Ministerial Ethics

I have something urgent to say to pastors, future pastors, ministry leaders, and church workers that could spare us a lot of grief in life. 

I could tell many stories of men and women who are no longer in ministry because they messed up, gave up, got sidetracked, did something not quite right, or otherwise made serious mistakes- and could not find their way back.  

Most of these people were sincere. Some were naïve; others were misinformed. But behind every ministry failure, there is a root cause. Pride.

Pride always goes before a fall. Pride in ministry is the serpent’s greatest tool. It will lead to failure and disqualification for ministry.

Ministry is not a sprint. It’s a marathon, not in the sense of a long endurance test, but rather in being a lifelong calling. For me personally,  I want to still be doing  ministry when I’m old. 

The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Lay aside the weight and the sin that so easily gets hold of us and slows us down.” Two things: sin, and weight. 

We are all aware of “Sin.” But let’s talk about the “weights” that over time will wear us down and prevent us from making it to our finish line.

At the beginning of ministry there is a honeymoon period when we don’t listen too well. “I’m in love with Jesus and I’m called to ministry. People love me. I’m having great results. I’m not worried about being weighted down. What could possibly go wrong?”

But again, ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. Weights will have to be laid down.  Get enough weights and it gets to difficult to keep running. 

Ethics is defined as “the study of “standards of right and wrong” dealing with moral conduct, duty and judgment.” It also is defined as “formal and professional rules of right and wrong- a system of conduct or behavior.”

Most professions have a code of conduct or ethics that defines the standards or guidelines the public can expect from that profession. The pastoral role and any church ministry are no exceptions. The difference is this: our ethics are not based on what the public expects. Our ethics and moral standards are based on the Bible. What can fellow ministers, workers, church members, denominational leaders and others in the body of Christ expect from us who represent CHRIST?

Every compromise with Scripture is a weight. (It can also be a sin.) As called ministers of God, we must choose to lay aside these weights of compromise with Scripture. We must set boundaries around our lives that align us with God’s word and help us to run the race God has set before us.

Some ethical questions for ministry:

  • What are your boundaries in handling money
  • What behavioral parameters do you have for counseling? 
  • What are your ministry limits when dealing with the opposite sex?
  • What can other pastors/ministry leaders expect from you? How do you speak about them?
  • When someone comes to you from another church and wants counseling, what will you do?
  • How should you behave if you leave a church or a ministry and are no longer the leader? 
  • Should you visit or minister to members of other churches?
  • Should you disciple other pastor’s members?

Ethics in ministry essentially is a heart issue. What is your code of conduct in ministry? Who keeps you in line? Who or what is your ethics standard? Who or what activates and encourages your conscience? 

If your ethical standards are not going to be a matter of your heart, then your ethics are only valid when someone else holds you accountable. A real ethical person needs no reminding and no watching. The ethics of his/her life are personal and he/she holds him/her/self to that standard. That is truly an ethical person. When no one is looking, he/she is the same.

All professions have codes of conduct and ethics. In most cases you can be expelled, disbarred or merely suspended from your work for breaking the ethical code of that particular discipline.

Violating ministerial ethics can happen without anyone’s knowledge. You can actually get away with a lot in ministry because so much of your work is one on one and in private. There is a certain amount of respect and authority that goes with ministry, and you are trusted to have good ethical practices. But that trust can be betrayed.

Ethical failures among spiritual leaders are often unchecked for the simple reason that people love and respect them so much they say nothing about perceived or real failure. Recently there was a huge scandal over an international religious leader who sinned secretly and violated ethics for years. Many of his organization knew what was going on and said little or nothing. Finally the house came down, the sin was revealed, and after many investigations and public apologies, the ministry was shut down. 

You are the only one who can hold yourself to an ethical standard. God will always deal with you if your heart does not get proud. When He does, far better to be rebuked or disciplined by God than a board  or a council or fellow leaders. God’s dealings when we sin are necessary but done in love. When human institutions discipline, deep woundings and much pain are a result.

