I concluded part 2 of this series on restoration by affirming that the entire church needs to begin practicing the grace that we preach. Restoration must be possible. We must not automatically cut off those pastors who have experienced a moral lapse. Am I suggesting that every pastor in every situation be restored? No. Several factors might disallow a clergyperson from restoration to pastoral ministry. If a law of the land has been violated, such as the laws against child abuse or child pornography, this would place a person’s chance of restoration in jeopardy. If the offense has been such that restoration of trust is almost impossible, that would preclude a return to ministry. People cannot lead unless they have the confidence of those to whom they minister. The following guidelines might be followed for a possible return to active ministry.
1. There needs to be evidence of genuine repentance.
2. Sufficient time for healing and recovery is essential.
3. A restoration process should be designed that fits the particular person’s needs and situation. If the person is married, counseling should be provided for both the pastor and the spouse. It should be a given that when a minister has violated a parishioner’s trust, the conference should provide counseling for that family as well.
4. The person should have someone to whom he or she becomes accountable.
5. In some situations, where the sin is not public and will not become public, one might be able to continue to serve in ministry.
6. Rebaptism may be in order for some.
7. Where temptation or addiction to pornography is the issue, it would be helpful for a pastor to be involved with an addiction recovery group and certainly to obtain a porn blocker for his or her computer. It would be helpful for him or her to have the spouse and someone else as accountability partners.
8. A pastor must have the respect of those whom he or she is going to pastor.
9. Where a pastor’s ministry is well known, it may be difficult for his or her ministry to ever be effective again. Here again, the question is not whether he or she can be forgiven but whether the pastor can be trusted by the parishioners.
10. Moving a pastor to another area may make it possible to minister again in some cases, but there are significant risks, particularly if his or her moral lapse is likely to be discovered or is unresolved in the church where he or she served when it occurred.
11. Finally, individuals who have wisdom and are acquainted witt the case and with restoration procedures should evaluate each circumstance and situation. Policies have been developed by the Pacific Union Conference, Southeastern California Conference, and the Alberta Conference, as well as other Protestant churches, that could inform us as a whole as we seek a more balanced approach to helping pastors who have significant temptations or failure.
Focus. Lack of focus in ministry is often the hazard that brings about discouragement or burnout. In one of the conferences where I served, it was my privilege to attend a seminar that helped me understand how my gifts, life experiences, and God-given vision and dreams fit together so that I could become who God has designed me to be and accomplish what He called me to do. Such a program needs to be implemented in every union and conference.
Every pastor needs a coach. Life coaching has become a contemporary phenomenon. Florida and other conferences are catching the vision of how a coach can help a pastor reach his or her potential. How is coaching different? Instead of a top-down approach to pastoring, a coach helps a pastor understand more fully what God is calling him or her to be through skillful questions. Rather than someone in an office directing a person’s ministry, which may often be inappropriate for his or her particular skills or position, a coach meets regularly with a person by phone and holds the pastor to the personal goals that the pastor has set for himself or herself.
Professional coaching may cost around 1,000 dollars a year or more, but conferences could train their more experienced pastors to be coaches. The tyranny of the urgent tends to destroy many leaders, so the benefits of being coached are worth the investment of the pastor or conference for personal or corporate health and growth.
Confidants. At present, most conferences do not have a “safe” person for a struggling pastor to confide in. Without this kind of person, and with 70 percent of pastors feeling as if they do not have a close friend in ministry, problems tend to be repressed.1 Currently, many ministerial secretaries either are evangelism coordinators or are directly involved in the hiring process. In either case, many pastors do not feel comfortable opening their lives to someone who is perceived either to be their boss or who has a personal agenda for baptisms. Unless this situation is remedied on a conference level, wounded pastors will rarely seek help. They will continue to medicate themselves with their addiction, all of which will weaken their ministries. At present, we have the possibility of contacting the Ministry Care Line at Kettering Health Network if our employing entity is a member, and this is a start; but more difficult challenges need ongoing support or counseling. Because schools benefit from counselors and ongoing professional support, so would unions, conferences, and pastors.
