I could say this post is provoked by recent events in the life of the global church. As a long time supporter of Willow Creek Community Church and having read all Hybels books and been a part of his conferences, his recent fall has shocked me. The latest allegations coming out of Willow leave me wondering if there is not a systematic issue that needs addressing. But it is deeper than that for me. I have had various mentors, up close ones, who have failed spectacularly in this area. At the cost of relationships and ministries. It strikes home personally for me.
Pastors have affairs because they want to get out of ministry
This may surprise the reader. However it is true. I have seen and observed pastors deliberately compromise themselves because the pressure of ministry was such that they saw this as a way of escape. They could not just say or admit it, ministry is hard, I need to leave. In their mind anything would be better than this pressure. For them to quit would be to admit failure or to say that they were not good enough to keep going. Neither of which appears to be a better option than moral failure.
Pastors have affairs because they wish to rekindle their youth, or perhaps have a youth
This is not unique to pastors, but is certainly true of them. Many Pastors have had a relatively clean upbringing and never took the opportunity to be a rebellious teenager, young adult. They did not hang out at parties, they did not travel the world backpacking, they did not have many relationships apart from the person they ended up marrying. They find themselves in a position where they think they have missed out. They resent the life they have lived up to this point and wish to gain something they never had.
Pastors have affairs because they have disproportionate power relationships
I have only come to realise in the past few years how much power Pastors have that they generally don’t realise. We spend our lives encouraging and supporting people. Generally helping them with their lives, serving. Something changes at some point and many Pastors realise that in fact they have influence over people. It can be a sudden and jolting realisation. At that point the Pastor can choose to use that power for their own means. Whether it be power, money or an affair. We are in relationships where the boundaries can be easily crossed. Where justification can come easy, and denial even easier.
Pastors have affairs because they are bored
If you have been pastoring for a while it can be very tempting to slip into caretaker mode and live off the work of the past. Perhaps the church is comfortable and you are comfortable. In fact the church would prefer you maintained the status quo. There is no compelling reason not to. So the Pastor basically gets bored. They seek after something beyond the mundane. Opportunity arises and they take it.
Pastors have affairs because they are human like all of us
All of us sin, are attracted to people who are not our spouse, and desire something which we shouldn’t have. It can lead to a situation, an affair, which is consensual, but entirely inappropriate and sinful.
Pastors have affairs because they are under pressure and spiritual attack
There are no excuses for moral failure, at some point you make a choice. However there are compelling reasons. Pastors can be under immense pressure to help people in so many areas of their lives, at the same time as balancing the budget, fulfilling administrative requirements (huge these days) and under spiritual attack from the Accuser.
The Church, and those who lead it, are God’s blueprint for the gospel to be shared in the world. It is a beautiful body, with the majority of Pastors having incredible integrity, heart and passion for Jesus and His people. The majority of Pastors never have a catastrophic moral failure. Most of them are faithful and loyal people. However when a Pastor fails, so many ripples occur. In my life I have had a number of mentors, both personal and from afar. Unfortunately a number of them have failed in this area. I do look up to people perhaps too much. In those moments where they have failed, it has wounded me, and scared me as well. One of the reasons I have written this post is to just try and make sense of it all myself. In recent days the news out of significant churches just causes me to pray. The Church at times appears so strong, and at other times so fragile.
This post may provoke strong reactions, perhaps disagreements, and perhaps attempted corrections at things I have missed or not stated.
So a disclaimer. These are merely my own thoughts and observations. I am not offering them or myself as some sort of authority. I speak merely as a pastor who has seen, suffered, been disappointed with, different leaders and pastors over the years. All within the context of loving pastors, being supportive, thinking the best of them, and perhaps most importantly, being one myself.
If you have something to comment, please do, but please be kind and frame it within the context I am offering.