7 Ways I Protect My Heart and Ministry From an Affair

It seems every day we hear of another big name celebrity, politician or pastor that has fallen into the temptation of lust and had an affair. I think it is dangerous for any leader to assume this could never happen to him or her. Speaking as a man, (I can’t speak as a woman), I understand that temptation is very real. When the mind begins to wander in a lustful direction, it is very hard to control. The failure, I believe, comes more in not protecting the heart and mind. I know that I must personally work to protect myself, my wife, my boys and my church from the scandal and embarrassment of an affair.

There are a few rules I have in place that serve to protect my heart:

I never meet alone with a woman besides my wife (or mother). I always take someone along to lunch meetings and I make sure others are in the office when I meet with women. Also, I never exercise with other women. (If you need explanation, then you’ve never been a guy going to a gym where girls are in workout clothes. Trust me!) I realize this is not popular in these days where men and women are searching for equality in the workplace. Honestly, some women never understand this. I had one woman tell me recently that I “think too highly of myself”, but my family is too important to me not to take this precaution.

I try not to conduct very personal or intimate conversations with women. I am careful not to compliment women on her appearance, unless I feel she needs the encouragement and her husband or my wife is in the conversation. If a woman is in tears I am careful about prolonging the conversation. When emotions are flowing, people get vulnerable. There are women on our staff and in our church equal or more capable than me to deal with these type conversations.

When talking to couples I focus my visual connection mostly on the man and not his wife. It’s not that I don’t talk to the wife, but I try to place my eyes more in the direction of the man. This is a discipline I have had to practice. Sometimes I see couples from our church in the community and I often don’t recognize the woman when she is not with her husband. This is not that I don’t care about the woman (or that I’d rather look at a man!), but this is necessary in order to protect my heart and mind from wandering. (Did you ever read 2 Samuel 11?)

I try not to stare at women. When an attractive woman catches my eye, I try to quickly bounce my attention elsewhere. Yes, I notice a pretty woman in the room…often. God made some beautiful women. I just know my heart and mind too well to allow myself to stare. Trust me…I can’t.

I spend lots of time with my wife. The best defense is a good offense. The most certain way to protect my heart is to strengthen my marriage. Cheryl and I spend most of our leisure time together.

I try to always remember my boys. My boys are two of my very best friends, and thankfully, as for right now, they still have tremendous respect for me as a dad and man. I would never want to disappoint them by being unfaithful to my wife.

I love my church. I would never want to injure the work God is doing at Grace Community Church. If I were ever tempted to sin against God in this way, I would hope my love for the church would draw me back.

Do my rules offend you? What are you doing to protect your heart?

You might also want to read 7 Ways I Protect My Family Life in Ministry

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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188 thoughts on “7 Ways I Protect My Heart and Ministry From an Affair

  1. I do think that there are definitely appropriate boundaries that need to be in place in cross-gender relationships. HOWEVER, I also think that, in the Christian world, these can go too far. As a woman who works in ministry with mostly men, I find that I am often completely left out of the group because of rules like these. These boundaries make me feel as though my wanting to be included (and given the opportunities that happen as a result of workplace rapport) is somehow sexually predatory. Professionals should be able to work together without a chaperone – yes, even Christian professionals. That does not mean that you do not take precautions, but I think that it does mean that we all need to learn that we are adults who are capable of keeping our pants on. When we find ourselves in tempting situations, then we leave them and we perhaps check in with the people in our life who hold us accountable about what might be going on that makes us vulnerable in a particular moment. I do think that the situation is different when we are "ministering to" as opposed to "ministering with." So, the boundaries should potentially be different between a pastor and parishoners v. pastor and co-workers.

  2. I have seen some ladies dressed rather inappropriately for Church. Clothes very snug, low cut tops, short shirts or shorts. The gentlemen do not dress this way.

    My question is why would a modest Christian lady dress like that? It attracts undue attention upon herself and makes other people uncomfortable. If you say anything about it, she gets offended. I find these ladies are seeking out the attention of men, and sadly sometimes for the wrong reasons. Brothers and Sisters, there are times when we cannot know the motives for people entering God’s house…not all reasons are based in Faith. These women maybe “Husband Hunting”, etc. Because they wore out the welcome at the bars or clubs and they been married a bunch and nobody knows their history except what they reveal. And we believe them because we are Christians, and this may hurt us if we get taken advantage of by a lie they tell in trying to help them while they are in need.

    I have lived though this, and helped my friend while she got hurt helping the Church interloper, and the woman slept with her husband.

    It ruined their marriage, just because a Christain lady wanted to invite some woman into her home and help her get on her feet and take her to Church.. so don’t be quick to judge Ron, Ladies, if you respect marriage.

    I totally respect Ron’s choice. Put your feet in his shoes and imagine the stories he seen or what he has been through during counseling congregation members. He honors his wife by it, and it speaks loud and clear to all that he santifies his vows, and puts his family first. I wouldn’t trust the Church Lilith around my husband.

  3. First allow me to say that I am oh so pleased to hear a man speak on these things and not just me. It was the same revelation I got about our marriage and ministry.

    As a Christian wife, I do not feel comfortable meeting with other men alone or by myself. (I am the one who has to put the safeguards of the heart in place and parameters for interacting with the opposite sex.) But that does not mean I am excluding them from my ministry. As a matter of fact, just like some pastors are drawn to help heal women, everything in my spirit says that I am to be one of the women in ministry to help men heal.

    But you will not catch me doing it alone, not even in public if I can avoid it.

    You can rationalize all of this in anyway you want, but I would suggest reading the book "Intend for pleasure" by Ed and Gayle Wheat. It is about the right relationship between men and women in the church as God had designed and getting it back right again according to His plan.

    The other book I would suggest reading is "Every Women's Battle" by Shannon Etheridge. It was through these books that I began to understand the dynamics of emotional and mental purity within women. There's the public, ministry and the private, your own marriage relationship. The integrity of both should be maintained.

    It pains me to see women think that men make it all about them, when in reality, men in ministry really are trying to make it about God, Jesus and about total authenticity in ministry for God.

    Check out the book of Galatians, especially chapter 6:1-5

    We ALL need to watch ourselves that we are not so easily deceived and especially watch out for deceiving ourselves to believe that something is when it's really not.

    It may look and feel innocent enough, but is it really?

  4. I stumbled upon this post through other posts and love it, Ron! I'm a single guy, but have similar, but different, and in some ways, probably looser boundaries.
    I just wanted to say, I've noticed that a lot of the commenters who have negative things to say (I'd say most) seem to be women. There's been a lot of accusation, and I think that's kind of sad. One thing I want to say to the girls is that you just don't understand what it's like to be a guy. Statistically speaking, men struggle with pornography and lust something like four or five times as much than women. Men are more visual, and probably more prone to wandering eyes and wandering thoughts than women. Having a weakness doesn't make us perverts or bad or wrong. Putting up safeguards to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and the women we interact with isn't us looking down on women at all, it's us not wanting to dishonour you. If you feel like Ron's boundaries are offensive, I'm sorry, but that's your issue, not his. Ron, I love reading your thoughts on marriage and communicating with the opposite sex and I love your vulnerability on this blog. Be encouraged! I've got to put it on my list to make it to GCC some day, because I love everything I see that's coming out of that church!
    Twitter: imattchell

  5. I have similar rules in my life, and require other staff members to apply them as well. Result: over 30 years of ministry and 38 years of happy marriage. Am I a hard-wired, adulterous mysogynist? Not sure how to respond to that one, but I know this – everyone is capable of anything given the right set of circumstances, and the friends and ministry colleagues I know who have fallen all broke one or more of these rules.

  6. Great post, Ron, I think you're dealing very realistically and practically with your own temptations; when I read this, I'm reminded of Paul's advice in 1 Cor 6:18(a). I know I share some of the same struggles. It's not about pleasing anyone else besides God and, if married, our spouse. Why we'd want to try to negotiate or bargain or overestimate our abilities to withstand temptation in this area I'm not sure, when so much is at stake. We all face temptations, some more so than others, but whatever they may be for someone, when we think we can strike a deal with temptation, surely we're losing the struggle already.

  7. So many of these "Christian Men's Not Cheating Lists" are incredibly offensive. How about asking God to help you see women as equal human beings instead of sexual objects for your use and pleasure.

    Gag.

  8. this is something that seems unpure about religion in this instance. you are looking to something outside of yourself to keep you from being “bad”, with this definition of bad being from the beliefs of religion. there are people who don’t have to try so hard to not have “lustful” thoughts, because they don’t have these ideas in their head of these things being bad. when you are told something is bad people want it more, it creates desire. i think it’s healthier to accept that you have those desires and then they might be easier to overcome, wouldn’t have so much hold over you to where you create a prison of rules for yourself. but if you’re bound up in your beliefs then you would be closed-minded or argumentative of that anyway. if you really only had eyes for your wife this shouldn’t be an issue.

  9. An excellent post, Ron! I admire you for having such stringent guidelines to protect your marriage and your heart. Clearly, you treasure your wife and family. Thanks for being a great example to the younger generation.

    • Thanks Gail. It's amazing that when I repost this I get positive and negative reactions…but just with this repost heard from two guys who wish they had this advice before they "needed it"….

