Ministers Guilty of Sexual Sin: The Three-Strike Pastor

Insightful article from MondayMorningInsight about a pastor caught on film spending countless hours at a strip club –

This guy had absolutely no accountability, it seems.  He took off for hours from the church; and when the reporters called the church, no one seemed to know where he was at, other than at ‘an appointment’.

Pastor… it is important for someone to ALWAYS know where you are at.  ALWAYS.  That might seem like a violation of personal freedom; and maybe it is.  But it’s absolutely necessary.

Your assistant and your wife need to know where you are at all times.  We live in the day of smart phones.  A quick phone call or text can confirm your location very quickly.  Heck, even a geo-coded twitter message will do the trick.

No, it’s not good enough that you carry a cell phone and can be reached if needed. And the need for confidentiality with people being counseled does not justify failure to tell your secretary where you are. She may not be allowed to advise callers where you are, but she needs to know. And she needs to be able to tell the people you are accountable to — the elders and fellow staff members in a Church of Christ would be the right rule.

I am constantly amazed at the attitude so prevalent among ministers that they shouldn’t be accountable for their time — as though accountability means not being trusted. The reality is that a minister who is unwilling to be accountable creates grounds for mistrust — because there are grounds for mistrust.

We are all accountable to each other. We made the decision to be accountable when we were baptized.

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About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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19 Responses to Ministers Guilty of Sexual Sin: The Three-Strike Pastor

  1. Grizz says:

    Jay,

    I agree whole-heartedly. Accountability is necessary and an excellent help for all of us, not just the preacher and elders and deacons and ministry leaders. Of course if we really practiced fellowship as frequently and deeply as we are called to do in the scriptures, this would not need to be said.

    We neglect our leaders, without a doubt. But we also neglect one anohter. Until we are ready to deal with the WHOLE issue, though, it will just be more pots and kettles calling each other 'black'.

    God give us the will to do the one command Jesus gave His disciples:

    "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." Jn 13:34 ESV

    Grizz

  2. Laymond says:

    I have been waiting for the comments on this, but I guess there is no one sinless so as to cast the first stone
    all I have to say is, I don't see where he sent a husband off to be killed, so he could have his wife.
    Yes sexually based sins cause a lot of damage, but I doubt God holds them to a higher degree of disobedience than all the other sins committed by other preachers every day, and no I would not want him for my family's pastor. I think he did the right thing when he resigned

  3. Royce Ogle says:

    Jay, You and your readers might be interested in the level of accountability that John Piper and the other leaders at Bethlehem Baptist use to guide them toward holiness. The link to download the PDF document is here. ( http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/artic… )

    This is one of the best ones I have ever seen. I know most leaders would find this as going to far. But, those who would agree to it would likely be better men for God.

    Royce

  4. JMF says:

    Great point, Laymond. I'd far rather see a pastor resign for arrogance.

  5. Jay Guin says:

    If you want to ruin a good man, make sure he's repeatedly tempted and has no one to hold him accountable. If you love your minister, you'll help him avoid temptation.

    It's an horrible, sad, embarrassing, distressing brute fact that an astonishing percentage of our ministers have been caught in sexual sin. If we love them, we'll help them stay away from temptation.

    And that doesn't mean they can't be forgiven if they stray. But forgiving the minister doesn't change the damage he did to the marriage of the woman he seduced or to the child he sexually abused. Forgiveness is good and holy, but prevention is even better.

  6. Rich W says:

    Jay,

    I totally agree with you here.

    To forgive someone is to want the best for them. Sometimes that means they must deal with the consequences of their actions. It almost always means we should not intentionally place the person back into the same situation in which they were tempted in the first place. The forgive and forget rule has merit at times, but quite often causes more problems than good. Again, we want to best help the person grow closer to God. That can take on many forms.

  7. George says:

    Or you could just stop being denominational and not have a pastor with a secretary etc. How, after all, is letting his secretary know where he is going to make him accountable, when she's probably the one he's cheating on his wife with to begin with?

  8. Ray says:

    I waited to see some responses because my thoughts are going to go against the grain.

    As a minister, I demand high integrity and do my best to limit situations that lead to compromise of that integrity. For example, have a counseling partner (an elder or my wife present) during counseling sessions, and never encourage non-public dialogues with women. I do the best I can to surround myself with other Christians and witnesses that help keep the moment honest and full of integrity. That being said, I personally find "accountability programs" that do not require other church leaders (elders and deacons) to be as "accountable" a means of suffocating the work of the minister. The "programs" are construed because the church does not trust the minister, trust should be fostered, and many ministers do not foster that trust, but neither do the churches nor the church leaders.

