Adultery: Alive and Well in Your Church?

Welcome to the real world that I was not prepared for upon graduating from seminary! Early on in my pastoral career, I was faced with a host of marriage situations including marital infidelity. Consider the following potential scenarios:

  • Robert and Susan entered my office.  Robert looked sheepish. Susan’s mouth was tight and angry. After they sat down, Robert said, “I had an affair with a woman at work that ended a year ago. Susan and I both want to save our marriage, but we’re stuck. Susan doesn’t trust me, and I am tired of always having to talk about it.  I want to make things right with her, but I don’t know how.” 

  • Greg sat silently as Rachel struggled to tell the story. She had become emotionally involved with her best friend’s husband. They weren’t sexually intimate, but he had replaced Greg emotionally in Rachel’s life. Rachel was relieved because everything was out in the open and Greg still wanted to work on the marriage. Greg, though, was reeling from the initial shock and struggling with hurt, anger, self-doubt, and fear.

  • Joe called and asked if he and his wife, Melissa, could meet with me.  He told me that when he was on the road for work he had a series of one night stands. A few months ago Melissa caught him, and he promised to stop. They wanted to keep their marriage going because of their children, but they were fighting all the time—was there hope for their marriage?

It is encouraging that each of these couples is trying to put their marriage back together after it was ruptured by some degree of infidelity. After the initial shock, they are attempting to rebuild their marriage, but it is harder than they expected.

 According to Peggy Vaughan, in her book The Monogamy Myth, 60% of men and 40% of women will engage in some form of an affair. She says that these numbers are conservative. What pastor, friend or counselor has not faced the challenge of walking with a couple through the difficult season of unfaithfulness? Typically, what is true in the broader culture is reflected in the church. We should assume that people who are in our congregations are facing these temptations and be prepared to offer help.

Are you and your spouse struggling to rebuild your marriage after adultery? Don't give up. Are you a pastor, friend or counselor trying to find your way as you seek to help a couple in the midst of unfaithfulness? Whatever you do, don't be shocked and see this as yet one of many opportunities for Christ-centered ministry.

Over the next several days I will highlight some things that have been helpful for couples who have experienced the hard reality of adultery.

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Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.