Category Archives: affair

When a Pastor Falls, pt. 1: What Can Leaders Do?

I wanted to be able to write something to help churches and leaders have a guide for when their pastor falls. The crisisproblem is that no two situations are quite alike. And yet, all situations are very similar. For the next few posts, I want to give some help that comes from my experience and from the things I’ve read in the past four years.

When a pastor falls, it’s not an easy experience for anyone. The advice I’m giving is general advice for when a church learns that their pastor has fallen morally. He might have committed adultery with another person, he might have been engaged in what he calls an “emotional affair“, or he might have been engaged in a long time addiction to pornography. This post is designed to help the leaders in the church when the find out their pastor has fallen.

I want to start off with a few basic reminders before I start throwing out advice.

1. Remember that each and every decision needs to be bathed in prayer. People will be quick to act, easy to anger, and will be very hurt. Prayer has a way of focusing us in the right way.

2. Remember that decisions based on God’s Word, no matter how difficult they might be, will always be the right ones. A pastor who has committed adultery has forfeited his right to shepherd the flock for a time (that topic to be covered later).

3. But always remember that decisions based on God’s Word are always to be made with grace, love, and humility. If the pastor is removed, it should always be done with the grace of Galatians 6:1.

4. Never forget that there are many people involved in this matter. One man’s sin may be at the forefront, but there are many others who need care and need to see the church act with truth, love, and grace.

5. Keep it confidential until a decision is made. If your church leadership is gathering facts and talking to the pastor, gossip should not be part of anyone’s life. When the facts come in, your pastor may be cleared. If one of the church leaders goes home and tells his spouse all the details of an important meeting and word gets out and severely twisted, the damage may be too great.

6. Finally, never be afraid to ask for outside help. If your church leadership team isn’t sure about what to do, or you feel like you can’t seem to agree, find a mediator. Ask an expert for help. There are a lot of people I know and there are people provided by your denomination or association who can offer wisdom. Never feel like you’re alone or that you’re the first ones to go through this.

truefalseSo let’s get to some first steps in this matter. I don’t want to assume anything – like I said, people tend to find out differently and people tend to react differently.

Get The Facts Straight

Finding out that the pastor has committed some sort of adultery is not easy. The information can come in many different ways:

  • A rumor that has spread in the community
  • A church member might approach the church leadership with a printed out series of emails or Facebook messages that prove the pastor’s infidelity
  • An anonymous letter is sent to the pastor and church leadership from a woman claiming to be his mistress
  • The pastor’s wife might approach a deacon regarding her suspicions about the minister and a church member or staff member
  • A staff member might tell church leadership of an ongoing affair
  • At the end of a service, a church member/staff member might confess that the pastor has been cheating with them
  • The rumor might begin on a social media site (Facebook, Twitter) and get picked up by local media

There are many ways that church leadership can get informed of an issue the minister might be having. I’ve heard of or witnessed all of the scenarios listed above. The easiest thing to do is panic. The knee-jerk reaction is to fire the pastor.

The best thing to do is for the church leadership is to respond in a calm and biblical manner. Most church by-laws require some sort of due process for the minister. It is important to have a meeting with him. Before that meeting takes place, it is a good idea to do fact gathering from people who are knowledgeable about the situation.

The church leadership should take seriously any first-hand evidence that is presented to them. Always be wise with any evidence, discernmentunderstanding the people presenting it. Such a time requires discernment. If a person asks for a meeting with the church leadership and confesses to an affair with the pastor, should their claim be taken seriously? Absolutely. They have a right to be heard. Their claim should not be rejected outright. If they have evidence of communication, it is even more helpful. A problem can arise when someone rejects their claim because this person, “Isn’t the pastor. They aren’t trustworthy.”

Every person who has a justifiable claim has a right to be heard. Again, the claim may later be rejected as false or partially false, but all evidence needs to be weighed before rejecting any outright.

Gossip, innuendo, and rumor is not typically helpful. Anonymous letters are not the greatest. However, I have known many women who have written such letters and were truthful in what they wrote. Of course, the fact that they did not sign them led many to reject the claim. The church leadership should be careful in approaching such communication.

The pastor’s side of the story should be heard as well. He needs to understand the facts that have been gathered or given to the church leadership. One of the worst things that can happen in a meeting is for things to get personal. Sticking to the facts is very important.  I’ll talk more about meeting with the pastor later. But understand that it is important to always gather as much information as possible.

Don’t Read Into The Situation

If you do hear gossip, receive a letter, or have someone approach your leadership about your pastor’s fidelity, treat it as a serious matter.

One of the worst things we can do when an accusation is made (and no fault has been found in the pastor yet) is to think, “You know he has been acting weird lately,” or “He has always hugged the women in the church too long,” or “I never did feel comfortable around him.” You may feel those statements are true, but those statements may have nothing to do with the matter on the table now.

As church leaders, examine the facts as you have them, pray over them and prepare your heart for what decisions may lie ahead. Next time, we will examine meeting with the pastor, his reaction, and his spouse.

Want to leave a comment? Click the “keep reading” button and join the conversation.

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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

3 Ways To Dig Your Way Out Of Sin

You might have found your way to this site because you’re in the middle of a sin. Possibly adultery, mishandling money, pornography, maybe you’re about to commit adultery or have been getting too close to someone who isn’t your spouse. Also possible, you’re a pastor or minister.

I’m about to propose three ways you can start digging your way out of that sin. The obvious answer, most will say, is to turn to God and repent. That’s right. (To be clear, I’m not talking about human effort being able to save us from sin.) But when you’re a leader who has been engaging in deceit and deception, you feel like you’re as far away from God as you can be. I’ve been helping fallen pastors and leaders for five years and many of them ask, “How do I get out of this?

What a lot of people really want to know is, “How can I escape without anyone knowing?You can’t. Sin finds us out.

It’s a theme that’s repeated throughout Scripture. Sometimes we can hide from God and discovery for years. Sometimes months. But sin finds us out.

So what do we do when we’ve had enough of the lies and the deceit and we know we just want out?

1. Realize that getting out of sin costs at least as much as getting in. When we make the decision to sin, it costs. When we decide

This scene from "The Shawshank Redemption" aptly describes what it feels like to escape sin.
This scene from “The Shawshank Redemption” aptly describes what it feels like to escape sin.

to commit adultery, it will cost us our marriage (or a lot of therapy), our ministry, friendships, and a lot of other personal relationships. It will cost trust with other people. When we finally decide to get out of that sin, those accounts come due.

