Pastors are called by God to proclaim the Word, provide visionary leadership and nurture spiritual growth for the flock under their care. However, all of these tasks are tarnished and discredited if they are not undergirded with ethical behavior and Christ-like character.

All believers are called to live and embody God’s designs in every sphere of life. But pastors and Christian leaders have a special responsibility, for as the Apostle Paul cautioned, “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited” (2 Corinthians 6:3).

Pastoral ethics, like all of Christian ethics, should encompass both actions and character. What we do and who we are authenticates the Word we proclaim, the leadership we provide and the pastoral care we extend. Pastoral ethics includes such characteristics as integrity, trustworthiness, purity, accountability and fairness. These qualities are not merely a professional ethics standard, but are the embodiment of biblical commitments.

As pastors and Christian leaders we have been given a trust and, “It is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). Ethics codes can never guarantee faithful being and doing. But a ministerial code of ethics can provide a clear direction, a system of accountability and a constant reminder of our responsibilities before God, our congregations and a watching world. With such parameters and guidelines in place, it is then the empowerment of God’s Spirit that ensures fidelity to the high and holy calling of shepherding the flock for God’s glory.

This article originally appeared in the NAE Insight.

Dennis Hollinger

Dennis Hollinger is president and the Colman M. Mockler Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. Previously, he served as president and professor of Christian ethics at Evangelical Theological Seminary in Myerstown, Pennsylvania. Hollinger received a B.A. from Elizabethtown College, an M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, an M.Phil. and Ph.D. from Drew University, and did post-doctoral studies at Oxford University.