Drastic Measures to Avoid Moral Failure

by ShaunKing on March 11, 2009 · 103 comments

Nothing will zap your marriage, ministry, or leadership greater than moral failure.  Several times a week I receive devastating emails and phone calls from people suffering the grave fallout from some type of scandal. Moral failure leaves behind a certain residue that is just really hard for most folk to overcome and should be avoided like the plague.

Many people see me as an example of how to be a husband, parent, and leader with integrity and I am thankful for this, but it’s not easy and it takes a lot of effort on my part and help from other people.  In fact, I take pretty drastic measures to avoid moral failure.  I’d advise you to do the same thing.

I’m not bragging. Heck – some of you may even think that what I am about to say is weird, but my wife is the only woman I have ever had sex with. We’ve been together since I was 16 (I’m 29 now) and I have been able to avoid moral failure in my marriage by going the extra mile to do what many others might find ridiculous.  Two of my favorite pastors (and bloggers) – Perry Noble & Craig Groeschel -recently shared the measures they take to avoid moral failure and I want to share mine as well.

Here is what Craig said he does.

Here is what Perry said he does.

Here are a four things that I do:

  • My wife (and other people) has access to every cell phone, laptop, bank account, email account, voicemail, social network, text message, etc. that I have or use.  No one has the time (or desire) to police these accounts word for word, but they are monitored.
  • I go to great lengths to never be alone with another woman and have done this for the past 10+ years.  It’s not that I think women are falling all over me (they aren’t), but I don’t even want the appearance or possibility of failure to be out there.  Some people actually see this as some type of admission of weakness on my part.  Maybe so, but I don’t care.  The proof that it works is my marriage.
  • I have other people in authority that I answer to and moral covenants that I have signed off on with consequences for moral failure.  It appears that being a lone ranger is a major cause of moral failure for the majority of people.
  • I surround myself with great examples of what it means to have integrity in life and marriage.  Simply seeing and being around these folk keeps me encouraged.  It’s much easier to live a certain lifestyle in a community of people doing the same thing.

Do you have any strategies or measures that you take?  I’d love to hear them!

  • http://www.passionburnswithin.worpress.com Jason

    Absolutely agree. When I got married I offended many of my female friends by refusing to go out to lunch with them anymore. My reasoning was that if i was going to be a minister in a church people would see me out with a woman who was not my wife and wonder and probably talk. It would not matter how I felt about the person I was with.

  • anon

    Shaun – spot on, great timing, amazing vunerability & honesty. Thank you.

  • http://pastorharrisblog.blogspot.com/ Willie

    Same here…whenever I'm counseling with anyone I always have an armorbearer nearby especially when it's a female. Sometimes it seems like overkill, but it's worth having the backup to protect your reputation as well as the person you're meeting with.

  • Tarena

    Thank you Pastor Shaun for another blog post that is spot on and timely with what is going on in the world and in my life in particular. I have had debates with men who swear that it is a man's nature to lust after and sleep with several women… and that it is ok to do so! So called "spirtual" men! You are living proof of a man who has made a conscious decision to stay on the path of morality. I have a new level of respect and admiration for you! Perhaps you can post another blog specifically about sexual immorality in the Church. Recently, I had been dealing with an issue that involved this very thing. If you care to comment, I will be happy to share this experience with you.

  • Wendy

    Thanks for this. Wise council for us all.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/shaunking shaunking

    Hey Tarena! Feel free to email me any time about this @ shaunking@courageous.tv

    So glad this brings some peace to your life. It's one area of ministry that I do fairly well!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/shaunking shaunking

    This is tricky Jason. It has to still be done with a certain tack and decency so people don't feel devalued. Thanks for your comment man.

    Shaun

  • http://vinthomas.com/blog Vin Thomas

    Can I be one of the people that has access to your bank account? :)

    Good post!

  • Wendell (Joliet, IL)

    Thank you Pastor Shaun! This kind of dialogue is needed so much more in the body of Christ; especially amongst young men in ministry. This stance (amongst preachers/pastors) is not very popular in the church culture I was reared in. But, you've given me, a young pastor, some extra measures to put in place. Again, thanks. Keep em' coming…people are reading and being helped!

    "The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out." Proverbs 10:9 NIV

  • http://www.relevantchurchmedia.blogspot.com Richard Gaspard

    I have two female employees. One of them is my wife. When I hired my first female employee (not my wife, and not the current other female), I had our property management department install windows on ALL the doors in my department, and I keep the blinds open all the time, even when It's me and my wife in my office, just so anyone can see what's going on.

  • Susan Gillespie

    Every male pastor that proclaims he will not meet alone with a woman, but DOES meet alone with men in his congregation, has demoted every woman in his congregation to second-rate status, unworthy of a conversation with her pastor, and evaluating her more on her capacity to tempt, or on others capacity to talk about her, than on any other quality. Ask Ted Haggard if not meeting with women will keep you morally pure. If a person decides that not ever meeting with a woman alone is necessary, then all meetings with individual congregants (male and female) need to be in groups or in public places like the library – and that's a fine rule if you want to make it. Jesus did not make this distinction.

  • Reay

    I'm sorry, but I respectfully disagree with you Susan. My policy as a pastor when women ask to come and see me for counseling is this: I say to them that I do not counsel them alone. However, my wife will be there in the room. I have full confidence in my wife as she is VERY insightful and discerning, in addition to being able to keep confidences. I know it is not in her job description as "pastor's wife." There isn't one. But this is one that she and I have talked about and she is more than willing to do this, so as to protect everyone involved. Far from devaluing the women who seek my counsel, I believe this policy actually encourages them to know that they are very valued.
    Just my 2C

  • Susan Gillespie

    Reay, I'm sure your wife is great. So, does she sit in when you counsel men? If not, why not? And what does that say to the women, about your view of women?
    Just to be clear, I'm not just talking about counseling — I recognize that the counseling situation is difficult and there are many ways in which a situation can get out of hand, regardless of gender. I'm not recommending that you do unsafe or unwise things — I'm just recommending that justice should also enter into your thinking. It is possible to make policies about your counseling that are protective and also dignified and fair.
    Do you have women leaders in your church? Are there women in your church who would recommend a good book to you? Do these women have any access to you? I am asking everyone to think clearly about what they are saying to women by the ways these things are decided. It's too easy to make rules.
    Try imagining applying whatever rule you make for the women in your church, to everyone. That should highlight some problem areas, in my view.

  • http://www.totheriver.wordpress.com Mark Simpson

    Susan, if we will develop a pastoral care team in the church, rather than looking unBiblically to the "one man show", and have men minister to men, women to women, marrieds to marrieds and marrieds to singles, we wiil all protect ourselves–men and women. It is time to raise up womens pastoral care/counselling teams; I had one in my church and God used them mightily. When they were given real responsibility and set in place with me as part of our ministry team, our women accepted them and I am sure, felt more comfortable when it came to broaching sensitive and sexual issues. We must not demote any woman; on that point you are absolutely right.

  • Steve Sjogren

    The moral code Billy Graham has walked in for many decades has distinguished him and kept him out of trouble. He has a rule that he never would be willing to put himself in any setting that could be later spun by anyone that was out to malign him with a sexual accusation. He wouldn't get into an elevator with a woman and a couple of his cronies for example. The accusation could later be made that he said something untoward to the woman and his friends were sticking up for him. Such things may sound a little extreme but in our day of intrusive media where you can go from hero to zero in a moment such wisdom is, uh, wise.

  • Jack Hill

    Susan, I'm gong to have to agree with the other replies to your comment regarding inequity in requiring a man to not counsel a woman alone. In our case, I rely on my wife just as much as I do the Lord in the counseling setting, because as a woman, she may have a better understanding of where the woman is coming from than I do as a man. When God called us to be together, He called us into ministry together as well, and whether or not her name is on the paycheck is immaterial. My wife is intelligent, articulate and gifted; just as I see most pastor's wives. The Holy Spirit can work through her just as He can through me. How can that de-value a woman coming in for counseling? She's getting 2 for the price of one:).

  • Leland

    Susan, I think that Shaun is saying that it is not women that he finds to be the problem, but rather that he want to be sure that HE does not experince a moral lapse. I think all of us would be wise to insure that
    WE don't put OURSLEVES in a position to fail.

