A pastor friend forwarded this to me at an opportune time: the day after I had responded to someone’s challenge with acerbic sarcasm. It happened at a board meeting, and I knew I had gone too far the moment I loosed my tongue. It became more obvious when that board member left the meeting in tears. The rest of the board looked on in shocked amazement. They may have been surprised by the meanness of my response… but I wasn’t. Like the Psalmist David; “my sin is ever before me”. I live with constant temptation, and sometimes I give in. The Gospel is real to me because without it I would be a judgmental and manipulative monster. I am in desperate need of God’s mercy and help (and am eternally grateful that He gives it). Despite years of orthopraxis and the constant pressure of God’s presence in my life, there are times when my “old man” comes back with a vengeance. That evening my “secret” had been revealed: St. Michael’s priest really was the first among sinners.
So what comes next? How could I possibly recover from such a display? Sinners can only participate in loving communion through repentance and forgiveness. This is as true for parishes as it is for marriages and friendships. Thanks to God (and a whole lot of practice) I have learned what to do when I go back to my own vomit: I repent. Because we have a relationship built on Christ, this person was able to hear my sorrowful confession that very night and forgive me. The next day I found my confessor; he witnessed my repentance before God and offered the prayer of absolution. I’ll be cleaning up the mess for a while, but the kenotic act of repentance – and the loving fellowship (and forgiveness) that is found in Christ – allows our communal movement from glory to glory to continue despite my (and our) sin.
Yes, St. Michael’s has a sinner for priest… but so does every parish. Here’s some advice on how to minimize the damage. – Fr. Anthony
There is only one kind of leader.
I’ve often told folks at [the church I serve] that a sinner has to lead the church, so I might as well be honest about it, and to make sure they know that’s what they’ve got. To fail to do so would only add “deceit” to my list of sins.
Now, by “sinful” I don’t mean disqualifying patterns of public sin. Yet non-disqualifying sin abounds.
Don’t get me wrong.
The vast majority of pastors are good people.
Very good people.
They have deep consciences and wrestle with their sins and inadequacies more than anyone needs to point out for their benefit.
But yes, they are sinful.
Which means sinful people have to lead the church. Not formerly sinful, but currently sinful.
So what does that mean for the health and well-being of the church?
Four things come to mind:
1 – You need to be a sinful leader who is continually seeking forgiveness and striving for repentance. The Bible is full of habitual sinners, often in the same areas over and over again, but what marked God’s ability to use them tended to be their equally habitual contrition.
2 – You need to be a sinful leader who does not boast about things you have neither achieved nor maintained. Notice my language. Every leader will have to teach biblical truth about virtues they do not maintain. What is key is that there is not the heartbeat of hypocrisy which boasts as if you are above the fray.
3 – You need to be a sinful leader who works diligently to protect your life from the kinds of public sins that would shame the church and hurt her witness. Ask the family of any pastor to name that pastor’s sins, and they could. And no pastor would ask that such sins be excused. But what is essential is that the sins of that pastor are not the kind that will find their way into the news. I’m not talking about a cover-up, I’m talking about a wise-up. To be “above reproach” does not mean to be “above sin.” It means to live in such a way that you fight the hardest, and are disciplined the most, against the sins that are most prone for public display. And you do it not for the sake of your reputation, but for the sake of the church.
4 – You need to be a sinful leader who knows that it is only by the grace of God you are able to sustain another day of leadership. So you lean on God, depend on God, drink deeply from God. You know you are a sin-stained, sin-soaked person, so you pray like a drowning man to God for rescue. In other words, your sin leaves a deep mark of humility.
So let’s recap:
You have a sinful leader.
Pray they are the kind of sinful leader God wants.
James Emery White