Many years ago, I served a small rural church as an associate while working on a graduate degree. Wonderful people – unique culture. I encountered true poverty in that small Texas town for the first time. Most of our work was with the down and out fringe kids. I still remember taking a Christmas trip to Dallas – the Galleria Mall. There was this one kid who hesitated and froze at the bottom of the “moving stairs.” They’d never seen let alone been on an escalator.
That small church was full of lessons some pleasant and some not so pleasant. One particular involved two leaders – the Deacon Chairman and Church Hostess. Both were active, involved, and generous. Oddly enough, what happened took place right under our nose. Both were married to other people. It happened subtly. You started seeing them together at church functions without their respective spouse – even visitation. I accompanied them one night on visitation. I got that sinking feeling that something wasn’t right, but dismissed the thought – couldn’t be?!? We returned to church. I went to my office for a while only to exit the building and find them sitting alone in the same dark vehicle. I left not knowing when they would. It wasn’t long until the news hit. Both left their spouses moving into the city together. You could have dropped a bomb and it wouldn’t have done any more damage. Talk about sucking the life out of a church – let alone devastating friends, damaging a church, and tearing apart two families. Things were never the same during my tenure. The sadness, disappointment, and unbelief lingered for months.
As I look back on that particular ministry season, there are some things I learned.
- Create safeguards for leadership. Don’t allow yourself or others to be placed in a potentially compromising position.
- Don’t allow anyone or another relationship to come between you and your spouse – guard it like a precious jewel.
- The grass isn’t any greener in the other pasture. Try fertilizing your own pasture and quit looking over the fence!
- God gives a sense of discernment to His followers. If you discern something appears morally or ethically compromising, it needs to be confronted. If it doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.
- Nobody is beyond temptation or failure. A leader is especially a vulnerable target – guard your life, family, and ministry.
- A leader’s morally compromising decisions affect more than self, but everyone they come in contact with. Choose well and right.
- Never discount the absurd.