This is an updated version of a previous post.
It seems every day we hear of another big name celebrity, politician or pastor that has fallen into the temptation of lust and had an affair. I think it is dangerous for any leader to assume this could never happen to him or her.
Speaking as a man, (I have never been very good at speaking as a woman), I understand that temptation is very real these days. When the mind begins to wander in a lustful direction, it is very hard to control. The failure, I believe, comes more in not protecting the heart and mind before the time of failure.
I know that I must personally work to protect myself, my wife, my boys and my church from the scandal and embarrassment of an affair. I also know — first hand — and I teach pastors frequently — that positions of authority and leadership gain special attention in the area of temptation.
For those reasons, I have placed some rules in my life to protect my heart. Does everyone agree with or understand them? No. Am I more concerned about finishing well than making sure everyone loves my approach? Yes!
Here are 7 ways I’m attempting to protect my heart from an affair:
I never meet alone with a woman besides my wife — or maybe my mother or sister. The key word in that sentence is alone. I do meet with women, but I always take someone along to lunch meetings with a female. I make sure others are in the office when I meet with women. And — very important — I never exercise with other women. (If you need explanation, then you’ve never been a guy going to a gym where girls are in workout clothes. Trust me!) I realize this is not popular with some people. Honestly, some women never understand this. I have had women tell me that I “think too highly of myself”, but my family is too important to me not to take this precaution.
I try not to conduct very personal or intimate conversations with women. This doesn’t mean I don’t discuss serious issues with women — I do, but I am careful in this area not to get into the more personal areas of a woman’s life. There are women on our staff and in our church equal or more capable than me to deal with these type conversations. And, I do not to compliment women on their appearance. The exception would be if I feel she needs the encouragement and her husband or my wife is in the conversation. If a woman is in tears I am careful about prolonging the conversation until others are brought into the conversation. The principle here is that when emotions are flowing, people get vulnerable.
I limit online communication with women. This is grown in importance in recent years. The rise of Facebook and other social media — and texting — has made it easier to interact with people. I try not to cross lines with women in this area. People share private information with pastors and online seems to make that even easier. I give my wife access to my computer and phone and I share with her any conversations that if she read them on her own my seem too intimate.
I try not to stare at women. When an attractive woman catches my eye, I try to quickly bounce my attention elsewhere. Yes, I notice a pretty woman in the room. That’s a reflex. Easy to do. God made some beautiful women. I just know my heart and mind well enough to not allow myself to stare. Trust me. I shouldn’t. I can’t. Have you ever read 2 Samuel 11?)
I hear and understand the debate that a woman should not have to worry what she wears as much as a man should worry about where he looks. Okay, I understand — so this is my response.
I spend lots of time with my wife. The best defense is a good offense. The most certain way to protect my heart is to strengthen my marriage. Cheryl and I spend most of our leisure time together.
I try to always remember my boys. My boys are two of my very best friends, and thankfully, as for right now, they still have tremendous respect for me as a dad and man. I would never want to disappoint them by being unfaithful to my wife. I believe that fact alone should keep me from wrongdoing.
I love my church. I would never want to injure the work God is doing at Immanuel. If I were ever tempted to sin against God in this way, I would hope my love for the church would draw me back.
Do my rules offend you? What are you doing to protect your heart?
You might also want to read 7 Ways I Protect My Family Life in Ministry
Cheryl and I were watching a drama show on television once — I don’t even remember which show it was — but the character’s lives were filled with marriage problems, health issues and work problems. Drama.
Funny how we tend to enjoy shows watching other people’s drama. Maybe that’s because we know our life is sometimes filled with drama too.
But, towards the end of the show, Cheryl looked at me and simply said, “I’m glad our life is not a drama right now.”
Wow! I hadn’t thought about it — but when I considered the definition — ME TOO!
Drama: any situation or series of events having vivid, emotional, conflicting, or striking interest or results: the drama of a murder trial.
We’ve certainly had more than our share of drama before and we may be there again. Thankfully most of it involved problems out of our control — we can’t control all the drama that the world brings in life — rather than mistakes we were making. Plus, much of the drama we have had in our life has involved people outside our immediate family. Our immediate family has remained mostly drama-free. That’s a blessing. And, we know it.
