Joel Sarli was Associate Secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association and the second editor of Elder’s Digest when this article was written.

We are living at the end of the times. The church of Jesus Christ needs more than ever all the strength available to fulfill the Gospel mandate. (Matthew 28:18-20.)

Satan is doing everything possible to destroy the credibility of the channels through which Jesus wants to spread the knowledge of His plan of salvation in the world today.

We are in the frontline of the great battle going on between Jesus and Satan in this generation and we need to beware of the strategies Satan uses to reduce our effectiveness in doing the great work so decisive in these last days of human history.

There are some people today who want to minimize the importance of the personal influence of the one that exercises leadership among God's people. But the reality is that God still continues using people to reach people with the message of salvation. God still needs human instruments in His program to rescue people from Satan's territory.

Only a few things can destroy the strength of your ministry as a leader. Sexual misconduct is definitely one of them. What begins as a friendship or counseling relationship can become a sinful affair. Even if the relationship never actually becomes adulterous, an inappropriate sexual relationship can destroy your influence, hurt your family, and damage your church. Here are a few tips to help elders to avoid the trap of sexual misconduct.

1. Don't put yourself in a dangerous situation.

The attention of an attractive person may be flattering, but even the best of people can do the worst of things.

2. Minimize the risk.

Never counsel someone alone. Try to have somebody in the place or in an adjacent area when counseling. Perhaps you could ask a senior officer to be present while you counsel.

3. Know when to refer.

Limit your counseling to one or two sessions and for no longer than one hour in duration. If someone needs more counseling, you should probably refer him/her to your pastor or a Christian professional.

4. Keep your spiritual life strong.

Spend time with God every day.

5. Watch out for some warning signs such as:

* You find yourself looking forward to someone's visit, thinking: What shall I wear today? Will she/he like this?

* You rearrange your schedule to accommodate time spent with a woman, even for "legitimate church business."

* You meet in inappropriate locations, at lunch, in his/her home, in your office after hours.

* You find yourself nurturing fantasy. When someone falls, that fall is never sudden. Only the discovering of the fall is sudden. The fall is the result of wrong thinking that began well in advance of the affair.

* You begin to withhold information about your activities from your spouse.

A survey by Leadership magazine revealed that almost one clergyman in four admits to engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct.

Some spiritual leaders think they are safe because they do not perceive that they are "handsome" or "attractive." Remember, people are attracted to others for many different reasons, including power, influence, prestige. Elders must constantly be on guard against this temptation.

Giving in to sexual temptation can cost you and your congregation dearly. Your family will be hurt. Your reputation will be destroyed. Your role as leader will be greatly damaged. The other person and his/her family will be deeply hurt. Ask any one who has fallen. It's a trick from Satan. It's not worth it.

There are strong reasons for avoiding sexual misconduct. But there is a more powerful reason. Sexual misconduct is sin. Your ethical, moral actions must please Jesus, the One before whom you will one day stand to give account.

Joel Sarli was Associate Secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association and the second editor of Elder’s Digest when this article was written.

2003 First Quarter

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