I know it sounds weird, but ministry can be a very sensual experience. Whether you are a pastor, elder, choir member or any other church volunteer, you can find yourself working very closely with the opposite sex. And much of the time you can be dealing with people who are emotionally hurting and desirous for caring human contact. There is frequently touching, hugging, smiling, and open hearts sharing. These people will often look up to you, admire you, respect you and think you are generally quite wonderful. Add to that the fact that people generally come to church always looking their very best and on their very best behavior, and you create an environment ripe for sexual temptation. It's like a keg of gunpowder just waiting for a spark. Sadly, most Christian workers walk into this powder keg with little to no awareness of the danger that is lurking. This is why so many Christian leaders - including pastors - are falling into sexual sin.
We have to smarter than we have been. While we don't need to walk about in a continual state of fear and paranoia, we do need to constantly remind ourselves of the danger that exists.
I am a pilot. As pilots, we are constantly rehearsing in our minds, "What could possibly go wrong? What if I lost an engine, where would I land? What would I do if my instruments stopped working? What if I lost all communication? What if there was a fire on board?" Many of us even go for annual or biannual training in simulators where they intentionally cause systems to fail, testing our readiness for an actual emergency. We learn to be on our guard.
Christian workers, too, need to be on their guards against sexual temptation and sin. Here are some practical suggestions:
1) First, we have to acknowledge the potential danger. Do your leadership training sessions address sexual temptations? If not, your leadership training is like flight training that never talks about emergency landings.
2) Avoid intimate ministry with members of the opposite sex. If that person does not have the same plumbing you do, you have no business listening to their needs, holding their hands and praying with them or opening and sharing your heart with them.
3) Encourage female mentoring in your church. I mention female mentoring specifically since it is usually women who come into the church with emotional needs. In my opinion, male pastors and workers need to stop counseling women! Meet with them once or twice if you must, but you should be referring them to another woman in the church ASAP! But be ready for resistance among the women in your church. You may very well discover the frustrating fact that many hurting women don't want to be mentored by another woman and many strong women don't want to mentor a needy, weak one. However, we must insist on it.
4) Christian workers should share their sexual temptations with someone (of the same sex) that they can trust - especially men. The one thing sexual sin needs to hold you in its grasp is secrecy. The moment you break the secrecy, the stranglehold begins to lift. If, as a man, you have not shared any of your sexual temptations with another brother in Christ, you are just asking for trouble. And I know this is going to sound really strange, perhaps even a bit cruel, but beware the trap of the unattractive woman! I never cease to be amazed at how many pastors commit adultery with, well... not-so-beautiful women. But I believe I have come to understand why. First, these women tend to be very needy for the affections of any man and second, it is really difficult to admit that one feels tempted by an unattractive woman. If it is a gorgeous woman, that's easy to confess. Chances are the other men around her are feeling the same temptations. But an unattractive woman - who wants to admit to that? There is almost an embarrassment to that confession. But refuse to talk out your temptations and Satan smiles as you begin to fall.
5) Finally - and I direct this specifically to the wives of pastors - be sure you are meeting the sexual needs of your husband! You want to help your husband in his ministry? Have sex with him. You want to be a true encourager in the Kingdom of God? Have sex with him. You want to do the only thing you can do to make sure your husband stays in a place of safety? Have sex with him! And often!! Remember, he lives in a world where emotional intimacy is strong, women always look their best, and many of them are desperate for the attention of a caring man. Keep reminding your husband that he doesn't need to go to anyone but you to meet his sexual needs.
We have to be smarter than we have been. Every year we keep losing thousands of the most effective and powerful men the Kingdom of God has to offer. The lasting effect for most of them is that they will never, ever minister again. Let's be on our guard. Let's be honest and open with each other. And let's quit being so unbelievably naive.
Mark Gungor is one of the most sought-after speakers on marriage and family in the country. Each year thousands of couples attend his Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage® seminars. His take on marriage issues is refreshingly free of both churchy and psychological lingo. Mark is pastor of Celebration Church in Green Bay, WI. He speaks for churches, civic events, and business meetings and is even a speaker for the US Army. Mark has been featured on national broadcasts such as Focus on the Family and ABC News. His daily radio program is heard on over 250 radio stations nationwide.