James Emery White was host pastor for last week’s National Conference on Preaching in Charlotte. In a recent edition of his Church and Culture blog, he talked about why pastors too often fall morally. He cites emotional depletion, the lack of sexual fences and spiritual deception. On that latter topic, Jim writes:
“Ministry is spiritually hazardous to your soul. If you haven’t found that out by now, you will.
“First, it is because you are constantly doing spiritual things, and it is easy to confuse those things with actually being spiritual. For example, you are constantly in the Bible, studying it, in order to prepare a talk. It’s easy to confuse this with reading and studying the Bible devotionally for your own soul. You’re not.
“You are praying—in services, during meetings, at potlucks—and it is easy to think you are leading a life of personal, private prayer. You’re not.
“You are planning worship, leading worship, attending worship; and it is easy to believe you, yourself, are actually worshipping. Chances are, you’re not.
“When you are in ministry, it is easy to confuse doing things for God with spending time with God; to confuse activity with intimacy; to mistake the trappings of spirituality for being spiritual.
“Another reason ministry is hazardous to your soul is because you are constantly being put on a spiritual pedestal and treated as if you are the fourth member of the Trinity. In truth, they have no idea whether you have spent any time alone with God in reflection and prayer during the past six weeks; they do not know what you are viewing online; they do not know whether you treat your wife with tenderness and dignity. They just afford you a high level of spirituality.
“Here’s where it gets really toxic: You can begin to bask in this spiritual adulation and start to believe your own press reports. Soon the estimation of others about your spiritual life becomes your own.
“This is why most trainwrecks in ministry are not as sudden and out of the blue as they seem. Most leaders who end up in a moral ditch were veering off of the road for some time. Their empty spiritual life simply became manifest or caught up with them or took its toll.
“You can only run on empty for so long.” (Click here to read the full article.)