    If married, the first and primary person to whom a minister should be accountable is to his wife. Just as a minister should love God with his heart, soul, mind, and strength, this is the love he should have for his wife, giving her his heart, soul, mind, and strength. This requires just as much or more effort that laboring for the Lord, in his church. It seems that too many ministers become workaholics for the faith and neglect their own (their own selves and their own families). When the minister focuses on his faith, his family and his fidelity and his family's fidelity, the minister should not ever need to have an "accountability program" for the church.

    "Accountability programs" are, at best, a band aid, they really are not the solution. Unfortunately, until ministers have interwoven trust within their family, interwoven trust among the church leaders and interwoven trust in the church, "accountability programs" will be seen as effective. Another thought, if someone truly wants "to get away with something and hide it" no accountability program will provide enough protection.

    "Accountability programs" are just that "programs" and programs do not truly establish and foster personal, and interpersonal relationships and accountability. But if we are going to push for this idea of "accountability" then I suggest that we have each church member sign and account themselves to the same standard the church wants to demand of its minister.

  9. Elvin says:

    Where did the concept of a minister sitting in an office inside a church even start? (How do you sit in an office inside a group of people, anyway?)

  10. guy says:

    Jay,

    Why is it we find sexual sin in ministers more scandalous than pride? Some ministers struggling with sexual sin genuinely want help, but there are all kinds of reasons why they feel forced to deal with it alone. Ministers who are proud do not want help in the very nature of the case. Perhaps i'm mistaken, but it appears to me that scripture clearly ranks pride as a worse condition than the various "fleshly" temptations we find so scandalous. And yet it seems we rank pride as being a minor problem in comparison to "fleshly" sins. Shouldn't our weights reflect the weights of Jesus and Scripture?

    –guy

  11. Ray says:

    Guy,

    Great Point!

  12. Ray says:

    I am slightly curious and somewhat lost on the question previous question, but I will give some thoughts.

    The concept of "a minister sitting in an office inside a church [building]" could seemingly be traced back to Moses – see Exodus 18. There has always been a need within God's people for an "office" (pick your choice of labels: prophets, evangelists, teachers, elders, deacons, et al.) locations have changed from meeting in the Tabernacle, to the Temple, to the Synagogue, to the Church, to anywhere "in between".

    While the church is an organism that does not negate it as an organization, and as an organization it requires leaders to "sit in an office inside a group of people". An example of this is found in Acts 6. The Apostles, occupying a metaphorical, perhaps literal, yet spiritual office, advised the church to select another group of leaders (who met certain qualifications) to help solve the church's problems.

    Succinctly stated, the concept of a physical office space, interpreted as a room in a building, is not necessarily against the church, no more so than a "church" building or paying a local preacher.

  13. Jay Guin says:

    Guy,

    Elders and other church leaders have an obligation to protect the church — and the church is always severely harmed when a minister sins sexually. He hurts himself, his wife, his children, whomever he has sex with, that person's wife or husband, that person's parents, and eventually, the whole congregation.

    Experts put the rate of sexual misconduct by ministers at from 30% to 50% — and that's just the ones who get caught! My experience confirms this conclusion.

    If 30% to 50% of our ministers were thieves or drunkards, I'd want us to put safeguards in place for those sins as well.

    Now, elders are fully capable of sexual sin as well, but I know of very, very few cases of elders caught in such sin, even though most churches have more elders than ministers.

    On the other hand, I am also aware of countless cases of church embezzlement — by ministers, deacons, bookkeepers, etc. Therefore, I also advise churches to put controls in place to protect the church from embezzlement and to protect those handling money from the temptation to embezzle.

    A lack of accountability is a lazy, cowardly way to allow Satan to tempt God's people. Suffer the criticism and second guessing, and help those at the greatest risk of sexual sin avoid it and help those at the greatest risk of financial sin avoid it. That is love.

    So what about pride? I know plenty of churches ruined by a minister's pride, but it wasn't a hidden sin! Rather, the elders failed to help the minister deal with a sin that the elders were all too aware of.

    And so, if you know a good way to keep ministers humble — while also keeping them encouraged — let me know! I would offer these suggestions —

    * A minister should have close friends in the church — friends who are close enough to confront him. Isolation will either discourage the minister or push into pride. Don't let him only relate to the members a "the preacher." He needs to have real, normal relationships with some of the members.

    * Elders and ministers should have close relations — not just the "official" relationship within the church leadership structure. It may only be one or two elders, but someone within the eldership should work to become close to each minister.

    * Encourage each minister to be in an accountability group — a small group of men who meet weekly to hold one another accountable.

    * Be sure the ministers participate in the small groups programs — and not always as leader.

  14. guy says:

    Jay,

    i'm certainly not claiming sexual sin in the church should go unchecked.

    If only 30 to 50 percent of sexual offenders get caught, how do you know a great many more aren't drunkards or something else? i know personally of a case where a drunkard-minister never got caught, but finally confessed. Perhaps he was an anomaly. But i doubt it.

