The link between our sexuality and our spirituality is a direct one. Sacred scripture admonishes us engaging in illicit sexual experiences pollute the temple of the body. You know this truth; no doubt often feel powerful shame about any past or present pollution and long for purity. Sexual brokenness and sexual struggles are so hard on clergy. They hurt us deeply. Soul deep.
If you are a pastor the trap of illicit sexual experiences is more compelling and springs shut more tightly than it does for the general population. You are up against more. If you struggle it is not surprising. If you struggle sexually you are not alone. If you struggle there are lots of reasons to hope and healing and freedom are possible. It is important to understand what you face and it is important to get all the help you need until you can to breathe the sweet peace of freedom. But first, why would experts agree clergy persons face more difficulty than most with maintaining sexual purity?
Seven Reasons Why Pastors Have More Difficulty than Most Maintaining Sexual Purity:
First, pastors, by the nature of their professions are more isolated from close relationships. Intimate relationships, even close friendships mitigate against sexual enslavement. Isolation from these friendships promotes sexual failure. Ministerial isolation occurs because they are treated with awe by some and disdain by others. Ministers are viewed as different. They just donaO(TM)t fit in like everybody else does. People watch their language around the pastor, seldom think to include him in the normal fun family events and tend to believe he is a super or sub human. In subtle and direct ways every pastor has felt the pinch of isolation. Isolation is enemy of purity.
One of the natural tendencies of congregants is to isolate the pastor by placing him on a pedestal. Pastors often promote this, some unwittingly and some intentionally. The respect, leadership office and position of authority which may be biblically appropriate can become a pedestal of isolation which contributes to personal loneliness and increased longings for illicit sexual activity. For more understanding of the subtle dangers of the pedestal click here.
Pedestals are set ups for sexual failure.
Second, shame fuels addictions in general and sexual addiction is no exception. The pastor who is hooked on sex feels all the normal shame of an errant human being and the extra shame of being a pastor and not being pure. Pastors are paid to be good, expected to be above such things, treated with cutting humor in sitcoms because of celebrity clergy failures, know the corporate shame when a clergy sexual sin becomes titillating news and hate the stains they create on their own sexual souls. Extra shame brings extra temptation.
Third, the career of a pastor depends on his purity. This greater than normal need to be spotlessness requires greater secrecy if a pastor engages in illicit sexual sin. This heightened secrecy is dangerous for two reasons. The required super secrecy increases the thrill of the sexuality even more than it does for lay persons who sip sweet stolen waters. It also more forcefully blocks the pastor from seeking help before he is caught.
Fourth, pastors, unlike most other professionals, are expected to be alone uninterrupted in their offices for long hours at a time. Most are computer savvy, plugged in to the Internet and protected from prying eyes. The availability of on-line pornography, chat rooms and personal contact for sexual reasons is staggering. A pastor no longer has to embarrass himself by going to the wrong part of town or buying a magazine at a checkout counter. He can dabble at will in dangerous secrecy and progressive enslavement.
Fifth, ministers are just expected to behave appropriately and too often ordinary standards of care and protection are not used. This is especially true regarding Internet use. It embarrasses church boards and some denominational leaders to assertively attend to the potential sexual sin of pastors. Secular companies establish Internet Policies, provide monitoring of on-line connections and are clear about the consequences of violations of policy. Churches should do no less but most practice little such care. Policies regarding on-line use both at home and in the office and protection by means of on-line and firewall monitoring is a good start but the bare minimum.
Balanced policy regarding meetings with counselees, going to lunches and the like are also worth formulating. Protection for the pastor is important for his personal life and for the church.
Sixth, pastors are in accountability groups. Accountability groups are designed to ask tough questions to determine whether or not a clergy person is behaving appropriately sexually. Conventional wisdom thinks these groups serve as deterrents to sexual sin. There is no evidence this is the case. If a pastor can lie to his wife he can more easily lie to his accountability group. We have worked with a number of pastors over the years who regularly attend their accountability groups while engaging in sexual immorality. Accountability groups set up to monitor clergy behavior may even be detrimental. If they are imposing and intimidating they can produce more ministerial shame and secrecy and give both the pastor and church leaders a false sense of safety about how the pastor is actually behaving.
Seventh, Ministry Professionals are under spiritual attack. The damage done when a leader’s sexual sin is published is exponential. Wounds to church members, attendees, visitors, seekers and pagans from sexual sin in clergy ranks are profoundly damaging. Successive generations are often impacted acutely. If you wish to conquer a church, attack its leader. This time tested strategy is still effective.
There are various ways pastors sin sexually. Affairs, serial affairs, pornography, compulsive masturbation, love addictions, forbidden emotional attachments, on-line chat groups, fantasies gone wild, strip clubs, massage parlors and innumerable unnamed experiences all hook ministers. The availability of forbidden sexual activities right in the pastor’s study is only limited by the imaginations of seductive web site creators. Whatever the sexual problem, the solution is more than mere confession. When sin is confessed and repeated and repeated and confessed, the sin-confess cycle becomes counter productive. Click here to learn more about the sin-confess cycle.
This cycle is not an effective means of ridding oneself of the guilt and stain of sin but is instead a significant contributor to the self deceptive denial which progressively hooks even contrite clergymen.
There is help and hope.
- If you are a clergy person wrestling with sexual sin in any way and just want help-even if you wish to remain anonymous-click here
- If you are hooked on sex and want to join fellow clergy in our on-line forum click here
- A complete recovery program will include attending “S” groups. This is usually quite frightening to clergy. Read “Why I Chose a ‘Secular’ Recovery Group” by an annonymous pastor on this web site for insight and encouragement about attending group.
- If you are uncertain whether you are sexually hooked on Internet pornography or are a sex addict in general, you can learn the truth. You will find three tests here, a Basic Sex Addiction Screening Test, an Internet Sex Addiction Screening Test and a Female Sex Addiction Screening Test. Click here to take one of these tests and receive immediate test results.
- If the test results are inconclusive or it is clear you are hooked please err on the side of getting more help than you think you need. Click here
- If you have just been caught in inappropriate sexual sin click here
- If you are a church leader and wish to establish protective policy for your pastor click here to learn about consulting with Dale Wolery.
- If you are a church leader and you suspect or know your pastor is engaging in sexual sin click here to consult with Dale Wolery.