If you have been involved in ministry for any length of time, it is hard not to hear the latest news about any given prominent pastor from any given prominent church failing in his ministry. Whether the cause of failing is pride, sexual immortality, or financial irresponsibility (amongst other sins), the news of a well-respected man giving in to sin is disheartening. The qualifications that the Bible requires of an elder are high and not to be taken lightly. Most people might think, "His poor wife, she doesn't deserve this.”
I can't help but ask, "What could the wife have done to help protect her husband?" Unfortunately, if the pastor and his wife do not bind together to fight against sin in their lives and ministry, Satan will take hold.
The Bible lays out the qualifications for an elder very clearly when Paul wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy:
"Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap."
1 Timothy 3:1-7
These passages define a high calling for our husbands and for us as young pastors’ wives. It is important for us to understand the seriousness of what Paul is saying. There is no room for complacency in the pastoral role.
"Can you imagine the Christ-exalting power of a church filled with men possessing a strong, godly desire to lead Christ’s sheep in their homes and their church? In my experience, the problem in many churches falls at the other end of the spectrum—most men aspire for little more than comfort, anonymity, ease, and just about anything else except leadership responsibility."
Thabiti M. Anyabwile (Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons)
Those Who Fall
I pray that those who read these words would never one day know the pain of dealing with a husband and ministry that has been tarnished by gross sin. Serious or "gross" sins such as pride, sexual immortality, financial irresponsibility, etc., can irreparably shatter a man's reputation and disqualify him from his leadership role.
Paul recognized the result of sin when he said, "I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified" (1 Cor. 9:27).
There must be consequences from the pastor who falls wholeheartedly into temptation. Overlooking the sin can never be the solution.
"…we cannot erase the consequences of sin. I am not advocating that we "shoot our wounded." I'm simply saying that we shouldn't rush them back to the front lines, and we should not put them in charge of other soldiers. The church should do everything possible to minister to those who have sinned and repented. But that does not include restoring the mantle of leadership to a man who has disqualified himself and forfeited the right to lead. Doing so is unbiblical and lowers the standard God has set."
John MacArthur ("Should Fallen Pastors Be Restored?")
However, failures in the ministry are not always as extreme as acting with or struggling with sexual immorality. Some failures, though just as serious, could be as simple as hearing God's command and not acting on it. Such was the case with Jonah:
"Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 'Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.' But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord."
No matter the failure, the pastor and his wife must label sin as sin, and come to Christ with a repentant heart, understanding that consequences will occur. King David understood this when he cried out to God with a contrite voice after committing adultery with Bathsheba,
"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. "
Guarding Against Failure
Paul understood the sinful temptations that pastors can face in the ministry and urged Timothy to guard himself:
"Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers."
1 Timothy 4:12-16
Paul reminds us to set an example for our fellow Christians, watch what you do and say, more simply put: live the life Christ has called us to live, one above reproach.
How can we as young pastors wives practically help our husbands guard our ministries?
- Hit sin head on by talking about your struggles.
- Encourage him to find an accountability partner if he doesn't already have one.
- Pray for your husband.
- Consider seeking help from a counselor.
- Talk to your husband about setting up a block on your computers and phones to guard against sexually explicit content. There is free software for this, such as X3watch or K9 Web Protection.
- Speak truth to your husband.
- Offer forgiveness.
- Always point towards Christ.
“To be good pastors, we must remind our people of this simple yet profound truth: “we have our hope set on the living God.” This phrase deserves a full exposition, an exposition written in the actual lives of those who have so trusted the Savior. A good pastor’s life should be such an exposition. He should live as one who has settled his hope in the Author of life—the one who has life in himself, the giver of eternal life, the living God, Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Thabiti M. Anyabwile (Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons)
Sin can ruin a ministry.
But where sin is, grace abounds.