Sinning costs. And it costs a great deal. It’s not free. It comes with a great price. And when we’re tired of carrying it around, we have to realize that cost and be ready to face the consequences of it. Will we be forgiven by Christ when we are truly repentant? Yes, absolutely. Will we have the hope of reconciliation with people one day? Yes. But we also have to realize that we have crossed a line and we are responsible. That our sin costs and we have to be ready to pay the consequences for what we’ve done. (You might check out my previous blog post on punishment vs. consequences for more about this).

What I’m saying is that when you come to the point where you realize that you need help and you want out, push forward. Get out. The consequences will come. It is going to be tough. But God is merciful, there will be people who will help, and there is a future for you.

2. You can’t go wrong following Scripture. I like to ask pastors who are sinning, “What would you tell a church member in the sinning situation you’re in?” A lot of times, they say, “I don’t know.” That tells me that they really are blind to their sin. They know. They know exactly what’s wrong with what they’re doing. They just don’t want to stop doing it.

One of the best things you can do to find your way back is get on Google and type in your sin and “bible verses.” So if it’s adultery, Google, “bible verses on adultery.” Read them. If you’ve been sinning, it’s a good bet you’ve been doing two things. First, you’ve been hiding from God’s Word. Second, you’ve even been using God’s Word to justify your sin. Stop. Just read it for what it is. Listen for His voice.

3. Start telling the truth. If you’ve been in a pattern of sin, the best way out is to start telling the truth. It’s hard to stop lying and being deceitful when you’ve been doing it for so long. That’s why it’s best to find someone you can be truthful to. A mentor. A fellow pastor. A best friend. Heck, email me. And it’s going to be hard. It will be the most difficult thing you’ve ever done. But you have to do it. Because the deceit that has taken root in your heart is not who you are.

It’s not who God designed you to be. It’s not who God planned for you to be.

It’s time to stop the sin. And it’s time to reclaim who you are. Get help. Reach out. That’s why this ministry is here. There are others out there who have been what you are going through. You’re not alone and you’re not worthless.

Other helpful articles:

You Can’t Unscramble the Egg” by Fallen Pastor

How Do I Stop Sinning? Overcoming Your Worst Sins” Beginning and End

How Can I Overcome Addiction and Sin in My Life?” by Jack Wellman

____________________________

Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

Why Didn’t God Stop Me From Committing Adultery?

adulteryIt’s a question that comes to me often. It comes across my blog search engine more than I’d think. “Why didn’t God stop me from committing adultery?

There are two different points of view on this question. Most people are on the outside of this question. Most people reading this blog are probably saying, “What kind of ridiculous question is that? Are you serious? A pastor is asking how God could keep him from committing adultery? What a sick person! He shouldn’t be in the ministry to begin with!

I hear you. I understand your objection. And you’re right. But slow your roll for a second. I’ll get to you. Remember before you get too excited that all of us have been in some situation where our sin has overtaken us and that we will find some excuse for it. All of us have fallen well short of the glory of God. All of us are despicable people. And when we are in our sin, we find a way to justify it. It’s just that when we see a pastor committing the worst sin we can imagine, we are quick to heap on him judgment.

Yes, he is wrong. Let me answer the folly of the question. I was there. I fell from the ministry and committed adultery. I didn’t ask that question, but I asked a lot of questions like that. And when I was asking questions like that, I was doing it to justify my sin.

There is no justification for sin. There is no justification for adultery. God will not stop any sin that He has clearly laid out in Scripture as wrong. He has given us His Word to let us know what is wrong. Stealing? Yeah, He covered that. Coveting? It’s there. Lying? All there. Gossip, drunkenness, slander, hatred, anger, coarse language? Sure. Adultery? It’s overwhelmingly there. There is no reason God would attempt to stop any of us from committing those sins. He has warned us over and over again from the folly of committing those sins. Cover to cover, He has shown us that it is counter to a life that is healthy, spiritual, and amazing.

Why would we even pray a prayer that started, “Lord, if you don’t want me to be an adulterous relationship, then stop it.” Seriously? He’s already given us so many written and revealed passages of why it is dangerous to the life of a believer. It is damaging to the soul. It is counter to His will. When we pray a prayer like that, I’m not even sure that He can even entertain the heart of that prayer.

So, let’s back up for a moment and think about our horrible little hearts. All of us.

If as a church, we think the best medicine for a pastor who has fallen is to throw him as far away from the healing power of Christ, then we should be ashamed.”

In my book, I detail the thought process of the fallen pastor. When he crosses the line into adultery, he starts living a lie. He crosses that line for several reasons. Once again, I must mention that there are circumstances around him that push him into that sin, but he owns that sin. He chooses that sin. He may get pushed to that brink, but that choice is his to make. He may be isolated, the church may be in conflict, he may have gone through horrible personal circumstances, his marriage may be horrible; but adultery is a choice he makes.

The pastor chooses adultery. When he does, he begins to make a framework of lies to cover up his sin. He has to hide from his marriage, his family, his church, his fellow pastors, his congregation, and his God. It may be for weeks, months, or years. He lies to everyone he knows. He does this to seek out a relationship that he feels will give him something he thinks will make him whole. It’s something he think he hasn’t felt in a very long time.

He keeps pursuing it at the risk of everything he has pursued for his entire life. In his hubris, he doesn’t think he will get caught. Some pastors hope they will get caught. They want out of the ministry. They want out of their marriage. But some think they can continue on for their entire lives.

When they do get caught – and they will – they get asked about it. And they will lie to protect their ministry, their livelihood and their reputation. And then the justification will come. And it will come in a series of questions or angry rebuttals.

Why didn’t God stop me?” “Why didn’t my wife love me more?” “Where was the church when I was hurting?

And you know what? I don’t want to dismiss those questions entirely. These men were hurting. They were under extreme amounts of hurt reachingand failure. They needed help at some point and probably felt like no one was reaching out to give them that help. Does that excuse their sin? Nope. But it does mean that they need restoration.

