Can a pastor be restored after committing adultery?

Also, people outside the church must speak well of him so that he will not be disgraced and fall into the devil’s trap.

-I Timothy 3:7, NLT

Can a pastor be restored to ministry after committing adultery?

This is my answer to the survey question posed back in 2012 with The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) leaders. The results from their survey of leaders can be found here.

As far as it is possible for an embezzling (former) accountant to rebuild his professional reputation after being caught, it is possible for a pastor to rebuild his after committing adultery.

After all, that is the real question here:

Can a pastor rebuild a reputation after destroying it via committing adultery?

Biblically speaking–see I Timothy 3:7 quoted above–a pastor is not qualified to be a pastor without such a rebuilt reputation. And such a rebuilding effort will take time and a great deal of effort upon the part of a humbled (former) pastor.

And this is not a matter of punishment per se for the cheating pastor but rather an acknowledgement of natural consequences for committing such a serious sin and violation of trust.

An adulterous pastor has generated a bad reputation by his or her bad behavior–namely, lying and committing adultery.

Furthermore, just as I would consider it unwise to rehire an embezzler fresh off of getting caught embezzling, I would consider it unwise to hire or place an adulterous pastor back in ministry immediately after getting caught. 

Such a prohibition is not a matter of lacking in grace towards the adulterous pastor but rather a matter of prudence.

While the reputation of the adulterous pastor may have fallen apart overnight due to the adultery revelations, the rebuilding effort will likely take much time. Reputations can be lost in a moment but take a lifetime–usually–to build (or rebuild).

Can a pastor who committed adultery ever return to ministry?

My Answer: Theoretically, yes.

However, restoration ministry ought only to happen after he or she has met the bibilical requirement of having a good reputation with outsiders. And rebuilding the reputation the cheater destroyed by committing adultery (and lying) cannot take place overnight.