A few weeks ago, we posted an article here on 7 women inside the church which pastors should be wary of. With the scandal in the news involving a couple of prominent generals and a Florida socialite, we recently followed that up with an article saying “if it can happen there, it can happen to you.”
Here is what will probably be the third and final segment on this trilogy in which we are cautioning pastors–of all ages, but particularly young ones who could be blind-sided–to watch out for certain types of women. I am very aware of the sexist nature of these writings. And, as we have noted, sometimes the predator is the man in the pulpit and the victim the unsuspecting one who comes to him seeking pastoral counsel and guidance.
That said, here is my list of seven “types” of women outside the pastor’s own immediate congregation of whom he must be careful.
1) The Facebook fantasy. These are not called “social networks” for no reason. People meet, they connect, they find themselves attracted (as well as repelled), and once in a while, they develop fantasies about one person in particular. I have known of marriages ending because two parties met on Facebook, decided to meet in some distant city, and soon two homes were in shambles.
2) The old classmate. You go to a class reunion without your spouse, and you see her. She looks great–even better than she did in high school–and this time she shows interest in you. You eat it up.
3) Your first girlfriend. You get reconnected in some way and old feelings bob to the surface and you quickly get stupid. You begin to wonder how life would have turned out had you and she stayed together. It all goes downhill from there.
4) A church member from an earlier pastorate. You are back in that town for some occasion and bump into her. You and she have a history of sorts, since you have known her family for years. Careful now. If either of you is going through a difficult time and the other is vulnerable, you have all the ingredients for a disaster.
5) An admirer who appears in your life. She watches your church’s telecast or she heard you speak on some occasion, and “you are simply amazing.” You gobble up the adoration.
6) A grieving widow. A pastor once called my attention to how vulnerable young widows can be to an amorous comforter. I suspect he knew all too well what he was talking about since eventually he had to resign his church over comforting women other than his wife in ways other than how he should.
7) The counselee who comes to you from another church. She didn’t want to confide in her pastor, so she came to you. She knows no one else in your church. She opens up to you.
After the Petraeus scandal, USA Today asked readers “Why are spouses unfaithful?” The nine responses they published from Facebook were uniformly unhelpful: “because they can,” “everyone does it,” “it doesn’t matter why,” “they lack integrity,” etc.
The Twitter responses were slightly more insightful: “They have a skewed perception of reality and can’t fathom getting caught,” “bored with their spouse,” “disconnected from their spouses,” and “they like living on the edge.”
Why do pastors cheat on their wives?
The simple answer is that they are men and all men are vulnerable to sexual attraction. Women are also, but we’re addressing this to pastors, which in our Southern Baptist Convention means males.
There is no difference. Pastors commit sexual sin for the same reason non-pastors do. And what is that? Answer: A multiplicity of reasons and influences and temptations and needs and weaknesses.
1) Sometimes they are bored with their wives and vulnerable to “something different.” But some cheaters have great wives and are not bored. So, this is no answer.
2) Sometimes they feel they are in love with the sexual partner and justify it as “what I’ve been searching for all my life.” But they are just as likely to know going in that this is temporary, shallow, one-dimensional, and trouble, and still do it. This is no answer.
3) Sometimes they are serial adulterers. But sometimes the cheating pastor is a godly, sincere, humble man of great integrity who used to pray, “Lord, before I violate my marriage vows, I want you to take my life.” And here they are violating their marriage vows. There seems to be no pattern here.
4) Sometimes they are grasping, needy pastors who, like bottomless pits, need endless adoration and constant affirmation and justify the affair because their spouse is not (ahem) “meeting my needs.” But at other times the cheater is a solid, whole, well-adjusted pastor without any visible missing parts.
When we say “everyone does it,” we do not mean that every one does it. Only that anyone can, regardless of doctrine, denomination, spiritual depth, or any other determination.
The point is there is no pattern, there are no formulaic answers on “why pastors cheat.”
Well, except for one.
They are sinners, too. Like everyone in the pew, the man in the pulpit may have a thousand aspects of his life in order, but he still walks on clay feet. He has needs and weaknesses, vulnerabilities and unprotected sides.
I’ve heard it said that the lower nature of everyone is unfaithful. And I believe it.
“Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall” (I Corinthians 10:12). That word from the Apostle Paul applies to every disciple of the Lord Jesus. We are all sinners, even if forgiven. And we still live as flawed humans in a fallen world.
The prayer of a flawed pastor…
“Lord, give me a heart of iron toward myself,
a heart of flesh toward others,
and a heart of fire toward Thee.
For Jesus’ sake. Amen.”
Let us be tough with ourselves, compassionate toward others–even if they have fallen–and living in a deep devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ. And that means day by day by day. Because temptation will arrive on one of those days when you least expect it. And if you are unprepared, if you have dropped your defenses, if you are unguarded, you are in trouble.
Be strong in the Lord, my friend. And guard yourselves (Acts 20:28).
I went visiting one time by myself to a lady who I didn’t know here husband was out of town. She opened the front door in something from Victoria Secret. I immediately turned around and left. The temptations are there. We must always be on guard.