It does mean that the fellowship of Christ shouldn’t kick them to the curb. It does mean that they need restoration back to Christ. I’m not talking about restoration back to the pulpit. But I’m talking about wounded men and their families who need serious help. Men who have been hurt for a very long time who need to be able to put the pieces back together. Men who have been looking for answers and have been wounded by the ministry, by conflict, by isolation and need Christians to walk beside them in their most dire hour of need.

If we look at a fallen pastor and say, “Well, he cheated on his wife and we need to kick him out,” then we have probably violated the spirit of Galatians 6:1. If as a church, we think the best medicine for a pastor who has fallen is to throw him as far away from the healing power of Christ, then we should be ashamed.

There are better ways, friends. That’s why this ministry exists. I have networked with people to help pastors, their families, churches, the women they have committed adultery with and others. There is a better way. Pastors will fall. And we need to take care of all those involved. So let’s start doing it right.

Helpful links:

Restoring the Fallen” by Douglas Weiss

Restoring Fallen Pastors” by Eric Reed

Can restoration occur after a pastor has been caught in a scandal?” from Gotquestions.org

Is Your Church Equipped To Handle Ministry Failure?” Fallen Pastor

3 Things a Church Can Do When a Pastor Falls” Fallen Pastor

__________________

Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

Why Do Pastors Commit Adultery?

My site is discovered because of all types of searches. But one of the most common search phrases is “Why do pastors adulterycommit adultery?”

I did. Four years ago. I wasn’t looking to commit adultery – and I don’t believe most pastors who cross the line are looking for it. I wrote a book about my fall and the stories of eleven other men who fell. I learned a lot about the circumstances that can make a pastor weak. Pastors are responsible for their sin. There are emotional, marriage, church and other issues that I outline in my book that can make the pastor weak.

So how is it that those who are the most respected people in our communities can commit a sin that most everyone finds to be the ultimate example of betrayal? Even in Scripture, God uses the language of adultery to compare Israel to be a people who have abandoned Him spiritually.

Let’s back up for a moment. Without sounding cynical, I have always found it interesting how most people watch television and movie dramas. My favorite example is the movie, “Bridges of Madison County.” If you’re not aware of the plot, after a woman dies in her old age, her children discover she had a brief affair with a photographer a long time ago. The movie basically justifies her adultery by showing how the main character was neglected by her husband and how the photographer filled a void in her life. If you watch the movie, you will probably find yourself justifying her actions. And hey, that’s where the plot leads you. It’s Hollywood.

bridgesBut this is not a one time occurrence. Soap operas, movies, television, reality television (those are all very interesting links, by the way) are all set up to create sexual tension. Not to mention the 50 Shades drama a few years ago. We discovered that one of the main reading audiences was Christian women. We have a sexually charged society. We find ourselves rooting for characters to cheat on their spouses, but it’s okay, because they’re only characters in a fictional story.

But when adultery happens in our social circles or in our family, we find it appalling. And we should. Because it is.

But hold on for a second. When we see sex on the big screen, it is sensationalized and made to look like it has no consequences. Just like most violence. The first movie I can remember that ever showed the consequences of violence was “Unforgiven.” (Lots of Clint Eastwood in this blog.)

So where am I going with all of this?

I’m not justifying pastoral adultery. Don’t hear me saying that culture has made us weak and so any of us are prone to commit sin. No, that’s not it. But we do have an interesting social standard. We often think we are immune from television, the songs we hear, or the movies we watch. But we aren’t. How many of us tell our children, “Garbage in, garbage out“?

In my book, I note several things that lead a pastor to weakness: poor relationship with spouse, isolation, conflict with church, and overly high expectations.

Uncontrolled and not seeking help, any of us can be weakened to a point where we will commit sin. But adultery is one of the sins that most Americans seems to hate the most. Despite the fact that statistics show that 25% of Americans have cheated on their spouse but not been caught. Worse yet, 37% of pastors have crossed the line.

Should pastors or any other person cheat? No. It’s a sin. Are there factors that make people weak? Yes. When we commit sin, it’s ours. We own it. Temptation may lead us to a sin, but we don’t have to commit it.

When someone is caught in an affair, there is obviously something that is fulfilling a desire for them. And it’s happening on several fronts. There may be a need that they feel their spouse isn’t fulfilling. There is an escape from stress or conflict. Guilt? Yes. But the risk is greater affairthan the reward.

But nothing ever lasts like that. Affairs are temporary. Any way it goes, one of the people figures out that it’s a fairy tale or both of them figure out that they really want to be together. Everything falls apart. One of them wants everything or one of them realizes the risks and knows it’s not worth it. Maybe it’s guilt, maybe it’s true repentance. But most of the time the remorse comes after the physical sin has occurred.

I can’t tell you how many pastors have contacted me and said “Well, I’ve cheated, my wife doesn’t know, but I’ve stopped seeing the woman I was with. I’m just going to stop. I think I can go on like I was before.” No, you can’t. Scripture says that our sin will find us out.

One statistic in my book is that 33% of conservative clergy have crossed the line with a woman not heir spouse but have not been caught.

Why do pastors commit adultery? The same reason anyone else does. Because we sin. Because something has broken in our relationship between God. Because something is broken in our relationship with our spouse. Because we allow ourselves to get weak and don’t reach out for help. Because we think we are stronger than we are. But we are not. We all need help. We need a community of faith, mentors, friends, family and a net to fall into.

But we fall when we think we can manage our grief, our pain, our conflict, our pain all on our own. We decide to find comfort elsewhere. We never would have considered it before, but when our souls are in pain, we will be more susceptible than we have ever noexcusebeen. All of us. Not just pastors.

Bottom line. There is no excuse. We have sinned. We have fallen short. But pastors need restoration and the help of the church and community of faith. (Galatians 6:1). Any Christian who sins horribly needs the support of those around them. The Christian leaders need to see whether that Christian is going to show signs of repentance – any sign of repentance. If they do, then they need to provide help. Even if they have to go outside the church to provide it.

This ministry. Fallen pastor. That’s what it’s here for. If you don’t know where to go or if you’re confused, contact me. I am here to help.

Other Helpful Articles:

Seven Warning Signs of Affairs of for Pastors and Other Church Staff” by Thom Rainer

Why Affairs Happen,” by Cindy Crosby

How to Have an Affair (and Ruin Everything)” by Kurt Kubna

____________________________

Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

Fallen Pastors: 3 Very Common Questions

I love helping (and am always more than happy to help) anyone who contacts me through this fallingministry, but I am closest to the messed up, confused world of the freshly fallen pastor. And it is a horrible place to be. I tell fallen pastors, “No one really understands fallen ministers like a fellow fallen minister.”