Money Ethics

Money issues, more than anything else, corrupt and seduce more ministers than anything else.

Listen to Paul’s instructions to his young protégé, Timothy. 

1 Timothy 6:6 “Yet true religion with contentment is great wealth. After all, we didn’t bring anything with us when we came into the world, and we certainly cannot carry anything with us when we die. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. But you, Timothy, belong to God; so run from all these evil things, and follow what is right and good. Pursue a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.

Paul’s instructions contain key words. The first is contentment.

Contentment is a frame of mind that is completely independent of outward things. It is the real secret of happiness. Contentment never comes from the possession of external things. There is only  one way to gain contentment: regulate your wants. If you strive to increase your possessions- there is no end. In reality the more you get does not satisfy the discontent.

The desire for money cannot be satisfied. You never have enough. It makes you selfish and it fixes your eyes upon yourself. Contentment is not a vow of poverty, nor is poverty a sign of spirituality. 1 Timothy 6: 5 says, “Godliness is not a means to financial gain.” 

A second key phrase is this: “people who long to be rich.”

Longing to be rich creates a thirst that can never be satisfied. It’s based upon an illusion of what security is. Longing for riches makes you selfish. It creates anxiety. It leads a person to dishonesty. Sometimes when you minister to people’s needs, they throw money at you. So what do you do? Receiving money is not a sin, nor is it generally even wrong. The heart attitude of “longing for it” though will lead to sin.

The third key phrase is this: “man of God.”

Man of God” means “belonging to God.” It’s a great Old Testament title. It was the title of prophets such as Moses and Samuel. We too are called to be the man of God or the woman of God. 

Notice Paul’s requirements for “elders”- which are pastors or spiritual leaders.

1 Timothy 3:3 “He must not be a heavy drinker or be violent. He must be gentle, peace loving, and not one who loves money.”

In other words, this man of God does not do any ministry for profit or for money’s sake. He does not consider ministry opportunities based on the finances involved. When money comes into the church, the preacher must be careful not to be affected by inappropriate attitudes or behaviour towards money. 

The challenge is that money is almost always involved in ministry. There is not much you can do without money. It is a real need. “If I had more money I could do more!” That is usually true. That may be legitimate. However, there is a danger point almost unawares where you cross a line between trusting God and chasing money and monied people rather than chasing ministry opportunities.

Here are some ways to be ethical in handling money.

Do not accept large personal gifts.

I’ve had a number of gifts given to me that were not reasonable for the circumstance. I have turned these in to the church treasurer for the good of the church. I always turn down gifts from people after I’ve prayed for them. Prayer is free. If they want to give, let it be given to the church. Personal gifts of any size are dangerous ground.

When you do receive money for ministerial duties,  report it to your leadership as a way of keeping yourself honest. Again, it’s not wrong to receive small amounts of money as a “love gift”- but that is never our objective nor expectation.

If you are short of finances in your ministry, get some advice and prayer from your leadership. this will prevent temptation from working in your heart.

Use Good Judgment in Financial Matters

I have a friend who agreed, foolishly, to let the church’s money be kept in his own personal account. He accidentally spent some of the church’s money because it got mixed up. He was accused of stealing, put under disciplinary action, and eventually lost his church. No one believed him that it was a mistake. Do not handle the church’s finances personally. 

Be Honest in Finances

A staff pastor in Manila was asked to buy some seat covers for the church van. He bought them from a church member. The member asked him how much to put on the receipt, and the pastor said, “Whatever you want.” Well, the seat covers  cost only 400P, but the receipt was made out for 1,500P. The pastor’s heart succumbed to the temptation and he submitted the receipt and kept the 1,100P. The church bookkeeper caught the lie, confronted the pastor,  and he lost his ministry.

Don’t take advantage of your position by taking advantage of the church or people.

