All of us have known pastors who have become involved with another woman and as a result destroyed their ministry, their family and sometimes their church. Another problem is, not only did it affect his ministry, it affected the ministry of pastors and churches in general. 

What I am about to write may not be scientifically correct but are my personal opinions based on what I have read, heard, observed and experienced during my 50 years of ministry. 

To me there seems to be two kinds of affairs. The first is based solely on pure, unadulterated lust. You might call it the "one night stand." There is no emotional attachment involved. There is no love involved. It is simply a sexual experience. This was the kind of affair King David had with Bathsheba. He saw her, she was beautiful, he lusted after her and he had sex with her, period. Had she not become pregnant, that would have been the end of the story. 

All of us have seen women to whom we have been physically attracted. We may have even had some less than pure thoughts. However, in a little while the thoughts are gone and the attraction has passed. In my opinion, if a man is not able to control his sexual passions he should not be in the ministry (or the presidency).

This first type of affair is not the kind that most pastors become involved in. The large majority of pastors who have had affairs were not out looking for someone to have sex with and probably felt that they would never have an affair. The second type is much more subtle than the first. It comes in small steps and sneaks up on you.

The first little step is the pastor being around the woman. A man will not be drawn into an affair with a woman he does not spend some time with. It is often unavoidable for a pastor not to be around some women. However, pastors have had affairs with secretaries, women they are counseling or others they have spent time alone with. Pastors should be careful about being alone with women. As Barney said, "Nip it in the bud!"

There is a mistaken idea that men only have affairs with women who are more beautiful than their wives. From my observation men often have affairs with women who are not as good looking as their wives.
Step two is when emotional attachment begins. The man begins to think about the woman when he is not around her. He thinks how wonderful she is and thinks of all of her good qualities.

When you get ready to buy a new car, isn't it strange how many things you can find wrong with your old car? Your wife doesn't do things like Miss Wonderful. Your wife just doesn't understand you. You married the wrong woman. This is the one you should have married in the first place. Life would be so wonderful with her. Some even go so far as to actually believe it is God's will for him to be with this new woman!

At this step red flags should be jumping up all over the place! Danger warnings should be flashing in your brain. This is the time to ask, "What in the world am I doing?" This is the time to correct the situation. This is the place to admit to yourself and God that your thoughts are wrong. Jesus said, "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications . . ." (Mark 7:21).

If you find you cannot control your thoughts about a woman, you may find it necessary to separate yourself from her -- even to the point of resigning your church and moving!

Up to this point there has been no outward signs of romance. The poor woman may not have any idea of your feelings for her. She may even laugh when she finds out. But then, she may have the same feelings or she may even be instigating the whole thing. That really does not matter because the responsibility is yours, not hers!

Thinking about her may go on for months or even years without going any further. But, the next step is to want to buy her a little something. It will probably be something small, something that wouldn't attract attention. When you give her a gift, even a little one, you have crossed a line that will be difficult to go back across. You have now gone from thinking to doing.

The next logical step is to touch her. I am not talking about touching inappropriately. Maybe her hair, or her hand, or her arm. You have now made physical contact. How wonderful it all seems, how right it feels.
From here you could almost chart the future. By now you have convinced yourself that you are madly in love with each other. You will hold her in your arms, you will kiss her lips and eventually you will have sex with her. It will probably be the most breath-taking, exhilarating, passionate sexual experience you have ever had. You never intended to wind up here, but here you are.

Now look at the mess you have gotten yourself into. You have a wife and kids who want and need you at home with them. But now you have another woman who wants you to divorce your wife, leave your kids and marry her. You find yourself in the most gut wrenching experience of your lifetime. You know you should be with your wife and kids, but you want to be with this "perfect" new woman. What are you going to do? You are going to lose either way you go. There is no easy way to get out of this mess you have made of your life. Someone is going to get hurt. There may not be an easy way, but there is a right way-- God's way.

Some really dumb pastors have felt they could divorce their wives, marry this perfect woman and go right on with their ministry as if nothing had happened. That isn't going to happen. Your ministry is over! You had better go out and get an honest job.

I have some more sad news for you, as wonderful as you think life is going to be with Miss Wonderful, it won't be. Once the glitter has worn off, you will be back in the same place you were before, except she will never trust you and you will never trust her.
A man who had just remarried was asked how things were. The man replied, "Wonderful." A couple of years later the man was asked the same question. This time the he replied, "Same hell, different devil."
There is an old true saying, "Remember, the grass may look greener on the other side of the fence, but it has to be mowed too."

If you allow yourself to get this deep into the relationship, what should you do? You already know that the right thing is to say "goodbye" to the new woman and go back to your wife and children. In my opinion you should resign your church, move and rebuild your family relationships. This experience can be a stepping-stone to an even better marriage than you had before. Your ministry may have been damaged but it can be salvaged.

But, the best thing is to not let it get this far. As soon as you realize that you are becoming emotionally involved with a woman, run to God, confess it to Him and get busy building a better relationship with your wife.

If you are a preacher you may be thinking "I would never do anything like that." If that is what you think, you're an idiot and will probably be one of the first ones to get involved with someone else. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12).

Be careful because what you do reflects on God, on your family, on your church and on me.


by Raymond McAlister
May 2007