Drastic Measures to Avoid Moral Failure

Orginally published on Monday, March 16, 2009 at 7:45 AM
by Todd Rhoades

Shaun King has a great post over at his blog on how he (and others, including Perry Noble and Craig Groeschel) take some pretty drastic steps to avoid moral failure. Shaun writes:

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...

Here are Shaun’s drastic measures...

Here are Craig’s drastic measures...

Here are Perry’s drastic measures...

What are yours?

Have any other thoughts you’d like to share?


This post has been viewed 3460 times so far.

  There are 19 Comments:

  • Posted by

    1. Avoid being alone with any woman other than my wife (or mother)

    2. Open in all things with my wife - admit moral failures when they happen

    3. Do nothing with another woman that I wouldn’t want a man doing with my wife (and I’m covet 100% of my wife’s attention… so… talking is about it)
    Perhaps I’m weird, I don’t think those to be drastic.  Basic common sense to me. 

  • Posted by Brian L.

    My main ones are this:

    1.  If there is a woman in my office for ANY reason, my window is open.  If it is a counseling situation I tell one of the ladies at the church (I am the only staff, but we house a Christian high school, so I tell the secretary or one of the other ladies) that I have a lady in my office and I would be grateful if they’d peek into the window once in a while or even poke their head into the office to say hi.

    2.  If I’m giving a ride to a woman (usually someone who doesn’t have a car in cold weather or something like that) I immediately call my wife and let her know - while the lady is in the vehicle so she knows that my wife knows.

    3.  I have the BSafe filter on my computer.  It’s a VERY tough filter, but I’m willing to put up with not being able to go to Sports Illustrated.com and a few others.  My wife has the password.  I don’t.

    4.  I use (triplexchurch).com’s accountability software, and my accountability partner gets a report every 2 weeks.  (Had to change the address because Todd’s server rejected the actual spelling.  That’s cool!)

    I was reading at Craig’s posting and was surprised at the flack he and others are getting, especially from some of the ladies who feel that we are simply weak, or that our safeguards imply that all woman are out to seduce pastors.

  • Posted by Brian L.

    Oops - excuses my grammar.  It should read: My main ITEMS are THESE.

    I’ll work at getting gooder with my words...;p

  • Posted by

    Become friends with your wife. This requires thoughtfulness and effort but the results are worth the energy. Every day take time to serve her and encourage her to be her best. Focus her positive qualities - things you like about her. When you hold her in high esteem all others pale in interest.

    Why would I ever trade off my valued relationship for a cheap thrill? 

    “Above all else guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”

  • Posted by

    This is an important subject.  Just last week a Pastor friend was convicted of sexually inappropriate contact with a teenager in his congregation.  He swears it was not how it looked, but that’s just the point - it looked bad. 

    Many times we focus in on the internet and pornography and physically acting out with someone.  But a huge danger that often goes under the radar is text messaging and email or chat.  My recommendation is that no pastor should be texting or receiving texts from people of the opposite sex unless they are related to them.  No emails unless they are cc’d to a spouse or secretary.  And chat?  Never.  Just don’t do it.

    I also need to add that as a woman in ministry, this can be a frustrating situation.  I already feel like an outsider on our staff much of the time.  While I understand the great lengths we must go to in order to keep ourselves free from the appearance of evil, I wish there was a way to live and work freely as brothers and sisters without fear of moral failure.  I wish we could be wise and discerning without being extreme and making the other person feel like a temptress (or temptor) just by being in the same room. I guess it could be worse.  Women could be required to be covered head to toe and never look a man in the eye or speak to them. 

    It’s a tough road to walk.  Respecting one another, submitting to one another, loving one another as Christ loved us.  Can we do these things from a pure heart without driving a wedge between brothers and sisters in Christ?

  • Posted by

    My spouse and I have been together for 8 years and most of our close friends are of the opposite sex.  I’d estimate that 100% of our friends are mutual friends (I guess we’ve been blessed that way).  We both feel strongly that it’s not good to alienate people just because they are of the opposite sex or a certain race or a certain background (call us crazy).  Honestly, my spouse would think it was odd if I started hanging out with a gender-specific crowd (my spouse has told me that before) and my spouse definitely isn’t that comfortable hanging out with a gender specific crowd either.  We just hang out with people who are ‘people’.  We tend to not have much in common with the Southern Belles or the Alpha males (basically, people who see think that their identity is wrapped up in their gender).  We identify with people whose identity is in Christ, this may sound like a cheesy “we are the world” type of deal but it’s not.  We know the second anyone says, “That won’t happen to me...” that person has opened up themselves up even more to that specific ‘thing’ so we are not blind to that…

    Here’s an interesting thought; we see our friends that are more in the secular realm have less restrictions in this area and they see less ‘moral failings’.  Why is that?