The conversation reminded me, however, of some principles I have learned walking through periods of drama in my life, but also with others.
Here are 7 suggestions when life is a drama:
Draw near to God – People tend to go one direction or another during the difficult seasons of life. After years of struggling through trials, I have learned one thing well. Your life is best when your closest relationship is your God relationship. Allow the trials of life to strengthen that bond as you rely on His strength to see you through this season of drama.
Don’t make quick decisions – In the early days of drama you should be careful not to make life-altering decisions until you are certain you aren’t making them with an emotional response. There may be immediate decisions that have to be made. When that is the case, rely on an inner circle of people you trust to help you make them, but delay major decisions until you are able to think rationally about the situation. (Dramatic decisions made in the heat of the moment may keep a television drama viewership high, but it can be disastrous in real life.)
Keep the circle small – As much as you need others around you, not everyone needs to know the intimate details of your life either. Your life is not a television show — even if the script appears so well written for one. I have seen so many people who never feel they can walk with pride in a church or community again because they shared too many details about their struggles with too many people. When the struggles are over they are embarrassed to return to the same circles of people. People love to repeat your drama and they don’t always tell it accurately or with the right intentions. Find a few people you can trust, who will bear your burdens in confidence and point you in the right direction in life. You need these people, but keep that circle small. (Also, in this day of social media, be careful of the details of your life you place on Facebook. Don’t be the Sunday night drama everyone is talking about Monday morning.)
Seek wise counsel – Now is the time to find wise advice. You need a more outside perspective on your drama. It’s great to build these type mentors and/or investors before the need arises. But, even if you have to be awkward in the request — reaching out for help is a sign of maturity. Don’t be afraid of professional counseling. That can be a healthy response to drama.
Work towards forgiveness – Drama most always involves some need for forgiveness. It may be a need to forgive others, yourself, or even God, but you will have injured emotions that need to heal. Part of that healing will likely require some letting go — some forgiveness to occur. Living as forgiving and forgiven people allows God to help ease your pain and strengthen your availability to receive joy by opens the door to complete restoration in your heart. Holding a grudge, remaining angry or bitter, only keeps you from moving forward from the drama.
Protect your heart for the future - Seasons of drama come and go, but we are more prepared for them when our heart is kept close to God’s heart through the calmer seasons of life. I’m learning that all seasons of life contain drama, sometimes the drama is more intense than others, but throughout the whole of life our goal should be to guard our heart for God and people.
Learn from this time – Don’t allow your drama to have a meaningless plot in your life. Learn from this season. There will be other times where life is in drama. If you’re intentional to grow during the drama times of life, you’ll be better prepared the next time.
Where are you now? Is this a season of intense drama — or would your life be more of a sitcom right now? How are you dealing with the drama of life?
Even Jesus was tempted. What makes us think we won’t be?
Of course the enemy tries to tempt a believer. His single goal is to distract us from a total devotion to Christ. Temptation is the major tool in his arsenal.
And, in my experience, there are times we are more easily tempted.
When temptation has an easier way –
When you’re tired
When you’re alone
When you’re sick
When your spiritual life is dry
When peer pressure is strong
Are any of distractions causing you to fall into temptation?
Granted, we can’t avoid some of these times — some we can — but there will be times when we are alone, times when we are tired, times we get sick, etc. The key isn’t to avoid those times as much as we aware of the increase in temptations during them.
For example, when we are alone — and know we will be tempted — is a good time to practice the discipline of prayer or Bible study.
It’s easier to avoid temptation — and God promises the strength to do so — when we are aware of the root causes.
I love people. Truly. It’s one reason I believe God called me into ministry. I love the people He loves. Even the rotten ones.
But, I’m also an introvert.
And, yes, that makes me an introverted pastor. Of a large church.
And, it happens more often than you might think. In fact, many of the large church pastors I know are introverted. Large churches. Smaller churches. Introversion is not a respecter of persons.