  10. I was prompted to this post through another post, and I must say as a woman, I completely agree with your stance from both ends of the spectrum. I've been married for nearly 10 years and have often gotten the "accusation" that I am too guarded. We have the same rules in our marriage. While, ultimately, my husband and I only have to answer to our maker, we must also consider the impression we leave on others. One of our goals is to set an example of a strong marriage, and to compromise that would demolish that cause. So, we don't allow room for gossip. Furthermore, we have one rule: "Those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing." As one commenter mentioned, we have access to each other's passwords, cell phones, and records. And, neither one of us gets uncomfortable when the other checks. Obviously, an open line of communication and trust is key, but sometimes one person may do something that breeds a bit of unnecessary discomfort, which should be quickly addressed. Thank you for your advice- as new members of the Grace congregation, we feel that you and Chad are exceptional leaders and have already given us great insight on a cohesive marriage in which the roots are firmly planted in faith!

    • Thanks Amelia. I appreciate this comment more than you know. Your stance and protection of marriage will influence others! God bless!

  11. As a guy with lots of female friends who I am not trying to hook up with every time I meet them, I would hate to lose my friendship with them because they got married to a great guy. I support the marriages of all my married friends and I always make sure to mention their husband and inquire about his welfare. I affirm their marriage and I encourage them to always cleave to their husband when they are having difficulty. There are ways to establish boundaries that do not necessarily have to cut off the depth of the relationship.

    As far as appearances and gossip go, that is going to happen whether you do anything wrong or not. Most gossip is not even remotely true. We cannot live without compassion and without courage because we are afraid of what some busybodies will say at the hair salon or what talk is down at the bar. We live our lives to please one person, Jesus Christ, and that may mean enduring the consequences from the crowd (who needs them anyway, as Rob Bell put it, "Sometimes the crowd thins"). Not to be redundant about the "woman in the rain" but the analogy can be translated into many areas of life…are we going to leave someone (figuratively or literally) cold and wet to protect our reputation? Do we actually think a stranger (whom we will likely never see again) is going to spark an affair? The danger comes more from unaccountable relationships that are much more personal than the "damsel in distress." (I would say the male equivalent but I don't know what it is) But that was the personal views of a man whom is no longer with us so, Christ paid for it or he paid for it; one or the other.

    I sympathize with Ron and those who set boundaries, they make too much sense, but sometimes (I think Ron has pointed out that he has bent the rules for special occasions) that we need to remember these are our man-made guidelines and not assurance that marriages won't fall apart. Nothing is certain; we do not know the mind of God, we simply cannot see what will happen. We can do "everything right" and still end up in a broken home (ask Hosea the prophet); the question is are we willing to live courageously (not recklessly) for the sake of the Gospel and the kingdom of God? Are we willing to push our own boundaries to make his name great among the nations?

    I hope our answer is yes.

  12. Wow. Reading this post and its responses tell me a lot about where we are as Evangelicals. I am currently, for the moment, Southern Baptist; in our tradition we don't have women in pastoral ministry (we have "directors" who are just about same thing only without the the title). I am not going to begin to comment on the rightness or wrongness of this (because A) I am young, B) I have not studied, and C) it is irrelevant) but I would like to point out that for all our attempts at gender separation (in ministry and in typical church function), Southern Baptists are MORE likely to have issues with either pornography or extramarital affairs (trust me, our pastors tell us this all of the time). Something, is not right about this and suggests, at least on the surface, a spurious correlation between being gender selective in friendships when married and having stable marriages.

    That being said, Ron knows he who he is and what God wants him to do to protect his marriage; his wife loves him for it and his staff supports him 100%. That is all he needs to worry about. Now, whether these are universal, objective (or at least semi-objective) guidelines is a question worth pursuing. I think the key to all of this is transparency and authenticity that forms trust. I need to be completely honest with my wife about all of my emotional connections with opposite sex; she should be vigilant to hold me accountable; vice versa, she should do the same for me.

    There is certainly nothing wrong with what Ron put here; for the most part it is pretty good advice for a lot of people. But as I have been reading, I realize that there is not way it can be made into law. You cannot make the hedge on equal par with the Law lest you become like the Pharisees who skipped the Law to honor their hedge. All of our hedges will be different; I do not think it is our place to say whose boundaries are more or less wise than someone else's; let God be their judge. However, if I ask the question (Andy Stanley's Best Question Ever is a great one),"Considering my past experience, present circumstances, and future hope's dreams; what is the wise thing for me to do?" and I know what God wants, but then I do not do it…well then I am being a fool and deserve what comes.

    It is unhelpful to call the guys perverts (because sexual addiction takes many forms and is extremely complex) and it is equally unhelpful to blame the ladies' "short skirts." We each should ask ourselves what we can lovingly do to assist our brothers and sisters in Christ in their pursuit of purity both in and out of marriage. I think also that we need to stop assuming that men are always thinking about sex (Modern psychology tends to reduce men to food, sex, and recreation) and start instructing men as if they can be pure and with accountability, can have meaningful opposite sex relationships without having to worry that they are going to end having an affair. When ever we act in fear rather than love we miss the point, Ron is acting out of love; he is not trying to grasp his family; he is trying to honor and cherish them. But when start doing things just because we are afraid; then we are on the wrong road.

    • Thanks for your comment. I can tell we would enjoy good conversation. You are direct, yet graceful in your response. I always like that. I never want to encourage legalism or to be labeled a Pharisee, although as you say in one of your comments, we get those critics either way. I also want grace to protect me as much as it frees me. Much of my reaction to this issue comes from experiences in the field of counseling and pastoring. Jesus said, "If your right hand causes you to sin…cut it off". That's a desperate measure it seems, and I don't think Jesus was being literal, rather He was making a strong point, but the principle is helpful. A man must recognize where he needs boundaries and set them. That's not legalism, that's just being smart. I shared my boundaries….not even necessarily my suggested boundaries…each man (and woman) must determine the ones that work to achieve the goals they have set for themselves, based on their own wiring. That's the freedom of grace. I like Andy's question. If a person has walked through the process of answering that question, being honest with who they are and what they want from life, then I believe he or she will make wiser decisions.

    • Thanks for reading Ron, I hope that I did not seem to criticize your boundaries. They have been ordained by God to protect your marriage and your family; you seem to have a lot of respect from them for that. Really, if God and they are happy, who cares about the rest? I hope that my comments were insightful and helpful and not just a way to rile up an argument. Thanks for reading and keep writing, brother.

      • Absolutely. I love your approach. I love discussion and even disagreements if they are handled with grace. Yours was. Thanks!

  13. Wow. I really wonder what that means…"scantily clad women abounding." Were you pastoring on the beach? Or did the faithful Christian women in your church only come to services or appoitnments with you half-dressed?

    I'm not against boudnaries…but I wonder if it might be more honest to take a bit more responsibility for your own reactions and say: My sexuality is not under control enough for me to handle being alone left alone with someone of the oppostie gender instead of blaming the "scantily clad women."

    Im not asking you to get rid of boundaries…but to consider that maybe the issue lies in your heart, and not in the clothing of the women of your church.

    • Wow, as old as this blog is, it is interesting and ever timely. I don’t see Ron blaming the scantily clad women…but for goodness sake, ladies, if you are dressing in any way that could bring a question to mind, should I, shouldn’t I, don’t do it! Think about who you are talking to. I don’t ever want to have to answer to the Lord for causing a brother or his wife a problem by the way I dress. There are others who are watching…Their children, their staff, other church members, the lost….we need to live above reproach, and if it means being a bit legalistic, then in His grace, so be it.

  14. Good post Ron. I have pastored in an area where there are scantily clad women abounding and as a male who wants to make it to the end, I have boundaries too.

    Those boundaries have kept me from looking really stupid (or should I say "stupider"). We are not perverts, but the Devil knows how we are wired and it behooves us to know the same about ourselves and make no provision for the flesh… Isn't that in the Bible somewhere?! Making boundaries is NOT a lack of grace, it is Scriptural. Are walls to keeps us from having fun, or are they there to keep us safe? It depends how you look at the boundary.

  15. I totally agree w/ Ron! It is so refreshing to know that there are people that think so deeply about their marriages, family, & their witness. Think about it…who was Jesus’s closest friends? The disciples were all men. However, I am thankful that He didn’t altogether leave us women out. When I have to deal w/ men who implement these kinds of boundaries it makes me think they respect my marriage & theirs as well. It actually makes me feel more comfortable! I have such a passion for marriages! & that is definitely the area that Satan is seeking to devour! My husband & I have witnessed more marriages than we would care to admit that have fallen apart because of affairs! What does it hurt to be cautious? Instead now days I think we dance on the line of right & wrong! Err on the side of holiness & purity!!!! Thanks for sharing Ron!

  16. Ron, thanks for sharing it! I have very similar guardrails in my life and sometimes I also get the comments from some ladies that by acting like this I show them that I am superior. But in fact, I am protecting myself and them too. And, by the way, I am in a different culture, I am in Europe, but these principles you write about work in every culture! Thanks.