One of the most confusing things for people on the outside looking in is the messed up morality of a fallen pastor. Here’s the deal – when a guy has committed adultery for a while and hasn’t been caught, he’s not thinking clearly or biblically. And when he gets caught, he’s going to try to justify and excuse his behavior any way he can. Often, he will use Scripture to justify his sin. I tried it. It even sounded good to me at the time. But it was wrong.

To everyone else, it sounds rotten. It is rotten. That’s why I always tell people to be kind and patient with a fallen pastor. Don’t let him twist the truth, but do show him compassion. Understand that he is going to come around eventually. He is living the life of the prodigal son – one day he’s going to wake up and smell the pig droppings. And when he does, he’s going to need people who care about him.

I want to answer a couple of the most frequently messed up questions I get from fallen pastors today (I introduced this issue in my last post). The answers will seem pretty obvious. But that’s just it – when you’re waist deep in the crud of sin, the answers aren’t obvious because we aren’t looking for truth.

You know what’s even more troubling? I get these same questions from church leaders who want to ignore the sin of their pastor because they don’t want the church’s reputation to suffer damage. They would rather hide the pastor’s affair (even though his wife knows), tell the woman he had an affair with to move on (because she’s usually a church member or member of the staff) and sweep it under the rug so that the church isn’t traumatized. I’m just gonna tell you that a decision like that always comes back to haunt a church and those involved.

quesr2So here are the three most common messed up questions I get about fallen pastors – questions I even considered when I wasn’t thinking clearly when I was mired in my sin.

1. “God has forgiven me, so why do I need to tell the church/my wife what I’ve done?”

God is a God of forgiveness. That is clear. He does cast our sin as far as the east is from the west. I am thankful for the amazing grace that God has shown to us by His Son Jesus Christ.

I blogged a little about this question before but want to give the response clearly again. If you are a church leader and you have committed adultery, you should ask God for forgiveness. But you also have a duty to tell your church and leaders.

When you were hired, voted in, appointed by a council – you were given the position of head elder/pastor and expected to fulfill the duties of 1 Timothy 3:1-13. Those people put their trust in you. They expected you to be faithful to your calling and be a person above reproach. When we commit a major sin, we violate their trust. When we violate their trust, we need to let them know and we have come under church discipline.

The same goes for our spouse. We took a vow. And even if we commit “emotional adultery,” there is something wrong in our marriage that needs to be fixed right away. If it doesn’t get fixed, we are going to do it again. Our spouse deserves to know that we violated our vow and that we have become vulnerable to sin.

2. “I committed adultery/had an emotional affair with a woman in the church. sorrycoupIt’s okay if she stays at the same church as I do, right?”

When guys ask me this question, I know a couple of things. First, they are in trouble spiritually and morally. They are not thinking clearly. Why? Because they think they are/or may actually be in love with the woman they are having an affair with. They cannot stand being apart from her. They don’t want to be away from her.

Second, if at this point a pastor has “only” admitted to an “emotional affair” and he asks this question – I can almost bank on the fact that he has crossed the line into the physical but he’s just not being forthcoming about it.

The big problem is this – if a man has been caught and he’s saying all the “right” things like, “I know I’ve sinned and I want to make things right with my wife.” But his actions are saying, “I still want to be around this woman and I’m still texting her and talking to her,” then what he’s saying and what he’s doing are two different things. He’s not repentant. He’s still trapped.

Listen carefully though. I have a tremendous amount of concern for the woman the pastor has been involved with. I think churches should have the same amount of concern, especially if she is a member or a part of the staff.

Back to the issue at hand. Pastor, if you have committed adultery and you want your marriage to work out, you’ve got to distance yourself permanently from the person you were with. End of story. On top of that, you have to be transparent for a long time with your wife about your cell phone, email, Facebook and anything else you have passwords on. Give her access to everything. It’s freedom. It one step back towards trust.

repenta3. “I’ll be okay pretty quick, right? I won’t be out the ministry very long.”

When you get caught, what you need is to be restored to Christ. Something went wrong. Lots of somethings. I write about it on this blog and in my book. Those things need to be fixed before any kind of ministry can ever happen again. A life of brokenness and humility need to occur while God restores you.

This doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen in a few weeks. If you’re lucky, it might happen in a year. It happens in God’s timing.

But when you’re honest about your sin and how you came to it, God will be longsuffering and will heal your heart. It’s not easy being honest, but it is rewarding. It’s tough, but it is the narrow road for those who want peace.

Want to leave a comment? Click the “keep reading” button and join the conversation.

Other helpful links:

Sexual Sin in the Ministry” by Harry Schaumburg, Desiring God Ministries

Pastors on Moral Failures in Church Leadership: Don’t Hide It” by Lillian Kwon, Christian Post

____________________________

Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

What Should We Think Of “The Other Woman”?

cheating6I recently wrote a blog giving advice to “the other woman.” You know, the woman caught in adultery. The woman the pastor has an affair with. The mistress. But what should we think of “the other woman”?

I’ve never liked any of those terms. I guess it’s because I was a pastor and married the woman I had an affair with. I could say, “We shouldn’t tag people with names according to their sin.” But I’d be a hypocrite since the name of my blog is “fallen pastor.” That, and Scripture  accordingly tags us according to the sins we are habitually committing – “murderer, liar, etc.”

When we use terms to describe people, we are speaking of their sin. When we start speaking of people, we begin to take the role of judge. When we speak of an “adulterer” to describe the person’s sin, we should always remember that there is hope for that person to repent and turn to Christ. When they do, they’re no longer an adulterer in God’s eyes, they are a forgiven person, cleansed by the righteousness of Christ.

With that said, what are we to think of “the other woman”?

Let me begin by telling you about what the relationship looks like before the pastor and the other woman get caught. He’s told her that he’s never met anyone like her. He’s told her that she listens to him and his wife doesn’t. He’s told her that he wants to leave his church and family for her. He has pledged his undying love for her. He may actually feel that way or he may just think he feels that way. Either way, they are in their own world of forbidden love.

Then, they get caught.

