GUARDING AGAINST SECRET SINS IN MINISTRY
People often assume that Christians in public ministry are immune to sin and temptation. Christians in the public eye often face the danger of assumed holiness. By that I mean, we often assume because someone has taught it they have lived it. While there are scandalous sins we constantly look out for in the lives of those who are in ministry such as sexual sins, financial misappropriation, and/or failure in marriage, there are some secret sins that often go unnoticed or unchecked. These often render a man ineffective and unusable in the Lord’s work. What makes these dangerous is their subtlety coupled with the lack of sincere accountability in the ministry.
There is the obvious and disturbing pride that you can smell and sense from a distance in a person, then there is the deadly and subtle one that rarely comes out publically. It is the pride that has to do with one’s motives for doing what they are doing. Consequently someone can do a perfectly good thing and yet their pride is fueling them. In ministry, this pride is seen in two forms:
Glorying in results
In our desire to make a name for ourselves, we are so driven that we want results, and we want them at all costs. And when the results do not come, we are discouraged and want to quit. As a result of this desire for results you find people preoccupied with numbers. How many people came, how many conversions did we get, how much was given, etc. Now obviously statistics are necessary, but numbers do not equal success. One test for not glorying in results is whether you are satisfied and joyfully serve regardless of the numbers. This is opposed to viewing a high attendance Sunday as great and a low attendance Sunday as bad. The problem with glorying in results is that you focus on the quantity rather than the quality.
The second sign of ministerial pride is having a sense of self-importance. You soon begin to feel you are indispensable to the work and trust your ability and experience. You want people to praise you and acknowledge your work and efforts. It’s not uncommon to hear ministers say things like “they do not recognize the work I am doing.” Imagine Jeremiah looking for recognition, such kind of whining can be an indicator you have a higher view of self than is biblical. The other way this level of self-importance is noticed is in our response to criticism or opposing views. Those of us in ministry should remember we are not all knowing, only God is! Be careful of statements like: I agree with you but… or I see your point however… Having said that, obviously there are times you have to insist and hold on to your point because you are right, but if you are always right, then there is a big problem. Ministers should not behave like politicians who have issues with those who oppose or criticize them. Let us have the mind of Christ (Phil 2:1-10).
“But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.” James 3:14
Pride breeds envy and jealousy. Jealousy is seen in feeling hurt or bothered when others succeed. It is seeing God bless others and questioning His wisdom in giving to others and not to you. Jealousy makes us forget that every good and perfect thing comes from the Father, who gives to all freely (James 1:17). In our pursuit for self-importance we turn ministry into a competition; brothers in Christ sometimes behave like supermarkets competing for consumers and doing everything in their power to tarnish the other’s name. Jealousy and its sister envy hinder fellowship and partnership. Guard against this deadly sin; it ruins your soul. Instead may our hearts thrill with joy and gratitude at the blessings and successes of others. When it comes to brothers and their ministry resolve to be their biggest supporter and not their biggest critic as a result of envy!
“Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the lazy one to those who send him.” Proverbs 10:26
There is a danger of laziness in the ministry because there is no supervisor checking your logins and logouts. Furthermore, a lot of ministerial work is done in the closet, so no one can really see whether you are being faithful or not. It is no wonder that ministers are tempted to do everything but their primary tasks of prayer and the study of the Word. We should remember that laziness does not always mean idleness; it is also means aimlessness. You might be busy and yet you are busy doing nothing! Laziness invariably leads to half prepared messages and poor planning, and before long the minister and the people suffer from spiritual malnutrition.
“But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children.” 1Thessalonians 2:7
Gentleness is defined as “sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love.” It is this one of the clearest evidences of salvation in a believer. The temptation to be harsh and mean is ever present for ministers. It is easy to get fed up, irritated with people and treat them with contempt. While leaders must be thick skinned, they should have a gentle and tender heart.
The exhortation from Proverbs is one every minister must heed to daily.
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Proverbs 4:23