I found the most unique TV program over the weekend—Killer Clergy—a program which details cases where preachers have turned into murderers. Without fail, the story is told of how preachers found themselves trapped in sin and they felt the only way out was to murder. But, surprisingly, the statement is always made that the congregation was surprised to find out that the minister was a sinner. Really?!?! Granted, adultery and embezzlement and murder will shock any church, but no church should be surprised to find out that their preacher is a sinner. I have never met a preacher—and I am one—who has not sinned.
You see, everyone—preacher, Christian, Muslim, atheist, and everyone else—is a sinner. “There is no one who does not sin” (1 Kings 8:46). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Several years ago, I was working with a young man who was attending worship with his wife. I kept looking for just the right opportunity to reach this young man, and God—as he does—provided me with just that open door. I don’t wish to give too many details, but we had a lady visit the congregation one Sunday morning—the guest of one of our members—and I severely offended the guest. I offended this lady so severely that she would never visit the congregation again. In full disclosure, I offended the visitor over a doctrinal matter, and I’m absolutely persuaded to this day I was right, but, as a more seasoned preacher, I would handle the situation much differently today.
Well, as you might imagine, the lady who had invited this woman became very angry with me and said some things she should not have said. That night, that sister responded to the invitation hymn and made things right.
I cannot recall the exact wording I used, but when I stood before the congregation to announce why this sister had come forward, I asked the church to forgive me, too. I said something to the effect that I had been too hasty in my words and I did not handle the situation appropriately. I asked the church to pray that I would learn a valuable lesson and be better able to handle such situations in the future. I called on one of our elders, and he prayed for both the sister who had lost her cool and or me.
The next night, after I had gone to bed, the young man I wanted to reach knocked on my door and asked if I would be willing to baptize him into Christ (did he really expect me to say “No?!?!”). As he and I walked to the church building next to my home, this young man said, “I never realized that preachers made mistakes, too. After you confessed to doing wrong, I knew it was time to become a Christian.”
I was amazed on many levels. God amazed me—he had providentially given me an opportunity to reach this young man I desperately wanted to become a Christian. God providentially used a mistake I made to further his kingdom. This young man amazed me—he thought that I (and all preachers) were above sin. Oh, I he knew how wrong that is! I was amazed that this gentleman’s perceived sinlessness of preachers was preventing him from obeying the gospel.
Trust me—your preacher is a sinner. Never place him on a pedestal where you believe he cannot sin, or you will be sorely disappointed. Never believe that your preacher is any different than you—a sinner redeemed by the blood of Jesus and an imperfect man seeking to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.
Tomorrow, I’m going to offer suggestions for churches when the preacher sins, and Wednesday, I’ll offer suggestions for preachers when they sin. Until then, God bless!