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Embarking Blog

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When Leaders Fall, Adam Hamilton

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Francis Schaeffer Institute: 30% of pastors admitted to some sort of sexual failure in their ministry

Adam Hamilton had a tough talk today.  He admitted himself that this was not a fun, motivational talk, nor one he delighted to give.  It has to deal with the moral failure that so many leaders fall into - often, and particularly some sort of sexual/ relational failure.  Hamilton himself experienced the moral failure of two of his colleagues who developed an inappropriate relationship with one another.

As he continues to speak right now, let me just mention how close this is to my heart for a couple of reasons.  First, I have several friends who have been personally affected by such a failure by a parent, friend, or close colleague.  Second, I've seen the damage in my own denomination and congregations I'm close to who have experienced this very thing.  Third, because it's not just leaders who struggle with this.  I'm working with a number of couples right now whose marriages are on the rocks because of some major failure... and all of these are within the church.  Lastly, I have had some people close to me and my family that have affected our lives personally.

Here are 4 ways a church or organization can approach these moral failures:

  1. Ignore it and hope it would go away.
  2. Be evasive and say the two pastors were leaving because of personal reasons.
  3. Scarlet letter approach - add more shame and exile.
  4. Approach it with transparency, honesty, and compassion.

In such situations, many people look to see how the church will approach these situations in order to a) either reinforce their greatest fears that we really are the Pharisees or b) to be surprised that the church can respond in a way that is human, biblical, compassionate, and filled with truth seasoned with grace.  The hope is that such a defining moment will be lived out in a way that is closer to the second.

What are some things that churches can do to help avoid sexual misconduct among and between staff members?

  1. Develop policies and staff covenants
  2. Talk about it among the staff.  Have the sex talk with the staff.  We are wired for reproduction, intimacy, and sin.  The combination of these three can often lead us to places of self-destruction.  Even if you have the feelings - even if they're normal - don't share them.

5 R's for Resisting Temptation

  1. Remember who you are:  pastor, father, husband, child of the King.
  2. Recognize the consequences of your actions.  "Will I feel better after I do this?"  "Will I feel more or less human?"  "Will I be proud or ashamed?"  "Who will be affected by my actions?"  "What will my congregation thing about this?"
  3. Rededicate yourself to God.  In the moment, Stop, Drop, and Pray.
  4. Reveal your struggle to a trusted friend.  When you share it with a friend, it loses its power.
  5. Remove yourself from the situation.  Jesus said, sometimes there are radical things you need to do to avoid sin.

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