I previously posted 7 of my biggest pitfalls of being an introverted pastor. (You can read that post HERE.) In that post, I indicated I would share how I address each of these pitfalls to keep them from adversely impacting my ministry.
Here are 7 ways I work with my introversion to protect my ministry:
I discipline myself to be extroverted on Sunday mornings.
Years ago, in my first full-time church, an elderly deacon pulled me aside and said, “Son, if you will make these people feel welcome, they’ll be more likely to return.” I realized that it wasn’t enough to preach a good message, I needed to engage people on a personal level. That has proven to be one of the best decisions I ever made. I’m very extroverted on Sunday. And, as tired as I am when I leave, I’ve learned to love it. Really.
I try to handle correspondence by text or email as much as possible to cut down on verbal conversation.
It’s not that we can’t talk. But, if it doesn’t require a phone call, text or email work great for me. Obviously, not everyone knows that — and that’s okay — but for those who know me well and communicate with me often — it’s a great help for them to help me with this. Just point of information, you will always get a deeper, more engaged answer from me if we are communicating online or I have time to think through my response.
I see networking as a large part of my success in ministry.
As a purpose-driven person, I’m more likely to do that which brings results. Networking has become a leadership value for me. It’s a strategic part of my ministry. That’s why people see me as extroverted. I know the value of connection and I use it often.
I try to capitalize on my strengths.
There are some benefits to introversion. I think before I speak. I am less likely to put my foot in my mouth (although it still happens). I usually mean what I say. I’ll never waste your time with office chit chat. I am able to spend countless hours in my own thought world, which give me tons of ideas; which, by the way, is a big reason you see me online often.
My family knows who I am.
I am very protective of family time, but they know that I need downtime before I can engage fully. They are respectful of this time, knowing it will be rewarded as we enjoy each other more when I am mentally rested. (And, I strive to make sure they don’t feel neglected — that’s important Introverts.)
I value my wife and her partnership in ministry even more! Cheryl is an extrovert.
Cheryl loves people and when she is with me I am much more comfortable in an extroverted setting. That’s especially difficult if both are introverted, and probably requires extra discipline, but it’s a great blessing for me.
I have deeper, personal relationships.
As an introvert, having to be so extroverted, I could easily close myself off when I’m not “working”. Recognizing the need for people to be involved in my life beyond surface level for my protection and the protection of my family and ministry, I have consistently solicited and allowed a few men to know me into my heart and life who can hold me accountable.
Are you an introvert? How do you keep it from adversely impacting your ministry?
I am an introvert.
From all public appearances on Sunday morning — and with my frequent activity in the community — that surprises people.
But in my private life and with those closest to me there is no questioning of that fact. If anything, I have become even more introverted the larger our church has grown.
I can wish I was otherwise, but this is how I am wired. And, it’s not wrong. It’s not a personality flaw. It’s not cruelty. I love people. It’s how I’m wired — by God.
But, being an introvert has its downsides as a pastor.
Here are 7 pitfalls of being an introverted pastor:
People often think I’m arrogant, aloof or unfriendly.
I’m a lot of negative things. Those are not really the main three. People who know me tend to call me humble, although I’m not humble — I’ve just been humbled by life — and so I’m not looking down on anyone. Seriously. I sometimes, though, have to go back and apologize once I hear someone thinks I avoided them. This happens especially with extremely extroverted people.
I hesitate to make the connections I should.
Sometimes I miss opportunities to build my network. There can be the best connection in the room and I will let the moment pass and regret it later. I hate when I do that.
I’m worn out after a long day.
After a day of talking, I need time to rejuvenate. That can impact my family time if I’m not careful. It also leads to people at the end of the day telling me I look tired. Thanks! I love that comment. But, guess what? I am!
Crowded rooms are intimidating.
I love crowded rooms in terms of reaching people for Christ. The more the merrier. But, they can actually be intimidating to me as a person. (Unless I’m speaking — then I’m not intimidated — just nervous like most people do before they speak. Isn’t that weird?)
I’m not as quick-witted in crowds.
People who know me tend to think I have a good sense of humor, I am easy to talk with and make them feel comfortable, but sometimes I appear awkward on first impressions when I try to make one. (Please give me more than one chance.)
