Preaching Articles

I had an awkward situation recently. My doctor prescribed a sleep study (part of some health tests I am doing in preparation for my forthcoming new health regimen).

The tech called me to arrange the details. She did not seem to have many details about the clinic, so I asked some questions. One of which was the setting—in this case, it was an office building with several faux bedrooms where they would wire me up and measure me sleeping.

I asked about the staff, and she was "it."

Then came that awkward moment. I knew she would not understand it, but I explained, "I can't come if it is just you and me in the building." It was awkward, and I am guessing few ever said such a thing. So I skipped out on my study (and will probably have to pay the no-show charge).

It might seem silly to you, but let me encourage you not to see it as such. Many of you who read this are young pastors. I know too many pastors who have lost great credibility because of an accusation (let alone an indiscretion).

I am not irresistible. I have a great face for radio. I do not think that anyone will swoon over me. But I do not know the stability, morality and disposition of people that I meet.

When I told my wife, I thought she might slap me. She has been excited about my recent health plans. However, she was the opposite. She felt protected and affirmed. She knew I would not put our family in jeopardy.

I remember Danny Akin once saying that he would not pick up a woman on the side of the road in the rain if her car broke down. He would never be alone with a woman not his wife. It seemed a bit selfish until he told the rest of the story. He would pull over and give her the keys and let her drive to where she needed to be.

Guarding yourself takes work, can be awkward and is often inconvenient. But one problem averted makes it a good stewardship of your life, ministry and family.

At the churches I planted, we always used something like Saddleback's Ten Commandments:

1. Thou shalt not go to lunch alone with the opposite sex.

2. Thou shalt not have the opposite sex pick you up or drive you places when it is just the two of you.

3. Thou shalt not kiss any attendee of the opposite sex or show affection that could be questioned.

4. Thou shalt not visit the opposite sex alone at home.

5. Thou shalt not counsel the opposite sex alone at the office, and thou shalt not counsel the opposite sex more than once without that person's mate. Refer them.

6. Thou shalt not discuss detailed sexual problems with the opposite sex in counseling. Refer them.

7. Thou shalt not discuss your marriage problems with an attendee of the opposite sex.

8. Thou shalt be careful in answering e-mails, instant messages, chat rooms, cards or letters from the opposite sex.

9. Thou shalt make your co-worker your protective ally.

10. Thou shalt pray for the integrity of other staff members.

(The first four do not apply to unmarried staff.)

I hope you have a list like this for your own life and ministry.

"But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality..." (Ephesians 5:3)

Ed Stetzer holds the Billy Graham Chair of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College and serves as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center for EvangelismPreviously, he served as Executive Director of LifeWay Research. Ed recently started Mission Group in order to create unique and practical resources for church leaders. He has trained pastors and church planters on five continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Ed is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine and Catalyst Monthly, serves on the advisory council Christianity Today's Building Church Leaders, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN.

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Richard Scotland

commented on May 8, 2014

Great example from Danny Akin, thanks also for this article.

Chad Dale

commented on May 8, 2014

This is not just good advice, it will save your backside, your ministry and maybe even your marriage. I have witnessed too many in the ministry (both male and female), who have fallen either into infidelity or have been accused of such as a result of being alone and/or being seen with someone of the opposite sex. The devil will set the table to create what would be considered a harmless, innocent or 'necessary' encounter. Yet this is one of those apples that should never be bitten into! Stay away from being alone with the opposite sex! I;ll even go one step further - avoid the social media outlets too! If you believe that social media is beneficial and necessary to market your church, (instead of witnessing and outreach); then get an account for the church. Pastors and their wives should avoid these outlets individually; or at a minimum have joint - linked accounts! I mention this only because I have seen so many fellow ministers and wives fall into moral failure over a seemingly innocent conversation through social media! People generally commit the act in their mind long before it ever surfaces in the flesh! Protect yourself, protect the ministry that God has called you to steward over! This is a superior article and one which should be followed wholeheartedly! Thank you Dr. Stetzer

Robin Pifer

commented on May 8, 2014

Great article once again from Ed. These are the principles I have lived by even in making decisions in awkward moments where people do not understand. It is just so important to have no hint so that it protects your family. Godliness is key to have a marriage, family and marriage that thrives and is blessed by the Lord.

