RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–It should come as no surprise that Catholic priests aren’t the only church leaders succumbing to sexual sins. A former pastor of Victory Baptist Church of Avon, N.Y., was charged in May with sexually assaulting a 15-year-old male in his home. In Milwaukee, an Assemblies of God pastor was sentenced in July to five years in prison for extortion and sexually abusing a church member.
It’s an ages-old problem. King David’s glance at Bathsheba led first to adultery, then to murder.
Men of God are as vulnerable to sexual sins as those not in the ministry, said Danny Singleton, minister of pastoral care and men’s ministry at First Baptist Church in Woodstock, Ga.
“Christian men are being defeated by sexual sins because we overestimate ourselves, we underestimate Satan, we under-evaluate sin, and we are unaware of snares,” Singleton told a group attending the men’s ministry track during a discipleship and ministry teams conference at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina, July 7-11.
“What we watch on TV today, we would have run screaming in the streets in the ’50s,” Singleton said. “I dare you to find anywhere in the Bible where God lowered the standards.”
Adding to the prevalence of sex on TV and movies is the glut of pornography sites on the Internet, he said.
“Do you know what pornography and spirituality have in common? They are the two most common attractions on the Internet. But spirituality is a distant second to pornography.”
A survey of 1,000 pastors and 1,000 subscribers to Christian magazines found that 12 percent of pastors had been involved in adultery while in the ministry, and 23 percent had acted in sexually inappropriate ways, Singleton said. Of those who were not pastors, the survey found 23 percent had extramarital affairs and 45 percent had acted in sexually inappropriate ways.
A separate nationwide survey of Christian men found that 53 percent acknowledged fantasizing about other women, 54 percent felt shame about past sexual experiences and 75 percent have secrets they won’t share with anyone, he said.
“Christian men are just as vulnerable as any other men,” Single said. “We are just one step away from sin. We live in a sex-saturated society, and we have to be careful what we expose ourselves to.”
About 11 percent of the calls to LifeWay’s LeaderCare helpline are related to inappropriate sexual behavior, according to Barney Self, LeaderCare counselor. The counseling helpline is available for ministers and their families. The number is 1-888-789-1911.
Singleton related a story about how he and his wife were on an elevator in Chicago when a beautiful woman stepped in wearing the same style of dress he had bought his wife the year before. He complimented her on her dress and a Christmas brooch she was wearing, telling her his wife would love it.
When the woman left the elevator, Singleton’s wife asked him what he would have done if she hadn’t been there with him and the woman warmed to his compliments.
“Guys, I wasn’t thinking anything like that. But what if that woman had have been lonely and my marriage wasn’t as strong as it is? These are just things you have to watch out for. If you think you are standing firm, be careful you don’t fall.”
The first step of adultery is the notion of “exceptionism,” he said. “It’s the notion I don’t have to follow the rules like everybody else.”
As with David and Bathsheba, one small sin can lead to other larger ones.
“First David looked at Bathsheba and said, ‘Dude, she’s hot. Who is she?’
“David gave in to his natural inclinations, and the sin of impulsiveness turned into the sin of callousness with the murder of [Bathsheba’s husband] Uriah.”
But consequences existed, he said. The baby who Bathsheba and David conceived out of wedlock died, Uriah died at the battle front where David sent him and many of David’s servants died.
“Every time we sin, the Holy Ghost brings conviction in your life to get you to repent. If you don’t, if you rebel, then God will chastise and confront you. You are going to get caught and God is going to make it public. A secret sin on earth is an open scandal in heaven.”
Singleton suggested that Christian men who want to avoid the traps of sexual impurity find an accountability group of likeminded guys. For those who have already strayed, find someone to confess to.
“Be honest and tell the truth to somebody who can help you walk free. Sexual sinners hold the false belief that if people really knew them, they would reject them,” Singleton said. “But, Bubba, we need to love the guys right where they are and help them get to the blood of the cross.”
Among Singleton’s suggestions to men who want to maintain a pure life:
— Run away from temptation. Be on guard.
— Accept responsibility.
— Be accountable. “Listen to your wife. God made her to nag, whine and complain for a purpose. She can see things you can’t.”
— Be on guard.
— Choose your friends carefully.
— Determine to live a pure life.
“And if you are confronted with temptation, speak Scripture against it. How many verses do you know by heart? You better learn some.”
Among books Singleton recommends on the topic of sexual sins: “Breaking Free” by Russell Willingham, “Men’s Secret War” by Patrick Means, “Every Man’s Battle” by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker and “Faithful and True” by Mark Laaser.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: STAYING PURE.