Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pastors, Church Workers, & Extramarital Affairs

Believe it or not, three pastors of megachurches in one city – Orlando – have stepped down because of moral failures.  All within a six month period.

This has been in the news and is now public knowledge....  Isaac Hunter, lead pastor of Summit church, resigned in December after admitting to an affair with a staff member. Sam Hinn, pastor of The Gathering Place Worship Center, stepped down in January after admitting to a relationship with a member of the congregation. Then, just a few weeks ago, David Loveless resigned from Discovery Church after admitting to having an affair.

All I can say is, “wow.”

Why does this happen?  Here are three reasons that come to mind for me:

1.  Emotional Depletion

Many pastors are running on an empty emotional tank.  You may have thought I would say “spiritual” tank, but it’s the emotional fuel gauge that gets most people.

Why does this matter?  When you’re hurting and empty, if you don’t find something God-honoring to fill your emotional tank with, you’ll find something that isn’t God-honoring.  Or at the very least, you’ll be vulnerable to something that isn’t.

2.  The Lack of Sexual Fences

Another reason so many people (including pastors) give in to temptation is because they fail to build sexual fences that are absolutely necessary for protection.

For example:
·        How and when you are alone with someone of the opposite sex
·        How you touch people – being careful with your hugs and lingering touches
·        Not visiting someone alone, at home, of the opposite sex
·        Having a long lunch along together, or staying late and working together on a project
·        You get the idea….

This is just common sense, but very few build these common-sense fences.

3.  Deception

Another reason pastors and church workers often fall prey to affairs is because of a deep spiritual deception.

Let me tell you something that you may have never heard before:  Ministry is hazardous to your soul.  If you haven’t found that out by now, you will.

Here’s why:

a. When you are constantly doing “spiritual things” it’s easy confuse those things with actually being spiritual. For example, you are studying the Bible and reading good books in order to prepare a talk, and you believe it’s the same as personal devotions.

It’s not.

You are praying in church services, during meetings, at potlucks, and it’s easy to think you are leading a life of personal, private prayer.

You’re not.

You are planning worship, leading worship, or attending worship, and it’s easy to believe are worshipping.

Chances are, you’re not.  Know why?  Worship is an exercise of presenting yourself to the Lord as a living sacrifice on a daily basis... not just at church.

When you are in the ministry, it’s easy to confuse doing things for God with drawing near to God; to confuse activity with intimacy; to mistake trappings of spirituality for being spiritual.

It’s an easy deception.

b. You are constantly being put on a spiritual pedestal by people and you begin to believe it. The truth is, people have no idea how spiritual you really are, whether or not you have actually spent any time alone with God in reflection, prayer, and repentance over the last six weeks; they don’t know what you are looking at online; and they don’t know how you really treat your spouse at home.

They just afford you a high level of spirituality.

Here’s where it really gets toxic: you begin to bask in this spiritual adulation and start to believe your own press. Soon the estimation of others about your spiritual life becomes your own.

This is why most train-wrecks in the ministry are not as sudden and “out of the blue” as they seem. Most leaders who end up in some kind of ditch were veering off the road for some time beforehand. Their empty spiritual life simply became manifest, or caught up with them, or took its toll.

You can only run on empty for so long...

My advice? 

Do everything you can to stay emotionally healthy, in good relationship with your spouse, build sexual fences for safety, and avoid self-deception by maintaining a closer walk with God.

And, oh yea.  Practice some old fashioned self-denial.

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