Bad Debts

Don’t borrow money from church members under any circumstances. Pastor “J” borrowed money from his members and could not repay it according to the agreed terms. The members began to talk about the pastor who was not paying his debts. Eventually he lost his ministry over that incident.

When you’re given money, always ask the question, “Is this for me or for the church?” If it is for the church, turn it in immediately and have a receipt given to the donor. Always reply with thank you notes and letters for donations and gifts. 

  • Pastors should never be the church bookkeeper
  • Never let your wife/husband or family member be the church treasurer
  • Do not favor people in your church who have money
  • Do not make the wealthy people in your church the leaders, unless they qualify according to Scripture

Bottom Line: Always handle the church’s money honestly, appropriately, openly and correctly. 

Consequences of Violating Financial Ethics

If I mismanage money:

  • I will damage the credibility of the church and tarnish the name of Christ.
  • People will lose confidence in my leadership because they will view me as corrupt and they may question my judgment in other matters
  • My personal reputation will be tarnished by financial scandal.
  • If I favour wealthy church members, I will be vulnerable to their influence. I will find myself making decisions based upon their reactions.
  • I will ultimately lose my leadership in the church due to unethical financial dealings.
  • I will hurt the reputation of all pastors in my community.

May I suggest that each minister of the Gospel of Christ and each church worker in any position of responsibility should write a personal ethical statement regarding finances.

Ethical Pastoring

We need to remember that the church was founded by Jesus Christ as His representative body on the earth. We do not own the church; it does not belong to us. It does not serve us. We serve the church- the people-  because it is the beloved body of our Lord here on earth, and it is our privilege to serve in any capacity within it. 

Matthew 16:18 “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

All ministry has a purpose. Our role in ministry is to build and nurture the body of Christ. To build maturity. To establish people in the faith. To speak the truth to them. To get others involved in ministry. 

John 10:2 “The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.”

Pastors develop relationship with the people. If we are really in ministry for the love of Christ and the love of people, we must actually care about the people we work with. We stick with them, protect them and care for them. 

We must follow the model of Christ and lay our lives down for the sheep. I have had to give up many things over the years because of my responsibility to the people of God. I’m not suggesting a 24/7/365 work schedule. That is not balance. That is destructive. But there is a commitment to be there for them.

All ministry involves some form of shepherding. We must be an example as we lead. We must serve the Lord and people willingly and cheerfully. But remember that the Chief Shepherd of the sheep is Jesus Christ. Yes, we are shepherds, but more than that, we are “under-shepherds” who points people to the Chief Shepherd. The people- the church- belong to Jesus.

I am the founding pastor of a local church, but I regularly remind myself and tell God that this is His church and I will faithfully serve Him in this church as long as He wants me to.

Pastoral Work Ethic

Peter 5:1 “To the elders (pastors) among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers– not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

This passage was addressed to elders/pastors. It was based upon an Old Testament concept of eldership. An elder had to be willing to accept the call and he or she held an appointed position of honour. 

This passage instructs us that an elder/pastor must be:

  • willing to accept the call and give his/her life to the church
  • not greedy for money- honourable and wise in financial matters
  • eager to serve the people and the ministry by a good example
  • not lording it over the flock- not a bad-tempered tyrant or a dictator

Pastoral/ministry Work Ethics

  • Work regular hours. Be dependable. Make yourself report to your church office or your home office just as if you held a regular job. 
  • Keep track of what you do.  I write in a journal/diary almost every day recording my daily activities.
  • Organize your time. Have some goals for each day, week and month and year. Develop a system to your work, especially if its routine. If you do this, you will have less guilt for what you have not done and greater satisfaction for what you have accomplished.
  • Develop a vision for the  people you lead. Prayer your people. Evaluate your people, plan to train them, implement the plan,  and  work towards something.
  • Act responsibly to your people. Be a responsible shepherd. Demonstrate care.
  • Focus on doing the work of pastor rather than having the title of pastor. This is true of any position you’re in or function you perform.
  • Don’t run at the first sign of trouble. Don’t leave the “sheep” unattended. I don’t take months of leave and hope my people survive. I am their shepherd. I am committed to them because that is God’s will for me right now.

