(Introduction: A few years ago I labored diligently On several occasions to counsel a friend and preaching brother who was having many problems both in his marriage and in his preaching. Though I did not have full knowledge as to his situation, I was determined to help him if I could. Others had simply written him off as a hopeless case. My efforts were not fruitful and in time his family broke up and his effort to preach came to an end. Having moved to another work I lost contact with him. Apparently he was remotely keeping his knowledge of my efforts at hand, because he phoned me one evening several months ago. He brought me up to date on his efforts to stabilize himself emotionally and spiritually. He requested some help as to reading material so that he could study. I suggested among other things, the Guardian of Truth and sent in his name for a subscription. When he read the January 5, 1984 special, “That The Ministry Be Not Blamed,” he phoned expressing his appreciation for the fairness, directness and clarity with which each writer expressed himself. His speaking in this manner way very touching to me because he was a former preacher who had involved himself with another woman. He was a guilty party in a divorce. His pouting out his experiences of agonizing, penitent weeks and months there after resulted in the suggestion that in response to the special a guilty party’s story would be of interest to many. What follows is the response to that suggestion presented for publication just as he wrote it. His message is clear. a preacher does not have to be a worldly minded person to get into trouble. Satan will take advantage of whatever weakness the preacher may have and overthrow him, if possible. More than this though is the illustration that one’s sins result in transgressions that are hard to bear. Like Cain this anonymous writer is saying, “My punishment is greater than I can bear. ” Through the cleansing blood of Christ this once guilty party now hay peace with God and with himself. May we all read what he hay to say, weep with him and learn from his experiences. – Jimmy Tuten, 7911 Country Dr., Mobile, AL 36609)
I am writing this in response to the January 5, 1984 “That The Ministry Be Not Blamed” issue of the Guardian of Truth. This is being written anonymously in order to protect the innocent. It is with a heavy heart and with many profound regrets that I submit this article for publication. It is the hope and prayer of this writer that this article may cause someone somewhere (be he a preacher, or an elder, or whoever) who is contemplating the sin of adultery to be dissuaded from destroying himself.
I appreciate the Guardian of Truth’s willingness to print an article submitted by a former full-time gospel preacher who was overtaken by the sin of adultery. I urge the reader to consider these confessions carefully and prayerfully.
Several months after I took leave of full-time preaching my affair with “the other woman” began. I continued to preach from the pulpit on Sundays while employed in secular work. Therefore, I must accept responsibility for being a church leader who brought reproach of the worst kind on the Lord’s church.
I have repented of my sin. I have begged forgiveness from my wife who had scripturally put me away. She has forgiven me. She is now scripturally married to another man. I wish them well and they both wish me well. I have taken the necessary steps to be reconciled with the brethren who scripturally withdrew from me. God has forgiven me. I have suffered a loss, however, from which I will never recover.
I had never been accused of being a “ladies’ man.” I have never been known as one who indulges in hugging, kissing, or flirting. I was especially careful about my manner towards ladies during my full-time preaching tour. I always took my wife with me to visit one of the ladies. From the pulpit, I was outspoken against hard rock music, movies that glamorized immoral people, miniskirts and other worldly indulgences. No one could have been more outraged than I was at the news of a preacher or other brother who had sinned against his partner.
The Path Of Apostasy
How then could this have happened to me?
(For the purposes of this article I shall refer to my former wife as “Ann” and to the other woman as “Beth.”) My marriage to Ann took place nearly twenty years ago. I was a college drop-out with an employment record that left a little to be desired. I had a psychological disorder that had commenced in early childhood. Ann’s parents strenuously opposed her plans to be married to me; however, she married me over their protests.
During my courtship with Ann I vowed to her that I that I would prove myself as a breadwinner and that I would be a success. As the years unfolded, however, I came to see myself as a dismal failure and a bitter disappointment to Ann who married me over her parent’s objections.
Ever since I came into the Lord’s church I have been enthusiastic about soul-winning. I led Ann herself to Christ several months prior to our marriage. Although I did earnestly desire to serve the Lord and to win souls for him, my decision to enter full-time preaching was at least partly motivated by a strong desire to “succeed.” I felt a great need to win some kind of a victory. I needed to do this for the sake of our marriage and for the sake of my own self-esteem.
My preaching tour turned out to be an exercise in futility. My term at each local church was very short. I did not enjoy a good working relationship with the brethren of any of the churches with which I was associated. When I arrived at my decision to take leave of full-time preaching I felt that Ann was unsympathetic and unsupportive. This was a feeling, not necessarily a fact.
This was where Beth, the other woman, came in. Beth was a divorcee. I viewed Beth as a sincere Christian who had suffered a terrible heartbreak. She needed a friend on whose shoulders she could cry. It seemed only right at the time that I should supply those shoulders.
For several months I would take Ann with me to visit Beth, although Ann did begin to question why I was taking such a profound interest in her. Then I commenced to visit Beth alone. Beth was saying things to me that I wanted to hear. She did not consider me a failure, but a victim of circumstances. I felt rejected by Ann and unconditionally accepted by Beth.
During all those visits it never crossed my mind one time that I could be tempted to enter into an adulterous relationship! I was content to enjoy Beth as a counselor or confidante, someone with whom I could talk out my frustrations, disappointments and aspirations. Beth, however, had other plans for me. She challenged me: “Why do you come to see me so often and without Ann?”
