During my time in seminary I took a leadership course taught by the late-great Howard Hendricks. As we studied the life of David, Hendricks shared a study he conducted with a group of men in full-time ministry who had fallen into a morally disqualifying sin.
At the time, I had only been a Christian for a few years, but unfortunately the subject was all too relevant. During my early days I had witnessed several men whom I loved and respected fall into serious sinful compromises.
Hendricks’s study was of 246 men in full-time ministry who experienced moral failure within a two-year period of time. As far as he could discern, these full-time clergy were men who were born again followers of Jesus. Though they shared a common salvation, these men also shared a common feat of devastation: They had all, within 24 months of each other, been involved in an extramarital affair.
After interviewing each man, Hendricks compiled four common characteristics of their lives.
- None of the men were involved in any kind of real personal accountability.
- Each of the men had all but ceased having a daily time of personal prayer, Bible reading and worship.
- More than 80 percent of the men became sexually involved with the other woman after spending significant time with her, often in counseling situations.
- Without exception, each of the 246 had been convinced that sort of fall “would never happen to me.”
As I reflect on this, a few lessons come to mind. These are applicable for pastors, plumbers, stay-at-home moms and anyone else who seeks to follow Christ.
Sin thrives in isolation.
Satan lives in the darkness and longs to keep us there as well. He does this because lies live best in the darkness. God knows this, which is why when he calls us to himself, he calls us into the church.
God has created the church to be many things, one of which is to be a community of people who help each other fight sin and love him. He calls us into relationships where we speak truth to one another (Eph. 4:15, 25), confess sins to one another (James 5:16), and love each other enough to chase after each other if we stray (Matt.18:10-20, Gal. 6:1-2, James 5:19-20).
The question I want you to ponder is this: Who knows you? I mean who really knows you? Who not only has permission, but is currently acting upon the permission to ask you hard questions? Are you answering those questions honestly or are you hiding details and painting up your sin to guard your image?
Do not hide from God’s gracious aid of loving relationships.
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