Pastoral satisfaction survey. Many pastors are in distress; the dropout rate in ministry is high. An anonymous pastoral satisfaction survey could help church leadership identify what is happening in ministry on the front lines. In addition, such an instrument could help a pastor see his or her potential vulnerability to sexual addiction or a moral fall. If things are not going well in the bedroom, or if a pastor feels distress in the district, he or she may be more vulnerable. A survey could reveal a troubled marriage or a sexual addiction. It could also uncover a greater self-awareness that could lead a person to seek help early on. If the problem lies hidden, escape is less likely.
Resources. With 46 percent of pastors reporting sexual difficulty in marriage, the church must do a better job of providing resource materials and professional counsel.2 If the marriage is failing in the bedroom, the temptation toward pornography or an affair increases. In the past, discussions of sex were taboo for the church. We need to get out of the dark ages; this is the age of the Internet and Internet pornography. Perhaps the church could explore the possibility of developing a pastoral sexual addiction recovery program. Some organizations send pastors and their spouses to a retreat center for personal or spiritual growth. These centers offer an extended weekend, or even a week of extensive programming and counseling. I believe that such a center needs to have qualified personnel gifted in dealing with sexual intimacy issues.
The Adventist Church should invest in such a center. A short list of some other denominational centers is provided in the resource section. In addition, it would be helpful for each union and conference to have a person who serves as the pastor’s pastor rather than as the evangelism coordinator. This person should be skilled in knowing how to help pastors with marital issues. Furthermore, the glaring problem of keeping marriages sexually healthy needs to be freely discussed and more completely addressed in workers’ meetings and men’s and women’s ministry settings. The Adventist Church spends millions of dollars in lawsuits arising from pastors who are hurting and who let their hurt destroy their own lives and those of their families and parishioners. What if the church were to invest these dollars in processes to identify and remedy the problem?
Great lovers. In the research mentioned earlier, busyness in ministry was listed as a problem for 80 percent of pastors.3 When we come to the end of our lives, most of us will not regret that we did not spend enough time ministering to others. Most will say they wished they had spent more time with the family. The busyness often leads to “absent though present” when with our spouses. It is easy to be in the house but not at home.
Finally, the apostle Paul implored couples to take care of one another’s sexual needs (1 Cor. 7:1–5). He says that this is a marital duty. Research indicates that healthy sexual relations tend to lengthen life and increase happiness. The marriage bed is sacred (undefiled), and one needs to make sure that the “sacred” is happening (Heb. 13:4). If marital intimacy and great sex are not happening in the pastor’s home, they are likely to happen somewhere else. Do not let the need to be intimate lie festering while you seek to pleasure yourself on the Internet or with someone in the church. Having an affair with a church member is sexual abuse, plain and simple, and courts will likely award large sums to the victim. If there are unmet needs in the bedroom, pastors need to stop hiding and denying their own intimacy issues, seek professional help, even a sex therapist, if needed. Often, because pastors have nowhere to turn, they tend to let marital difficulties fester until it is too late. Taking care of this issue is a must for avoiding sexual impurity. If health issues are part of the problem or if obesity is an issue, seek help. If there are wounds too deep to deal with alone, find a skilled counselor. Do not let it go.
The numbers speak for themselves; but we are not dealing with numbers here—we are dealing with fellow human beings, fellow Seventh-day Adventist ministers who are hurting and need help. As a church, we must be willing to provide the help.
The following resources are available for those who want to be informed about this vital topic or for those who silently struggle alone with their pain and shame.
Anderson, Bernie. Breaking the Silence: A Pastor Goes Public About His Battle With Pornography. Pittsburgh, PA: Autumn House, 2007. This is the story of an Adventist minister who struggled with a pornography addiction.
Benyei, Candace R. Understanding Clergy Misconduct in Religious Systems: Scapegoating, Family Secrets, and the Abuse of Power. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Pastoral Press, 1998.
Bissell, David. “Restoring Fallen Pastors.” DMin diss., Andrews University, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, 2005. This is promoted on the North American Division Ministerial Web site at www.nadministerial.org/site/1/ docs/Ministerial Director Files/ webinars/Ministerial Directors Webinars/Doctoral Diss - Restoring Fallen Pastors.pdf
Gungor, Mark. Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.
