It’s been three weeks today since I shared how to talk to your husband about Ashley Madison. Talk about exposure of adultery and deception has died down and faded in new talk about presidential debates and opinion polls. For those declared “innocent,” we’re just glad.
But not everyone moved on. Some marriages won’t be the same. Some families won’t be the same. Some churches won’t be the same. Was your church blind-sided by news your leader was on the list? Or did you breathe a sigh of relief your pastor wasn’t on the list?
If a list was published of every guilty soul in need of exposure, I would be on it. We would all be on it. We are all guilty of sinful hearts in need of change. For people in local churches, we can’t breathe a sigh of relief and walk away. The agony of Ashley Madison should serve as a call to every Christian to pray for local church leadership. Do you know how your pastor needs you to pray?
As a church member, church staff member, and pastor’s wife, I’ve learned 4 essential ways our pastors need our prayers.
4 ways to pray for your pastor
- Humility – Western cultures embrace showmanship. It’s not easy to remain humble when given honor, attention, influence, and authority. There’s a narrow space between strong leadership and fleshly ego, which can be labeled with spiritual terminology. Before any leader signed on with Ashley Madison, they shifted to pride over humility. The creep of pride in the heart of a leader leads to downfall (Proverbs 18:22 and Proverbs 11:2). God doesn’t value conceit, (Philippians 2:3) even when unseen. Today’s leaders need prayer to keep and cultivate a truly humble heart that remains teachable, open, and yielding.
- Authenticity – It’s easier than ever to create false identities to present to the world. Pastors sometimes give in to pressure to present their persona as a product to please people. God honors the person whose presence on the platform is the same as in private. An authentic life is kept safe by God, while the dishonest person’s life leads to disaster. (Proverbs 28:18) God draws the man near who walks in honesty and truth (Psalm 15:1-2). Vehicles of deception make it easy and enticing for leaders to dabble in dishonesty and deliver what syncs with spiritual celebrity without sacrificing support.
- Intimacy – Like all of us, leaders need intimate relationships. Some pastoral leaders and spouses believe it’s not possible or wise to have friends in their church. But leaders need friendship and relational intimacy like everyone does. Leaders cannot guide others to intimate community if they don’t personally practice authentic relationship. I have to wonder if some spiritual leaders “on the list” went searching for intimacy online, because they were relationally anorexic in real life. Pray for godly friendships for your leaders (Proverbs 12:26; 22:24-25) and for depth of relationships allowing their faith to go deeper (Colossians 3:12-14). Pastors and leaders need prayer for honest, enjoyable, supportive friendships, and they need our prayers for the sweetness of healthy intimacy within marriage for those who are married.
- Accountability – Without humility, leaders won’t welcome accountability. Without authenticity, accountability is useless. Without intimacy, there is no opportunity for accountability. Every disciple of Christ needs accountability (James 5:16). Every pastor is a disciple of Christ, so every pastor needs accountability (Galatians 6:1-5). Without it, leaders living above the level of accountability end up exposed on lists of guilty pleasures. May we pray for leaders in our churches to preach and practice personal accountability for the sake of the testimony of Jesus Christ.
After Ashley Madison, we divided leaders into guilty and innocent. Many grieved news of a guilty leader. Others celebrated the faithfulness of the innocent. But “There is no one righteous, not even one,” (Romans 3:10). As the wife of a leader and a leader myself, I believe there will never be a day when pastors and leaders in local churches stop needing prayer for humility, authenticity, intimacy, and accountability. Innocent leaders need the intercession of their churches.
Would you stop right now and lift up your leaders?