    Are there sins that don't hurt anyone? Are there sins that just aren't serious? Are there sins that we should just overlook?

    My only claim is that it seems our weights don't reflect biblical weights–and our reaction to this particular subject is evidence of that. When ministers are caught or confess to sexual sin–"shock! horror! scandal!" When a minister gossips or is proud or is unloving toward his wife or is impure in his speech–"oh well, we all struggle with something" or we look away and say nothing at all. And when a minister is just plain too timid to preach on certain subject so as not to rock the boat or get people upset with him or perhaps even endanger his job, we frankly find ourselves glad about that. Does that sound like NT priorities?

    i do think sexual sin in leadership is serious and people should be accountable. But i think our reaction in this case is far greater evidence of our situated-ness in conservative American culture than it is evidence of striving to reflect biblical ethics and priorities.

    Jay, during one youth class i taught a couple years ago, one of the kids said to me "church seems like a place for people who don't have any problems and don't need any serious help." Then and to this day, i feel the need to apologize to and beg forgiveness profusely from that young man and any other babe in Christ who has that same sickeningly-false impression. And while i agree with you that sexual sin should not go unchecked, i'm saying i think the particular way we react and treat offenders often only serves to reinforce that impression, not dissolve it. (When that young man sees that when anyone's serious problem comes to light, that person's church family reacts by castigating, ostracizing, rejecting, devaluing him, etc., that young man now knows that if he personally feels any strong sexual temptations, he should just toss away any desires he has of being a leader in the church, or else he better learn to keep his mouth shut about them. Is that what we ought to instill in him?) And frankly, i believe that impression is a far greater problem in any church than is the presence of a sinning minister.

    –guy

  15. Ray says:

    Guy, when I tell you that I agree with your last comment it does not automatically indicate that I am non-agreeable with Jay. "Sin" is a delicate issue that all Christians and Churches must address, but it seems proper to conclude that the manner in which we address those "sins" either draws "sinners" closer to God or pushes them away.

    BTW, that statement from the astute youth is dead on in my book. Having served as minister, I would tend to agree with the youth, once Christians cleanup the "external sins" they don't seem to be as serious about cleaning up the "interior sins".

  16. reborn1995 says:

    Jay,

    i'd also just like to say that while it may be good for a minister to have close friends in a congregation, that really is not very easy a lot of the time. The fact is he typically gets shoved into a politician-like role and it's very difficult at any given time with any given congregant not to feel like one is dealing with a voter.

    –guy

  17. BurntRibs says:

    This is off topic, but I've been thinking about this situation the past few days. Our Sunday school class was discussing church discipline. I asked if there could be a situation that would warrant "immediate" disfellowship. I was told that the "steps" (1 person going to the offender, then 2 or 3, etc…) had to be followed. It struck me that in 1 Cor 5 Paul didn't tell the congregation to follow these steps. I was thinking that the situation in this post would be similar to that in 1 Cor 5. The pastor is sinning, the public knows about it, and he is lying about it – would it be appropriate for a congregation to immediately kick someone like this out without going to them privately first?

    Josh

  18. Jay Guin says:

    Burnt Ribs,

    Not all disfellowshipping is for the same reason or by the same means. I've laid this out in some detail at GraceConversation —

    Discipline: Introduction, by Jay Guin

    Discipline: The member who is struggling to repent, by Jay Guin

    Discipline: Those no longer penitent, by Jay Guin

    Discipline: Those without faith in Jesus, by Jay Guin

    Discipline: Those who teach a hope based on works, by Jay Guin

    Discipline: Holy division, by Jay Guin

    Discipline: Conclusions, by Jay Guin

    To summarize, sometimes we disfellowship to bring a rebellious Christian to repent and keep him from damnation. Sometimes we disfellowship to protect the flock from wolves who would jeopardize the sheep. The process differs.

    But firing a minister is not the same as disfellowshipping him, and he’s not entitled to keep his job just because he repents, even if he repents sincerely. But he can be fired and remain a member (and I’ve seen this happen many times).

    Matt 18 deals with seeking to bring a sinner to repentance. But repentance doesn’t always let you keep your job. Sometimes it becomes evident that you can’t be effective in that position — often with no sin being committed a at all. Being in grace and saved is not enough to qualify you for the pulpit.

    In the instant case, church should have tried to bring the man to repentance and help him overcome his addictive behavior. But it should not have been kept on the payroll.

  19. BurntRibs says:

    Jay,

    I haven't looked at all the posts you mentioned (yet), but is it appropriate for the congregation to not allow the man to attend while trying to bring him to repentance? I know the guy should be fired, but would the congregation have been wrong to issue a statement that they are withdrawing from him in the hope that it would bring him to repentance? I've never been in a congregation that has disfellowshipped anyone.

    Josh

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