To the Pastor Considering an Extramarital Affair

couple in distress

This is a guest post by my friend Dr. Jennifer Degler. Jennifer pulls no punches. But, she’s a difference maker in the Kingdom. I’m thankful for her influence.

Dear Pastor,

If you are a pastor considering or engaging in an affair, may I offer you points to ponder from a psychologist who has been honored to work with hurting people on all sides of an affair?

1) The biggest lie you are telling yourself is “I am attracted to my affair partner because of things that are wrong with my spouse.”

Here’s the truth: “I am attracted to my affair partner because of things that are wrong in me.” An affair will not fix what’s wrong with you. Having an emotional or sexual affair is using another person as a pain reliever. They are your Oxycodone, your drug of choice. You are using him or her as a distraction from your brokenness.

The bottom line: an affair is using another person in the worst way and calling it love.

2) You are thinking like a narcissist if you believe things like “The importance of my ministry should earn me a pass on church discipline or making apologies” or “I don’t need to step down from leadership” or “Exceptions should be made for me” or even “I am entitled to this affair.”

Bottom line: You are not that special. None of us are.

3) Your affair or “inappropriate relationship” (the latest euphemism) will come out eventually.

Don’t fool yourself; it’s going to be uncovered and made public. Thanks to social media, thousands of people will know within days.

Bottom line: Anyone who Googles your name will find your affair on the first page of search results.

4) When your secret is exposed, your family, friends, staff, and church members will feel violated, and those who have deeper emotional wounds from an alcoholic, abusive, self-absorbed, or absent parent or spouse will be affected in ways you can’t even imagine.

The current betrayal and abandonment they feel in reaction to your actions will stir up old hurts. They had grown to trust you as their pastor, to believe they had finally found a truly good man or woman who loved them too much to lie. Your affair will leave them reeling.

Best case scenario: they share their emotional upheaval with caring friends and a counselor. Their church pulls together to provide support for many months.

More common scenario: they deal with their emotional upheaval by either 1) checking out (shutting down emotionally, withdrawing from others, or leaving the organized church, perhaps forever) or 2) acting out (self-destructive behaviors like drinking or eating too much, diving into unwise relationships, etc.).

Bottom line: Your affair will shipwreck wounded people who already struggle to keep afloat emotionally.

5) There is hope for the minister who’s had an affair.

It starts with confessing to your spouse, trusted friends, an elder board or personnel committee, and then cutting off all contact with your affair partner.

In the weeks (and consequences) to follow, you may regret confessing when you see the devastation in your family and ministry. You will spend precious time and money on counseling that you may doubt can help you. You will wonder if God can make you whole. You may hate yourself.

It will be the most awful time of your life.

But you will also feel relief when you have nothing to hide.

Your dedication to recovery will help you regain the respect of your children and friends. With tremendous work, your marriage can heal. People will move on to other gossip. You will someday like yourself again.

Bottom line: If you will go through the firestorm ignited when a pastor admits an affair, you will see God bring beauty from the ashes of your life.

There is hope for you, Pastor.

Jennifer Degler, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychologist

A Personal Opinion About Investing in the Community

Mother and daughter shopping in supermarket

This is an opinion post. For that matter — this is an opinion blog.

And, I have an opinion.

I think pastors should support their community.

When I was in business I supported the businesses in my community.

I shopped local — and small, independently owned business — whenever possible. I bought cars locally, for example, even though I might have saved a few hundred dollars down the road. I did the majority of my spending with local businesses.

That didn’t mean we didn’t travel — and purchase goods when we did — but when we shopped, we primarily shopped local. The Chamber of Commerce “shop local” campaigns worked for us. :)

If you own a local business, I think you owe it to support the community that helps to feed you. Even if your products are shipped elsewhere, your labor market is likely fairly local. The emergency services, roads, etc. to support the business. All local. Whenever possible — from cars to dentists, to groceries — the more you invest in the local economy the more it can invest in you.

<h3>And I think the same is true for pastors.</h3>

There’s nothing wrong with occasional online purchases, but for the bulk of shopping, we should support the community that supports us and that we hope to reach.

We should invest in the community — because as it prospers, so will the church. Not only for financial reasons either. It is difficult to engage people in the community in which I live when I’m shopping behind a computer or in a bigger city down the road.

That’s my opinion. Again, this is an opinion post.

And, there’s somewhat of a Biblical encouragement to do so.

Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. Jeremiah 29:7

What do you think?

Want More Joy in the Journey? — Throw Away the Scripts

Der Film

Are the routines and details of your life getting you down?

Is the direction of your life not turning out as you planned?

Are you stressing so much about things that are happening — out of your control — that you can’t enjoy the good things already in your life?

Here’s one suggestion for more joy in the journey…

Throw away the scripts.

The script you’ve written about how life is “supposed to go”. Throw it away. In the trash.

Any script you could write likely won’t work anyway.

Most of the time.

