The Clergy Crisis

October 3, 2022 at 5:15 am 2 comments


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Over the past several days, I have had multiple conversations about clergy who have fallen from their positions in disgrace and sin. Hearing such stories always breaks my heart because such clergy often wind up victimizing those for whom they are called to care and scandalizing the Church.

Sadly, this kind of crisis is nothing new. In Leviticus 8 and 9, God instructs Moses to appoint and ordain priests to offer sacrifices to God on behalf of Israel. Everything begins well. When Aaron, the first high priest of Israel, offers an ox and a ram to God:

Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown. (Leviticus 9:24)

But the joy of Israel does not last for long. In the very next verse, we read:

Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to His command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. (Leviticus 10:1-2)

These two priests did not carry out their duties faithfully, but contrarily to what God had commanded. And they paid dearly for it. From almost the very moment the clergy was instituted, they sinned and created a crisis.

When two brothers, Cain and Abel, offer sacrifices to God, God is pleased with Abel’s sacrifice, but rejects Cain’s. Cain becomes incensed and begins to plot to kill his brother. God, knowing what was in Cain’s heart, warns him:

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it. (Genesis 4:7)

Sometimes, sin seems most enticing at the very moment one is doing something spiritual – whether offering a sacrifice like Cain, or leading a church like a pastor. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day are the archetypes of this temptation. Those who appeared to be the most spiritual were also deeply sinful. As Jesus says of them:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. (Matthew 23:27-28)

Ultimately, what we have seen among many clergy should serve as a warning to us all. Outward spirituality does not automatically indicate inward sanctification. For the sake of the Church, may we pray for those who lead us – that they would lead well. And may we pray for ourselves as well. Whether we are leading worship services are attending them, Satan plants sin at our door. Thankfully, at just the moment Satan seeks to lure us through that door into sin, Jesus steps in and says:

I am the door. (John 10:7)

He is the One who can rescue us – all of us – from our sin. This is why, in the Church, we trust in Him.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. monabudok@gmail.com  |  October 3, 2022 at 10:25 am

    What happens when “all sin & fall short?” We ask and are forgiven but I guess this doesn’t hold for clergy?

    Reply
    • 2. Pastor Zach  |  October 3, 2022 at 10:35 am

      Jesus’ promise of forgiveness absolutely holds for clergy. EVERYONE need forgiveness. A divine invitation remains, however, for clergy – and for everyone else, for that matter – to seek “a way out that God has provided” (1 Corinthians 10:13) from temptation so that they don’t create crises by their sin that injure others and damage the Church’s witness to a watching world.

      Reply

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