  17. I know there have been 132 comments already, but just wanted to say: thanks! thanks. and keep on preachin' it. It's wise. WISE WISE WISE. May others listen :)

  18. If I'm around a woman that I am very attracted to (fewer and farther in-between) and maybe there's even a vibe returned, regardless of what my flesh is telling me I know in my heart and in my head what God's word says about it. So I police my thoughts. If I allow trash into my mind. Then trash comes out of my mouth. However if I filter the trash through Christ, then I can speak from a pure heart. And a pure heart speaks forth appropriate speech and behavior. Regardless even that you might find yourself alone in the company of the very same woman your attracted to. And all else, speculation from others, accusations, etc, none of that matters cause your conscience is clear and your actions and speech are respectable. God takes care of all the rest.

    Appropriate speech and behavior allows me to be in the company of women that I might otherwise avoid in fear of falling. Not only is this the nonselfish response allowing others to enjoy my company as well, but Ron this is freedom in Christ. This is the good stuff. I can't even begin to tell you how many same-sex relationships I have struggled through and have been delivered from. To boot, I find that in all of these relationships God reveals the idolatry in every single one of them. We want these things for ourselves, to have and to hold and to be comforted with and praised by and what God always shows me in the midst of these things, is how jealous He is for my affections!

    Last and not least, something of a noteworthy petition. Most women are not as sexual as men. We are relational. I ask you and all men in ministry to please give us a chance. Most of the time we just want to be in the company of male leadership to be respected as an equal in thoughts and ideas. Especially Spiritual things. How can we do this if the very leaders who should be leading us avoid us because of their own weaknesses as a man? I believe this very one thing is what oppresses women and keeps women from utilitizing their full potential in Christ because there are no men promoting us. Release the power of the Holy Spirit in your women, challenge yourself to be in the company of women by holding your tongue from trash talk. Surrender your thoughts to the Lord and see what happens. I dare you. I am confident your world will change for the better!

    ok. I think that's it.

    God bless you. Sorry for the peace and war novel. Never short on words i suppose.

  19. In my observations of men in ministry, particularly in leadership rolls, I find this topic alone to be the single most dangerous aspect of their faith and the compromises it proposes. I have had several years of counseling and therapy about my own sexuality because I have come from sodom and gomorrah and by the grace of God I am today what I am…heterosexual all the way, (but not overnight)! If there is one thing I've learned through all of it is "what you resist … persist!!!"

    Now that God has healed my broken heterosexuality (continuum), I too have to protect myself from temptation. How do I do that you might ask? Well first I dont run away from the attraction. Or try to avoid, resist or even deny it ….or even put boundaries on it by excluding women out of my life. It is what it is. I would feel certain as well Jesus was attracted to women in a likewise manner! Most likely that would even include married women! But we all know being attracted to someone is without sin.

    Secondly when I do find myself attracted to a woman, which from time to time I still do, I cant assume that she would be attracted to me as well. This would be nothing but arrogance. Nevertheless, this is the place where I get on my knees and ask God to help me with the attraction. Ron, it's my duty/obligation at this point to "control" these urges. How do I do that? With the tongue!

    • sorry teri…i mite have to disagree with ur statememt tht what resists..persists…cz in the power f christ the temptation will be broken and finished..and yes i agree in a way to it tht devil keeps putn the temptation in the sme weak area…but here comes the challenge..never leave god and be victorious…free from all temptations…

  20. (testing, having trouble posting this in its entirety) Ron it doesn't surprise me that this was your most controversial blog. I am so proud of you that you even had the honesty and courage and vulnerability to post these things. I wish more guys in ministry would open up and start being truthful about their sexuality and that it even exist! I believe that belt of truth is this very same thing. Being truthful that it does!

  21. As a young married guy, I don't see anything in Pastor Ron's ways that are out of the "norm". These are things HE put in place for himself, not necessarily what we may think we would do, or handle. Only he knows what he can handle.

    I appreciate this post, and all of the views are interesting. Thanks.

    • Thanks Craig, I've stayed out of this discussion basically, but I especially appreciated your comment. I love discussion and even a debate or argument at times, but I still think it can be done without attacking the person. Thanks so much.

  22. Hi Jon,

    These are important issues to raise. Probably one of the strongest objections to forming male-female friendships is this potential for a man to be drawn into these dynamics–especially when he's been formed to see women through the grid of pseudo-beauty and objectification. This long term friendship poses interesting scenarios–and not all of them end up with this sudden-trap-door-going- to-fall-into-sin ending.

    This is where I suggest we need to seriously again look at Jesus–if we seek to imitate him rather than model a David/Bathsheba dynamic. You have Mary Magdalene–a devout, passionate follower of Jesus who was experieincing intense grief as John 19 & 20 reveal and Jesus meets her alone. This is where I suggest that if we want to be formed and shaped by the Gospel stories we need to take a second look at what it means to imitate Christ.

    • I agree.

      I decided to go back and look over Ron's initial post, because I don't really remember anything in it that would be anti imitating Christ in the broadest sense of the term.

      1. He never meets alone with a woman other than his wife or mother. Nothing wrong with that. Did Christ meet alone with women, yes. But I don't know of any scripture reference that would speak against that.

      2. He tries not to conduct personal or intimate conversations with women. Again, not sure that doing this is not imitating Christ. Go back to point one and perhaps he could have a personal conversation if he wasn't alone. Could still minister to women who may have the need for a intimate conversation.

      3. Focuses on the man. Probably one I don't agree with, but not sure as long as he isn't ignoring the wife, that there's anything wrong with it.

      4. Tries not to stare… probably just a good habit. I posted earlier about working out with women at the Y and I agree with this… not sure it has anything to do with not imitating Christ. In fact I could see Christ agreeing with this one as a way to help keep yourself pure.

      5. Spend time with the wife. Good. I think Christ would approve.

      6. Remember the boys.. Once again, I think He would approve. We, and He, lead by example.

      7. Love the church… 'nuff said

    • I am a single woman and just beginning in ministry. If I may speak honestly, it's really frustrating to talk to the men in our church because they are so afraid of whatever that it makes them come across as very unfriendly and unloving. I think the best thing a man can do for himself and for others is not try to avoid/deny something so elusive and so personal to the soul as sexual attraction, but rather allow God to protect the energy and exchange of interaction between the opposite sex, through surrender. If Jesus avoided women like men do today in ministry wow, I'd shutter to think what would become of us. What men have to learn simply if a woman "is" coming on to him and it's not just his "imagination" then he simply just needs to say NO thankyou! I bet if you ask a Pastor or an evangelist whose ever fallen in sexual sin what they would do differently, they would probably say that they would learn how to use the word No more effectively! On the other foot, how do women protect themselves from unwanted advances from a married men. See the hand chump.

      • Terri,

        I hear you.

        I know that when male pastors say things like, "I wont ride in a car with a woman alone" they really have very godo intentions. And I respect that. But they have no idea the message that sends to women. It makes women out to be either 1) too dangerous because they are about to pounce on any man who will stand still. 2) actually in danger because the male pastor doenst have his sexuality in order enough to deal with attraction. or 3) Involved in a community where just living your life and being in relationship with people of the opposite sex is cause for gossip and speculation. All 3 messages are bad news for women. There has to be a better way.

        Also, something of note….Earlier in this thread we talked about an ucoming book on male-female friendship (with many applicaitons for men and women in ministry) called "Sacred Unions Sacred Passions" It is coming out this month…if you want more info, you can join a group on Facebook devoted to the book http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=28323411710

    • I'm so glad you posted that passage.

      It reminds me that the relationships of every married person happen in a much larger context than just friend-to-friend, or pastor-to-churchmember. Our spouses' voice is very important.

      I have many friends who are men, but one of the ones I'm closest to has a wife who just blesses me to no end by the way she accepts me. She is not threatened by the fact that I have a close friendship with her husband – she blesses it. In a similar way, I try to bless the young women whom my husband is friends with – they are a welcomed and desired presence in our lives, even when their primary friendship is with my husband, not me.

  23. Ron, I’m with you all the way. It takes much time to build a strong marital relationship and almost no time at all to destroy it. Constant guard and acknowledgement of our weaknesses is vital to our success. I don’t believe anyone can truly anticipate temptation to an extent that allows them to dance on the fine line. It’s built into biology as part of a grand design for nearly all animal life – the only difference for humans is that we have the principles of god and the salvation of Jesus. Just wanted to keep this short but I’m beating around the bush here… My main point is in response to a gentleman who said it was like practice for bros and sisters in heaven. Natural biological succession among humans favors only two things – reproduction and survival. We will have heavenly bodies that are very likely not evolved from thousands of years of procreation and natural selection among humans, and this burden of temptation won’t exist exist.

    • I think you're thinking of my post (though I'm a woman, not a man).

      I really do understand that people are primed by nature to desire sex. You will get no argument from me about that. BUT, I will argue that we also have a will that can shape whatever sexual desires come up. If that were not true, you would be having sex with every woman you see on the street who seems attractive to you. Obviously, you can control it at least somewhat :-) I'd like to think that our spiritual nature has some say-so in our biology. We're not just totally determined animals, right?

      • Sometimes I think we men are… Apologies for gender confusion, I read a good bit of the reply posts, and figured I had a 50/50 shot at that one.

