Ministry

Your minister needs your help

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During my ministry training a mentor gave me a helpful piece of advice: “be careful with the ‘Three G’s – Gold, Girls and Glory’. Gold refers to greed and dishonest gain. Girls (or guys)[1] refers to sexual misconduct, and Glory to pride and self-aggrandisement. Like many good ministry anecdotes, its original author is unknown and it has passed into the world of ecclesial folklore. And I’m glad that it has. If someone in vocational ministry is going to sully the cloth then surely these are among the worst of stains.

Good training, professional standards and accountability systems are all rightly required of the minister. Ultimately it is his or her responsibility before God to keep best practice. But all Christians can help our leaders be above reproach as a way of strengthening the immune system in Christ’s body. To that end, in addition to praying for them, here are three simple strategies – one for each ‘G’ – which as a minister I really appreciate. These are far from exhaustive, but having a simple ‘go to’ strategy is a good starting point.

For ‘Gold’, one basic defensive strategy is to ensure your minister avoids handling church money, be it the offertory, money for the gingerbread house event or whatever. Occasionally I’ve had someone place an offertory envelope in my hand and ask me to ensure that it’s processed. Certainly they’re well meaning. But such a practice can also be dangerous. The minister can be caught between setting a precedent by carrying out the giver’s instructions, and potentially causing offense by handing it back. Further, placing the minister in a situation where they have to handle money alone allows for the possibility of accusation of misconduct, and even an accusation can damage a ministry and a reputation.

For ‘Girls’, the basic strategy is sight equals protection. When I meet with a female congregation member it’s imperative that I meet her in a place where another adult can see us. If the minister and parishioner can be seen, they can be protected. Recently I met with a lovely lady from our morning congregation in her home. When she invited me, she mentioned that her adult son would be present because she knew about our policy. Of course it’s the minster’s responsibility to ensure that meeting arrangements are appropriate, but it’s wonderful when you’re spared the potential awkwardness of doing the asking.

‘Glory’ is the big challenge – it can be the subtlest of vices. In a (relatively) recent publication of John Owen’s ‘Sin and Temptation’, the editor, James M. Houston, prefaces the work with: ‘Our times have been called the “me generation” because of the psychological cult of self-fulfilment and its accompanying narcissism.’[2] In this respect (as in all others), sin and temptation are as real in the minister’s life as in anyone else’s. Indeed,  technology means we now can have a bigger platform than in previous generations, so it’s especially important for Christian leaders to understand how easily we can win followers to ourselves.

I don’t recommend the Aussie solution of simply ‘taking him down a notch’, as most ministers cop enough flak as it is. Instead, consider this: the godly minister’s goal is not to be known as a brilliant preacher or teacher, but for their hearers to know Jesus as a great Saviour and Lord. So if you think your minister’s sermon (or Facebook post) was great, then tell him why it was great. As a preacher, when someone says ‘great sermon’ – it’s not actually as encouraging as you might think. It’s much more encouraging if they explain how it brought God’s word to bear on their life; how it was a gracious defence of an unpopular truth or even if they ask how verse 7 fits with verse 9… because these things show they were wrestling with the text! Putting God and his word in the centre reminds the minister they need to step aside and let the word do the work. It takes the glory away from us and rightly gives it to Jesus.

As God’s people, we’re all in this together. Lets help each other avoid the temptations of the three Gs, and give the glory to Christ.

[1] Purely for the sake of brevity I write this article from my own perspective but the warning equally applies to any form of sexual misconduct.

[2] Multnomah Press; Oregon, 1983. xiii.

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