Patching Cracks

Over the weekend, a well known pastor/author was fired from the 30,000 person church he had founded. The reason given for his firing was that he had developed a problem with alcohol, which had strained other parts of his life, including his marriage and work. I wasn’t a fan of this particular fellow, but I’ve found myself reading and paying careful attention to the situation largely because it’s important to understand why things like this happen. Lots of pastors mess up, mainly because we are human. Unfortunately, because of their responsibility and position, a pastor’s fall tends to hurt a lot of people and the cause of Jesus. There are all sorts of reasons these things happen, but one of the biggest has to do with the isolation most pastors experience.

I’ve known quite a few ministers who don’t have any significant relationships outside of their families. They don’t have any men they are able to talk openly with and confide in, though to be fair, this is one of the great maladies for men in the western world. They have acquaintances, guys they talk sports with, guys they kid around with, and maybe guys they’ve known forever, but most men don’t have guys they talk to about big issues. So, when a man feels tempted, angry, depressed, etc., he has to deal with it on his own. I know that the assumption is that men should carry their own weight in silence, but the problem is that anger, depression, and temptation tend to only get bigger when a guy wrestles with it on his own. When we only have our own voice to reason through things with, we tend to get lost due to lack of outside perspective and accountability. Without someone else to sound off to, we can easily get lost.

Beyond a lack of significant relationships, pastors live under the shadow of the expectation of perfection. I once interviewed for a job in a church where the previous pastor regularly told the congregation that he did not sin anymore. He claimed moral perfection, which was all well and good until he had a moral failing that resulted in his losing his job. I didn’t end up working at that church, but I learned a lot. The danger of living under the pretense of moral perfection is that it’s not true. Beyond being not true, it prevents a pastor from ever confessing that he is struggling. Acknowledging moral difficulties can result in his losing his job, mainly because folks expect him to be perfect. The result is that when he is in the early stages of struggle, a pastor won’t acknowledge the problem. Put more plainly, the more secrets a man has, the worse it gets. When he cannot be open about them, they get worse.

I don’t know exactly what went wrong with the famous pastor that brought him to the place he is now. However, I am certain that the two main ingredients, isolation and the unrealistic expectation of moral perfection, are a recipe for disaster for ministers. However, ministers aren’t alone in this quandary. Isolation and the outward illusion of moral perfection are a recipe for disaster for all men and are present in far too many instances of moral failing among men.