        Thanks for a quick and polite reply! After thinking a bit on my reply I realized that many people have spiritual gifts that would enable them to stay in check during what might be considered risky situations for many others. For the rest of us, I applaud the author for this – the situations he avoids and creates are really not that risky – and that’s the point. Preemptive avoidance. Things can spiral out of control fast, and all we need is to slip in thought for seconds for that to happen. In addition, I vaguely remember someone making reference to Matt 18:8 and (probably joking) about cutting one’s member off. One great way to apply this is by cutting off or avoiding situations with a person that (I know) will cause me to be tempted. In the case of witnessing, if all one can do (to avoid temptation) is plant a spiritual seed (no pun intended) and move on, then so be it. Sharing in sin with a nonbeliever would completely blow your witness. Better to be a spiritual rock and example from 50 feet than to be easily and noticeably shaken in close quarters I say.

        By the way, many thanks to everyone for posting their thoughts and comments on the original post – you have provided lots of insight, witness, and constructive thinking for me and many others who need to hear this stuff! I think this thread is far from over, and it needs to be shared!

        • There is a sense where I am with you – if a man knows he will be overwhelmed by temptation with a certain woman or type, then by all means, he should flee. As a woman, I would not feel safe with a man who believed he could not resist his own sexual feelings. I would be running too!

          But, on the other hand, I think that if the temptation issue can be settled a little, a whole lot of other possibilities open up. Both men and women can benefit greatly from friendship wtih the opposite sex. My husband has always had a small number of women friends he is close to, and I thank God for their presence in his life. They bring gifts into his life that I can't – and gifts that I benefit from! They are a welcomed part of our community. And, I also have a number of men friends I am close to. I gain a lot from those freindships, just like I would from a close female friendship. Now, none of those relationships are so sexually charged that I think I cant control myself, and if they were, my boundaries would be different. But as it is, I do feel a whole lot of freedom to know and be known in relationships with men, in openness before my husband, without risking too much.

          • My wife and I also have good friends of the opposite gender, although our closest friends would be of the same gender. I think that Ron also made a good observation when he said that affairs aren't planned (paraphrase). It's more likely to be the long-term friend who you are now counseling who has a spouse who is being a jerk or sinning in some manner as to put their marriage at risk. You now potentially become a knight in shining armor; the opposite of the spouse who is causing much pain. You care and are nice and have always been nice. He or she cries and you reach out to comfort them and…

            I don't think this scenario that I have painted is very far from possible. Even if nothing happens the temptation has been laid and Satan is a very patient creature. Even if nothing ever comes from that temptation you have put yourself in a position that if the person starts to see you as uncaring or a part of the problem accusations can be leveled and how can you prove that nothing happened if you were alone? While this is a specific hypothetical scenario, I'm betting that it happens a lot more than we might think.

          • The scenario you describe above IS possible. I will give you that. But, honestly, I've heard that same scenario come out of the mouths of men before, and it makes me chuckle a bit – for 2 reasons.

            1. If you are long-term friends with someone, I think the chances of an affair go down. You see them as they are, maybe you fight with them over something, etc. I think you are less likely to be "swept away by the moment."

            2. Do you honestly think that if a woman is laying out her grief before you over some painful issue that she is thinking of sex in any way?!? It seems like a funny translation issue between men and women because somehow men think a woman's tears are going to end up in them having sex. But a woman's tears and grief are not usually forplay. I respect those who differ, but I think there are many men who undersand that her tears are not a signal that she wants you to make a move on her, and could reach out and comfort her, even hold her and wipe her tears away, without something bad as a result.,

          • :)

            Wasn't really considering it foreplay.

            There could be different reasons for the tears. it could run the gamut from "I'm in pain and I truly just want a shoulder to cry on" to "I'm tried of everything and I need to feel good right now and you make me feel that way". And no matter what the feelings behind the tears, if a man is alone with the woman and somehow things go wrong even at a later date, he doesn't have much to stand on if she accuses him of inappropriate behavior.

          • LOL – I know you weren't really considering it foreplay :-)

            And you are 100% correct – if things go wrong (then or later) he doesnt have much to stand on. It's all about trust. This same trust has to be applied to *every* relationship….your same-gender friends could make wild accusations agaisnt you (sexual or otherwise), your wife could divorce you, etc. Our close relationships are not close because they are risk-free…they are close because trust is constantly being grown. My only point in all of this is that the trust required for a relationship can be developed between men and women – and that trust can be lived out long-term.

  24. Dear Ron,

    Thanks for being so transparent with your readers… Would you please remember me and my wife Cheryl (same name as your wife's) also in your prayers?

    Last 6th we celebrated our 1st year anniversary, and I told myself "man we have just started…" Then I thought about many challenges we would have to face in marriage and ministry like this one you have mentioned in the post.

  25. Ron,

    LOL about the brother/sister move!!

    I dont want to draw this out unnecessarily, but just want to point one more thing out…

    I'm not sure that *any* relationship is totally safe. I know of a pastor who is in hot water right now with his church because he's spent too much time nurturing a relationship with a young man in the church. The world we live in now would be no more surprised over a male-male affair than a male-female one (especially if you live in certain urban parts of the country)

    If I want to be 100% safe, I cant engage my heart with anybody. I'd have to stay in my house all day long and never talk to anyone.

    I love my husband, and I love my ministry(current and future), but I also have to act from the heart God gave me – and that is a heart that loves to connect deeply with people I'm drawn to – men and women. "Being safe" isnt my top priority – but I think being open and trustworthy are very important, and maybe those values can help me accomplish the same things.

    Blessings to you – thanks for the conversation.

      • Ron,

        The author I know who thinks through this the best is Dan Brennan. His book "Sacred Unions Sacred Passions" is available on Amazon early next year. I think he's walking a really good path that includes purity, and the possibility for emotional closeness. It's a provocative book for sure (I've been priviledged to read some of the drafts) but its well thought out, and he does a lot with living into the eschatological hope.

  26. Ron,

    I appreciate the answer. And I dont want a debate either :-) But your answer makes me even more curious… will you indulge another question?

    If a professional relationship is possible that never crosses the line, what about an ordinary friendship? Do you think it could ever be possible for a man and woman who are not married to be good friends and not end up in an affair? or even be a blessing to the marriages of the friends?

    I ask because it seems to me that if we look toward the Kingdom to come, men and women will be able to treat each other as brother and sister. Trying to practice those friendships now seems like it could be a practice of eschatological hope?

    • My answer would be the same for professional and ordinary friendships. Possible…still risky in my opinion. I love the practicing idea, but not sure that is the way to practice that hope.

      Thanks for being kind though in your disagreement. That's a great brother/sister move!

  27. While your recommendations sound holy at first blush, all I can think of is the story of Jesus with the woman at the well. The way he engaged her was considered a big NO-NO back in his day. And yet he didn't worry about following your recommendations. He went after her in order to provide rescue. So I guess it comes down to the question, do I believe that my heart is GOOD by the work of Christ or am I still a "wicked and evil sinner." If I believe my heart is good, then what I really want deep down inside is holiness, and that will in turn determine my actions. But if I believe I am still wicked to the core, then you better just cut off my penis because you can apply as many rules as you want and I'll break them. Sorry to be so brash, but those are the facts.

      • Ron,

        I love that you'd be open to the woman-at-the-well scenario. But it makes me curious about something…

        Do you think it's possible to let a male-female friendship start slowely and NOT have one let their guard down? Is it possible to be open with your spouse and just let the friendship grow in dept in the context of trust and openness? To admit whatever feelings come up, and just deal with them? Or does that seem totally impossible to you?

        I know you're not trying to sound "holy" and I love that you value your marriage – and that you understand other people can follow different boundaries and still value their marriages and ministries.

        • Jennifer, I really don't want to start a debate here, but because you asked a specific question I of course want to answer. The bottom line is YES. It is possible to have a strictly professional relationship with the opposite sex that never crosses the lines. I know this illustration will be picked apart, but I can say the same thing about not wearing a seat belt in my car. I could never have a wreck where the belt is needed. Just in case I do, however, I wear the belt. Instead of taking the risk that the relationship will go too far, I choose not to take the risk.

          Seriously though, I wish some of the commenters here could be a fly on the wall in the counseling office. Affairs NEVER start on purpose.

          Thanks for your questions, comments, and for reading this blog.

  28. I appaud all men who are so vulnerable to irresistible lust that they fear being alone with a woman. Which woman would want to be in a room with a man who felt they couldn't resist a powerful attraction–whether -physical or emotional? And of course if our wives or single women hear about this all-powerful lust, they're not going to trust us men. But is sexual objectification the only way of living for men? As long as evangelical men are encouraged to believe that is the dominant way of sexuality between sexes, we create a one-size-fits-all for all men, fear, control, "do not touch, etc."

  29. Ron,
    I definitely respect your position and it makes my heart happy knowing you are protecting yourself and not going to be an embarrassing church leader. However, in my life, I always try to look at how Jesus conducted His life, after all, He is our role model. I just can't see Jesus telling his disciples, "Alright guys, here are the rules: Keep all conversations with any women SHALLOW, I meant, just talk about the weather. Also, basically ignore them if their husband is around and hopefully if you see them alone again you won't even recognize them because you focused on their husband last time. Remember guys, the key is to not engage with women. And for crying out loud, don't stare!" I mean…..maybe, I just don't think it went like that. Do you? Again, I do respect your position, just, not sure if I "buy in" to what your saying.

    • I obviously can't speak for Ron, but I can for myself. I agree that Jesus probably had a different approach to women than Ron is suggesting. But I also think that things are different today. I am in my 50s and I think that things were so much different even 45-50 years ago; let alone 2000 years ago. We are a more litigious society today. Pedophiles, while they probably existed when I was a kid, are almost a plague today. As a rule, women tend to flaunt it more today… obviously not all women, but I can see just about anywhere the level of undress that one used to have to go the pool or beach to see. And women are more forward today than they were 50 or 2000 years ago. Men, somewhat deservedly, are made out to be the enemy of women and children. An accusation leveled against a man is taken VERY seriously. I'm not saying that we should disregard the accusations of women or children, but we as a society tend to immediately cast doubt on the man as soon as the accusation is leveled.

      I used to teach martial arts to children in a nationally recognized Christian martial arts ministry. One of the first warnings out of my Sensei's mouth was to never be alone with any of the children; never put yourself in any position where your actions could even remotely be questioned. Is this sad, yes. But as I said that's the world we live in.

      So you're a man in a room alone with a beautiful woman with a blouse unbuttoned maybe one button too many and a skirt up too high. Are you going to fail? Probably not. Is she even interested in you? Probably not. Is it anything other than professional? Probably not. Are the wrong thoughts going to cross your mind? Maybe; you are a man and she is a woman…a very beautiful woman. I think that Ron's point is that he doesn't want to put himself in a position where those thoughts might come. Sexual attraction is a powerful tool and Satan uses it well. I'm not sure that I would take it as far as Ron, but God bless him for caring about his wife and his marriage to take a stand.

      • Jon,

        I hear what you're saying. And it makes me sad that men have to live in a bit of fear that their actions might be misunderstood and that accusations could be made. If it helps any, women live with a similar fear – an outfit that seems perfectly acceptable to one, can get you called very unpleasant names by ohters. I just wonder if relationships between men and women – especially Christian men and women – have to be ruled by fear quite so much?

        Maybe if men and women could be ordinary friends more some of that fear could be quieted. I really do get it about men who are pastors fearing what will happen if they are with a woman alone (either because of their own out-of-control sexuality, or because they fear the woman's sexuality, or they fear their community's opinion)…but other professional men are with women alone all the time, and they dont seem to be dominated by this fear. Maybe a place to start is just developing friendships with a woman or two they already know and trust – just as ordinary friends, not pastor/congregation member. If the professional aspect doesnt have to be worried about, some of the pressure is off.

        • I agree that if we could all just keep our thoughts where they belong as well as our eyes, and just have friend relationships, we might be better off. In my own life, I work where there are a lot of women and not ever being alone with one of them is almost impossible. I work directly with two women and we have spent hours together alone in a car driving to take care of client issues over the last many years with nothing bad ever happening or even a hint of anything wrong. In the same token, when I have had situations where I would have to go to someone's home and that person is a young woman who is unmarried, I have passed that duty to one of the women on my staff. I know that I will not fail as I have a solid walk with God and a wife that I adore, and it's not that I don't trust the woman. But it just seems like the more "right" thing to do.

          I think the flip side of professional men and women not being dominated by this fear is the possibility that many of them may not care. And while I'm not trying to make sweeping generalizations, I do believe that in our society this is probably truer than we would expect it to be. We look at marriage as something important as long as it fulfills our needs and when it doesn't we move on. Divorce, while painful and messy, is about as hard to get as a new set of tires on one's car.

          I don't live in fear of inappropriate things happening, I just agree with Ron that it's prudent to guard one's heart and marriage as well as the other person's from even the hint of impropriety whenever possible.

          • Jon,

            I fully respect your position of wanting to guard your heart and marriage. I am right there with you – I just think that can be accomplished with much different boundaries than Ron (and others) suggest.

  30. Affairs don't happen because of physical attraction. They happen because of emotional connections. You could argue this means something is lacking in the marriage. Or you could think that no husband and wife can be everything to each other emotionally. Same sex friendships don't detract from a marriage. Why should opposite sex friendships between adults?

    I have been blessed with two deep and rich friendships with men in the past two years. They both started out with attraction, both emotional and physical. But we communicated openly and honestly, and we mutually agreed that for the sake of our marriages, we could not cross those lines.

    At this time, I'm especially close to one of those friends, who is going through a very bad patch. He made some mistakes; some people in his "Christian" community judged and turned their backs on him. He doesn't have many friends, at a time when he needs God's unconditional love the most. We all agree God works through the most unlikely of people to do His work. Why should He stop between men and women?

    In my life, my friends and my husband fulfill different roles. My husband grounds me. He's my rock. I'm wildly creative especially when I've been hanging around these two friends, and my husband brings me back down to earth — not in a demeaning way, but showing that there is more to life than work (which is the foundation for my friendships). He knows he comes first, and my friends know it too.

    By the way, my husband has had close female friends who fulfill what I can't. We come back to each other at the end of the day fulfilled with energy to share with each other. Our marriage is stronger for us not depending completely on each other — as it would be if my best friends were female and his were male.

    Again, are we really allowing God to do His best work when our limited minds decide what's best? His love and His work are awesome, omnipotent, frightening… like taking the "road less traveled" off the highway. If we are truly open to His work in our hearts, shouldn't we trust Him to guide us along His own path, instead of making rules that keep us on that nice, wide, predictable highway?

    I suspect that if we all have a place in His kingdom, then there is a place both for highway travelers and for off-roaders — as long as we don't make the mistake of judging one another, but instead pray for each other and trust that God is leading us all down the paths He makes for us.

  31. Keep the Good First,

    I understand what you are saying about not wanting to dwell on other women's beauty in a way that leads to wrong thoughts in your head. I applaud that.

    But, I also want to say, my Christian brothers who have named and called out my beauty have shaped my life toward goodness in a powerful way. It's possible to name a woman's beauty – not for your own sexual excitement – but to bless what God has placed in her and call more goodness out of her.

  32. I also wonder if boundaries such as above are more rooted in our culture stories shaped by Freud and the companionate model of marriage, than they are in the Christian story? Are men all wired for irrresistible lust and sexual promiscuity if they get alone with a woman or vice versa? In my upcoming book, Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions: Engaging the Mystery of Friendship Between the Sexes I highlight a number of points rooted in the Bible which suggest a broader and deeper sexuality (a sexual shalom in which we are all headed to in the new heavens and new earth) than a sexuality based on fear both inside marriage and beyond marriage. I also highlight the numerous deep, cross-sex spiritual friendships throughout history that have a "happy ending"–that is, no sex but chaste intimacy. It is been my experience that evangelicals are pretty ignorant when it comes to those stories.

  33. Even mature Christians sometimes only draw the line between men and women at the word "adultery" or "affair." I wish more men and women were aware of the consequences of the dynamics from which you have taken steps to protect your marriage.

    It only takes looking at a woman who passes by on the street or who sits across the room in a restaurant for a while (aka, "staring") for some men to think about that woman for a long while, and for that woman to engage the desires of a man. He may not imagine himself wanting to have an affair with that woman or commit adultery with that woman. But when he makes the decision to delight himself in the beauty of another woman or to allow the image of her to linger in his mind long enough to think about how nice it would be to be with a woman (even rationalizing that it makes him think about how nice it would be to be with his own wife), he is enabling another woman to rob his marriage and his wife of the fullness of intimacy and oneness that God intended to be reserved only between the man and his wife. She and she alone is to be the woman who turns him on, and when a man just lets any strange woman with a pretty face or immodest dress or ungodly boundaries stir up his thoughts and emotions, he is desensitizing himself to his own wife and straying from his union with her. He will find himself dissatisfied with her, thinking she is difficult to want to be close to, and will think it is just other things like stress that are causing him to feel distant or frustrated with her. He will not know what to do with all the feelings he gets when other women are enabled into his thought life. Meanwhile, his wife will become saddened by the distance she perceives between them. She may bury herself in her work or hobbies or withdraw or become irritable. Frustrations will grow, anger will be stuffed, resentment will mount, bitterness will undermine, and apathy will begin to dominate.

    Just because a man reserves himself physically from having sex with any woman other than his wife does not mean he is pure and there is no affair affecting his marriage.

    For more on this topic, the "Every Man's Battle" attests to the challenges men face, ideas like Pastor Ron's for safeguarding one's marriage, and the positive consequences of implementing wise boundaries.

    Software like "Safe Eyes" and positioning the computer screens toward others is something I recommend for every Christian, any man who loves his wife and cares about his marriage, or any parent who hopes to help safeguard the purity of their children or teenagers.

  34. I think the twenty-first century calls us to rethink and reframe the boundaries conversation. Jesus himself was not afraid to meet alone with a woman, Mary Magdalene in a "garden" after his resurrection. The Gospel accounts clearly indicate that Mary traveled with Jesus very early on and he knows her. Jesus is not afraid to meet with women when there is no one else around. It is really interesting that the first time a man and woman meet alone in a garden in the Bible where sex does not happen or implied (Garden of Eden or the Garden in the Song of Solomon) it is Jesus after his resurrection.

  35. Ron,

    I appreciate your heart for your marriage and ministry so much – that is beautiful. But I have come to a different place in my own approach.