I stress at the pressure to connect.
I realize the need to talk with people — it’s what I do — its what I need to do — but wrestling through the introverted tendencies actually adds even more stress to my life. The night before a big social event can be restless. Seriously. How’s that for transparency?
I can keep relationships shallow.
If I’m not careful — and thankfully I’m fairly disciplined here — I will close out people from really knowing me, which could subject me to all kinds of temptations, anxiety and even depression. The counselor training in me knows this well — and I see it often among introverts.
Are you an introvert? Do you see how it impacts your work?
(If any of this resonates with you, check out my next post. In THIS POST I share how I try to keep being an introvert from injuring my ministry — Link won’t work until after it’s live.)
Most churches admit they need more leaders. I have never met a pastor who would say they didn’t need more leaders, but I’ve met hundreds who are desperate for new leaders.
The Bible says to make disciples. That’s should be our goal for every believer in the church. But, the process of doing church requires leadership. Leaders leading the process of making disciples.
One way to grow a church is to expand the leadership base. And, one way to ensure a church doesn’t grow is to limit leadership development. In fact, if a church isn’t growing — one major reason may be they haven’t developed enough leaders. Without leadership progress stalls.
There are 4 primary reasons I’ve observed for churches that aren’t developing new leaders.
Pride – When current leadership doesn’t believe anyone coming along could do as good of a job as they are doing — they will cease to develop new leaders.
Selfishness – When current leadership doesn’t wish to share the power — they will cease to develop new leaders.
Lack of Intentionality – When current leadership doesn’t have a plan or system to develop new leaders — they will cease to develop new leaders.
Ignorance – When current leadership doesn’t know how to develop new leaders — they will cease to develop new leaders.
There are probably other reasons, but these are the four I see most often.
Is your church developing new leaders? How? If not, why not? Do any of these apply?
One disappointment I have had in ministry is watching people come to church, get excited for a time, then disappear. You spend energy and heart on people, grow to love them and get excited about them, and suddenly they are nowhere to be found.
The biggest disappointment is not people who transfer to another church. I’m okay with that if it helps them better grow in their relationship with Christ. I’m talking about people who quit going to church altogether. They are in one day — out the next.
What happens to them? Why do they leave?
I’ve found there are often similar reasons that are repeated continuously. Perhaps you have seen this too.
Here are 7 reasons people disappear from church:
Burn out - These people came out of the gate too strong in the church. They showed up, got excited, and signed up for everything. They got so busy doing church they failed to enjoy being the church.
Injury - People inside the church can be cruel. I hate when that happens, but it’s true. These people experienced some of those people and they couldn’t move past it.
Distractions - These people got distracted by seemingly good things. They were playing travel ball, loving the fast life, traveling every weekend. Over time, their lifestyle of attending becomes the habit of not attending.
Life change – These people had a lifestyle change, such as divorce or re-marriage — or they move to a new community — and never re-connect with a church.
Mistakes - These people messed up! They made a mistake that may be public — or at least they feel that it will be known — and the place that should dispense grace appears either refuses it or they feel that it would. Many times when a person feels that way it is more perception than reality, but the way a person feels about themselves may determine whether they remain committed to church.
Power struggle – These people had an agenda. They were pursuing an issue — or a position — and when it their demands weren’t met and they couldn’t overpower the system, they left.
Lack of connection – These people never connected with others on a deeper level. As a result, they never felt really a “part” of the church.
Pastors, have you experienced these walking with people in ministry? How do you address these issues?
Obviously, we need to do all we can to help people become disciples. Knowing why they leave may be helpful. We can’t address some of these issues — maybe most — much of this is out of our control. But, the more we understand the more we can help people as they experience these.
I think there is also a word here to the one who has disappeared or is on the verge. Beware. If you feel the need for the church in your life — or if you understand the Biblical mandate to be a part of a Body of believers — then guard your heart for these. And, help us know how to be a better church. In fact, come help us be a better church. Here’s one pastor (And, I know so many others) who is listening.
What other reasons would you add to my list?