Contact infoOne in five pastors will fall in their lifetime. That means that many churches will suffer and the people in them will need help and direction. You may be in one of those churches and that's why you have found this site. After serving in a church where this has happened I have become an unwilling "expert" in what to do right and what to do wrong. It seems a shame to go through all of this and not share what I have learned. If your church finds itself in the midst of dealing with the fall of a pastor I would be glad to help. Ask your leadership team to contact me and I will help you get through those first and most difficult months. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Mike
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Category Archives: Adultery
“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” -2 Corinthians 7:10
Regret is something I think about often. We all do it when we think about the bad choices of the past. I regret so many things it’s hard to keep up with them. I regret not saving more, I regret not saying I’m sorry when I needed to, I regret not playing with my kids more. There are so many.
I’m sure, if you made a list, there would be several that you wish you could have a mulligan on, a do-over. That’s the way of regret, once we have done it or said it we must live with the consequences of the action or the word for the rest of our lives.
Most of our sins leave us with small regrets, but the sin of a pastor who has fallen rings with an amplified regret. It’s in bold letters for them if they are tender to God. But with regret comes two other emotions we each must deal with- the fantasy of what could have been and the fear of what might be. All of these are the results of bad choices and not trusting God with our lives.
Regret is real, but God’s desire is that we use it to repent and be restored to him and his family. We can’t undo what we have done, but we can use the regrets of our sins to make good choices in the days ahead.
God’s desire for the fallen pastor is that he would repent and walk with God once more, a son restored, forgiven, rejoicing in the savior who gave his life for all our sins….even this one.
This week I received this question:
“How do you console the wife and children of the fallen minister?”
We all have to admit, when a pastor falls, that a death has occurred. It’s a death of a man’s position, ministry, voice and possibly even his marriage.
Because of his visibility and his sin we often focus our thoughts and discussions on him, but what about the wife and children?
Who takes care of them? As my questioner asked, “How do we console the wife and children..?”
Console is the perfect word! For the wife it’s as if she has experienced a death. It’s a death of her marriage, her trust in her husband and a death of his vocation. How will they pay the bills? What will they do now? Where will they live? How do we deal with the shame?
The church often treats the wife as a part of the problem and discards her as they do the pastor. Out of sight, out of mind, thank you very much.
But the church’s job is to care for this “widow.” She has lost her husband, her identity, her role as a pastor’s wife. She has lost everything!
How do we console her? We must care for her as we would someone who has lost a partner to death. We must come alongside her, be with her, bring her meals, pray for her and love her well.
Love her as you would love and care for a widow. Come alongside her kids, spend time with them, help them. Encourage the wife. Help her with her transition. She has lost everything, don’t abandon her!
How do we console her? Just as we would someone who has lost a mate to death….because it is a death. A death of everything she has known. And, above all, love her well.
One of the things that rarely happens when a pastor falls is reconciliation. There is simply never closure on the sin that destroyed his life, family, another family and the church.
This morning a friend and I were visiting about reconciliation and God’s work in our lives. It made me ask…who have I wounded and not reconciled with? And so I offer this note for your response, for your consideration. If it’s something that applies to you in your relationships with me would you offer me the opportunity to pursue reconciliation in our relationship? If it’s a reality in your life, your family, or your church would you use the following paragraph to heal wounds, mend relationships and demonstrate the love of Christ to others?
Share these words with someone you have hurt,
“I’m thinking through the people I’ve known and cared about for many years and fear that I have left something undone with you. Are you and I “ok”? My goal is reconciliation, the healing of any wounds I may have caused. Is there something between us that I can address, deal with or repair? Have I offended you in some way and left you wounded? Please do let me know. And thank you for the grace you give me to be broken and still on the journey to become like Christ.”
I wonder what would happen if we humbled ourselves and took the first step to healing wounds in our lives and the lives of others.
Some of you have stopped by on occasion and made a comment or two. Thank you. But to be honest this is not a site people visit and linger. This is a problem fixing site. “Here’s what wrong, what do I do?” site. I know that if you are stopping here it’s because you are part of a church where you have just discovered your pastor’s sin and are looking for answers, for what to do.
