The closer any election year gets, talk of integrity or the lack there of, becomes a major topic of discussion.
In the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, integrity has been a topic of discussion for decades. Depending on whoever you happen to be talking with at any moment, there is either none or we have one of the highest levels of integrity in the country. The truth is, it’s probably like the rest of the country somewhere in between.
But recently the word from one local church was that their pastor (who will remain un-named with respect to his congregation, family and city) had done some rather unsavory things openly among the church and the community embarrassing both. There was no immorality,infidelity or even illegalities involved but rather more like “bullying” and “strong arm tactics” of almost a gangster like style. These “tactics” and subsequent attitude increased and spilled over into his inter-action with his church membership and leaders.
He showed up uninvited to closed door city council planning meetings insisting to be heard and had to actually be escorted away by authorities. He showed up at a non-invited meeting of his church leadership who were meeting in private to pray for him and seek a way to speak with and minister to him as he had become unreachable.
In short and to the point, this man had lost his sense of integrity. It is not the way Jesus would do things. It is not the way of love.
As sad as it is, it is one thing to see corruption and the loss of integrity among our political leaders, law enforcement and justice system but it is even worst to see and hear about the increasing lack of honor and integrity among clergy.
None of us is perfect but we must strive to do the best we can every single day. The saying made popular by many Christian youth and college movements of a decade ago would be a good pattern for all to follow, “What would Jesus do (WWJD)?”
It is unfortunate that pastors and ministers of many of our churches allow their actions to be governed by money and their desire to go up the proverbial career ladder more like a corporate employment than being a servant of the most high God.
But most are not paid well and churches are increasingly demanding that ministers or pastors have a minimum of a master’s degree from an accredited Seminary or Divinity School which takes money to pay for long after graduation. What many people including church members are unaware of is that many of today’s pastors and ministers have as much education (and sometimes more) than many doctors or attorneys with none of the financial perks. All of this can lead to frustration, anxiety and just taking one’s spiritual eyes off of God.
Although not excusing, many pastors get into their churches and suddenly find out, “nobody told me it was going to be like this” and they begin to be lured by where the money of the church and the community leads. Waa-la, say bye-bye to integrity.
This is not to give pastors, ministers or anyone else a free pass for a lack of integrity. Having a high degree of integrity means being able and willing to admit you are wrong, that you made a mistake and (if need be) that you even sinned. It also means “getting to it”, doing it right away and not planning for days on how you’re going to put a spin on it.
For the pastor who is vaguely mentioned (and many more like him) in the beginning of this article, he should do himself, the church and the community a big favor and simply admit his problems and move on.
The Bible reminds us that God test our hearts and is pleased when He finds integrity (1 Chronicles 29:17a NIV) . Pastors especially would do well to remember this.