Church ministers should not be tempted – Rev. Aisoli Iuli
An estimated half of all adverse incidents facing various churches in Samoa stem from issues involving ministers themselves, according to a senior leader from the National Council of Churches.
A spate of recent incidents involving church ministers have currently turned public attention to the behaviour of church leaders, with public comment on social media in particular, adding fuel to controversy, even as police investigations continue.
Vice President of the National Council of Churches (N.C.C) and the President for the Methodist Church of Samoa, Reverend Aisoli Iuli said the Methodist Church is not immune from such controversies, in his experience.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Rev. Iuli, said it was imperative for church ministers to be considerate of the responsibilities they assume when they become pastors.
“Before you come to be a theological student, a pastor, you should be prepared of everything putting your soul to Jesus, be aware that there is always evil around to tempt you,” he said.
“Everyone gets tempted, even church ministers, from my experience in the Methodist Church, where I [am] the President; we all get tempted on doing the wrong and bad things.”
The key word Rev. Iuli stresses for pastors to remember when escaping from difficulties is “commitment”, which he described as the door to understanding a congregation and escaping troubles.
“The devil doesn’t sleep and the most virtuous person's [plan] is to strive towards God," he said.
"The only prevention [to obstacles] is commitment. That’s what the word commitment means. To fully understand and be aware of all these things hence the field of study you’re going to [undertake].”
As one of the high positioned people once before in the Methodist Church, Rev. Iuli says that having high standards does not guarantee immunity from struggle - but the opposite is true.
“Just because we’re old and with high standards in Church doesn’t mean Satan will be scared to come to us," he said.
"Satan is more likely to come to us with high positions to take us down, but if I have the spirit to give my all and be aware of things that happen, then I can easily escape all the temptations.”
“For example, if I am preparing to enter either Malua Theological College, Piula, or Moamoa to become a pastor, I should understand where I’m going. Not only I should understand but I should also be aware of the devil that will always be present to where I’m going".
One of the solutions Rev. Iuli suggests to solving these difficulties, is for the pastor to put his whole self-esteem and educate himself, not only about where he’s going but also to be aware of the difficulties and temptations that will arise from serving as a pastor.
He compared Satan and these troubles to the phrase “God works in mysterious ways”, saying “evil can also work in mysterious ways”.
Another challenge Rev. Iuli wishes to identify standing in the way of a church minister's service is "laziness".
“If I was called from Piula to serve in the Atina’e (Methodists’ main development) there is huge temptation in that gap," he said.
"You don’t go to Piula to learn so you can collect coconuts and look after the cows and all that but it all goes back to the word awareness.
“You should’ve been aware of all these things that may arise while entering the field like entering Malua as well.”
Rev. Iuli also wishes reminded pastors against the mindset that they’re to be respected and obeyed, which is not on the same level as his congregation.
"Don’t be high-minded (Fiaali’i); don’t go to a chosen village with the mindset that you are the pastor and you have the authority to demand everything and everyone like if I say to a woman she has to sit down then she has to sit down. If I say to a man to stand up then he stands up. No!
“You have to care for everyone or dealing to each people like when you’re eating a fish, you should already know the difficulties of a fish like how was the fish caught and who caught it and what does it mean to give a fish to a pastor.”
Rev. Iuli said all these are small things that a pastor should value, to be able to understand his role in their communities, even when he’s about to eat the fish, he should bless the people behind the fishing first as his job as a pastor.
“I would not see myself as a pastor if I don’t do that for my people.”
Money was also another source of trouble for the pastors according to Rev. Iuli. Pastors should understand the hardship the people go through to earn a dollar to give the church and himself.
Not only do people serve the churches and the pastors but they also serve their families, villages and the Government which is why Rev. Iuli stated that a pastor should be appreciated of whatever dollar they’re handed.
“These are different divisions families go through to budget their earnings and if the pastor doesn’t understand this, and gets mad when a person gives them a dollar for his Alofa (payment), then he is an inconsiderate person,” he said.
Rev. Iuli also thinks that this is where Liulotu (church changing) comes from, a well-known term in Samoan congregations across different denominations.
Sex is another unacceptable issue for pastors and if a pastor is tempted by this then he is not thoughtful of his vow to his wife in front of God, according to Rev. Iuli.
“Remember in every church, there is a whole lot of girls and Satan can come through those girls’ faces and bodies but all these wouldn’t be possible if the pastor is to stick to his commitment in the first place of why he became a pastor and what he needs to do.
“Your commitment is for your service to be safe and be able to save souls."