Lessons for Spiritual Leaders on Fighting Temptation
In this interview, Steve Gallagher sits down to talk about the way a spiritual leader lives his life, and how this can either set him up for failure or success in the battle against sexual sin. He discusses practical ways to go about this, so that those in such significant roles know how to protect themselves from the enemy’s schemes. (From Podcast Episode #340 - Why Leaders Fall: A Story and a Conversation)
Brooks: Pastor Steve, it is always a shock to hear about a leader who has fallen. While we live in a culture that has a lot of temptation, it somehow still surprises us when we are tempted. No one is expecting it from their leader especially. Before we get started though, I would like you to clarify for us if this is something that can happen to any Christian, no matter their circumstances.
Pastor Steve: Yes and no. It can happen to any of us, especially in the culture we live in today. So yes, in that sense. But no, in the sense that if you are really walking with the Lord and you are living a spiritually disciplined lifestyle with protective boundaries, there is no reason why you should fall into any kind of sexual sin.
Brooks: Well as we get into this, let's start with the basics of the Christian life, because you mentioned the need for a strong life that is reinforced with different protections. Is there any one area you would highlight as something that leaders need to focus on if they're going to avoid falling into sexual sin.
<pull-quote>Walking in the Spirit is the key to freedom from sin and I believe walking in the Spirit primarily comes from developing a strong devotional life.<pull-quote><tweet-link>Tweet This<tweet-link>
Pastor Steve: The Apostle Paul said, if we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Walking in the Spirit is the key to freedom from sin and I believe walking in the Spirit primarily comes from developing a strong devotional life. It comes from spending time in the Word of God and spending time in meaningful prayer to the Lord. When you're meeting with God every day, you will begin to be lifted up spiritually, above carnality and the World. I'm not saying that a guy with a strong devotional life is exempt from temptation, but it will strengthen you and the most important aspect of living in victory is to have daily devotion with God.
Brooks: I would just assume as somebody who is sitting on the other side of the pulpit, that the pastor or leader that I'm looking up to has a strong devotional life. What have you seen?
Pastor Steve: Well, I saw a poll of pastors not long ago and the average time they were spending in prayer was six minutes. You cannot have a meaningful life in God if you only have a six-minute connection with Him. You must spend time with Him. You have to pour out your heart and you have to care enough about the people in your church to the point that you are interceding on their behalf before the throne of God. That's where power comes from, not from a six-minute prayer time.
Brooks: As someone who is in the ministry yourself, what is one of the dangers that might lead someone in full time ministry into sexual sin?
Pastor Steve: One of the challenges that a pastor faces is that there is a lot of demand on their time. They have people pulling them from every direction. They have meetings they are supposed to go to, sermons to prepare, and Bible studies to lead. There is just so much going on in the life of a typical pastor. I was asked to speak to a pastor's group one time on the subject, “Why do so many pastors fall into sexual sin?” I made a statement during that conference where I said that in all the years that I've been ministering to people in sexual sin, including many pastors, I have never once had to help a Mary, but I have had to help many Marthas. Part of it is just the nature of the beast. It's hard for pastors, but there's just a place we must come to where we draw the line in mindlessly serving, because our lives in God have to stay intact or we are not going to be any good to anybody.
Brooks: Is there anything else leaders need to watch out for?
Pastor Steve: Well, another real challenge for pastors is discouragement. Ministry can be very discouraging, because you're trying to elevate people's mindsets and motivate them to get their eyes on the things of the Lord. There are a lot of people in churches that are not interested, they want to just come in Sunday morning, make their appearance, and then forget about God the rest of the week and that can be very discouraging for a pastor. Discouragement is one of those human emotions that the enemy is very adept at using to drain a pastor's motivation to keep fighting, and it can be very dangerous.
Brooks: Ideally problems and pressures should drive us to God, but we know that doesn't always happen. What have you found to be the response pattern of people in ministry when they face a lot of pressure and are also facing sexual temptation?
Pastor Steve: It's just in human nature to want to take it easy in the battle. We want to just slump down, because we're tired from working and being stressed out all day dealing with, oftentimes, difficult people. Then there comes this desire to just escape and spend the evening watching television or getting on the internet. If you fall into this place, you can end up taking your mind and heart and handing it over to the enemy for a period of time and this has a very draining effect on your spiritual life. We have to be careful with the way that we live our lives, and the opportunities we give the enemy to get in and drain us of our resolve to walk with God.
Brooks: Going back to that daily life you were mentioning at the start of the interview, that disciplined daily devotion to God. I know you've tried to set that up here at Pure Life for those of us on staff who are ministering here. As you have seen that kind of lifestyle play out here over several decades, what's been the payoff you've seen for the staff who are working in a daily life of ministry?
Pastor Steve: Well, we all have our struggles and failures, but since we're all in the same mindset here at Pure Life Ministries, we can help each other and elevate each other. That's one of the challenges also for pastors, because most of the people in their daily life are people who are under their spiritual authority. They also need people in the ministry that they can fellowship with and have meaningful connection with. Connection with godly people is a real help to you when you're in the ministry, there's no doubt about that. Unfortunately, a lot of pastors don't reach out and they end up being on a little island by themselves and they can just become very vulnerable to the devices of the enemy. The bottom line is that the Lord has given us the tools that we need to live a victorious life and that life with God just has to be something that means enough to us that we are going to fight for it. All I can say is it is worth fighting for, it is worth the struggle, and it is worth maintaining. It means everything to us, it really does.