Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, church, church members, counseling, divorce, pastors, reconciliation, relationships, wife | Posted on 11-11-2013
I get emails each week from many different people; pastors who just fell, wives whose husbands fell, churches whose pastors fell, etc. – and most are in a state of panic. “What happens now? What am I supposed to do right now?”
There are no easy answers. There isn’t a handbook that gives a quick answer. I’d love to say the book I wrote has easy, fast answers for everyone to patch up the damage that has just been inflicted. But in the wake of a fall, it takes time, understanding, patience and a willingness to forgive.
Today’s article is on a very sensitive topic – the devastated spouse. I feel completely unqualified to write this because as the fallen pastor, I hurt my former wife. I’m not going to discuss my previous relationship, instead, I will rely on the interviews I did for my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” and the interactions I’ve had since then.
A lot of dynamics occur with the spouse of the fallen pastor after the fall. These are the things I’ve seen happen over and over again. At the end of this post, I’ll try and resolve what can be done. I hope. But know this beforehand – I have all the respect in the world for the spouses whose partners fall from ministry. I grieve for them. I get emails from them. I hurt for them. And I want to be able to one day make it possible so that no pastor ever falls from the ministry again. Unrealistic? Maybe. But that’s my hope.
The Horrible Truth About Ministry Marriages
In my book, I quote a lot of statistics. I’m about to repeat some of them here.
- 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses are discouraged and dealing with depression
- More than 40% of pastors and 47% of their spouses report they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules and unrealistic expectations
- 77% of pastors said they did not have a good marriage
- 81% of pastors report insufficient time with their spouse
- 64% report communication difficulties with their spouse
- 46% report sexual problems with their spouse
- 80% believed pastoral ministry affected their families negatively
Its easy to see your pastor as a person who has it all together. Perfect home. Perfect family. Perfect life. But statistics show that he is under a great deal of stress. In my last post, I detailed how many pastors chase after the church as his first mistress. In doing so, he loses touch and intimacy with his wife.
Ministry is very hard on a couple. Unless they are strongly grounded in Christ, have friends to mentor them, have the full support of the church, and keep communicating intentionally, they may have a course set for disaster.
Someone to Love, Someone to Hate
A wise friend once told me that after the fall of a pastor, things get really nasty. In fact, a dichotomy takes place. The church has to have someone to love and someone to hate.
My whole reason for writing the book was to show that there is a problem in the church culture. When the pastor sins, we throw him to the curb immediately. Scripture tells us to restore him. But our hurt and eventual anger compels us to jettison him completely.
In turn, the church begins to hate the pastor. We have an enemy. The pastor. Then, we find someone to love. The pastor’s spouse. I’ve seen it over and over. The church lavishes their attention on the pastor’s spouse who has been wronged. And rightly so. She should be helped. She has been abandoned and left alone. Their spouse has committed adultery.
My only concern in this realm is when people come alongside the spouse and say things like, “He was no good anyway. You need to pursue divorce.” What the spouse needs is comfort. The spouse has been betrayed and needs to work through things. Quick advice will not help. Godly advice will. The spouse needs people to walk with her. To listen to her rants, her grief, her pain, and her feelings.
The ultimate goal of the church should be restoration of any sinner to Christ. But the goal of any broken marriage should be the attempt of restoration. That takes time and people who are willing to walk with them. Quick fixes are not available to anyone in this situation.
Encourage wise people to aid the spouse. People who can help her in her hurt, pain, and grief. To walk with her and the children.
The Final Outcome
What happens in the end between the fallen pastor and his spouse is ultimately their business. It is very personal. This is a very touchy issue. If restoration comes between them, then it should be celebrated. If not, then the church should still love both equally.
Right now, you’re thinking, “Heck no! The pastor is the one who cheated! He should be scorned and left to his own devices!”
Before I fell, I would agree. But that was before I completely understood the compassion and grace of Christ. Jesus showed us that no one is beyond repair. No one is beyond forgiveness. Everyone is worth pursuing. He pursued us, didn’t He?
As for the pastor’s spouse, they are to be loved, but not pitied. They are to be helped and given grace as the pastor is. They need counsel just as the pastor does. Restoration to one another is best. But if it is not to be had, the church is to rally around reality.
Where do we go from here? We treat them as people. People just like us. Love them. Accept them. Never give up on them. Because Jesus never would.
Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” If you are a fallen pastor, a pastor in trouble, a church whose pastor has fallen, or need someone to talk to your group about preventing ministry failure, please feel free to contact Ray here. All messages will be kept confidential.