  • 3FlWhe

    It's good that you take your responsibilities as a pastor & husband so seriously, & your blog shows your commitment to both. I have to wonder, though: why focus on failure, or the potential thereof? Doesn't it seem more prudent to focus on what you should do to be successful in these roles?

    In short, what do you have to fear? I trust that you are not some hyper-lustful somebody just waiting for the 1st chance to sleep w/ some other woman. Since this is not the case, why do you need to be "drastic"? Why not just reasonable?

    If you trust yourself & you and your wife trust each other, and communicate clearly, effectively, & often, one wonders for what you need layer upon layer of precaution….

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/PastorK PastorK

    I agree with Susan in much of her posts, but I also understand where Shaun is coming from. Sadly, 3FIWhe, it is not just a matter of worrying about our own lapses. We are dealing with the members of the church here and I'm sad to say that, in my experience, Christians are often the first ones to jump to a bad conclusion and gossip. And that kind of gossip has unfairly ended many a ministry.____That said, there are times when a woman might want/need to talk to her pastor privately, no wife, no one else. A window on the door ought to be enough to handle that situation. I agree with Susan, because I have seen in locally in practice, that we run the very real risk of making women feel as though they are somehow "evil" in the sight of God and must be "protected against."

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/shaunking shaunking

    Hello Susan. I appreciate and even understand your perspective. I am going to think and pray about this. As you may know – our church works very hard to empower women at all levels of ministry and we never want to do anything to make women feel like second class citizens. Please continue this discussion with us.

  • http://adamblack.wordpress.com adam

    in today's day you can't be too careful. don't meet with women alone.

    i used to work in college campus ministry. when the pastor would need to talk to a female alone he would open the blinds to his office (a big picture window facing the street) and make one of the interns or staff members sit on the bench outside facing the window. even that was pushing it since we had no idea what he was talking about, but it's a step in the right direction.

    1 thess 5:22 calls us to "avoid every kind of evil" which, in my mind, means that we should even avoid the mere appearance of evil. in today's world people want to cut pastors off at the knees with any imperfection that can be brought to light, true or not. you can't afford to take the chance.

  • http://www.marceland.wordpress.com Marcelo

    These measures are neither offensive nor sexist… they are biblical. It's not an accident that the Bible instruct us to "resist the devil" himself and "flee sexual immorality". I say do whatever it takes… as the great Denethor, Son of Ecthelion, so eloquently said in his final hour (LOTR geek in the house!:0): RUN, RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! Puahahaha

  • Kelly

    Thank you, PastorK. While boundaries are very important and the potential for moral failure always present, as a young, single woman I've often been made to feel like I'm a threat, more by other single men than by pastors.

    Can't we be conscious and careful without being extreme or legalistic? Kudos to Shaun for taking his responsibility of husband and father seriously enough to be careful of relationships with other women.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/joanpball joanpball

    Very interesting conversation. I'd like to weigh in on two accounts. One, I had a pastor who refused to meet with me even when I said I would have my husband in the room. He offered up a woman who had not been to seminary and who had a reputation for sharing confidences as my only other option in a church with nearly 1000 members. I was not looking for counseling.

    Second, if a ministry can be broken because of gossip – or if the only way to keep ourselves from making bad decisions (this goes for sex, alcohol, porn, drugs, etc.) is to barricade ourselves behind layers and layers of self-constructed barriers – we are not trusting God to transform us into a new creation or to guide our steps. If I could not trust God and my desire to serve Him over my own lusts (I am a recovering alcoholic and drug abuser, so I understand desire) I hope that I would have the courage to step down and recalibrate before I decided that I could not help active alcoholics, drug addicts or others who have the potential to tempt me into wrongdoing.

  • http://www.paulpetersonlive.com paul

    Right on Shaun. People may not understand, or even criticize, but at the end of the day preserving your marriage and reputation is worth being extreme. Perry's line was a gripper for me, "My wife loves knowing she's the only woman I'm ever alone with."

  • http://Billydotcom.wordpress.com billy

    It seems Susan cares more about a small percentage of women that would feel devalued by these restrictions and in my ministry I would gladly let them leave. If they don't realize the over sexed world we live in and can't see past there feelings of neglect to see why it is important for men to do this… see ya. Have fun ruining some other ministry.
    The Fact is that I am attracted to women not men so I have safe guards to protect me from tempting situations. I am tempted by Cookies so I avoid the cookie isle at the super market, and instead head to apples and carrots.
    Many times it isn't even the fear of failure that these regulations are set up for. But the perception of people that only see you alone with a women or hear about a 1 on 1 counseling session. Then these "well meaning" vipers twist and turn things. Why give them ammunition?
    Keep it up Shuan be on guard!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/joanpball joanpball

    "It seems Susan cares more about a small percentage of women that would feel devalued by these restrictions and in my ministry I would gladly let them leave. If they don't realize the over sexed world we live in and can't see past there feelings of neglect to see why it is important for men to do this… see ya. Have fun ruining some other ministry."

    Actually, I think you may have made Susan's point for her with this statement. She believes that these restrictions are an indication that men who create these restrictions value their ministries, their marriages and themselves over the women in their charge. This is out of step when we follow Jesus – the guy who stood up for the prostitute (what would people think?) and allowed a woman to wash his feet with her hair. So much fear in these posts. What happened to the freedom in Christ that comes from a life transformed?

  • http://adamjcopeland.com Adam Copeland

    I totally disagree with you, Shaun. Briefly: the strong relationship w/ my wife insists that we enjoy other people's company–not just those of one gender. Otherwise marriage is a limiting covenant rather than a liberating one. Mainly, though, I see this as assuming women in the congregation are first and foremost sexual objects not to be caught alone with rather than holistic beings. Second, to be inclusive of those of other orientations, one would need to have the same policy for male parishoners. Either don't meet with anyone alone — which seems a bit draconian — or be equal about things.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/stubbyd Stuart

    Shaun – irrespective of the current debate of the attitude being demeaning to women I just wish my (then) pastor had had this attitude. He not only destroyed his ministry, he also destroyed the marraige of good friends and his wife gave up her fight for her life (she was dying with cancer but was believing in a full healing until this). He also, almost destroyed the Church to boot.

    God willing though we are still here 6yrs or so later and still fighting the good fight and still trying to get it right more often than not.

    Bless you for speaking out and for having the insight to have overseers.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/BillyMcGuiness BillyMcGuiness

    Yes i would value a ministry (to countless numbers of people), my wife (who I vowed to foresake All others), my family (that I unapologetically love more then anyone else), over a women that can't/refuses to see the need to protect those things and can't accept the fact that we live in a sinful fallen world and that the devil can/will/does use any thing to tear apart what God is doing.
    I don't pick up Hitch Hikers not because I don't love them… but because it is a dangerous position to put myself in. and a stupid risk to take considering I have a family that depends on me.
    I'm not saying I wouldn't give a women a ride home but I would do it with someone else… if I HAD to be alone I would be on the phone with my wife, or to not appear rude I would put her on speaker phone so we could all talk. A women that is offended by that is nuts.
    Again we guard ourselves from the things that tempt us. And from the appearance of sin.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Adam_S Adam_S

    I think you have two very important points. If you cannot speak to leadership (whether you be a woman or not) then the church is suspect in my mind. Leadership has a responsibility to be open and responsive. I also think that it is telling that a woman (or anyone) in a counseling role is known for not being discrete. That would be the quickest way to destroy a counseling ministry at a church. It sounds like the church you were involved in was not appropriately led.

    I have not been a leader in a church but I do work with many pastors. An issue that I have rarely heard addressed is that if this was a rule at a business then there would be clear grounds for sex discrimination. Now a church is not a business and I think that we should not try to make them the same, but I would want to make sure that there are clear reasons for doing something that would be perceived as discrimination from the outside.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Adam_S Adam_S

    I have to agree with Joan here. The responsibility for ourselves has to be held in tension with the responsibility for the people you are working with. If there is a clear issue with devaluing women (remember that we need to spend more time allowing those that feel devalued to speak than those that don't feel there is a problem) then something needs to change. You do not need to necessarily make yourself more vulnerable to sin, but you do need to address issues that others see as important.

