Last summer a young man named Ramjan fell to his death off of a 170 foot waterfall in India while attempting to pose for a selfie. Eyewitnesses said visitors tried to stop Ramjan from walking near the edge of the cliff, but were told he was “not afraid of anything.”
Pastors need a healthy fear of failure to keep us from walking too close to morally dangerous cliffs. Sexual temptation is no stranger to ministry leaders, regardless of our gender or tenure. I want to propose five practical fence-posts which can help protect your life, marriage, and ministry from a moral freefall.
1. Our Savior
Likely you have already tried and failed at using various behavior modifications. I want to remind you that Jesus not only saved us from the penalty of sin, but also the power of sin. Don’t let your guard down because Satan is still on the prowl and his preferred targets are pastors and church leaders. Although he still has a few fiery darts left in his quiver, remember that your shield of faith is more than enough to protect you. Refuse to be bullied by this spiritual blowfish because he has been defeated by our Savior.
2. Our Friends
My good friend John Duval counsels 20 pastors a week on behalf of Standing Stone Ministry. I asked John recently what the most consistent pitfall of fallen pastors is, and without hesitation he said, “no accountability.” Real accountability takes courage, humility, and vulnerability.
Every leader needs a safe place to talk about unsafe subjects like addictions. Sexual temptation is a particularly awkward subject for pastors, so most avoid it altogether. In last month’s post I said, “Fighting that battle alone is dangerous, naïve, and preventable. You are not hopeless in this struggle unless you are struggling alone.”
I wonder how many who read that last month are still fighting alone today.
3. Our Spouse
Sex is a very important part of your marriage, so I want to encourage you to be explicitly honest with your spouse about your needs. Warning: This could be a contentious conversation, but it is necessary to the long term health of your marriage. Your honeymoon should start after your wedding and end at your funeral, while getting better along the way. That will not happen without stopping along the way to ask, “How are we doing?”
Even though your sex life is an important part of your safety fence, do not ask your spouse to shoulder all of the weight of your personal struggles. Our spouses do not want or need to hear all of the details about our battle for sexual integrity. They do, however, want to know that we have a plan, as well as a partner to help us implement it.
4. Our Bible
Pastors and teachers reading this might be tempted to think that because you teach the Bible, you are safer than most. On the contrary, you are held to a higher account by God and are a bigger target to the devil. Church leaders who engage in a spiritual battle must be armed with the right weapons. The Word is only an effective weapon if you yield it correctly and consistently.
We use it correctly when we apply it personally to our lives, instead of just using it as a ministry tool to feed others. If we consistently feed our souls, we will be stronger in our battle to stay sexually pure.
5. Our Boundaries
Although 19 people have died in the last five years where Ramjan fell, the local police department has still done nothing to protect the tourists from falling. “We are planning to erect poles along the edge of the falls so that people may not risk their life to view the waterfalls.”
Lifeway wants to help you build a protective fence for your life, instead of merely cleaning up your mess at the bottom of the cliff. Here are a few biblical solutions which can help: Woo Marriage Coaching (Spring 2019); Christ-Centered Parenting, The Gospel and Pornography; Our Hardcore Battle Plan.
LifewayPastors.com has four helpful posts on sexual integrity based on Michael Todd Wilson’s book Unburdened. My wife and I host Lifeway Pastor Date Nights all over North America, which are listed on LifewayPastors.com.
Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:16 CSB