practical article titled "Strategies to keep from falling" in the Summer 1996 issue of Leadership magazine, highlighted below.

Monitor your spiritual pulse. Don't let ministering to others keep you from the daily disciplines of meditation, worship, prayer, and self-examination.

Guard your marriage. Evaluate your marriage relationship regularly, watching for the red flags of discontentment, poor communication, and poor marital relationship. Be diligent in daily, meaningful communication with your spouse.

Exercise the caution of wisdom. If you find yourself drawn to a co-worker or a parishioner, be sure that you meet with her only when necessary, only in the presence of others, and only as long as necessary.

Watch for subtle signs. Some people are attracted to the mystique surrounding the ministry. A woman with a spiritually weak husband, for example, may become infatuated with her pastor and transfer her affection to him. The pastor in turn is flattered by her admiration, and a pattern of "soul merger" can begin that may lead to romantic affection and even adultery.

Clear up cloudy thinking. It's easy to justify flirtations with logical rationalizations and misuse of Scripture (e.g., using "confidentially" as a reason for not telling your spouse about frequent meetings with a counselee). Seek help with your struggles and temptations from the Lord, a mature brother, or from your wife.

Hold yourself accountable. Through staff meetings or meeting with another pastor, establish the pattern of discussing your spiritual lives, seeking and offering prayer and advice, and holding one another accountable.

Guard your mind. Immorality rarely happens all at once; rather, "small mental indulgences and minuscule compromises" add up.

Rehearse the consequences. Few things squelch the urge to give in to immorality like listing specific consequences that would result from yielding to temptation.

Beware the enemy. Be assured that Satan has found our weak spots and knows where to aim his fiery darts. We must learn where our weaknesses lie and be prepared for the battle.


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January 1997 Edition
Volume 5, Issue 4
January 1997