I’ve never been great at beating around the bush, so please allow me to get straight to the point. If you are a preacher, elder, or church leader currently caught up in adultery, pedophilia, homosexuality, drunkenness, or pornography please step down until you get your own life under control.

I am so very tired of meeting young people who placed their faith in a youth minister, camp director, preacher, elder, etc. only to discover years later that the person they held up as a “model Christian” is now a scandal in his local congregation. Yes, I agree that young people should not put men whose feet are made of clay on pedestals, but the reality is that most of them do. And many are walking away from the church because of this.

If this were just a one-time issue I would never have considered writing this. But it seems to be occurring more often with greater frequency. You open Facebook and see a picture of a youth minister with his arm around two young girls at a Christian camp. Fast-forward three years and now his marriage is in shambles because for the past six months he has been sleeping with a sixteen year old in the youth group. Not only is he facing a broken marriage, but he may also be facing criminal charges that would tarnish the name of the church in that local area. Or maybe it’s an elder many look up to in a congregation who gets addicted to pornography. Or maybe it’s a preacher who loves to hug little children every Sunday—only to discover years later he struggles with pedophilia.

Please, if you are struggling with these issues right now—or feel yourself on the brink of falling into one of these temptations—please have the courage to take some time off and get help. Please don’t tarnish the bride of Christ with yet another scandal.

We all shake our fingers at Catholic priests and the tremendous amount of damage they have done to young boys. But the reality is we have our own problems in the New Testament church. (I know some will chastise me for even pointing this out, because “we are not supposed to air out any dirty laundry” regarding the church. Friends, we’ve been polishing the outside of the cup too long. It’s time we take a good long look at the contents of what’s inside!)

Right now our local congregations do not handle confession well. If this is going to happen we need cooperation from elders and congregations. We must have a plan in place. Consider the plight of a man whose income is tied to preaching in the pulpit, but he needs help with pornography. His livelihood is at stake, making it highly unlikely that he will confess and seek treatment, unless there is a plan in place that will help him during his time off. Maybe they help him find temporary work with an agreement that he can come back or maybe it’s a paid sabbatical so that he can seek counseling.

If you are caught up in these sins I beg you to take a sabbatical, step down, or take an extended leave. Consider for a moment the beautiful impact you will have on your church family when you return and can say, “I had walked back on the broad way, but I took some time to heal and am now happily back on the narrow path.” That message will influence young people in a healthy way and will help strengthen their faith, rather than them hearing through the grapevine that their preacher got arrested in a prostitution sting.

It is way past time our church leaders and preachers teach Truth in the pulpit and demonstrate it in their daily lives. It is time we clean up the bride of Christ and get her ready to meet the groom. Paul wrote: “ For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2). We must keep the church pure and that has to start with the leaders. If we are going to call ourselves servants of Christ then we must conduct ourselves like Christ.

Please prayerfully consider what I’m saying. If you need help, counseling, or resources I am happy to provide those confidentially. (In fact, there are hundreds of Christian men ready and willing to help). If you are caught up in one of these sins the best sermon you can preach is by stepping down, getting help, and drawing closer to Christ—showing true fruits of repentance. Please don’t wait. Young souls hang in the balance of your decision….

For other material on this issue, check out “Rewired: How Pornography is Killing the Home and the Church” and “3 ways the church must respond to #MeToo and #TimesUp