Why Do So Many Adulterous Relationships Begin When Ministry is Going So Well?

Jake’s father was a successful politician and his mother was a lawyer. He had a proclivity toward philosophy and music, and he looked like a rock star with his unkempt hair, flannel shirts, and tattooed forearms. While attending a large university, Jake began to spiral into despair fueled by drugs and empty philosophy. He was introduced to an edgy Christian group on campus, and much to his surprise and that of all who knew him, he gave his life to Christ. Jake’s combination of intelligence, eloquence, and creativity catapulted him into leadership in the campus Christian group, and he connected with a local church.

Upon graduation he accepted the worship leader position at this church. He got married and started having kids. Over the next eight years, Jake moved from worship leader to teaching pastor. The church grew rapidly. In addition to speaking and teaching at the church, Jake became a sought-after conference speaker and, as often happens, he began writing books.

When Jake called Marble Retreat, his voice carried a mixture of numbness and sadness. He began by saying he had just been caught in an affair, had been relieved of his ministry duties, and was staying at a friend’s house, trying to save his marriage. Could we help?

Marble Retreat is an intensive counseling center for Christian leaders. We often deal with extra-marital affairs. We work with up to four couples at a time, and more than once, all four couples were here for recovery after an affair.

Working with such couples, I’ve found it interesting to note when the affairs happen. Often pastors get into an affair when ministry is going well, when they are achieving their ministerial career goals and dreams. Why is this so? Why would someone have an affair when everything seems to be going well?

Many pastors, including Jake, come to Marble asking, “How could this happen?” Based on their stories, we’ve learned that the following are some of the factors that set the stage for an adulterous affair.

1. Pride goes before a fall. Even the most pure in heart can begin to struggle with pride when success happens. With pride can come entitlement and a relaxing of boundaries. As the author of Proverbs 16:18 writes, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

2. Because everything appears to be going great, everyone assumes the pastor is doing great. No one raises red flags about a pastor when everything is thriving. Most people assume performance equals health. When everyone thinks, This pastor has the hand of God on him, because of the observable ministry results, any evidence contradicting this narrative gets ignored or twisted into something acceptable.

3. Pastors themselves think they are doing fine. Because of the results they are seeing, pastors may sell their own soul a piece at a time for the sake of success. Then they begin to rationalize the crossing of boundaries and inappropriate behavior.

4. Spiritual attacks ramp up while spiritual vigilance goes down. Satan detests faithful ministry, so temptations and deception increase. Ministry success leads to busyness, which leads to pastors neglecting their spiritual armor.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today, Mike MacKenzie