Consequences of a poor work ethic in ministry

  • No work = no growth
  • No study = No fruit of ministry
  • No prayer = no anointing
  • No vision = the people under you are spiritually starving and eventually will leave you
  • No responsibility = nothing changes

3. Ministry Ethics Upon Change of Pastors

If you resign from your church, are removed for any reason, or are transferred somewhere else, keep in mind that ethically you are no longer the pastor/leader/minister. You no longer have any rights over those people. 

Authority is given to pastoral leaders and when we cease to function in that relationship, we must leave the people alone. That applies to any function you are assigned to. There is, in a sense, a professional relationship. 

This is the flock- not the “barkada.” If I am no longer in charge for whatever reason, these people must move on to bond with their new leader.  I should not manipulate the sheep by complaining about the transition, no matter what transpired. If I do that, I will turn the people against the new leadership. They will become embittered. 

What should you do when you resign or are replaced? Should you leave the area? Should you still contact members even when you are no longer their pastor? 

If you have a overseer/pastoral leader yourself, ask them what your relationship should be after you have been replaced.  If you are the one leading a local church and you step down, normally you should leave the church so that there will be no divided loyalties between you and the new leader. 

The exception to this would be if you became an attendee at the church without any formal function in the body and everyone approved this. I actually did this for a number of years when my role changed and I was no longer the lead pastor. My family and I attended when I wasn’t traveling and supported our local church.

Without permission of the new leadership, no members should be contacted. This demonstrates your recognition of the new pastor’s/leaders authority.

Your highest value and purpose must be to see that congregation/ministry move forward, even if you are not there. You must point them to Christ and to the new pastoral/ministry leader. This demonstrates your recognition of the new pastor’s/leaders authority.

As a former pastor or leader, you should not remain available to listen to the people’s complaints or frustrations with the new leader. When the people say, “We miss you!” that feeds our ego. We all want to be needed and when people call us we feel needed. They value us and that’s nice, but it is unethical and may be rebellion on their part.

Don’t ever get sucked in to leading a rebellion against the new leadership simply because your feelings are hurt. That only shows that you never really had a shepherd’s heart. A shepherd cares much more about those sheep that his or her own personal feelings.

But you say- “They are my friends!” No, they’re not. Show me a place in the Bible where the shepherd is referred to as “the friend” of the sheep. You are their leader, their pastor. You cannot be their friend without compromising your authority over them in the Lord.

You can have a “friendly” relationship with your kids, but they are not your friends. They are your children. That will never change. The relationship has parameters and boundaries that go beyond mere friendship. The moment you accept the call of God and serve in leadership, the standards change.

Consequences of Interfering in Another’s Ministry;

  • You prevent the new pastor from establishing his own leadership.
  • You damage your own reputation by being a troublemaker.
  • You cause church division- which hurts the reputation of the church.
  • You confuse the people.
  • You force them to decide between you and the new leader.
  • By dividing the people’s loyalty, you make it impossible for the church to move ahead.
  • You reap what you sow and you will reap your own church problems in the future.
  • You hurt the people because they do not want to hurt you.
  • You do not glorify Jesus Christ the Great Shepherd, because you allow your personal feelings to interfere with good pastoral ethics.

I suggest you write a personal ethics statement regarding relationships in ministry.

2. Counseling Ethics

Counseling demands confidence. Not even your spouse should know a conversation that is private. My wife is a counsellor of many years and has held in confidence many secrets that involve the personal lives of people. She does not betray their trust and confidence.

Never share confidential information. The only exception to this is if you believe that this person is planning self-harm or may be contemplating suicide. Then you will need to take some action. If you learn of abuse or child abuse, you also must take some action. This is for their protection. But personal problems are not to be discussed outside the walls of the counselling office.