Much of what I have written is directional, informational and devotional, but it’s also focused on a topic none of us want to linger over for long. We want to fix it and get on with “real life”. I do so understand that. Talking about broken churches and fallen pastors is just not fun or encouraging.
But, what I have seen is that over time God does do amazing things in the lives of people whose whole world has been destroyed by a pastor’s fall. I’m watching as I see pastors I have worked with move on into new ministries and visions for their life. I’m watching people from our body (I saw many of them last night at a wedding) continue to grow and love God….even though they are in new churches and not part of our community any longer.
What I realize is that God is able to continue his kingdom work even after a pastor has sinned and destroyed a church family, even after he has ruined his life, marriage and ministry, even after it seems many have walked away from the faith.
We are now in the seventh year since our big earthquake. The church is still alive, but it’s much different. I think any church will change after a pastor’s affair. It has to. Our body has changed. Now we have a lot of people who have no knowledge of what happened here….and to be honest we rarely mention it any more….it just takes too long to explain.
So what is the one thing I would tell you after almost seven years? God’s church will be fine and so will you. Trust him, stay in his word, stay in a community of faith…don’t walk away…and pray for God’s work in your life and in the lives of those who went through this disaster with you. I guess that was more than one thing, wasn’t it?
Anyway….I want to simply assure you that if you are new to this experience in your church the most important thing you can do is keep your eyes on Christ and realize he is still Lord of his church in spite of what has happened. He will be glorified in the church and in your life. Keep trusting him. You will see his amazing work and grace. You will grow. And God will be glorified!
I wrote an earlier post titled, “Sin is messy”, and in that post I made a statement (from the weariness of this odyssey) that one of my readers disputed. I agree with the correction I received from Bill and want to share with you the comment exchange from that post with Bill’s permission:
Bill: I am concerned with your statement that “There is no good that comes from a pastors fall! None.”
I fell flat on my face. I came to the church admitted my failures and fell hard… here is what has happened in spite of my failures;
-i got help and healing from some deep deep hurts that i did not even know existed
-My wife and i have an honest real relationship which is 100 times better than either of us ever thought we could have
-people around me are getting to see what grace and love means – not just from a theoretical perspective but from experiencing grace and love.
These are only the positive and good things that have come from my failures. I am not saying for one moment that it was Gods will for me to fall in the way that i fell. But what i am saying is that it is very very very short sighted to say that NOTHING GOOD can come from a pastor who falls. God used example after example of Gods faithfulness not only to men in the Bible who have fallen but of his Grace Mercy Forgiveness and Love of HIS people who fell in the exact same way.
Do i wish i had not fallen… YES but i am so grateful to have walked through my misery and because i did i am a new man.
I am a Fallen Pastor but because of a loving church and loving family who understands God and family – i am a better man and a better disciple!
Me: Bill, you know what….you are right. I recant my statement. It strikes me, as I read your words and then reread mine, that I am still stinging a bit from the sin I have lived through here. I thought I had dealt with it all well, but obviously I haven’t fully dealt with all that happened to me through the events of our church family. It’s more damaging to those around the pastor who fell than most ever realize, than I even realized. Obviously I am still dealing with the weariness of the battle and some resentment for all I have had to go through…although I had done nothing wrong. A little bitterness remains that I must deal with God about. Thank you for your words and thoughts. What a blessing to read how God has worked in your life. God is so good to resurrect dead and broken lives, isn’t he? May I share your words in one of the posts? Thank you, Bill.
Bill: Yes you can. I want you to also know that as a pastor who fell i have worked very hard and have been incredibly humbled by what i have gone through. i will probably never fully understand the hurt and pain that my church has gone through.
This is what i did to help myself, my wife, my kids, my church…
-three months christian live in facility for addiction (HopeQuest in atlanta) Mid December – early March
– 14 months of counseling (and counting) for myself once a week.
– 14 months of marriage counseling every other week.
