Recently, I spent the evening with two brothers who shared incredible stories of what God did in the Jesus Movement of the 70′s and 80′s. After eating fish tacos on a restaurant patio on one of those perfect Southern California nights and enjoying some great conversation we went for a walk. Our dialogue turned to how leaders in the Jesus Movement had fallen into sin. At that moment one of the brothers looked at me and said, “You know, we have to keep that humble attitude of ‘There go I, but by the grace of God.”
Just a few weeks ago, our country learned of yet another one of our most influential pastors stepping down due to moral failure. When I learned this my heart sank. Yet another pastor I have deeply respected in the news for a moral failure.
I know enough from years of being a pastor to realize ministry leaders are all just normal humans. I also know the more high profile and more influence a leader has in the Body of Christ, the greater the attack the enemy sends against that person. Certainly these men and women who fall are not evil charlatans or fakes; they are people the enemy set a trap for, and unfortunately they fell right into it.
I have been fortunate to have a mentor who has continually warned us younger men what to watch for. He said the three temptations that bring down a minister are gold, girls and glory. Personally I have found the enemy cyclically throws out bait to lure me into sin in each of these areas. So let me share a few tactics I have learned for combatting these temptations.
The Gold Temptation
Obviously gold is synonymous with money. For me, the greatest temptation comes when I begin to look around at what others have instead of being thankful for what God has given me. I love the Proverbs, and one of the most helpful ammunitions for me in fighting the desire for more things has always been working closely with the poor and spending time in impoverished nations. This seems to put things in perspective. For more on this topic, read a letter John Piper recently wrote to pastors concerning the love of money.
The Girl Temptation
I believe there are three essentials in remaining pure as a pastor who is constantly ministering before a congregation that is at least half women. First, am I continually cultivating the romance in my own marriage. Speaking of sexual temptation, the Bible says, “For this reason each man should have his own wife” (1 Corinthians 7:2). For me, it is imperative that I not only walk in unity with my wife, but that I am also proactive in creating environments where we truly enjoy each other; an afternoon walk, a romantic movie, an hour gardening, a quick lunch where we steal away and obviously maintaining a healthy rhythm of marital intimacy. Second, I remain in close accountability. I always have people who know exactly where I am, what I’m doing, and who I’m with. Finally, I just do not put myself in situations where I am alone with women who aren’t my wife. Even when work requires me to have a meeting with a woman. my M.O. is to have another person present.
The Glory Temptation
Our church staff has an agreed upon a relational DNA. These are five core values we have committed to live by. Two of these values are especially helpful at keeping me from living a lifestyle in which I seek to bring glory to myself. The first is our commitment to being open and vulnerable. I am in weekly accountability times with the other pastors on my staff where I share my weaknesses and short comings. Through these times I am humbled, and reminded of my own brokenness and need for God. The other value is healthy conflict. It is hard to be proud and put yourself on a pedestal when people are consistently confronting you and pointing out things you have done that have been challenging to them. My mentor would always say it this way; “If you want to stay humble, then keep yourself tethered to the local church.” At the end of the day I have to remember this is all about His glory and the last thing I want to do is try to steal some of that glory for myself.
I certainly don’t claim to be the expert at avoiding temptation. I am only 16 years into ministry and probably have a good 40 to go. There will be many tests to pass in my life before I will be able to say, “I have run the race, I have fought the good fight.” But I do believe that knowing the enemy’s tactics are one of the best ways to win the battle!
- Which of these three temptations have you faced in leadership, whether it be at work, in ministry or in leading your family?
- What can you implement this week to combat that temptation?
By Robert Herber, Senior Pastor at All People’s Church in San Diego, CA
Read other posts by Robert Herber on his blog.