Brad Brucker

commented on May 8, 2014

Thanks Ed. I have a similar list that define clear boundaries. I have repeated these from the pulpit over the years to encourage all men, especially married to set up healthy boundaries. A number of years ago I was confronted by a man who disagreed and said to me, "Brad, that's way over the top!" I said, "Well, I believe this is what God wants for me and for all married men and their wives." And I said, "Hey, if it can happen to King David, it can surely happen to me." Unfortunately, this man, who seemed to really love the Lord, did not abide by these safeguards and a few months later, had an affair and train-wrecked his family. Sad. So, avoidable. But only if we "Avoid any Hint!" God bless you!

Geary Rowell

commented on May 8, 2014

Thanx for a good and timely article. I have to disagree with the comment at the end, "The first four do not apply to unmarried staff." I can understand that single persons need to have the ability to pursue Godly relationships with the opposite sex but there still needs to be discernment in how they go about it. Reputations of single persons can be tainted the same as the married.

Bruce Parsons

commented on May 8, 2014

This was my first thought when I read the "The first four..." comment. I am a 59 year old widower and I would rather err on the side of caution - as inconvenient as that might be. A friend of mine has had his ministry derailed by a malicious individual making false accusations. It cannot be overstated how devastating it is for them.

Gene Cobb

commented on May 8, 2014

This is sound advice for Pastors and their husbands too. That is why co-pastors and ministry staffs with both male and female pastors solves this problem. Okay, it goes a long way to solving the problem. If people want to sin, sexual or otherwise all the "hints" in the world won't stop them. As for King David, he went looking for his problems...they never came to him. Poor example. And I find it humorous that so many male pastors assume they are King David's rather than servants. This article is also an ego trip too. Why do all men assume that every woman is a possible sex partner? Ever watch the Mel Gibson movie "What Women Want?" My husband and I have nicknamed that movie "What Men Want Women To Want." It is one big ego trip. My husband and I have co-pastored together for 21 years at the same church. We have never had a problem or needed the rules stated in this article. Why? I council the women, he councils the men, we council couples together. Even in hospital visitation I visit the women, he visits the men or we go together if our schedules allow. God made men and women to pastor the church. If we allowed all to minister this list would be unnecessary. FYI our church is thriving, we have more men than women which is an amazing stat. We also are a very young church. Average age probably late 30's. And my husband and I are 61 years old. We were in our late 30's when we came to this church. Also FYI we have a large thriving youth department and our Youth Pastors are a husband and wife team that grew up in this church with our ministry. If the church continues down the same path, by all means you will need these "hints." I thought Sermon Central was a place to share and grow far I am very disappointed.

Cris Texon

commented on May 8, 2014

Hi, I like the article, it applies to certain person in certain situation. It may not apply to some, but it does apply to most pastors that I know. Thank you Sermon Central!

Stephen Joiner

commented on May 8, 2014

Gene, I believe you have some issues you need to deal with. Also maturity issues. Great article.

Jay Wells

commented on May 8, 2014

So, tell us how you handle a small church that can only support one minister?

Barbara Gleeson

commented on May 8, 2014

Dear Sister Gene Cobb, On behalf of Ed Stetzer 's article fit for the body of Christ at large; I desire to respond to your comment with much love. What I have seen in my 38 years of walking with the Lord in full commitment to the Lord's will, serving Him in leadership and as layman; I have seen too much to know this man's words are with full merit. I've even had a beautiful pastor of many years who is the exception to the rules (as you gave the impression you are) and He was just simply blessed with supernatural protection all his days, a holy strong man of God in his faith and his life a glorious example of how a pastor could be. He recently died and I have never known another man like him, he was one of the last of the old time pastors. In the church today, there is a python of deceptive seduction that has entered the church so subtle, that if guidelines such as these are not followed, it leaves an open opportunity for the enemy to strike. Sister, if a man of God has a wife who is able to come alongside of him in the ministry as you have, we praise God and rejoice that you can and you have; but each couple and church is different, with unique situations. Mr. Stetzer is not saying that every woman is a possible sex partner, rather, what I discern him is, the heart of man is very wicked and there are people who in the church have not crucified that which is evil they are prone to, gossip, slander, evil imaginations, ect, and it is to the wisdom and safety for all concerned that this advice is a protective guard for the ministers protecting themselves and the name of Christ whom we represent. The church, the body of Christ, is under attack, and he who is wise would heed words of caution and use them with discernment. Those who have a different way against such practices that work for them, we rejoice, but for those in a different place in ministry, we as a fmily of God work together sharing wisdom and pray for their protection as they do the work of God the best they can in a world that has changed so much in a short time, and the younger preachers, male and female, who are doing the work of the Lord, need the guidance of those who have experienced or seen where the pitfalls can be. What I see regarding the man talking about King David as an example, is a man saying, 'I am no different than King David, I too can fall.' He isn't setting himself up as a king, but rather, he is saying, if this great man of God a king can fall, then who am I to think I could do any less? He is being real and really wise! This is my understanding of his article. It is written for the vulnerable and naive to make wise, just as Thomas Donelan commented "Even though nothing actually happened we never actually met behind closed doors (we met in the ministry lunch room) the accusations still flew.A hard lesson learned. I wish I had this list then! Lots of good advice." He is a good example of why this article was written. If anything, what would be a good steward of your wisdom would be to share it with others in an article to Sermon Central and instead of being disappointed in what you have read here, encourage others with what you have written and giving your wisdom of the outline for other ministers to glean from. We are all one family who needs the strengths of others. God bless you.