You can throw away the script in:

Your career
Your relationship life
Your health
Your finances
Your personal walk with God

And, the script you’ve written for what your children will and will not do — throw that script away also.

Throw them away.

I know we like scripts.

It’s easier. Less messy when we can script things out the way they should work. The way we want them to. It’s cleaner. Life is more tidy with scripts.

Most of us have written scripts in our minds about how life supposedly will work for us.

But, scripts just don’t work. Most of the time.

Life doesn’t follow the script we write for it. In fact, it seldom does in my experience.

You’ll seldom be able to script how long you work at one place. Just try.

You’ll seldom be able to script your relationships. Specifically, how others respond to you. Even the way you respond to them. Try as much as you want and you’ll still say the wrong things — be misunderstood — have to keep working on the relationship. I know some great attempts that failed.

You’ll seldom be able to script your health. Some of the healthiest people I know got cancer.

You’ll seldom be able to script your bank account. One tragedy and everything could be gone. I have seen it many times. I’ve lived it. Script and all.

And, you’re walk with God. You’ll seldom be able to understand all the ways of God. Strive the hardest to please God, follow Him closely, and you’ll still have unanswered questions about why God allows some of the things He allows in your life. Testimony after testimony proves this.

And, just when you said your kid would never — your kid will — or so the story goes for so many.

I’m not saying to not have a plan.

I’m not saying not to set an end goal or destination. That would be dumb. Really dumb.

You’ll seldom hit a target you didn’t aim to hit.

I’m talking about the script. The “dialogue” along the way. The exact setting and all the characters and the special effects. The journey to accomplish the vision. The details. The way things get done or accomplished. Don’t be afraid when your story sometimes colors outside the lines. Or goes off script.

Sometimes it’s good just to throw away the script.

I watch so many people stress about the details of life — the things outside their ability to control — that they miss the joy in the journey.

When people completely rely on a script — the one they have written for their life — they sometimes fall apart when things don’t go exactly as written. They have a hard time getting back into character. And, they have a hard time adjusting to the other characters in their life who went off script.

And, yet, the show must go on…

Things will seldom turn out just as planned.

Granted, having a plan helps you adjust accordingly and more easily, so I say have one — I even write posts telling you how — but the script will seldom live up completely to the paper upon which it’s written. Certainly not in every scene.

Throw away the script. You’ll stress less when you can’t remember the lines.

“In his heart a man plans his steps, but the Lord determines his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

“As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.” – Ecclesiastes 11:5

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways.” This is the LORD’s declaration.” – Isaiah 55:8

21 Reasons God May Allow More Than You Can Bear

Man alone

I’ve written some of my most read posts about a myth. A lie. A misquoted and misapplied Bible verse.

As with most lies the enemy uses, it originates from a misapplied truth in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that talks about temptation and how when we are tempted, God always allows us a way to resist that temptation. We can’t be tempted beyond what He’s equipped us to bear. (But, even that is misapplied if it’s done on our own strength.)

So using that truth, people often stretch it to say to hurting people, “God will not put more on you than you can bear.”

Yea — right!

Tell that to me. Or my friends. Or yourself.

Ever feel defeated? Like you can’t handle what you’ve been asked to “bear”?

Imagine telling a mother of two young children after she suddenly loses her husband and fears being able to raise the children, provide for them, and keep the home in which they live, “Remember, God will not put more on you than you can bear.”

Doesn’t sound very comforting to me — or probably to her. At the time she feels very much like she has more on her than she can bear.

And, she does.

And I’m not suggesting God “put” that on her, but He certainly allowed her to have more on her than SHE can bear.

If you’re like the rest of us you have felt that way also. It’s part of being in the fallen world in which we live.

And yet, for the believer we have an answer.

When we feel out of control — in over our head — afraid of the circumstances of our life — worried — our answer is Jesus.

It’s all grace, and it’s a sufficient grace to help us in our time of need. We are more than conquers — with Jesus

Ironically, however, I believe that truth, combined with the misapplication of the verse above, is where the lie in that familiar saying originates.

We have an answer to the stress of this world — a strength to bear any burden. But, that can make us think we should be able to handle anything.

And, we can — with Jesus.

But…

When the administration of that strength rests on us — on our abilities – IF YOU CAN BEAR IT — it leaves out our need for grace.

And, Jesus made it clear when He said, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.”

This may seem like semantics, and I’m not usually a semantics kind of guy, but when the semantics are wrong here it can produce a terrible theology. One that says you have to make it on your own. That because you are a believer, you suddenly have the power to defeat anything that comes your way. And, you do have power — but it is NOT you — the power is Jesus in you.

The key here is you won’t have more on you than you can bear — IN JESUS. Paul said, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

But without an understanding of “Christ in me” that phrase “God will not put more on you than you can bear” isn’t freeing. It’s burdensome. And — with any misunderstanding of where our true strength resides — that saying becomes a lie.

