How I Stay Above Reproach

A pastor’s position as a congregation leader calls for an impeccable lifestyle. A pastor’s role is not only about leading a group of believers but also about, for example, living a life that portrays Jesus’ words and cautions. Being above reproach takes a lot of work. Staying above reproach requires a pastor to have a life grounded in some basic ethics and disciplines that will help them as they lead the people of God.

In light of the two fallen pastors this past week, Dr Tony Evans and Robert Morris, I wanted to share how I discipline myself and pray I finish well.

1. Spiritual Discipline

 A pastor’s spiritual life is the wellspring of all his ministry. That means prayer, Bible study, and personal devotion are non-negotiables (Read, Pray, Repent). Consistent personal spiritual disciplines deepen my relationship with God, providing the strength I need to lead and the wisdom to lead rightly. These disciplines will help you, too; that is why you hear it every Sunday.

2. Moral Integrity

Integrity is an absolute must for pastors—honesty, marriage and fidelity, and sexual purity. A pastor must avoid any talk or actions that could give off the wrong impression to others, particularly women. My wife has my passcodes to my devices and accounts. I don’t meet, talk on the phone, or counsel women without her presence. It's for my protection and to honor the relationship with my wife.

3. Accountability

 Accountability structures, such as elders and an accountability partner, must be in place to ensure that the pastor continues to make morally and doctrinally sound decisions and remains committed to living out the Word of Christ. I check in regularly with my elder team and accountability partner. There are pastors I consider my pastor giving me someone to discuss my issues with.

4. Continuous Learning

 Theological education, especially continuing education, has been extremely important to me. A pastor has to know not only the traditional religious landscape but also what’s current in theology, what is happening with our culture and societies, and how ministry can best be carried out according to those needs. Conferences, seminars, wide reading, and continuing education all help in this matter. Staying busy learning keeps me from becoming complacent and potentially getting into trouble.

5. Healthy Boundaries

 I maintain appropriate boundaries. I ensure that I take enough time for rest, family, and my interests; otherwise, burnout will occur, and I will be apt to make bad decisions with integrity not wholly intact—which could impact the entire congregation.

6. Servant Leadership

 By practicing servant leadership as a pastor—that is, by cultivating humility that rejects self-interest and prioritizes the interests of other people—I try to model this for the flock: how to be trustworthy, respected, and dignified. I also try to remind the congregation that this is how Jesus lived his life, too. Not easy, but we can all do it! 

7. Open Communication

More openness and transparency build trust. Open dialogue with members is essential. I am personally contactable and responsive. My “door” is always open, and my phone is always on. Knowing the church and the church knowing me helps me see the bigger picture! If I fall, I ruin a good thing God is doing. I never want that on my shoulders. I aim to finish well.

Pastors who fail never thought they would fall. But somewhere along the line, they quit being disciplined. So, keeping myself above reproach is thus a never-ending process of growth, learning, and vigilance. Leading as a shepherd begins with my life and ministry. When I tend vigilantly to the spiritual discipline mentioned above, I faithfully and honorably lead my family and congregation. Would you pray for me and my family? The enemy would like nothing more than to cause us to fail.

Laying on my death bed, this is what I hope to say “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;1 Timothy 4:7

Would you join me in being above reproach? Add these disciplines to your life as well. The world needs to see Jesus in us!

In love,

Pastor Jody

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