I knew a Christian man who had visited a pastor for personal counselling. A few weeks later, one of the board members of that church talked to him about this personal problem that he had shared only with the pastor. He was so hurt by the pastor’s breach of confidence that he has never trusted a pastor since then and that was many years ago.

If the information you receive through counselling contains threats of violence towards themselves or others, you do not discuss it with others but you do ask if you can elevate the problem to a higher level of leadership. If anyone is in danger, action must be taken. 

If the counselee is struggling with a sin issue that affects the church, you may also need to elevate it to another pastoral leader. In any case, deal with it lovingly but firmly. The well-being of the church body must be considered in this type of situation.

Never EVER meet someone of the opposite sex alone in a restaurant or anywhere else for counseling. Never ride alone in the car with the opposite sex. Pastora Ana and I have had to do that a couple of times, and I always sit in the back seat.

Never be in a room with the opposite sex with the door closed. If you are doing counseling, leave the door slightly open. Better yet, have a third person present. I have many times asked a secretary or another pastor to sit with me in a counseling with the opposite sex. They must be extremely trustworthy and also are asked to keep everything confidential.

Never touch someone of the opposite sex while in private counseling. Touching communicates things that can be misinterpreted by a troubled and emotional person. It can potentially mislead the counselee of your intentions. If I as a male pastor have a woman in for counseling that is very moved or broken and I see that she needs comforting, I do not touch her. I will sometimes get a female pastora or a female secretary to hold or hug her. 

Ethical Biblical principals dictate that you cannot meet alone with someone of the opposite sex in a private room or home; in fact, alone anywhere!  That might lead someone to think you have other motives. Avoid the very appearance of evil. Never make a visit to a home where only someone of the opposite sex is present.

For office counseling, always have unblinded windows in rooms or leave the door open. I have placed large windows in all our pastor’s offices and windows in the doors so that while they are counseling anyone can look into the room and see what is happening. 

I always sit across the desk from my counselees. I am sure to put physical boundaries that are clear. The desk between us makes a statement that we are physically separated.

In some counseling situations, women have been attracted to me.  A strong, caring pastoral figure can be an attraction to a troubled woman. If I sense it, and I have, I immediately make arrangements for someone else to counsel them going forward. I am there for spiritual reasons only. 

I have been warned about certain women by my wife and sometimes by my female staff members. I take that seriously. Listen to the people in your life who care about your reputation and the church’s reputation. It’s not worth bringing shame to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I strongly suggest that you write a personal counseling ethics statement .

  • Relationship With Other Ministers

Almost all the references to “church” in the New Testament  are speaking about the local church. The local church is built by evangelism, which is multiplication. There is another kind of growth- “transfer” growth. The difference between transfer growth and multiplication is that transfer growth is adding members from other churches. Multiplication is based on winning people to Jesus. 

1 Corinthians 3:3 “You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men?  What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe– as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”

The only real church growth is winning pre-Christians to Christ. If that is your primary objective, it changes the spiritual competition. Winning people indicates that we are competing with the devil for the souls of men. As Reinhard Bonkke put it, “Plundering hell and populating heaven!”

“Pirating” members from other church means we are competing with other kingdom workers. To be clear, there will always be some transfer growth. We love those people and we welcome people (unless they are in rebellion to their former pastor, ) but that is not our goal or objective.  That is not the Great Commission. 

There is too much competition in the body of Christ. Many church leaders are fighting over the same people. Other ministers must be viewed as co-workers and brothers, and their “sheep” must be viewed not as potential targets for church growth, but as members belonging to another respected part of the Body of Christ. Respect other pastors as you would like to be respected. Respect other pastor’s members as you would like your members respected.

When someone comes from another church, we should remind ourselves that they are not coming to us personally. They are probably running from someone else. We should observe closely. We need to ask ourselves, “Why are they here? Why did they leave the other church?” If possible, we should contact the pastor of the other church and learn what we can about the situation.

