Monday, November 13, 2006

Why do some pastors not fall into scandal?

With Ted Haggard's drama playing out this last week, I got to thinking about why some pastors fall into scandal and some don't.

In criminology, most theories of crime explain why people become criminals, whether it be due to genetic, environment, or societal reasons. One type of theories, however, take the opposite approach. Social control theories assume that all individuals are prone to crime, and they seek to explain why do some individuals do not engage in crime.

I wonder if discussions of pastoral morality would benefit from type of thinking. Rather than assume that pastors will have no serious moral problems unless there is something "wrong" with them, why not assume that all pastors are headed toward scandal and then ask what can be done to avoid it? This is not an unreasonable assumption when we consider that most pastors are also people (and all have fallen) plus the distinct likelihood of spiritual warfare.
It appears that most churches do little, if anything, to buttress their pastor's morality & then are shocked, disappointed, hurt, etc... when they discover immorality. A change of thinking would have several benefits.

1) It would cast the church as more proactive in and responsible for protecting their pastors. If a pastor falls, it's then a community shortcoming rather than just a degenerate individual.

2) It would point to the need of developing procedures, programs, and evaluations that would monitor and guide pastors.

3) It would take away any stigma of pastors participating in such preventive efforts, since they are applied to all by assumption rather than a few for rehabilitation.
For additional essays on church life:


Caleb and Ashley Brown said...

I love your approach and believe you're right on. When the story broke about Pastor Ted, my intial response was: he had a safety net and not a guard rail. His accountability kept him from splatting, but if there had been a system to let him know, and his accountability know, that he was dangerously close to the boundary of freedom...we may never have heard the Haggard story.
A group of 4 of us have instituted a 'guard-rail' accountability system to prevent falls. Simple system based on 6 biblical concepts to judge our decisions by.
Loved your insight...we'll let you know if it works long term.

brewright said...

Thank you for the post. Your guard-rail system sounds like a really good idea... let me know how it goes!


Brian La Croix said...


I loved that article.

I think one of the reasons churches are not proactive is that they want to ignore the possibility that their pastor may actually be fallible.

They may see it as a weakness in the church rather than a way to strengthen the church and its leadership.


brewright said...

Thank you for the nice words Brian. I agree that we want to view our pastors/leaders as infallible & that causes all sorts of trouble.


Corey said...

Jon Trott has an interesting take on the problem of concentrated male authority in the church. I think his assessment is compatible with the basic premises of bond theory. I've noticed that many of the more prominent evangelical scandals have occured within the Charismatic community (e.g., Mike Warnke, Amy Grant, Sandi Patti).

Quoting Trott:
The evangelical model of ministry, based on the American corporate model of one person (usually a white male) as founder and boss, seems only more flawed the longer I watch it. There's a lot of noise about accountability... but the proof, I suspect, is in our pudding. Sure it works as far as building giant ministries. But it also sucks as far as horizontal accountability goes. The "type-A" hyperactive, energized go-getter is a prime candidate for immorality, and least likely to cultivate mature relationships with others. Yet we continue to stick these corporate types into our major pulpits and presidencies.

Corey said...

sorry here's the correct url for Jon Trott's post.

brewright said...

That's interesting Corey. I think that John Trott is on to something here, linking organizational structure to pastors' behavior. Sounds... sociological.

Thanks for posting,


Tony Myles said...

Good stuff, bro.

Anonymous said...

Dear friends, the bible says a "good man, falls (7) times, but he gets back up" and we all the know the instructions given to Timothy by Paul. What I find is a tremendous lack of "accountability and responsibility" on part of the church leadership (I'm not being critical but truthful) and part of it is the Pastors' fault and part of it is the circle they surround themselves with and last of all the congregations fault. Most leaders (whether worldly or christian) will surround themselves with people who will not keep them accountably or responsible, these people are not servants' but caterers' and will not take a chance in telling the Pastor he is wrong, because they are mostly watching out for themselves and have an agendie. But if your one who will challenge and confront, (iron sharpens iron) you will be labeled a "troublemaker" and "contentious." Which to be honest some people are "troublemakers" and "contentious" having nothing really to say, but always wanting to be heard, but the problem is the leadership puts all into the same category, because they don't want to change (without confrontation, most of the time change will not happen). If we stay with scripture, every leader was accountable to there people (even if they were innocent, isn't that what the Lord did, "he who was without sin, became sin, so that we could become the righteousness of God"). Once again staying with scripture, God confronts these wayward Pastors and Teachers (calling them false) and I recall there was know program for them to attend to get it right but (1) REPENT (my remark might've been harsh, but once again truthful and scriptually based). Some Pastors go as far as to think, they don't need to be accountable to the congregation, only to the church leadership (that is not scriptually based) and we as layman haven't made the situation any better, by causing some of them to think there right about everything, I love my Pastor dearly, but I don't agree with everything he says, (does that mean I don't love him, of course not, if anything it means it does) because he's fallible not infallible and to think otherwise would be unjust to him and place him on an even keel with God, which shares his throne with noone. The word says we are to pray for our pastors, not condone or help make excuses for there actions (which they need know help to do) we are to pray for there restoration and cleansing, we are to see there position in the proper perspective, and honor them not deify them, recognize that there human and prone and will commit error and help some of them to recognize the word pastor means servant not dictator (which we have helped some become). Some of us play down accountability and responsibility (theres no maturing without walking in these (2) words) isn't that what Christ, the Prophets, and the Apostles taught us to be towards Him and each other? When David sinned, he didn't look for a program he fasted and sought God with a repentant heart. Could this be why God said, "I will give you Pastors and Teachers after my own heart and they will teach you with knowledge and understanding the bk of Jeremiah."

Anonymous said...

Too many Evangelcial pastors still cheat, lie, slander, gosspit, commit adultery

and their acts are falsely cover up, denied..

this is the unacceptable reality