Republican Congressman Aaron Schock of Peoria resigned today after weeks of questions about the way he spent tax dollars. First, he was criticized for redecorating his office in the style of Downton Abbey. That began a steady stream of revelations about tax payers footing the bill for a private plane ride to a Bears game, among other allegations. While this is surely painful for Schock and his supporters, I think there is a word of warning in his downfall for pastors.
It appears as though Aaron Schock (like many in Congress) had no internal accountability structure that prevented him from going down ethically risky roads. Was there no one there to tell him he shouldn’t expense a plane ride to a Bears game? No staffer raised a red flag about handing tax dollars to donors to use their private planes? No accountability can easily lead to trouble for those in positions of trust.
Pastors often get the benefit of the doubt because of their position. People trust them. Maybe they get an expense account for meals, books, or mileage. If so, is there a policy in place to make sure that money is spent on what the pastor says it is? Pastors have to remember, every dime of church money spent by them comes from the pockets of hard working (or maybe Social Security receiving) Christians. Do pastors respect them (and their God) enough to ensure basic accountability practices are in place? Do other church leaders feel the same way?
It’s not always financial stewardship that can get a pastor into trouble. Most control their own calendars and as long as they show up for Sunday services, who knows what they do the rest of the week? It’s easy for pastors to begin to slack without anyone knowing. What does accountability for your time look like?
Every pastor (and elder) needs to remember time and money ultimately belong to the Lord and they’re responsible to steward them well. If you don’t have accountability systems in place right now, do it this week! Let Aaron Schock’s pain keep you and your congregation from experiencing the same.