“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9).
They were always watching him to catch him in a hypocrisy. An inconsistency. A dual standard.
Mister Rogers–i.e., Fred McFeely Rogers of TV fame–personified the command of Scripture to love thy neighbor and to “be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love” (Romans 12:10). An ordained minister, this creator of the television program “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” never preached his beliefs that I know of. But he certainly appears to have lived them.
I didn’t know him personally, other than through television, what I have read about him, and the recent movie about his life.
People who went to work for him on the show watched to see if he really lived in private the virtues of love and acceptance he taught. Reporters interviewed him relentlessly and constantly besieged staff workers looking for a chink in the armor, a crack in the façade. An evidence that he was less than he seemed to be.
The formula says: The more visible you are and the higher virtues you preach, the more you will be examined, questioned, pursued, and investigated. So, if you become well known to the public–whether as a political figure, a government appointee, a celebrity of any kind, or a minister in a church–you should expect it and prepare for it.
You will be checked out.
They checked out Jim Bakker and found him wanting. They checked out Robert Tilton and Jimmy Swaggart and all the others. And some were found to be woefully deficient in character.
The world loves it when those who preach the gospel are found to be as common and as flawed as their audience. “Just what we thought!” “They’re all alike.”
When a pastor of a prominent church was found to be carrying on with several women in the congregation, he was forced to resign immediately. A staff member observed, “This church puts its pastors on a pedestal. And he sure did love his pedestal.”
The problem with pedestals is that they elevate a person above the crowd and makes him an easy target. If he is already playing fast and loose with morality, then his goose is cooked from the first.
So, how does one prepare for this kind of visibility and scrutiny?
And, since we focus this blog on pastors and other church leaders, that is our concern. What can ministers of the Gospel do to survive the microscope kind of going-over they are sure to receive?
–Make sure you believe what you preach.
–Then, make sure you live what you preach. If you don’t, and if you feel that your preachments are for the hoi polloi but that you yourself are above needing to obey them, you’re cruising for a bruising.
–Decide specifically what you will do and cannot allow yourself to do in order to maintain the high standards. If you fail to do this, situations will arise for which you are unprepared and you’ll be caught. So, you should decide early on whether you will be seen in a bar or tavern, will meet privately with someone of the opposite sex, will endorse a candidate for office, will have secrets at home that no one else knows about, will hire any assistant who does not abide by the same code, and such.
–Surround yourself with a small team of strong friends who will both abide by the same standards and help see that you do also. They should have the freedom to speak strongly to you and not be sycophants.
–When you fail to live up to your own standards, do not hide it or lie or justify. Confess and apologize. How publicly? Answer: As publicly as the misdeed was.
–Pray always. You’re not going to be perfect. But you can be faithful.
If you are going to be visible for the Lord Jesus Christ, then the onus is on you to walk faithfully.