    I just got home yesterday from a weekend trip to see a very close friend, who happens to be a man. I am close with his wife too but my primary friendship is with her husband. We spent some of our time over the weekend doing things as the 3 of us – but my friend and I (who are both in ministry in our own ways) did things on our own too. We went Christmas shopping, when out for a meal and a drink, prayed holding hands. But even though we did these things "alone" ALL of it was under the much larger context of our community, which includes our spouses.

    I don’t feel that what I did this weekend was foolishness. We are all committed to the idea that romantic love and sex are for marriage only. Never once over the course of the weekend did it even cross my mind that something sexual might happen. It's just not on the landscape in any way.

  36. I've enjoyed reading the comments. I'm in full agreement with Ron on this, but let me share another reason that no one has mentioned. We have to protect ourselves from untrue accusations and rumors. I live in a small town and one rumor could do so much damage that it could literally destroy my ministry.

    This is a topic I have seen come up time and time again on blogs, and I am always concerned when I see people that get mad or offended because of boundaries like these. In all things, let's show respect and love, even if we disagree as to where the line should be drawn.

  37. Ladies, ladies, ladies! I think we all need to take a deep breath, re-read the original post, and really think about it for a minute. I am a "woman in ministry", and I understand all of the frustrations that can come with that title. We often feel overlooked and unseen. Or we are only allowed to do lead in "Women's Ministry" or "Children's Minsitry" (both great places to lead, but some of us have other gifts as well).
    But I think some of us need to re-read this post without those "women in ministry" glasses on. If you do that, I think you will see that this post is all about Ron having a great respect for women in general. I have never met Ron, but what I hear when I read that post is a man who is humble enough to admit his weaknesses, and wise enough to safeguard himself (and others) from what he knows could happen if he is careless. This is not weak or small-minded or chauvinistic. This is wise leadership. I would rather serve under this kind of wisdom (even if I never get the one-on-one time that I think I need), than under the leadership of someone who thinks they are immune to these temptations.

  38. Great guidelines Ron! I know in a leadership role you can't please everyone all the time but for the ones who are reading this that need these kinds of rules in their marriage it is probably worth a few negative comments from the ones who feel they don't. Being around you and Cheryl is inspiring on many levels. The fact that you put these rules into place shows how hard you work on being a great husband and how much you love your wife-hard to understand why that is being missed by some.

  39. I stay on Red alert 24/7 and constantly protect myself…Now days it takes just one accusation to start a battle that usually ends with someone loosing a job or family. I take multiple steps and stay aware of possible situations that could lead to this. Its difficult to work around these issues but what choice do we have. I really don't have a itch to ever have an affair. I totally feel that what Ron has posted are good solid points. And trust me. Affairs flair and explode quick before Men have time to realize its on fire. So its best to prevent it totally..Again my answer to protecting myself was to grow bald and gain 40 pounds…LOL

  40. The best advice I can give anyone is that if that person is feeling a tug towards any improper relationships, he or she needs to go to God immediately and work through the circumstance with Him. Several years ago, I went through what seemed to be the "perfect storm" when my life was literally turned upside down. My marriage was taking a beating and I began feeling a tug towards a man who had been a friend. My struggle lasted for quite a while as I cried and complained on God's shoulder, but the end result was that I did not have an affair and I did not get a divorce. The turning point for me came when I realized that either of the previous options were not about my husband's faults, but about my integrity. I had given my word when I married him–my word. God really laid it on me–was I going to be true to my committment or not? Of course I was and the storm starting calming down; now the skies are clear and we will celebrate our 35th anniversary this Sunday. I am glad I made the decision I did.

  41. I am thrilled to see this, and wholeheatedly embrace it. My husband and I do exactly the same and in our ministry to other couples, advise nothing less. We did not learn these "best practices" on our own. You can check out http://www.definedbythestorm.com to see what began the transformation process. The first time I heard of this "hedge of protection" was from Zig Ziglar- who was my first Sunday School teacher 9 years ago when I got radically saved. I love what he says about Jean (his wife)- if she ever leaves me, I am packing up and going with her!

    Thanks for setting the bar high!
    Shannon

  42. Thank you for sharing! My husband and I set up these rules for ourselves early in our marriage and it is hugely helpful! It is also hugely UNpopular too! That is not what it is about though. God Bless and thanks again!

  43. First, let me say "thank you Ron" for loving me and being willing to be pro-active in protecting our marriage. I do not know a more godly man and I thank God for bringing you into my life- yet you are willing to be "real" and "humble" enough to admit that you are human and not without sin this side of Heaven. Please know that I love you enough to implement these same guidelines and have never felt like my career goals or my ability to perform my job has been sacrificed because of it. ____My prayer for every relationship….every marriage….for anyone who thinks he/she may ever want to be in a relationship…..is to take every step necessary to protect your relationship/marriage. Satan is a liar and wants nothing more than to destroy our relationships….our marriages….our families. To say that it will "never" happen to me is all that satan is waiting for….____Thank you Ron for being willing to protect ours!! For me, for our two awesome boys and for our church! I love you and I am so very proud to be your wife!!!

  44. I am a woman on staff with Ron and the "rules" work in our setting. As to an earlier comment about finding it hard to get work done because of these "rules". I don't have any problem getting my work done and I do need his input on a regular basis. He is always available to me by email, phone or I can go meet with him in his office as long as we are not the "only ones" in the building. I think that is more than enough access to get our work done. I think it is wise in any work relationship to have boundaries that are openly discussed as a staff and with your family. God did create us all differently so what works for one will not work for all, but I think you have to be intentional about your plan for protecting your marriage. Any plan is better than not having one at all!

  45. As a woman on staff with Ron, I can safely say that I am not excluded in any way from working side-by-side with the men on our staff. While it is true that I will never "be one of the boys" invited out to eat solely with any of the men on the staff, in turn they will not be invited out with just the women either. :) Our ministry conversations happen in staff and/or in the office while others are around. We all understand that healthy boundaries are necessary in all our working and personal relationships. It isn't that any of us think too highly of ourselves, but we do think very highly of our spouses and the ministry God has entrusted to us.

  46. This is a great posting. Those are very good guidelines to follow. The temptation is real and there for everyone and these are great ways to help avoid crossing that line. Thank you for sharing them as well as talking about your weaknesses.
    Twitter: Ron_Lane

  47. Great post! I started applying rules like this in my late teens or early 20s, actually. They helped me for quite a while.

    I haven't mentioned anything about this openly yet, but here seems as good a place as any to start spitting it out so someone else can learn my lessons before they HAVE to: wanna know when I almost totally screwed up my marriage?

    When I started thinking these rules were actually for silly, immature, weak guys who didn't have the sense to behave themselves well unless someone else was watching.

    Know what I found out? Two important things, actually.

    1. Lo and behold, I can be a silly, immature, weak guy who doesn't have the sense to behave himself very well when other people aren't watching.

    2. My pat-myself-on-the-back "at least I didn't commit adultery" is pretty lame when the emotions of my beloved spouse are nonetheless wounded. (It's kinda like saying, "Well, at least I'm better than Hitler.")

    I don't believe that we're "hard-wired for infidelity" as another commenter worried your post implies. I DO believe we're collectively doing a fairly pathetic job of eradicating sin in general, however.

    My dentist protects some of the deeper grooves in my teeth from decay with a clear sealant. I don't think my teeth should feel insulted.

  48. My husband and I don't have the same rules. We meet with other people of the opposite sex. Both of our careers practically require it. Often times, it has helped me when I travel alone and have had a friend (guy or girl) assist me with stuff or give me rides.

    I respect your rules, or boundaries, and those who have them. And I don't see myself too "strong" to fall. At the same time, there are so many mixed gender relationships, that were close, in the Bible, that I can't deny that God has created us to live in community – not gender exclusive community. Some of my richest friendships are with people of the opposite sex, and they are healthy.

    Communication and humility is key.

    And a strong dependence on God instead of depending on our boundaries to keep us "safe"…I've worked in churches with these boundaries and each church with the boundaries always had staff affairs. The one church that didn't have these boundaries has had no drama. Interesting.

    • First let me say, it's an honor to be replying to Anne Jackson.

      One thing not evident in my dad's post is his interaction and relationship with the female church staff. Simply because he doesn't meet with women alone with the door closed does not mean he is neglecting them as staff. My dad would be the first one to verbalize how essential Christy Crosby, the systems coordinator at Grace, is in the process of making the church successful. He spends a lot of time with her specifically simply because she has an administrative role that the lead pastor has to be apart of. So simply because he limits the nature of their working relationship doesn't mean he's limiting her success as a professional or the church's success in the process.

      Also, my dad would be the FIRST ONE in line to say that the best way to create an atmosphere of trust within an organization is through an attitude of grace and not legalism. My dad doesn't require the entire staff to implement these boundaries personally, nor would he ever implement a system that was more focused on the system itself than the people within the system. That would be living by the law and not by grace. One way he did this for me in high school was never giving me a curfew. I was home at a decent hour simply because he allowed me the freedom to do that. This particular issue, though, has much more potential to erupt without discipline.

      Don Whitney says in his book "Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life" that discipline paves the way to Christ-likeness. This is one discipline that my dad has chosen for that purpose.

