By Mark Dance
My 82-year-old mother is being targeted by cyber hackers pretending to be handsome men in their mid-seventies. They’re trying to steal money or information they can sell.
You may recognize this as “phishing.” Organizations protect their employees from hackers like these with robust computer firewalls. Similarly, Christian leaders need firewalls in place to protect them from different types of attacks.
Lifeway Research’s Greatest Needs of Pastors study found most pastors say they need to personally invest in their own spiritual needs like consistency in personal prayer and Bible reading, friendships, trusting God, their relationships with their spouses, consistency in taking a Sabbath, and confessing and repenting from personal sin. Pastors are not exempt from struggle in these areas and, like laypeople, need accountability in their walk to help them live lives of integrity and shepherd their people well.Pastors are not exempt from struggles and, like laypeople, need accountability in their walk to help them live lives of integrity and shepherd their people well. — @markdance Click To Tweet
Satan is scheming and targeting every Christian leader, and we need firewalls to protect us, our families, and our ministries. Here are four firewalls of accountability that have protected me in ministry for 35 years.
1. My Savior
The devil lost the battle for my soul on June 12, 1980 when I surrendered my life to Christ, but He’s still trying to take down my ministry with his flaming arrows. Jesus eternally saved me from both the penalty for sin and the power of sin, so I never have to live a skinny second without a firewall.
“In every situation take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16, CSB).
Faith in Christ is our first and best defense against any attack of the enemy. Our spiritual maturity and moral integrity are intrinsically connected to our walk with Him. Without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5), but with Him, we can do anything (Philippians 4:13).
2. My wife
My wife, Janet, is my number one advocate in the fight for a pure life. She’s spoken to pastors’ wives at nearly 100 marriage events and is always dumbfounded by how naive many of them are about their husbands’ temptations and battles. Pastors struggle with every temptation common to man, and lust is one of the most common for men.
“But because sexual immorality is so common, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman should have sexual relations with her own husband. A husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise a wife to her husband,” (1 Corinthians 7:2-3, CSB).
The enemy will attack your marriage and sexual purity, and your spouse should be a firewall for you in the pursuit of purity. If you’re married and not having sex with your spouse consistently, you and your marriage are unnecessarily vulnerable. Your spouse is an important firewall, not only for sexual purity but for purity in all of life.
3. My friends
Having the added firewall of friendship makes integrity even harder to fake. I think it may be easier for me to lie to myself than to my accountability partner of 35 years. If the devil wants to take me down, he’ll have to go through Jesus, Janet, and Paul Colemen to do it!Just as Moses needed Aaron and Hur to hold up his hands during the battle with the Amalekites (Exodus 17), friends are our essential allies in the fight against sin. — @markdance Click To Tweet
Just as Moses needed Aaron and Hur to hold up his hands during the battle with the Amalekites (Exodus 17), friends are our essential allies in the fight against sin. Pastors are likely to share their struggles with people who care about them personally more than professionally.
Pray right now for a friend who stays closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
4. My small group
Just as computer firewalls are designed to block unauthorized access to your computer, a few men of God standing with you can block access to your heart when attacks and temptations inevitably come. Prayerfully pick a few men to play this role in your life and give them authorized access to your heart, social media, and devices.
Some pastors prefer a discipleship group or a Sunday School class in their church to do the same thing. Although a church group is better than no group, be careful about with whom you let down your guard. We make ourselves vulnerable when we allow our own sheep or staff to shepherd us, so seek a mentor or very small cohort of pastor friends outside of your immediate church family.If accountability sometimes feels awkward, or even punitive, consider that it’s a safeguard against Satan who directly attacks you, your family, and your ministry. — @markdance Click To Tweet
“Flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness…along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart,” (2 Timothy 2:22, CSB).
If accountability sometimes feels awkward, or even punitive, consider that it’s a safeguard against Satan who directly attacks you, your family, and your ministry. Accountability serves as a firewall of protection for everyone and is only a threat to the guilty and naive.
After serving as a pastor for 27 years, Mark is now the director of pastoral wellness for GuideStone Financial Resources. He frequently speaks at churches, conferences, and retreats—often with his wife Janet. Read more from him at MarkDance.net.