Is it something about springtime? The weather? Maybe it was the winter that started it all. Except last year was a really long and cold winter and this has been a fairly mild winter. Maybe it’s Easter (Ishtar), fertility celebrations and a collective human history of pagan rituals and excessive immorality right about this time of the yearly cycle. I don’t know what it is but I can tell you I am sick of it.
Last year there were 3 prominent pastoral families in our small-ish community rocked by adulterous affairs. Imagine the trickle down. Not pretty.
This year it’s only the beginning of March and we’ve got another! Young congregation, only 3 1/2 years old. Large congregation. Has more than doubled in the last 6 months. Lovely. We have dear friends who are a part of the leadership team there and while I haven’t spoken to them since I found out what happened I’m certain they are struggling.
The pitfalls of power. The seduction of success. Arrogance at the altar. In her bedroom, midst heavy petting, they were discovered en flagrante delicto by her husband. Defines a whole new level of low class doesn’t it?
Initially, according to the Party Line at their congregation, he was engaged in a “counseling relationship” with her. Then he didn’t have any type of ministerial relationship, she was someone who was a part of his life outside the pastorate. Then she says…. But the leadership says…. And he said “I should be able to teach anyway!” My head hurts. My heart hurts.
How easily this could have been avoided. Simple. Stupid simple. Hey! Pastors and men in leadership everywhere! Don’t. Meet. Alone. With. Women. Ta Da! Brilliant. It’s difficult to engage in any sort of inappropriate behavior in the presence of a THIRD ENGAGED PARTY. Not just folks around, someone engaged. Flirtation can happen anywhere two persons are given the opportunity for private conversation. Telephone calls, lunch “dates”, ministry, I could go on forever. Counseling? Take your wife. Don’t have a wife? Reconsider G-d’s call for you to counsel women. Seriously folks. It’s not rocket science. Women in leadership? Don’t. Meet. Alone. With. Men. Counseling? Take your husband. Don’t have a husband? Reconsider G-d’s call for you to counsel men. Have you been delivered from a homosexual lifestyle? Then, with fear and trembling, keep your relationships wide open before G-d and someone to whom you can be accountable. Two of my dearest friends in the last year destroyed one family and devastated another because one of them couldn’t resist her past lifestyle and the other allowed herself to be seduced. What did they need? WISDOM! HUMILITY! It’s a unique brand of arrogance that says “Damn the statistics! I’m strong enough to do whatever I want!”
But. But. But these people need me! They have reached out to me and where else will they go if I don’t minister to them… Here’s an idea. Take the the time to guide them toward a woman/man who is appropriate, schedule times when your spouse is present. Yes, this complicates everything. Life is complicated. Sometimes we have to grow up and realize life isn’t all about what is easy.
But I am not attracted to This Person. I have a strong relationship with my spouse and I am not tempted to stray. Well, sweetheart, it’s not all about you. What if the individual you are meeting with finds YOU irresistible and now not only has to struggle with whatever life issues they had in the first place but an inappropriate affection? If that sweet girl you see as a little sister is looking at you with misty eyes I can guarantee she’s not hearing a word out of your well-intentioned head. She’s just delighted she has your full and undivided attention for the moment. If the man you are reaching out to decides you are all that then the input you are attempting to give will wash over him while he imagines the life you could have together.
Doesn’t happen? Sure. Go ahead. Live in your little bubble. But I will say this. An allegation can be enough to seriously damage the reputation of an individual in leadership. That’s merely the whisper of impropriety. An actual act? You are back at less than ground zero. So why even go there? I’m not talking hypothetically here. I have had this personal policy for almost 5 years in several different congregations. In small fellowships the music ministry can get real friendly and the people on the teams can get very close. But if the Wednesday night worship team is only the guitar player and I? I bring someone to join us for rehearsal. If only the drummer and I can show up for the scheduled practice? I cancel. If our dearest friend shows up at my house and my husband isn’t home? He doesn’t come in. Is this because I am so freakin’ irresistible? Is this because my friends and the men I know are so unbelieveably manly I would be falling all over myself to get to them? C’mon, get real. It’s just wisdom. I am human. So are they. I have neighbors. So do they. We are part of a congregation that deserves to be treated with honor and respect. We have a community that watches us. Some are looking for a reason to believe and some are looking for an excuse to justify their unbelief. We have an enemy who eagerly desires our destruction.
And in this instance if the ONLY thing I have to do to safeguard my reputation and the reputation of the men around me is NOT BE ALONE WITH THEM I’d be an idiot to not do it. It’s a small thing really. A small thing that honors my husband (he never has to wonder where I’m going and who I’m with) and it honors the wives of my friends (or their future wives).
It can take creativity and be a bit frustrating to live this way. But G-d called me to serve Him first, my husband second, then my children and then what ever is left over is what ya’ll get. Every time. Or this “ministry” thing is just for show.
3 1/2 years ago I sat in a living room listening to a young man teach from his heart. He was telling us about the need to be transparent before G-d and others. He was talking about the reality of a faith that doesn’t change no matter where you are. He said, “If it’s not working at home (with your spouse and children), it’s not working out here (public ministry).
Too bad he didn’t listen to his own words. His actions have cost him more than he could ever imagine.