Call them out! Pastor urges church members to report leaders who prey on flock
Recent headlines have drawn closer scrutiny on pastors who are in charge of their flocks. However, there are many followers who are more loyal to the one who is leading than the ultimate voice to which they should be paying attention.
The pastor is supposed to be the mouthpiece in dissecting the word of God. When they have erred and strayed from the real purpose, many are reluctant to 'call them out' and get on with the business of holy living.
Sexual sins are not the only ones being violated. There are elders, bishops, and other members of the clergy who are violating people's rights in one way or the other, with the 'executive body' turning a blind eye to the cries from the oppressed flock.
POWER TO DEFROCK
While they cannot change the behaviours of those flouting their powers and disobeying God's commands, they do have the power to strip them of the titles that were bestowed on them by the church body.
Family and Religion reached out to Dr Edina Bayne, associate pastor and member of the American Association of Christian Counsellors, who told Family and Religion that not everyone is called to be a church leader.
"If that were the case, you would just have churches springing up everywhere and we would have no followers," she said.
Addressing the issue of fallen leaders, pastors should be willing to stand corrected by members with insight. Pastors should know who they are and should be ready to hear from them, so that they can be covered by such individuals, and that there would be no need for a cover-up.
Many members in church think it is not their place to correct the pastor, but, for Bayne, they are wrong.
"It is not disrespectful for someone to approach the pastor. If you are praying, things will be revealed to you that something is wrong. They should be approached, but not in a confrontational manner, because in order to deal with the problem, we must identify and we must confront it in order to conquer it. I believe that is better for a pastor to find something out from a member before the devil takes it viral," she said.
Cognisant of the fact that there are some pastors who will not yield, even after being confronted, she said the Bible has a prescription for that.
"If that pastor was confronted in a godly and respectful manner and refused to take heed, then that member has the right to take it elsewhere - by calling in the deacons and other relevant partners - assuming there is empirical fact that something is going on."
Reminding that we are all dealing with flesh and imperfection, she said it does not mean that God did not call individuals who ended up in these situations such as the ones making the headlines.
She alluded to the biblical character, King David, who lusted at his servant's wife, slept with her and ended up arranging to murder her husband. The Bible described him as a 'man of God's own heart'.
"But he suffered the consequence, and God's dealing with David is not a licence for others to sin," she pointed out.
In defence of the Church, she said pastors letting down the flock does not mean the Church is totally useless or that the Church as a global entity is insignificant or irrelevant. She stressed that in the midst of all of the negative things happening, there is still a lot of good outcome other than the headlined events that have taken place.
Bayne also said parents should be more involved in the lives of their children.
"The mothers, first of all, must remain aware. The teachings should have been made available to all that it is inappropriate for a pastor to be with someone of the opposite sex, whether for counselling, to drive them home - where the pastor or that person in authority has total control over this situation," she said.
Bayne said it is natural for mothers who do not have a male figure in their children's lives to seek guidance from a trusted clergy. "And so, they fall into this trap of trust, in addition to which, as a culture of church folks, we tend to glorify the pastor without doing our due diligence at home to take the major responsibility for the spiritual development of our children. So the pastors in church are falling, while the priesthood in the home is dysfunctional or non-existent," she said.
Bayne did not let the pastors who abused this kind of trust off the hook, noting that they manipulated and made improper use of the word of God.
She said the problem will not go away unless fallen pastors stop seeing the Church as "theirs and refusing to step out of the way to be healed and restored".
"We have to leave room for true repentance and forgiveness, and so, such individuals need to step out of their robes and give the Church an opportunity to pray for them, pray for their deliverance, pray for their restoration while they are being healed. The Church has to stand strong and use the word of God in these instances," she said.