Don’t be shocked when a Pastor, Deacon or Bishop is caught in sin. It is not new, it has been happening a long time ago. Sometimes, they are wrongly accused, sometimes their past catches up with them, sometimes it was just a mistake and sometimes they are habitually and willingly engaging in it. First, they are humans and they have those tendencies just like every human. But then, that isn’t an excuse because there is a guideline for those who desire that office and they are supposed to strictly abide by those guidelines.
Many people usually believe that when an Elder or a teacher in Church is being criticized over a statement or an action, it is a fight against the Church but on the other hand, it may not be. Anyone who has been set above others in some sense will always attract public praise or public criticism. If you have no problem with public praise, you shouldn’t have a problem with public criticism. If you are a leader that people looks up to, you are part of their business and therefore you shouldn’t feel some people aren’t minding their business when they make a public discourse of you. Concerning this, the Bible says in James 3:1:
“Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
You don’t expect people to react to the misdeeds of a leader or instructor less than they would have done towards a commoner. So much is required of Elders and leaders. Although the requirements should apply to all, these special requirements are heavy on elders and leaders in the Church. The reason is that people will usually be modelled after the leaders who are icons in society and therefore should set an example that is beneficial to the body of Christ. The office of Elders and Church leaders is a very peculiar one that must be threaded carefully. Concerning anyone desiring this office, the Bible says
“…Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[ respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders so that he will not fall into disgrace and the devil’s trap.”
Being an elder is a noble task and it is worthy of desire! However, the above verse shows us how much is required of a person who desires this office. He must be morally sound and above all must have a good reputation with outsiders which includes unbelievers. This verse also indicates that a bad reputation can bring the minister into disgrace and the devil’s trap! This is the same reason why James wrote that the elder or teacher is judged with much more strictness. Now, how do we handle a sinning elder? How do we respond when an elder is going through discipline as a result of wrong deeds?
Sometimes, God rebukes a straying son by various means. His rebuke is that of love and He doesn’t leave him in the wilderness to die! He brings him back to his senses but also takes him back home. We can do the same by praying for other believers who are caught up in the web of mistakes and wickedness. We all know what the works of the flesh are but we also know that the works of the Spirit include love. As much as we admit a problem, and allow people to have a taste of rebuke sometimes, we must also accord them the opportunity to heal and become better!
A loving father may beat a child for doing wrong but he draws the child back and say “I hate to see you cry but I had to do it for your good.” Someone may beat up a sinning child not because she wants to bring this child to his senses but because she wants to leverage on that opportunity to vent her anger on the child. In the same manner, when a leader is caught up in the web of sin, certain people would use it as an opportunity to display their hatred while some others persons may be asking for discipline because of their love for the Church of Jesus Christ and their desire to see this leader or elder get restored.
Out of emotion, we often rob people of their period of rebuke and discipline! When I want to discipline my child, I will see anyone who tries to stop me as an enemy to my child! You can’t love my child more than I do and therefore your emotions may make you feel uneasy to watch me discipline my child while I am being compelled by love to make my child better. This is how it is between us and God. God may have given us several opportunities to change our ways from doing the wrong thing and we kept ignoring it. To help fix us and get us back right on track, God may have to discipline us with His kind of rod. God’s rod serves as a guiding tool which brings comfort after we have been rebuked! The Psalmist said in Psalms 23:24
“…or you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
It is not an act of love when we see someone going through God’s purifying fire and try dragging them out of it. We aren’t just fighting God, we are not helping that fellow. How do we handle a sinning elder; that is, an elder who commits sins that would distract others and cause factions in the body without repentance? Not about an elder who did something wrong a time ago but an elder who is habitually sinning? How do we handle it? Do we fall for the “do not judge” mantra or do we allow him or her go through God’s disciplinary process?
Sometimes, when God is disciplining someone dear to us, it doesn’t look amazing but God is simply in the process of restoring that fellow. When an elder is found doing something wrong, keeping quiet and hiding it under the carpet is not a show of love, some steps must be taken to ensure that he or she is restored. Remember, the only reason to rebuke and take disciplinary actions on elders especially is that we love them and want them restored. Certain people will not stop doing wrong until a strong action has been taken against their actions.
When we take actions against a sinning elder, we often hear things like “don’t judge a servant of God, let God judge His servants.” if this is true, how do we examine a false teacher? How do we consider someone qualified for ministry? Why would the Bible offer us rich guidelines on church leadership? Even Moses was taken out of leadership when he went against God’s will but then we would argue that it was under the law. What did the Bible say in the New Testament?
“Do not listen to an accusation against an elder unless it is confirmed by two or three witnesses. Those who sin should be reprimanded in front of the whole church; this will serve as a strong warning to others. I solemnly command you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus and the highest angels to obey these instructions without taking sides or showing favouritism to anyone.” 1 Timothy 5:19-21
Taking actions against a sinning leader or elder in the Church isn’t out of place as long as the motive is to save him from continuing, give them time for healing and get them restored. Being a leader, elder or bishop doesn’t keep us immune from disciplinary actions. As bad as it looks at times, this is an important way of keeping the Church environment safe for other Christians including new converts and a way of saving us from what is destructive.
Are you looking for the right way to take actions against a sinning elder and sometimes a sinning Christian? Read our next article “7 WAYS TO DEAL WITH SINNING PASTORS”