Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, church, church leadership, church members, churches, repentance, restoration, wife | Posted on 29-08-2014
Over the past five years as I’ve ministered to fallen pastors, their wives, their churches, and the women caught in adultery, there is one profound and disturbing scene that plays over and over again. It is a story that is told in my book by eyewitnesses. It is a story I have heard numerous times over the past few years.
When a pastor or minister falls in adultery, the church is often quick to put him out. There is much anger, frustration, and sometimes hatred.
One of the questions that comes to bear quickly is, “What will his wife do?”
This question is asked by her family. I’ve seen the wife’s family most often say, “You need to leave him. He’s cheated on you. Get rid of that man.”
The response from the church is often the same: “He cheated on you and has abandoned his calling. Divorce him.”
I don’t really know how to reconcile these thoughts. Let me say out front that adultery is awful. It’s terrible. When a man chooses to willingly commit adultery, he has abandoned his family, his marriage, and if he is a pastor, he has chosen to leave his ministry position. It is a terrible, sinful situation.
The feelings that occur when the pastor has been caught are tremendous. People feel betrayed. They are hurt. They have a sense of grief and vengeance at times. When any of us are hurt, we often lash out and want the person who has hurt us to feel the same hurt that we feel.
The cultural and secular response to adultery is to divorce. It is to leave your spouse. It’s the feeling the church has when they find out their pastor has committed adultery. It’s a typical response. It’s the most common response. The church wants to distance themselves from the pastor and they fire him, kick him to the curb, without any further mention of his name or consideration of his future. It is a very human and visceral response.
What I’ve been arguing for in this blog for five years is that the visceral response is not a biblical response. If the pastor shows no signs of repentance at all, it may be best to let him go on his way. But if he is caught and shows any kind of repentance, then Galatians 6:1 kicks into gear and we are to restore him as we are to restore anyone within the community of faith who has fallen into sin. That is what the body of Christ is about. I’m not talking about restoring him to the pulpit. But I’m talking about getting him help so that he can be restored to Christ. Back to his wife and family.
“What is most disturbing to me is the reaction I see when the pastor’s wife wants to restore her marriage to the fallen pastor and she is held in contempt.”
What is most disturbing to me is the reaction I see when the pastor’s wife wants to restore her marriage to the fallen pastor and she is held in contempt. This happens when the church has reacted harshly to the minister’s sin and they have no desire to restore him at all. They have decided that the best thing for the minister’s wife is to leave him. But, she has decided that the best thing is to stay with him and restore their relationship.
I have seen it play out over and over where churches see the pastor’s wife reject her as an ally of the fallen pastor. They see her as damaged goods – just as damaged as the fallen pastor.
What they should see is a woman who is deciding to be a restoring, Christ-like agent in the life of her husband. They should draw up beside her and give her and him the support they need to restore their broken marriage. Unfortunately, what happens too often is that the church throws both of them out. They see her as a blind person who can’t see that he is just a terrible, lost sinner who has fallen too far from grace and cannot be saved.
Is this the Christian response? Is this a biblical response?
I don’t want to be too hard on the church, because I believe in most cases, the church is responding out of anger and hurt. Most churches are ill-equipped to handle the fall of a pastor or minister in this situation. They may not have the ability to walk alongside their pastor and his wife, but they should be able to find people who can.
Friends, there is sin in this world. It happens to our leaders. And when a pastor falls and his wife bravely and Scripturally chooses to stay with him, they should be supported by the local body of believers. They should not be shunned or cast out. If the local church cannot find it within themselves to help, they at least should find someone on the outside who can walk with them.
Abandonment of a hurting ministry couple who are going through the worst time of their lives is not the answer. If we are going to address the serious issue of ministry failure, we have to do better. As church leaders, members, associational directors, denominations, and Christ-followers, we must do better to take care of those who we call brothers and sisters.
“Is Your Church Equipped To Handle Ministry Failure?” 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.
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