As. Our work is a holy work and deserves Christ-like leaders. It seems every month or so, I hear of a minister who has fallen and is forced to leave the ministry. I don’t believe a minister consciously sets out to destroy his own ministry by falling into sinful habits or practice. It is a slow drift that can be imperceptible at first yet takes a minister way off the path in a short while. Being above reproach is a constant fight on the part of the minister. We are in a spiritual battle for our ministries each day and if we do not recognize the spiritual warfare, we too will fall.
When thinking about how to be of above reproach, a good place to reference is Titus chapter 1. In verses 5-9 the Apostle Paul gives us a list of qualifications for elders in the church. Though every worship ministry position may not be considered an elder-type position, these verses should function as a checklist for the worship minister. Here is a quick listing of the characteristics of an elder: husband of one wife, children are believers, a steward of God, not arrogant, not quick tempered, not a drunkard, not violent, not greedy for gain, hospitable, lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, disciplined, holds firm to the Word of God, gives instruction in sound doctrine, respectable, not a recent convert, and well thought of by outsiders.
This list is really all about the character of the minister. The church leader must be free from sinful behaviors that would prevent him from being a Christ-like example for his congregation. The call to ministry is a call to holiness. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, well-known Scottish preacher from the nineteenth century said,
It is not great talents God blesses so much as likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God. What my people need most is my personal holiness.
Though no follower of Christ is without sin, those who are ministers in the church must be willing to live to the high standard that is set forth in Titus for an elder. Ministers who will not live above reproach should not go into ministry.
Here are 7 guidelines to practicing being above reproach.
- We must be under constant nourishment from Scripture. Ministers who do not spend daily time in the Word are already drifting. It’s a dangerous thing to think that we do not have time for God’s Word in our ministries. (Psalm 119: 11, 105)
- We must reserve time for prayer in our ministries. Perhaps the single most important influence we have as ministers is being a prayer warrior for our homes and ministries. (Ephesians 6: 18-19)
- We must guard our hearts. Be on the alert for improper thoughts or emotions we may have towards another church member or staff person. Never be alone with a person of the opposite sex that is not your spouse. If you think you are strong and above temptation, you will be the first to fall. (I Corinthians 10: 12-13)
- We must avoid the appearance of evil. Think about how an action or activity may appear to another church member or neighbor. It may be an innocent activity, but if it looks improper, perhaps you should not be involved. Don’t destroy your witness for something you think you have a right to do. This is being above reproach. (I Thessalonians 5:22)
- Don’t put yourself in places of temptation. You know how you are wired and where your weak areas are. Run from these places. If you are viewing pornography, you must escape this sin immediately. It will destroy your family and your ministry. Put in safeguards to prevent you from slipping in this area. (Hebrews 12:1-4)
- Get accountability. Sometimes ministers can be the loneliest people. We must have friends and build relationships with someone who can hold us accountable. (Romans 1:8-15)
- Never handle money at your church. Always get someone else to collect money or get money deposited. (I Timothy 6:6-16)
Being above reproach can seem like an impossible task outside of the work of Holy Spirit in our lives. I need to be reminded daily how weak and desperate I am in my own strength and how easily I can fall. We are called to be holy ministers for Christ. We can’t do this in our own strength. Every morning before we leave our homes we need to seek the Spirit’s power to live the life of a minister that is above reproach.
Greg Brewton is an associate professor of worship and chair of the Department of Biblical Worship at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY