Pastors Need Comfort, To Avoid Disaster

(Over the next few posts, I’m going to talk about several reasons why the book “Fallen Pastor” is for anyone concerned about the future of the church. We are in the midst of a crisis and need to understand how to approach it).

I conducted an interview┬árecently with Joy Wilson, author of “Uncensored Prayer.” I asked her a question that has been haunting me. When I wrote, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” I never looked back and thought it was incomplete. But I asked Joy the following question: “In hindsight, is there a message you wish you could have added to the book?”

Since I asked that question, I have been consumed by it. I wish I had added something to my own book. Pastors are very needy people. They need comfort, just like everyone else. If their comforts are not being met, it can become a dangerous place for the enemy to step in.

When I say comfort, I don’t mean that pastors need to be pampered 24/7. I’m not talking about the idea that trouble will come and pastors need to face them. Let me explain.

Tonight, my lovely wife Allison and I went to a local diner after a funeral visitation. Usually, when I go to a small mom and pop diner, I won’t even crack the menu. I will simply ask the server, “What is the best thing you’ve got?“At this restaurant in Crofton, Kentucky, they had three pages of meals that all looked really good to me at the moment. But I knew that there was something there that they did really, really well.

Our waitress paused and said, “The open faced roast beef sandwich. It’s served with a side of mashed potatoes and covered with gravy.”

I said, “l’ll have that.” Know why? Because her recommendation was more than just what they did best. It was something she had eaten. It was comfort food. It was food for the soul. And my goodness, when it came, it fed my soul.

I was suddenly reminded that pastors need comfort. A lot of people who read this won’t like what I have to say in the next few paragraphs, but it is important if we are going to change this culture. A culture in which I fell. A culture in which 1,500 pastors a month are leaving the ministry, many due to moral failure.

Pastors work in high pressure situations, regardless of the size of their churches. Much is asked of them. Many of these men see the ministry as an extremely high calling, and they should. Unfortunately, many of these men sacrifice time with their families and wives to do the work of ministry because of overly high expectations placed on them by their churches or by themselves.

They have no comfort. Some, over time, seek out comfort through a quick fix of pornography. Some, whose marriages are deteriorating because of ministry, look elsewhere. That may come as a shock to some. The pastor shows up on Sunday with his lovely wife, his beautiful children – some people think, “I wish my family was like that.

But what many people do not realize is that the pastor’s home life is in shambles. His home life and marriage is in awful shape. Why? Because he has laid out everything in pursuit of the ministry.

In his mind, he has justified it all. He thinks he is doing the work of God. He visits the sick, attends deacons meetings, preaches the word, evangelizes the lost. But over in the corner, the relationship with his wife and family is fading and he doesn’t realize it.

He comes home from a bad day and tries to talk to his wife, only to see that she has become alienated from him. It is his fault. It is their fault. There is no comfort. So he seeks comfort elsewhere,wrongfully, sinfully. Through porn. Through lust. And maybe though an inappropriate relationship nearby.

Friends, what I am telling you is that pastors need comfort from home. From their churches. Just like those fried chicken home cooked meals mom used to fix. Pastors cannot be expected to extend themselves out on the church field and forget about the most important mission field – their family.

Comfort, the greatest and best comfort comes from home. Don’t extend your pastor so much that he can’t have the touchstone of relief from his wife and children.

When I was writing my book and interviewing fallen pastors, the most common traits of a fall were so obvious. The expectations were too high, they were isolated from having real relationships, there was too much conflict over silly things and they had lack of intimacy with their spouses.

Each of these things beg for comfort! The pastor needs friends, real friends who will comfort him! He needs a church body and leadership who will be able to discern what is really important – the preaching of the Word, not what color the carpet will be. He needs people in the congregation who understand him as a fallen sinner, like them, who has weaknesses. He needs them to be comfortable with his strengths and weaknesses as a leader.

Finally, he needs time at home to be comfortable with his wife and family. Most pastors get a day off during the week. But when I talk to my current pastor friends, they still get calls from the church on their days off. Pastors need time one on one with their wives. To bond, to heal. The ministry is, unfortunately, a battlefield. It doesn’t just involve the pastor, it involves his whole family. Give him time to nurture his family. To date her. To spend sweet emotional time with her, to forget the travails of the church for a few hours.

It’s funny as I write this, my power is out. I’m writing this on my iPhone as storms are wreaking havoc across the county where I live. Understand this: pastors who do not have adequate support and comfort are absolutely powerless. Yes, they are to look to Christ for all power, but He has given us the church to support one another through all things. None of us is in this alone.

Pastors across America need comfort time. And they need their churches to be proactive in giving it to them. It’s one positive step in ensuring we don’t have more fallen pastors.

The Fallen Pastor’s Wife

I have been absolutely humbled today. Without revealing too much, I was contacted by the wife of a fallen minister. She asked me for some advice about how to handle the emotional maelstrom that accompanies the pastor’s fall.

Never, ever in a billion years did I think a former pastor’s wife would ever ask me for advice. Mostly because I don’t think I’m worthy of handing out advice to the representative population that I sinned against. But after a few minutes, I realized I might have a little insight. Not much, but a little. Like the man used to say, “What I don’t know could fill a warehouse.”

I hope people don’t think that just because I write primarily about the fallen pastor that I don’t care about everyone else involved. I’ve tackled the issues of those around the fallen minister before and know the damage that occurs. All of it matters.

The wife of the fallen pastor, first and foremost, doesn’t deserve what she suddenly has handed to her. In all the interviews I’ve done for my book – and in my own situation – all of us say the same thing – we are responsible for our sin. We did it. It was our choice. Were there circumstances that led up to it? Yeah. Sure, but we’re the ones who decided to sin. That’s first and foremost.

The wife of the fallen minister didn’t ask to have the scrutiny of the community suddenly fall into her lap. She didn’t ask for her family life to suddenly be shattered. Her life is devastated in a moment and what follows is confusion, hurt, sadness, pain and anger.

Without getting too complex, with a bit of experience behind me, knowing I can’t address all of the issues, here’s what I would say to the wife of the freshly fallen pastor, in most cases:

“I’m sorry this has happened to you. I don’t know where this is going to go from here. But I would give you three very serious pieces of advice. The first is this. Find wise counsel. I’m not talking about people you know who are hurt and angry. I’m talking about people who are distant from this situation who love God, love you, love your husband and are willing to walk through this with you. People who are willing to not choose sides but just love on you.

Secondly, love your children like you always have and do what you can to protect them. Your mothering instinct is natural. Your hurt and anger is about to explode soon. Don’t be afraid to let someone keep them for a few hours here and there so you can get away to get your mind clear. You’re a mom, but also be yourself.

Finally, you will know what to do by knowing what your husband does. This piece of advice isn’t mine, but from an expert I talked to. Don’t listen to his words, but watch his actions to see if he is going to be repentant. Make sure people are approaching him to give him a chance, don’t take that duty on yourself. But you’ll know soon whether he is or not. Give caring, Christian people time to find out his heart and his actions.”

There are a lot of hurt, fallen pastors out there friends. But there are an equal number of hurt wives of fallen pastors and their children. Don’t forget to pray for all of them.

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