5 Traits of A Revitalizing Pastor: Pt 4- An Unrelenting Passion for Purity

Over the past several days we have looked at the top five traits that a Pastor must possess in

Folio 27r from the Lindisfarne Gospels contain...

order to be successful in the work of revitalizing churches.  So far we have looked at three traits:

#1 An Unwavering Commitment to the Gospel

#2 An Unquestioned Call to the Ministry 

#3 An Unrivaled Confidence in the Word of God

Today I want to add the fourth trait, which is an unrelenting passion for purity.  Pastors live in a fishbowl and their lives are on constant display for others to look at and examine.  If you are going to be successful in the work of ministry you must be relentless in your pursuit for purity.  Here are some tips that I like to give young Pastors about this pursuit:

 

1. Focus on Your Relationship with God

 

It may seem strange to those who are not in the ministry but nearly every Pastor I know will tell you that they struggle with their own relationship with God.  It is an inherent occupational hazard that the more time we spend dealing with other people’s spiritual lives the less time we will focus on our own.  This often leads us to having blind spots in our lives when it comes to our own sin.  The cure, of course, is to spend more time focused on our own relationship with God.

 

During my ordination service one of the Pastors who laid hands and prayed over me was named John Hayes.  Over the course of his ministry Pastor John had planted over a dozen Southern Baptist Churches including Open Door Baptist Church in Colliers, WV where I was being called to Pastor.  I will never forget when John knelt down and whispered in my ear, “No matter what else happens, never let Satan steal your time alone with God.  This is the most important time of your day.”   Over the past two decades of ministry I haven’t always succeeded in maintaining this important aspect of my relationship with God, but I have clearly learned its importance. When we spend time alone with God it allows two important things to happen in our lives.

 

First, the more we focus on our relationship with God the more aware we become of our own sinfulness.  I am not suggesting here that we fall into the trap of having a morbid obsession over our sin, but the simple truth is that as we draw near to God the light of His presence will reveal sin in our lives.  In fact, I am convinced that one of the reasons that I often neglect my spiritual life is that I do not want to be made aware of my sin.  Before you judge me too harshly, I would urge you to take a look at your own heart and see if this is not a struggle in your life as well.  The good news is that never reveals our sin without at the same time offering us His mercy and grace through the gospel.

 

That brings me to the second things that happens when we focus on our relationship with God — we are drawn into a deeper appreciation and understanding of the gospel.  The simple truth of the matter is that before God called us to be preachers of the gospel, He called us to be partakes in the gospel.  In reality no Christian ever beyond their daily need to preach the gospel to themselves — and that includes you and me.  As Pastors and ministry leaders we stand in daily need of preaching the gospel to ourselves and applying its blessed truth to our lives.  This constant focus on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ will not only expose every sinful act and idol in our hearts but it will also drive us deep into the arms of Christ where we find grace and forgiveness.

 

2. Deal with sin the moment it is discovered

 

Pastor, let me stop right here and beg you to deal with sin the moment that it is recognized in your heart.  Don’t delay.  Don’t put it off.  Don’t think that you can wait and deal with it some other time.  Sin is like a cancer that will eat away at your life, it will steal you joy, rob you of your ministry, and take everything that you love away from you.  Pastors know better than anyone in the church the dangers and the consequences of sin.  We see the sad results of sin-filled lifestyles and yet sometimes we are the worst people in the church for delaying repentance and thinking that we can deal with the problem later.

 

The moment that God reveals the sin of pride, or lust, or materialism, or whatever your favorite sin is, deal with it.  Drop to your knees in prayer and confess it before God, seeking His forgiveness and cleansing.  Delay will only make matters worse and usually guarantees that your sin will touch a wider circle of people.  Putting repentance off until another day will lay down an extra layer of callousness and apathy over your heart and if you are not careful one day your affection and love for Jesus will grow cold.  Pastor do not delay when sin is discovered in your heart!  Run to Jesus, confess your sin and receive His forgiveness.

 

3.  Establish and Maintain Accountability

 

One of the common links that I have observed among Pastors who have fallen into deep sin is that there has been a lack of accountability in their lives.  In fact, I would argue that a lack of accountability is one of the primary occupational hazards of going into the ministry.  A large number of you reading this book will work within small, single staff churches, where there is no one looking over your shoulder or maintaining accountability.  Others of you serve in multi-staff churches but still have very little in the way of supervision or accountability.  If you are like other Pastors, you will have to set up a structure for accountability in your life.  This means having someone with whom you will open your life and maintain a level of transparency.  Someone whom you give the right to ask you some of the hard questions about your spiritual life and conduct.

Pastors need to establish and maintain accountability not only in the area of sexual purity but also in how they handle church finances, their families, their time, and their spiritual lives.  Perhaps there is one person in your life, another man in the church or ministry who can hold you accountable in all of these areas.  If you are like me, however, you may have several friends who each hold you accountable in different areas.  For instance, my friend Larry is basically my accountability partner in the areas of my marriage and spiritual life.  My associate Pastor Cliff holds me accountable with areas related to the use of my time and I have other friends who each have their niche when it comes to holding me accountable.  Each of these friends is a vital part of my spiritual life and helping to make sure that I don’t wreck my life and ministry on some unforeseen, uncharted island of sin.

 

Unconfessed sin is the single biggest threat to your ministry.  It is the number one killer of Pastors.  Sin is like a cancer that silently and subtly eats away at your life and ministry.  There is no more important issue that we deal with in this book than the problem of unconfessed sin.  Sin is rebellion against God and will separate us from His presence.  Sin will tear you away from the people you love the most and keep you from accomplishing your greatest purpose in life.  Sin in the life of the Pastor is particularly dangerous because it always hurts other people. Sadly when sin is discovered in the life of the minister, church members will end up questions not only the integrity of their next Pastor but also the gospel itself.  Therefore, we need to take special care to maintain our time alone with God and to deal with sin as soon as it is recognized in our lives.  One of the best tools for doing this is to open our lives up to a trusted friend who will hold us accountable.

 

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