      • Thanks for the reply to the reply :)

        I had a great convo when I was on staff at a church that had "the rule…" :) The only female in leadership was a finance director….but you would be amazed at the conversations guys have in cars, or in the bathroom (not that we should go in men's restrooms!) and the camraderie that was formed by one pastor saying to another, "hey let's go get lunch" and the woman in leadership would be consistently left out of conversations. They wouldn't go to "do work" but conversations always ended up with ministry, with ideas, etc…and the woman would be left out of the loop.

        I do think that limiting time or putting boundaries on every single relationship with someone of the opposite sex can have a negative impact on those relationships and even their spiritual growth. I needed a ride from LA to OC once and had a male friend drive me. He was familiar with some issues I had, and because of that, felt safe to open up about some things he was going through. It was an emotional and beautiful conversation. He's gotten help from appropriate people, but it had been building up inside him for a very long time and finally he felt a safe place to confess. If there had been another person in the car, male or female, I'm not sure if he would have had the same experience and now, our relationship is deeper and I know how to pray for him, how to love him (yes, love him) and he's one of my closest friends now.

        Back to the "picking up the woman in the rain" comment from above…I think…that is just…tragic.

        Also…it's interesting that these boundaries mainly exist in the US – several churches I've visited abroad both in developed and undeveloped countries don't have these rules…it's also mainly protestant…just go talk to an Anglican priest for a while and you'll see what dramatically beautiful mixed-gender relationships they have.

        Exercise caution, discernment, humility, confession.

        • Anne, because I'm sure you will not read every reply, and because I respect your ministry very much, I wanted to make sure you know I'm not afraid to break the rules for the cause of ministry. I left this link to a previous post I did on this subject as another comment. Reply

        • I see your point on the significance of mixed-gender relationships, and some of my best friends are girls. I also think, however, that the extent and depth of those relationships should be limited once either person has a spouse. Quality time with members of the opposite sex, without established boundaries, has huge potential to destroy Godly marriages. And I say that with more personal experience on the issue than I can share in this blog.

          Either way, your blog is cool and I read it all the time. Nice getting to talk with you!

        • I do agree Anne that due to these type of rules, women could feel left out of important ministry discussions & I would be lying if I said I haven't felt that way before. But I think the key for church staff is balance. For us as a staff, we set aside lots of time to be together having important discussions & we have alot of fun together. Also I as a female staff member feel the freedom to go to lunch with the "boys" so I don't miss out. I think the key is in the balance & including female staff on important discussions. But I think ultimately having safeguards in place is a postive thing for us as a church and I'm grateful to be a part of a wonderful church staff!

    • @flowerdust I appreciate the way you said this…I was trying to figure out what I thought about all this…And then I read your and was glad that you put the words down so I could simply agree with them.

    • Anne, I would be interested in some illustrations of mixed gender relations that were close in the Bible where individuals met "alone" which is what Ron has been emphasizing.I'm not saying there aren't any, I just haven't been able to come up with an illustration. – Jesus at the well with the woman doesn't count since it was public. ;-)

  49. I think it's important to have these boundaries. As a leader in women's ministry, I don't come into contact with a lot of men in person, yet I do have similar rules and boundaries I use when it comes to online social networking, like Facebook or Twitter.

    I do have a question which may relate to some of the women in these comments who have disagreed with your boundaries. As someone who once worked in a large non-profit Christian organization, it was often very frustrating as a woman to see men who were peers and/or bosses spend time together knowing that I couldn't have that same "access" to the boss simply because of my gender and knowing it was not deemed appropriate in our Christian culture. The guy I worked with often went running at lunch hour with our boss and they would discuss work-related issues, input I wasn't able to be a part of.

    Not disagreeing that it's important to have boundaries; just wondering if sometimes the boundaries can go too far, at the expense of sharing of ideas and dialogue in the Christian workplace?

  50. Great post and advice Ron. I'm not a pastor, but I definitely think these principles can/should be applied to the life of any man. I also like that unlike a lot of men/pastors you are not afraid to admit your weaknesses, especially ones that virtually all men share but don't talk about or admit to.

  51. I agree with these boundaries as well and think they are healthy & necessary for both men and women to have. Regardless of our relationship with Jesus, we are all still very human. I think asking for God to help in situations as well as having healthy boundaries are the best.

    Laura

  52. Ron,

    Thanks for this reminder. One of the things that my wife, Kara and I do in addition to me never being alone with a woman who is not my wife and other pro active ways of protecting myself is this: Kara has the passwords to my email, facebook and has access to my computer. Along with the accountability software that I use to prevent me from falling into temptation that is more private than meeting with another woman or counseling women, Kara knows the conversations that I have through email and facebook. My brother actually does this, and so I stole this great idea from him.

    I think it is an incredibly wise thing for men to proactively fight for purity and fidelity in marriage. Both men and women are prone to sin and should set up preventatives…

    For the sake of the Gospel, for the sake of Jesus.

    Thanks Ron!

  53. i have gone through several of your blogs (found because of a retweet from @michaelhyatt) in just a short time this afternoon and found them all to be true and enlightening. Be Blessed.

  54. Love seeing all these comments, even the ones that disagree with Ron. Ron is my pastor, and our staff has talked openly about Ron's views on protecting his marriage. Here is the bottom line boys and girls, have a plan or get ready to get tripped up in the long run. I respect Ron's plan…it works for him…it is supported by his wife. We each have to think through what works for us in protecting ourselves from situations that could lead to a compromising situation (AKA sin) Thanks for the reminder Ron. Thanks for sharing your heart, I know this will continue to be an issue that is difficult for all of us to navigate.

    MB

  55. I have followed similar rules for entire adult life. As a result, I have been happily married for 32 years. I don't want to put myself in the pathway of temptation. The problem is not with women, but with my own weakness.

    Thanks for a great post!

  56. The swimming pool and beach are other areas to make decisions about as a married couple. I completely agree with these boundaries you have put in place to hold your marriage in high regard above all and to respect your wife. Women may not want to know what their husbands are thinking or feeling about other women, and they may not be interested in what Shanti Feldman has to say about the way men are wired. But sin in this area is deceiving, causing men to feel discontent with their wives and that their wives are hard to want to be close to, even if all a man has in his mind is a memory of another woman who just passed them in the street. I encourage every man to take your mentorship as valuable advice, and to impart a similar desire for purity in their sons.

  57. I agree whole heartedly about working out with women. I go to our local YMCA several times a week to work out. It's easy to become distracted with some of the beautiful and less than fully clothed women working out. I've made it my goal not to leave the Y, but to not look. If I see an attractive woman in my field of vision I avert my eyes to just looking ahead or at the TV screen. I say a small prayer for God to keep my heart on Him and my wife and to remember what a beautiful woman she is and how much I love her.

  58. I think these are admirable "rules" for yourself, and for any married man, really. I disagree with the few that insinuates that if we were like God or Jesus, we could just "stop" or not think of such things. But we aren't God or Jesus. And even if we were that innocent and controlled, in today's society, there are people everywhere that will take advantage of a situation to make a story that's just not there. We hear of it too much in the news these days. It becomes a he-said/she-said and in the end, the accused loses to some degree simply by being a part of the scenario.

  59. As a woman in ministry, I find it very difficult to get work done with these parameters. You must have no women on your staff? How do you reflect the fullness of God? I think that we could show the world how men and women could work together respectfully! I realize there are plenty of examples of people who have fallen and made a mess for us all. But I doubt these "rules" played a part. We are to love one another. Please do no put women up as seductresses! It's not honoring. This is very troubling and something I felt is degrading to women who need/want to work with our brothers in ministry. Many of us are single and cannot get work done without married men.

    • I am also a woman in ministry, but I see things differently. I think these guidelines actually show the utmost respect for women! I don't see anything in Ron's post that says that he doesn't work with women..he is simply trying to be wise because of his own weaknesses. He doesn't in any way say (or even imply) that women are seductresses, or that this whole issue really has anything to do with the woman! It has everything to do with his willingness to be honest and real about his own temptations, and to do everything it takes to protect himself, his family, and any woman that he works with.
      I understand the difficulty in working as a woman in ministry with these rules in place. My last church had these same rules in place for all staff members. Sometimes I wanted to be able to have a one-on-one with our Lead Pastor (just like the men were able to), and sometimes I felt frustrated about not being allowed to do that. But I had to remind myself that there are always ways to get the ministry accomplished that God wants to accomplish, and I could rest in that.

  60. I never meet alone with a woman besides my wife (or mother).
    I try not to conduct very personal or intimate conversations with women.
    When talking to couples I focus my visual connection mostly on the man and not his wife.
    I try not to stare at women.
    I try to always remember my boys.

    I submit that somebody has a Ted Haggard issue they are desperately trying to keep contained.

    • If we are honest, we all have a "Ted Haggard" issue we are trying to keep contained. Those who are humble enough to admit it and wise enough to put parameters in place to protect themselves (and others) are the ones who will be less likely to fall into the sin. Those who actually believe the lie of "I would never do such a thing" are the ones who are walking on thin ice, unprotected.

  61. This post reveals a mindset that is hard-wired to believe that infidelity and misogyny is a natural state for men.

    How ethical or enlightened is it to exclude women from your life — when the problem is clearly yours, not theirs?

