In case you have been living under a rock, Bill O’Reilly was just fired by Fox News. Bill was the lead cable channel broadcaster, who earned over $178 million for Fox this past year. Today he cleans out his office. Why? He’s been accused of sexual harassment and misconduct by several current and former employees of the opposite sex. Is he guilty? Time might tell. We may never know the whole truth. In the meantime, I thought it necessary to take the time to process through lessons that pastors might learn from watching the news of Bill Oreilly's firing unfold. If we’re paying attention, it could save us a lot of pain in ministry, both for ourselves and our team! Pardon the simplicity with some of my points, but in our world today I can not take for granted everyone grasps and employs these simple but profound guidelines for wise ministry:
What Pastors Can Learn From Bill O’Reilly (and FOX News):
You do not have to be guilty. You just have to be accused.
Is Bill guilty? I will not even entertain the discussion. Frankly, however, it doesn’t matter as far as his employment is concerned. Before it ever goes to court, he is gone. I used to tell our pastors all the time: “you do not have to be guilty. You just have to be accused.” The goal is to place our lives and ministries in such a place than we are not even easily accused! One of the qualifications of ministry is to live a life that is “above reproach” (1 Tim 3:2). What does it mean to be above reproach? It basically means living your life in such a way that no one can legitimately rebuke you or make any charges against you that will stick. This is a difficult standard to attain to, but it is one we are called to!
Make your spouse your partner.
Have your spouse and partner beside you as often as possible. I want my spouse to have her own place of ministry and I want her to use her gifts in the church, but on Sundays as a pastor, I wanted my spouse present with me on Sunday, not back in the Children’s or Student Ministry, or somewhere else doing her own thing. I wanted everyone in the church to know that My spouse and I are partners. I know pastors who strategically give their spouse an office right next to theirs. It’s easy as the church grows for the Sr pastor and their spouse to live in two different worlds in the church. My wife and I fought to share ministry together. You need to do the same. Be a team. As a ministry couple, you must be an indivisible partnership!
Do not spend time alone with someone of the opposite sex that is not your spouse.
I know some of you disagree with me on this. Is it a sin to be alone with someone of the opposite sex you are not married to? No. However: Just because it’s NOT SINFUL doesn’t mean it IS WISE. Don’t meet alone with the door closed with someone of the opposite sex. Don’t travel alone with someone of the opposite sex that is not your spouse. Do not have coffee or dinner with someone of the opposite sex that is not your spouse. Even if it’s in a public setting, I do not want to be seen hanging out ALONE with someone of the opposite sex that is not my spouse. I always want to take another team member along. Don’t allow yourself to be put in a position where you can be later accused! If someone else was with you, they can vouch for you as to the truth. This is not just true for you, but every member of your team. Tip: Make this office policy, not left up to each person’s discretion.
Share everything with, and listen to your spouse.
If you stumble or say or do something stupid, tell your spouse. Better now than later. Tell your spouse everything. If anyone ever asks to speak to you privately outside earshot of your spouse, the answer is NO. If your antennas go up about someone who might have an eye for you or seems in the least bit flirtatious with you, immediately tell your spouse. If someone makes a comment on social media that seems the least bit flirtatious, tell your spouse. If an old flame reaches out on facebook, tell your spouse. You are not accusing anyone. You are simply safeguarding your life! I also always told Tricia that if she picked up weird vibes from anyone in the lobby or what she saw on social media, to let me know! There were several times over the years when she picked up on behaviors and language much faster than I did and I was able to approach situations and people more cautiously. Listen to your spouse!
Honor your spouse publicly.
I want everyone to know my spouse is my partner and I love her with a love at a level I do not share with anyone else, even my own kids! Tell stories that honor your spouse and praise her/him publicly. This lets the world know you are very content with what you have now and you’re not interested in what anyone else is selling!
Avoid humor that could be construed as flirtatious behavior.
There’s no such thing as innocent flirtatious behavior In debriefing with many pastors who had moral failures in ministry, a common thread that has surfaced. Their flirting often began with innocent humorous sparring in the offices, in the hallways, or via text! Be cautious about social media! Flirtatious behavior can easily begin there, as well! Guard your comments. Don’t allow anyone to assign tone or intent to your text! The Bible says RUN from sexual sin. Great advice!
Don’t try to manage sexual sin privately.
If we are struggling with sexual sin, we need help. We should get help. We should step away from vocational ministry while we get healthy again. If we’re honest, the church will probably help. I know we will. When someone else on our team blows it sexually, both repentance and forgiveness are necessary. However, it takes time to restore and renew someone’s character. Be open and honest about sexual sin on the team, and if it occurs, they need to step down, seek counseling before any potential process for restoration is put in place. All of this should be public, not private. Don’t try to manage sin on the team privately. It inevitably becomes public. Just ask Fox News...and a few churches, as well.