We conclude our little series on defrocking the pastor by considering four positive standards that can lead to dismissal if neglected. Our desire is to build our standards for disqualification on defensible ground. I hope this article will offer some guidance towards that end.
What about his reputation?
The Bible gives good reason for this qualification: “lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.”
This qualification is meant primarily for a pastor entering the ministry. Before calling a pastoral candidate, the church should take some time to review his credit report. The credit report may have its flaws and shortcomings, but it does provide an objective snapshot of a man’s integrity. Does he pay his bills? Does he have excessive debt? Does he manage his money well? These things can dramatically impact his ability to minister in the church.
At the same time, the church shouldn’t be quick to remove the pastor on this basis. Chances are, the church will have an idea why the pastor might have fallen into financial hardship in the middle of his pastoral ministry. It could be that his family has faced a health crisis or that they have endured a string of financial setbacks. In some cases, the pastor has passed on a pay increase for several years running, and things have started to catch up to him.
This qualification presents another area where the church will need to use discretion. If the pastor has gotten himself into excessive debt through luxurious living – new cars, expensive vacations, etc. – and now he is on the verge of bankruptcy, I think the church should discuss his finances with him.
In general, the point of disqualification should hover somewhere in the vicinity of bankruptcy, having the car repossessed, or having the house foreclosed. But even here, I don’t believe there would be a cut-and-dried disqualifier. If, for example, some hard providence caused the bankruptcy – say, a car accident left the pastor in dire financial straits – I would hope the church would move to support the pastor, not defrock him.
What about his marriage?
The qualification of marital fidelity – that a pastor must be a “one-woman man” – requires more than just the absence of sexual uncleanness. While this qualification includes negative prohibitions, the point of the qualification is that he must be devoted to his wife. That is, he must treat his wife with dignity and respect and must love his wife as Christ loved the church, sacrificially giving himself for her. His marriage must be exemplary, both in public and in private.Continue reading “Some Final Thoughts on Defrocking the Pastor”