Pastors, Porn, and Restoration


By Mike Genung

What should the church’s response be when a pastor is ensnared in porn addiction or adultery? Take out the pitchforks, and chase him out of town with a command never to return?  One pastor who struggled with porn told me he was afraid that if he shared his failures to his elder board that he was sure he would be out the door.

Here’s my take.

If the pastor refuses to get help or give up the sin, I see no other recourse but to release him from his position.  We can’t have shepherds leading our flocks who are wholeheartedly embracing sin with no intent of repentance. This would be winking at sin and justifying it. I don’t believe most pastors are in this category.

If he wants help, recovery, and restoration, I believe we should bend over backwards to provide it, based on two Biblical precedents:

King David.
God used David to write Scripture and lead His people.  He was a model of integrity, courage, and godly character. After David committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband, God convicted and punished David, but He did not revoke his position as king. Moreover, some of David’s most powerful psalms are 32 and 51, which describe the process of repentance and cleansing.  God didn’t stop speaking through David after adultery and murder; He used him more to teach, help, and encourage others.

To me, the biggest Scriptural justification for restoration is Peter.

In Ephesians 4:11-12 we read:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ…

Apostles are first on the list; it appears that an apostle is of greater authority or rank than a pastor. While Peter didn’t commit sexual sin, he denied Jesus three times, cursing included.  In Matthew 10:33 Jesus said:

“But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”

Gulp. The idea of Jesus denying us provokes fear. I don’t read anywhere in Scripture where committing sexual sin triggers something as severe as Jesus denying the person. I’m not saying that sexual sin doesn’t have tough consequences; it surely does, but Peter’s sin of denying Christ is no less serious than sexual immorality.

In John 21, we see the scene where Jesus restores Peter; not long after the Lord uses him powerfully to preach a sermon where 3,000 come to Christ.

Oh, and in his post-restoration life God also used Peter to pen two books of the Bible, 1st and 2nd Peter. Amazing.

Should we not do for our fallen pastors the same that God did for Peter and David? Shouldn’t we show that we believe in the grace, forgiveness and restoration that we preach by actions of restoration? Wouldn’t it be better to have a bunch of Peters in our pulpits who have failed miserably and been restored, who can speak from experience of what redemption is about, versus having only read about it in the Bible or studied it in seminary?

Give me a church lead by a Peter Pastor any time. Such men will be less likely to run off on lofty theological tangents that have no benefit to their flock, and more likely to be grounded in the rugged reality of life and how God leads, teaches, and changes us. Peter’s story is my favorite in all of Scripture because I’ve messed up miserably in my life multiple times; if Jesus restored Peter for denying Him then He can restore me. Peter Pastors have much to offer.

So what should the restoration process look like for a pastor?

Here’s my take on what the Blazing Grace Restoration Program for Peters might look like:

Let them step aside from ministry for a while, perhaps six months or more. They need to get away from “doing for God,” in order to give Jesus time and space to heal.  Some men may have never slowed down before, and desperately need down time so God can work on their heart.

Provide them with an accountability partner. An accountability partner is someone who will walk with, support, encourage, and when needed, challenge them. An accountability partner is not a policeman who will club them if they screw up.

Help them set healthy boundaries, remove the stumbling blocks of temptation under their control, reset priorities, and heal their marriage and family relationships.

Look at any wounds that might need healing, past or present.

Give them space and time to restore their relationship with God and go deep with Him. This means plenty of alone time.

Encourage them to focus on serving and loving their family members, especially their spouse.  Set all other relationships aside for the moment.

Give them time to have fun.

Pay their way while they’re in the restoration process. Don’t expect your pastor to work at McDonald’s while he’s trying to heal. He’s poured his life out for your flock, now is the time to give back to him.

If your pastor comes through the other end in a good place and, after praying, God opens the door for his return back to the pulpit, welcome him back.

Pride and fear will keep a church from restoring their pastor. Pride and self-righteousness make up the zoot suit that the older brother had on when his prodigal brother returned home in Luke 15. Scripture tells us that pride is numero uno on God’s list of sins He hates (Proverbs 6:16), so pride is worse than anything your pastor did. Fear… “He’s a pervert! He sinned! Ahhhhh don’t let him touch me!” is coming from those who are scared of grace because it threatens their tighty whitey sense of superiority. Some of these people may throw a fit when you restore your pastor; maybe they’ll leave. Let them. You’ll empty your pews of the self-righteous and may discover that your church is suddenly attracting… sinners… who need a Savior.

Wouldn’t that be awesome?

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