I was deeply saddened late last year to hear of an extremely close pastor friend of mine who had succumbed to temptation and committed adultery. He has not been married for very long, he was pastoring a growing church, and he was also the vice president of a Bible College.
I have yet to ascertain all the details, and I am currently in contact with him in order to offer help, support, and counsel. Certainly, his marriage has been devastated by this (hopefully not irreparably), his congregation is distraught, and he has stepped down from all of his duties. The effect of all of this has been nothing short of catastrophic at so many levels, and I am sure the fallout will continue for many months, even years, to come.
There is a fascinating article here by Harry Schaumburg written for the Desiring God website about the whole issue of sexual sin in the ministry. It is a brutally frank, devastatingly straightforward but pastorally applicable piece of writing. Please take some time to read it—it is extremely helpful.
As I have thought about my friend, a couple of things have struck me again:
- My initial reaction to the news was shock, sadness, and unbelief. I just didn’t see it coming. This was a serious man of God, with solid theological convictions. It was a stark reminder not to put my trust in ‘princes and men’ but in the only true sinless one. Good, Reformed theology and ecclesiology means nothing if our hearts are far from the Lord and we are not daily walking in step with his Spirit.
- It made me both fear God and be thankful at the same time. Fearful, because I know what I would be capable of as a fallen sinner. Could I honestly say that I would not fall into the same sin if all of the circumstances were ‘right’ to do so? I’m not so sure. My heart is as sinful as my friend’s, and I am only ever a second away from sin if I take my eyes off the Lord Jesus. But it made me thankful that God in his grace has thus far spared me from my heart’s sinful inclinations. News like this makes me want to draw closer to Jesus for his help and protection.
- It reminds me to ensure that I keep vigilant in my own life and maintain the safeguards I have in place in my ministry when it comes to dealing with the opposite sex. I am sometimes criticised for my ‘aloofness’ to women and my ‘unavailability’ to them here in Niddrie. I am far happier for that critique (although I try to be friendly and pastoral ‘with boundaries’) than if I were known for ‘over familiarity’.
At 20schemes, we are very concerned about this whole area in our over-sexualised culture. Our application process has deep questions around this subject and, on the ground, we have a high level of accountability. Men and women are being sucked into sexual sin at an alarming rate which is why we need, more than ever, people of integrity to join us in our task of building gospel churches for Scotland's poorest.
We have an enemy who wants to oppose this at every level, and if any of us have an ‘Achilles heel’ in this area, Satan will seek to exploit us (and it) at every opportunity. Going into ministry is not the place to ‘get better’ from private sexual sins. They will not just go away if you ignore them. I have many friends who have fallen in these areas over the years and have destroyed their families and their ministries. It is an ugly, scary, devastating thing.
The article I mentioned above gives out a challenge at the end and it is one I would echo if there are any reading this who are struggling and/or involved in similar sin.
If you are a pastor stuck in sexual sin, no matter how well you have attempted to cover those sins with layers and layers of lies, I plead with you, step out from the darkness of those sins. Step into the light. Get help. You will never find life in the shadows.
Please pray for me and for all pastors and gospel workers, that we would be ever vigilant in these areas and never be so arrogant to think that it, ‘couldn’t happen to us’.