Life in the Fishbowl
The role of a pastor is akin to that of a goldfish, living in a fishbowl where every word, action, and misstep is observed by many eyes. With increased visibility and scrutiny comes a heightened risk of false accusations. Hence, Paul writes:
Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all, so that the rest also will be fearful of sinning. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality. (1 Tim 5:19-21)
Commenting on this passage, John Calvin notes:
The more sincerely any pastor strives to further Christ’s kingdom, the more he is loaded with spite, the more fierce do the attacks upon him become. And not only so, but as soon as any charge is made against ministers of the Word, it is believed as surely and firmly as if it had been already proved. This happens not only because a higher standard of integrity is required from them, but because Satan makes most people, in fact nearly everyone, over credulous so that without investigation, they eagerly condemn their pastors whose good name they ought to be defending.
I am always intrigued by the things I hear about myself. It brings to mind a story about a pastor defending himself against criticism. He recounted:
There’s a story going about that I told my wife not to go to a certain church with wild meetings. They say my wife went anyway, and I dragged her out of the church by her hair, and I hurt her so badly she had to go to the hospital. Let me respond to these accusations. First of all, I never told her to stay away from that church. Second, I didn’t drag her out by her hair. Third, she never had to go to the hospital. Lastly, I’ve never been married, so I don’t have a wife.
It is crucial not to entertain accusations without verification. Even when accusations seem plausible, they should be brought to the attention of the elders, especially the one directly involved. Creating a protective barrier around ministers can inadvertently allow for scandalous behavior without accountability. Therefore, Paul urges public rebuke when accusations against ministers are substantiated, emphasizing the importance of impartiality.
The leadership of the church and denomination must not devolve into a "good ole boys club." As representatives of heaven, our actions are conducted in the presence of God, Christ Jesus, and His chosen angels. Consequently, we must uphold their representation, and when we fall short, be subjected to public correction.