    I think it’s possible that when we make things that are (in and of themselves) ‘normal’ suddenly ‘taboo’ we borrow trouble.  It’s like the ideas Michel Foucalt asserted when he basically said that trying to repress sexuality (or to make decisions based on things like gender, sexuality, alienating people because of their gender, etc...) was just enough of a move to bring sexuality to the forefront of our consciousnesses and whether you agree with everything he asserted or not (I don’t support everything he asserted) I think there is validity in that.  Basically, when we say “going out to lunch with a member of the opposite sex is harmful”, suddenly, we think of it in a different way; we could have had lunch MANY times with people of the opposite sex but NOW all of the sudden it has new meaning, it’s dangerous and edgy (even though it’s not at all). 

    Especially when you look at people in the secular world you can see something quite interesting; I’ve had many friends over the years working very closely with members of the opposite sex (in retail environments, manufacturing, office admin, etc...) in which nothing is said about, “Never ride in a car alone/have lunch/talk to/walk in the same building with/etc…” with someone of the opposite sex and NONE have had any failings in that area or even come close.  That’s not to say that it hasn’t ever happened to anyone in the secular sector (I know it can), it just hasn’t been my experience in the people that I know. 

    This is not to say that people don’t need to be careful, the enemy prowls around like a roaring lion.  We just want to make sure that we are honoring God with it.  We don’t want to turn into Pharisee’s who took God’s law, then piled a bunch of other ideas on top of that law (possibly with good intentions) only to place more emphasis on the new laws that were made up and not inherently ‘of God’.  It’s fine when we want to apply certain ‘made-up’ things to our own lives (and it can be helpful) but saying that everyone should behave the same way is a bit Pharisaical and we have to be VERY careful about that.  The world has seen quite a bit of that and I think we can all agree that it doesn’t help.  Again, if you want to make sure that you never ever grab some lunch with a member of the opposite sex then that’s your’ thing, but when we start saying, “you’re flirting with danger if you do…” then we are definitely (with the best of intentions) getting one step closer to having a Pharisee membership card handed to us…

    Again, for some it’s totally fine, they struggle with certain things (or maybe they don’t struggle at all) and they would rather be called ‘legalistic’ than have the opportunity to make their spouse doubt them…

    Personally, I try my best to keep the lines of communication open with my partner, answer every question directly and truthfully, and pray that God uses me to grant them the desires of their heart in the area of marriage. 

    Todd, thank you for your awesome blog.  I enjoy reading all the different perspectives people have…

  • Posted by

    Thanks for responding.  While I completely understand how you feel - and have felt that way - I found myself wondering why almost all of those responding to these drastic measures were men.  Shouldn’t women be setting the same standards about being seen alone with men?  Another question: for those whose churches allow same-sex relationships, are there any protections in place in that environment?  As our culture is changing, we may need to be concerned with meeting alone with anyone, not just of the opposite sex, to avoid the appearance of evil.  Is anyone dealing with this aspect yet?

  • Posted by

    Viki’s thoughts are definitely worth examining as our culture changes.  I wonder how Jesus would have dealt with this idea at this point in time?  Jesus always seemed to find a wonderful 3rd option… Often, He would be presented with 2 options (like stone the woman or condone the sin or work on the Sabbath or stop doing ministry) and he would always find a third option… I feel like the answer wouldn’t be more restriction… This whole business about the ‘appearance of evil’ would have limited Jesus if he let it.  What’s wild is, from what I understand the exact Hebrew translation says, “avoid all FORMS of evil” and it was translated from ‘forms’ to ‘appearance’… The problem with that is that everything can be the ‘appearance’ of evil.  Seriously, we can be so crippled by worrying about how things ‘appear’ that we let it get in the way of ministry.  We should definitely be careful but we see that even Jesus was slandered because he hung out with prostitutes and other people deemed ‘undesirable’, He could have TOTALLY said, “me hanging out with prostitutes could give people the wrong idea” but what would have happened if He did actually abstain from hanging out with people different from Him?

    The cool thing about the fact that it says ‘forms’ of evil and not ‘appearances’ of evil is that ‘forms’ are concrete.  “Appearance’ is something that could be ANYTHING and it could be used to back up any side that wanted to use it as an arguing tool.  BUT, ‘Forms’ are concrete.  That’s something that we can all smile about…

  • Posted by Dave

    Thank you for your transparency.  Early in my ministry (20’s) I took moral purity for granted.  I found myself looking at mags & products that were destructive.  I finally got a grip on God’s moral purity even though I never had sex with anyone other than my wife.  I have praised God ever since that He has given me the same simple guidelines over the past 30 years of ministry.  I, too, have people all the time coming for counseling because of moral indiscretions in their lives.  It’s pitiful!
    Thanks again for the reminder

  • Posted by Don Johnson

    This is a great topic...1 Cor 10:12 addresses the arrogant and proud here: Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.

    I am sure there is much guidance in this area, but one book that I found extremely helpful is by Jerry Jenkins called <A Href =http://www.amazon.com/Hedges-Loving-Marriage-Enough-Protect/dp/1581346646>"Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It</a>.” This should be required reading for anyone in any leadership role.

