Ministry Fortification

South Florida is my mission field. It’s my battlefield. The lostness is thick, the warfare is heavy, and the attacks of the enemy are unrelenting. This week I had the pastoral equivalent of watching a comrade fall in battle and it rattles me.

My prayers are with Pastor Tullian Tchividjian, his wife, Kim, and their children as they walk through their very private struggles that have recently become public. I don’t know them personally. They haven’t called to ask my input or advice and I’m not planning to give them any.

The Spiritual Battle is Real

Yet it’s times like this that the spiritual battle in which we are engaged is so very real. We have an enemy who is coming against our efforts to spread the good news that Jesus died for all our sins, was buried and God raised him from the dead. This message of God’s grace applies to all who repent and believe in Jesus. Once we repent and believe, we can begin to recover and pursue God’s design for our lives.

This is my prayer for the Tchividjians, for myself, and for all believers. I want God’s grace to be put on display through the glory of repentance. Repentance isn’t a one-time act; it’s a lifestyle for those of us who call ourselves Christ-followers. We may get knocked down, but by God’s grace we can always get back up and get back in the game.

Guarding our Hearts

It’s also times like this that I have to check my own heart attitude and make sure that I’m on guard. The Bible says this, Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:12-13).

Those of us who haven’t given in to a particular temptation are never immune to it. At Family Church, I require my staff to sign what we affectionately refer to as the “Staff Ten Commandments.” I borrowed the idea from Kevin Ezell who got it from Rick Warren. It isn’t that we’re trying to be legalistic, but rather we recognize that the battle is real and we need to have a defensive strategy.

The “Staff Ten Commandments” are:

  • Thou shalt not visit the opposite sex alone at home.
  • Thou shalt not counsel the opposite sex alone at the office.
  • Thou shalt not counsel the opposite sex more than once without the person’s mate.
  • Thou shalt not go to lunch alone with the opposite sex.
  • Thou shalt not show affection that could be questioned.
  • Thou shalt not discuss detailed sexual problems with the opposite sex in counseling.
  • Thou shalt not discuss the marriage problems with an attender of the opposite sex.
  • Thou shalt not be in an automobile alone with the opposite sex.
  • Thou shalt be careful in answering cards, letters, and email notes from the opposite sex.
  • Thou shalt pray for the integrity of other staff members.

I review these every year with our entire staff. They may get tired of hearing them, but my expectation and prayer is that we’ll all live by them. A violation of one of these “commandments” is a terminable offense. I often remind our team that nearly 100% of all extramarital affairs take place when two people are alone. If I’m never alone with a woman other than my wife, Kristin, it’s more difficult to commit physical adultery. Kristin and I also share social media and email accounts. She has access to my calendar as well as my text messages. We try to keep it all out in the open.

Staying the Course

Of course, a set of rules can’t overcome the sinfulness of the human heart. If anyone on our team wants to pursue an inappropriate relationship, we can figure out how to do it. But rules, when rightly understood and applied, can serve as guardrails. They won’t protect someone who is determined to go off-road, but they can definitely help someone who wants to stay on the road from drifting off course.

Again, I’m not above it, but I want to do everything I can to guard against it and I hope you will too. At the end of the day, we’re all one step away from stupid. It’s God’s power and grace alone that can keep us from falling.