I’ve been having an ongoing conversation with myself about weakness. In my first post I asked some questions about competence in leadership. This time I’m thinking about sin.
One of the things that’s talked about a lot about at college, in lectures, chapel services, ministry discussion groups, etc is the spiritual life of the minister of the gospel. We are constantly being reminded that relationship with God is essential in ministry. Partly, that’s because it’s only in that relationship that sin can be dealt with.
There are appropriate places to confess and repent. Some would say those largely exist in private or with a small group of close friends. (I’ll choose to leave the whole question of private / public spirituality for another time). But I think there’s a great deal to be said for ministers modelling honesty about their sin to their congregations. Here are some ideas:
- it fights against pride – no one who’s publicly honest about their sin can hide behind their calling or office as if they’re holier than the people they serve. Only Jesus was the sinless one – the rest of us fall short and are all in need of God’s grace, including ministers (sometimes more so).
- it encourages a culture of repentance in a community – leaders set the culture. If they’re active in repentance, they give permission to their people to admit their sin, be forgiven and move forward too.
- it showcases the importance of the gospel in the minister’s own life – they are dependent and empowered by grace.
- it puts the gospel front and centre – no one can say that a minister who is just as sinful as the next person is somehow to be credited for the success of a ministry – it is because God is gracious that they are given the privilege of serving.
- it glorifies God – every time anyone is honest about their sin, there is the opportunity to point to the glorious moment of the cross and the profound freedom from sin that Jesus brings.
So if there are all these benefits to being honest about our sin, why don’t we do it? It may be pride as I suggested earlier but I think it could also be because ministers are scared of the consequences of facing their own sin. What if people don’t want to follow someone who’s just as flawed as they are? What if they no longer look like they meet all the criteria of passages like Titus 1:6-8 and they’re then removed from their leadership position?
We’ve all seen or known people removed from ministry because they brought the gospel into disrepute. Habitual sins like living in a homosexual or adulterous relationship are in some sense the easy ones to point out – because they suggest outright rebellion against God without repentance. But what about ministers who struggle with porn? Or those who simply don’t do ‘quiet times’ or read their Bibles?
What do you think?
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.