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4 most common reasons that get pastors fired

| by Thom Rainer

I regularly spoke three simple words with each of our three sons as they were growing up: “Don’t do stupid.” I would also give them specific ways they could “do stupid.”

Why did I speak so bluntly to my three sons? Because I love them. Because I truly want what’s best for them. Because I want to give them clear and powerful warnings to keep them out of trouble.

Pastors and other church leaders: Please heed the words in this article. Please understand the counsel comes from a guy who’s been around a while, a guy who has seen stupid more times than I would ever want. To paraphrase the old Trix commercial, “doing stupid” isn’t just for kids.

Some wise counsel

For some reason, some church leaders just don’t think they will get caught, a wild fantasy in today’s always-connected-online-ever-present-cell-phone-cameras-digitally-enhanced world. Or they think the baby steps won’t lead to major steps toward a total fall. Please read these four acts of stupidity carefully and prayerfully. Ask God to protect you from falling in any one of these areas.

1. Flirting dangerously with sexual boundaries. By the time a physical sexual affair takes place, the pastor has already crossed several sexual boundaries. There is no such thing as a harmless flirtatious comment or text to someone of the opposite gender who is not your spouse. Pornography is not a lone act that hurts no one else. Ongoing counseling that hints of meeting each other’s needs is never good. Close work relationships can become too close. Don’t think it can’t happen to you.

2. Plagiarism. Don’t ever copy that first sermon. You might think you can get away with it, but it becomes a pattern. If you found cool sermons by Alistair Begg and Andy Stanley, so will those who are listening to you. If you discovered some incredible sermon sites with fully prepared messages, so will members and visitors in your congregation. I get messages on social media where members and staff share with me that their pastors are plagiarizing. They know. Don’t do it.

3. Financial stupidity. A church credit card can be very helpful. A church credit card can be enticing, tempting, and dangerous. Don’t even think about putting a personal charge on your credit card. And don’t say you read the book, Never Eat Alone, to justify having a meal on the church every day. If you have any doubt about a financial matter, err on the side of total caution.

4. Social media madness. I am sorry, pastors, but social media is simply not the place for you to vent, wade into political battles, or hop on a bandwagon of critics. There is no—I repeat, no— upside to such madness. Avoid sarcastic and bombastic comments. Don’t take on a church member on Twitter or Facebook. Don’t be the constant critic. And never, ever, ever make unsavory or sexual comments. If you think it’s “unfair” that you can’t do what so many others do without repercussions, get another job. The office of pastor, and other church leadership positions as well, demand you demonstrate total integrity. Somewhere I read (like Colossians 1:21-22 or 1 Timothy 3:7) you are to be above reproach.

Self-inflicted wounds 

Pastors and other church leaders, you have enough bullets being fired by critics and bullies. You certainly don’t need self-inflicted wounds. It will almost always get you in trouble.

And if it’s one of the big four above, it will probably get you fired.

Please don’t do stupid.

Photo source: istock

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. He is also a former pastor, seminary dean, and leader of a consulting firm. Rainer is the author or co-author of 25 books, including his latest release from B&H Publishing Group: Who Moved My Pulpit? Leading Change in the Church. His 2013 book, I Am a Church Member, has sold more than one million copies.

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