Ministerial Ethics


The balance between an unfettered pulpit and a loose cannon is delicate and easy to disturb. To have the necessary freedom to lead a church under God, it is essential that a pastor honor the vows of the covenant he makes with his brethren. Each of us adopted the Articles of Faith and the Constitution as the basis of our fellowship when we entered the organization. We must adhere to them.

From time to time, individuals become loose cannons in their determination to maintain freedom. This is not necessary, nor is it
pleasing to the Head of the church, our Lord Jesus Christ. Freedom is never free. Neither does liberty come without a self-imposed bond of responsibility. True liberty functions within prescribed guidelines.

Those who want to maintain the freedom we have in God’s service know the essentiality of holding onto the bonds of unity. When we are in harmony with our Head, the body can unify its actions. If we are not in harmony with one another under our Head, then we are obligated to seek unity in conference rather than to splinter in confusion.

To do so we must maintain a healthy organization. First, let us consider our relationship to that organization on a district level.
Then we will examine our relationship to the general organization.

The district elects officials who serve their brethren in their specific branches or divisions of service. These officials carry out
the wishes of their brethren in accordance with the Constitution. In doing so, officials appeal to the ministers who elected them for their cooperation and support in carrying out policies and programs. Each of us has an ethical obligation to extend that cooperation and support to the best of our ability. The duty is reciprocal.

This principle applies in a number of ways. The policies of the district are involved. The programs of the general organization are also included here because they are carried out through the district organization.

Matters such as district meetings, functions, programs, and promotions are vital to the growth and development of the movement. Each district also has to formulate a financial plan or policy. The operation of the entire district apparatus is dependent upon the cooperation and support of its members in these areas.

Conferences are essential, both district and sectional. Every decision of direction and purpose on a district level needs the input of both the voice and vote of its entire membership. It is less than ethical to ignore these meetings. And it is worse still to criticize decisions made in one’s absence.

Votes on issues that concern all need to be considered from all viewpoints. Then there is a need for everyone to vote. Adopted
projects must then be supported. This involves each of us, and it is an ethical obligation. We either fulfill our obligations of membership in this regard or the structure eventually falls apart.

Functions such as camp meetings, youth camps, special ministries, ladies meetings, ministers seminars, and many other endeavors also need each minister’s endorsement and support. Indeed, it is incumbent upon us to make our district functions all they are capable of becoming by our wholehearted cooperation and participation.

In cooperating with the financial policy of the district there should always be a voluntary compliance. Never should the district official be forced to remind us of neglect in such a vital area. Even if the district has no need at all, each minister must honor God with the tithe. Furthermore, the person who honors God will be honored by Him. Never should it be otherwise, nor could it be.

Ministerial ethics obligate each minister to deal with one another-collectively or individually-as he would like to be dealt with. As a part of our covenant with God and our brethren, let us never be slack in our obligations.

The relationship with the district is not as impersonal as it is with the general structure. The officials of the district are more closely involved with the individual minister. Of course, this relationship calls for mutual respect and understanding. Every district official must function in accordance with good ministerial ethics, and the minister must reciprocate if there is to be progress and growth.

For instance, fund-raising divisions are charged with appealing to the entire constituency for their support. Ministers must welcome this appeal. A minister should not withhold his support from an approved program simply because he dislikes the manner or demeanor of the official. For example, how can it be justifiable before God to let the missionary program go lacking simply because one individual has a low opinion of another? There is a proper way to correct a situation that is in need of correction. But certainly we should never let the work of God suffer simply because of a personal grievance of some sort.

The Epistle of III John provides a very clear lesson in matters such as this. A careful study reveals a scenario that provides the proper path of action. John, the elder, wrote to a pastor whom he loved greatly. He urged him to take care concerning those he followed or was influenced by. Diotrephes was mentioned as the type of minister one should not follow (imitate). John said Diotrephes refused to support missionaries who were sent forth by the church. He would not receive them, and he put those who would out of his assembly. Furthermore, Diotrephes was guilty of speaking maliciously against those in leadership.

John urged Gaius to adopt the attitude and employ the methods of another pastor, Demetrius. The point is clear: we must not imitate the manners and methods of those who love to have the preeminence to such a point that they refuse to cooperate with the body of Christ.

