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  • Writer's pictureJonathan.Crabtree

When Christian Leaders Sin - The Unworthiness of Ministers Romans 6.14


Living in the Digital Age is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is the readily available access to knowledge, and therein lies the curse. Social media and 24/7 media provide us with knowledge around the clock, and this is exhausting, especially when it involves the moral fall of a leader we trust. Christian leaders are not excused from hiding their faults, too, and when news hits the fan about another Christian leader exhibiting a decay in ethics, values, or morals, the news can travel fast and affect us with much grief. Once again, another Christian leader is under investigation for allegations of unethical and immoral practices. (My interpretation)

 

So many people are affected by this news. Victims are the most vulnerable at this time and are definitely affected, while family, friends, and followers are left with many feelings, too. I, for one, am struggling a little bit with this news because I sat next to this person and chatted with them just one month before the news erupted. I really looked up to this person, and now, I’ve been thinking about how I view this person. How does the Church respond when Christian leaders sin? Different denominations have different practices and protocols, but hopefully, justice for anyone wronged can be reconciled, and forgiveness, if needed, can be extended. What I think is even more significant amidst the disruption of trusted Christian leaders sinning is asking: How does God’s grace work in these situations?

 

Looking back over the last decade, I see several instances of Christian leaders subject to similar allegations and abuse of power. I’ve read books, listened to podcasts, or have indirectly been impacted (positively) by these leaders. Ministry in the power of the Holy Spirit happened. Lives were changed. Transformed. The Gospel of Jesus Christ was proclaimed, and people came to know Jesus as Lord. Are the actions of ministers/pastors/priests, according to their ministry of the Sacrament and Word, void if they live with repetitive sin? Does the Church ban, destroy, or dismiss the works of leaders who have inevitably and faithfully administered the Sacraments or preached the Gospel? We may all have different answers to these questions. Here is a portion of my answer and thought, using Article 26 from the Church of England. You can read it thoroughly here.

 

Article 26 – Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacrament

 

You can read the article very quickly, but I want to highlight some things.

 

There may be evil mixed with the good. I have heard stories,and I know people who served as ministers for a season butstepped aside from serving in that capacity due to a known sin or potentially unethical practice. Of course, I know of others who continue serving, though the issue at hand may be something with which we disagree. Even though a person may submit themselves in service to God, His Church, and the world in the ministry as a minister, the person is still….a person who is broken and in need of God’s grace. The Image of God remains in them, albeit broken, just like myself and everyone else. There may be evil mixed with the good.

 

Their ministry –in the proclamation of the Word and ministration of the Sacraments - is effective and applicable because the efficacy of Word and Sacrament depends on Christ’s institution and not the person who administers them. This statement is important because it reminds us that grace comes from Jesus, not the minister. Jesus is the High Priest and Mediator, not us ministers. We ministers are like the Old Testament priests in that we act on behalf of the people. Yet, because we are also people, we are subject to sin and failure. However, because Jesus is fully Divine and human, his humanity represents us as people. His divinity perfects our brokeness before the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. When ministers sin, they are still humans broken and in need of Jesus’ grace and the power of his blood for forgiveness of sin. Therefore, in the midst of brokeness and Christian leaders who sin, we must look for the ministries of Jesus amidst the broken ministers of Jesus.

 

If Churches, congregations, and ministries are built on one minister – and his or her unique skill/asset/charisma – the local Church may be surprised and hurt when their leaders sin. Of course, you may be wondering how this coincides with congregations that only and will only have one pastor. That’s very simple to answer: Make disciples of Jesus Christ and not of ourselves. I’m noticing a trend with recent Christian leaders who sin: they are very good at making ‘converts’ who can’t feed themselves and not ‘disciples’ who can feed themselves and feed others who feed others who…well you get the point.

 

This may be easier said than done, but it definitely comes with a lot of ‘growing pains’ for both minister and the Church. Let the Church fail at certain things, especially things the Church expected the minister to do. We all know that Churches expect too much of pastors, but no one says it. I’m saying it. Research the growing number of ministers who have either quit or considered quitting within the last 3-5 years, and I believe it’s because of the pressure of Churches for their minister to be…perfect..holy…or possibly even “God.” Ministers are people broken and in need of God’s grace and love.

 

Even if ministers sin and their congregations are surprised and disappointed, the ministration of God’s Word and Sacrament will not render void because of Christ’s authority and institution of it. The most challenging element in controversial circumstances is trying to see the good mixed in with the evilwhen I believe we must look for Jesus – the Holy One – amidst evil instead.

 

This is difficult because of the pain that persists. However, I believe God’s grace pursues even more than the persistent pain. This won’t be easy, but it is possible. The reason why is right here in Romans 6. Give it a read. Look for God’s pursuant grace within persistent pain, and remember: We’re all made in God’s Image as broken people in need of his grace and love.

 

Thank Jesus; he is always faithful to give grace and show love, even to me, a minister who is broken and in need of such gifts.

 

 

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