I read a headline a few weeks ago entitled, “Biblical infidelity in top evangelical institutions, leaders”. Now, sadly, there have been many headlines over the years and again recently about moral infidelity among professing Christian leaders. So it is not uncommon to see ‘infidelity’ in an article regarding the most recent pastor removed from his role or about churches that don’t remove men from spiritual leadership despite infidelity.
We are to take fidelity – faithfulness – seriously, since God takes it seriously!
Paul taught Timothy about the qualifications to look for in a man being considered for spiritual leadership, specifically eldering. He said in 1 Timothy 3:2, he must be “above reproach, the husband of one wife … self-controlled, respectable … be well thought of by outsiders” and to Titus he added these qualifications, “upright, holy, and disciplined” (Titus 1:8).
In other words, when a man has a moral failure, infidelity – either physically or even emotionally, he is disqualified for spiritual ministry. It does not matter how big his church is, how vast his ministry reach is, how large his social media following is, our how much the church will lose financially if he is fired. Nor does it matter, and many ministries over the past decade or two, should have taken this to heart, it does not matter what he wants or thinks. The issue is, and this is always the issue, what does God say! God says a man who lacks self-control, who is no longer above reproach, who is not respectable because of his choices, who is not a one-woman man, who is not upright, disciplined and is unholy in his conduct rather than holy, God says – he is done as a leader, done today, and done for the long term. These requirements are not restored in a year or two. Perhaps they are in a decade or two, but even that is questionable. Thus, fidelity is crucial to Biblical leadership!
Where many churches fail in this is they mix up forgiveness and consequences. Yes we must, and are called Biblically, to forgive and forgive quickly. When repentance comes and the request for forgiveness is made, we forgive. But that does not negate consequences. In this situation, the man is disqualified. That does not change when forgiveness is granted.
Back to the article title I read – for it wasn’t about moral infidelity, but spiritual! Spiritual infidelity in evangelical leaders is something that should never happen. By the very definition of what a spiritual leader is to be, faithful is at the top of the list. But sadly, this spiritual infidelity is nothing new. The Old Testament is filled with men guilty of infidelity in spiritual matters, as is the New, as is church history, so why are we surprised it is still happening today?
Now I need to make a crucial clarification, for many today have faulty ideas of where our fidelity should lie, or specifically, what we are to be faithful to. Some think the key is being faithful to their church, or more common; being faithful to the vision of the church, which is usually the vision of the leader; even more common is the idea of being faithful to oneself! Lore Ferguson in a blog my oldest daughter Christa sent me, says she and her husband remind one another regularly of the object of their fidelity. She writes, “Fidelity (or faithfulness) to the Word of God and not to an outcome.” (www.shereadstruth.com/the-light-of-the-gospel/) Fidelity to the Word of God, that is the call of God upon every Christ-follower, especially those called to lead. Not fidelity to some desired outcome, for that is pragmatism, but rather being and staying faithful to God Himself and we do that by fidelity to His Word, the Bible.
In some parenting training Cindy and I received back in 1990, we were introduced to the idea of virtues. Virtue seems to be a bit of an old-fashioned word, but it is very much at the heart of the Word of God. Virtue means moral excellence. Conformity to that which is moral, ethical, and right – in God’s eyes!
Fidelity is a moral virtue. To be and act in a virtuous manner is to conform to that which is moral, ethical, and right – the Word of God! God created His children in His image and likeness, so we are called to be a people of virtue, to have and live with moral excellence. This means how we view one another and how we treat one another – to do so with moral virtue or excellence, holiness, purity, and in a right and proper manner. But to live in a virtuous manner also means to conform to God’s Word in our theology, with our beliefs, knowing, believing, and living according to the Word of Christ.
Biblical fidelity matters! This matters as much, if not more (if that is possible) than moral fidelity. My point is not to rank the two, but to call the Christian community away from the pragmatism that has ruled, back to a faithfulness to God’s Word. The key question, regarding leaders, is not “is God using them?”, “are they gifted?”, “are they passionate?”, or “how large is their church, ministry, or influence?” The key and central question is, “are they faithful to God’s Word, God’s way, and to God Himself?”
The pragmatic thinking is so prevalent in the Christian culture today with an emphasis on is it working, is the church growing, and are they popular, etc. This thinking demands we not critique or criticize their theology, but rather leave them alone for God must be with them!
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:2, “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” You see we are not responsible for the outcome, good or bad. That is not our responsibility or our doing. Our calling is “fidelity to the Word of God, not to an outcome.” The virtuous route in leadership, sees our stewardship responsibility first and foremost to the Lord as that of fidelity. We must always recognize that if God is using us, it is all of grace. He is the one who created us, called us, gifted us, empowers us, and uses us and He and He alone gets the glory. Anything positive happening for the kingdom, any fruit, any eternal impact occurring through any ministry any of us are a part of, is always and only because God’s Spirit is at work, not because of our part in it.
I believe John the Baptist understood this. Jesus said of John, there was no one greater, born of a woman, than John, so if any leader had a right to think they were special, it was John. Why is it then, that we don’t find John taking credit for the amazing things happening in “his ministry”? When asked, “‘What do you say about yourself?’ He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness’” (John 1:22-23).
We must see this, we must believe this, we must remind ourselves of this all the time. I am just a voice, it is not me. Do not look to me. We are not to put our names on the church buildings, on the ministry websites, the credit does not go to us, we are just a voice, a conduit, a vehicle, through which, God in His kindness, grace, and mercy has for some reason, known only in heaven, chosen to work.
So our calling is fidelity – be faithful, and in a day and age where the Word of God is being neglected in many churches, edited in others, criticized in still more, and downright attacked in even more, the need of our day is for Biblical fidelity, regardless of the cost!
Where there is “Biblical infidelity in top evangelical institutions, leaders”, not just in “top” leaders as this article addresses (you can find this article HERE – not endorsing all of it, just referencing it for the title), we must act. We cannot continue to follow leaders or churches, or be a part of them, if/when they are unfaithful to God’s Word. If our church does this, if we stop teaching God’s Word or we start editing or selectively applying God’s Word, please LEAVE! Go where you will be fed by faithful leaders, sold out to fidelity.
We pray God will keep us faithful. Our heart as elders, staff, and leaders is to be faithful. Above all things, our prayer and desire is faithfulness. We are not looking to be popular, to have a big ministry or church, to be well liked, to have large impact, to grow our name, to get prominence for our leaders or our church, to make lots of money, to – well whatever it is that seems to motivate so many today – our goal, our motive, our heart, is singular – FIDELITY. We pray this is true as tested by the Lord who sees and knows the heart, thoughts, and intentions of the mind. As you pray for us as leaders and as a church and ministry, would you make that your number one prayer – fidelity, “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.” Amen!