It happened again. The “it” was the phone call I received telling me that a friend of mine just lost his ministry due to moral failure. It seems as if person after person is losing his ministry. The stories are hard to grasp. The circumstances vary, of course, but the result is the same–another person has bailed out of ministry due to a personal impropriety. This time it was someone I knew quite well. I never figured it would happen to him; he probably didn’t either. This young pastor allowed certain things to get “out of whack”, in his personal and ministry life. He wasn’t as careful as he should have been in certain areas of his life. Left unchecked, those indiscretions ended up being the things that took his ministry away.
This young man isn’t the first person I know who lost his ministry. The list is long. . . . Good friends of mine, people I went to college with, people I served in ministry with all lost their ministries due to a specific area of sin in their lives. I’ve heard the stories of not only some of my friends who have failed but also accounts of ministry leaders and ministry novices who have lost their positions in ministry.
I want to talk about some of the common denominators in all of those stories. Sure, the circumstances are all different, but some ingredients fit into specific categories. I want to call youth workers to lives of holiness, purity, and personal discipline. There seems to be four basic areas of life that, when left unchecked, can lead to ministry disaster.
- Morals: Undoubtedly the number-one cause of ministry disaster is moral sin. The huge number of pastors who fall into sexual sin is staggering. The sin ranges from being caught in a habit of pornography, to ongoing physical or emotional affairs with someone other than the pastor’s spouse. This trend of moral failure has become a full-blown epidemic. It is critically important for all ministry leaders to develop God-honoring lifestyles of complete moral purity. There is nothing so devastating to a person’s reputation than moral failure. Youth workers, I beg of you, keep your hearts and thought-lives pure before the Lord.
- Money: The second reason for ministry failure is often financial impropriety. A lack of true Biblical stewardship can lead to personal disaster and ruin. Ministry leaders must learn to handle their own finances and ministry finances with great care and extreme caution. Money problems have caused many ministry leaders great difficulties. It is important for each ministry leader to learn to handle church funds carefully. Every penny should be justified, and a full accounting of financial records, including a system of checks and balances, should be implemented. Financial management may or may not be one of your strengths, but budgeting and record-keeping skills can and should be learned.
- Mouth: The third factor I have seen cause ruin in the ministry is the mouth. The Bible lists many ways that words can hurt us. Do you remember the old childhood taunt that went something like this: “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me”? The truth is that words do hurt. We have all been hurt by mean-spirited gossip and cutting criticism. Ministry leaders must learn that their words can hurt them too. People who cannot control their tongues are not fit for ministry. If we gossip, if we verbally criticize others, or if our words are characterized by negativity, our ministries will quickly suffer. Our mouths can ruin our ministries.
- Mismanagement: The fourth thing that can lead to ministry ruin is a lifestyle of mismanagement. If our lives are characterized by disorganization and chaos, our ministries will quickly be as well. It may seem “cute” for a while for youth workers to come across as sloppy and chaotic, but in the end a life of mismanagement will lead to ruin.
This quick article is certainly not the antidote for all ministry disasters. My intent here is not to solve all of our ministry problems. But I do want to challenge all youth workers and ministry leaders to lives that honor the Lord in public and in private. Let’s guard these four areas of our lives and make sure we are not allowing things to creep into our lives that may ultimately lead to ministry disaster. May the Lord bless you as you seek to live in purity and holiness before Him!
(This article is a update of an article I wrote in 2003.)