Downes: How should a minister keep his heart, mind and will from theological error?
Trueman: No magic bullet here. The minister needs a good theological education, and then needs to maintain the basic disciplines of the Christian life – prayer and Bible reading. love to God and to neighbor. Of course, the minister does not sit under the preaching of the Word week by week, so accountability is even more of a problem for him than for others in the congregation. Presbyterianism has a structure of ministerial accountability in its church courts, but these are often impersonal and rather procedural gatherings. Even the Presbyterian minister still needs to make himself self-consciously accountable to others, a small group of one or more intimates.
One of the secrets of great leadership in any walk of life is to place those close to you who are not simply yes-men but who are prepared to be honest with you when they see you making a mistake. This is absolutely critical in the church: having true friends who speak the truth in love is vital.
I think of church leaders who simply became such objects of adulation by their people and by the wider evangelical world that, when they fell, it was clear that they had simply come to be regarded as too big to be held accountable. Nobody dared call them to account; nobody ever even suspected they needed to be held to account. I can think of others who simply started to believe their own propaganda and saw any and every criticism as a personal attack. Such people were disasters waiting to happen; and their problem was that they lost sight of of the basics of the Christian life and made themselves accountable to no one. And I am always amazed at the cronies such people manage to gather around themselves: there is always someone willing to stroke the ego of such types, to tell them how wonderful they are whatever shenanigans they get up to; yet a true friend knows the necessity of speaking the truth out of love in all circumstances.
“Risking The Truth: Handling Error in the Church” by Martin Downes. Chapter 2 – Sin in High Places: An Interview with Carl R. Trueman, pages 30-31