One of the deep dark secrets is that there is no pastor exempt from this sin, this temptation. It would delight our enemy to bring this kind of demise to every pastor’s life. Any man who thinks “it could never happen to me” is closer to a fall than he could even imagine. Sin, temptation and the lure of attraction and attention are strong, deceptive and unrelenting in this work called ministry. It’s an ever present risk for every pastor.
I deeply respect Billy Graham who early in ministry realized the potential for this sin and set strong boundaries for his life and ministry. It was one of the wisest things he could have done. Any pastor who will tell you that this will never happen in his life is challenging the enemy to bring that pretty little blonde by for counseling.
No one is exempt. It’s the reality of our hearts, our natures. Our pride will tempt us to sin and a fall before we even realize what has happened. It’s a reality that has scared me throughout my ministry and one I’m keenly aware of. Years ago one young lady in my church called my wife and told her, “I’m going to steal your husband from you.” My sweet wife, knowing me well and how much I feared this kind of thing, replied, “Give it your best try, sweetie.” But when she told me of the visit I was once more made aware of how the enemy works.
Watch yourself, men. No one is exempt. Set good boundaries, be careful. Peter described it well, the enemy roams around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Watch yourself.
My friend and pastor who fell told me at our last lunch that his voice for the kingdom of God has been muted. He’s right. His sin has silenced his voice. It’s tragic because his was a wonderful voice for truth, grace and God’s word. There were few men I have known who loved God’s word as he did. But today his voice is muted by his sin.
How long should a pastor “sit on the bench?” Should he ever be in the pulpit again? When is repentance and reconciliation accomplished for a pastor who commits adultery while in the pulpit? I have strong opinions on this topic, but there are too many factors to be dogmatic in print. The questions that would come from this discussion are many,
Has the pastor reconciled with his church where the sin was committed?
Has he reconciled with his wife?
Has he submitted to other godly men in a period of repentance and healing?
Is he getting counseling? (And, may I add…He should!)
Should he ever pastor again? Here’s where my opinion will be clear- I don’t think any pastor who has committed adultery should be back in the pulpit for at least five years! AT LEAST five years. That much time is the minimum for a man to restore his marriage first of all and then there is the need to deal with a life that would choose this sin. Yes, pastors are attacked by the enemy in many ways, but when sin has occurred there is the need for some time to heal, grow, restore, repent, recover. Should he ever pastor again? Maybe, but not for a number of years. Isn’t that too harsh? Not at all! The pastor who commits adultery has broken trust with everyone. It takes times to rebuild that trust.
Muted? Yes, the voice of any pastor discovered in sin has muted his voice for God. He’s destroyed his witness and walk. He’s broken trust and wounded many. Some will never recover their faith and walk because of the sin of a pastor. Don’t, dear pastor, don’t return to the pulpit until you have taken years away to heal, restore and redeem. Don’t take this sin lightly. The pains this sin creates for everyone around the pastor is more than he will ever know. Muted? Yes.
Can restoration happen? YES! But it will take time. Don’t be impatient. You broke trust with everyone around you, it will take time to restore it. Don’t be in a hurry. Love your wife, love God and humbly repent and restore the hearts and lives you have betrayed. It will take some time….
Pastors, if you have fallen into sin and are on the other side of it would you send me a note? I would like to hear from you. How are you? Where are you in your walk with God? What would you say to the flock you hurt? What would you like to tell them about this sin and its results? Would you write me and let’s share with those who are hurting what it has done to you as well. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear your story.
One of the hardest things to do when someone you trust falls into sin is to forgive them. It’s hard because you trusted their leadership, their life, their faith and now they have committed the sin that hurts the most, especially if you are a woman. It’s devastating!
Forgiveness is key in these days. You must make sure you have forgiven or you will simply become another wounded Christian in the wake of your pastor’s sin. As one man described it, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” The only one hurt by unforgiveness is YOU. Make sure, in the shadow of a pastor’s sin, that you deal with forgiveness in your own life. You may be hurt, wounded, betrayed, lied to and confused, but you have to forgive.
A book I highly recommend is “Choosing Forgiveness” by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s a great guide through this proccess. If this is a problem for you as you move ahead in your own walk with God get Nancy’s book and work through it. It will help you deal well with the sins of someone you trusted.