The sports world was rocked a bit this week by the penalties imposed by Major League Baseball on the Houston Astros. If you’re a baseball fan, you know what happened. If you’re not, you can go to MLB.com and read all about it.
In short, the Astros employed some dirty tricks in order to gain an advantage (in other words, they cheated). As a consequence, the general manager and manager were both suspended for a year by Major League Baseball. Then they were fired by the team’s owner. This has also affected the jobs of two other men who were the managers of other teams. Both of these men were involved in the cheating scandal when they were with the Houston team.
I don’t believe that these are bad men. But their poor decisions are going to have a long-term impact. It is possible that none of them will find work within professional baseball again. Their reputations have been tarnished. And we tend to have long memories when it comes to the misbehavior of public figures, whether they be athletes, musicians, actors, or politicians. Or pastors.
It takes time to build a good reputation. But it takes a second to lose it. An angry outburst, a moment of dishonesty, the exposure of a moral failure, and what was formerly a good reputation is gone.
When I was starting out in ministry I was told of a pastor in a smaller town who had reached a handshake agreement with a car dealer to buy a car for a certain price. The next day, when the pastor went to complete the purchase, the dealer reneged. The pastor, in a moment of pique, flattened him. In fact, he sent him flying through the plate glass window in the front of his dealership. That moment cost that pastor his ministry in that town.
When we read the qualifications of elders and deacons in Timothy and Titus (1 Timothy 3, Titus 1), notice how many of the qualities that qualify a man for ministry have to do with reputation including the very direct statement in 1 Timothy 3:7 that an elder/pastor needs to be a person with a good reputation among those outside the church. Having a good reputation is why Paul told Timothy to “Pay close attention to your life” (1 Timothy 4:16a, CSB)
D.L. Moody said, “If I take care of my character, my reputation will take care of itself.” But “taking care” of our character is something that requires disciplined determination. As I said, it takes time to build a good reputation, but only a second to lose it.
As a baseball fan, I was disappointed to hear what had taken place, and saddened for the men whose lives have been affected by these bad decisions. But as a Christian, I’ve grieved more when a fellow pastor has torpedoed his ministry.
If you are younger and/or new to a church, work on building a solid reputation. Continue to build godly character and have a servant’s heart. Our goal is not to be people-pleasers. But a good reputation is foundational to an effective and trustworthy ministry.