I have heard of that happening, John. One pastor told of a phone call at some late, late hour from a woman who needed to see him at her home then. When he arrived, she opened the door wearing the same outfit as the one you mentioned. The pastor said, “Hello. I don’t think you’ve met my wife.” I imagine it was a very short pastoral visit.
Thank you very much for this comment. God bless you. “Watch” as in “watch and pray” means exactly what you have mentioned, namely: known that temptations are there! And be prepared to run.
Great article, Dr. Joe! The only thing I change is to add newly divorced women to the same category as grieving widows, for many of the same reasons. I’m so glad for the mentors early on who warned me to set careful boundaries–that advice has saved my bacon more than once. I’ve seen too many guys who thought it could never happen to them, only to find out otherwise tragically.
Great article and needs to be repeated over and over. In my later years, about half-way in my ministry or less, I would never go visiting unless my wife was with me or I knew that both husband and wife were at home. Also be very careful how you interact with the teenagers in your church. Some of them can misunderstand your touch or can get mad at you and turn on you with untruth’s.
Thank you for the great words. I have reposted this on a few sites and I will be using this in my next mens meeting. We can never be too careful. I get jazzed for not being a big hugger, but it is wise!!
Yes, it is, Brian. I have a friend who was ousted from a church when a woman accused him of hugging inappropriately. No one but the two of them know what happened, but the effect was devastating for the church.
There are many pastors and ministers of music who are NOT Godly men. A tree is known by it’s fruit. Albeit non of us are perfect….but as a woman, this looks one-sided and I will make a righteous judgement here. It is NOT ok to be a pastor or any man and cheat on your wife. I have had this happen to me 3 times in my walk. I will not participate in the hurt of another woman such as a wife of a pastor. I have kept pretty much silent for the woman gets the blame. But it has happened to me once in front of the music directors children, once with my music minister playing on a sad time in my life, reaching over to give me what I thought was a christian hug of compassion that ended up with one hand up my blouse and one hand down my pants. And just recently….I was very disappointed when one of the old friends I love came by to see me. I walked out of my kitchen to find him uninvited in my bed. He tried that night and tried again the next morning only to be shut down. I am a single woman and yes I have made mistakes too….but I know the families of these men. After the last incident, I was so upset. All I could think about at first is his wife, then I started to think about myself too. We had both been violated. Mostly with the trust. It hurt. I grew up with men who respected me that were not married. Why cannot a pastor, who is supposedly called to be an example and a higher walk do the same. I am very wary of getting overly involved in a church music ministry for this reason….it has turned me away from even going. Thankfully I have found a place I believe the Lord is going to plant me. But I tell you now….I do not like the women being targeted. Yes I know they are out there…..but I turn it around, from a violated woman by supposedly Godly pastor and music ministers…..watch out for them. And the come ons just came too easily with no conviction….that I do not understand. But I keep my mouth shut for the woman is the one always at fault. And I am sure there are other women like me who just do not say anything. That behavior is unacceptable to me and God sees the hurt because of the selfishness and lack of control. The Spirit gives us control over things like that. Gal 5:22.
Oh sweetie!! I’m so sorry! You are right…The truth is, women often get blamed for so much. We are all somehow are held responsible for men’s poor choices. We are often measured up by the few “bad” female apples. The enemy of our souls hates us! Satan hates the woman’s role in the Kingdom. We are a constant reminder of what he lost. The enemy’s kingdom is one of death while we are designed to carry life physically and spiritually. He hates our beauty because he once had it.
Cabbate – Jesus loves you. He loves your femininity and He honors it! He isn’t afraid to touch you… or be alone with you. He isn’t afraid of how it will look because His love surpasses the desire to maintain a reputation.
I’m praying for your healing.
To me….they are “outside men” in the church standing behind pulpits bringing the truth while living a lie. Abominable.
One more thing I would like to add to this previous post about the minister of music who put his hands on me. He was also the sunday school teacher of children, little boys and girls from about 5 and up. I thought about them. I should have stood up against that no matter what the cost to me would have been. For those children that I loved. IF there is ever a next time…I will stand up and be heard….not just for me, but for the others who are afraid to speak up about it. I have forgiven them…not bitter….but it is what it is. Be careful who you trust. Satan has infilterated the church. Just because you wear the title Pastor does not give anyone the right to violate another. I do have a Holy anger about this. Now since this article you have written…..it opened up the old wounds. Don’t know you that well, however the Word says to look after orphans and widows. Now are you saying that if they are widows, divorced, abused or vulnerable….they are “outside women”? Are you saying they should not be serving the Lord in a church assembly. God despises the division and the brethen….are not women brethen. And it is not my intent to cause division …. but this article started it. I guess I will still be the one to blame because I am a woman….but woman came from man….so we are all the same. But I will take the blow to stop you from singleing out women whom you have not walked in their shoes. All women are not like that. And I am sure that there are some Godly pastors left. Man or woman…….we can always say NO.
God despises the division OF THE BRETHREN. (correction to last post). There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. Have a nice day.
