Unfortunately, many of us know pastors who have succumbed to the temptation of an affair. Often, a pastor’s/minister’s affair destroys his marriage, his family, his career, his ministry, his reputation, his power in the kingdom of God and even his church – not to mention the life of the other woman involved. Many times – these kinds of things can even make the news and cast a horrible ungodly light on the entire church of Jesus Christ. The stakes are very high. The enemy wants to take down anyone he can but especially those who are in positions of godly leadership.
Rumors can be as destructive as actual infidelity for a pastor. I have seen false accusations cause equally devastating consequences to a number of pastors and their families and churches.
It’s easy to think that certain people are “above” certain sins.
We are all sinful people. If we are far enough from God and have the right opportunities – we can all fall.
There is often little accountability and there are MANY opportunities for indiscretions in our churches today.
One thing I greatly admire about Billy Graham was the way he was SO careful not to be alone with a woman. That way, there could be no rumors about even “the appearance of evil.”
I think that his conviction could be something for the rest of us to prayerfully consider.
Men need respect. Leaders need respect.
It is VERY EASY for a troubled woman to come to her pastor (college minister, youth minister, music minister) and to idolize him as being spiritually “so mature.” It is effortless for her to feel respect for his ideas, his biblical knowledge, his wise counsel. She is amazed at being able to talk with a man who will pray with her. It is EASY for her to begin to admire his spirituality and for her to begin to trust him deeply and look up to him spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. This can be dangerous territory.
Pastors are human. They are sinners saved by grace – just like all of us. Many times, a pastor/minister has his own wife at home. Many times, a pastor feels disrespected and feels like a failure with his own wife. She may resent the long hours he puts into his work. She may be angry because it seems like everyone at church gets more of his time and concern than his own wife and family receive. And most likely, he probably doesn’t pray with her, but he prays with everyone else. He may go home to an angry, contentious wife who does not support his leadership at home OR at church. Or – maybe his marriage is almost perfect – but even then, he is still not completely immune from the respect and admiration of a beautiful woman.
A pastor may begin to enjoy seeing a woman from his congregation come to him for knowledge and wisdom and to see that light of admiration for him in her eyes.
It is EASY for affairs to start this way. If one or both parties are not guarding their hearts – it is a slippery slope.
IF YOU GO TO A PASTOR FOR COUNSELING:
I would hope that he would have his own policy of not being alone with women. But, if your pastor does not have that policy, then,
- I believe it is very wise for you to say, “I need for another person to be present while you are counseling me, please.”
It would need to be someone you and he both trust, who would not share any information that you share with the pastor. His wife. His secretary. A deacon, elder or well-respected teacher in the church.
Some other guidelines I believe would be wise to prayerfully consider…
- Be careful about sending frequent text messages, emails, FB messages in private to ANY man – including a pastor. When a man and woman have prolonged private conversations – it is easy to form an emotional or spiritual attachment. And then, when things are not going well in your relationship, it is easy to turn to that pastor for comfort. Once you are engaged/married – it may be wise to copy your husband on any electronic messages if at all possible. For single women, maybe you could consider copying your parents, a godly older woman in the church or the pastor’s wife (someone who is trustworthy) on your messages for the sake of accountability.
- Many times, it may be best to receive godly counsel from a godly, older mentoring wife than from a man. (Titus 2:3-5 It is the older wives who are to instruct the younger wives how to affectionately love their husbands and children…)
- If you MUST meet a pastor or male Christian counselor in private for counseling – keep it brief. Be aware if anything begins to be inappropriate and be prepared to leave. Keep physical contact to a minimum.
- If you do go to a pastor (or any man) for counseling and realize that you are starting to have romantic feelings for him (and he is a married man) – I believe it is wise to stop seeing him for counseling. Or, if you realize HE has feelings for you and is flirting with you or contacting you too much… please pray about whether it is wise to even continue going to that church. Scripture advises us to flee from sexual immorality. If this man is a huge temptation for you, it may be best to go to another church.
Am I saying it is NEVER ok to privately email a pastor on occasion or to privately discuss something with him every once in awhile? No – not necessarily. But I am saying we ought to use caution, discretion and wisdom.
All of us are called upon by God to PRAY for our church leaders. Part of our prayers needs to be for protection from temptation. All people in God-given leadership positions need our prayers, encouragement, godly love and support.
IF WE REALIZE WE HAVE FEELINGS FOR A PASTOR, OR THE PASTOR/MINISTER HAS FEELINGS FOR US:
- Flee from sexual immorality (I Corinthians 6).
- Minimize contact with the man immediately.
- No need to go into a long explanation about why you can’t talk with him – that breeds even more opportunity for temptation, in my view.
- Talk to your husband if possible or a female accountability partner/godly mentoring wife about your feelings – getting things out in the open with someone to whom you are accountable is often wise. Secrets make this issue worse, in my view.
- Focus on Christ – repent of any sinful thoughts.
- Remove yourself from that church if necessary.
- Don’t allow yourself to be alone with this man.