by Beth Livingston
Certified Recovery Specialist
Certainly, we’ve all heard about the scandals of some of the famous preachers (Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, Ted Haggard, etc.) who had their secret sins exposed and they stepped down from the ministry. But what about your everyday Christian, serving in God’s work as a minister, Sunday School teacher or other leadership position - how does it affect the body of Christ when they live secret lives?
Personally, I think there are a lot of people serving in God’s ministry who have addictions or naughty secrets of some kind. I was one of them. You may be one of them. If your behavior were exposed, how would it affect those you lead or teach? Would you still go to your church after it came out? Or would you be so embarrassed that you’d stop going or find another church?
How does it feel to be hiding something about yourself to your Christian friends? You would think it would eat at you every hour. But it doesn't always work that way. For me, since I was convinced to my core that there was nothing wrong with smoking pot, I wasn't really convicted in my soul of any danger to anyone. I had a secret. I knew I didn't want the preacher or anyone else from the church stopping by unannounced if I were smoking it. But, other than that, I wasn't concerned. There were plenty of people who knew nothing about my addiction.
I taught Sunday School to five-year-olds. They loved me and I loved them. I didn’t ever go to church and teach with a buzz. I kept my supply well hidden at home and never had it with me in my car or anywhere else. But during the week I smoked pot. Funny thing is - until I thought about the possibility of my pot smoking being found out, I didn’t think much of it.
I love how the Holy Spirit works in our lives. He began to show me how the children would be affected if I were exposed in our church body. They looked up to me. They trusted me. They saw Jesus in me. Their tender hearts would be confused and discouraged if it got out that Miss Beth smoked pot. Of course, there would be the public shame to go along with it – and the shame that my own children would feel for having their mother exposed as a pothead. I began to take this to God in prayer regularly to please help me.
My life was still steeped in the addiction, so the Lord laid it on my heart to voluntarily step down from the ministry before any damage was done to the young hearts He was building up for His Kingdom by my secret life being exposed. This was one of the toughest things I ever did. My heart broke over leaving a ministry that I loved and broke even more when I realized that something had such a hold on me that I would give up leading these beautiful young children because of it.
However, God used that small step of righteousness in the process of healing me and setting me free. If I could not give it up, I needed to cleanse the ministry of myself. My question to you is: are you serving with a secret that would damage the church, the body of Christ? Are you willing to face it head on and get rid of it and keep on serving? Or do you need to do like I did and step down before you’re cut down?
My brothers and sisters, what does God want you to do?