Hayford, Jack W. Restoring Fallen Leaders. Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1988. A small book on restoring fallen pastors.
Kendrick, Stephen, and Alex Kendrick. The Love Dare. Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing, 2008. The first section is great for couples whose marriages are strained. Read in connection with the movie Fireproof.
Kennedy, Eugene. The Unhealed Wound. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2001.
Laaser, Mark R., and Ralph H. Earle Jr. The Pornography Trap: A Resource for Ministry Leaders. 2nd ed. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 2012. This offers help for pornography addicts.
McDonald, Gordon. When Men Think Private Thoughts. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997. A book on lust and sexual issues.
Schaumburg, Harry W. False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1997. A book about love and intimacy issues.
White, Ellen G. Manuscript Release 449: “Dealing With Ministers and Workers Who Have Violated the Seventh Commandment.” Ellen G. White Estate. Accessed August 19, 2013. http://drc.whiteestate.org /read.php?id=16324.
White, Ellen G. Manuscript Release 448: “The Spirit of Prophecy and Adultery, Divorce, Remarriage, and Church Membership.” Ellen G. White Estate. Accessed August 19, 2013. http://drc.whiteestate.org /files/3971.pdf.
A few videos, Web sites, marriage seminars, and retreat centers:
Gary Smalley’s Freedom Begins Here is an encouraging video dealing with pornography addiction. Bernie Anderson is a featured guest. This video is an excellent documentary to show to men in the church or to give to couples who may be struggling with one partner having a pornography or sexual addiction. It can be purchased at Amazon.com or freedombeginshere .org/collections/dvds-books.
Gary Smalley Ministries: Seminars, books, videos, etc., at www.smalley.cc.
Mark Gungor’s Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage videos, marriage materials, and seminars to strengthen marriage are available at www.laughyourway.com. These materials help with pornography and sexual addiction.
Marriage Fitness: A free eHelp recommended by many counselors and marriage therapists. Visit www .marriagemax.com.
Pastor Retreat Centers: This Web site provides a list of centers around the country. See www.my-pastor .com/pastor-retreat-centers.html for more information.
Weekend to Remember: A marriage support seminar that comes to many U.S. cities. Visit www.familylife.com /WEEKEND for more information.
Worldwide Marriage Encounter: The Marriage Encounter seminar weekends have been around for a long time. See www.wwme.org.
Programs or Web Sites specifically for those who struggle with sexual addiction:
Adventist Recovery Ministries: A general recovery program for many types of addictions. This program is helpful for those with addictions that are less stigmatized. Sexual addicts may be uncomfortable attending such a group; therefore, in a large church, it may be easier to have those who are sexually addicted to meet in a separate group for a portion of the program. Visit www .adventistrecovery.org.
Dr. David Bissell presented a Webinar on May 15, 2012, for ministerial secretaries and pastors on the subject of helping pastors who struggle with moral purity. The Webinar can be accessed under “Min Directors,” then “Ministerial Director’s Best Practices Webinar,” at www.nadministerial.org.
Celebrate Recovery: This is a broad addiction recovery program. A kit for the church can be purchased from Amazon.com.
Free porn blockers: First, use your own wireless router; second, the Google toolbar; third, use an Internet search engine to look for the phrase “porn blockers.”
Mark Gungor resources: These help in finding freedom from pornography and sexual addition; visit www .laughyourway.com/resources /sexual-addiction.
Recovery Connection: Another resource that is often available at large churches. See www.recoveryconnection .org/sex-addiction.
Sexaholics Anonymous: A 12-step program for those who are sexually addicted; it is offered in most large cities. Visit www.sa.org.
Sex Addicts Anonymous: A 12-step program for sexual addicts, available in large cities. See http://saa-recovery .org.
xxxchurch.com: This Web site has a great deal of information about overcoming an addiction to pornography. It includes information about Internet porn blockers that can help you block or monitor questionable sites.
1 “Surveys of Pastors—Shocking Stats,” Smoldering Wick, accessed August 19, 2013, http://smolderingwickministries.org/2008/12 /surveys-of-pastors-shocking-stats/.