EXCERPT: Have you ever felt like your ministry could be so much better if only your spouse would support you more enthusiastically? If so, then let me ask you this question: Would you ever consider the possibility that your spouse struggles to support your ministry because they feel like it has taken their place? Although you would never consider cheating on them with another person, have you allowed your ministry to have a place in your heart that should be reserved for them?
The ripple effect of an affair can become a tidal wave when the affair happens by those in church leadership. A long period of time is required for a church to grieve and eventually heal when one of their pastors has fallen to sexual sin. It usually takes decades for the wounds to become scars, which always serve as a painful reminder of the past.
But the reality is that the majority of pastors throughout America have never cheated on their spouse with another person.
Nevertheless, there are many pastors who are having a different type of affair on a weekly basis. In some cases, they may not even realize what has happened to this point.
The Similarities Are Undeniable
Most of the couples I’ve counseled over the years who are trying to process an affair usually end up divorcing. It doesn’t have to end this way. It just becomes such a monumental issue to overcome. The broken trust as well as the questioning torment that Satan badgers the spouse with is relentless. Proverbs 6:34-35 says, “For jealousy detonates rage in a cheated husband; wild for revenge, he won’t make allowances. Nothing you say or pay will make it all right; neither bribes nor reason will satisfy him” (MSG). It’s so hard to overcome the betrayal.
Whatever the cause, an offended spouse can also make it difficult for us to have an impactful ministry.
Have you ever felt like your ministry could be so much better if only your spouse would support you more enthusiastically?
If so, then let me ask you this question: Would you ever consider the possibility that your spouse struggles to support your ministry because they feel like it has taken their place? Although you would never consider cheating on them with another person, have you allowed your ministry to have a place in your heart that should be reserved for them?
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep (or guard) your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (NKJV). In keeping with this thought of guarding your heart, I have observed a few places where we can allow ministry to become the other person who has stolen our heart from our spouse.
So take some time to review each of the following questions and allow yourself to give an honest answer. (If you’re really brave, go over each of them with your spouse and allow them to respond with how they honestly feel.) Their responses may catch you off guard. But providing the space for them to say what they truly feel may be just what is needed to save your marriage and create a healthy balance in your ministry.
Question #1 – Do you schedule time (in writing) for your spouse on your weekly schedule?
People do what they really want to do! There has never been a truer statement. It is only natural to do what seems to fulfill us the most. This is why it’s quite revealing if we observe our weekly routine and discover there is no priority to connect with our spouse. If we don’t block out time for our marriage, it will begin to become stale.
I had a pastor friend share a story with me of how his wife showed up in his office one day unexpectedly. After greeting her in a joyful way, he told her that he wouldn’t be able to spend time with her at the moment because he had an appointment that would be coming in a few minutes. Imagine the dismay on his face when he called his assistant, with his wife standing in front of him, to discover that his wife had made the appointment! Ouch! Thankfully, my friend used this moment as a marker for repentance and change. I’m happy to report they are doing just fine today!
Allowing the busyness of ministry to be an excuse is a sign that your ministry is your paramour.
Question #2 – Who gets your best effort and hours?
Allowing ourselves to pour ALL of our emotional energy into our ministry means that our spouses and families get our leftovers. If you operate from the understanding that you do what you really want to do, then you must come to grips with the glaring truth that your ministry is getting the best of you. No one wants your leftovers, especially your spouse!
Question #3 – Where do you gain the most joy in life?
Nehemiah 8:10 (b) says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (NKJV). So what is the source of your joy? Before you say the obvious answer that Jesus is your joy, take a moment to dig deep and analyze what causes you to experience a “spring in your step.” Is it seeing your spouse or children when you get home after a hard day at the office. Or is it that moment where you poured your heart and soul into a member of the church that is experiencing a crisis?
If we aren’t careful and intentional, we can easily slide into a place where helping people becomes an unhealthy source of building our esteem. And our ego! Too much of this will cause us to neglect the ones that the Lord has placed in our lives in order to save everyone else. We all know pastors who lost their own marriages while attempting to save the marriages in their churches!
Question #4 – What thoughts do you rehearse on a continual basis?
Proverbs 23:6-7 states, “Do not eat the bread of a miser nor desire his delicacies; for as he thinks in his heart, so is he. ‘Eat and drink!’ he says to you but his heart is not with you” (NKJV). Every day we are constantly thinking of something. There is always something on our mind. If you are honest, what do you think about the most? I have often said that we will eventually act out whatever we continually think on!
Has the responsibility of serving in ministry consumed your thinking to the point that you have very little time to think on your spouse?
Question #5 – Do you refuse to go on a vacation or take time off because the church needs you to always be there for them?
All of us can find excuses for why we can’t allow ourselves any time off. However, I believe the reason most of us do this is because we have developed an unhealthy codependency with our ministry. Pastors teach about the importance of sabbath. Yet, many of us ignore implementing sabbath principles in our own weekly routines.
I find that many of us have an unhealthy view of the ministry that leads us to believe that some of the principles of Scripture don’t apply to us because we are pastors. This is just not true! In fact, we actually should be leading our congregations through our example, not in spite of it!
Pastor, the fact remains that many congregations will let you wear yourself out being “super-pastor” to the detriment of your health and marriage. Then they will be ready to run you out of town when you finally crash and burn.
Remember this: Quality time invested in your marriage is one of the greatest gifts you can give your congregation and your spouse. Lead in this arena by example and your spouse is sure to also support your ministry!
You Never Fall Into An Affair!
Anyone who has experienced an affair will tell you that it doesn’t just happen. James 1:14-16 tells us, “The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer. So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course” (MSG).
I once heard a pastor say that tolerating a little compromise is like being a little pregnant. . . eventually it shows! Though you may never contemplate the thought of having an affair with a person, have you allowed the ministry fulfill that space in your heart designed for your spouse? If you asked them, what would they say?
In the early section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus dealt with the issue of impurity in our hearts. He says in Matthew 5:27-28, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (NKJV).
I want to wrap up this article by asking you to be transparent and honest with yourself. Look into the mirror. Who is looking back at you? Is it a pastor who has the proper balance between their marriage and ministry? Or is the person staring back at you in need of some real soul-cleansing because the affair has already begun?
Pastor, please don’t lose your marriage because you are having an affair with your ministry. It’s simply not worth it!
– Marriage Coaching & Retreats (Grants are Available)
– 5 Guidelines for Pastoral Counseling
– Addressing the Slow Fades of Marriage in Ministry
– You Don’t Need to Be Super-Pastor (Even in a Small Church)
As I wrote above, quality time invested in your marriage is one of the greatest gifts you can give your congregation and your spouse. Did you know that we actually provide grant funds for church leaders to cover up to half the cost of marriage coaching and marriage retreats with our partner organization, No More Perfect Marriages? Click here to learn more about this opportunity.