  • Susan Gillespie

    Thanks for the discussion. Just for the record, I did not say or mean to imply that a pastor's wife can't have the gifts and ministry of co-counseling with any pastor. That strikes me as a detour from what we're talking about. Someone somewhere suggested a pastoral team of counselors, which is GREAT wisdom. Let's have another discussion about the best ways to provide pastoral care. What I am talking about is access to one's pastor. As a young woman who did not understand her call yet, I was completely mystified by the literal closed doors when I wanted to talk to someone who had studied about the things of God – it did not occur to me that there was anything about my thirst to be directed in my study that could be sexual in nature! I DO understand what you are trying to protect yourself from; I am asking you not to be blind to what you are saying, in an unintended way, to an innocent woman who just wants access to her pastor.

  • Latasha

    I totally agree..Look at the great mistakes of other pastors like Jamal Bryant etc…You have to set a standard of holiness…good stuff

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/shaunking shaunking

    I understand your perspective about other sexual orientations Adam. It may be best for a pastor that refuses to meet with a woman alone to also refuse to meet with a man alone in the culture that we live in.

    However, I want you and my readers to know that I certainly don't see women as sexual objects. NO WAY! In every way I see them as holistic beings. This precaution comes, in part, as a result of all of the HUGE public moral failures of leaders and is a rather drastic step to eliminate all doubts.

    I am, however, open to discussing better strategies my friend! Thanks for your thoughts. This is why I blog – healthy discourse!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/shaunking shaunking

    I understand your perspective Adam. I will be considering your thoughts and those of Joan and others as we craft our strategies for pastoral care. An insulting pastoral care strategy is somewhat oxymoronic.

  • Brian La Croix

    I've posted this at other places having this very discussion, but allow me to put it here as well:

    Is there ANY example of Jesus meeting with women alone? I don't think so. Every interaction He had was in a group setting or outside where everyone one could see. If I am wrong, please show me.

  • Jennifer

    I don't think this has anything to do with being sexist or hating on women. Discussing serious matters and praying together about such things is a very intimate experience that can often stir up lots of feeling and emotions. If a woman comes to her pastor to talk about how her husband or boyfriend or whatever is hurting her and the pastor is comforting her, she will feel a connection to him. In a painful time feelings can confuse and things can get messy. I have heard too many stories about situations gone wrong where a pastor was alone with a woman that was not his wife. Plus to people who see them going to meet alone it just looks bad! They might not know that they are just meeting to talk about ministry, so they might jump to conclusions or make assumptions that there is more going on.

    As ministers of the Gospel we are called to stay above reproach. Billy Graham has gone to EXTREMES to make sure he stayed above reproach. This is just one of those 'better safe than sorry' areas. Yeah, it's a bummer that we're all fallen and full of sin, but that's just how it is.

  • 3FlWhe

    I mean that there doesn't seem to be a reason why you need structure your life in fear of "moral failure". We are limited beings. Moral perfection is not possible; we all fall short of the glory of God. (Conversely, we are all capable of constant moral improvement.) In any case, to fear "moral failure" is to fear the inevitable, which is irrational.

    When you talk about "moral failure", I get the impression – stop me if I'm wrong – that you're really talking about scandals particularly involving a grave breach of trust: stealing, adultery, fraud, etc. If this is the case, then there are 2 treatments: trust & accountability. You seem to have the accountability portion in place, w/ your family & your church. But what about trust?

    Not to sound presumptuous, but if y ou & your wife trust each other, why do you need to give each other all your passwords? If there is trust, can't the individuals in a couple have some private spaces? If you trust yourself and your sense of discretion, can't you separate those women – old friends, colleagues or trustees, etc. that you have business with, & so forth – from more problematic situations? (Heaven forbid you were bisexual; you wouldn't be able to meet w/ anyone alone, lol.)

    It's reasonable to expect that you will exercise sound judgment & have proper standards of accountability, & that you won't have some colossal screw up . But no congregation, & no family should expect it's pastor/husband to be perfect.

    To err is human; to forgive is Divine.

  • http://www.marceland.wordpress.com Marcelo

    If I may answer the question… (please forgive my grammar)

    Actually yes He did. Jesus talk to woman alone by the well of Jacob… at least for a while (John 4). Though it was outside and the disciples joined in later, it could be considered (for the culture at that time) a long private conversation where they touched on very sensitive subjects like racial-cultural differences, her intimate relationships, and places of worship. I'm not a scholar, but I know It was a big taboo then to even speak to a woman in public. So much so that the disciples were "surprised" (a mild translation IMHO) that he was talking (not to a Samaritan, nor a person from a different racial or cultural background, but) to a WOMAN.

    He also allowed a woman pour perfume on his feet and to massage it with his hair in front of wide-opened shocked church leadership (Luke 7:36-50). Granted, it was in public. Again, I am not an expert, but if talking to a woman was big no-no, that must have been like having sex in front of all the Pharisees.

    Once he entered a room to resuscitate a little girl, but he called Peter, James, John, and the girl's parents to enter with him.

    Though we may not find examples of Jesus having private meetings with a woman to fit exactly in this topic's discussion, I'm glad we could talk about His example. Despite the much tougher social pressure, socially acceptable dehumanized treatment, risk of ministerial failure, He still viewed and related to women in a waaaay more balanced, dignified, kind, respectful, and holy manner than we do today.

  • http://www.marceland.wordpress.com Marcelo

    Errata:
    . "to" pour perfume
    . massage "them" with "her" hair
    . in front of a "wide-eye-open"

    :0)

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/shaunking shaunking

    Hello 3FlWhe,

    Do you mean that I should focus more on the positive things that I do with my family on my blog? I mainly do that on <a href=”http://Twitter.com/ShaunKing” target=”_blank”>http://Twitter.com/ShaunKing but will do that some here too.

  • http://www.lutheranforums.com/blog/ Ron Amundson

    I fully believe ministry can be compromised when such procedures are put in place.

    In some cases, we're saying the church is not capable of ministry in such arenas, and if a woman needs private counseling, she is best served outside the church. I think failure to minister to 50% of a congregation in such a fashion is a more critical concern than moral failure, albeit there would be no headlines, lawsuits, or loss of income.

    I do concede that some churches do not uphold the confidence / safety / sanctity of pastoral counseling, and in such churches private counseling is not assumed to be proper, nor a part of ministry. In those churches, its a non-issue, albeit its likely not all members would agree.

    What about youth ministry, where a specific youth may only feel confident with a specific pastor, assuming one has multiple youth pastors of both genders. It takes time to develop trust, must they wait a year or more to talk privately, such that both genders are available? Remember, its no longer a gender issue, same gender private discussions as bad as mixed, and same gender pastoral groups may be of no defense, albeit better than going it alone.

    Perhaps its best to look at gifts and location, rather than one size fits all. Just as Billy Graham's policies likely would compromise pastoral care in a small congregation, they have served him exceedingly well as a traveling evangelist. Ie, the need for 1:1 interaction is about nil, the environment is prime for moral failure, and should it happen, the consequences would be huge. Still for the small church, there may not be enough gifts present. Ie respected, trained, credentialed, and ordained pastors to provide counseling across gender, age, and marital status without opening the door to risks of moral failure or other problems.

  • Jo Arscott

    Never be alone with a woman?
    I've never met you Shaun, and I was on the brink of coming to your church.
    I followed you on Facebook.
    Read your blogs.
    But this shocks me – and surprises me.
    Is it your ego?
    Is it your lack of confidence in yourself?
    I don't want to feel second class.
    Or not good enough.
    I AM equal.
    I run a department with 30 men – I certainly have no issues being alone with them, leading them, talking intimately with them if they are having troubles.
    For a young , forward-thinking man, you sound as if you are stuck in the Victorian era.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/shaunking shaunking

    Hey Jo,

    Thanks for your comment. Listen – one thing that I try really hard to do on this blog is be honest. I also allow and promote comments because I want to learn from folk like you that can help me refine my perspective. I honestly don't think I have an ego or lack of confidence (never heard that one before) and don't want ANYONE to ever feel like a second class citizen.

    I want to clarify for you that I usually do not meet with women ALONE or without some type of visible access. I meet with women ALL OF THE TIME.

    I will consider your comment closely. Does my clarification make any difference for you?

