My Bible Teacher is in Sin. What Do I Do?
- Thursday, November 15, 2012
Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I live in California now. There is a man in our church who is a high school teacher, teaches Sunday school and is quite respected in the church community. He has been living with one of my close friends for five years. I know from my friend that their relationship is sexual.
It really bothers me that he teaches the children when he is not living a Christian lifestyle. There are social occasions (mixed- not all Christian groups) when he actually mocks the church and the new minister.
What should I do? Sometimes I think I should do nothing then other times I feel enraged at his boldness.
Your advice please.
Dear Need Advice.
What a sad situation. Having a live-in girl friend is one thing. Having a live-in girlfriend and putting on a “church face” while being sexually involved and unmarried is simply disgusting.
I’m sorry you are in the position you are in; however, consider that God has placed you here “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:12-14).
You could be hurt before all of this is over. So, be careful. I’ll try to give you a Biblical understanding of how to proceed while minimizing your personal exposure.
I see two approaches. Which one you choose has to do with your level of spiritual maturity.
Paul wrote in Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.”
The sins of your girlfriend and her boyfriend are not for you to fix. This is an issue for “those who are spiritual,” whom I consider to be the church leaders (although some may not seem or be very spiritual).Once you’ve shared your concerns with the elders, back away and leave the fixing to the church leaders.
On the other hand, if you are well along in your Christian maturity, then consider following the guidelines set forth by Jesus. He taught in Matthew 18:15-17: "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”
Let’s focus on your girl friend who told you what was going on. It may be that the reason she told you is because she’s feeling convicted of her sin and is looking for a way out. Talk to her; lead her to confess and repent of her sin and find forgiveness from God. If she moves out and stops committing sexual sin then you have “won over your sister.” If no change occurs, then we will need to get that info to the church leaders soon.
What do we do about the sinning Christian man? He is guilty of several sins: sex outside of marriage; blasphemy and hypocrisy—among others. You deal with him in the same way that you dealt with your girl friend. But let’s be honest, the chance of the man responding well is miniscule unless the Holy Spirit has already been breaking his heart.
Nevertheless, they both need an opportunity to stop sinning and correct their hearts and behaviors before any one else needs to be involved.
Jesus then said in Matthew 18:16: “But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”
The spiritual maturity needed to take several others to confront the sinning couple—and do it well—is incredibly difficult. Most Christians stumble here. It is just too painful and embarrassing.
Jesus concluded in Matthew 15:17: “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”
At this point I would definitely step aside and allow the elders to do their work of confrontation and restoration.
As a pastor who had to handle a situation like this, I can tell you we never told the “whole church” about the sinful behavior and refusal to repent which culminates in church discipline. Information is extended only to those over whom he had personal ministry. We considered this to be his “church”. Since he was being asked to leave the church we had to tell those he led why he was no longer in leadership. This stopped all sorts of rumors.
By the way, in implementing this final step, remember how Jesus treated the “pagans and sinners”. He loved them.
May God make the correct approach path so clear that you can’t miss it.
Dr. Roger Barrier recently retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.
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