Next, one of two things usually happen if the pastor doesn’t leave his family for her. First, the pastor gets caught and tells the church leadership that it wasn’t a physical affair or as serious as it looks in order to save his family and ministry. He tells the church leaders everything they want to hear so he can save some face. In doing so, the leadership demand he stops seeing her.

When this happens, the leadership will tell him to sever all contact with her and often, the leaders will contact her (especially if she’s a staff or church member) and tell her to leave the church. They will tell her to never step foot in the church again. She might be asked to tell her story, but usually, she isn’t. Eventually, the story is passed around and the pastor’s version of events are told and the membership gets mad at her for “seducing” the pastor.

The second thing that happens is that the pastor falls and tells the church leadership and his wife everything. As in the first case, the leadership tells him to stop contacting her, they ask her to leave and the pastor repents and attempts to reconcile with his wife.

In just a few cases I’ve seen over the years, churches have reached out to the “other woman” to help her. But I’ve only seen that in about two otherwom4cases in 200.

Let’s be clear. Both the pastor and this woman have sinned. Both have committed adultery. Both are guilty of the sin. In just about every case I’ve seen, the pastor had a higher moral responsibility to stop the situation from going anywhere. But often, when the sin comes to the surface, it’s easier to place the blame on the “temptress.”

I think that this is a very unfair balance for several reasons.

First, there is a moral failure within every human heart that only Christ can address. When we open ourselves to the possibility of sin, stop actively seeking Christ, and cease fellowship with believers of like mind, our hearts begin to wander.

Second, when moral failure occurs within the church, all aspects need to be addressed. Attempting to restore (or ignore the sins of) a pastor while sending out another member of the faith is inconsistent with our call to restore any of those within our fellowship (Galatians 6:1). Of course, the call to restore should be consistent with the desire for repentance on the part of those who sin. But when a person is cast out without even the offer of help, counseling, or guidance, the restoration cannot even begin.

Third, when “the other woman” is cast out, despite her sin, she is in the midst of confusion and needs a tremendous amount of support. Yes, she has sinned greatly. Yes, she has dug her own hole. Yes, she has committed adultery with the pastor. But at the moment of the fallout, how should the community of faith respond to her?

What are we to think of “the other woman”?

One of the most painful things for the church is that this woman has taken away the pastor who has led them and loved them for a long time. It’s hard for many people to feel anything but angst for the person who by their actions, took away their spiritual leader and hurt the pastor’s wife. So, it’s understandable if they don’t want to restore such a person to Christ. It’s understandable if the church leadership just wants to put her away from their sight.

But this is what makes the community of faith different, isn’t it? I’ve spoken with a lot of “other women” who have said, “the pastor told me he loved me. He said he would leave his wife for me. He said we would be together forever. When we got caught, the leadership got so mean and told me to leave. People started gossiping and people who were once my friends are now acting terribly.”

upsetwomanI get what’s behind the church’s actions and feelings. Hurt. Anger. I get that the church membership and leaders are in a precocious position.

That’s when we have to ask what the Christ-like response would be. What are we to do when it’s hard to love? What are we to do when we are hurt by others in the worst possible way? How are we to respond when we are betrayed by someone we thought was a friend?

Christ knew the answer and lived it. He was betrayed several times and in horrible ways and forgave freely.

Now, our forgiveness might take longer to digest and actualize, but it’s something worthwhile to work toward. In the meantime, if we are part of a community of faith, we need to view “the other woman” as a fallen person, like we are. A person created in the image of God, like us. Someone worth fighting for, worth saving, worth restoration. A person who has fallen as far as they can and who needs the hand of a fellow believer.

And if we aren’t in a position at that moment to provide that hand, we have to be willing to find someone who can until we can open the door far enough to begin the process of forgiveness and restoration.

Next time: “How do we help the other woman?”

If you’re “the other woman” you might want to check out my wife’s blog and my book. Other articles:

Forgiving the Other Woman” by Rebeca Seitz, from Crosswalk.com

Questions About Affairs From The Other Woman by Anne Bercht” – these are letters a Christian seminar group gets from “other women.” It’s an insight to the problems they suffer and they’re just like the problems we hear about, showing that these women need help.

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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

Advice For “The Other Woman”

moralcrisisThere’s a moral crisis among pastors in our country. I can cite statistics all day – and I have on this blog – about pastors falling into adultery to prove the point.

But I think the thing that gets to me the most are the women who contact us through this website who most would call the pastor’s mistress, “the other woman,”or the adulteress. We minister to everyone who is affected by the fall. If I had nothing else to base my premise of a moral crisis among pastors on – the sheer numbers of women claiming to be having affairs with pastors still serving would be enough. In this post, I’d like to offer advice for “the other woman.”

Before I start on this topic, I want to address two things. First, I fell in the ministry and I married the woman I had an affair with. I’ve made it clear before and I’ll say it again. We are not an example to be followed. We sinned in the eyes of God. Also, even though we sinned, any advice we give should not be automatically dismissed. It should be matched up with Scripture. If it’s truth, it’s truth only because God said it first.

I also want to caution readers who read this to be aware of their beliefs and emotions on this topic. It’s one thing to have a sense of compassion for the woman caught in adultery in John 8. But often, I’ve found that when many Christians come face to face with a real woman caught in adultery with a pastor, they are quick to judge her harshly and are unwilling to show her love or any kind of path to restoration in Christ.

Most of the emails we get from women who are having affairs with pastors are very similar and saddening. Many have the same characteristics which outline the problems in our churches, but will also form the basis of my advice I would like to give to all the “other women” out there who might read this. Here are the most common statements we hear:

1. “This affair has been going on a long time. I’ve become convinced that it needs to end, but he tells me that it’s okay. He doesn’t want it to end. What should I do?”

More often than not, the woman involved with a pastor will show moral objection long before the pastor will. She is otherwomanoften guilt-ridden and wants out, knowing that the relationship was a mistake in the first place. She admits that she was weak when it started and acknowledges her sin, but also admits that her bond with the pastor is very strong.

At the same time, the pastor often justifies their actions together. Sometimes, he will use Scripture to do so. He will often tell her how his wife doesn’t listen to him anymore, how he’s never loved anyone like her, how he was never meant to be with his wife, that God meant her to be his companion and not his wife. He’s an accomplished speaker and people person and his words hold sway with someone who is in love with him.

