When your world caves in
Recently I've spent some time with two friends who were in ministry but have fallen morally and so now find themselves out of a job that they loved, separated from their families and, in all honesty, struggling. I've showed what I've written to them and I wouldn't say they were overjoyed at what I had to say but both agreed I could put this on here.
There's a number of things that need to be said but, first of all, we need to recognise how fragile we are. These men were more gifted and more able than I ever will be. They are bright guys who were, in lots of our eyes, 'successful' in ministry. I've prayed with these men and shared in ministry with them. After meeting with them I came away upset and sad and slightly afraid; the reason being it could have been me. No one who has met with people who've just seen their lives implode and the speed at which sin can destroy a man can ever be proud. You can be angry with them and what they've done but you'll be more aware of the fact that it could so easily have been me. 'Therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall'. 1 Corinthians 10:12
- online life is a killer. This isn't new is it? There are lots of warnings about it out there and yet I'm not sure it really sinks in. I was on Twitter for a while and loved it. To be honest it's addictive, catching up with old friends, getting new followers, checking who retweets you, linking to good articles etc. Very subtly good things can become bad things. It's true in every area of life but online it's probably more subtle. As I became more obsessed with Twitter it became obvious I should just get off it and yet I didn't want to. To cut off the arm and pluck out the eye. It won't be the same for everybody but I suspect we can all think of folk who could do with getting off social media for a while. It might be a good thing to tell them. Of course Facebook and Twitter in and of themselves are not bad at all but, if you've got a slightly addictive personality like me, then you need to stay off it. For others it'll be a good hobby but what it has done is make the moral collapse of some of my friends easier. Both the guys I met with struggled and got into inappropriate relationships online which in the end turned toxic and destroyed them. The language is interesting on this, inappropriate = sinful, but that's not often how it's spoken of is it?
- success in ministry is a dangerous thing - To be recognised by others for doing a good job is a good thing. For my son to come home from Reception with stickers is encouraging for him and his parents. In ministry if God blesses you to speak at conferences, if you write things that are appreciated, that is a privilege. However, the success sucks you in and the buzz of it can destroy. We're so naïve at how we think we can handle these things. I can't think of anything, apart from local church life and elders who are honest with you, to keep you grounded. The old advice of never believe your own publicity is helpful.
- accountability doesn't work - If you're going to sleep with your brother's wife, you are probably going to lie to your brother about it. I'm not convinced about men meeting up in groups to keep them accountable. There is a need for good friendships between peers, having older men you turn to and couples who share your life. Do you have someone who, if you fell into sin, you could honestly tell and they would rebuke you. If you can't think of that person you're in trouble. Are there people who you can share struggles with? Last week a good friend asked me that question and I was so encouraged that he was brave enough to ask me that. The problem of formalising groups like this, is that you prepare for the meeting and just get better at lying. My only caveat to 'accountability doesn't work' is when it comes to the internet. Go to covenant eyes of xxx church and just sign up for it. It removes some of the internet temptation.
- marriage - Love the wife of your youth. Work hard at your marriage. Don't be dumb enough to neglect this. As men we should be far more brutal in battering one another when we see we're neglecting our marriages. Spend time together. Don't just do things like going to the cinema or watching a dvd which means you don't communicate. My advice to folk in marriage is go to the pub and go there often. The reason being is that there's nothing you can do in the pub apart from talk, even playing darts or pool you still have to talk. I realise in America you don't have pubs, you just have bars with 1000's of TV's playing basketball and American football and men and women in suits who all look the same discussing trivia. In the US you'll just need to find somewhere else to go. Sex within marriage is God's answer to immorality, and so Christians need to work really hard at having good sex lives. In all cases of marital breakdown that I've faced this is the area which was cited first.
- the temptation to rehabilitate yourself - One of my friends said to me that, within 24 hours, he went from being the guy everyone wanted to see to the person no one could stand. He lost his wife, his children, his job, his home, his car. The temptation to want to claw that back is obvious. Repentance is awfully painful and in this situation it is recognising that there are consequences to your sin. One of those is that for a long while you need to keep your head down. Don't even start to ask others for forgiveness until you've gone to the relevant parties and been counselled by your elders.
- forgiveness is possible - The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. .'The vilest offender who truly believes that moment from Jesus a pardon receives',. Adultery is not the unforgivable sin. There can be restoration to fellowship, it feels hopeless but it's not hopeless. The one thing that the devil tells you is that you can't go to church on a Sunday but it's the very thing you need to do. To put yourself under the means of grace, to listen to the preaching of the Word and come to the table of the Lord, to pray the prayer of humble access. It won't be easy, and there will be lots of pain and humiliation, but it's worth it. You are not alone. You will have brothers and sisters who will love you and care for you in the church. That love must be tough and not excuse your sin but in the context of the local body of believers you can know grace and forgiveness. You might not be able to get back into full time ministry but 'a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.' Ps 84:10