Yesterday we surveyed the wreckage that a fallen pastor leaves behind him and made some suggestions about how to begin repairing the damage. Part of this involves speaking God’s Word of life to the particular needs of the bleeding congregation. It’s not a time for beating around the bush, for denial, for forgetting, for “putting it behind us,” or for “moving on.” Instead God’s all sufficient and all-suitable Word should be applied skillfully to the specific wounds inflicted by this sin. A series of sermons should touch on the following subjects:
1. Sin when it is full grown brings forth death (James 1:15)
This is an appropriate time to emphasize the danger of sin and the havoc it wreaks in the lives of those who cave to temptation. This is true not just of immorality but of all sin.
2. All things work together for good (Rom. 8:28)
Without minimizing the evil or harm of sin, it is important to remind God’s people that God can work even the worst sin together for the good of those who love God. It may be impossible to envisage any good being produced, but faith must believe God’s promise.
3. Stop putting all your trust in men (Isaiah 2:22)
One of the reasons why so many well-known pastors fall into sin is because their congregations have idolized the man and given glory to him that belongs to God alone. A pastor’s fall is sometimes one of the ways God uses to turn people away from man-centeredness to God-centeredness.
4. This is normal abnormality (Matthew 27:3-5)
The Bible has a number of examples of men who served the Lord for a time and ended up in terrible sin. Judas is the classic example, but there’s also Gehazi, Ananias, Demas, Diotrephes, and Alexander the Coppersmith. If we know our Bibles, fallen pastors should sadden us but not surprise us.
5. God can speak through a donkey (Numbers 22:28-30)
Many of those who were converted or blessed under a fallen pastor’s ministry may question if their experiences were genuine if the minister was not genuine. However, if the man’s sermons were consistent with God’s Word, then it is still God’s Word. If God can speak his Word through a donkey, he can speak through a sinful man.
6. The judge of all the earth will do right (Genesis 18:25)
Was/is he saved? Was/is he a real Christian? Such questions will vex the hearts of the congregation. The Bible does call us to judge a person’s ministry by its fruits (Matt. 7:15-20). However, a person’s spiritual state and eternal destiny are ultimately questions for God alone and must be left in his hands. He will do right.
7. Let not many of you become teachers (James 3:1)
Teachers will receive stricter judgment than the taught. This should therefore caution those seeking leadership positions in the church and call those in leadership to “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:16).
8. Let him who think he stand take heed lest he fall (1 Cor. 10:12)
This is a time for humble self-examination, of testing ourselves to see if we are really “in the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5). The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9), and therefore we must be diligent to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter. 1:10).
9. What is that to you, follow me (John 21:22)
It’s important to face these issues and address them honestly and sensitively, but ultimately and eventually we have to turn our eyes to our own responsibility. Whether one or many ministers have fallen, we must not be distracted from following Christ ourselves.
10. Care for the widows and orphans (James 1:27)
In some cases a fallen pastor will leave his wife and children for another woman. In other cases he stays, but his relationship with his wife and children is wrecked. In both cases, the wife and children are to some degree “widows and orphans.” They’ve been betrayed and abandoned, at least emotionally. As James says, the way Christians respond to them will determine how true their religion is. It’s incredible that this needs to be said, but sadly it does: NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER BLAME THE WIFE.
11. Forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors (Matthew 6:12-14)
It can be incredibly hard for a congregation to forgive a fallen pastor. He’s caused so much harm (see yesterday’s post) and how can they trust if his repentance is genuine? However, if he submits to church discipline, shows fruits of repentance, and is eventually restored to church membership (1 Tim. 3:2 bars him from the ministry), the grace of forgiveness must be extended to him. Our own forgiveness depends on it. If he does not repent, we still have to release the matter to God and give vengeance over to him (Rom. 12:19).
12. Honor your leaders (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)
This is another big ask. When a spiritual leader falls, people are often tempted to write off all pastors. After experiencing betrayal, King David admitted, “I said in my haste, ‘All men are liars.’” That’s an understandable initial reaction. However, as David said, it’s hasty. Once the emotions calm down, it has to be fought against. God has appointed spiritual leadership in his church that we are to respect and follow. This will take time to re-build, but it’s vital for long-term spiritual health.
13. Christ is all (Col. 3:11)
Ultimately only the grace of Christ in the Gospel can provide the deepest healing. Christ should therefore be preached again, and again, and again. Justification by faith alone, through Christ alone must be a constant theme. The cross of Christ is light in the deepest darkness and proves that there is hope even after the darkest day and the deepest evil.
What else would you add to these messages? What theme or verses would you preach?