Thursday, August 5, 2010

Summit 2010 - Session 5 with Adam Hamilton

.:When Leaders Fall
This is not an inspirational talk. But I think that for some of you, this may be the most important talk and could save your ministry or your church.

A study that was done in 2005-2006 of 1050 pastors had 30% admit to some sort of sexual impropriety during their ministry life.

Though there is not a one size fits all approach, our story might help.

I want to talk about three things
1 - Share about how my church handled a situation in this area
2 - Why Church leaders have a hard time in this area
3 - Five "Rs" for resisting temptation in your own life

Our situation
In the United Methodist Church, the bishop handles discipline. That would be taken care of by someone else.  they were removed and a system was put into place. It fell to me to handle how to talk to the congregation.

As I saw it, we had four options
1 - Say nothing, hope no one would find out and if they do let the rumor mill run
2 - Be evasive, say they were leaving for personal reasons and let the rumor mill run
3 - The scarlet letter approach - clearly condemn the sin and distance ourselves from both individuals, condemning them in the process
4 - With transparency, honesty and compassion
We chose number 4. We acknowledged what had occurred, recognized the consequences, reminded ourselves that the church is for broken people and that, being the church of these two families, we will love and help and care for them through this time.

We want to exhibit the two sides of integrity
1 - When you're in pastoral leadership in a church there are expectations of trust.
2 - The Church is the body of a Christ who came to seek and save the lost.

I met with our staff that Tuesday to share with them.  We had them meet in small groups to process and express their feelings. I had hoped to wait to tell others until that Sunday, but by that night people were already calling and asking - had to decide how to handle it. We sent out an email to the church that said this thing has happened, we'll talk about it on Sunday - I'm asking you not to throw stones, to pray for these families and wait until Sunday.

Sunday came and I spent 5 minutes before the sermon explaining the situation. Then said I'd like to remind you of a few things and I gave a message on temptation, the human condition, the reality of sin and God's grace. I ended the sermon with John 8 - Woman brought in front of Jesus by the Pharisees and accused of adultery. I said this is a defining moment for our church. Everyone will ask, everyone wants to know - Who are we? Are we the kind of church that will take the stones in our hands or that kind that exhibits compassion and grace, loves broken people and welcomes sinners in the name of Jesus Christ?

  • We have a staff covenant that clearly outlines our expectations
  • We have policies about where you can go with people of the opposite sex who is not your spouse
  • If you want to go to a conference or a trip, you have to find someone else. If you just can't - then you have to leave on different flights and stay in different hotels. Is it overkill?  I don't know.
  • If something looks like a date or smells like a date, we're going to call it a date.
  • Twice a year we have a meeting with all of our staff and talk about these things. Some of them might roll their eyes and call it the "sex talk", but they recognize that it's important.
The "Sex Talk"
I begin by reminding our staff that we have 3 fundamental drives as humans:
We are wired for reproduction
We are wired with a deep desire for intimacy and companionship
We are wired with a sin drive

Than I use a Buddhist technique: think of the things we don't want to pursue in the most disgusting and repulse terms.
I use a story about our dog that can't seem to resist eating what she finds when rooting in the cat's litter box. Then, we talk about the Moment of the Maybe - "What would it be like if..." It's the moment when sin is rationalized and gestating.
I remind them that if they discover feelings like this not to tell the other person about them. Nothing good comes out of telling the other person about  your feelings. Even if you have the feelings - never, ever share those feelings with the other person.

We discuss that at some point, if you keep entertaining the moment of the maybe, that maybe will become a "Yes." We must concentrate on finding the strength to no longer say "Maybe," but "No."

We must deal with the seasons of life together with your spouse. There will be times of closeness and times of distance, but we must stay committed. So far neither of us has been unfaithful in 28 years - I say "so far" because I recognize that everyone can be tempted.

The Five "Rs" of resisting Temptation
1 - Remember who you are
A child of God, follower of Jesus, Leader in the church, Spouse, Parent, Child

2 - Recognize the Consequences
Will I feel better or worse after I do this?
Will I feel more or less human?
Will I be proud or ashamed?
Who will be hurt?
What will happen to the church if It becomes known?
How does this end happy?

3 - Rededicate yourself to God
When your heart is inflamed - Stop, drop and pray

4 - Reveal your struggle to a trusted friend
James tells us to pray for each other
When you tell someone the secret, it somehow doesn't have the power that it once had.

5 - Remove yourself from the situation
Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount he tells us to do radical things to keep from sinning.

Two Big Concepts
1 - The aim of the Christian life is sanctification
Christians are called to model for others 
2 - All of us are tempted as human beings.
There are consequences when we fall, but the final answer from the church should always be grace.

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