Dr. Willis Newman, Esmeralda Newman, bible-teaching-about.com

Divorced - can he still minister?

QUESTION:

I am saved and I do teach the Word of God. My wife divorced me. Can I still minister in the church, or I stop till I get married again?

Kyalo

ANSWER:

Kyalo:

Thank you for visiting the website. Your question brings up a heart wrenching issue. It causes much emotional turmoil and discouragement to you. I don’t know the conditions of the divorce, but it always harms in some way the divorced Christian minister. 

Here are several positions held by the Church, plus my own view.

1. First, some evangelicals hold that once a preacher is divorced, then it automatically bars him from any future service as a minister to a congregation. They use the verse, “An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:1).

2. Some believe that one must be married to be a preacher, and they use the same verse. To them, a single person cannot be the pastor of a church.

3. Some believe that even if a pastor’s wife dies, he cannot continue to be a preacher. The reason is that he would not be married, and cannot remarry because he can only ever be married to one woman. 

4. Some believe that it depends on the circumstances of the divorce. That is, if the preacher committed adultery and was the cause of the divorce, then he can never again be the minister of a church. 

5. Some believe that if a preacher was ever divorced, even before becoming a Christian, they cannot ever be a pastor. Others modify this view, and say that if a person was divorced before becoming a Christian, then they can become a minister of a church.

5. Some believe that a preacher can still be the minister of a church even though divorced. The hold that it is the present moral and spiritual condition of the person that counts. 

6. It is this last view that I hold. The phrase, “the husband of one wife” is better translated, “a-one-woman-man.” This means that the pastor is not a womanizer – that is the heart of the matter. A pastor cannot be looking with lustful eyes on different women, but be satisfied with the woman God has given him. One divorce, or if the pastor is really unlucky, two divorces can be understood, but any more means there is something wrong with the person. A major rehabilitation is needed – which may mean just how to pick a good woman. Pastors have a special relationship with their congregation. There is a unique fondness and sometimes adoration that goes with the position. Because of this relationship, it is easy for the pastor to take advantage of some women’s vulnerability, and that leads to an affair. Sometimes the pastor is the seducer; sometimes the woman is the seducer. Preachers must carefully guard their hearts. 

Someone said that the three great temptations for a pastor is gold, glitter, and gals. Translated, it means the temptation to gain wealth, the craving for fame, and sexual temptation.

The call of God to a pastor, I believe, is an irrevocable gift. Paul wrote, “for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). The qualification of a one-woman-man refers to the character of the pastor, not to his marital status. Single men can be pastors.

Now, here are some practical matters to consider. When going through a divorce, the pastor is vulnerable. Depression, discouragement, confusion, anger, bitterness and the nasty things that go with divorce intensifies in the pastor. His reputation is tarnished. Sometimes his congregation turns against him. His spiritual life is disrupted, and his good sense may be sidelined for a while. 

If the pastor is the guilty party, then sometimes it is best to leave the ministry for a couple of years or so, let the rumors settle down, get his life straightened out, and then find a group of Christians that will accept him again as pastor. Four major faults of the pastor might be adultery, abuse to his wife, neglect, or refusal to support her. If a man beats his wife, then he doesn’t deserve one.

If the pastor is not the guilty party, it is still very difficult to deal with the concerns of the congregation and one’s own troubled soul at the same time. There is shame, humiliation, and the feeling of betrayal. If your congregation will walk with you through the agony and restoration, then stay in the ministry at that church. However, you may need to leave the ministry for a time of healing.

The main thing to remember is that your ministry is not over. Paul wrote, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). God is a God of second chances, mercy, grace, patience, and compassionate. He will not abandon you for any situation (Hebrews 13:5, 6). He will never remove His love from you (Romans 8:31-39), although He will discipline us that we might become better people (Hebrews 12:5-11).

In divorce, rid yourself of the bitterness, fill your heart with prayer, faith and love, and learn from your own mistakes.

Hope this helps, Kyalo.

All the best, and God bless

Dr. Newman

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