    • I personally couldn't disagree more. I know my own weaknesses. Ninety percent of defeating temptation is not putting yourself in the path of temptation.

      I don't have any problem with admitting that the problem is completely mine. I have a wife of 32 years and five daughters, so I personally have lots and lots of women in my life.

    • I don't hear him saying that he is excluding women from his life at all. I think maybe that is an over-reaction. He obviously does relate to women, he is simply choosing to be very wise in HOW he relates to women. I think this is incredibly respectful to all of the women in his life, including those with whom he may be "tempted".

  62. This is a great post. I think the scripture verse: 1Thessalonians 5:22 "Abstain from every appearance of evil." We need to be more proactive in avoiding circumstances could appear sinful to others. Thanks for this! Great advice.

    • I disagree. The reality is that none of us are going to love exactly as God does, and we're more prone to sin than we realize. Our hearts are deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). It's all too easy for an 'innocent' relationship to become more than that–invisibly, incrementally. It can begin with simply becoming too personally or emotionally attached to someone of the opposite sex, even if it began in the context of "ministering" to that person. Understand also–we can't always do what Jesus did, as we are not the Son of God. I am not sinless, cannot walk on water, nor forgive sin.

      For all men of God, especially leaders, it is in the best interest of our souls, our families, and our testimony to be very cautious in this arena, even if others find it awkward. Explaining what some might see as excessive caution is far easier than recovering from an affair, or even digging out from a rumor started because you were in a situation which could easily be misinterpreted.

    • My grandfather told me something very wise before I left for college. He said, "To be the man God wants you to be, you have to recognize your ignorant nature. Disagree with Paul when he claimed to be the chief of sinners, because I'm telling you that I'm the biggest sinner."

      My grandfather is one of the least sinful people I know, yet his humility and recognition of his ignorance in comparison to God made him feel as if he was the biggest sinner. Maybe you are capable of fleeing temptation without removing it, but if that is the case than I suggest using your God-given capability with humility, recognizing that God is the one enabling you to use love as your boundary.

      (Maybe you are completely humble, and if so I'm sure that's a reflection of love, but even so, short sentences online when it's impossible to express non-verbal, or in this case non-written, communication make it seem as if you are being short and matter-of-fact. I in no way mean that as a slam on you.)

      • (I know I am not a good online communicator. No offense taken.)

        Yes, God is the one who is my strength and guide.

        If I love my Beloved (God/Jesus), I will not do anything that will hurt His heart.
        If I love my wife I will not do anything to hurt her heart.
        If I love [any woman], I will not do anything that will hurt her heart.
        If I love [any man], I will not do anything to hurt his heart.

        Romans 13:9-10;
        9The commandments, "Do not commit *adultery*," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

        • To say that you will never hurt someone simply because you love them is just not true. Every Biblical character I can think of still sinned and hurt the heart of God by doing so. The only truly faithful one is God. The book of Hosea makes it clear that the reason God could love and remain faithful unconditionally was because he was God.

          Verse 10 is confirming why "Love your neighbor as yourself" is sufficient to sum up the law; it's not saying that we as believers will never fail in that love. Are you suggesting that because you love God and love people that you no longer struggle with sin?

          Intentionally subjecting yourself to temptation is just simply not wise. By making love a demand to live a perfect life without sin you reestablish the legalistic mindset Christ came to abolish. Grace says I understand that it's only by God's strength I can fight temptation, so I'm going to be a good steward of the grace I've received and flee from situations that make it easy to fail.

          • "Are you suggesting that because you love God and love people that you no longer struggle with sin?" No.

            "Intentionally subjecting yourself to temptation is just simply not wise." I never do such things. Neither would I walk away from ministering to someone based on their gender.

            "By making love a demand to live a perfect life without sin you reestablish the legalistic mindset Christ came to abolish." I have no idea what you are saying. I think you are greatly misunderstanding me. I am saying that Love frees us from legalism, rules, the 'Law'.

            Stopping to help a female member of my church with a broke down car in the rain, is not a sin. Yes Satan will be right there tempting the situation – but temptation is not sin. Jesus was tempted – So I am to lock myself in a windowless room for all my life so I dare not be tempted? If I am not being tempted then I need to question how close I am walking with God.

            If a pretty girl gets hit by a car and the car drives off an leaves her laying on the side of the road I dare not turn my back and call 911, and simply wait for them to arrive. I will do what ever I can to make sure she is alive and sustain that as long as I have the ability to. That is what Love would do.

          • The point of the post was not the broken down car scenario; that was added in a comment. Setting boundaries and being intentional with discipline in no way compromises the work of the Gospel. The post never says that a man should NEVER EVER step outside the boundaries for ANY PURPOSE. That would be legalism. The post does, however, recognize the need AND Godliness behind intentionally preparing for temptation. If you allow yourself to be put in scenarios where failure is highly probable constantly without any devices in place to avoid failure, according to Solomon you're a fool.

            Proverbs 22:3 (ESV)
            “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.”

            There are clearly times when the boundaries need to be crossed for a greater purpose, but that doesn't mean the boundaries shouldn't exist. Like Andy Griffith says, if the boy in the pool with a "No Trespassing" sign is drowning, you should break the rule and jump in to save him. You shouldn't just jump the fence everyday in case a boy happens to jump also and begin drowning.

            God is far more interested in the making of a man than the making of a ministry.

          • "Setting boundaries and being intentional with discipline in no way compromises the work of the Gospel."
            Yes it can. When you are so disciplined in your rules that you "can't" break them, you will miss out on ministering to others. Thankfully your dad addresses that in a couple other responses with a link to another post of his. Which is exactly my point.

            "The post never says that a man should NEVER EVER step outside the boundaries for ANY PURPOSE."
            The post is not clear on that at all actually. Thus my response(s). Again, thankfully your dad addresses that in a couple other responses with a link to another post of his. Which is exactly my point.

            "You shouldn't just jump the fence everyday in case a boy happens to jump also and begin drowning. "
            Nothing I have said has eluded to that. Quite the contrary; If I know Jesus, like we should all know Jesus; If I live in His love and love others as He does, there doesn't need to be a fence around the pond, for I won't want to go into the pond.

            John 4:13 Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

            If you can understand that verse, understanding that Jesus can meet every deep desire of your heart, then you'll understand what I am talking about when I say "Love is my boundary".

            This has been exciting. I hope you are spurred on into the heart of God as I have been through this discussion!

            1 Corinthians 13
            …but have not love, I gain nothing.

            Galatians 5
            An excellent chapter summed up well with….
            22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

  63. Your rules are not offensive at all! I love it!

    My hubby and I have always had similar rules in our relationship. It actually began with our courtship…determined to protect ourselves and one another from temptation, we committed our first kiss would be as husband and wife. Until we were husband and wife, we avoided tempting situations…we were never too alone where it was too quiet or too dark or too late. We would have dates with others or sometimes "alone", but they were always in public (walking around a mall) for accountability. We never went into each other's apartments alone as a couple so as never to be tempted or allow question of our intent. Our truth was always available to the public. As a married couple, we protect our marriage with similar rules…we don't have friends of the opposite gender in the home while our spouse is away, we don't travel alone with members of the opposite gender–even when my hubby was a realtor, he'd drive separately from female clients to meet them at a property showing. I think honesty and boundaries are so important. I think my hubby's actions show respect for me, himself, our marriage, and our family, as well as for the friends/associates in a given situation (by that I mean it shows respect for the marriages/future spouses of our friends of the opposite gender).

    So no…there's nothing offensive about knowing you're a husband/father/pastor who's guarding his heart and the hearts of those who matter to him!

    • That is AWESOME Jessica! You and your husband have done well to create these rules to remain out of satan's path!

  64. At a Spiritual Awakening Conference in the late '80s, I heard Jerry Falwell give this information:

    He said that he, too, is never alone with a woman who is not his wife. He said he told the ladies of his church that if he is driving down the road at night, by himself, in the rain – and he sees them standing on the side of the road next to their broken-down car without an umbrella … he will wave at them and pray for them as he passes – and will use his cell phone to call for emergency assistance … but he is not stopping, and they are not getting a ride with him.

  65. Billy Graham has always been proactive in protecting himself against an affair or the appearance of an affair. Some would think it extreme. Others find it refreshing.

    I think men have it rougher than us women because you're made the way you — so visual — and then women don't truly understand the effect we have on men.

    I am careful about talking to and hugging men other than my husband. I sort of use Jon Acuff's side hug or a one-armed hug most of the time. I'm also careful that when I feel like a man is pushing to spend time around me — it's time to start being sure they know I'm happily and forever married. I think in large part, it has to do with making the decisions ahead of time. If Situation X happens, Plan Y goes into effect.

    There's a song by Gretchen Wilson – the Redneck Woman herself – called, "When I Think About Cheatin'" that carries this sentiment. "When I think about cheatin', I just think about you leavin', how my world would fall to pieces, if I tossed your love away." All too often, we don't recognize an affair as tossing our spouse away.

  66. There is a step that is implied in your post and is perhaps the most important step for a man: be honest about our design. We have allowed the culture to distort our God given drive. We must be honest about what is inside if we are to control where it would lead us.