My advice is always the same. Get out of the relationship. It’s sinful and is causing harm to both you and to anyone it touches. You are right to feel guilty but you can be free of it. God will forgive you of that sin, but you have to break free from it. The best first step is to leave the church and get free from any influence the pastor has over you. No more texting, meetings, phone calls, emails – no contact. Let him know it’s over.

2. “He keeps telling me that he’s going to leave his wife and family for me. He’s been telling me that for a long time. He tells me he loves me. He hasn’t left his wife yet. I don’t want to wreck his family, but I love him too.”

This happens more than you’d probably want to know. And these examples I’m giving? Most of these pastors are probably still serving. I’ll get to that in a minute.

In general, if you’re having an affair and a man keeps telling you he’s going to leave his family, don’t believe him. But that’s not even the point. You shouldn’t even be in that relationship and you know you shouldn’t.

My dad gave me some of the best advice ever one time. He said, “Son, if you ever have to ask whether or not you should be doing something, you probably shouldn’t be.” In other words, if you have to ask about the ethics of something – especially something pretty simple – you probably already know the answer.

That’s what’s under all of these questions. It’s not really about “should I run off with the pastor“? The women who contact us already know what they’re doing is wrong. They really want to know “I know I’m wrong. How do I get out?” Again, stop the relationship. Remove all contact. Find people who can help you.

3. “The church leaders found out about me and the pastor. But the pastor lied about the relationship. He told them I was coming on to him and he kept trying to push me away. He told them it was an emotional affair but there was more. I have proof. The church leaders and members are attacking me and lying about me. I have proof of how awful he was and don’t think he should be pastoring. Should I turn him in?”

otherwoman2Again, I get this a lot. And it’s tough. Because on one hand, when any of us has been hurt and accused of more than we should, we have an overwhelming sense of justice. Especially when the other person we were co-partners in sin with is getting away with it and blaming it all on us.

My advice is difficult, but I lean on some Scriptural ideals. Jesus calls on us to be peacemakers. We are also told that our sin will find us out. God has a plan for everything. If we really believe that – as hard as it may be – then the advice may not be so hard to follow.

I advise not to retaliate. Get as far away from the church and pastor as possible. Focus on getting yourself right with God. You get better. Get yourself help. Heal your heart. Get that situation in your rear view mirror and give it over to God. If that pastor and church leadership know the truth and are twisting it, then they aren’t going to believe you anyway. No one there is. They aren’t going to accept anything you say.

I know you want justice. I know you want the satisfaction of seeing him hurt like you hurt, especially when he told you he loved you and he made you feel special. But that’s not your place. Vengeance isn’t your place. God will take care of it. What you need to do is grasp the grace of God and His forgiveness for your sin. One day, that pastor is going to get exposed and he will have to face the music. When he does, he’s going to need grace as well.

Friends, I’ve seen a lot of hurt people in the past five years. I’ve talked to all kinds of people from different backgrounds. They all need love, grace, mercy and kindness. Some of them just need someone to listen for a minute without being judgmental. Some just need someone who’s been there and to tell them that Christ really does forgive and love them for who they are.

If you’re the other woman and want out, contact us. We’re here for you. If you’re a pastor involved in an affair, stop. You’re doing damage to yourself, your family, and to another person.  And I’m here for you. Contact me. I won’t judge you or yell at you. I do know the way to help and a path to restoration. Let us help.

Related post: The Fallen Pastor’s Wife – Wrote this post three years ago to help the wives of fallen pastors.

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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

Is Repentance Possible For The Fallen Pastor?

repentsWhen a pastor falls from the ministry, due to adultery, embezzlement, alcoholism, or whatever, the immediate desired response is that he repent on the spot. Repentance, as we know it, is a turning away from his sin and moving back toward God. Is repentance possible for the fallen pastor?

If he has left his wife or committed adultery, he needs to cut off all contact with the woman he is with and try to reconcile with his wife and family.

To do this, he needs the help of his church, counselors, and spiritual people who are willing to walk with him in restoration for a long time. It will be a difficult process. It will be a long process. In the beginning, he may not want to come back, but if he shows repentance, along with the support of the church, he may come back.

Even if he does, he will always have the albatross of sin tied around his neck for the rest of his life. I do know of many pastors who restored with their wives who reentered into ministry under the care of gracious churches.

That’s the easy one. Then we have the pastors, who I have written about extensively in my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” who for whatever reason, decided not to turn from their sin. In my book, I talk about the stages the pastor goes through in the early days of his fall. He is angry over a lot of things, he feels rejected, he knows he has sinned, yet he is looking to justify his sin.

Few reach out to him and often, the only friend he has is the woman he has chosen to be with. These aren’t excuses for anconflict unrepentant attitude, they are the reality in which he lives.

Which brings me to a most important point – his issues didn’t start overnight. He didn’t wake up one day and decide to commit adultery. His temptation was preceded by years of issues, conflict, marriage issues and ultimately, temptation. The confusion he now finds himself in are a result of his own sin and he has to face the consequences.

He may reach out to his wife at some point to discuss reconciliation to find it isn’t possible. He may not wait long enough for the anger to reside. He may just be stagnant in his sin and keep pushing on. He may just want to be with this new woman. Regardless, he has made his choice, leaving many people behind hurt and disillusioned.

Someday, though, the light goes on. It probably goes on after he’s remarried or after reconciliation with his wife has long passed. His heart begins to turn to God and He realizes he has sinned greatly, but there is little he can do about his sin.

He knows he can write letters of apology, call the church deacons, apologize to his former wife, family, but he cannot undo the past. He turns to God for forgiveness and God forgives. He always does.

King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, then to hide his sin, he had her husband murdered. There’s no reconciliation to be had there with anyone. But after his sin was discovered, he poured out his heart to God for forgiveness. But where’s the repentance? He can’t undo the adultery and murder. God wanted a repentant heart in David. And David was broken when he wrote Psalm 56 and I believe he turned his heart to God. He couldn’t un-murder Uriah, but he could repent for his actions.

There are many that believe that a fallen pastor who did not reconcile with his wife can never be truly repentant. They make a good point. Their point is that unless you go back to your wife and family, you are not repentant. You are still a sinner and out of the will of God.

