When Tragedy Strikes A Pastor…


How evangelicals respond to tragedy in a pastor’s life says a lot about their character and real theology. It also speaks to their maturity and wisdom as a church or religious body. Sadly, I experienced and have heard many epic fails in this area.

It is one thing to say that you love your pastor, and quite another to actually act in a loving way towards him or her during a time of personal crisis.

Let’s consider some possible personal crisis situations and potential church responses:

Situation 1:

A pastor’s son or daughter dies suddenly either via suicide or tragic accident.

Response: Rally around the pastor. Extend empathy and food to help them through this season of grief. No hint of blame is even entertained towards the grieved pastor. Respect pastor’s own timetable about returning to the pulpit. Financially support pastor through grief sabbatical.

Situation 2:

A pastor’s spouse gets cancer and dies.

Response: Rally around the pastor. Extend sympathy and food to help him through this season of grief. No blaming. Respect pastor’s own timetable about returning to the pulpit. Financially support pastor during grief sabbatical.

Situation 3:

A pastor’s spouse commits adultery and divorces the pastor.

Response: Immediately remove pastor from the pulpit and convene an ecclesiastical trial to determine pastor’s level of responsibility for his marriage’s demise even knowing without doubt that his spouse is in flagrant adultery. Fire pastor. Treat him just as one would treat a pastor who actually committed adultery as opposed to someone who is a victim of adultery. Encourage him to find another job in the marketplace so that he can heal. Sever financial support.

The first two responses are loving responses.

What do you think the last response is?

I call it wicked.

When church leaders make no distinction between the perpetrator of adultery and the victim–i.e. the faithful spouse, they condemn the innocent–for the faithful spouse is innocent of adultery 100%–and participate with evil. Another way to put is that they stand on the side of injustice.

I know these sort of things happen as I was told repeatedly a version of this would happen in my former denomination. A pastor who became divorced would be removed from the pulpit period. This same standard was not applied to widower pastors in the same denomination.

It is disgusting that this was (or is) the state of things in so-called “biblical” churches and denominations.

Such actions expose that they believe a lie. They believe the divorced pastor is responsible for the demise of his or her marriage even when adultery is clearly at play. It is “The Shared Responsibility Lie.” This is human “wisdom” at work.

God says those marriages are worthy of being ended (see Deut. 22:22, Jer 3:8, Mt 5:32, etc.) and never blames the victim of the adultery.

Not ever.

Not even if he or she is a pastor.