A pastor with a beautiful church, great respect, challenging opportunities, and a good income does the weirdest thing. He returns home after the monthly meeting of a denominational council and hands over his expenses (plane ticket, hotel, taxi, meals) to the accountant of the church. She writes a check to pay him back. Eventually, it emerged that the faith-based agency was also reimbursing him. He billed both the church and the agency for his expenses. Pastor: what were you thinking?
For a few thousand dollars a year, the man of God was willing to risk it all. (He was fired, as he should have been.)
Pastor: What were you thinking?
A pastor with a large church and incredible potential discovers he can earn an extra $20,000 a year by taking multiple groups to the Holy Land. All his congregation sees is that their pastor continues to push these trips as a way to deepen their commitment and broaden their vision. They are not told that the travel agency pays him a commission. When members find out, most are unhappy. Nothing illegal was happening; it is an accepted business practice. The problem was the pastor’s moonlighting and using his position of influence to increase his side income, without informing his leaders.
(Note: Many retired evangelists and pastors earn a great income doing this. As someone who has benefited from it, we encourage people to take this unforgettable trip to the Holy Land.)
Because Pastor Adamant had been in his church for a long time during which they had excellent growth, he seemed entrenched and was able to make his own decisions. The problem is that he liked not to report to anyone, but simply to inform the financial leaders “of what we are going to do”. With no one to tell him “no”, he asked the accountant to use church funds to pay for some personal things for him. When the news broke, the congregation rose up and informed him in the blink of an eye that he was truly responsible – to them! After the newspapers threw a feast at the expense of the church, the pastor found himself looking for work.
Pastor: what were you thinking? He was not.
TV shows will feature videos of people doing outrageous things. Two men will decide to ride something – a sled, a bike, a boat, a chest of drawers! – on a ramp for pure fun, knowing full well that a horrible accident awaits them at the end. A man will take a chainsaw up to the roof to cut something, but without proper clothing or eye protection, and end up cutting the very thing he is standing on. The list of these follies seems endless.
Pastor: what were you thinking?
“It seemed like the right thing to do.”
“I thought it was a good idea at the time.”
A famous movie star with ten thousand reasons to live – beautiful family, fabulous career, etc. – ends up with a murderous mix of drugs in his system. What was he thinking?
A well-known judge sitting on the bench he had dreamed of throughout his career and enjoying the kind of prestige that most lawyers dream of, takes money from under the table to be lenient with a defendant. He loses everything and goes to jail. How lightly he appreciated all he had accomplished, how cheaply he sold his career, and how easily he brought humiliation to those who believed in him, invested in him, loved him.
And the servant of God…
As heartbreaking as it may seem, we have come to expect such outrageous behavior from people outside the faith. What hurts is when another believer crosses the line and commits the most reckless act of their life, a common-sense mistake that reverberates through every corner of their universe.
Ministers continue to go to jail for embezzling church money. Respected fathers will be found to have child pornography on their computers, a serious crime, or molesting their own daughters.
We heard about a preacher who convinced his church leaders to spend a small fortune buying copies of his new book, which would put it on the bestseller list. The idea is that since many people buy books from these lists assuming they are worth reading, if you can get your book on the list, bingo, you have a bestseller.
Such tactics are not illegal, just unethical. That’s what people who are fame addicts, who are unaccountable to no one, and who are willing to use the Lord’s money to promote themselves do.
This is all incredibly stupid, if you’ll forgive me the indignation.
Here is a pastor doing the best job of his life. His church is finally healthy, he preaches the best sermons ever, his staff is unified and effective, and his family life is going well. While doing guest ministry in a distant town, he flirts with a woman in the congregation, she responds, and they eventually make arrangements to meet. Flirting leads to a full fledged affair. For this madness, the minister loses his family, the church, the respect he once enjoyed and the opportunity to make a difference in thousands of lives for eternity. At what price he traded the treasure.
We think of what the prophet Nathan said to King David after such a destructive episode: “Why did you despise the Lord? (II Samuel 12:9) “By this act you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” (12:14).
God takes personally what his servants do to dishonor his name and his people.
Esau came back from the fields and was hungry. He said to his brother Jacob, “Please give me a sip of this red stuff, for I am hungry. But Jacob said, “First, sell me your birthright.” And Esau said, “Behold, I will die. What use would the birthright be to me then? So he sold his birthright to Jacob. So Esau despised his birthright. (from Genesis 25)
Esau has been given a place in popular culture as one who makes a truly foolish bargain for the sake of a moment. “Selling your birthright for a porridge of soup” is the usual expression.
Pastor: what were you thinking? What are you thinking about today? May God give us all “the mind of Christ” (Philippians 2:5).
This What You Thought article originally appeared hereand is used with permission.