By Ryan Beaty
It seems as though it has become a regular, almost predictable, phenomena where we are informed another high-profile minister has had a fall from grace. Most often these tumbles are splashed all over social media for they, their families, and the churches they formally led to be scrutinized, gossiped about, and defamed.
This has happened again recently where a nationally influential minister was removed from leadership over substance abuse. In his apology to the church family he was being removed from he made the statement, “… I began to depend on alcohol for my refuge more than Jesus or others.”
Some have used this incident to once again throw stones at large church ministers. Others have used it in their continuing crusade against alcohol. But the problem this minister and others have had was not with leading a large church or with the use a particular substance (though having guardrails against the use of certain substances or prohibitions concerning certain activities is at the very least wise and possibly mandatory). The true problem is found in the words of his statement, he had refused to depend on Jesus and others.
I believe in every scenario you may have ever heard of where a minister fails the root cause is her or his failure to depend on Jesus and others.
Dependence upon Jesus requires that He is our wellspring. He is our place of identity, our source of righteousness. Paul the Apostle put it this way in Galatians 2:20 (NLT), “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” This is the calling of all Christians, to die to our former selves, our personal preferences, our old identities, and find new identities, new preferences, and a new way to live in Christ. Many ministers forget, at times, to be called to be a minister is to first be called Christian.
As ministers however, leaders and elders of the body of Christ, our dependence on Jesus is all the more grave. We must regularly approach our lives from the position of self-sacrifice. In choosing this life we choose to give up things. We choose to give up rights. There is a cost to leadership. Certain freedoms are often forfeit because they would potentially cause others to stumble. Thus we must depend on Jesus all the more to fill all the places of our hearts as well as to keep us from bitterness and envy over those things we have given up for the sake of others.
Dependence on others is also extremely vital to personal health, though very often difficult. Our pride prevents us from the vulnerability needed to allow others to bare our burdens and have rigorous honesty with them. Many ministry networks and denominations foster, though unintentionally I choose to believe, atmospheres of competition instead of cooperation. Think of how many conferences, councils, and other events you have participated in where the questions ministerial colleagues were asking of you sounded more like “How many people is your church running?” instead of “How are you doing, and what can I do to help care for you?”
The Christian life was not meant to be lived in a vacuum. It was designed by God to be lived in relationship with each other. Jesus himself had friends while here on earth. They were men he not only taught but also ate with, laughed with, and entrusted to do the work of the ministry on his behalf. How many of us have friends or fellow ministers we can be honest with, depend on, and count on to help us carry our life load as well as the work of the ministry?
Paul addresses exactly this idea in Galatians 6:1-5 (NLT), “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.”
If you find yourself struggling today with depending on your own gifts and talents, your own work ethic, or on acting out with substances or actions you know are harmful or potentially harmful, I encourage you to do these three things today:
- Spend some alone time with Jesus. – Clear your schedule. No work meetings are more important I promise you.
- Call a friend. – Share what is going on with you with someone you trust.
- Seek Help.– Reach out to a counselor, a mentor or join a support group. These places and people are valuable to walk with during hard or dark times.
You do not need to be alone! We are here for you every step of the way. And Christ has promised to be with you, always.
Ryan Beaty is the founder and Executive Director of Sanctuary Network; a network that is dedicated to creating a sacred place and a safe space for ministers in the greater Houston area. He and his wife, Korista, live in urban Houston where Ryan spends his mornings driving for Uber, learning about the city and people he loves. He is an avid reader, theology honk and full time nerd.