    Shaun

  • Jo Arscott

    Shaun,
    I love your words on your sites.
    I love what you're doing in setting up this Church.
    Your energy and fresh thinking – it's what draws me to read your updates.
    I don't come from the South.
    I don't even come from America.
    I'm British…reading other people's POV's on this subject is really interesting.
    And eye-opening.
    I completely respect your values, your self-protection of your family unit.
    All I'm saying is, you make me feel like a second class citizen if you can't be alone with me.
    But you can be alone with a man.
    No matter what you say, or how you defend it, that IS sexist.
    It gives the impression that you think all women are predators.
    The thing is, when it comes down to it –
    Your self-protection mode, is about you.
    (For all the right reasons)
    But the way you set it up here, you're making it about US.
    That is what's uncomfortable.
    Jo

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/shaunking shaunking

    Thank you for understanding my motives Jo. This has been an interesting and educational discussion for me as well. I will certainly consider your perspective in the days ahead because we never want anyone to feel subhuman because of our actions. Hope to still meet you in the days ahead. Are you living in Atlanta now?

    Come on out and get some free breakfast any Sunday morning: http://FreeBreakfastChurch.com

  • http://www.hisbetterhalf.wordpress.com Rai

    Hey…sorry I tried to type your screen name but I couldn't understand what that is after the F…what does all that stand for by the way? :-)
    Anwywho, this is Shaun's wife, Rai, and I wanted to respond to a couple of things you said.
    First, when Shaun talks about moral failure he is indeed referring to the "biggies" if you will. Surely Shaun of all people knows that he will likely never avoid sin all together. And although some like to pretend that all sin is the same, in terms of consequences, that's simply not true. The fact that he curses won't destroy his ministry nor his marriage. But if he were to have an affair it would likely ruin his ministry and I can GUARANTEE it would kill his marriage. I say all that to say that it is necessary to take "drastic" measures to avoid some sins because there is that much at stake.
    Also, I trust Shaun. I trust his heart and his intentions, always. But I don't trust the devil nor those he would choose to use against us. What I know is that even the best of us is suceptible to sins we think we'll never commit. Shaun is strong, but what if one day he isn't? Shaun is also very faithful, but what if after a particularly bad day or series of bad arguments, he isn't?
    Such precautions are necessary even among people who love and trust each other because we're not always at our best.
    And it's not that I know all Shaun's passwords or that he knows mine. I probably couldn't tell you the passwords to half of his accounts, but all our accounts on our respective computers are open. None of them require a password. I NEVER check his email, nor him mine. I never read his messages on facebook or check his phone log, or anything like that. It's because I know I don't have to. But we still keep the options open for the sake of transparency.
    Meeting alone with women is just not a good idea because though his intentions are good, he doesn't know who has his best interest in mind and who doesn't, so he has to have a blanket policy for all women. It may not seem "fair" but that's the reality of life and the world we live in.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/joanpball joanpball

    "Meeting alone with women is just not a good idea because though his intentions are good, he doesn't know who has his best interest in mind and who doesn't, so he has to have a blanket policy for all women. It may not seem "fair" but that's the reality of life and the world we live in."

    I think this bit of the post gets to the heart of the challenge. The assumption being made is that the man (in this case your husband) had good intentions and that he doesn't know who (in this case the woman) has his best interest in mind which means he "has to" have this policy to protect him from the wiles of these dangerous women. Your comment then characterizes this fear posture as "reality of life." I was an atheist for most of my life and later an agnostic in recovery before becoming a Christian about six years ago. I am 42 years old and I have never met men so fearful of women as I have in the church. It is uncanny, really.

  • http://www.hisbetterhalf.wordpress.com Rai

    JO,
    To answer a few of your questions:
    No, this is not about Shaun's ego. He doesn't think that he's so ungodly handsome that every woman that comes into contact with him will fall weak at the knees. It's actually quite the opposite. In the 12 years Shaun and I have been together he has actually shown himself to be very naive when it comes to women. He never has the first clue when a particular woman is "into" him. He doesn't notice nor pay attention to stuff like that. It's for this reason that he needs protections in place.
    And it's also not about a lack of confidence in himself nor in his abilities to remain faithful. I don't know if you noted that he mentioned in his post that I am the only woman he has EVER been with in "that" way. It's not for lack of takers, I can assure you. During his time at Morehouse when was student government president especially, he was very popular and actually spent 2 years alone in Atlanta while I was in KY finishing high school. He remained faithful the entire time. So he's actually very confident in his ability to abstain from sexual immorality. What he isn't so sure about is other's ability nor desire to do the same thing.
    Also, it's not about wanting anyone to feel second class. I went to Spelman College, and pride myself on being a womanist in the truest sense of the word. So I would never tolerate sexist views from Shaun. However, we live in the real world. A world where incidences between male pastors and their female parishoners too often become an issue. He has decided not to meet with you ALONE not b/c you're less than, but b/c God designed men and women to be attracted to one another and not everyone knows how to check that natural attraction.
    And it's not that you're not good enough. I promise you Shaun cares about everyone that comes to Courageous church and their issues. And he will expend the same energy helping a woman work through her problems as he would a man. The only difference is he will not counsel a woman outside of the eye view of other people. It protects him and the woman with whom he would be meeting. You may not believe it, but there are women out there who purposely seek out men like Shaun with the expressed intent of ruining them through sexual immorality. I've been in church my entire life and have seen it up close and personal too many times.
    I hate that it has to be this way. But again, it's sadly the world we live in.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/shaunking shaunking

    Great insights Ron. I particularly appreciated your thoughts that what worked for a traveling evangelist may not always translate to a rather stationary pastor. What works in a church with a huge staff may not be possible for a church with a small staff (or only one person on the staff).

  • Rai

    He's not "fearful," he's cautious. I can only speak about Shaun's intentions, b/c he's who I know. His intentions in meeting with any woman would indeed be good. That's just what I know. Am I saying that every pastor who has fallen prey to sexual immorality did so b/c some lustful woman lured him unwillingly into it? Of course not! Often it is the man abusing his position of power that is the cause.
    If you knew the stories I knew and saw some of the things I've seen, I'd only hope you'd understand the need for such "caution."

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/fayola Fayola Shakes

    My .02 (sorry if this is a repeat of what anyone else has said — I stopped reading comments around the 20th or so one): anyone who works in ministry is a moving target for the enemy, from the seemingly unimportant mailroom clerk to the lead pastor. The warfare that goes on is hella ridiculous so it just makes sense to take the precautions you're taking.

    As your wife said, the consequences are just too great. Perhaps I'm jaded, but I just got out of a ministry meeting today and, while I won't discuss specifics, Shaun's (and other pastor's) "rules" may see excessive to some but from the inside looking out, it's a different story. Accountability and transparency are where it's at.

  • Heather W

    I agree with what a lot of the women here have shared. As a woman I have been judged for being interested in talking with men in leadership about topics of interest to me spiritually, to the point where I actually became afraid to talk to married men at all, even with someone else present. Somehow I don't think this is freedom or Life. Question to consider: Is fleeing sexual immorality the same thing as fleeing the opposite sex?

    Paul said that the commandment not to covet woke in him every kind of covetous desire. I think the same thing is true when it comes to sexual desire – if we focus constantly on not having opportunity to lust or do even worse, are we not going to awaken in ourselves and in our communities a huge pandora's box of lust and sexual tension? Are we growing if we never have to face our potential inner demons head on? If I never have to figure out how to relate with love, and honor, and purity to someone I could be tempted to lust after, have I truly ever learned how to crucify that thing in me? Or have I just protected myself from having to face it, at the expense of the experience of having good and rich relationships with my brothers (AND my sisters?)

    Perhaps it is better simply to admit that we sin…. In the community I used to be part of, we occasionally got very real with each other and guys and girls openly admitted even to one another in mixed company that they had been into porn, or fantasized about someone in the room, etc. And you know what? We didn't melt down because of it – no one ended up in an affair…. it was actually good and freeing and years later relationships have been spared because no one had to tip toe around anyone – we just dealt with things directly and believing the best about each others' desires to live right as we challenged one another as an entire community – male and female – towards holiness.
    Holiness that came from right actions and changed thinking – not holiness that came from never having opportunities to sin. Or never having opportunities to be slandered…

    I am so entirely greatful to the brave male leaders (and friends) who dared to talk to me, even be in the same room on occasion with me alone, unafraid. They have so greatly helped my process of healing from all the condemnation heaped upon me from within and without, all the shame I had built up about being in a conversation with a married man….

    They could look me in the eyes and show me they didn't fear connecting with me – and show me that I didn't have to fear looking back. Ironically, this started my process of knowing how to relate to men again as something other than someone I might have the wrong feelings about. And I'm greatful to the wives who didn't distrust either their husband or me, but were supportive and encouraging of the way their husbands ministered to *all* the people in our group, even the supposedly *dangerous* ones…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Adam_S Adam_S

    It seems there are two different issues going on here.

