I’ve just spent the last hour reading articles and blog posts regarding the most recent high-profile pastor that resigned his church due to moral failure. My heart is sick. My spirit is saddened. It seems the enemy has won another round and the church of Jesus Christ has another black eye.
I’m not going to dredge up all of the gory details. I’m not going to jump into the debate on whether or not a pastor can be restored to ministry after the fall. However, I do want to talk about before the fall. There doesn’t seem to be much discussion on that subject.
A man (or woman) does not wake up one morning and say to himself, “Today I will have an affair”, “Today I will look at pornography”, or “Today I will self-medicate with prescription drugs, illegal drugs, or alcohol.” Rather, it is a series of choices, perhaps unconscious at first, but then fully conscious, that leads to adultery or addiction.
In the song, Slow Fade, by Casting Crowns, a child’s song has been used to detail the step-by-step process of a man or woman’s fall from grace:
Be careful little eyes what you see. It’s the second glance that ties your hands when darkness pulls the strings.
Be careful little feet where you go. For it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow.
It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away. It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray. Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid when you give yourself away. People never crumble in a day. It’s a slow fade. It’s a slow fade.
Be careful little ears what you hear. When flattery leads to compromise the end is always near.
Be careful little lips what you say. For empty words and promises lead broken hearts astray.
The journey from your mind to your hands is shorter than you’re thinking. Be careful if you think you stand, you just might be sinking.
It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away. It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray. Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid when you give yourself away.
People never crumble in a day.
Daddies never crumble in a day.
Families never crumble in a day.
Oh, be careful little eyes what you see. Oh, be careful little eyes what you see. For the Father up above is looking down in love. Oh, be careful little eyes what you see.
It is a slow fade. A series of choices. Or rather, a series of secret choices.
I wonder would the outcome have been the same if the above-mentioned pastor had a man in his life that held him accountable? Would the slow fade that led to adultery have been avoided, or stopped in its tracks, if the pastor was able to confess his thoughts and feelings to a trusted, safe mentor? Did the pastor in question surround himself with men and women who affirmed his every word and action and yet failed to question his spiritual health when he was not behind a podium? Did he allow himself to be placed so high above others that he couldn’t admit to marriage difficulties, unhappiness, or lustful thoughts because it would tarnish his image or cause him embarrassment?
I recently met with a beautiful young woman who admitted to having an emotional affair. She was unhappy in her marriage and, in her need, had reached out to another man. It began innocently enough. A short conversation. An email of encouragement. A text. But, that slippery slope began to get a little steeper and her slow fade toward adultery began to pick up speed. One text became several a day. A quick run to the grocery store, without the kids, became an opportunity for a phone call. She was able to rationalize her actions at first, but thankfully, her heart hadn’t yet become hardened to the voice of the Holy Spirit. She called me, her mentor, to set up a face-to-face meeting. She was horribly embarrassed. Mortified, really. She cried. She apologized. She repented. Now, several months later, she and her husband meet regularly with a trusted counselor/pastor. They are both actively working on their marriage. She struggled, at first, to disengage her emotions from a man that was not her husband. It has been difficult, but a divorce and breakup of a precious family would have been devastating. I thank God every day that she felt the freedom to come to me and be open, honest, and real.
Where do the shepherds turn when they feel the need to be open, honest, and real with someone? Who is shepherding the shepherds? Sadly, statistics tell us that 81% of pastors say they do not have a mentor or significant friendship in their lives. What do these men (and women) do? Do they stuff their emotions until they become cold, hard, angry, numb, depressed, and/or miserable and then make choices based on those repressed emotions? For 81% the answer seems to be yes.
Why? The truth is they don’t know who they can trust. Most are afraid that if they voice their struggles word will get back to their denominational superiors or church board and they will lose their livelihood! Unfortunately I’ve heard the stories and I know this to be true.
At Standing Stone Ministry we recognize the need for safe and confidential mentoring relationships and we are doing something about it! We are training up Standing Stone Associates; retired, semi-retired, and bi-vocational pastors to come alongside those actively serving in the ministry to be a voice of encouragement, perspective, wisdom, and experience. Who better to shepherd the shepherds than one who has already walked in their shoes? Who better to ask the meaningful questions than one who has lived the life and faced the same struggles and temptations? Who better to pray for and with these young men and women than men and women who understand the high call of ministry and the high stress of ministry? Who better to educate church boards to the care of church leadership than a former pastor?
Let’s do the math, shall we? One retired, seasoned pastor, mentors 15-20 younger pastors, who each serve congregations of 150-500 people. Those 15-20 pastors stay healthy. They remain in ministry rather than leave due to burnout and/or moral failure. They continue to teach the Word of God and encourage their flock to stay the course and to fight the good fight, because they too have chosen to stay the course and fight the good fight! That means 2,250 to 10,000 people would be directly affected (this time in a positive way) because their pastors are able to be open, honest, and real with a trusted mentor. Extrapolate that by 100 Standing Stone Associates. Then by 200. Boggles the mind, doesn’t it?!?!?
Now, I recognize that Standing Stone can’t reach every struggling pastor in the United States. Some pastors will not reach out to another when they are struggling. But, others will. I believe that lots of them will. They just have to know that Standing Stone is a resource that God has put in place to assist them.
Will you help us get the word out? Will you tell your pastor about the ministry of Standing Stone? Will you tell your friends who are retired, semi-retired, or bi-vocational pastors who have a heart to serve and a desire to do something significant for the Body of Christ to contact us at Standing Stone?
We have a clear directive from God about our part to stop the hemorrhaging. We’ve lost too many good men and women to the schemes of the enemy. Standing Stone Ministry is taking a stand. Enough is enough!
Can I get an Amen!
Soli Deo Gloria,