When a Pastor's or Priest's Character is Tested?
Barack and Michelle Obama Meeting Pope Benedict
Do you think it's only human?
If you think a Bishop collar or pastoral robe would prevent Mike Tyson from unleashing millennial blows on your untouched face, think again. Many people in our culture would frown at a man who slaps, later on punch a lady.Whether in private or public. It's considered 'unclassy' and taboo. Besides, you have to be ready to face the law. However,this is no indication that it doesn't happen.
According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, statistics show that women experience more than 4.8 million intimate-partner related physical assaults and rape every year, in the US alone. And, less than 20% of the battered women sought any medical treatment for the injuries. Therefore, as a society we should be ashamed for letting this evil continue in this day and age.
But interestingly, what I wish to highlight in this article is not the typical intimacy that we are used to. It is one that is built on loyalty and trust. At times it can even be equated to levels of veneration. It involves the relationship between a pastor or priest with a member of the church or congregation. The clergy are individuals that are highly respected by virtue of their status and title. With that, comes also a certain level of expectation and moral responsibility, since they are supposed to reflect the life of Christ, as we have come to learn.
In fact the Bible says "those who aspire to be Bishop must show themselves worthy of the calling..." and it goes further to list a number of things they must exhibit - they must not drink too much wine, must be in a monogamous marriage or relationship, their children must not be wild or reckless, they must be tithers (a hot issue we wont cover in this article), and so forth.
So, what thing would really unnerve a pastor or priest to the point that he vigorously throws punches at a lady?
I don't know of any other thing that would be so annoying to a clergy, than a dispute on money. I have been in the Christian circles for a while now. Though I wouldn't claim to have seen it all, I've seen enough to make a sound conclusion. I have been in traditional churches like the catholic church, the Methodist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal Assemblies of God, Charismatic churches and the now popular non-denominational churches. In all the shocking church fights and unabridged pew-punch contests, money and faithfulness (stewardship) has been at the center.
It is hard to understand why money is such a volatile issue. From the time I was born, I was programed to believe that the love of money is the root of all evil. That money was from the devil. Preachers everywhere bombarded us with this message. I am sure you can relate. So I grew up associating everything negative to money. Having a lot of money to me, was the same as loving it. So as soon as it came into my possession, I'd spend it or share it. I should confess that I grew up with this notion, and only recently did I have an understanding that actually money by itself is not evil. It is a means by which we can have whatever we desire and it can be and is a great resource to help the poor. That without money, you can do very little, no matter how faithful and loving your intentions are.
Money only expands that which already is. If you are stingy, having more money will make you more stingy. If you are generous, having more money will make you more generous. If you are reckless, money will make you more reckless. Money is not what defines your character, it only reveals you. Money is an enabler. So, don't think you are going to become a giver when you have a $100,000 annual salary. If you can't give five dollars to a homeless man now, there won't be anything that will move you then, that doesn't move you now. You are what you are, with or without money.
That is why, these days, I am not easily moved by a person's title or collar. I am a better judge of character than I used to be, and I would advise you to do the same. Experience has taught me never to be naive. I've had my library depleted by some Clergy who have borrowed my great materials and books, and who then vanished, decided to declare themselves bankrupt or chose to plead the 5th.
Therefore, be careful who you trust. Don't let every wind of doctrine sweep you away. Read for yourself, and inquire. Search for the truth. I am no longer surprised when I hear of the clergy that have done unflattering things like helping themselves from the church coffers. Or enticing the elderly to include them in their Will. You can easily tell a genuine pastor or priest with the heart for his church or congregation by studying his life-style. It's simple. Just ask a few questions:
- How do they spend their holidays? Are all prayer sabbaticals on a cruise ship, on an island or international?
- Does he or she move with a fleet of bodyguards?
- Are all senior church employees relatives or people too close that it is practically impossible for them to challenge the pastor?
- Do members of the church have access to church accounts? Churches are public institutions and thus, accounts must be publicly accessible by law.
- Is there a known existing Board? or is it just an imaginary one that exists only on paper to avoid trouble from IRS or Tax Bureau? Do you even know who sits on it?
- Are associate pastors rubber stamps or puppets? Can they hold the senior pastor accountable or are they easily replaceable?
- Is there a major economic difference between the pastor and the average members of the congregation? A genuinely prospering pastor will share his prosperity principles with his followers.
- Are their spouses actively involved or are they isolated and aloof, as if not in support?
- Are they generous givers, or are they as stingy as the grave?
- Is there are deliberate effort or mission to rich out to the poor - not just in name, but tangible physical activities and engagements?
These, I believe, are just a few signals you can use to have an understanding and help you know where your money is going. They can also help you know how to pray for the clergy. I should add a disclaimer and say, no one is perfect. But there must be an indication that someone is striving to live like Christ taught the first church. The Church must never be turned into a self-seeking arena. "My church shall be a house of prayer."
In the next article, I will share about my own observations concerning the issue of "tithe" and whether what we've been told is actually accurate. But before you go make sure leave a comment. Someone will benefit from your insight.