Guarding my marriage and family are important to me. I have been in vocational ministry since 1993 and since then I have watched many pastors lose vibrant ministries because they forgot to minister to their own family. I said to my wife-to-be (1992) as I watched the pain she endured as a daughter whose parents were divorcing and her father lost his pastorate, that she would not endure that same pain as wife. Since then, I have set boundaries to protect my marriage and family.
Last week I learned of yet another pastor who resigned from his church due to a long-standing affair. This was the third brought to my attention this year alone! This one was especially painful because it was someone I have known for 20 years and considered a role-model for my own ministry. He was someone I had great admiration for and someone who had invested in my own life and ministry. As a fellow Gen-Xer, we appreciated the same things. My heart breaks for his family as they navigate the days ahead.
I don't believe any of these pastors woke up one day and said, "I think today I will become an adulterer and crush my family and destroy my ministry." No, we get there by making choices that open the door to sinful behavior until the day comes when we have lost our family and ministry. Success in ministry is not defined in terms of numbers or feelings. Success is not about he size of your church, or youth group, or worship team. Success in ministry is largely defined by the success of your family. "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5:8). All men would do well to memorize Proverbs 5:15, "Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well." If she's not your wife, she's another man's cistern!
Here are some safeguards that have allowed me to see my 25th wedding anniversary!
1. Guard your weekends as time with your family. I realize there are going to be some Fridays and Saturdays that ministry will demand, but guard those days carefully. My phone recently rang three times while I was having dinner with my wife in Lexington one Friday evening. I allowed the calls to go to voice-mail. The message was not a crisis, but simply a request for advice. I responded with a short text that simply explained that I would be happy to speak with them on Monday, but my weekends are reserved for my family. I make exceptions for crisis situations such as death, threats of suicide, or medical emergencies.
2. If you have a "day off" during the week take it. My day off is Fridays. It's easy for a pastor to head to the office to get caught up on some of the tasks that have been piling up. It's easy to find ourselves spending more time with our church than with our family. Some pastors have made the church their mistress. The church (the bride) already has a bride-groom (Jesus)! I have been on staff at multiple churches, but I only have one wife! She has been there with me every step of the way.
3. Never counsel someone of the opposite sex alone without accountability. I attempt to schedule all counseling sessions during office hours. However, when this isn't possible, I ask one of the other pastors to sit in one of the adjacent offices while I am counseling an individual. The office door remains cracked open the entire time.
4. Never have lunch with the opposite sex alone. I recently had a lunch appointment with a couple in our church. I was informed at the last minute that her husband would not be joining us. Simply ask to reschedule the appointment.
5. When making home visits, take someone with you. I usually ask one of the other pastors to accompany me during home visits. It's a great time of discipleship and mentoring and provides accountability.
6. Make sure your social media and communications have accountability. Group messages are best, but if you find yourself in a private text messaging conversation make sure you have accountability.
7. Find accountability with another pastor-friend. I have had the blessing of having the same mentor for about 30 years! We hold one another accountable. We've had tough conversations.
What safeguards have you found helpful?
Each Monday, the pastors of First Baptist Church pray for three things. (1) Open a door. We ask God to open a door to share the Gospel with someone who is unchurched. We pray for God to bring someone across each of our paths in order to share the Gospel with them (cf. Col. 4:2-4). (2) Open their heart. We ask God to open the heart of those we encounter We pray their heart will be receptive to the Gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Thess. 3:1). (3) Open my mouth. We ask God to open our mouths with boldness as we share the Gospel with others (cf. Eph. 6:19-20). Would you begin to pray for these same things each Monday? Imagine what God would do in our church and community if we began to have Gospel conversations.
I have spent recent months studying the miracles as recorded in the four gospel accounts. The miracles of Jesus captured the attention of the masses. Jesus' ministry of miracles was a clear authentication of His claims to be God incarnate are in fact true (cf. John 3:2; 14:11). Since He can be verified that He is from God, we can also authenticate that His message is also true (cf. Mark 16:20). During Jesus' ministry of miracles, He touched the untouchables, He engaged with the outcasts, and He changed the lives of each person that encountered Hiim. The makes clear that "seeing they do not see" (Matt. 13:13). In other words, some observed the physical miracle ministry of Jesus, but they failed to understand what Jesus could do for them spiritually.
I have been working on a book called "Miracles: A Physical Sign with a Divine Purpose." I have identified 40 miracles within the gospel accounts. Through these brief snapshots of the miracles, it has been my desire to examine each miracle with a Gospel-centric lens: a lens that is focused on how each miracle shines on the glory of Jesus and the Gospel. The closer we look at the miracles the better we will understand the four themes of the Gospel: Creation, the Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. Below is my compiled list of 40 miracles (downloadable PDF file). I hope you too will study with a Gospel-centric lens.
He who has eyes, let him see!
Dr. Chris Dortch has been in ministry since 1993. His blog is aimed to "equip the saints for the work of ministry."