Pastoral Accountability: Are there red flags you should be watching?

Anyone in the church or even outside the church is all too familiar with the long chain of stories concerning ministries and leaders that have been shipwrecked by scandal.  It’s an unfortunate black eye that the bride of Christ has had to sport for far too long.

However, it is also a reality of ministry because in the end churches are made up of imperfect people and imperfect people make mistakes, sometimes catastrophic ones.  This being said, I think it is fair to say that by in large most church scandals involve one of two things … money or sex, sometimes both.  Why is this?

Well, I’m sure we could debate that for days but in my opinion it is primarily for two reasons:  1) nothing competes against God for your heart like the love of money, and 2) ministry leaders are mostly men and men battle with lust on a daily basis.  The question then is this … What do we do?  Can we afford to keep having these newsworthy failures on a semi-regular basis without losing all credibility?

The world looks at the church and sees hypocrites because in their minds, we are just like them.  The thing is, they are right … we are just like them.  We are all sinners, we all screw up, and we all need a Savior.  Yet Jesus calls us to set the bar and not crawl under it.  Sin is unavoidable, broken people are unavoidable, and too an extent failure is unavoidable so again … what can we do?  Here’s what we need to realize … failure may be inevitable but usually there are red flags along the way that if detected could save both the person and the ministry a horrible blow up.

Accountability is so huge, especially in ministry.  Sometimes, because of pride, leaders look at accountability as an invasion of privacy instead of a hedge of protection.  We don’t want people asking us about finances because of course we are stewarding God’s money well!

We don’t need to answer questions about counseling the opposite sex or what we do with our computer time because we are God’s servants and if anyone understands purity we do!  People better not ask us about our family dynamics because obviously we can lead our families if we can lead a church.  This type of mindset is riddled with pride.  The thing is we should not only invite accountability, we should demand it. sees emails from pastors all of the time who slipped into habitual pornography viewing quite unintentionally and by in large they have no accountability.  Maybe if they were running accountability software like X3watch their accountability partner would have confronted them earlier sparing them years of addiction and self-imposed shame.  Everyone needs accountability but in ministry it is absolutely critical!

Most men don’t start with child pornography or escorts … they start with porn.  Most pastors don’t spontaneously start an affair; they do so because their relationships with women in the church weren’t being kept in check.  If you don’t want the ministry God has blessed you with to end in disaster get accountable.  Put in safe measures.  Insist on a culture of transparency among your staff members.  Install X3watch on all of your leaders’ digital devices and make sure they have trustworthy accountability partners in place who will love them but love God more.

Yes, it may be uncomfortable.  It may not be welcomed by all your staff.  However, you are called to God and his churches first and foremost so fear of man issues aren’t going to cut it as far as the excuses go.  If you love God, love your church, and love your staff you should insist and implement strong accountability measures because a red flag is easier to address than the aftermath of a scandal that may ensue.

Carl Thomas blogs for & coordinates their X3groups recovery program. is the leader in tackling issues of pornography and sexual addiction.  Their focus on awareness, prevention, and recovery solutions has helped thousands of men and women find freedom and purity through Christ.  Carl is passionate about helping others escape the hold of sexual addiction and desires the same freedom for them that he himself has found through the help of this ministry.


  • marksimpson1953 November 27, 2012 Reply

    Teh message is good but there are many products available to help us with our internet input, not just the one advertised. I always like messages better when they are not also advertisements.

  • Peter D. November 27, 2012 Reply

    I zeroed in on the part about hypocrites. I would have to agree, there are a LOT of hypocrites in the church. Truth be told, most people are hypocritical about something at one point or another. What the world who points the finger does not realize is there are hypocrites everywhere. In church, at the store, at work, in politics.

    But pastors are really of a different caliber, and much more is required of them than the regular church attender. There is a misconception that pastors must be above reproach. Another truth is that no one is above reproach, anywhere. Success is surrounded by a whole lot more failings, and pastors are even more vulnerable. Accountability is crucial to help prevent the pitfalls of sin, not just in the pastorate, but as Christians in general. Those who balk at it are in it for themselves, and I would have serious doubts about their ability to lead.

  • Myra November 29, 2012 Reply

    sexual immorailty
    Thank you for sharing your insights regarding accountability in Christian ministry. As a woman, my attention is drawn to the sin of sexual immorality. Yes, pastors must exercise their gift to “FLEE” from temptation BUT, women must also help them and one another, by becoming transparent. For example, the older women and those who are spiritually mature should be ALLOWED to counsel other women who are in danger of willfully tempting the pastor, and those who are vulnerable. II Timothy and Titus supports this plan of action, BUT it is often shunned and viewed as being judgmental or meddling in the affairs of others. Christian women need to recognize that they have the POWER to control how far sexual immorality can go, by simply refusing the advances of the pastor and other lusting men. Christian congregations should support practical teachings that help women address real life issues in a way that honors the LORD. If women would adhere to the WORD of God, then the men would soon fall in line and seek honorable relationships with their wives and other women that line up with what the Bible teaches concerning sexual immorality. Women living holy lives will lead to more marriages and fewer divorces. Again, thank you for sharing your assessment and offering tools to help both men and women become accountable to Christ.

  • William A. Whitcraft December 14, 2012 Reply

    Just my opinion.
    I enjoyed Carl’s piece.
    I certainly agree with Peter D.
    First I should disclose that I happened across this post while searching for a LinkedIn group that is addressing the tragedy in Sandy Hook, Ct. earlier today.
    To my pleasant surprise, I see that Carl is not just part of the group I was looking at, but a friend of mine as well.
    I mean no disrespect to the readers here.
    It’s just:
    In sociology, I learned that one way of dealing with guilt is to make light of things associated with the offense. Pretend they are not valid, for one reason or another and it holds less value.
    I can see marksimpson1953’s point. And I will borrow a sentence, from my daughter. Really? I am sure that Carl wouldn’t have written about his product/service, if he had known, he would have come across as an advertisement. He would much rather keep his service to himself.
    If you had a product that strengthens an accountable person, such as a pastor and you were asked to provide an article about accountability of pastors, for a blog; why not promote it? That would be a missed opportunity to help someone that did not know there was such a thing as accountability software. it would be a missed opportunity to share the good news with someone that is broken. It is part of the solution. It is in the toolbox of the Man that is helping society become more transparent, by becoming accountable.
    I am certain that Carl’s thesis is: Implementing strong accountability measures would make a red flag easier to address than the aftermath of a scandal that may ensue.
    I can say that Carl is no advertisement, for the squeamish or guilty. He is an advertisement for Accountability and Christian Purity. His half hour lecture on Grace is phenomenal and backs his statement up that the church is filled with broken people.
    I also believe that women need accountability as well.
    That’s it for my opinion.
    God bless all,

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