In his book, No Place for Truth, David Wells argues that pastors ought to be brokers of truth. That is, truth is our stock in trade. We deal in revealed truth. We try to persuade people to believe it and live on the basis of it. Because of that, truth should be honored in all of our dealings with people. If we want them to believe us when we preach, we must speak honestly at all other times, as well.
Of course, this is true for every Christian. "Therefore, putting away lying, each one speak truth to his neighbor, for we are members of one another" (Ephesians 4:25; cf. the 9th commandment, etc.). But it is particularly true for ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. A man who gives his word and then unashamedly and unrepentently breaks it discredits himself in the eyes of thinking people. Likewise a man who presents himself and his credentials less than honestly.
If I told you that years ago I was with the NASA space shuttle program you would have every reason to accuse me of dishonesty when you learned that all I meant was that I once took my family on a trip to the Kennedy Space Center. Similarly, if I present myself as "Dr." So-in-so when in fact I have not done the formal academic study that is associated with that title, you are entitled to call me a deceiver.
All this is put into stark relief by the case of a North Carolina pastor who was recently relieved of his pastoral duties after being arrested last month for "possession of a firearm by a felon." This story would be hilarious if it weren't so sad. After admitting that his doctorate was basically a title that he simply purchased from a diploma mill, Jerry Wayne "Dusty" Whitaker asked this astounding, rhetorical question, "Does me having a 'Dr.' in front of my name mean any less because I bought it?"
One can better understand how he could think like this by considering the way that he represented himself and his past affiliation with Federal Marshals. Whitaker was very careful never to claim that he had actually served as a U. S. Marshall. Instead, in his own words, this is what he said, "I worked with the federal agencies.... That was because they transferred me between prisons, hospitals and trials. It was when I was in prison."
I am grateful that this is an extreme and unusual example of ministerial dishonesty But it does serve as a warning and reminder that those whose responsibility it is to proclaim God's Word as pastors must seek to be honest in all of our dealings both in and out of the pulpit.
Pray for Mr. Whitaker and his family and former church. They need huge doses of real Christianity. You can read the whole story in the Biblical Recorder.