    1) Real desire to avoid moral failure and appropriate ways to go about it.

    2) Real feelings (primarily of women) that are being marginalized in their church. My assumption is that many of the women feeling marginalized are being marginalized in areas other than meeting alone with men.

    I think the discussion should be separated. I went to seminary at the University of Chicago Divinity School. I was looking for a different experience in seminary than I got at Wheaton College where I went as an undergrad. There were just over 55% women in the MDiv program at U of C. To the best of my memory all of the women at one point or another talked about having been marginalized by their church prior to their time at seminary. All of the women that were from more conservative background (which was most of the women there) had come very close to rejecting the church completely because their gifts were marginalized and they were rejected by the church. They felt forced to go to a more liberal school because they wanted to be taken seriously. This is not unlike MLK Jr going to Boston because he never would have been accepted at Southern Seminary or other more conservative schools. Heather, Joan and Susan are bring up real issues that should be addressed. How to appropriately validate women in the church and recognize their gifts. They have the feelings that they are being marginalize and discounting those feelings actually proves their point.

    The other part of the conversation is that Shaun and many others want to avoid the appearance of evil as well as the reality of it. Evil exists and will continue to exist. He and I and all the rest of us will have inappropriate thoughts throughout our lives, that is a part of sin. But none of us have to act on those thoughts. I am many others are aware of trolls that have sought out pastors and other leaders or famous people and offered themselves up in order to make themselves feel better. I am also away of several false accusations for one reason or another. To ignore that either of these two things happens is just to ignore reality. But these are exceptions, most pastors will never have someone falsely accuse them of having an affair or set them up in another similar way. The fact that we know that it happened to someone does not mean it will happen to us.

    Child abuse and abduction is much more likely to occur by a family member than a stranger, but virtually all news and training deals with it as if it were solely a stranger issue. Because we all know that no one in our family could do that.

    In the church I think we can avoid the appearance of sin (which is the lesser chance in my assumption) while not preparing for the women that will be marginalized.

  • Jo Arscott

    Thanks Rai,
    I hear all your comments.
    Really.
    And having absolutely no experience or history of the American church system – this was/is to be my first – of course, I see your concerns as completely valid.
    But from my completely personal and objective POV, "sadly it's the world we live in" that this church won't let it's pastor be alone with a woman but can with a man?
    "Sadly it's the world we live in" that a colored person can't sit on the same bus seat as a white person.
    I really don't in essence, see much of a difference. It's segregation.
    It's like the church is putting the fear of what might be, before the reality of what is.
    I got such a fabulous vibe from your church communications the past 4 months, but maybe take the DJ's away and the modern communications and underneath it's the same as the churches it claims to separate itself from?
    I'm really not trying to be difficult here.
    I'm just trying to understand a church system that is so different from the one I come from in England.
    Maybe a chat over a breakfast one Sunday will make it clearer for me!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Lamar_Hardwick Lamar_Hardwick

    Great Discussion. We definitely need to address these types of issues in the church. I certainly understand Pastor Shaun's perspective as well as many others. Here's a question for everyone. Does meeting with someone of the same gender alone (or the same gender depending on your orientation) neccessarily mean that you don't devalue them or look at them as a purely a sexual being and not a whole person? I think that many people attempt to set up boundaries to promote interity in their personal lives' and they are not neccessarily meant to be offensive. Being willing to meet with a woman alone does not mean that the pastor values her anymore. In my opinion it does not prove that he does not look at the woman as a sexual being and not a whole person. I guess my feeling is that the moment that we are not intentional about setting up a system to promote integrity in our lives' because it may be offensive, we take the first step toward "moral failure".

  • Lamar_Hardwick

    I have worked in a church in the past and we had Safe Sanctuary policies that specifically dealt with how to set up safe guards against sexual abuse with our children. Those policies were similiar to other organizations that deal with similiar situations. No adult was to ever be alone with a child 18 yrs or younger. No closed doors. No rides in personal cars, and there must be an adult from each gender represented for every 5 children at every function no exceptions. Honestly it took an act of congress to get the local church to adopt the policy because of the mindset that "this is a church and those things don't happen here." The reality is that they do, and having such policies help to protect THE CHURCH.

  • Lamar_Hardwick

    When I speak of the church, I am speaking not just about the local church, but the church universal. We are ambassadors for Christ. Which means that we must at all cost protect the integrity of the Gospel by protecting our own personal integrity. Our ability to be an effective witness must be priority number one. People who are unchurched have an extremely difficult time accepting the word of those who have little to no integrity at all.

  • Lamar_Hardwick

    Think about it. Doctors have safe guards to protect themselves and their practice. Lawyers have safeguards to protect themselves, and their practice. Schools and teachers have safe guards to protect themselves and their institutions. All these are in place to protect their credibility which effects the ability to provide the community with the services they say they are there to provide. No one is offended when a Dr. calls in a second person into the room to witness certain procedures or tests being done. No one is offended when a lawyer or a police officer is not allowed to question a minor without a parent or guardian. No one is offended when teachers at school are not allowed to be alone with children, because it is normally, the best case scenario for all parties involved, expecially the institution represented.

  • Lamar_Hardwick

    I am glad that there are those who challenge the church to come up with new ways of addressing these types of issues, however I believe the principal still stands. Protect the integrity of your witness at all times, because it is not about ego, self confidence, or even sex for that matter. It is about making sure that the Church's voice is still the moral compass for the world, and that can only be done through living a life above reproach.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/joanpball joanpball

    Adam: Thanks for this. I'd like to add a couple of thoughts:

    1) Part of the challenge here is one of language. You discuss "trying to avoid the appearance of sin" which makes sense. As a person who was falsely accused myself (you see, this goes both ways) I can see the wisdom in taking healthy precautions. But there is a line between healthy precautions and downright fear, and I believe that line is crossed when comments discuss avoiding evil and avoiding women as synonymous, as some of these posts have done. All women are not predators, and I would guess that the numbers of women who have been inappropriately handled or sexually assaulted in churches far outweighs that of the number of men who have endured the same.

    2) When I read the Bible I do not see that the champions of this faith created rules and regulations to protect themselves, their families and their ministries and then went out and served the needs of the people that happened to be left after being sifted through those barriers. I would rather lose my ministry (I am a writer and soon to be speaker) or my reputation because I helped a person (of any size, shape, color, sexual orientation, etc.) that the Holy Spirit put in my path then to miss one in order to protect myself and my ministry. For me this is not only about being marginalized – this is about fear, which is the opposite of faith. This is about sin and the fear of evil determining church policy and how we approach that which we have been called to do. It is about trusting our rules to protect us from sin and evil rather than trusting Jesus.

    3) I don't care who I talk to in a church – male or female. I want to talk to the person who is best equipped to answer my question. Unfortunately, the church system frequently orients women toward ministries for kids and music and hospitality and men toward apologetics, etc. This leaves the woman who is taking seriously their studies either needing a chaperone or being forced to find alternatives outside the church.

    Joan

  • Heather W

    Lamar,
    I work in the public school system, and I can guarantee you there are no safeguards in place between staff members. I may quite easily meet with my male superiors behind closed doors regarding private matters such as evaluations, etc, and no one even considers that I might somehow be a risk to the school system or my principal if I have a private appointment with him.

    I am curious too as to why none of the male voices here are willing to discuss the risk of falling into homosexual "moral failure." Here in the US it seems that MOST of the time when you hear about a pastor falling into sin, it was homosexual sin. (Not always, but most of the time.) And if we are talking about the catholic church, then MOST of the time it is pedophilia. So why is the focus on women?

  • http://www.graceandglorycc.com Lamar Hardwick

    Heather, when speaking if safe guards in schools I was speaking mainly of the children and staff relationships. However, there are policies if some sort at nearly every place of employment, school, and institution that is set up in an attempt to provide protection for the employees as well as the employer. I have also worked in the school system as a coach and I know very well that there are policies in place, usually presented during orientation. I will say that they may not be a strigent as other places of employment, however they exisits and the principle is the same, to protect the credibilty and the integrity of the institution. Again thea issues is not sex either hetero of homosexual, the issue is how to protect the integrity and credibilty of the church. It certainly can’t be done if it’s members and leaders have no integrity.

