A minister of the Gospel must follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ and be a “friend of sinners” (Mark 11:29), but avoid the trap of being a “friend of the world” (James 4:4). This is true with all he may associate with during his ministry, for he walks a very fine line and the pitfalls very often become less obvious. This is because the pastor has been called to love souls, those under his care as well as those who are lost. The apostle Paul commands all believers, and it is especially true for church leaders, to “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). This calls for the wisdom of God if we are to deal correctly with others and yet keep ourselves “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
The desire to help those who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances has led some ministers to become overly involved and so have not resisted temptation. Pastors need to keep at the forefront of their minds that Satan seeks to destroy them and their ministry so bringing disrepute on the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore a minister of God must not be ignorant of the devices of the devil (2 Corinthians 2:11). The Lord Jesus Christ could in all purity deal with the woman at the well, Mary and Martha, and the woman caught in adultery, and it is obviously unavoidable that a minister of the gospel has to care for women also. Yet it is also obvious that he has to take great care regarding not only the association but the appearance too. We live in a day when the world would see as suspect a pastor’s dealings with a female other than his wife. God’s wisdom would lead him only to counsel another woman in the presence of his own wife, and reject any calls to pay night time visits to single women.
During his ministry the pastor will be called upon to assist all kinds of people with various problems. It is easy to avoid spending time with ‘sinners’ with the pious attitude that we do not want to be contaminated by them. Jude informs us that we have to associate with those who are going to Hell and that it is still possible, by God’s grace, to avoid becoming involved with their sin, “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude :23). Paul says, “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world” (1 Corinthians 5:9-10). Therefore it is possible to be “all things to all men, that I [we] might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22) yet without doing what they do.
Because of falling church attendance, and the resulting income from tithes and offerings, some pastors have degraded their ministry by accepting “filthy lucre” (1 Timothy 3:3). Instead of preaching the gospel of Christ they teach a social gospel within the society they intermingle with. Instead of directing them to Christ for salvation they are quite prepared to receive donations from Bookmakers, Pub Landlords, and others they have befriended who are not friends of the gospel. When Simon Magus wanted to buy his way into the Kingdom and the good books of Peter he was told in no uncertain terms “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:20-23).
Yet despite the many pitfalls that the devil creates to destroy the credibility of the minister, his work can be fruitful if guided by the commands and exhortations of God’s word. He has to be a friend, companion, and counsellor to all the Lord brings into his path. He has to be a brother to fellow ministers as well as being an example to his own people. In all his dealings with other people, both male and female, there has to be purity, holiness, and even fear. He must be there for orphans, widows, and those imprisoned for their faith, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). At all times he must uphold the Gospel and avoid any kind of discredit being brought upon it through sin. His ministry should revolve around the desire to bring people to Christ and to guide those who belong to Him to a mature relationship with the Lord.