A writer at the Christian Post applies this to pastors and church workers—but there’s a lot here for everyone to chew on:
The conversation is always sad, always tragic. The pastor who left his church after a two-year affair with another church member. The student pastor who has been out of vocational ministry since he had a brief sexual encounter with his assistant.
I have spoken with countless numbers of these men and women. And each time I am reminded of how much I need to love God with all my heart, and to be totally devoted to my wife.
Though the conversations are both sad and tragic, I do learn from them. And after dozens, perhaps a few hundred, of these conversations, I see patterns. These patterns become warning signs for any of us, lest we be so naïve to think we have no vulnerabilities.
Because the conversations were informal, I cannot say for certain which among them were the most frequent warning signs. So I provide them in no particular order.
1. “I neglected my family.” Church work can become a deceitful mistress (I struggle to find the male equivalent of the word). We become so consumed with our ministry that we neglect our families. But 1 Timothy 3:5 is clear that our families are our first ministries.
2. “I had no system of accountability.” Unfortunately, most churches do not have clear guidelines for accountability. That does not excuse any of us from making sure that we have such self-imposed guidelines, and that our spouses know about them as well.
3. “It began in counseling.” Sometimes the word “transference” is used to describe what can happen in counseling. The counselor or counselee becomes the object of attraction instead of one’s spouse. One or both of the parties see the other as something his or her spouse should be.
4. “My co-worker and I began to confide in one another on a deep level.” The conversations between two people who work together become ones that should be restricted to the marital relationship. At this point, an emotional affair has already begun. Physical intimacy is usually not far away.
A reader, seeing the above, alerted me to this article, which offers more advice:
I know it sounds weird, but ministry can be a very sensual experience. Whether you are a pastor, elder, choir member or any other church volunteer, you can find yourself working very closely with the opposite sex. And much of the time you can be dealing with people who are emotionally hurting and desirous for caring human contact. There is frequently touching, hugging, smiling, and open hearts sharing. These people will often look up to you, admire you, respect you and think you are generally quite wonderful. Add to that the fact that people generally come to church always looking their very best and on their very best behavior, and you create an environment ripe for sexual temptation. It’s like a keg of gunpowder just waiting for a spark. Sadly, most Christian workers walk into this powder keg with little to no awareness of the danger that is lurking. This is why so many Christian leaders – including pastors – are falling into sexual sin.
We have to smarter than we have been. While we don’t need to walk about in a continual state of fear and paranoia, we do need to constantly remind ourselves of the danger that exists.
- First, we have to acknowledge the potential danger. Do your leadership training sessions address sexual temptations? If not, your leadership training is like flight training that never talks about emergency landings.
- Avoid intimate ministry with members of the opposite sex. If that person does not have the same plumbing you do, you have no business listening to their needs, holding their hands and praying with them or opening and sharing your heart with them.
- Encourage female mentoring in your church. I mention female mentoring specifically since it is usually women who come into the church with emotional needs. In my opinion, male pastors and workers need to stop counseling women! Meet with them once or twice if you must, but you should be referring them to another woman in the church ASAP! But be ready for resistance among the women in your church. You may very well discover the frustrating fact that many hurting women don’t want to be mentored by another woman and many strong women don’t want to mentor a needy, weak one. However, we must insist on it.
- Christian workers should share their sexual temptations with someone (of the same sex) that they can trust – especially men. The one thing sexual sin needs to hold you in its grasp is secrecy. The moment you break the secrecy, the stranglehold begins to lift. If, as a man, you have not shared any of your sexual temptations with another brother in Christ, you are just asking for trouble. And I know this is going to sound really strange, perhaps even a bit cruel, but beware the trap of the unattractive woman! I never cease to be amazed at how many pastors commit adultery with, well… not-so-beautiful women. But I believe I have come to understand why. First, these women tend to be very needy for the affections of any man and second, it is really difficult to admit that one feels tempted by an unattractive woman. If it is a gorgeous woman, that’s easy to confess. Chances are the other men around her are feeling the same temptations. But an unattractive woman – who wants to admit to that? There is almost an embarrassment to that confession. But refuse to talk out your temptations and Satan smiles as you begin to fall.