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It happens too frequently.

It can be the lead pastor or any church staff member.

And too many churches do not handle such tragedy well.

But many churches do. Allow me to share some of the best responses I have heard from churches that have gone through this tragic time.

1.  Terminate with compassion. 

Almost without exception, the pastor is terminated. But termination does not have to be without compassion. The pastor’s family will need financial provisions; thus many churches provide compassionate severances. And though pastors have full responsibility for their sins, they are hurting as well. Tough love and compassionate love are in order here.

2.  Don’t forget the pastor’s family. 

They have felt the greatest amount of betrayal. They are humiliated and hurt. This person they likely held in high esteem has fallen hard. The family needs compassion, love, attention, and counseling. Many church members do not know what to say, so they say nothing. I know one church member who sent the spouse and the children a simple handwritten note: “I have not forgotten you. I am here for you. I am praying for you.” It made all the difference in the world.

3.  Be forthright with the congregation. 

The rumors are often worse than reality. You don’t have to give the sordid details. But the church needs to know the pastor was terminated because of moral failure. Speak to the congregation succinctly, honestly, and compassionately.

4.  Provide resources for reconciliation. 

God’s ideal plan is for the couple to stay together—to make it through this terrible ordeal. The church can be an instrument of that process back to reconciliation. The church can provide the resources so that the couple can get strong Christian counseling. The process should also be one that seeks restoration for the pastor. That restoration may not mean that pastors are restored to their former office; it does mean the path should include a way to be restored to the congregation.

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5.  Don’t forget the pain of the congregation. 

Many of them feel betrayed. Most of them feel hurt. Find ways to minister to the members for the next several months as they deal with this issue.

6.  Begin a ministry of prayer for this situation. 

I have been so encouraged to see some churches actually deal with this issue through a specific prayer ministry. One church offered a prayer and reconciliation time after every service. It only lasted a few minutes, and attendance was totally voluntary. But the responses were incredible, both in numbers attending and in the way people were impacted. The church began this ministry with a stated goal of continuing it for three months. It made a huge difference in the healing impact on the church.

When the pastor has an affair, it is a tragedy of huge proportions. But the church can respond biblically, redemptively, and compassionately.

It the midst of this awful situation, the church has the opportunity truly to be the body of Christ.

 

Thom Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources and the co-author of Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations.
Talk about it...

Bob Rasmussen

commented on Mar 4, 2017

It completely pains me that an article like this is offered almost normal. While this may happen, and the advice is good, it saddens might heart that we need a game plan for failure.

William Somsel

commented on Mar 6, 2017

This really does happen. I was a pastor and that happened to me. I did all the necessary steps as I told on myself. I could not keep it to myself any longer. It had been over a year. It took me 10 years to be restored, not to a pastorate, but able to fill in where needed. Yes it is sad that we need a plan for failure, but God established it in the garden. it doesn't give the right to do such things. It is there should a person fall into that trap.

William Somsel

commented on Mar 6, 2017

This really does happen. I was a pastor and that happened to me. I did all the necessary steps as I told on myself. I could not keep it to myself any longer. It had been over a year. It took me 10 years to be restored, not to a pastorate, but able to fill in where needed. Yes it is sad that we need a plan for failure, but God established it in the garden. it doesn't give the right to do such things. It is there should a person fall into that trap.

William Somsel

commented on Mar 6, 2017

This really does happen. I was a pastor and that happened to me. I did all the necessary steps as I told on myself. I could not keep it to myself any longer. It had been over a year. It took me 10 years to be restored, not to a pastorate, but able to fill in where needed. Yes it is sad that we need a plan for failure, but God established it in the garden. it doesn't give the right to do such things. It is there should a person fall into that trap. Bill Somsel

Dawn Grenyion

commented on Mar 4, 2017

This article is very necessary. We lose too many people because we have not learnt the art of restoration. Anyone in ministry can find himself/herself in this situation. Humans fail. We must begin the task of preparing for this type failure because it will come. Ministers have been failing and falling for decades to present, and this article can serve as a reminder that people need people in times of crisis. We need to respond in a godly manner when we have the opportunity in such situations.

Sidney Robles

commented on Mar 4, 2017

Very very good! a well and kind explanation and how to deal with this topic. Thank you pastor!..and May the Lord Bless you always.

Elizabeth Ongala

commented on Mar 4, 2017

Good piece for the fallen pastor's restoration. However, the most hurting in such moments is the faithful wife. Is there a specific package for this servant of God whose trust has been seriously broken? Her love, submission & commitment is surely eaten up

Douglas Fleischfresser

commented on Mar 5, 2017

And what if the unfaithful is the wife of the pastor, as was the case for me. When she chooses to walk away from the marriage? Why assume it is always the pastor who is unfaithful?

Olorunfemi Olojede

commented on Mar 5, 2017

I think we can make something out of this, too. It can be very painful, though, when you find yourself in such a situation as this. However, dear pastor, could you consider writing an article on this? Others might be blessed. Again, you may be surprised that some others have also been in your shoes. God bless!

Olorunfemi Olojede

commented on Mar 5, 2017

This is a very good piece. It's so deep. I believe, nay say, it is in order. I've witnessed a number of showdowns that had erring pastors at the receiving end. One thing was invariably missing: a plan for restoration. Most of us who witnessed these showdowns were guilty in one way or the other, I must say. I hope church councils would borrow a leaf from this beautiful piece. A colleague who attended a Baptist Seminary [in Nigeria] once told me that they took a course in the final year: Adult Seminary. Restored fallen ministers were invited to come and share their experiences/stories so that ministers-in-training could learn from their failures. I love this, too, so much. We have to realize that men of God are not infallible; men of God are not gods of men. They have weaknesses, also. They are men first, and then men of God by calling. They are not perfect. More power to your elbow, Pastor Rainer!

Wayne Cooper

commented on Mar 5, 2017

Whenever this topic comes up in my community (I am a Black Minister), very few people take the implications seriously enough to make a difference. I've learned that there is a vast difference between most Black churches and White churches. If a minister, even a famous one, has a moral failure in the White church, there is a 99.9% chance that that minister will be asked to leave! Not so with the vast majority of Black churches. For some reason, and maybe there is something in history that I'm not aware of, whenever a Black minister falls morally, it doesn't seem to move the congregation as it should. Too many churches have become accustom to such failures that it seems like it is a normal ordeal that they have accepted. If a "famous" Black preacher falls, it will literally take an act of Almighty God to move him, because the congregation will do absolutely nothing about it. Historically, the Black preacher has been such a pillar in the Black community in every respect, and as the generations have come and gone, the people have been taught implicitly or explicitly, that "everybody is human", and that "since no one is perfect, we simply need to leave the MAN of GOD alone!" I could go on, but I really do appreciate what Mr. Rainer has communicated here, and as a Minister and Pastor, I do take the biblical qualifications of the Pastor very seriously as "The man of God MUST BE above Reproach!"

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