Thomas Donelan

commented on May 8, 2014

Unfortunately as a young pastor I had trouble with #5. Even though nothing actually happened we never actually met behind closed doors (we met in the ministry lunch room) the accusations still flew. A hard lesson learned. I wish I had this list then! Lots of good advice.

Tony Bland

commented on May 8, 2014

Very good article ? we need more Christian concerned about protecting their witness.

Douglas Dean

commented on May 9, 2014

I read your article with interest and would commend you for trying to keep high standards of holiness and maintaining and protecting a good Christian testimony. However I think you need to be careful about the ten commandments concerning being alone with a woman. you are totally closing the door of opportunity to witnessing to a woman. Jesus would be struggling to keep your commandments when he met the woman of samaria (john 4) Yet he chose to meet alone and talk to an immoral woman. If anyone was putting himself at risk it was Jesus. To the outside world including Christians that situation would not look good. However we all know the outcome as the woman and the whole city of Samaria became believers. Praise God . That could not have happened had Jesus obeyed your commandments. I have had numerous opportunities to speak to ladies about salvation and by God grace still remain faithful to my wife. so I think it is good to remember that God can work out side our own rules and commandments when the salvation of souls are at stake. Douglas Dean in love and follower of Jesus

Edward Ali

commented on May 9, 2014

Dr. Ed Stetzer's piece of advice is one of the greatest I heard in the year 2014. It's simply a cautionary advice for the wise, not for the fool. The Scripture says, "Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall." The wise man says 'To be forewarned is to be forearmed.' and 'Prevention is better than cure.' Why is it that some people find fault in the things Ed Stetzer said? The man is right! It's faithful stewardship. I wish Ed has a book that he wrote on this issue. It's all about openness, transparency and integrity in ministry. Avoid anything that could cause suspicion in your ministry. Edward Nigeria

William Howard

commented on Jun 9, 2014

Excellent hints. Excellent posts. Let's not be naive fellow laborers. All "Christians" are not Christian and we must remember 2Cor. 11:14. Some years ago a very popular movie was playing the honored the bravery of 300 warriors against the mighty Persian Empire. The Bible tells us also of 300 men chosen to fight against a mighty enemy. Why these 300? They kept their eyes open, wary of the foe. Let's keep our eyes open. Brothers / Sisters, if you have to witness more that 1-2 events, give them over. Brothers, if this requires continued meetings, give her over to a missionary. Sisters likewise, give him over to a minister. God has more than (just me) to lead someone to Christ or give wise counsel. (Proverbs 11:30) C'mon church! We're being watched by not only the enemy but also some soul looking for direction and we don't want to give off anything that could cause confusion. Remember Matthew 26:41, Romans 14:16, 1 Peter 5:8. Takes power to be this way. Takes power to be different, to say no, not be afraid of criticism for Christ. As you have probably heard before: a traveler had to use a treacherous mountain road, so he asked some carriage drivers how close could they travel near the edge of the road and not fall off. This close to the edge one said and another, closer and another, even closer, but one replied " I don't know sir. I drive as close to the mountain as I can and stay away from the edge." Stay far from the edge Saints. God Bless you Pastor Stetzer.

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