If you preach on a regular basis, you know all too well that you are a sinner. Of course we are all sinners—“There is no one who does not sin” (1 Kings 8:46). Yet, speaking from personal experience, sometimes the difference between what you proclaim as God’s standard and what you see in your own life causes shame and guilt. Sometimes your sin becomes known to the congregation and you can no longer pretend to be the perfection that so many seem to expect. What do you do when you’ve sinned? What do you do when you are the preacher and you have sinned publicly?
Remember you aren’t the first preacher to sin.
Paul murdered (granted, it was before he came to Christ, but he was still a murderer). Peter, an apostle of the Lord, played the hypocrite. James and John, in a fit of anger and righteous indignation, wanted to call fire from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village.
Confess your sin.
Don’t try to hide what you have done. Don’t allow pride to cause you to seek to put on a false piety to the congregation. “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another” (James 5:16). That passage applies to preachers as well as other Christians.
Communicate with your elders.
Elders lead God’s flock for a reason—they have a great deal of experience. Lean upon their experience. Ask for their counsel. Follow their guidance.
Make amends to those you’ve wronged.
If you have wronged someone in the congregation, go to that individual and seek forgiveness. If you have wronged someone outside the church, go to that individual and seek forgiveness. Never be too proud to go and ask for forgiveness when you’ve done wrong.
If you need to respond to the invitation hymn, do so. If you need to take a break from the pulpit to work on your life, do so. Don’t let arrogance and pride get in the way of what’s best for your soul and for the people of God.
If you need to move, do so with dignity and grace.
No, it’s not fair that preachers sometimes need to move after they commit a sin; no other member of the congregation needs to change positions or move to a new place after s/he commits a sin. However, preachers can ruin their influence in a certain location, and it’s sometimes wise for a preacher to move after he has publicly sinned. If that’s the case with you, do what’s best for God’s people and leave with dignity and grace.
Remember the promises of God.
Don’t forget God’s promise to forgive. Don’t forget God’s promise to answer prayer. Just because you’re the preacher and just because you have sinned does not at all mean God is not in heaven and that his promises no longer apply.
May God bless all those who seek to minister to his people. May God richly bless you!