Many a preacher has been brought down by news of a scandal that broke on the internet that he may have otherwise been able to quietly ride out. While many pastors have embraced the use of the internet to expand the reach of their ministry, the internet can also be the bearer of bad news, broadcasting a pastor’s failures around the world.
With that said, here are three ways pastors can keep their mess off the internet — because once it gets on the internet, it’s everywhere.
1. Don’t do the mess in the first place. If you are not sinning — and if you are abstaining from the appearance of evil — you do not have to worry about what is being said or written about you on the internet. You don’t have to worry about what videos or photos are out there. The best scandal prevention is, and has always been, not yielding to the temptation and not committing the sin in the first place.
2. If you find yourself in a mess, resolve it immediately. Jesus said in Matthew 5:25, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.” Preacher, if you have done something wrong or offended somebody, be quick to confess, repent, and do everything in your power to make it up to them. Don’t let your mess drag into the courtroom. Because once it gets into the courthouse and into the local newspaper (which will publish it on their website), it becomes a matter of public record — and, not only church folk, but people in the world will know about it. Your little local mess can easily become a nationally-known scandal if just one national internet newspaper picks up the story.
3. If you find that your mess has gone public, preacher, the best thing you can do is be transparent. Don’t lie, don’t hide, don’t try to cover it up; be transparent. Ephesians 4:25 says, “Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.” Address the matter from the pulpit. The last thing you want is to leave church members with questions in their mind, and they go home and find the answers on Facebook. As they say in the PR business, “get out in front of the story.” And, remember, the cover-up is worse than the crime.
Now, we know that some preachers feel like Christian news organizations should be more sympathetic in covering a minister’s failings. But, once some mess gets into the local newspaper — and people in the world are condemning it as wrong, Christian media is obligated to cover it. We can’t help you hide from the light. For the sake of our own credibility — and, more importantly, for the sake of Christ — we can’t appear as though we are protecting you or showing favorability by keeping quiet about your mess while at the same time condemning the mess in the world.