    While most interactions are not intended to bring down a pastor, the devil is no fool, and having these controls makes it much harder for him to succeed.

  • Posted by Brian L.

    All the mention of what we think Jesus might do needs to keep into account that in EVERY situation in Scripture in which he ministered to women, He was either in a group setting, or completely out in the open - as in OUTSIDE where everyone could see.

    Could it be because He knew the hearts of men and wanted to avoid any appearance of impropriety?  Notice that none of the accusations leading up to His death had anything to with sinful actions, only doctrine about the Messiah.

  • Posted by

    When this though is carried through to the conclusion we really always have to be in threes? Remember the moral failures between men and men and women and women.

  • Posted by

    I really appreciated the point of view of “J.” We need to be careful about making things “bad” which are not - thereby manufacturing our own set of Pharisaical rules - which in the end serve as more of a trap then a safety net.  It’s amazing how many rules we create - which then gives the enemy the bait he needs to begin tempting us to break the rules. 

    The key I’ve discovered is not rules, but a heart this is real, honest, and transparent with God, as well as, a deeply connected relationship with my wife.  Knowing my heart and staying in-tune with it allows me to feed and nurture it appropriately so it will not need the counterfeits. 

    I see women frequently alone in my counseling practice and do not feel tempted to have sex with them.  Healthy physical and emotional boundaries are important.  Facing and resolving our own inner needs and compulsions - including the desire to fix and rescue hurting woman - is much more important than rules like never taking an elevator ride with a woman or being alone with one.  We don’t need to be afraid of them or our own sexuality… if we are self-aware, connected to Jesus, and getting the help that we may need to resolve our own issues.

  • Posted by

    I think it’s smart to know your own boundaries and to agree on them as a couple.  I would call these “building fences” around God’s standards.

    One fence might be never having lunch alone with the opposite sex.  Is having lunch alone with the opposite sex wrong?  No.  But if it is for you then it is.

    I totally agree that we need to do what we need to do to remain pure and to not have the appearance of evil. 

    But I also think we need to be careful to not apply our boundaries that are not God’s rules to other people.

    I’ve seen Christians judge other Christians because one has a standard the other hasn’t adopted.

    For us, we’ve been married for 27 years.  One thing that works for us is that we always tell each other if someone hits on us for instance.

    Hey honey, you won’t believe what happened today.  This guy asked me this?  He was clearly trying to pick me up!

    Then we have a good laugh and both of us knows that the opportunity was there and we aren’t going for it.

    For us that works.  Would I say that every couple needs to do this?  No.  But it works for us.

    Anyway, it’s nice to see Christian leaders who are committed to pure relationships and fidelity.  And it’s been very sad to see those who fell.

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  • Posted by Peter Hamm

    I also am never alone with a woman, never drive with a woman, never counsel a woman alone, never close the door to my office when counseling (even though it has a window)… the rest…

    I also never communicate via email or phone with a minor (either sex) without their parent in full knowledge of the communication. For instance, I do NOT answer a minor’s email without cc-ing their parent… EVER… This is a big area, folks. I’ve seen teenage girls and boys wreck lives… with LIES…

    And… on the positive side of things, my wife is my best friend, and I actively pursue that friendship above all other friendships. Period.

    She also picks up my computer all the time, so I better be careful there, too…

  • Posted by Shaun King

    Thanks for this coverage Todd.  The primary criticism that I have been hearing is that people want to hear what positive things I do to keep my marriage alive and not just the drastic measures.  I hope to post those too.

    Blessings Man!

    Shaun & Crew

  • Posted by Charley Blom

    Thanks Todd, and Shaun, Perry and Craig.
    This is an area that is close to my heart. First, because of ignoring some boundaries I almost fell off the edge. Second, because my wife and I minister to pastors and one of our concerns is how do we all stay healthy emotionally, spiritually and physically to keep from throwing our ministies away because of Lust.
    In thinking about this boundaries are important but as Perry’s blog [http://www.perrynoble.com/2009/03/10/four-reasons-people-have-moral-failures/] points out if we are overwhelmed with stress and are on the edge of burnout all the safeguards in the world won’t help.
    I read of the death of a mountain climber who knew all the safe guards and in one moment didn’t attach her safety harness correctly and shortly fell to her death.
    It can also happen in the ministry.
    I not only have the normal boundaries that have been mentioned, but I also monitor how I am doing in those areas. My wife, [39 years this June] and I spend a lot of time together, talking, touching, increasing our relationship each day.
    But the other big area is in my spiritual life and walk with Jesus my Lord. I like to remember the fruit of the Spirit and use them as an evaluation tool for my life and walk with the Lord.
    I focus also on the transformation work of the Holy Spirit in my life. i.e. i take time to sit in God’s presence, build up my relationship with God, Father, Son and HOly Spirit. I make sure my prayer life is more than asking God for something it is taking time to have Him work in my life what He knows I need.

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