Out of the Abundance of the Heart: Character Matters

Building People of Substance for Works of Power

Many years ago, I knew a fella who was an extremely gifted worship leader. I mean the guy could take a room full of people into the presence of God and leave them there. He just could. He was also extremely likeable. These attributes combined to lead him toward destruction. In church after church, he was placed in a position of prominence, out front on Sunday, then had to be removed because of moral failings. He struggled with nicotine addiction, certainly not something you want in a worship leader. But the biggest issue was his inability to stay married to the same women for any extended period. No matter, his talent and personality repeatedly brought him back to the platform without ever really dealing with the issues that caused his previous train wreck.

One of the toughest balancing acts for any pastor is the tension between using the gifts of people in the congregation and pastoring the human beings in whom the gifts reside. Let’s face it, we all need help, and talented help is hard to find. The ugly truth is that we are all imperfect. So, at what point does a person’s baggage outweigh the benefits of their gift, at least for the moment? Three considerations come immediately to mind:

  1. The well-being of the individual. In some instances, it is difficult, even impossible, to continue to serve and still deal adequately with the situation. For some, being allowed to continue to serve implies that the problem is not really important. In addictions, for instance, the addict will need time to go to meetings, receive counsel, and repair relationship breaches. In any event, the spiritual health of the person comes before the needs of the church (or the pastor!)
  2. The well-being of the family. Some sinful behaviors impact the family in ways that can only be tended to by taking time away from ministry. In the case of parents, it is vital that the kids not be left with the impression that what daddy or mommy is doing is “OK” with God. In other instances, it might just be time for a sabbatical to focus on getting a marriage back in order. Sometimes, “Oops! I won’t do it again,” is simply insufficient.
  3. The well-being of the church. Again, perfection is not the standard. We look for progress, not perfection. However, some things simply cannot be overlooked because of need. The question here is, “How does this person’s struggle effect those they minister to and with?” For those in “public” roles, to what extent do I consider the example they set. This is particularly important in children and youth workers, and in anyone who appears regularly as part of the ministry team. And, for the sake of the ministry team, there has to be some consistency in the application of standards. Special exceptions for talent will cause long-term problems.

This is certainly not an exhaustive discussion of the subject, but you get the idea: Being a boss and being a shepherd are often at cross purposes.

Somebody Said: “Much worse than training people and losing them is not training people and keeping them.” Zig Ziglar

Scripture Reading: Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2 NLT)

So, here’s the deal. Every gift comes with baggage. Take the time to evaluate the weight of each and determine the best course. Gifted people need pastors, too. (That includes you)

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