I’ve posed this question to a lot of counselors and seminary professors and people with a much higher pay grade than me. Why? Not so I could justify myself. But because I want to be right with God. After my divorce, reconciliation was not to be had, I remarried and went on. I spent a  lot of time in anger and bitterness.

sinnomoreThen, I had my moment with God. My moment where I asked if I could be truly repentant. I was reminded of the woman caught in adultery. He told her to “Go and sin no more.” I was reminded of the tax collectors who came to Christ and the result of their life was to stop living in a way that was dishonoring to God. The thief on the cross was granted entrance into heaven based on his belief. Paul, on the road to Damascus, was transformed by Christ and his life took a turn completely God-ward.

None of these people could do anything about their past at that point. It was what it was. The tax collector refunded the people’s money. Some could go and apologize to those they had harmed. But Christ desired a heart change. He wanted them to “go and sin no more.” He wanted the sin they had committed that led them there to stop.

Quote me how divorce is adultery and remarriage is adultery. I understand. I understand the sins committed in those days were done out of my own selfishness, due to the circumstances around me, due to my own desire to sin. All my sin. But I also know I was forgiven.

And if I quote Hershael York once, I’ll quote him a thousand times. He said to me, “You have to make your repentance more notorious than your sin.” He wasn’t excusing what I had done, but recognizing that I had sinned. But now that I had, I had to live a life of holiness, a life pleasing to God.

Unfortunately, for the fallen pastor, for many, he will always be seen as the man with the Scarlet Letter emblazoned upon him. Not worthy of forgiveness or trust. Hated by many, scorned by his former pastor friends, and not worthy of any service to God. I know better. There is hope. God is never done with His servants who turn their hearts toward Him. God has forgotten your sin if you repent and turn away from former things. Even if others bring it up, God has cast it as far as the east is from the west.

If you’re a fallen pastor and are reading this, regardless of what stage you are in, there is hope for repentance. Deep down, you know what to do. Turn to God, seek Him and He will answer.

(This is a repost from a while back, but I thought it might help those who are new to the site – God bless).

Want to leave a comment? Click the “keep reading” button and join the conversation.

____________________________

Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

Fallen Pastors and Divorce

2percentThis isn’t an easy post. Some fallen pastors who have committed adultery end up with the woman they commit adultery with. I was one. How should we approach the issue of fallen pastors and divorce?

Let me share with you a couple of things before I start. The statistic is non-negotiable – 2% of marriages that are built on adultery succeed. You get that? That means if you marry someone that you commit adultery with, you are looking down the barrel of a 98% failure rate.

Now, let me share with you this quote from Dr. Hershael York, preaching professor who I interviewed for my book. He had a great reason why marriages built on affairs don’t really last. It’s because when you’re engaged in an affair, it’s really a fantasy world that you can come and go from. It’s not a true relationship that is founded on the marriage ideal:

Every time you have an affair with anybody, I don’t care who you are, in a sense, you’re having an affair with a fantasy and not a real person. Because the person you’ve got to pay the mortgage with, deal with the kids’ soccer schedule with, the one whose vomit you wipe up when they’re sick, that’s the real person you live with. Twenty minutes in the sack on a Tuesday afternoon is really not love. You’ve got to tell yourself that. You’ve got to awaken yourself to the fact that it’s fantasy. If you end up with the person you had an affair with, I guarantee you once you get married you have to face the same issues and same struggles. You cannot take two totally depraved human beings, stick them in the same house and not have friction.” (Fallen Pastor, p. 172)

He’s right. The thrill of the affair is not the same as a marriage covenant.

I did in fact, marry Allison, who was the woman I met and had an affair with. We are still here after four years. We are not the norm. I do not encourage fallen pastors to run after the women they had an affair with. For some reason, Allison and I have made it work. She is great for me. She loves me for who I am and I love her with all my heart. Does that make our sin right? Nope. But we are here, attempting to move on past what we did and trying to live a life of holiness.

I’ve often said that pastors don’t just wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll commit adultery today.” They don’t. It takes a long time to get to that point. Know this – their sin is their responsibility. There are factors that weaken them and I list them in my book – poor relationship with spouse, overly high expectations, church conflict, isolation and many times a huge trauma.

pastorkidsOne thing that many fallen pastors don’t think about is what the fallout will be. When I was on the road to leaving my wife and the ministry, I just knew I wanted to be with Allison. I knew it would cost me my job and the contact I had with my children.

When I finally got caught, it became more real to me. It was all over. All of it. Especially the contact I would have with my children.

I won’t sit here and tell you that it was an easy thing. It was the most difficult thing. In fact, all of the fallen pastors I talk to tell me that losing full time contact with their children in cases of divorce is the most devastating thing for them.

There are some statistics that should bother anyone involved in church today. The statistic that a vast majority of ministry couples feel that serving in the church has a detrimental effect upon their marriage. That most ministry couples experience anxiety and depression.

People ask me, “Would you do it again if you had the chance?” I don’t like hypothetical questions. What I do consider is being able to provide for my children, making sure they are happy, and being involved with them and being free to talk with them when they desire.

They are daddy’s girls. I am proud to say they love me. We discuss things that I know they only share with me. They know what I did was a sin, but they love me anyway.

Divorce is a terrible, sinful thing. They know this. But each time I see them, they wrap their arms around me and call me “Daddy.” They love me despite my flaws and care about the ministry I’m involved in now.

What is the point I’m driving at? Well, there are two. First, if you are a pastor who is thinking about adultery, please think about the consequences. If you fall, it will effect everyone around you. Your church, your wife, your kids and people in the community. If there is something there to salvage, work on it.

Secondly, if you have fallen, do what it takes to work things out with your family. Your kids, parents, siblings, trustgrandparents, whomever. Not everyone will be easy to trust or forgive you right away. You need to understand that you are the one who sinned. If you are truly repentant and understand grace, then you will give people time to heal.

Divorce is a serious thing. Fallen pastors, are you ready to go into those proceedings? Many hurt pastor’s wives want to leave you immediately. It’s because they are hurt. They often listen to the counsel of their family or those in the church who are hurt as they are. If you want your wife back, try to get an impartial mediator involved.

If divorce is pursued, seek the heart of Christ. Don’t be an angry person. Always be thinking about your children. Don’t respond with hatred when hatred is thrown back at you. Remember that the reason your spouse is acting as she does is because you did what you did. Show true, repentant humility.

You might not be able to stop a divorce, but beginning with true, Christ-like humility can put you on the right step toward a lifetime journey of repentance and holiness.

