"Ministry in the Dark" Survey
Exploring the pressure put on those involved in ministry to present a outward appearance of spiritual health, emotional happiness and constant victory over sin.
At the end of July, I will be speaking on a panel at the Scripture Union National Conference as part of their elective called:
"DIRTY SECRETS — MORAL CHALLENGES FOR CHRISTIAN MISSION"
This is the blurb for the elective:
"In our mission, how do we deal with issues such as domestic violence, porn and child abuse?
When we think of big problems people grapple with – domestic violence, addictions, drugs and alcohol, mental illness, and sexual struggles including pornography – we tend to think of them as issues that people who don’t yet know Christ struggle with. Our approach to mission can be based around the idea of saints reaching out to sinners. Yet statistics suggest this is far from true. The problems society struggles with are also in our churches.
God is no stranger to using broken people to reach his broken world – the bible is full of examples of liars, drunks, adulterers, murderers and cowards that God used. But as a mission agency we are less comfortable. In an effort to ensure leaders are good examples, we get people to sign up to standards which they may not meet. Sin and struggle too often get pushed under the rug as the dirty secrets we hide to be good enough to work for God.
Do we undermine our mission by not allowing those doing the mission to be open about their struggles as saved sinners? Practically what would it look like for broken people to do mission to a broken world?"
I thought I would approach some of my friends involved in ministry to get their thoughts on these topics. I've got a few questions below, but feel free to just use the first section which you can write your general thoughts or insights. If you don't know what to write feel free to skip on to the next section.
Feel free to be as frank or detailed as you wish. This survey can be completely anonymous if you like (just don't give your name and details at the end).
Thank you for your time and wisdom.
Any initial general thoughts on the topic?
In your experience, do you think people in ministry feel they are able to confess their own personal sin or do they generally keep it hidden and try to battle it alone?
What do you think makes it difficult for people in ministry share their sin?
What do you think makes it easier for people in ministry share their sin?
What pressures or expectations do people in ministry face that contribute to this issue?
Who of the following create the most pressure or unrealistic expectations for those in ministry?
The person themself
The congregation or those the person ministers to
The person's fellow staff or ministry colleagues
The person's superiors
Their concept of God or the bible
Which of the following are the primary reasons why people in ministry don't share sins that they are struggling?
They want to keep doing the sin
Fear of being shamed, rejected, condemned etc.
Fear of losing reputation
Fear of losing your job
They don't have deep enough relationships that would facilitate opportunity for confession
Those deep relationships are there, but confession of personal sin is not expected or encouraged
Ministry is too busy
An expectation that people in ministry just shouldn't be struggling with certain sins (pornography for example)
Do you agree with this statement: "In a church that really understands the gospel of grace, confess of sin should be welcome and easy"? Why or why not?
Have you ever been part of a ministry team that has facilitated personal confession or made time for people to share their personal struggles? What did (or could) that look like?
What is your ministry's structure or policy for what happens if someone involved in ministry confesses that they are struggling with a sexual sin such as ongoing use of porn?
Is there anything about your ministry's approach to dealing with the sin of those involved ministry that may discourage people from confessing? Can anything be done about that?
The bible says that those in ministry should be an example to those they serve (1 Timothy 4:12, 1 Peter 5:3, Philippians 3:17) and that they should be "above reproach" (1 Timothy 3:2). How do you reconcile these expectations with the daily reality that we are all sin and are in the slow process of being sanctified?
Consider this scenario:
A person in ministry occasionally is tempted to look at porn as they work on their computer, but as they generally are able to avoid looking at anything sexually explicit they don't take it that seriously.
Late one night though, they give in and look at porn. The next day they don't share this with anyone, but just confess it to God and decide to never do it again. But over the months, this temptation grows and the occasions where they give in begins to increase. Despite knowing that they need to talk to someone about it, they find the idea of confession so awkward that they continue to keep trying to battle it alone.
Over time, their porn use becomes more and more frequent and begins to become a compulsive and secret part of their lives. Their shame and personal sense of disappointment is slipping into despair as they don't know how to get out of the cycle they now find themselves in.
If this was someone on your ministry team, what would you hope they might consider or believe that might break the cycle of silence and encourage them to reach out to someone?
Any other general thoughts, reflections or insights?
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