Monday, August 22, 2011

When the preacher needs a minister

On Aug. 12, mega-church pastor and televangelist Zachery Tims was found dead in his room at the W Hotel in Manhattan.

He was the founder and pastor of New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Fla., with a reported membership of more than 8,000 worshippers.

The 42-year-old preacher made headlines in 2009 when he admitted to an “indiscretion” with a stripper. His wife of 15 years, filed for divorce soon after.

I have known Tims for several years, so the news hit hard. Police still are investigating the cause of his death, but The Wall Street Journal reports, “a white powdery substance, believed to be narcotics, was discovered with the body.”

If his death turns out to be from drugs, I can’t help but wonder if it could have been avoided. Too often pastors fail to seek help when needed.

The pressure of leading a congregation can be tremendous. Parishioners turn to their minister when they need guidance and support. But, for the pastor, there may be no one filling that role. Unfortunately, it sometimes is difficult for ministers to find confidants; many fear being discredited if their flaws are exposed.

Congregants sometimes have unrealistic expectations and can be quick to judge any missteps. Pastors should indeed strive to exemplify biblical principles, but they are not infallible. If perfection is a prerequisite for becoming a minister, nobody qualifies.

Throughout the Bible, we see examples of God’s chosen prophets and priests committing sin. While there were consequences, their indiscretions did not disqualify them from their positions.

Since becoming a pastor, I have been fortunate to form relationships with other pastors who have been a source of strength and accountability. Through the years, these friendships have helped me navigate tough situations. Every minister needs a support network.

The circumstances surrounding Tims’ death are not a reflection of how he lived; he did tremendous good in his life. We may be tempted to judge, but Jesus’ words to the Pharisees attempting to stone the woman caught in adultery are worth repeating: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

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