In recent times, the media has fed our collective psyche with a steady diet of reprehensible atrocities concerning our beloved little children. Rape, murder and arson are only some of the causes of death that we as a nation, have still not been able to come to grips with. However, it is even more unspeakable when church leaders are among those fingered for crimes of sexual abuse of children, since we expect church leaders, (arguably more than any other leaders in society) to treat all people, especially children with kindness, respect and love. We expect church leaders to protect our children; to instruct them in all righteousness and goodness; to help them find their divine purpose; to teach them good values; how to love and care for their brothers and sisters and to treat others the way they would want to be treated.
Truth be told, most of our church leaders are doing an outstanding job in this regard; going above and beyond to reach the broken and destitute. Thousands of victims of violence and poverty can thank the church and its leadership for the selfless work being done to restore and heal the desolate. However, even one report of a child being molested by a pastor or church leader dismantles the collective trust for the church and its great impactful works in the community.
It is against that background that the church must institute even greater measures of accountability and integrity for leaders. This ramped up system of accountability should involve frequent systematic interviews with the family of church leaders, primarily their wife and children. 1 Timothy 3: 1-3 teaches us that “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous. The passage goes on to outline that the leader should be “One that rules well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5(For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” (1Tim 3:4-6)
This is a most compelling and relevant piece of scriptural wisdom. A church leader is expected to be faithful to his wife and to be a good and effective parent. If we want to ascertain the integrity and readiness of such leaders for ministry in the church, what better way to assess their character than to have a frank safe discussion with their wives and children? If the wife and children can speak positively of the church leader then that is a reasonable indication that he may be a good suitable leader. After all, while men will put on a ‘performance’ or a public mask at their places of work, with their friends and even in the church, their real unvarnished characters are revealed at home.
Here are some questions then, to ask about the church of leader of his wife and children:
- Does he pray with you at home regularly?
- Do you see him praying, reading the Word of God and seeking the Lord at home?
- Is he patient with you or does he get frustrated easily?
- Do you think he loves God? Do you think he loves you?
- Does he always tell the truth?
- Does he generally keep his promises?
- Does he apologise if he does something wrong?
- Does he make you feel safe? How so.
Now some women and children may, in fear or to save face, lie about the character of their husband/father but thankfully authentic churches of God should possess a measure of spiritual discernment in order to determine truth. Furthermore, the discussion or interview with them should only form part of a larger system of accountability to include a policy on leadership, accountability partners, an active church board, discipleship programmes, ongoing prayer and fasting and importantly, ongoing reputation checks in the church and community among other elements.
Ensuring that church leaders are living true to God’s calling is part of being our brothers’ keeper. Putting in systems of accountability, to include interviews with their families, is essential to protecting the flock, the community and the leaders themselves. The biggest measure of accountability however is the sovereignty of God and the fact that He will judge all our actions in His time. As it is pertains to the safety and protection of our children let us be mindful of Matthew 18: 6 – “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Shelly-Ann Harris is the Editorial Director of Family and Faith Magazine. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org