Killing Fields, Part 2--Other Sexual Sins
I speak as one who has done most of the jobs in the Church of Christ: song leader, Bible class teacher, weekend preacher, youth director, deacon, elder. The areas that seem most susceptible to sexual temptation seem to be those of preacher and elder. I am not saying that a man would never be tempted while doing one of the other jobs, but in my experience the maximum intensity is directed at preachers in their 30s and as a distant second, elders in their 40s.
For preachers, whether the preacher preaches only on weekends or is considered to be a full-timer does not seem to matter. The vector for sexual temptation is slightly more likely to be from outside the church, or from women who are marginally inside the church. Lacking a deep understanding of how preachers are to operate as servants of the membership and immediately answerable to the eldership, these women may see preachers as people of great charismatic power. Preachers are public figures. They lead members to do seemingly extraordinary things. For women who do not comprehend the real organization of the Lord's church, they may think that preachers are answerable to no one but God. They may think preachers can start their own churches, or that the preachers can decide whatever they like about the use of the money that is contributed.
Some women want what they seemingly can't have. The preacher is supposed to be off limits, so they go right for him. In his 30s, the preacher's marriage may have settled down into a routine somewhat and his wife's efforts may have become more directed at raising the children than towards the preacher. By his mid-30s, he typically has a large enough sermon collection and enough knowledge of the Scriptures that getting ready for each Sunday is no longer a desperate affair. He may have been at the local congregation long enough to be socially established. The Devil loves it when people think they are secure. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall"--I Corinthians 10: 12. The temptation as it is presented to the preacher may be very direct--"Let's meet at a hotel." This is the stuff of which preaching careers are ended.
For elders, the vector of the temptation can be rather different. Rather than from being that of a marginal member of the opposite sex or a non-member, the temptation can be from the very faithful, right under his nose. The temptation may come from a sister in the Lord who is having difficulty with her marriage and who seeks spiritual counseling. He may be in his late 40s, trying to resolve his own mid-life crisis. (In some congregations, memberships would rather not have an elder who is under 50.) Initially at least she may not be trying to do anything wrong. His natural sense of trying to be of help can be twisted by Satan so that before the elder realizes it, he is trying to play surrogate husband instead of counselor. Perhaps because of the mid-life crisis situation, the I Timothy 3: 6 qualification or characteristic of an elder is that he must not be a novice or recent convert. An elder must be someone who knows Satan and can recognize when Satan has just slipped through the door. If a Christian wife can't trust an elder, who can she trust?
The catalyst for either the 30-something preacher or the 40-50 elder is availability. Availability has explained so many adulteries over the years. So many men who had so much to offer to the Lord and to his church have perished under Satan's snipers because they gave in to women who seemed available. Usually the women they fell for weren't even all that attractive! But we all know the rules: Sex is right only when it is done with our mates (Hebrews 13: 4). It is pure, holy, blessed, innocent under those circumstances. When we sow the wind (Hosea 8: 7) we will reap the whirlwind. Jobs will be lost, friends estranged, marriages torn asunder, children imprinted negatively for life, respect forever forfeited, churches split over this kind of mistake. Sexual sin is a tar baby. Once you get it on your hands you may never entirely get rid of it. Small wonder Paul told the Corinthians in 1Corinthians 6:18, "Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body."
One is reminded of how God's Holy Spirit left Saul when Saul refused to have sacrifices made the way God wanted them made (I Samuel 13: 1-14). The power, the vigor, and the precision that the preacher and the elder once freely exercised leave them when the sin is committed. Not when it is found out about . . . . but when they commit the sin. Be sure your sin will find you out, for "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he reap." Galatians 6: 7.
I'm very mindful of congregational autonomy as I make these suggestions, first to preachers and then to elders . . . I may not be an elder in your congregation, dear reader, so you could just forget all about this if you decide to. But you have some interest in this or you would not be reading it. I can remember some times in my life as a preacher and later as an elder when I appreciated some one who still had his objectivity taking me firmly by the arm and helping me out of the room where the temptation was:
Suggestions to Preachers:
1. Even if your elders don't require you to, make a daily schedule of where you will usually be and when. The Devil loves idle, unscheduled hands, even preachers' hands. They too can become the Devil's workshop. Don't give in to the laziness of not having a weekly schedule. Plan your study times, visitation times, times at home. (a) The schedule will help keep you out of trouble over the kinds of things being discussed here. (b) The day will come--if you stay at that congregation long enough--when you will be asked to account for your time and for where you usually are at specific times of the week. Have that schedule already posted on your door (like a professor's office hours) before you and they ever come to that day.
2. Use your backups (elders). You do not have to counsel every problem. In graduate schools of counseling in universities all over the country, the first rule of counseling that is taught to people who are wanting to become professional counselors of all kinds is "Know thyself. Know your limits."
3. Don't close the door of your office behind any woman except your wife.
4. Your wife's 28-day clock is not the only one going on in your family; depending upon your age, you too have one, with a time span of typically 4 to 7 days between times that you need sex. Take care of your needs at home with your wife; if she is not aware of your 4-day clock, tell her about it. Avoid the "un-met needs" scenario which Satan loves so much. Don't let your hormones get to you. Unlike women who reach the end of their reproductive function around age 50, males have biological needs almost up to the day they die. Marriage is the safe place to meet those. Re-discover the wife of your youth.
Suggestions to Elders:
1. Jer 23:1-4 "Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!" declares the LORD. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: "You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD."
2. Isa 56:11 "The dogs have a mighty appetite; they never have enough. But they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each to his own gain, one and all."
3. Jer 25:34-35 "Wail, you shepherds, and cry out, and roll in ashes, you lords of the flock, for the days of your slaughter and dispersion have come, and you shall fall like a choice vessel. No refuge will remain for the shepherds, nor escape for the lords of the flock."
4. 1Timothy 5:19-20 " Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear." This is your preacher's authority and responsibility; do you want him coming to one of your elders' meetings to do this to you?
5. Guys, do you get the idea that we are playing in a different league? Adultery is a mistake we are just not supposed to make. If we are tempted, we can go to the other elders and ask them to pray for us; to intercede for us; to help us overcome the temptation that is being set at our door. Better to admit the temptation to fellow elders than to confess sin before the whole congregation, and then resign. Most men, when they resign under these kinds of circumstances, never get another chance to serve again.
6. Remember the first rule of counseling. Hand off situations to other elders if it is getting to be too much for you. Counsel women with marital problems with your own wife in the room.
Books that have been useful in preparing these lessons include:
Anderson, L. (1993). They smell like sheep. West Monroe, Louisiana: Howard Publishing.
Gangel, K. O. (1984). So you want to be a leader! Camp Hill, Pennsylvania: Christian Publications.
Grimsley, R. W. (1964). The Church and its elders. Abilene, Texas: Quality Printing Company.
Lewis, J. P. (1985). Leadership questions confronting the church. Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate.
Lewis, J. P. (2008). The question of instrumental music in worship. Searcy, AR: Truth for Today World Mission School.
Sanders, J. O. (1989). Spiritual leadership. Chicago, Ill: Moody Press.
Strauch, A. (1991). A study guide to biblical eldership: An urgent call to restore Biblical church leadership. Littleton, CO: Lewis and Roth Publishers.
White, J., & Blue, K. (1985). Church discipline that heals: Putting costly love into action. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press.
Yeakley, F. R. jr. (1980). Church leadership and organization. Arvada, CO: Christian Communications.
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