By Joe McKeever
Recently the pastor of a mega-church made headlines by revealing from the pulpit that his wife has entered a one-year rehab program to deal with mental health issues. He quoted doctors as saying it was the worst they had ever seen.
Question: Should the pastor have done this?
Second question: When (if ever) should a pastor reveal to the church that his wife is going through a severe problem?
First: Yes, Pastor Ron Carpenter did the right thing in telling his World Outreach Center of his wife's condition and hospitalization. As a result of her condition, people will not be seeing her in church for the next year or even longer. They need to know why. Also, the pastor and his family will be needing prayer like never before.
My guess is the pastor's wife might not appreciate his going public with her problems right now. But after she is well, after she returns to church and is deluged with love and affection, she will feel differently.
Second: Rarely should a pastor go public with his wife's problems.
Only if her condition is so severe that his ministry is in jeopardy and this is the only recourse other than resigning should he take this unusual step.
Otherwise, he should never talk about anything she is dealing with in any open forum without her approval and complete endorsement.
Earlier today, I spent nearly an hour on the phone with a pastor who had planned to resign his church this evening due to his wife's situation. She has battled an addiction to prescription drugs for years by her own admission and now that this seems to be in the past, other complicating factors are threatening her mental health and their marriage. They're getting counseling, but she is not committed to the marriage and may be divorcing him.
Should he tell the church this? No. Nothing can be gained from telling the church of his wife's situation.
What he should do is bring a few key individuals in the church—the most mature and godly, the most trustworthy--into his confidence and ask their counsel.
He cannot keep his wife from leaving him. But God may do something not in their plans as a result of the prayers of those leaders.
Pray for your ministers, my friends.
Joe McKeever is retired missions director for the New Orleans Baptist Association. Before that Mr. McKeever pastored churches in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and North Carolina