The Sexual Integrity of Christian Leaders

Here are seven lessons that stood out to me from the new book Unburdened: The Christian Leader's Path to Sexual Integrity:

Nobody's immune. Don't ask, "Do you struggle with sexual integrity?" Ask, "How do you struggle with sexual integrity?" (p. 12) "None of us are somehow beyond the struggles of any other men in our sex-saturated culture" (p.13). "There’s not a one of us who doesn’t face real challenges to our personal sexual integrity" (p. 20).

Our integrity matters. "Our purpose in the kingdom will only be accomplished to the extent we don’t allow spiritual disease into our life that siphons off our strength" (p.14). "We can’t imagine what God wants to do with our lives if we’re willing to let him use our lives, including our brokenness, for his glory" (p. 120).

Our sexuality is a prime target. "Clearly our gender (male and female) and the union of our genders (our sexuality) is at the very heart of our representation of God’s image. Why, then, should it surprise us that Satan’s number-one target in the twenty-first century is both our gender and our sexuality?" (p. 34)

Sexual temptation is the perfect trap for the Christian leader. "Who else has such privacy, time alone, lack of accountability, a presumption of integrity by others and isolation from close friendships than the typical minister?" (p. 51)

Don't think black and white. Think red (choices to avoid because they're inconsistent with God's design), yellow (slippery slope items), and green (healthy, God-honoring choices) (p. 57). Avoid the red; minimize the yellow; invest in the green.

Disclosure is better than discovery. "While not everyone needs public disclosure, all of us need at least one or two people who know our whole story and can walk alongside us in the road ahead" (p. 18). "As a rule, proactive disclosure before being confronted results in better recovery than telling the whole truth after being confronted" (p. 63).

You can help others. "Once you’re at least ninety days out and feel you’re in a better (not perfect) place of personal application and growth, you’ll be more able to serve as a guide for other men on the path" (pp. 131-132).

Choose the Lesser Place

The first church I pastored was a humble affair. They all are, really. There were only about 30 people, but it seemed like more because some of them were characters. We stayed for seven years, and loved almost every minute.

There was nothing at all that was glamorous about pastoring that church. To most, it was inconsequential. I was careful not to see that church as a stepping stone, but I remember sensing a desire for a larger and more significant ministry.

I'm not alone. We're uncomfortable with the small, insignificant places. We want to make a difference in places that really matter.

In his book The Imperfect Pastor, Zack Eswine challenges this way of thinking. "Smaller is always better than larger," he advises, "unless, and only if, God extrudes us." Pastors: look for small, insignificant churches that nobody else wants, unless God forces something else on you.

The basis for Eswine's advice is Jesus' teaching in Luke 14:7-11 to seek the lowest, not the highest, seats at the table. He quotes Francis Schaeffer:

All of us—pastors, teachers, professional religious workers and nonprofessional included—are tempted to say, “I will take the larger place because it will give me more influence for Jesus Christ.” Both individual Christians and Christian organizations fall prey to the temptation of rationalizing this way as we build bigger and bigger empires. But according to the Scripture this is backwards: we should consciously take the lowest place unless the Lord Himself extrudes us into a greater one.

The word extrude is important here. To be extruded is to be forced out under pressure into a desired shape. Picture a huge press jamming soft metal at high pressure through a die, so that the metal comes out in a certain shape. This is the way of the Christian: he should choose the lesser place until God extrudes him into a position of more responsibility and authority. (No Little People)

"Most of us have no category for what I just said," writes Eswine. "We need help."

Nothing against big places. It's just that we shouldn't push ourselves there, and we must learn contentment in the small places. Small places matter. We need God's grace to take the lowest seats, and to find our identities in him rather than the size of our charges

12 Lessons for My Younger Self

Here are some things I wish I could tell myself 25 years ago. I knew most of them back then, but didn't really practice them as much as I'd like.