  • Heather W

    A similar, yet different discussion occurred recently on another friend's blog recently – it might be worthwhile to discuss these two in tandem:
    http://zoecarnate.wordpress.com/2008/11/14/cross-

  • Heather W

    Lamar,
    I'm wondering if your experience is regional? I can definitely assure you that in our school system there are NO policies in place regarding protection of men from the risk of falling morally with a woman. The only policies presented to us during orientation were those that protected people against discrimination, and procedures for reporting sexual harrassment.

    Also, in the case of physicians which you brought up earlier, I don't know any physicians who would not see a female patient alone in their office, unless the female's issue was of an OB/GYN nature. In that case, in my experience it had always been seen more of a safeguard for the woman to have another woman present, rather than so much a protection for the reputation of the doctor…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Adam_S Adam_S

    Actually my wife is a teacher and I know of no policy preventing a child from being alone with a student. She has been a teacher outside Atlanta and in Chicago. She takes children home by herself so they can be involved in extra tutoring and she teaching in a trailer not connected to the building and rarely has another adult in the same room.

    I have had several female doctors and never was I asked if I would like another person in the room as I was examined.

  • Dave Greene

    Helping one person at the risk of not helping all the others may not be the best course. My assistant has a nose for trouble and I have given her permission to inform me of any females that I counsel who may be trouble. She has warned me away from only 3 women in 8 years, but I do not take her words lightly. I have referred all three to competent licensed Christian Counselors and it did not get weird in any of the three situations. These women still attend the church.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/BillyMcGuiness BillyMcGuiness

    I will say one more thing. After reflecting on this over night.
    The women that are offended are making themselves the victims and calling themselves "second class." To not acknowledge the need to guard YOURSELF and your pastor from temptation and failure tells me that it's all about you. I have NO ROOM for people like that.
    To admit that I am attracted to women and therefore need a safeguard does not equal me viewing them as sex objects, nor is it an admission of weakness. It means that if and when Satan tempts me he will do it with things I like. So I need to take steps and put put safe guards in place to make it harder for those temptations to happen. Besides have any of us heard about an affair of the heart? It may not even be sexual, yet it is still as damaging.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Adam_S Adam_S

    I was friends with several women in college that once they got married completely cut me off. Basically no contact whatsoever. That was not a healthy option.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Adam_S Adam_S

    Billy why is this more a sin for the woman that is in need than for you? What I and I think many of the women are saying is not that you need to sin and violate your conscious, but that you need to recognize the reality of how your policy will affect other people. It will affect others. That may be ok, and in your case you seem to have weighed the options and think that the potential offense is worth it. What I am saying is that if you do believe the potential offense is worth it, what are you doing to try to minimize that offense. I think referring people to an outside counselor is fine, but there is a matter of the heart toward women that is important. Are women just as valued in your congregation as men? Are there valid ways for criticism to reach leadership that is healthy and can lead to a more healthy congregation in the long term? These are the real questions for me. The specific policy is less important because it will be different for different situations.

    What should not happen is to blame the victim and say any sin against them is their fault. That is true of both a pastor that has a predator act against them, a predator pastor that acts against someone in their church and a person that was not served by the church because of a policy that prevented it.

    I was involved in a church where there was an affair between two deacons. There was clearly an inappropriate power issue in the response. The male (about 20 years older and by far the largest giver to the church) acknowledge the sin to the pastor (after being confronted) but refused to allow the pastor to bring it to light or tell the wife. The female (also the worship leader) wanted to confess to an affair (not bring his name up) publicly (she had confessed to her husband) but was prevented by the pastor. She asked for permission to repent publicly for six years and was rejected. It was only after she was pushed out of the church and questions were asked that the male told his wife and the church. It was handled very badly and the church about eight years later has still not recovered.

    This is not primarily about women refusing to protect their pastor, this is about the church protecting and encouraging its members.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/BillyMcGuiness BillyMcGuiness

    Who said that sin against a victim is there fault? I said by adopting an attitude of "they don't care about me because He refuses to meet with me in private…" is making themselves the victim.
    It's not like I'm pulling anyone into the conversation. It's a fellow staff member or my wife. If they have issue with the person I bring in then we will get someone else.
    It's by no means a closed door to women policy. And if they feel un-served by the policy than they are the type of person that will find fault with anything, and I am happy to let them find fault/what they are looking for in a different ministry.
    I don't mean to come off as rude or uncaring but the move of God is bigger than one person. When you take offense at something that is put in place to protect that move of God than you are missing the bigger picture. What God is doing in the ministry is more important than your problem. My Marriage and family is more important than your problem. Your problem is still important and we/I want to serve you but not at the potential expense of the ministry or my wife and family. If you see it differently than there is somewhere else for you to be!

    The church I am a part of was nearly destroyed by a pastor that allowed himself to be alone with a women who was hurting… ONE THING led to ANOTHER and they committed adultery. divorced there spouses and caused a lot of people to doubt what God was/IS doing here in this church.

    Now I don't know if safe guards would have worked but it would have been a lot harder to commit adultery with a third party in the room.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Adam_S Adam_S

    I am sorry if I am not communicating well. Let me start with the last part. I am well aware as are pretty much everyone on this blog that adultery will bring down a church and no one is in support of adultery. I am speaking from a place of having lived through church crap as well.

    I think that it is ok for your wife to be involved in counseling sessions. I think that having an open door policy with both men and women is fine. What you are assuming is that having this rule in place will stop sin. What I am assuming is that having this rule in place will not stop sin. My assumption is that some (but not all) women will see this policy as alienating. And in your case it seems like you are still making an effort. Other women posting here and several that I know are saying that this policy as acted out in their church means that they cannot meet with their pastor at all, whether it be for counseling or ministry discussion.

    My point is simple. If this policy, as acted out in a local context, means that women do become second class in the church (because that is how they feel, because they loose access to leadership, because private meetings among men happen, but they can't participate in private meetings, because women are held at arms length for feel of what others will thing) then we are not really living out our calling to be the whole church.

    I do not want to attack you or your ministry. I don't know you, you probably have a wonderful ministry. I just want to help Shaun think about the ramifications of his decisions.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/BillyMcGuiness BillyMcGuiness

    I understand what you are saying Adam. But what I'm saying is if a women feels they loose access to me because I won't meet with them one on one that is silly. They NEED to understand the reason behind and if they don't agree with it/don't understand it than I can't help that. I fail to see how that makes them second class. It certainly doesn't make them second class in my opinion it simply acknowledges that there is a capacity to sin in a one on one context that is far greater then if we meet with another person. The idea that I shouldn't meet with a man 1 on 1 to make it fair or because I could sin there is silly. I'm not attracted to men so temptation is not an issue there. That's not to say I'm tempted every time I'm with a women but it is saying that the risk is there so I will do everything I can to avoid it.
    Just because some churches refuse to listen to Women doesn't mean these policies are the issue. I am happy to meet with and listen to women just not alone.
    I don't understand why people can't see that safeguarding yourself is needed. We all wear sea tbelts and buy cars with air bags and high crash ratings. That doesn't mean all other drivers are second class. Nor is it a commentary on there driving. It is simply a measure of protection just in case something does.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Adam_S Adam_S

    I think we are just coming at this in different ways. I don't really disagree with you that strongly. You are concerned about your own ministry because that is where you experience is. I am concerned with the other because that is where my experience is. In the end you are probably right, inappropriate use of these policies identifies something else that is wrong with the church, not the policy itself.

  • Heather W

    Billy,

    I am greatly discouraged at a faith in Christ that has to use external safeguards to keep people from sinning. Didn't Paul in Colossians say that regulations had an appearance of wisdom, but lacked any value in restraining indulgence? It's about the heart! And if our faith isn't capable of turning us into mature men and women of God who know how to draw lines in our hearts of purity, what use is it? We might as well go ahead stop fooling ourselves with our carefully protected piety, because if we're that much on the verge of destroying our churches and families every moment, we need help that no formula of "safety" is going to give us…

    You talk about the need to guard yourself and your pastor. I guess I'm wondering where you draw the line? What I mean is, should I wear only clothing that does not show my female shape, such as the Amish do? Perhaps I am not guarding my brothers by wearing regular western attire. Should I cover my hair, maybe even my face? What will it take for me to guard my brothers?

