Bob Coy, the founding pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, continues to generate headlines. He resigned last week from his position at the 20,000-member congregation after an unspecified "moral failing." Many members of his congregation are understandably hurt. For them, and for all of us who have been wounded by a minister, I'd like to highlight five biblical facts.
One: God calls pastors to a higher standard. He wants pastors to be "above reproach" (1 Timothy 3:2) and "blameless" (Titus 1:7). As Paul noted, "those who have been given a trust must prove faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2). Ministers are to "set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in faith and in purity" (1 Timothy 4:12).
Two: Satan attacks ministers. He tries to defeat and discourage all Christians, attacking us "like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). But pastors, because of their public profile, are especially targeted by our enemy.
Three: Every minister fails God's standard. I was a pastor for 25 years and have been preaching for 38 years. While I have not sinned in the ways Rev. Coy apparently did, I have likely committed sins he has not. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), pastors included.
Four: God redeems all he allows. Scripture teaches: "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently" (Galatians 6:1). We are to be "kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32). Note that we should also call for repentance, as Paul did when a person was engaged in sin (1 Corinthians 5:1-5). But if the sinner does repent, we should "forgive and comfort him" and "reaffirm your love for him" (2 Corinthians 2:7, 8).
How do we know if the pastor's repentance is genuine? One counselor listed these characteristics: the minister takes the initiative in disclosing sin with a humble and broken heart; he or she takes full responsibility, submits to direction from authorities, embraces accountability, and seeks professional counseling. It is important for God's people to seek his wisdom in helping restore ministers who have fallen.
Five: We have only one Shepherd. Jesus said of his church: "there will be one flock, one shepherd" (John 10:16). Every other shepherd will fail us at some time. They will hurt us, neglect us, anger us. They will be as imperfect as we are. So we are to "run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Do you know someone who has been hurt by a pastor or fellow Christian? It's been said that the church is the only "army that buries its wounded." How could God use you to speak truth in love to a hurting soul today?