  1. Stay close to God. Everything in ministry is the overflow of one's relationship to Jesus. Robert Murray M'Cheyne was right: "The greatest need of my people is my personal holiness."
  2. Practice the basics. Your ministry will never be better than your personal walk with God. Learn how to pray. Spend time in the Word. Get grounded in the gospel. Repeat. You'll never outgrow these.
  3. Be a thinker. Practical books have their place, but books that stretch your thinking are often more practical than the practical books. Read theology. Think theologically. Never stop learning.
  4. Sabbath. Learn how to stop and rest. It's good to know that the world and ministry go on quite well without you. Work hard and rest hard.
  5. Avoid fads. Your ministry will be better off without them. Aspire to a fads-free ministry.
  6. Learn how to serve. The world will tell you that your ministry isn't significant if it's not big. Ignore this. Some of the best ministry goes unnoticed by everyone but God. Be content with being unknown, and count it a privilege to love and serve the people God has entrusted to you.
  7. Learn how to preach. If you are a middling preacher, become the best middling preacher you can be. There may be better preachers than you, but they will never preach a better message, so get that message down and deliver it as faithfully as you can.
  8. Love your wife and family. Don't sacrifice your family on the altar of ministry. Eat at least one meal with them daily, and have one significant conversation with your wife every day. Your family is also your ministry.
  9. Expect to be disappointed by people. Don't become cynical, but don't pin your hopes on others. They will let you down. Love them, but don't be surprised by their imperfections. Disappointment and hurt are part of ministry.
  10. Deal with your junk. Take seriously your idols, besetting sins, and unresolved hurts. As Owen put it, kill sin, or it will be killing you. Get help with this. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
  11. Find some close friends. Find some safe friends who know the worst about you, but love you anyway. Cultivate those friendships, and develop gospel honesty.
  12. Beware of coasting. You will coast; you're not a machine. But guard against coasting for too long. Keep your relationship with God fresh, and maintain urgency and passion in your ministry.
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Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

Discouragement and Preaching

I was in a room alone with Haddon Robinson, author of Biblical Preaching, and another examiner. He and a colleague had read through my Doctor of Ministry thesis. Haddon is kind, but he's not afraid to tell it like it is. I was concerned by what he'd find in my thesis that just didn't measure up.


I don't remember a lot of his comments from that day, but I remember one. My thesis was on God-centered preaching, which, I argued, is far better than  the human-centered preaching that is so easy to do. At one point I argued that God-centered preaching is much less discouraging. "One of the reasons for discouragement in preaching may be that an anthropocentric [human-centered] approach is unsatisfying, whereas a theocentric [God-centered] approach brings us to the only source of eternal satisfaction and joy," I wrote.

"I don't agree with that," Haddon said. He explained that discouragement is part of ministry, and that no kind of preaching would help a preacher avoid it.

I'm grateful for Haddon's correction. I don't get discouraged often, but when I do I remind myself that it's part of ministry.

I changed the paragraph to one that met with Haddon's approval:

Discouragement is part of the assignment of preaching, but a theocentric approach reminds us that our sufficiency is not found in ourselves. God, not the preacher, is the only source of eternal satisfaction and joy.

The Temptations Pastors Face

Reading Sensing Jesus by Zack Eswine has been good for my soul. Eswine understands the temptations that pastors face, and I find that I have to read his book occasionally to help my soul. He identifies three temptations that I know very well: celebrity (wanting to be famous), immediacy (impatience), and advancement. (Eswine is coming out with an updated version of the book this month, and I'll be reviewing it soon.)

Scott Thomas, C2C National Associate Director and author of Gospel Coach, also understands these temptations. I was talking to Scott about the temptations to match the standards of success in other fields, like business. Scott mentioned two ministry vows. They're different from the Catholic ministry vows, but I've also found them helpful as I think about them:

  • The Vow of Financial Moderation — This doesn't mean that pastors have to be poor. It does mean that we choose to live simply, never more than middle class. It means that we're not driven by greed or motivated by financial gain.
  • The Vow of Obscurity — This means that pastors aren't motivated to make a name for themselves. We count it a privilege to serve our people, even if we're never recognized by others.

Eswine's book, and Thomas's vows, provide the corrective I need more than I'd like to admit. I don't need to be famous; Jesus is famous. I don't have to rush, because patience is a pastoral virtue. I don't have to advance myself, because it is a privilege to serve these people in this place. I don't have to be motivated by money, and I can labor in obscurity, because that's what it means to be a pastor.

The fruit from that kind of ministry is far more rich and satisfying than the fruit of ministry that seeks celebrity, immediacy, advancement, and money.