It is amazing to me how few Christians know their Bible regarding the topic of public rebuke and censure of brethren in sin—and especially that of ministers in error. After all, there are copious Scriptures on the topic throughout both the Old and New Testaments. The apostle Paul in particular detailed this topic within his epistles. Christians read these passages everyday… so why have not more believers contemplated their significance and application within the modern Church?
In fact, surprisingly, many will often will attack those who are attempting to apply these Scriptures to a specific situation which certainly calls for it. Labeling them as “critics” or “spreaders of strife,” such people will misapply the principles of public censure and rebuke against to those who are righteous… in DEFENSE of the ones in error. This is an obviously bizarre twist of both Scripture and circumstances, I know… but I have seen it done time and time again. Such twisted behavior is especially prevalent whenever a “popular” or charismatic minister is the topic of the public rebuke—and/or when people’s own agendas and “hero worship” cloud their good sense and proper judgment.
On the other hand, it is not surprising at all that believers are “in the dark on this topic” because many ministers teach doctrines convenient to their own agendas, and prefer to avoid teaching believers truths that might be applied against them. Never mind the fact that the honest pastor would actually have fewer problems in his/her church if they properly taught on the subject of Church discipline and public accountability of all believers—including preachers. Never mind the fact that such teaching is critical for the spiritual growth of believers—and inoculation of the church against both heresy and the “wolves in sheep’s clothing” who are often prowling for new victims.
No, many preachers (including pastors) are more inclined to shy away from such obvious doctrines of Scripture. Rather, many ministers often prefer to favor unbalanced teaching of biblical topics (particularly “tolerance,” “love,” “forgiveness,” and “submission to authority”) in an effort to avoid having people confront them on various issues ad nauseam. In fact, many preachers go to great lengths to avoid passages in the Bible that discuss confrontation of sin and public accountability.
In truth, many ministers are tired of people “messing with them” and “rebuking” them left and right (which often happens to us preachers when ignorant people want to make “big deals” over very small doctrinal differences). So these defensive ministers bend their teaching in such a way as to squash such “disrespect” and “disorder” in the Church (i.e. to keep the weird people off their backs). So it is understandable how some ministers can in self-interest find themselves stressing only “one side of the coin” within their teaching. However, this tendency is itself in GREAT error, and even leaves the ministers more vulnerable to temptations—as they can too-often end up using such distorted teaching to cover their own sins.
ALL ministers should be applying a balanced approach to these biblical topics in their teaching— one which quells error to the extremes in either direction (i.e. errant over-rebuke on one extreme, and the errant ignoring of obvious sin on the other). Otherwise they will likely eventually fail the self-imposed standard of integrity that the apostle Paul espoused as an example of all HONEST men and women of God in ministry:
But [like a boxer] I buffet my body [handle it roughly, discipline it by hardships] and subdue it, for fear that after proclaiming to others the Gospel and things pertaining to it, I myself should become unfit [not stand the test, be unapproved and rejected as a counterfeit]. (1 Corinthians 9:27, AMP)
Paul not only taught that brethren in sin should be held accountable by the Church, he also maintained that same standard for ministers—including himself. Thus, Paul also had a self-imposed reason to strive for purity and holiness within both his own heart and the conduct of his own daily living: To avoid public embarrassment and reproach for being found a hypocrite.
Now, let me emphatically note that NO Christian or minister is immune to the temptations offered daily by a world in gross darkness (and the devil who controls it). However, a holy reverence for God—coupled with the knowledge that one will be held accountable by the Body of Christ once their sins are discovered—can have a POWERFUL deterrent effect that can keep the believer (and minister) on the “straight and narrow path” rather than giving in to the enemy’s solicitation:
Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14, NIV) Further, once a minister (or believer) is held accountable for such sins by the Body of Christ, it begins a process that will hopefully lead to their FULL REPENTANCE—and their subsequent restoration to pure living and profitable ministry.