    (continued…)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Joe_B Joe_B

    I have 4 drAAAstic things I do as well.
    1. I gouge out an eye
    2. I chop off a hand
    3. I swear an oath by heavem the earth, Jerusalem, and my head
    4. I post a plaque on my door that says "Do not handle; Do not taste; Do not touch."

    Then after I've amazed everyone with my drAstic approach to this drAstic problem, I'm considering adding one final drAstic measure–that is, I'll call "moral failure" by a drastic new name: ADULTERY. Then perhaps I will toy with the idea of just…not doing it.

    If it has pleased the father to give me eternal life, and to give to us the Kingdom, perhaps we should just begin by being content and not making such a big deal of ourselves. Why do big-shots fall? Because they think they deserve one of everything. All of theirs and one of mine.

    Supersize someone else. Make mine a small.

  • HeatherW

    This type of thinking is the same thinking that causes certain religious groups to not have certain color stoves in their homes. They want to guard each other from envy, and figure that if there is something unnecessarily colorful, like new stove, that it could provoke another member of the community to envy. They want to protect each other. And they do not wear buttons on their clothing for the same reason: someone 200 years ago when buttons were first introduced expressed concern that buttons on some women's dresses were provoking other women to envy them. So they banned buttons.

  • Heather W

    So how far do I go to protect my brothers, before you can say that I'm not living for "me" anymore? How many rules will it take to be safe? After a while, we won't really need the Holy Spirit or a Savior, because we've figured out how to keep ourselves pure without needing His power over sin. We just never allow ourselves to be in any position where any sin could possibly happen, and we will seem all white and shiny on the outside, where it counts, and our ministries will flourish. And Jesus will smile.
    Forgive me if I sound just a little bit incredulous at your reply.

  • Lamar Hardwick

    Again, not an issue or gender or sex. It is an issue of maintaining integrity. That is the purpose of such policies. There is no policy for men to be protected from falling morally, but the principle of sexual harrasment policies is to promote decent and respectful work relationships, hopefully to avoid any situations that would effect the credibility of the school and school system. I understand this because when something unfortunately does happen that is inappropriate, those documents are then pulled, often times so that the school can protect themselves by proving that they explained the policy that is designed to maintain appropriate behavior at the work place.

    In I did say for certain types of exams and procedures they will often pull a 3rd party into the room. I didn't however, make the disctinction between what gender the pt. or Dr. was. And your right it is a safe gaurd for the women, but I am wondering why you assume that it is not a safe gaurd for the physician as well, male or female.

  • Lamar Hardwick

    Perhaps it is school district or county related. But I have worked at both public and private schools, and there is even training done by DHR yearly on how to relate to the children for both their protection and yours. Unfortunately it is not always a matter of adults taking advantage of the children, sometimes children have submitted stories that are false or misleading regarding their relationships to teachers and staff. They training even goes so far as to teach teachers and staff how to hug children in a way that can not be considered inappropriate touch. Perhaps the experience is not the same with your wife, however I would not say that such policies don't exist.

  • Mary Held

    Bravo Shaun!

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  • http://leadingchurch.com Paul_VK

    Very interesting discussion. We are free in Christ and if you find these steps helpful then you should pursue them. Part of pursuing them is to explain to people why you take these steps which is also appropriate. From that you of course also take the commentary and perspectives of those who disagree or are upset by them, as was seen in this discussion. Moral failure of a sexual nature is a problem and good steps can help.

    Thoughtful Christians have long noted, however, that sin is not so easily dealt with through external constraints, in fact sometimes the way those remedies are pursued in fact tempt us in other ways.
    Does the heightened profile of safeguards in this one area create an implicit hierarchy of sin? You take elaborate steps to safeguard from sexual sin, but what about gossip or gluttony?

    Some have noted that the contrast of the Sermon on the Mount, for example, was not between the irreligious (younger brothers of Luke 15) and the religious, but rather between the religious (older brothers of Luke 15) and Christ followers. The point of the lesson was not so much to drive followers into tithing salt and pepper, but into realizing the insufficiencies of their resources in beating this enemy and therefore driving them to rely on God's grace. Recipients of God's revelation have had a peculiar history with that revelation. Some thought that devotion to God should best be expressed by hedging that law in order to be extra sure they didn't break it. Jesus didn't follow them into the tradition of the elders (which in fact Jesus contrasted and critiqued in the Sermon on the Mount). Galatian believers undoubtedly imagined that if believing was good, then being very circumspect about the Old Covenant would be better. Paul disagreed.

    I guess I don't have a problem with the individual choices we make, and measures we choose as disciples to honor God and shun sin. That's certainly all good. But how do we talk about it? Faith in measures and standards that develop into a contemporary evangelical "tradition of the elders" may find a way of becoming a kind of sin that threatens our relationship with Christ at a deeper level than even an adulterous affair.

    my two cents. pvk

  • 3FlWhe

    Sorry, been busy, can't seem to respond as quickly as I'd like. But I understand where you're coming from. I just have difficulty believing that women are so fundamentally untrustworthy that we can't use our adult sense of discretion and good judgment. Forgive me, but it would seem truly "courageous" is Shaun simply said, "look, I'm an adult, and a faithful husband, and I have sense enough to distinguish btn the avg woman & the one who might have sinister motives."

    It seems like the bigger problem, again, as you allude to, is that people in these positions manipulate others & abuse their power.

    Let me say, though, that I don't believe in "the devil".

    Also, as far as moral failure, there's another thing: forgiveness. To err is human; because they are imperfect, & God loves them, we should forgive. When the person is truly repentant, & take steps to mitigate the damage they did, and to avoid making the same mistake in the future, perhaps we should even begin to trust them again.

    Thanks, Rai, for commenting.

    Btw, it means, 3rd Floor Wheeler (Hall), where my major was housed.

  • Jon

    Have you ever researched what professional standards are laid out in professional counseling programs. Not only christians have found it difficult to behave ethically at all times, so what might we learn from the counseling field about the emotional vulnerabilities created and encountered in counseling situations? And if there is a question about equality, (i.e. if a man can't counsel a woman alone, then why can he counsel a man alone?) then shouldn't it address the issues of sexual orientation instead of gender? Because the risk is related to attraction… Anyway, I hope these remarks aren't too far off the mark. BTW, in a world where sexual harassment is a real issue, and the church is full of imperfect people, don't let anyone pressure you into a compromising situation where you can't protect yourself from allegations. Something about doves and serpents in there, probably.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/redeemedM redeemedM

    Billy,
    Are you relying on your intellect or the leading of God. Call me crazy, but I have picked up men, women, children and pets, when I was led by His spirit. I survived to tell about it and could spend hours telling you the ways I have been blessed. What about the time I had prayed all morning for a miracle (I have some serious health opportunities). I felt led to pick up a family walking down Memorial Drive. They had two daughters and one of them kept crying. When I asked about her name, they said it was grace. When I asked about the other child's name, it was miracle. I would have missed my "miracle" if I had thought about all the things this man could have done to me and my van ( I mean God's van).
    I think Jesus was accused of taking some pretty "stupid" risks. So glad he did. I was one of them.
    I don't think it helps to call someone who has a different opinion from you as nuts-maybe their life experience has been different from yours.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/redeemedM redeemedM

    Joan,
    You read my mind exactly. The above discussion is a big part of the reason I have not attended formal church in several years. I have a ministry background and have been actively involved in church my whole life (44 years) until recently primarily because of the legalism that did anything but nurture a close relationship with God. I found out about the Courageous Church and began reading some of the blogs a few months ago. I was drawn to the church because I have typically been involved with inner-city churches that were considered out of the box, served the least of these, positioned themselves as soldiers in the Lord's army, etc. Just as I have to take a second look at a man I am attracted to (because I often am attracted to relationships that feed my broken flesh), I had to really take a second look at whether or not I wanted to get involved in another "intense" church because it could end up feeding my legalism, need for rules, pattern of having to perform and be perfect, etc. (Not to mention I had a breakdown after going through a trauma that involved church leadership) I believe it was God just telling me to proceed with caution.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/redeemedM redeemedM

    I believe that churches/denominations often cater to the areas of our flesh that we rely on or our neurotic issues (i.e. Presbyterian doctrines-lend themselves to those of us who rely on our intellect, Charismatic churches-lend themselves to those who rely more on emotions, etc.). Not knocking any because I have been part of both and learned a lot I do think that those of use who have issues with having to perform to be loved, shame, etc. are often drawn to churches where there are lots of rules, control (often coming under the cloak of "we need a covering.") I thought it was Jesus who covers us, you know like the mother covers her baby chicks.
    I

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/redeemedM redeemedM

    I know I am way off the primary issue here, but what I am trying to get at is that Joan is dead on. I also hear so much fear. I actually starting feeling panicky as I read through these blogs. Is our trust in Him, His grace, love and power or in our rules and ability to be perfect? I realized in reading this blog that the main reason I do not want to go back to organized church is because we always make it so darn complicated. I am committed to going back to Sunday School 1 on 1-believing that God loves me and that His grace is sufficient. So much of what we do is cultural Christianity and very far from the person of Christ. Just as you said, Jesus wasn't scared to be seen with a prostitute. Perfect love cast out fear. Are we courageous enough to believe this?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/redeemedM redeemedM

    I am not naive; believe me I have been through more of my share of struggles and am currently in the midst of fighting for my life. I just believe that God has called us to something much higher than this. Are we more afraid of a scandel than we are of missing the real deal?
    Thanks for providing this opportunity for me to process and vent.

