Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Sin and spiritual warfare

A church I'm familiar with just announced that their pastor was being removed from the pulpit due to a moral failure on his part.

The results of his sin for the congregation seem obvious at first:

many will be devastated by this, possibly leaving the church immediately. Many will struggle against the leadership as they lead the congregation through it. Some will refuse to believe it and may deem the leadership as improperly judgmental about their pastor. And he will, of course, face a long, difficult road for repentance, reconciliation, and restoration-- if he makes it that far.

But that's just the short-term. In the bigger picture, the implications are far greater.

Some will inevitably question their faith or even abandon it altogether.

Some of those who remain in the congregation will struggle with trusting and second-guessing their leadership.

Others will become jaded toward sin, especially the sin committed by the pastor. "If he can do it, so can I."

This pastor may find that, even if he is "restored" in ministry, this particular congregation will not be led by him any longer. He may have difficulty finding another call. He may leave the ministry, not by choice but because he simply cannot find a church that will extend a call to him. Thus, what God created him to do will not be done by him.

This particular church has a young seminary graduate on staff as a church planting intern. Will he be able to remain on staff? Will there still be a purpose for him to be around? My guess is that any plans to plant a church will be delayed, perhaps for longer than the church's income (or the intern's fundraising) allows for him to stay. He may be forced to move on rather than plant the church he would have in that town. In fact, any momentum gained toward planting a church may be completely lost by this congregation.

Some of the members of this church had been exploring the possibilities to start a school. They were hoping to do so in the church's facilities, and as a partnership with the church in ministering to the families of this congregation and community. Will they be able to continue their plans? Will their hopes be dashed? Or will they take them someplace nearby to locate their school? It may be that any possibilities for starting a school will be taken elsewhere, and this congregation will not extend their ministry in that way.

It seems clear that true spiritual warfare is taking place at this church. A young, thriving congregation, they have a great location, great facilities, and great potential. They have visionary leaders and lay-people who dream big for the Kingdom-- a church plant and a school both in the works. A perfect target for spiritual war.

One of my good friends recently told me this:

"Two things happened when I was ordained. First, I began to truly feel the burden of other people's growth, sins, and the spiritual care that I was entrusted with. Second, I realized that my own struggles were brought to the forefront.

"I think this is what happens with all pastors,"
he said. "They don't realize how much the well-being of other believers will depend on them. And they don't know how much their own sin will affect them. Whether your sin be money issues, anger issues-- they will be heightened."

Sobering words, and a sobering situation, as we prepare for the coming transition into ministry.

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