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The secret to no scandals in my pastoral ministry

Courtesy of William Devlin
Courtesy of William Devlin

Moral failure amongst leaders has recently come in like a flood — not just in the past week, but, sadly, on a regular basis. Our hearts are broken whenever we learn of a pastor of a big or small church who gets involved in immoral behavior. After 53 years in ministry, sans scandals, I am happy to report that there is an antidote to the poison of moral failure. A prophylactic antidote that is practical, regular and non-negotiable. It’s called one-on-one, man-to-man accountability. Being a pastor myself, the regular practice of accountability has kept me from any kind of moral failure these past 53 years.

On Sunday, June 27, 1971, I prayed to receive Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. The following Friday night, I was invited to and attended a Bible study for military men stationed in San Diego. The man who was leading the study afterward came to me and firmly stated, “Devlin, until you leave for the war in Vietnam, you’re going to be here at this study and you’re going to be accountable to me.” As a newborn baby Christian and 19-year-old heading off to war, this man taught me the value of accountability. Once in Vietnam, in a unit of 250 me, there was only one other follower of Jesus:  Smitty. For the next two years, Smitty and I met every week, and I was accountable to this first-class petty officer in my unit. My one-on-one accountability relationship to other men, non-negotiable for one hour a week, has continued to this day, June 2024.

As a Christian leader and pastor, people often ask me, “What is the recipe for your godly success in your marriage, your family, your children and grandchildren and pastorate to the Persecuted Church?” I respond, “The grace of God and long-term accountability.”  My current accountability prayer partner is brother Jeff Howe whom I meet with for an hour, every Friday morning at 8 am. For my life and ministry, accountability is defined by a non-negotiable hour with a trusted brother. In other words, out of 168 hours a week, I will spend one hour every week with brother Jeff, and I am accountable to him for what I call the 5 F’s: Family, Faith, Finance, Fitness and Fasting. Each of those F’s have a meaning that is practical, measurable and objective.

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Am I loving my wife of 45 years as Christ loves the church? Am I continuing to disciple by example and by my words our five children, their spouses, and our five grandchildren? Is my faith in Jesus on the cutting edge? Is my faith fresh, exciting, and relevant in the midst of a spirit of brokenness as I minister to the Persecuted Church? Are my finances in my personal life, our marriage, and in ministry always above board? Am I working hard to be in compliance and accountable with finances to my ministry’s investors/donors and to the reports the government requires of me? Am I staying healthy by eating the right foods and keeping my weight at a level where I can run fast for Jesus? And because God requires His people to privately and publicly fast from food, do I have a regular discipline of fasting? Jesus reminds us we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and then, follow Him.

Pastor, what is your accountability structure?  Are you living out the 5 F’s? Family, Faith, Finance, Fitness, Fasting? Run, don’t walk — live-out those 5 F’s.

Dr. William Devlin is co-pastor of the Infinity Bible Church in the South Bronx, New York, and national president of REDEEM! — an organization committed to assisting persecuted people and groups in America and around the globe. PB enlisted in the Navy in 1970 and received the Purple Heart after being wounded by enemy fire off the coast of North Vietnam. He holds several degrees, including master of arts in religion from Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He and wife Nancy have five children and four grandchildren.

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