Over the years of my study of spiritual warfare, I’ve talked with a number of pastors who fell morally. Here’s how I summarize their own confessions as they explain what happened:
- “I never thought it would happen to me.” I’ve yet to meet a pastor who planned to fall. I’m quite certain I never will, though I’m sure I’ll meet others who do fall.
- “I wasn’t faithful in my Bible reading and prayer.” Some of these pastors had previously been faithful in their devotion time but had fallen away from it. Others were honest enough to say they had never had a consistent time with God.
- “I hadn’t been loving my family as well as I should have been.” A few pastors blamed their spouses for their sin, but most had enough integrity to admit their own failure to love their families well. They took responsibility rather than accuse anyone else of wrong.
- “I put myself in a dumb situation.” Sometimes it was a counseling setting, with only a member of the opposite gender in the room. Almost always it was an “alone” situation that promoted trouble.
- “It was nice to feel affirmed and wanted.” That’s not to say that all these pastors said their spouses didn’t affirm them; it’s simply to say that some pastors appreciate any sense of warmth. Ministry can get lonely, even when pastors have healthy homes.
- “I began pulling myself away from the congregation.” The churches may not have known it was happening, but many of these pastors admitted separating themselves from their church. It’s hard to stay focused on shepherding the congregation when you’re living in sin.
- “I knew my feelings weren’t right, but I didn’t think they would lead too far.” Some of these pastors knew they were having an emotional affair before anything physical happened – but they never really thought the relationship would devolve into the physical.
- “I had no idea how much it would cost me.” They learned that reality the hard way. That’s too late.
Spend some time today praying for pastors. If you are a pastor, enlist some prayer warriors to pray that you’ll never make these mistakes.
Dr. Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions, Dean of Graduate Studies, and Vice-President for Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary, in addition to serving as Team Leader for Theological Education Strategists for the International Mission Board. Dr. Lawless served as pastor of two Ohio churches prior to joining the Southern Seminary faculty in 1996. He received a B.S. degree from Cumberland College and M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees from Southern Seminary. He is the author of eight works, including “Membership Matters,” and “Spiritual Warfare,” and has contributed numerous articles to denominational periodicals. He and his wife Pam have been married for 23 years and reside here in Wake Forest, NC.