With great calling comes great responsibility. With great responsibility comes leadership. With leadership comes influence. With influence comes power. With power comes authority. With authority comes temptation. With temptation comes the need for radical boundaries.
Never has this been more apparent than now.
It seems as though hardly a week goes by without an accusation of sexual harassment or misconduct making headlines. Dozens of people in positions of power have seen their world come crashing down because of hidden behaviors and practices coming to light.
Unfortunately, this has not been isolated to Hollywood but has made its way into the doors of our churches. This week has seen news of prominent and influential spiritual leaders being accused of sexual misconduct.
This is devastating.
I realize that in the flurry of allegations over the past many months not every one of them is valid. Sadly, there are people who make false claims to sully an individual’s reputation or to try and gain in some other way. But the sad reality is that many of the allegations that are reported have at least a partial if not full truth within.
This week has seen accusation of Christian leaders at the highest levels. I will not mention the names or specific issues in this blog because I do not want to bring more attention to the individuals. However, I do want to bring awareness of the issue.
I am not personally involved in the situations that I have alluded to. I have no facts to go off of except what I read. If the accused parties are innocent, I pray that God will bring vindication to their name. If they are guilty, God is the one who will judge.
Either way, these situations should cause any person in ministry to tremble.
Every ministry leader, male or female, should be fanatically assessing his/her boundaries and ethics when it comes to interactions with the opposite sex.
There has never been a time when this is more urgent. Ministry leaders cannot afford to get this wrong. There is WAY TOO MUCH AT STAKE!
This weeks events have caused me to step back and assess my own personal ethics and boundaries. If there is one thing I know about this kind of issue, it does not happen in a moment. Typically, sexual harassment and misconduct are the result of an extended period of loose boundaries, loose thoughts, loose standards, and loose accountability.
How can we as ministry leaders guard ourselves against these kinds of things?
I think that the answer starts with radical personal accountability. Personal accountability starts by taking a personal assessment and answering some gut-wrenching questions completely honestly. If we cannot be honest with ourselves, we will stand little chance of taking the necessary steps to put up the proper protections.
Here are some questions that I think ministry leaders should ask themselves.
Questions to Assess my Personal Ministry Ethic
Who have I been a little too flirtatious with?
Who have I had an impure thought about?
Who am I allowing to become too emotionally close to me?
Who am I looking for in a group setting?
Who gives me butterflies when I look at them?
Who do I lock eyes with for too long?
What am I letting come out of my mouth?
What things am I saying that are close to or over the line?
What was the last thing that I looked at or watched that I was ashamed of?
When do I feel tempted the most?
Do I tell sexually suggestive jokes?
Do I use physical touch too often?
Could my physical touches (hugs, pats on the back, etc.) be taken to mean more than their intention?
Have I physically crossed the line with someone?
Do I spend alone time with the opposite sex?
I am going to be honest, these questions are uncomfortable. Yet, answering these questions honestly could be the difference between an issue being stopped or an issue progressing. These questions deal with the little things – the little actions, the little slip-ups, the little thoughts.
Big things always start out as little things.
A little thought in the mind that is not controlled will manifest into a word or action. Once that word is said or that action is done it can never be taken back.
Asking yourself questions is important, but even more important is making commitments for how you will behave going forward. If you are married your spouse is the greatest accountability partner that you could ever have – keep them in mind as you read through these commitments. If you are single, a trusted small group is critical – keep that group in mind as you read through these commitments.
Commitments to Maintain my Personal Ministry Ethic
I commit that I will tell my spouse/group if I find myself becoming attracted to someone of the opposite sex
I commit that I will tell my spouse/group about reoccurring impure thoughts about a person
I commit that I will tell my spouse/group if I look at or watch something that is explicit or inappropriate
I commit to allowing trusted people to speak into my life and correct me in areas that I might be unaware of
I commit that I will not be found alone with a person of the opposite sex in any place where there cannot be accountability
I commit that I will never tell a joke that is sexually suggestive
I commit that I will never engage physically with someone of the opposite sex
Pastors, youth pastors, ministry leaders, the stakes are WAY TOO HIGH for us to compromise or not take these things seriously.
It is time to ask yourself the tough questions and make the tough commitments.
These will be key to helping you stay the course in your ministry, impact lives for generations, and avoid having all that you have worked for come crashing down.