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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 (Galatians 6:1-2)
1 – Broaden Scope: I’m not interacting with a specific sin intentionally. I’ve widened the scope to provide general guidelines that you will need to apply according to the specifics of the situation, individual, and context. I will speak generally; you must apply specifically. Sexual sin is more severe, of course, but these thoughts apply to any person in a habituated, sinful pattern.
2 – Disqualification: Is he disqualified? There will be some situations where the leader should never be in a position of leadership again. Though that conversation is essential, the more critical talking point will be the restoration of the leader, their family, and the church. It would be best to focus on restoring the captured soul (Galatians 6:1-2); you can later discuss potential re-qualification.
3 – Deception: A leader in known sin over an extended period is a liar, too. I know this is strong language, but I imagine some folks will be blind to the comprehensive scope of what is happening; they need to hear this plainly. It’s similar to James calling anger murder (James 4:1-3). Whenever a person is in secret sin, there is deception (lying). This truth applies to any sinful addictive behavior.
4 – Guarded Trust: Synonyms for lying are deception, secrecy, lack of honesty, lack of transparency, justifying, rationalizing, and so forth. When a person uses deception to feed his lust, he cannot be trusted and must not be leading anyone.
5 – Hard Heart: Part of the repercussion of deception is the hardening of the conscience. He is going from dull to hard, which is one of the worst conditions for a believer. He has no clarity because of the continuous quenching and grieving of the Spirit. He’s flying blind and needs someone leading him competently.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin (Psalm 51:1-2)!
6 – Confession: One of the indicators you’re looking for in a repenting person is them confessing more than you already know. They have nothing to hide. It’s more crucial for them to be right with God and others than guarding their reputation. In most situations with the broken soul, they will confess to you more than what you knew about the situation. However, if you have to “negotiate a person’s repentance” while “pulling teeth” to get the truth out of them, he is not broken or ready to change.
7 – Church Repercussions: Then you have the issue of parents and children. When a person is in sexual sin and has oversight over children, you have a significant problem on your hands. He may not have direct supervision over children and teens, but he’s a church leader and can be in a private situation with a child. If I were a parent and knew that one of the pastors had a secret sexual sin pattern, I would not just sound the alarm but be angry, even considering leaving the church if the leadership did not deal with it.
8 – Legal Recourse: Then you have liability issues in play. If the worst happened, i.e., the pastor acting out on a minor, the child would struggle for life, and the church would be liable, etc. This situation is dangerous. In some cases, you need to seek an attorney, call child protective services, or other legal avenues because the severity of the sin warrants it. Covering up these types of sins is a horrendous thing to do, and it will have generational adverse effects on some of the folks associated with it. Leaving a leader in place with such a pattern of sin sends a clear message about the church’s leadership view, which is a low one.
9 – Family Dynamics: Many of these leaders have spouses, children, and parents. You want to care for them. They are not “just” part of the congregation, but they are intimately involved and appropriately devastated by what is happening. Their temptations and insecurities will be all over the map. It would be best if you provided targeted, precise, and comprehensive care for an extended period to care for their souls.
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (James 4:17)
10 – Corporate Culpability: If you know to do good, but do not do it, you will sin (James 4:17). There is a template for confrontation in Matthew 18:15-17. The temptation from a sinning leader’s peers is not to do anything about it, play it off, make excuses, and succumb to fear. In worst cases, the leader has power over his peers, and they submit to his unbridled authority. Frequently, the peer group will place more value on keeping their jobs over doing the right thing. This tension is real, and I would not be harsh toward them because most of us would act similarly. Nevertheless, it’s not an excuse to let known sin thrive; you will be guilty if you know to do good, but choose not to do it.
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Rick Thomas leads a training network for Christians to assist them in becoming more effective soul care providers. RickThomas.Net reaches people around the world through consulting, training, podcasting, writing, counseling, and speaking.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and in 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).