Does Struggling with Pornography Disqualify a Pastor from Ministry? (Part 2 of 4)

In December 2010 Covenant Eyes released a new e-book for pastors who struggle with pornography. The following is part 2 of Pastor Bobby Scott’s chapter.

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Because Romans 7 is the testimony of every Christian and every Christian leader, all pastors have to confess that they preach better sermons than they live. However, every pastor must also attest to the blessing that God, in His sovereign kindness, has showered upon him a special grace that enables him to fulfill his ministry as a shepherd of the flock of God. So while it is true that all pastors battle with sin, it is also true that all pastors have the sufficient grace to live out their callings faithfully. That leads me to the question behind this post…

Can a Pastor Struggle with Porn and be “Blameless”?

According to the Word of God in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9, pastors must live by the highest moral standards. Written with the force of the moral imperative “must be” these passages delineate, without exception, the moral qualifications which God requires of every man whom He deems fit for the office of pastor/elder/bishop. A classic example in Scripture of a man who lived a blameless life is Daniel. When his opponents sought to discredit him by finding something in his life that they could use to scandalize his name, they found nothing (Daniel 6:4). Likewise, in the New Testament the standard “above reproach” is an honor conferred upon a man because he lives by God’s standards in his public and private life. So if or when a pastor’s life is fully exposed it must be scandal-free.

The conclusions drawn from Romans 7 add another clue to understanding the meaning of “above reproach.” No pastor will perfectly keep all of these moral demands all of the time. Luther was correct when he coined the Latin phrase simul justus et peccatorthe Christian is “simultaneously righteous and sinner.” Being above reproach therefore demands that all pastors consistently exemplify mature lives but not perfection.

This also means that there is something inherently relative about the moral standards in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3. For instance, a congregation’s overall maturity level can affect what it means to be an exemplary model of maturity for others. A man considered to be mature in a newly planted church in a mission field deprived of biblical resources may be noticeably different from a man in a church in which even the children’s pastor has a Master’s of Divinity degree.

In the greatly debated phrase “husband of one wife” there is another clue that can help answer the question, “Is a pastor who struggles with lust not above approach?” If the phrase is interpreted as a moral quality, and it seems that it should be because it is placed in a list of moral qualifications, the phrase means a pastor must be a faithful “one woman kind of man.” For single and married pastors alike, this qualification requires that pastors cannot be womanizers and must be the kind of men who are and who will be loyal to one woman in every sense—body, heart, mind, and eyes.

By way of application, this means that since pornography is a sin where the viewer is intimately engaging women with whom he is not married (Matthew 5:27-31) then succumbing to the sin of pornography can plummet a pastor below the point of being an above reproach, faithful, one woman kind of man. And since being blameless is an honor that a church/denomination confers upon a man based upon what they see. That title is illegitimate when a pastor involved in porn maintains that reputation by wearing a façade of being a “one woman kind of man.”

Obviously, using tech-savvy skills to clear a computer’s history and cookies in order to give the impression of being “blameless” does not qualify a man as being above reproach. Conversely, the affirmation that comes from transparent-accountability with other leaders of one’s church/denomination confirms before God and his congregation that a leader, although not sinless, is living above reproach and is worthy of the honored title “Pastor” (1 Timothy 5:17, 22).

The question every church has to ask is “Does anyone really know if our pastor is living a blameless life?” And the question every pastor has to answer is this: “Does anyone with the authority to affirm my life as blameless know what kind of life I am living?” Confession is good for the soul, especially for those who have to walk blamelessly. But that is the topic that I will address in my next post.

Stay tuned for Part 3…