Each pastor must take care in whom he puts his confidence. We are influenced strongly by those we respect and admire. To imitate a good man is to develop habits that will mold us into honorable, ethical leaders. To follow the patterns of activity of those who are immature, insincere, self-aggrandizing, or anything of that sort is to adopt the same character that produces such conduct.

One of the position papers printed in the last section of the Manual of the United Pentecostal Church International is an expression of the General Conference in 1964. It is placed under a general heading entitled Ethics (Ministerial), and it is reproduced here for easy reference.

My Code of Ethics

(Not laws to govern but principles to guide)

Striving to be a good minister of the Lord Jesus Christ:

I will constantly prepare myself in body, mind, and spirit.

I will safeguard the good name of the ministry; [I will] speak the truth in love, live honestly, and avoid embarrassing debts.

I will hold as sacred all confidences shared with me.

I will exercise the authority of a spiritual leader rather than that of a dictator.

I will seek to minister rather than to be ministered unto, placing service above salary and personal recognition, and the unity and
welfare of the church above my own personal welfare.

I will seek to lead my church to accept its full responsibility for community and world service.

I will seek to build my church without discrediting other churches, soliciting members therefrom, or casting reflection on other ministers.

I will not compete with another minister for a call to a pastorate in an unethical manner.

I will, with my resignation, sever my pastoral relations with any former parishioner and will not make pastoral contacts in the field of another pastor without his knowledge and consent.

I will not accept the pastorate of a United Pentecostal Church unless I am in accord with the Articles of Faith and Constitution of the general church body.

Having accepted a pastorate, I will not use my influence to alienate the church or any portion thereof from the fellowship or support of the United Pentecostal Church. If my convictions change, I will be honorable enough to withdraw.

A careful study of this adopted statement reveals a thoroughness of ministerial ethics that will resolve many difficulties, if adhered to by all concerned. Elaboration of a few of these will help clarify them all.

First, the continual preparation of the body, mind, and spirit of the minister touches every facet of his life. It keeps him in an attitude of growth. His stance will be one of spiritual progression. Rather than adopting the position of an old and foolish potentate who will no longer be admonished, he will be in the position of a young, or a least a growing, child of God.

To safeguard the good name of the ministry is not only vital to the individual minister but also to the ministerial body in general.
Preserving the integrity of the individual builds the body through the bonds of love, honesty, and Christian character.

It is wholesome to see honorable people who do not abuse or in any way misuse authority. There is no room in the kingdom for someone who is deceived into thinking authority is meant for control or manipulation of others. Authority is best exercised through the strength of integrity and honor. The spiritual leader and the dictator are not one and the same person.

The high role of service cannot be overemphasized. Therefore, the pastor who recognizes his servanthood is best qualified to lead a flock. Above salary, above personal recognition, above personal welfare, the flock of God is the very reason for the existence of the pastor. He is ordained to serve them, not the reverse.

Every congregation should recognize its universal responsibilities-to the community, to the country, to the world at large. Through the various divisions of the general church, a local assembly-no matter what its size in number-can serve the whole world at the same time. The service is not meant to be in some sequence such as home first, community next, then the country, and finally the world. No, the whole world must hear the whole gospel. We cannot ethically exclude any part!

To discredit others, to cast reflections that are unfavorable, or to seek to build a church from members of a sister church are all beneath the lofty level to which we are called as servants of God. Only on the love of God as it is expressed through the gospel truth can a true church be built.

Truth will stand all tests and will still be standing when the world is on fire! Build on it. Stand on it and with it. You will stand

To compete with another for a pastorate is to adopt the value system of the world. The worst place in the world for you to be is in a pulpit where another belongs. Seek to find and follow the will of God, and in doing that you will hold the pastorate that is right for you.

Nothing could be more miserable for an honorable person than to hold a pastorate in the United Pentecostal Church and not hold to the tenets of faith it embraces. To attempt to take a church on another doctrinal path after having accepted it under the banner of the United Pentecostal Church is an unethical path of action, to say the least. The honorable minister will never embark on such a course.

These are high and lofty ideals. But they are well within the reach of people of character and integrity. May we ever hold them, and should God tarry, pass them on to generations to come!

These ethical statements are not vows of subservient people made to superiors. Rather, they are mutual pledges made by all to each other. Every official is privileged to commit himself, along with every pastor, evangelist, missionary, and teacher of truth, to a set of principles to live by-not a set of laws to govern.