One of our branch churches is in Pililla, Rizal. We planted this church with new people after a very successful crusade. Our pastor there heard a rumour that some of the other pastors in the area were calling  it a cult. He very wisely went to each pastor in town and made friends. He told them, “We are not here to get your members; we will win our own.”   And that is what is happening in that church!

Some good ethics for ministry relationships:

  • Develop peaceful and friendly relationships with other pastors. Be at peace with them.
  • Do not speak evil of other churches, including the Catholic church. Often this is a result of immaturity on the part of the pastor. He/she believes they can get ahead by stepping on other ministers.
  • Speak well of your denomination or else get out of it. To continually speak against your covering  authority in church leadership is an act of disrespect or even rebellion.

Consequences of violating ethics with other ministers:

  • You will eventually reap what you sow
  • You will bring disunity to the body of Christ
  • You will encourages rebellion in believers
  • It hurts the name of Christ in the community
  • It prevents revival from coming to your church
  • It creates a negative image of other believers
  1. Relationship with my community

How important is it to have a good reputation with our community?

1 Timothy 3:6 “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.”

Good reputation is a powerful testimony for our communities. What do people say about us? What do they think about the way we conduct business? Are we known as cheapskates or hagglers? Are we known for our hot tempers, unreasonable bargaining, and being late on payments? Are we viewed as pleasant and honest? The way we handle ourselves in the public market reflects on the Lord we serve.

I have a wood stove in my garage. Last winter in very cold weather, I burned wood and also coal to heat my garage. My neighbor complained to me about the coal smell. I care about my reputation with the neighbor! So at my own expense I removed my coal stove and now I burn only wood. Why? I want to have a peaceful relationship with my neighbor.

A Christian business man in the men’s clothing business sold clothes to ministry brothers at a 50% discount because he wanted to bless them. He made no profit. Often the pastors would say, “I’ll send you payment,” so he would extend them credit. But many of them never paid, or were many months late. He was too embarrassed to call them and ask for payment. Is that a good reputation for pastors?

Don’t expect people to give you a discount because you are a minister. Rather, believe God for the money to buy what you need and don’t put people under obligation to give you things. 

When I personally am buying for the kingdom of God, I bargain hard! But for myself I pay a reasonable price. I don’t expect anything for nothing. Pastors can be some of the worst beggars in the community. They act poor and often expect even the community to give to them because they are a pastor.

On top of that, they dare to call it “faith.” How is begging having faith? If you are using faith to get a new barong, why not use faith to get the money so that you can pay for it? 

Maintaining a good witness in the community is our #1 challenge.

Consequences of a bad reputation

  • People speak of our church in negative terms
  • When people have needs, they are hesitant to visit us
  • We can cause bitterness in the community toward Christians
  • We offend the very people we are trying to win
  • We embarrass our own members
  • We give the name of Christ a negative image in the community

Write a personal ethics statement for your ministry regarding your community.

  1. Relationship to Morality

In 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne published The Scarlet Letter, a powerful novel centered around the adulterous relationship of Hester Prynne and a highly respected minister, Reverend Mr. Arthur Dimmesdale. The fallen pastor, remorseful but not ready to face the consequences, asks the question, “What can a ruined soul, like mine, effect towards the redemption of other souls? Or a polluted soul, towards their purification?” 

He describes the misery of standing in his pulpit and seeing the admiration of his people, and having to “then look inward, and discern the black reality of what they idolize.” Finally he says, “I have laughed, in bitterness and agony of heart, at the contrast between what I seem and what I am! And Satan laughs at it!” 

Most seasoned, experienced ministers know that sexual immorality is one of the major downfalls of ministers, men and women alike. Some years ago I was consulted about a lady pastor in the province who was found to be sleeping with one of the members because she was lonely. It happens. It’s wrong.