And, probably no one who uses that statement intends it to harm — they intend it to be helpful. But the enemy would love you to live in that lie, believing that somehow YOU have to get it together — you have to conquer all the ails you — in your strength, because, you know, “God will not put more on you than you can bear”. It’s a dangerous, defeating statement without proper understanding. It’s not helpful in a person’s time of struggle.

It might be easier to say, “You know, God will never allow anything upon you that HE can’t handle.” And, then we can encourage people to “cast their cares upon Him, because He cares.”

And, as strange as it may seem, those times of disparity — when we are overwhelmed with our personal abilities — unable to stand up to the pressures we are facing — have more on us than we can bear — actually have great value within the sovreignty of God. He uses them for our good.

Here are 21 reasons God may allow more than you can bear:

So you will rely on Him. 1 Peter 5:7

So you will call on Him. Acts 17:26-27

So you have no choice but Him. John 15:5

So He can tell us things we wouldn’t know otherwise. Jeremiah 33:3

So He can be gracious to you. Isaiah 30:18

So He can show His kindness and compassion. Lamentations 3:21-24

So He can restore your soul. Psalm 23:3

So He can demonstrate His strength. 2 Corinthians 12:9

So you will trust in Jesus — and the Father. John 14:1.

So you can produce character and hope. Romans 5:3-5

So He can keep us from being self-reliant 2 Corinthians 12:7

So He can discipline His children. Hebrews 12:6-7

So God’s power is revealed. 2 Corinthians 4:7

So He can show our need for salvation. Psalm 119:67

So He can comfort us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

So we can learn to comfort others. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

So He can reveal His unseen workings. Psalm 77:19

So He can demonstrate how all things work for an eventual good. Romans 8:28

So the Gospel might be proclaimed. Philippians 1:12-13

So He can draw prodigals home. Luke 15:17

So He can build character and hope. Romans 5:3-4

Don’t believe the lie. God WILL allow more on you than you can bear — alone. You and I need a Him for our every breath.

If you feel overwhelmed today — defeated — like there is more on you than you can bear – turn to the burden bearer. “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.'” (Matthew 11:28)

7 Easy Ways to Put a Not Welcome Sign on Your Church

church sign 1

I was running recently on a route I’ve run many times, but I missed this sign until this particular run. It was too “good” not to stop and take a picture with my phone.

I saw the sign and the first word that popped in my head was “Closed”. As another sign I saw in a store window said recently (which I don’t completely understand) “Closed for Business”. (How can you be closed “for” business?)

None of us would intentionally place a sign like that on our church doors. “Closed for business”. I’m sure that’s not the intent this church has with this sign. Yet I’m certain that some of our practices serve the same purpose.

Over the years, Cheryl and I have visited dozens of churches. Whenever we travel we try to find a church. I’ve spoken at and consulted with a lot of churches. All types and sizes.

From personal experience — here are some ways you can place a closed sign to visitors on your church.

Only do “church” on Sunday. Don’t attempt to build community with people who attend — especially not with someone new to “the community”. Let people know by your actions — or lack of actions — that you’re comfortable with the people with you now and there is little room for new friendships. Don’t reach out to people you haven’t seen in a while. We recently visited a church, filled out a visitor card, and only placed our email and phone number on the card. Two months later we have yet to hear from anyone.

Don’t act like you’re happy to see people. Have no one greeting in the parking lots or at the doors. I once was the guest preacher at a church. Not one person greeted us in the church. I literally had to go find somebody to tell me when to preach. Not one other person besides the person I found ever spoke to us. I realize that’s the extreme but I wonder how many times visitors feel that same way in our own churches.

Confuse people. Display confusing signage or, better yet, none at all. And, don’t think about using people as guest hosts. I can’t tell you how many churches we have been to where it was very confusing which door to enter and where to go once we entered the door. At times, if I weren’t the speaker — as an introvert especially — I might have left. Just being honest. I have to be honest even more and say that was somewhat true of the church where I am pastor now. Hopefully we are making strides towards correcting that with signage and people.

Make it uncomfortable for visitors. If you really want a closed sign up, everyone should talk to the only people they know. It’s either that, or you could make visitors feel very conspicuous. Have them stand up maybe — or raise their hands — and keep them up until an usher comes by.

Have your own language. Use acronyms. Yes acronyms please. Just pretend like everyone already knows what you’re talking about. Don’t differentiate between VBS and vacation Bible school. Everyone knows that, right? And, use names during the announcements that no one knows but the regulars without any explanation of who they are.

Have closed groups. And don’t start any new ones. When any small group has been together more than a few years — with no new people entering the group — it’s a closed group. A new person coming in will not feel welcome. They won’t know the inside jokes. They don’t know the names of everyone’s children’s. They feel left out when personal conversation begins.

Beat people up without giving them hope. Be clearer about how bad they are than how great the Gospel is.

Those are a few of my suggestions. If you’re looking for a way to put up a closed sign.