Finally, I will tell you this. When a wife has been cheated on, she has the right to be angry. Don’t expect her to forgive you or gain your trust overnight. I’ve seen a lot of fallen pastors say to their wives within months of the act of adultery, “God says you should forgive me.” Wrong approach. When we commit adultery, we have caused depths of hurt that we do not understand.

Step back, repent to God and allow Him to work on the hearts of others. Know that trust takes a long time to be restored. It may never be restored. I’ve seen fallen pastors whose wives never forgive them or always hold their adultery over their head.

How does one respond to that? With grace. With the same grace we desire after we committed adultery. We cannot expect to change anyone’s heart but our own. When you sin, turn to God. Allow Him to change in you what it is that went wrong. Even if your marriage ends in divorce, be patient with others. Allow God to make you a new person.

As Dr. York taught me, “Make your repentance more notorious than your sin.”

Want to leave a comment? Click the “keep reading” button and join the conversation.

____________________________

Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

When a Pastor Falls 2: Confronting the Pastor

This series is about how church leadership can effectively handle the fall of their pastor when he has been accused of sexual Three businessmen having meeting in officeimmorality. It is a horrible situation for any church to find themselves in. It is seemingly a no-win situation for anyone. But it is a situation that more and more churches find themselves in. I am a fallen pastor and over the past four years, I have counseled many fallen ministers and hurt churches and I hope to help others find a way through this process that creates healing for all involved. When a pastor falls, what is the best way to confront him?

Please take time to read part one here. Today, we will focus on meeting with the minister after all the facts have been gathered, the pastor’s response, and how to minister to the fallen pastor’s spouse.

Meeting With the Minister

There are two situations you could be facing when you meet with him. You’ll either have evidence of his adultery or you won’t. Either way, what should you do? I suggest you have a straightforward meeting. It’s not the time for any type of mind games. Always remember that God is in control of every situation. If there’s sin involved, God is always at work and will be the one to take care of it.

Before the pastor arrives, make sure the church leadership is on the same page about what you’re going to discuss. If there is any disagreement whatsoever about how to handle the meeting, take care of it before the pastor arrives. The church leadership needs to be of one mind and heart before the meeting takes place.

Agree that this is not an angry confrontation. This is a meeting among brothers in Christ. There are two things to always remember. First, how would you want to be treated if you were the one being confronted about a possible sin in your life? Second, always remember Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

upsetIt’s best if just one leader does most of the talking so you can stay on point. You’ll probably know which of you is best suited for the job. If you don’t think any of you are able to do it, ask an outside mediator to help. A pastor from another church you trust, an associational director, or a strong Christian from the community.

Then, it’s time for the meeting. If you don’t have any physical evidence, share with him what you do have then let him speak. If you have evidence, let it be addressed.

The Pastor’s Reaction

I’ve been blogging here for four years. I’ve been talking to fallen pastors for the same amount of time. There are all kinds of pastors out there. When a pastor falls, it’s always a shock. Sometimes a pastor falls and the church can’t believe such a wonderful man of God could do such a thing, but he’s been committing adultery behind his wife and the church’s back for ten years. I’ve talked to churches whose pastor had kids with other women years ago and no one knew about it.

What I’m saying is that each situation is different. And when you sit down to talk to your pastor about suspected sexual immorality, he may be completely innocent. Then again, the man you are talking to may have been putting on a front for years that you have been fooled by. I got away with it for a few months. Some get away with it for years. In some ways, all of us know how to put up a front and keep people from knowing who we really are.

When you sit down and confront a pastor about his sin, he may break down and confess everything. He may have been wanting to get caught. But some will flat out deny everything. Even if you have the most compelling evidence in the world, they may lie and try to talk their way out of it. They may say, “Well, I was involved emotionally with someone.” Or they might say, “Whoever gave you that information is crazy. How long have you known me?”

That’s why this calls for discernment on the part of church leadership. That’s why you have to have your information together. That’s why when you talk to the minister about this, you have to gauge his reaction carefully. You should be able to tell pretty quickly whether he is involved in sin. It should be apparent to everyone in the room. And whatever response he gives, it needs to be handled with love, grace and compassion.

The Proper Response

I’m going to write more later about how church leadership should handle the pastor when sexual immorality is confirmed, but I defensivewant to share this quote from Dr. Hershael York. He’s the preaching professor at Southern Seminary and runs an excellent site at pastorwell.com. I interviewed him for my book and asked him how a church should respond to a pastor when they find out about his sin. When should they help him recover and get him counseling and when should they just let him go? Here’s what he said:

“A church’s posture has to be guided by whether or not there is repentance, because your posture has to be one thing if a person is living in defiance and embracing their sin. Then you have to confront. 1 Corinthians 5 kicks in and Paul describes as turning them over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. There’s nothing pretty about that. But if a person is broken and repentant over their sin, even if they want to be and they’re not there yet, but they want to be.

“They may say, ‘It’s hard for me to leave this 23 year old girl who thinks I hung the moon and go back to a wife I struggled with for the past 20 years, but I want to do that because it honors the Lord.’ Well, if a guy says that, then by all means, you’ve got to walk that walk with him, or see that someone does. Because sometimes the unity of the church matters too and the leaders in the church have to take care of the church but what they cannot do is just abandon the one in sin and say, ‘Well, you’re on your own.’”

The Pastor’s Wife

upsetwomanNot to be forgotten about in all of this is the pastor’s wife and his family. When a pastor is caught in adultery, his wife is absolutely devastated. Most often, the pastor cheats on her with a staff member, church support staff, or a family friend. Church leadership needs to be able to be ready to surround the pastor’s spouse with support.

I have seen wives who decide to stay with their husbands and they are shown scorn from people in the church for doing so. I have also seen the opposite – wives who leave their husbands and are shown contempt for doing so. It is a traumatic event for the spouse and what she needs is not to be surrounded by people telling her “you need to divorce that creep” or “you know, the Bible says divorce is a sin.” Advice given may be correct, but what the spouse needs for such an awful moment are people who are willing to simply comfort her, cry with her, and allow her to be herself.

Helpful article on helping the pastor’s wife during a crisis:

Helping Your Pastor’s Wife After a Church Crisis” by Paraleko

Next time, I want to focus on the church’s public response to the pastor’s adultery.

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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

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