I came across an interesting series of blogs interviewing a pastor who lost his ministry after an adulterous affair — and now has been restored to full time ministry. It is a 5-part series with part 5 being some conclusions and reflections from the interviewer. You can read the whole series here. It is worth the read.
Here are the authors conclusions about pastoral restoration… I would love to hear your thoughts:
Over the last four days, if you’ve been following this blog, we’ve been hearing from Brad Johnson, a dear pastor friend who had an affair while serving as a senior pastor. Brad is not your average guy. His experience includes leading a church of less than 300 to nearly 2,000, a church in rural Kentucky. He then joined the Saddleback Church staff where he had oversight of Home Plate ministries (Missions) as well as functioning as one of the teaching pastors at Saddleback. Following his run there he went on to be the senior pastor at Calvary Community Church, a mega-church in Westlake Village, California. Brad had it all. He was living the ecclesiastical dream when he chose to involve himself in a relationship with someone other than his wife. He then lost it all.
In agreeing to do this interview Brad opened himself up to much criticism and scrutiny as well as being questioned concerning his decision to re-enter full-time ministry. His reason for doing this interview… so others would not make the same devastating mistake he made, diving into a relationship with anyone other than the person he said, “I do” to.
I knew this series of blog posts would create a conversation of some intensity. It is obvious that there are varying interpretations of Scripture when it comes to fallen church leaders and the possibility of them returning to meaningful roles in the bride of Christ. This came as no surprise to me. Having joined teams of church leaders on multiple occasions to restore a fellow follower/church leader I know the cries (and sometimes demands) of the outspoken cynics, the heart-broken church members, and the disappointed staff members who had put their trust in a sin-soaked and redemption-seeking pastor.
I have noted that, in most instances, those who have the most difficult time believing restoration of a fallen pastor (and a return to church leadership) is possible are those who have…
- divorced parents or whose family has been wrecked by the devastation of divorce.
- chosen to see the responsibility of the full-time ordained minister as quite different than the responsibility of the laity.
- been bathed in legalism due to their denominations teaching, their seminary’s perspective, their favorite pastor’s teaching, or a mentor’s viewpoint.
- an honest and sincere concern for our country’s and the world’s moral collapse in an era when the society we live in looks much like (or worse than) Sodom and Gomorrah.
- never been tempted by or have not stepped over the sexual sin line, whether that be pornography or a physical, sinful, sexual act with another human being.
- sincerely studied Scripture and have concluded that “above reproach” means that (evidently) a person will forever be “below reproach” if they have disgraced the church by involving oneself in an adulterous relationship.
I have noted that, in most instances, those who are most likely to embrace the restoration of a minister following an affair are those who have…
- hearts that have not been broken by a divorce that wrecked their family system.
- the perception that all believers are equals with various roles in the church body.
- been bathed in the concept of grace due to their denominations teaching, their seminary’s perspective, their favorite pastor’s teaching, or a mentor’s viewpoint.
- an honest and sincere concern for our country’s and the world’s moral collapse in an era when the society we live in looks much like (or worse than) Sodom and Gomorrah and have concluded that the world is more apt to embrace Christ if we trust Him to transform and heal every sinner… completely.
- been tempted by and have stepped over the sexual sin line, whether that be pornography or a physical, sinful, sexual act with another human being.
- sincerely studied Scripture and have concluded that “above reproach” means that a person can once again be “above reproach” after exhibiting a contrite heart, repenting (turning away from) of the sin, going through a carefully orchestrated restoration process, and have been approved to do ministry again by a group of wise church leaders.
Please know that in each of the lists above the only response that has any right to be heard on this issue is the last statement, the one that asks what Scripture allows. The real question is, “Does God’s Word allow an elder to be restored and then placed in a leadership role within the body of Christ after having involved themselves in an adulterous relationship?” There will continue to be much discussion concerning this topic. There will always be opposing interpretations.
I was on the team that restored Brad Johnson back into the good graces of God’s church. Some opposed it, others applauded it, some very impressive church leaders continue to question it, I embraced it and him. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” The role of those of us who are spiritual is to restore, each church will decide whether or not they will choose a redeemed, restored brother to lead them. Each church must ask the question, “Do we believe Scripture allows us to utilize a restored follower of Christ to lead us?” Mature believers are to restore, the local church must interpret Scripture, come to a conclusion, then either welcome the fallen leader or refuse to utilize the fallen leader.
Brad, I can’t thank you enough for your willingness to open up your heart and the painful wounds that are embedded there. Your honesty is a beautiful thing, your ability to communicate the darkness and the redemption you’ve experienced is extraordinary, and your response to those with a different biblical interpretation than both you and myself… respectful, real, genuine, and revealing.