Pastor Joe, thank you for speaking to this pastor’s heart, for me to keep myself guarded against the things where I may be weak, and to never let the areas I am strong to get weak. There is much to be said for the man of God to keep himself above reproach, and it is by no means an easy road. Thanks for the wisdom, and the guidance for a pastor just getting started.
That title is all WRONG! Why did you write this article? The words of the body of the article is good advice…..but why would you single out in the title “other women”. Don’t you have men that grieve? I am a woman and I have helped plenty of men’s tears falling my shoulders without sex. Just compassion and I am divorced bringing up 2 teenagers. You must have fought some of these battles yourself….we all do. The title is condemning to women. Why don’t you catoragize the ministers who are preying on such vulnerabiliy be it come from man, woman, black, white, child, rich or poor. Christian or non?
Kat, your question is good and deserves an answer. In a sentence it’s this: One cannot cover all phases of a subject in one article. That’s why this blog has nearly 2,000 articles in it. Click on “pastors” (down the right side of the blog) and you’ll see some of them. — You could just as easily direct your criticism to the writer of Proverbs who covers some of the same ground in his advice to “my son,” whoever that was. — I grant that there are predators in the pulpit. In the one of the accompanying articles to this one, we make that point. But, keep in mind that 90 percent of our target audience is ministers and their spouses. — You can read almost anything we’ve written and at the end, say, “Yes but, you left out–” this or that. And you would be correct. But, just because we cannot do everything in an article should not mean we shouldn’t attempt to do something. — I sincerely thank you for the note, and hope my answer helps your discomfort. Thank you.
I have more of a question than a comment. What say you to the Pastor who cheated on his wife, loses his wife to death, reconnects with an ex-girlfriend from high school, dates her, engages to marry her, dumps her, to pursue a relationship with his deceased wife’s friend?
I’d say he needs deliverance from sin and Satan. He has problems.
Great writing Doc! Quite a lot are happening in christiandom today that needs lots of caution. May we not be burnt.
I am engaged he cheated before he proposed (as if that’s a consolation),When he falls into category of I’ll be faithful & won’t do it again to asking The Lord to take him so he won’t do it again., how do you trust him or do you end it before it goes any further..
Very good read but what about the pastor who is online searching in chat rooms to cheat on their wife. I am a victim of this. In this day and age he admitted he could create a life no one knew about , only was it when we became too involved he told me the truth. He said he had done this last cpl years but this time he took it to far by meeting. He cheated as he had no one to talk to, his marriage struggling. Probably cheating ended up saving his marriage as he never told but he totally re dedicated his life to The Lord and getting right. I was devastated and still feel dirty. I recently confessed to my pastor and only then I realized the abuse of power. I really struggled with how he could do that, but his dad and grandfather were pastors and he had an overwhelming pressure to fulfill their dreams.
Anne, thank you. There seems to be no limit to the variations of this sin and no end to the hurt it causes. God bless you.
wow this is an eye opener praise God for this one
more msg like this! i want to learn more!
good day thank you very much for the article it is true what is happening to pastors out the is sad. the devil has defenetly assigned agents to attack the man and woman of God. I wish the could be semminers or programs that are specially for pastors and their spouses were they can meet each other and we have speakers and speak to them. bbecouse ministry is very lonely its true you don’t know who to trust or confide in a lot of pastors have fallen not because they are fake but because they didn’t know what to do to control the fleah . these are the last days we need to hold on and be united. the are other people pastors need to watch out for and that is members that always have something against your spouse those people always feel if they always talk to you about her or him than the can be arguments between your spouse and you than they can be the pefact escape door for you. really it disturbs me to see how much a pastor is no more respected grace is not appreciated anymore . my husband pastor praise once told me that he was a pastor for long years before he married me and yes he saw things but now that he is wearing a ring on his finger the he can’t believe that they are more people trying even though he knows how to speak what he wants to say and walk away without anything happening . god bless you sir for the article again please tour the world an make pastors semeners and invite us
Brother Joe, this is very very helpful to all Gods servants esp men, as you correctly point they are a lot more vulnerable.
My brother in law who is a full time Preacher of the Word, over 8 years ago, got too emotionally attached to a young lady (she was in her mid 20s then) whom he counselled and he eventually adopted her as his ‘legal’ daughter. this is an issue in my sister’s marriage to date.
So, I would definitely agree with the tips you have given here – esp. the one where Pastors need to avoid hugging women / girls in general, not counselling women while all alone with them…Very good counsel indeed.
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Adultery is sin, and according to James 1:13-15 a man sins, “when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”
It is absurd to blame women for the male sex drive. Blaming the victim is inappropriate. 90% of the time it’s pure lust on the part of the man whether he’s a pastor or not. Men can control their drive if they want to but so many men lack the desire. It really is that simple.
You are right Steve, we have learnt a lot in the past few years. But this article was written in 2012 and even though it was only just over a decade ago, the difference in how we see these things has changed. For most of us, that is. Women are not seen like this by reasonable, thoughtful people anymore.