Yesterday, Christian news was abuzz with the sad news of Tullian Tchividjian and his resignation from Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church after the news of his affair broke out into the public. Whenever I hear news of pastors falling morally, it’s incredibly sad for me to hear, and my heart is broken. My best friends are pastors. I went to seminary with lots of pastors. I know a good deal of pastors. As a pastor myself, I know what many of the stresses and challenges they deal with on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, this is not the first nor is it probably the last pastor to have a moral failing. I don’t claim to have all the answers on how it got this way for Tullian and his marriage, but I do know that if I don’t protect my marriage, I will slowly fade into apathy and complacency. I believe we can protect against it if we are intentional and deliberate in the way that we see our marriages and our ministries. Here are several.
Finishing is more important than starting.
In the church planting world, you see terms like planting, starting, and launching. Church plants are entrepreneurial ventures, but the starting aspect is only one part of the larger picture. The Bible talks a lot about finishing (2 Tim 4:7). We need to see that we are in ministry for the long haul. It’s really easy to be incredibly excited about starting a new ministry, but it’s another thing entirely to remain faithful in ministry and have the same level of excitement at the end of your ministry that you do at the beginning. I think we as the church need to place more emphasis on the finish line instead of mile 1.
Nurture a vibrant and healthy marriage.
In seasons of busyness and church growth, the church can devote a lot of your thinking and need a lot of your time. The first thing that often gets neglected is your marriage. Over time, the natural thing for couples is not to drift towards each other but away from each other. Lindsay and I have to nurture our marriage and constantly pull weeds and prune the overgrowth keeping the marriage healthy and vibrant. It’s easy to survive. It hard to thrive.
Protect family time.
No one is going to protect your family time for you. If you don’t protect your calendar, it will get filled up with other things. You have to carve out time on your calendar that is untouchable. It’s priority one when you’re spending time with your family. Maybe this looks like being home four nights a week. Maybe it looks like a regular date time with your wife and one-on-one time with your kids.
Organize your life.
To protect your family time well, you have to organize your life. If you’re flying by the seat of your pants from week to week, you are going to be led by the tyranny of the urgent. Whatever is loudest gets your attention. What is loudest often doesn’t need more attention. It’s the quiet things in you life that can be the biggest detriment to your life.
Don’t be in any situation where something inappropriate could develop.
One of Billy Graham’s classic rules was that he was never in a room or a car alone with a female. Many people criticized him for this. Yet, it protected him from doing something foolish. I think we have to realize as pastors that we are not above making dumb decisions. We have to intentionally build fences in our lives to guard against affairs whether they be physical or even emotional.
Building fences in your ministry life are not easy, and they may seem cumbersome in the short-term, but we are in it for the long haul.