By Donald P. Ames
Over the past several years, like others, I have been agonizing over the immorality that is becoming so prevalent amongst those who call themselves gospel preachers. I have seen those caught in such deny it until everyone else is convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt. I’ve known some where the whole community knew about it before members of the church knew. Then, when it is finally exposed, they try to minimize it or blame everyone else. Or, they agree to quietly resign (even though the community also knows about it) and move on. And, usually glad to have “the problem” resolved, some will give them a recommendation for their preaching, and rejoice that “that problem” is now resolved and “we can get back to preaching the gospel again.”
Meanwhile, at the church where the problem arose, many new and weak Christians are left with their faith badly shaken. Many of the local young people quit the church completely, turned off by the hypocrisy of one standing up there telling them these things are wrong, yet engaged in the same disgraceful sins while doing so. The community is full of gossip about “what has happened at that church,” with some vowing they will never have anything to do with such a church “if that’s what Christianity is all about.” And the church spends the next ten years trying to overcome the problems one immoral preacher has wrought upon them. Usually a whole generation is lost and/or wasted by one such exposed action.
As for the preacher, he quietly moves on, and may repeat the same sin at two or three more places until his reputation finally catches up with him (1 Tim. 5:24-25), at which time he may leave the church completely and go off into sin. Of course he has destroyed several churches, turned many young people and prospects away from the gospel, destroyed several marriages (plus his own, and the souls of his own children Matthew 18:7). It is usually “everyone else’s fault,” and he resents those who finally exposed him, rather than bringing forth fruits worthy of repentance (Acts 26:20).
Someone says, “But that could happen to anyone!” True, but let’s be honest. Those in positions of leadership should be aware of such dangers and their con-sequences (James 3:1). Most preachers know when they are in a bad situation. If they don’t, they shouldn’t be preachers trying to warn others of such dangers ! Did not Paul say, “You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach your-self?… You who say, `Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery.. .You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?” (Rom. 2:21-24) They also know what they should do in such a situation (1 Cor. 6:18; Gen. 39:6-12). If not, they need to quit preaching until they learn more! How can they teach others those dangers and how to avoid them if they have no idea what to do themselves? Let’s get serious! And, when found guilty, they need to confess their sin, turn from it, quit blaming others, and resign from preaching until brethren feel confident a change has occurred and they can again recommend him (and his life) to others.
Brother David Padfield of Zion, Illinois, recently penned the following in his bulletin (August 1995). I commend it and him for the courage to speak out:
It is a sad fact that many gospel preachers have been guilty of adultery. I cannot understand why some brethren want them to keep preaching. Should preachers who have been guilty of adultery go back to “making tents” for a living? They cannot be trusted by their spouse. Do you trust them? They have proven themselves to be liars and covenant breakers, and now they want elders and other brethren to have confidence in them? It is amazing that some who are the most discerning in detecting “heresy” among us are men who have had trouble finding their own bedroom. Maybe they think that by focusing on some current doctrinal issue brethren might forget how they broke their wedding vows, ruined their reputation, lied to both God and their spouse and caused another man’s wife to commit this “heinous crime” with them.
When a preacher commits adultery it effects every member of the congregation where he labors. A preacher where I grew up committed adultery. He left the Lord and his spouse and the brethren withdrew fellowship from him. After he left, the brethren looked differently at all preachers. It took more than a decade before those brethren were able to look at any preacher without suspicion.
Sometimes men caught in adultery claim they are just like King David of Israel and therefore we should just over-look their transgressions. I have read of King David. David was a friend of God. These men are not King David! When Nathan confronted David with his sin, David humbly and meekly repented. David did not deny his adultery nor seek to censure Nathan. I have never known an adulterer like David. Everyone I have ever heard of who was accused of adultery first tried to deny the crime. Then, after proof was brought forth, they tried to minimize the seriousness of their crime or blame someone else. Many speak ill of the ones who try to bring them to repentance.
Solomon wrote, “Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; he who does so destroys his own soul. Wounds and dishonor he will get, and his reproach will not be wiped away” (Prov. 6:32-33). We are not going to solve this problem by sweeping it under the rug and quietly passing the offender on to other congregations for him to destroy again and again. The time has come to clean house! If they have no more moral self-control than that, they don’t need to be in the pulpit! As for those who “might get discouraged and quit the church” (and many eventually do this anyway when their sin is exposed), if they have no more convictions than that, how many more must they take with them first? How did Paul deal with the hypocrisy of Peter in Galatians 2? If forced to “count the cost,” maybe they would think more seriously about such before beginning such activities. If not, better they be exposed now than later (1 John 2:19)! Too many times we are not dealing with a “one time mistake,” but when revealed, a pat-tern or habit that has occurred more than once, and in some cases has gone on for several years.
I have no false illusions such an article as this will please all who read it. Nor is the process going to be painless. Some may be affected I do not even know. But, brethren, “Do I now persuade men or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bond servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). We need to be concerned about the Lord, and the souls of the victims; rather than just seeking to appease the offender who, by his actions, “despises the commandment of the Lord” (2 Sam. 12:9-10).
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: No. 20, p. 18-19
October 19, 1995