At this moment I made my fatal mistake. The choice before me was: (1) enter into an amorous, extra-marital relationship with Beth, or (2) decline to do so and thereby bring my special friendship with Beth to an end. I could not bring myself to break off my friendship with Beth. I felt at that moment that she was the only person on earth who understood me, who really cared about me, and who could make life bearable for me. (These were feelings, not necessarily facts.)
For several months I would see Beth secretly during the daytime and then go home to Ann in the evening. There was touching between Beth and me, but we refrained from engaging in sexual relations.
Then came the confrontation. Beth and I had to admit to Ann and to our brethren that we were seeing each other in secret. Since we did not admit to having had sexual relations, the brethren took no disciplinary action. We were warned, however, to end our relationship.
Beth made a decision to leave me and to relocate to another part of the country. Just before she actually packed and left town, I made my second fatal mistake. I told her I could not live without her and that I would follow her as soon as I could get my affairs in order. Beth responded favorably.
During these months in which I divided my life between two women, my relationship with God underwent a change. Not only was there a spiritual deterioration, but a theological deterioration as well. I came to blame God for my difficulties. I convinced myself that I was justified in violating my marriage vows. I actually resigned myself to the persuasion that I was hell-bound anyway, so it really did not matter whether I lived my life in harmony with God’s will.
I followed Beth to her new location. For a time we lived in separate quarters. Then, sexual relations took place. Our brethren withdrew from both of us. Several months later, Ann divorced me. That same year, I proposed marriage to Beth and she accepted. My “new” theology allowed for easy marriage-divorce-remarriage.
Shortly after I married Beth, I found myself under more stress than I could handle. I was admitted to a mental hospital. Several weeks after I was admitted, Beth told me in a very calloused and heartless manner that she had no further use for me. She told me that she would make it easy for me to get a speedy divorce. Within the year, I divorced her on the legal grounds of adultery. (Beth had found another man on whose shoulders she could cry.)
During my stay in the mental hospital, I began to pray and to read my Bible as I had never done before in my life. I was the prodigal son who “came to himself” (Luke 15:17) and who was ready to return to the father. I contacted Ann and expressed my desire to be reconciled with her. She ultimately decided against it and accepted a marriage proposal from another man which indeed was her scriptural prerogative.
Consequences of Sin
All of these occurrences transpired several years ago. I try now to live one day at a time and to look ahead. I desire very much to please the Lord so that I may claim Heaven as my eternal home. However, there are remembrances that grieve my heart daily. I remember the wonderful days of courtship with Ann. I remember how desperately Ann tried to save our marriage. I remember how she pleaded with me, with tears, not to leave her. I remember how those beloved babes in Christ, whom I taught and baptized, appealed to me to reconsider my course. My heart will be tormented until the day I die with these remembrances. What a terrible price I am payingl And for what?
Words of Advice
So much for my story. Dear reader, if you are now engaging in sin against your partner, or are contemplating such sin, please consider the testimony of one who has “been there”! Please believe me, you are making a tragic mistake!
I now have a word of advice for one who is considering the work of full-time preaching. Dear brother, if you are being troubled with a psychological disorder, the work of full-time preaching is not for you! Do not expect your brethren to exhibit patience, forebearance or understanding. The preacher who feels that he must be continually concerned about his job security qnd about how he stands in the opinion of his brethren is a preacher who will certainly fail. Many of your brethren have emotional problems of their own. Two minuses do not equal a plus! You are not only likely to fail as a preacher, but you may find yourself very vulnerable to being “conned” by some Jezebel posing as a heartbroken, sweet young thing who needs a shoulder to cry on!
If you are wanting in Bible knowledge, do not offer your services as a full-time preacher with the expectation that you can “learn while doing.” If you are serious about preaching you need to get the benefit of some kind of study program led by knowledgable men. During my brief preaching tour, I frequently found myself going to more knowledgable preachers for better understanding of Bible issues. I should have had that understanding before I ever commenced fulltime preaching!
I obviously cannot pretend to be an authority on the subject of full-time preaching, but I offer the above advice in the hope that some starting preacher will benefit from my mistakes.
The time I spent in the mental hospital and in sessions with mental health professionals has certainly been time well spent. Friends who know me best tell me they are pleased to see the progress I have made. There are some brethren, unfortunately, who are negative towards all mental health professionals. One dear brother several years ago appealed to me: “You don’t need a psychiatrist; you need the Lord! ” The dear brother was right concerning my need for the Lord; however, I believe he was wrong about the other part of his utterance.
If a man’s teeth have cavities, I would recommend a dentist. If a man’s vision has dimmed I would recommend an optometrist. If a man has a psychological disorder he certainly needs the Lord! However, he owes it to himself and to his partner and to everyone else with whom he is involved to consult one who is especially trained to help those in his condition! It is simply not true that all mental health professionals are atheists!
I must concede that the testimony offered in this article concerns an extraordinary case. This should help the reader to realize that there are other leaders of the Lord’s church who can be overtaken by the sin of adultery than the stereotyped flirtacious, hugging-and-kissing “ladies man.”
Some of my preacher friends and other faithful brethren tried earnestly to dissuade me from my self-destructive course. I am grateful to them and for their efforts. I want them to know that their efforts were not in vain.
I have “been there”! Dear brother (or sister), please do not follow the self-destructive road I traveled from which there may be no return!
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 7, pp. 197, 214-215
April 5, 1984