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The Pastor and Accountability

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As Pastors, we have to be real honest about our struggles. We also need to help out others who are facing difficult struggles of their own.

I’ve sat gratefully in my share of Recovery meetings over the years (I’ve struggled with co-dependency issues for years), and one of the things I know I can rely on from my meetings are the many sayings or “tools in our toolbox.” For instance; “It’s time to get honest, and it’s time to get real, and it’s time to get real honest.” I use it in counseling with others, and I use it on myself.

When I read the statistics of how many Pastors quit/resign or are fired on an annual basis, it burdens me to near sleeplessness. And when you throw in the excessive number of pastors who are so fatigued, tired, and burned out that they’re barely surviving, well it could get depressing. Here’s some information from a study by Dr. Richard J. Krejcir from the Francis A. Shaeffer Institute of Church Leadership and Development.

  • 54% of pastors still work over 55 hours a week
  • 57% can’t pay their bills
  • 54% are overworked and 43% are overstressed
  • 53% feel seminary had not properly prepared them for the task
  • 35% battle depression
  • 26% are overly fatigued
  • 28% are spiritually undernourished and 9% are burnt-out
  • 23% seem distant to their families
  • 18% work more than 70 hours a week and face unreasonable challenges
  • 12% are belittled
  • 3% have had an affair

It gets me to thinking about what I am tempted to do when I’m fatigued, tired, and burned out. We’re “this close to” giving in to the sin that so easily entangles us (Hebrews 12:1), or we hope that we never get caught looking at pornography, get called out on eating poorly, drinking alcohol too regularly, or fantasizing about having an affair with someone we’re counseling or working with. I won’t even begin to discuss our exercise or sleep habits, or the little time we give to our wife and children.

Accountability is something we can’t live without

Even with it, if there isn’t transparency/honesty what’s the point? I remember the all-too-true personal friend who was an immensely gifted Youth Pastor. He attracted teens to his group like few I knew. At one point while he was in seminary and being helped financially by his church back home, the elders of his church contacted me about some teens that had been under his leadership who now were saying he had had sex with them.

He was confronted, denied it, and even agreed to a bi-weekly accountability meeting with our senior pastor. Months later he was caught by his wife having a sexual affair with one of his college interns, and soon afterward many other female students came out of the woodwork and admitted it had happened to them as well. That guy ended up in prison! He had accountability set up, but he was neither fully honest nor transparent. Everyone lost, and it will affect him, his family, and the people he crossed boundaries with for the rest of their lives.

Helping Pastors Find Safe Spaces to be Accountable

Temptation itself isn’t a sin, but for some reason hardly anyone talks about it openly and honestly – as if talking about were sin itself. Looking at James 1:13-15 we can clearly see the progression of temptation to sin, but for some reason, people who give in to temptation can’t seem to find their way out and never feel safe enough to be held accountable. If the above story isn’t gut-wrenching enough, I once was hired to a church where I quickly observed some unhealthiness in one of the pastors. I opened the door for him to find some safe men and I even offered myself. But to no avail. He resigned and is out of ministry after being confronted without repentance.

Don’t think for a moment that it could never be you or I, if not for some consistent transparency and regular accountability. Do you have safe and transparent accountability? We all need a few trusted men we can be “honest and real and real honest with”. Do you want to be a statistic? Of course not! But what are you doing to keep that from happening?

Guidelines to Consider When Thinking of Accountability Practices

  • Keep your daily time with God, and practice your spiritual disciplines. Be creative but make sure you have a few men regularly ask you about the condition of your soul. John Ortberg said, “Soul dissatisfaction cannot go long without leading us into sin. What God sees cannot be staged; there are no short-cuts. Authenticity or a lack of it will be found out.”
  • Create a “Dream Team” of mature Christian men you could ask to mutually hold each other accountable. Agree to meet weekly or every other week.
  • Develop a list of hard questions you will ask each other each time you meet.
  • Be willing to allow these men access to meeting with your wife every once in a while to ask her some questions regarding your marriage, finances, parenting, the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in your life, etc.

The important thing is to be honest, be real, and be really honest. Once you’ve learned how to practice this fully, do your best to become someone who helps others not become another ministry statistic.

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