– first 3 months after coming home 1-1 accountability 7 days a week with men from the church.
-6 weeks living with friends after returning back to my community while i worked on restoring wife and kids.
-Went back to my home church as a congregant and sat in the audience weekly (soooo humbling).
-i had work to do for HopeQuest for 6 months after finishing in order to graduate (which i did 100%).
-got involved in a small group of our church that met every other week.
-met with other fallen pastors once a month (had to quit this when i began working full time- they meet lunchtime).
As much as i am grateful for the opportunity to deal with who i am and what i have done to my wife, kids, family , and church. this has not been easy. I have chosen to be obedient to God in returning to my community and church. Obedient because this is what i felt God was calling ME to do. Everyday i live with the reminder of what i have done. I am learning humility in a way i could have never imagined. i am learning brokenness in a way i could have never imagined. I am learning Grace and Mercy Kindness and Love in a way i never thought was possible. i am learning the deep humbling understanding of what it is to fall and be forgiven!
you can share any and all of whatever you want that i have written. i believe we have an opportunity to see the kingdom of God grow through failure – and i am the greatest of all failures!
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
8 Keep your way far from her
And do not go near the door of her house,
9 Or you will give your vigor to others
And your years to the cruel one;
10 And strangers will be filled with your strength
And your hard-earned goods will go to the house of an alien;
The cruel one. What an interesting wording from this passage about adultery and promiscuity. In the heat of passion with a pretty woman a man may fail to realize he’s also about to suffer the wrath of the cruel one. I’m fascinated by that wording. On one hand affection, passion and love of a woman who isn’t your wife. On the other hand the wrath, anger and hatred of the cruel one using this affection to destroy you.
Few men in the pastorate realize that behind the kisses and affection of a pretty woman who says she loves you is an enemy who says he hates you. What you see as your “soul mate” is actually the perfect weapon of the enemy of your soul whose only goal is the destruction of your life, your marriage, your ministry and your church. In a moment of passion and affection he can accomplish all of that!
Church, realize that behind every enticement to unfaithfulness, to an affair, is the cruel one in the shadows smiling at the opportunity to destroy everything you love. If you find yourself attracted to a pretty face, an affectionate glance, someone who “really cares about you” realize that behind that person is another, the cruel one, waiting to destroy everything you care about.
The cruel one wears his name proudly. He has no mercy, no care for you, your wife, your kids, your church or your life. His great deception for you is that this affection, this affair is real and will satisfy your empty soul, but all it will do is destroy everything. Solomon’s words are a vivid picture for anyone in the pastorate!
I just wrote a post titled, “Sin is messy”. In a way it was a chance for me to vent a bit about how destructive this sin is, this sin of adultery for a pastor, but as I read it I was struck by two things, 1. the truth of the words, and 2. the harshness of my own anger at the devil and the results of this sin in our church and others I talk to. I’m frankly very tired of good and godly men being stupid!
But what I need to address is this- even though we might sin, destroy our marriages, our lives, our churches….God loves us! He is constantly reaching out to the broken, fallen, failed with his love. And, who needs it more than a fallen pastor? My friend who fell found himself with nothing and no one. His wife divorced him and as she prepared to leave gave him a few dollars. That’s all he had. Everyone had abandoned him, a man who was dearly loved only weeks before. We just don’t know what to do with all of this, do we?
In the middle of the sin of a pastor there is one truth we have to tell them, remind them of and tell ourselves as well- God loves him. He loves me. He’s madly in love with his children no matter what the sin. It’s God’s love the fallen pastor needs the most because all others abandon him and he finds himself alone.
I’m in the middle of a book titled, “Good and beautiful God” by Smith. Today I read chapter four in preparation for a small group. It just brought this truth back to my mind that even in the middle of the most terrible sin a church could experience God is still madly in love with the sinner.
Our response? It has to be the same. We must love that fallen one, embrace them, restore them in some way (not to the pulpit, but to the family) and we must forgive. If God still loves the fallen man or woman how can we possibly do any less?