What Do You Do When a Pastor Fails Morally?

Another pastor fails morally and the church is devastated again.  Everyone loved him.  The wisdom espoused from his mouth in counseling sessions, bible studies, and during Sunday morning service were exceptional.

Yet time and time again, despite their talents, we see church leaders fail morally, treat people horribly, or leave their spouse.  Whenever these sins come to light the whole congregation is horrified and hurt and often confused.

That’s our pastor.

Why would he do that? 

He’s supposed to be the spiritual leader, but now he seems like such a hypocrite.

I went to a private Christian school in high school which was associated with a church, and my favorite teacher was married to the worship pastor of the church. I’ll never forget the feeling of hurt and anger when I heard he was fired.

He slept with his secretary and apparently had developed a major pornography addiction.

In today’s society these types of stories are all to common place. There’s a porn problem, a marriage problem, a money problem. You name it, and there is probably a major church leader who’s done it in the past couple of years.

  1. Why does this keep happening?

While talking to a pastor recently, I asked, “Why don’t you get involved with a small group at your church?” His response broke my heart.

“Small groups are great, but it’s not like I can be honest in one. I’m the pastor.”

If I could paraphrase his sentiments. I’m the pastor, and this church is a safe place for everybody to struggle…….except me. Transparency, authenticity, and community is for everyone else. As the leader of this church, I don’t receive those benefits.

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I understand this pastor’s struggle because our jobs are tied to moral behavior and performance. Plus many people throughout churches are not prepared to see their spiritual leader struggle. They prefer thinking of him or her as put together, got it all figured out, and never struggle.

Part of me wonders if there is a correlation between pastor’s failures and their inability to  reveal weaknesses in a Biblical community setting. These musings don’t excuse sin. When tragic sin happens at a leadership level, we must call their decisions out and not give them a free pass.

But if the system is broken at the top, then corrections need to be made.

2. How do I help my pastor?

Be the friend you want to have if you struggled like they struggle. This means being a friend before, during, and after the failure.  The majority of church members will abandon their former pastor the moment the story breaks.  Leaving him alone to pick up the pieces of the mess he or she created.

When everybody else is running from the fire, you walk towards the mess.

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I have always found it interesting that one of the first people Jesus interacted with after the resurrection was Peter. The one who abandoned Him, betrayed Him, and wouldn’t stand up for Him when He was dying.  Despite this betrayal, Jesus ran towards the mess known as Peter’s life.

You want to know how to help your pastor if they fail morally?  It’s simple.

  1. Be a friend:
    This starts long before they have fallen.  Pastor’s don’t trust people naturally, and they assume you will leave when they need you most.  He or she needs you to be a Proverbs 18:24 friend “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
  2. Pray and Encourage: 
    You should pray for your pastor every day. Don’t stop there, encourage them as well.  Encourage them that you will walk with them through this grieving and repentance process.  Pray for their daily struggle to find normalcy again.  Live with them as you would any other Christian struggling.
  3. Help them kill their spider:
    To better understand the phrase “killing a spider” go and read 3 ways to deal with regret.
    Every Christian, especially church leaders, needs help to work through the issues that led to the downfall.  Work on those struggles with him, and you might just experience a restored marriage, a renewed life, or a spiritually healed person.

Your pastor needs you before, during and after a failure. Don’t abandon them because of your hurt.

Take step one toward being a friend.
Comment below your pastor’s name and short prayer for them.


 

14 thoughts on “What Do You Do When a Pastor Fails Morally?

  1. Thanks Chris for putting this out here. Pastor’s are human too and everyone needs to be reminded of that. Blessings

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    1. Amen brother. When I was younger I used to only judge the Pastor who fell morally. Now my heart breaks and I want to walk with them to a place of healing.

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  2. A lot of pressure is brought to bear on preachers and elders. Praying for them and befriending them is a must. Great post, Chris!

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    1. Thank you so much. It really is a difficult balance pastors struggle. Keep praying for them.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Amazing. I can relate to this. Two years ago, I left a church that I was a member for 5 years. There was some questionable behavior from the pastor. A letter from leadership exposed pridefulness of the pastor, as well as many other behaviors. It was a sad time, but I didn’t feel that I could trust the man who was giving the Word, as I found lies saturated throughout the ministry. Sadly, I and many others left. To this day, I believe it was a good decision for me, but sadly, I lost friends, who decided to stay and were told not to talk to anyone who left. I have prayed for that pastor and those members. I believe that as Christians, we need to truly pray for our pastors. They are not perfect and are subject to the same temptations and sinful behaviors as anyone else. PRAY!

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  4. Thank you for reminding us. This happened three times at a previous church I was attending. I was devastated. Two families are hurt and in shambles. As a woman, I cannot be a friend in the sense with a pastor as it would not be appropriate, but I can lift them up in praayery to the Lord, encourage them and love them.

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  5. I always figure that in most cases, that pastor was doing a lot of good for his church, and the enemy didn’t like it. Maybe I give too much credit to the devil, but he knows us humans so well, and know where he can hit us to take us down. Pastors are human too, even though we may put them on a pedestal. Yes, we need to pray hard for our pastors. They are in the line of fire, they are doing God’s will, and our enemy doesn’t like it. I have had a pastor that I knew well and respected, knew his wife too, and he had to announce before the church that he had been having an affair. It was a rough time for him and his wife. They sold their home, resigned from the church. The church he was affiliated with said he couldn’t be involved in their church for 2 years as his punishment. This happened maybe 5 or 6 years ago. He now has repented, and is now preaching at another church, and has his life back together. His wife stayed with him through it all. I think it helps for a pastor if he has accountability partners. Those whom he could trust and go to in times of need. Everyone should have people like that in their lives.

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    1. Carol. I’ve always known that you prayed for us pastors when you were down here, and I know you still pray for your pastors. Thank you for being such a kind and caring person.

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  6. Who pastors the pastor? It’s tough on them, as we tend to eat them alive at the first sign of weakness. Pastors are frail humans just like the rest of us. Yet, who can they trust to expose their hearts to? I love mine deeply, and I hope we have the kind of friendship where we can be honest. I think we do. I know I am frank and honest his way, and have no agenda. I also try to have his back when folks try to blindside him.

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    1. Wally as a pastor I can’t tell you how true your words are, and also how much I’m sure your pastor values your friendship. It’s a breath of fresh air when church members view their pastor the way you do. Thank you.

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  7. I have a book, Myth of the Greener Grass, that was given to me when I was first married, by a wonderful older Christian lady. Not sure if it is even in print any more. Excellent! We need to follow II Timothy 1:12 and know that we need to guard our faith with the Lord’s help. Pray a Spiritual hedge around our pastors.

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  8. Thank you for this! You stated what I and many other pastors are thinking and feeling.

    Liked by 1 person

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