By Don Ballard
What are the most trustworthy professions?
Gallup’s latest survey tracking Americans’ opinions of the most honest and ethical occupations finds nurses at the top of the list. Pastors and clergy ranked 8th, in between judges and auto mechanics.
Only 42 percent of Americans rate the honesty and ethical standards of pastors as high or very high—the lowest it’s been since Gallup began asking the question in 1977.
While I’m thankful for the other professions and the role they play in society, it seems a pastor should be the one most known for honesty, integrity, ethical behavior, and outstanding character.
Pastors don’t always fulfill their calling to sacrificially love and lead their congregations. Instead, many fall in love with the idea of being like popular business and cultural leaders in America.
This causes conflicts that may tempt us to exchange the calling of a pastor for a career of popularity. The faith of the congregation suffers when pastors exchange a pulpit of loving integrity for one of power, profitability, popularity, or politics.
Unfortunately, one can be successful in achieving that brand of American pastoral dream without regard for honest practices and ethical dealings.
Maybe you have known pastors who weren’t very pastoral. Perhaps you even called them pastor yourself and trusted them to speak truth into your life, but they proved untrustworthy.
What do you do if the people you call pastor aren’t actually pastoral and cause suffering in the body of Christ with a vision of ministry that is more self-centered than selfless?
Forgive them for failing to be honest and not acting with good ethical practices. They have (likely) talked the talk, but not walked the walk.
Don’t overlook their sin, but don’t hold it against them. You may feel betrayed or rejected by them and need to ask God to help you forgive them even if they don’t ask for it.
Pray for them to see the error of their way. They may not admit to being wrong and need to repent of their leadership emphases.
They may still be stuck in the game of denial or the blame game. They need abundant prayer.
Get past them as your leaders. If they are leading without integrity, you don’t have to stay under them. Stop letting them influence you negatively with their words or actions.
They should no longer be in pastoral authority or counsel over you as they have betrayed their call. Ask God to free you from their spiritual abuse and foolishness.
Look for a better pastor to lead you faithfully. There are many who do desire to live a life of real spiritual integrity and be authentic leaders of the flock.
Ask God to open your eyes and heart to see and connect to them. Let a new pastor provide good pastoral counsel and leadership in your life.
Decide to trust again. Don’t let one bad pastor ruin things for you. Sadly, many make that decision. Instead, trust God and let Him provide a trustworthy leader for you and your family.
Your spiritual life, your marriage, your family, and your ministry will flourish as you learn to live in a trusting relationship with someone who is shaped by God to be a faithful and fruitful leader.
I am not worried about the church because it is the bride of Christ. God will not let the church be destroyed or defeated, but we may very well suffer at the hands of those who should know better and be better.
God is not confused by what good pastors look and act like. Neither should we be confused or careless with our expectations.
As an overseer of God’s household, he must be blameless: not arrogant, not hot-tempered, not an excessive drinker, not a bully, not greedy for money, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it. (Titus 1:7-9, CSB)
Faithless church leaders weaken our witness in the world, but God is able to redeem a reputation and public perception if we allow Him.
The call of pastors is not to improve a ranking in a poll but to let God grow their righteousness as leaders called to serve His people.
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