Can I admit to you I am fallible? Well, whether or not I have your permission, I will: I sin, I struggle, I have accountability partners. And I say this as a preacher. All too often, people, who do not hold themselves to the same amount of account, hold up preachers and elders and deacons and ministry leaders to standards they themselves won’t bother to strive for, and it’s somewhat sickening. Church and ministry leaders fall, partially, because of the lack of safe guards against sin, but I think in many respects, they fall because they felt that they could not show weakness, or vulnerability, or any such thing, because to do so would get them fired or replaced. How many preachers could have been rescued from sin, if they had the ability to say “I’m struggling right now” without repercussions and fear of getting fired? I know many preachers who’ve been released for non-issues, such as they were going in to counseling with their wives to improve their marriages.
So why has it gotten this far? Why are we at this point? First, because we place people, who do not belong there, in Jesus’ position. While a minister and elders SHOULD shepherd the flock, even Jesus showed vulnerabilities. He confided in his disciples (I am weary, to the point of death). Paul stated at one point that he wanted to die and asked for prayer often (2 Corinthians 1:8-11), and would often confess his shortcomings to those churches he planted! So why has it changed? We want a standard of perfection. We want a product to be delivered, and we want it delivered by someone else, so that, when it's not met, we have a reason to say “If he/she couldn’t do it, what hope have I?” That’s what happens when we take our eyes of Jesus. We ALL need Jesus, we ALL need grace, we ALL need accountability, we ALL need forgiveness, and if we can’t find it in the Church of Jesus Christ, where else can we get it?
I’m in no way saying we shouldn’t hold our leaders to the high standard that Scripture calls us to. By all means, hold us to account! But allow us, then, vulnerability to ask for help when it is needed. Pray over your church leaders, over their families, over their lives outside of the congregations they serve, and seek to build them up, encourage them, be with them when they struggle, and point them to Christ and His word for support and encouragement. Jesus is the head, the rest of us are all members of His body. Let us, then, build one another up accordingly.
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-28
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Brothers, pray for us.
Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.
I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.