Consequences of Moral Failure 

  • Grieving the Lord by disobedience to His Word.
  • Dragging Christ’s sacred reputation into the mud.
  • Loss of reward or commendation from God.
  • Having to one day look Jesus in the face at the judgment seat and give an account of why I sinned.
  • Forcing God to discipline me in various ways. 
  • Following in the footsteps of men and women whose immorality forfeited their ministries. 
  • Causing the suffering of innocent people around me who are affected by my actions.
  • Untold hurt to my wife and children. Loss of my family’s respect and trust. Loss of credibility with my children.
  • If my sin should continue or my family be unable to forgive, I could lose my wife and my children forever. 
  • Shame to my family (“Why isn’t Daddy a pastor anymore?”) and the cruel comments of others who would invariably find out. 
  • Shame to my church family.
  • Shame and hurt to my fellow pastors and elders. 
  • Shame and hurt to my friends, and especially to those I’ve led to Christ and discipled. 
  • Guilt that is hard to shake- even though God would forgive me, could I forgive myself? 
  • Memories and flashbacks that could hinder future intimacy with my spouse.
  • Disqualifying myself after having preached to others. 
  • Loss of the things I am called to and love to do: teach, preach, write and minister to others.
  • Forfeiting forever opportunities to serve God.
  • Years of training and experience in ministry wasted for a long period of time, maybe permanently.
  • Being haunted by my sin as I look in the eyes of others, and having reminders of it wherever I go and whatever I do. 
  • Undermining the hard work and prayers of others by saying to our community, “This person is a hypocrite- who can take seriously anything he/she and his/her church have said and done?” 
  • Laughter, rejoicing and blasphemous smugness by those who disrespect God and the church (2 Samuel 12:14)
  • Bringing great pleasure to satan, the Enemy of God. 
  • Heaping judgment and endless problems on the person I  have committed sin with.
  • Possible venereal diseases and possible pregnancy, with its personal and financial implications, including a lifelong reminder of sin to me and my family.
  • Loss of self-respect, discrediting my own name, and invoking shame and lifelong embarrassment upon myself.

How does a minister prevent ethics violations, particularly with sexual matters?

  • Determine beforehand what is acceptable and right before God. 
  • Do not violate your own standards for any reason. 
  • Have your own written personal code of ethics in relationships. 
  • Don’t start a relationship that is questionable, and then there will be nothing to stop. 
  • Keep every relationship professional with no intimacy or emotions. Those are reserved for your spouse and family.

General Wisdom to Protect You from Violating Ethics

Do not give any special attention to any woman other than your wife. 

Speak well of your spouse from the pulpit and privately.

Show in public your affection and care for your spouse. Don’t be ashamed to hold his or her hand. Be kind to him/her in public.

Set limits of attention, time and contact with those of the opposite sex who are not in your family.

Avoid all physical contact with people other than your spouse and family. Laying hands on a personto pray should never be done alone.

George Stormount, a famous British preacher, once told me, “I have never placed my hand on my secretary. I do not want any hint of affection between us.”

If there is a person who is a blessing to your ministry, have your spouse give the gift on behalf of both of you.

Never discuss your marriage with a person of the opposite sex. Never complain about your spouse to a church worker or secretary. What does this do? It establishes your spouse publicly as the number one person in your life.

Conclusion

Why should we consider ethics as an integral part of our ministry? 

Remember the definition. Ethics is defined as the study of “standards of right and wrong” dealing with moral conduct, duty and judgment. It also is defined as formal and professional rules of right and wrong- system of conduct or behaviour.

Ministers and preachers are representatives of Jesus Christ. We do not represent a church or movement. That is secondary. A true servant of God and a true Bible preacher is a representative of Jesus Christ.

We must be better than the rest. We must hold higher standards than doctors, attorneys, or the Lions Club. We are preachers of the gospel!

Jack Hayford is one of the greatest pastors in our time. He made the following statement in his book “Pastors of Promise:”

There are three things I never do. I never fornicate, I never fail to give tithes and offerings, and I never lie.”

What a great standard! Lets represent Jesus Christ well so that we can stand before Him one day and hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

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