I listened to some podcasts as I got ready this morning. This has been my general practice for quite awhile. I find that it helps me to make use of time that might ordinarily be wasted.
One of the podcasts I listened to this morning was “Love Worth Finding on Oneplace.com.” Pastor Adrian Rogers was preaching a sermon entitled: “The Awesome Power of the Spoken Word.”
In this sermon, he started with the misuse of the tongue. While talking about how people use their tongues to judge and criticize others, he embarked on a topic that is incredibly important.
A little past the 11 minute mark in this sermon, Dr. Rogers began a section of the sermon that addresses pastors. In this section (and I would heartily encourage you to listen to this sermon), he noted that it is dangerous to criticize and judge a preacher of the Word.
Pastor Rogers noted that besides the infilling power the Holy Spirit, the pastor’s character is the most important thing he has going for him. If people gossip about and slander him, they are causing others to not take him or his message seriously. Because of that, some people will spend eternity in Hell … because of gossip and slander.
As we conclude the month that is typically called “Pastor Appreciation Month,” all pastors would acknowledge that some people do not appreciate them – in fact, they willingly oppose them.
I have personally known what it is like to have people slander me behind the scenes. Maybe I had previously made a leadership decision that they didn’t like. Maybe I had confronted them or someone they love about a sin. Maybe I just didn’t measure up to the standard they had set for what a pastor is to be like. But, they gossiped and I could see the toxin being spread in the church. People who once were incredibly friendly with me now avoided me. People who once included me in their conversations now stopped talking when I walked into the room.
While others had informed me that I was being slandered, those guilty of it denied it when I spoke with them about it. (It is incredible how courageous someone can be when they are speaking in the shadows yet how cowardly they become when the light comes on.)
So, how did it impact my ministry? When I stood up to preach the Word, I noticed that folks who used to be attentive now chattered during the sermon or simply were unengaged. Some eventually stopped attending. The life-giving Word I was preaching wasn’t being received because my character had being impugned.
Folks, if you are a person that loves God Word and you hear a pastor being slandered, do what the Bible says to do.
Don’t ignore it.
Certainly don’t listen and then pass it on.
Instead, take it seriously.
General Steps to Take
1. Let the person who is doing the slandering know that what they have said about the pastor is serious. In fact, it is serious enough that you need to get two or three witnesses to hear what has just been said. Get the witnesses and let them listen to the allegations.
1 Timothy 5:19 (ESV) “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.”
2. Then, go to the pastor with the witnesses to find out if it’s true. (I believe the step-by-step principles found in Matthew 18 generally apply here. Begin with a one-on-one conversation. If that doesn’t work, take the witnesses. If that doesn’t work, tell the church. If that doesn’t work, share the Gospel with him because he probably isn’t saved.)
Matthew 18:15-17 (ESV) “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
3. If the accusation is true and the pastor refuses to abandon the sin, then it must be told to the church (Matthew 18:17) and he must be rebuked in front of everyone. The rebuke needs to be filled with love but must be so stern that it causes everyone else to see how seriously the church takes sin.
1 Timothy 5:19-20 “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.”
You Don’t Have the Luxury of Doing Nothing
To be clear, if a pastor is alleged to have done (or continues to do) something sinful, the Bible does not allow for it to simply be looked over. It has to be addressed. Otherwise, God will withhold His hand of blessing from the church. Further, the church (by ignoring the matter) will have made it clear that sin isn’t a big deal and can be tolerated even by those who lead the church.
This is a message a church cannot and should not convey. Sin has to be dealt with especially with the pastor.
So, if you ever hear a pastor being gossiped about or slandered, don’t listen and pass it on. With an open Bible and your finger on 1 Timothy 5 and Matthew 18, make it your mission to abide by biblical principles until the matter is resolved, one way or the other.