By Mike Willis
This issue of Guardian of Truth is devoted to the problem of immorality among preachers, elders, deacons, and Bible class teachers, which seems to be occurring with greater frequency each year. I cannot say that we are glad to bring this special issue to you. The truth of the matter is that I am ashamed of the ungodliness among those who claim to be spiritual leaders which has necessitated this issue of Guardian of Truth.
There is rarely a month that goes by but that I hear of some preacher, elder, deacon, song leader, or Bible class teacher who has been guilty of fornication or adultery (which generally leads to divorce and remarriage). Among those who have fallen into this sin are some whom I have respected for many years. The staff of Guardian of Truth has not escaped unscathed. What has been occurring in our society at large has spilled over into the church, spiritually destroying, not only weak members, but many of our leaders as well.
This issue of Guardian of Truth is designed to help overcome the problem of immorality among those who are serving the Lord, both in a public and private capacity. The writers for this special issue are older, mature men of faith and wisdom. They have displayed in their lives the ability to resist the temptation to be involved in these kinds of sin. Some of them have experienced first-hand the heartache which involvement in sins of immorality brings (some of their own family have been guilty of the very sins which they abhor).
Those who enter the role of public service among God’s people have an extra responsibility to be sure that they conduct themselves in a manner that is above reproach. We should so walk that “the ministry be not blamed” (2 Cor. 6:3). When Paul collected funds for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem, he made every effort to conduct himself in a manner that was above reproach. He wrote, “. . . avoiding this, that no man should blame us in this abundance which is administered by us: providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men” (2 Cor. 8:20-21). Teachers of the word “receive the greater condemnation” (Jas. 3:1). Consequently, it is absolutely imperative that gospel preachers, elders, deacons, Bible class teachers, song leaders, and others who serve in a public capacity conduct themselves in such a manner that “the ministry be not blamed.”
This series of articles calls our minds to the impact which a public servant’s sin has on the church, community, his own family, and his reputation. Material is provided to encourage each of us to be feeding habitually his own spirit to prevent falling victim to this sin. Some of the common pitfalls into which brethren are falling are discussed with suggestions being given for how to avoid them. Advice is given regarding how to put the pieces back together again once one has fallen into sin. Hopefully this material will help keep others from falling. If nothing else, it will call our attention to the magnitude of the problem.
There are occasions when an innocent brother or sister suffers because of ungodliness on the part of his mate. For this reason, I have asked a divorced, preaching brother to write on this subject. He is writing anonymously at my request, not his own. To the best of my knowledge, this brother is doing his best to rebuild his reputation which has been damaged because of the apostasy of his wife. Having gone through the crucible which one involved in this must endure, I thought that his words would be helpful to encourage those who might have to face similar problems. Those guilty of sin need to be reminded that God’s grace is sufficient to forgive any and every sin. If God could find room for penitent David to serve in his Kingdom after his sin with Bathsheba, he can find room for any other person to serve after his sin. We need to be aware of the spiritual needs of a penitent brother who is trying to rebuild his life. Paul wrote regarding the penitent fornicator at Corinth, “Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow” (2 Cor. 2:6-7). If being swallowed up in over-much sorrow poses a danger for the penitent guilty party, the danger of overmuch sorrow must rest also upon the innocent from whom everyone has withdrawn because they cannot judge what has caused the marriage to go sour. The article by this brother should cause each of us to reconsider how we treat brothers and sisters who are going through a divorce.
Though I doubt that any of us will enjoy these articles, I do hope that each of us will profit from them. I wish that a copy of this special issue of Guardian of Truth could be placed in the hands of every gospel preacher, elder, deacon, Bible class teacher, song leader, man who serves in a public capacity (announcements, Lord’s table, prayer, etc.), and in the hands of the wife of each of these men. Let none of us be so arrogant that he thinks that this material is not relevant to him. Paul wrote, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). Rather, let us be on guard to avoid the temptations of the devil.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 1, pp. 1, 26
January 5, 1984