  • http://www.lutheranforums.com/blog/ Ron Amundson

    redeemedM,
    I think some are more afraid of loosing their family, loosing their ministry, loosing their reputation, etc. Yep, I too have been down the path, and have the battle scars. Risk management is always a concern, and to not be aware of what one is potentially walking into is foolhardy. However, depending upon ones gifts, it is either a risk one must avoid, or one must walk head on into. I think you see it that Christ calls us to sacrifice, and it may mean we could loose everything. Others without the gifts, see to do so would be borderline irresponsible, and barriers are a must.

    I know pastors who have been on both sides of this, and yes, some innocent men of God lost everything… but they would do it again if God asked. How many would risk their lives to share the Gospel in unfriendly lands? Not all are called nor gifted in that arena. Some are called locally, and to protect their ministry, their friends, their family. Others are called to potentially give it all, yet each is in service to Christ as they are able. I do concede some of this could be the influence of cultural Christianity, but being the idealist I am, I’d like to think its more an issue of gifting.

    By the same token, for those with the barrier approach, consider what happens when a so called troll comes in and makes accusations of homosexual advances, female focused safeguards will make no difference at that point. Is the solution to pull clergy out of all 1:1 roles, and leave counseling to the secular world due to this risk? Granted, its an extreme, but it is part of being wise as serpants to consider.

    That being said, I go back to my gift comments from earlier. Not everyone is gifted for counseling, nor 1:1 counseling, nor other than same gender 1:1 couseling for that matter. Not every one has the same faith, same scriptural interpretation, same risk aversion, or even same culture, same geography etc. With the bit of background which was provided, the safeguards proposed make sense for Sean. Be that as it may, if said safeguards are implemented, it is up to Sean and his ministry team to come up with solutions to ensure the entire congregation is served. Fortunately they are a larger org, they will find a way to make this happen. Its a whole different ballgame for the 50-100 person church with a single pastor.

  • http://www.lutheranforums.com/blog/ Ron Amundson

    My apologies, egads, I am an idiot, sorry to mispell your name….

  • Paul

    I don't know what to do or how to even begin the process of change. I've been on my knees praying the entire week. I just finished reading the blog drastic measures to avoid moral failure and I can honestly say I am running at full speed into a pit of total spiritual and moral decay. The company I have been working for is in shambles and has yet to pay me for 3 months of work, my roommate's house is getting foreclosed, and another roommate is in the process of killing himself with cocaine and heroin. I would like to think I could be the shining light that is a beacon of hope to these two, but instead I find myself sinking into a mind set of desperation. I have sent over 2,000 resumes out and I was blessed with a job, pt that pays 7 dollars an hour. I have move from this situation because it is tearing my soul to pieces. And of course the first thing my mind runs to is selling drugs. I can barely find a job to support myself, but the dealers believe in me enough to give me a kilo to sell. Do I live comfortably by destroying the lives of men, women, and families by feeding addictions? Or do I reach out and make myself transparent and believe my God is greater than all the forces that wish to see me submit to a life of evil and death? My Father in Heaven will not allow me to fall when I reach out for him and I don't know how I am going to get out of this, but I know I need help from people who's hearts belong to the King of Kings. I need help, I need help now and I am hoping and praying it will begin with this post.

    Paul

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/BillyMcGuiness BillyMcGuiness

    Heather, you are going to far extremes to make a point. To do so is comparing apples and oranges.
    Do I think a women should dress modestly? Yes. Does she need to cover her head, and face, and where a big frumpy amish dress? No. Does a women need to be careful about "showing her female shape?" Yes! I don't blame women for being attractive… That's silly. But to not acknowledge what it has the capacity to do in a mans heart and mind is foolish of a women. You don't dress in tight close cause they are comfortable. The bible is clear that we should not be a stumbling block. It is also clear that we aren't "living for "me" anymore."
    Faith alone doesn't keep us from sinning. It's not Pious to acknowledge that I have a capacity to sin at any moment. Does that mean I'm on the verge of sinning all the time? Yes and no…. I have a sin nature. Does that make me unable to lead people? No. I think you have a super human view of what church leaders look like. and with that kind of perspective you will be disappointed every time.

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  • Liz

    This reminds me of something that happened years ago when I first became a "participating" member of a church. We were shopping for a new pastor and they had one of those meet and greet with a time for questions. One thing that I had really admired about the pastor who had left was the way he had an open door policy two days a week – the other days were for meetings, appts, prayer, preparing sermons. If you had something you wanted to discuss with him or ask for advise you could drop in on him. He asked if it was going to be longer than 30 mins that you made an appt. So – I asked this pastor what his practice was as far as open door, appts etc. He immediately went into some long diatribe about how he would never meet with a woman alone blah blah blah. I didn't really get my question answered and I felt like I was being treated as if I had made a sexual advance. It was very embarrassing and demoralizing to me. I think a better solution would be to NOT announce that you are not meeting with women alone and if you feel it is necessary you could take some other precautions – meet in a public place like a coffee shop or have a place set up in the lobby of the church where you will be sitting in the open but no one is close enough to hear your conversation (there aren't that many people at church during the day) or glass doors so that people can see in your office when the door is closed. These are things that could be done and the woman would never know the difference and you could be protected. I personally think it seems unneccessary but if this is what you and your wife are comfortable with I think there is a more sensitive way to handle this so that you don't make women feel like they are being thought of as sexual objects and/or deviants. I wonder how you handle women on staff and how you think a woman who is a pastor should handle this situation – what about youth ministers – they are often men who are working with a lot of women volunteers – and then there is the music minister who is often a man working with a lot of women in the choir. It seems that this kind of restriction could really get in the way of doing God's work.

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  • Susan

    Wow. It's been a while since I visited this thread, and I am truly shocked to read your comments. You keep talking about women who "can't see" the need behind your rules (and such a woman can take a hike, in your opinion). But you can't see that if/when you invite men into your office to discuss say, the future direction of the church, or to hear their view of ministry, or to instruct them, but you close the door to women in the same circumstance because of a rule that is about protecting you, you have demoted them and let them know in the clearest way that as far as you are concerned, they are unworthy of the same ministry. Like it or not, you are supposed to be the pastor of the whole church. I am not suggesting that you put yourself in situations that are dangerous or easily misunderstood. I AM saying that you have the responsibility to consider what you DO as carefully as what you SAY with regard to ministry to your whole congregation. Others here have testified that they have felt demoted by such policies. Can you not hear? What an indictment against pastors if we are unwilling to change what we do if it has unintended consequences; what a further indictment if the solution to not wanting to hear such things is "go ruin some other ministry."

  • EL D

    I know I'm late to the discussion…But I personally think it was more courageous of Shaun to acknowledge the potential for SIn and to take a stand that may be unpopular but does the most to guard him from falling into this particular sin….Your replies have been in the vein of 'we're all going to fall into sin..so why try to stop the inevitable'……I disagree…That's what this Christian walk is about…understanding that sin exists and we MAY become participants but understanding we have a redeemer who IS able to keep us from falling…and seeking to walk by His spirit in that type of life…We don't HAVE to accept sin as a way of life…I think the pastor is very wise…the best way to resist temptation is to not be tempted…Don't willingly put yourself in a situation where there is an option to fail….There are too many other areas of life where we don't have such control…why willingly add to that…Pastor Shaun…keep being a man of purpose, walking upright before God and the people!

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