Wondering If You’re The Next Pastor To Fall

A week rarely passes without feeling the tremor from another leader’s tumble

“The plunge of any pastor represents the potential for every pastor. As we open the letter to read the news, we must accept the invitation to look at ourselves (1 Cor. 10 12). We must answer the offer to think. And if you’re a lead pastor, you must think hard, as if the future of your family and your church depends upon the outcome. After all, it might.”

 

I’m sitting in the Louisville airport reading a news release about the fall of another high-profile pastor. A week rarely passes without feeling the tremor from another leader’s tumble. Reading the reasons (which include abandonment of community, refusal of accountability, and misplaced identity) reminds me of how often this list appears when high profile pastors are laid low. These conditions then invite a mob of sins to loot the home and set the soul on fire. The following days headlines might read, “Another Pastor, Another 5-Alarm Fire”.

Independent leaders often grow cold and constantly reach for matches.

After the fire there’s always the fallout. The pundits wag their heads, God’s people grieve the loss, and another church slips the bonds of pastoral trust to battle cynicism and mourn the madness of a man they loved—a lead pastor whose writings they read, preaching they praised, and example they esteemed. And yet as an extraordinary display of His incomprehensible love, God redeems leaders, even the ones with the scandalous sins (2 Sam. 12: 7-9, 13).

News like this becomes a pressing invitation sealed in a soiled envelope. The plunge of any pastor represents the potential for every pastor. As we open the letter to read the news, we must accept the invitation to look at ourselves (1 Cor. 10 12). We must answer the offer to think. And if you’re a lead pastor, you must think hard, as if the future of your family and your church depends upon the outcome. After all, it might.

Recently, I wrote a paper for Sojourn Network to invite our pastors to consider their experience of care, accountability and team (you’re welcome to check it out here). I’ve adapted and expanded a small piece of it below to offer some thoughts that will, I pray, serve lead pastors. Here are four things to think on when it comes to care and accountability in your church:

Think Plurality

In a world where almost anything can be professionalized and outsourced, it’s easy for pastors to farm out their care by finding the primary help for their soul outside of the eldership—sometimes even outside of the church. But just as a train engine pulls the caboose, care tows the burden of accountability. If you are finding your care outside of the people who know you best, then it may be high time to get real. You are living a pretty unaccountable life.

This is not a subtle attack on counseling, coaching, or what some have called “parachurch ministries.” I serve on the board of CCEF and have benefitted from both counseling and coaching from outside of our pastoral team. But those services must always supplement the role of the local church, never replace it.

Lead pastors, think about this: One of the quickest ways to undermine the health of your plurality is informing them through your words or actions that they are incompetent to care for the complexities of your position or your soul. When you were appointed the lead guy, the role did not come with a special “get-out-of-local-church-care-free” card to be tucked in the wallet and slapped down when your soul becomes particularly burdened. Let’s be vigilant to build our primary network of care from within and then enjoy the delight that comes from a “neighbor who is near” (Prov. 27:10b).

A wise elder understands this principle. We can’t preach the principle that people should receive care through their local church pastors only to exempt ourselves from the same kind of care. As elders go, so goes the church. When applied to care, this means the manner in which pastors receive care is the very method and model they reinforce for the church.

Think Care

Let’s say you’re reading this and wholeheartedly agree. But your local elders do not operate this way. How does an elder/pastor/church planter build a culture of care?

The culture comes as each elder commits himself to providing care for others. Note that I used the word “providing.” There’s a growing trend, particularly among younger leaders, to see care as primarily something one needs rather than something one gives. This means it’s defined more as a personal need-to-be-met-in-me rather than a ministry-of-love-provided-by-me. In my travels I’m constantly bumping into elders starving for soul care, searching the world to scratch the itch without ever seeing or developing the potential within their own plurality.

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