In 1995 my wife and I helped launch a new church in Dayton, Ohio. Five and a half years later when we felt called to move to Philadelphia, the church was thriving, in its own building, and looking at very bright future.
Finding the right pastor to follow me was essential.
After an exhaustive search we felt God brought us the right replacement. He was a leader, full of vision, and all his references were glowing. Words cannot express how relieved I was. I loved these people dearly and didn’t want to leave them under the care of just anyone. Fortunately God provided.
Within six months he had an affair.
When he left his wife and two young children and shacked up with my daughter’s former dance instructor the church was devastated. I was devastated. His family was destroyed.
But do you know what hurt more than anything? It was preventable.
How to Cause an Affair
Soon after the affair occurred, people in the church said, “If Brian had been here, this wouldn’t have happened.”
They didn’t say that because they believed I was a super-pastor and somehow less vulnerable to sexual temptation than anyone else. They just knew I took precautions, and have done so for all the years of my ministry.
“The first thing he did,” one of the elders told me, “was throw out the accountability questions you had us ask each other every week. He said they were too legalistic. He also got rid of the rules for how the staff were allowed to interact with the opposite sex. He said they were way too unrealistic for today’s world.”
What was he referring to?
He was talking about the two things that protect not just pastors, but any leader from falling into sexual temptation: solid ground rules and accountability.
How to Prevent an Affair
Here were the ground rules we had in place for interacting with the opposite sex:
- No staff member will ever meet alone with the opposite sex in a room without a glass window in the door or the door open.
- No staff member will ever meet alone off-site with the opposite sex.
- No staff member will perform long-term counseling.
- No staff member will ever talk about their own marital struggles with the opposite sex.
Unrealistic for today’s world? I don’t think so.
And here were the actual accountability questions that were thrown out:
- Have you spent time in God’s word and in prayer at least five times a week since we last met?
- Have you shown your spouse the affection that God asks of you since we last met?
- Have you spent quality time with each of your children since we last met?
- Have you lost your temper since the last time we met?
- Have you spent any amount of time with someone other than your spouse since we last met
- Have you found yourself lusting after anyone since we last met?
- Have you looked at pornography of any kind since we last met?
- Have you honored God with your finances since we last met (by what you’ve given, what you’ve kept and what you’ve spent)?
- Have you exercised at least 4 times a week since we last met?
- Have you maintained healthy eating habits since we last met?
- Have you taken a full day off each week since we last met?
- Have you in any way misrepresented your answers?
- What areas do you really need prayer for and unflinchingly pressed on the next time we meet?
Too legalistic? Unrealistic for today’s day and age?
I don’t think so.
Here’s the only thing I really understand about why affairs happen: affairs take place when loving, committed, and broken people like you and me let down their guard.
What other safeguards would you suggest to have in place to protect you and your staff?