Thursday, September 11, 2008

Divorced Men CAN Serve as Pastors, Elders and Deacons

(This post is based on the exegesis that has gone on in previous posts. Reading those might help in completely understanding this one. There might be one more post on this subject in the near future, dealing with some specific situations and issues.)

What About Ministry?

The genesis of this tome was a discussion that took place with my church leaders a couple of months ago. It is one I have had for several years in several churches. Should divorced men serve as deacons? In my last association, several of the pastors were divorced and it was a hot topic there – can divorced men be pastors?


I should make it clear that this is not some sort of personal defense or justification. I just celebrated my thirtieth wedding anniversary to the “wife of my youth” I am not arguing for myself, but for those whom I feel have been excluded from Christian service within the church without biblical justification.


The question of whether divorced men can serve as deacons, elders, or pastors is based almost exclusively on one small phrase that appears twice in 1 Timothy 3 and once in Titus 1. In verse 2, overseers (elders, pastors) were required to be “the husband of one wife.” In verse 12, the same phrase is set as a requirement for being a deacon. Titus 1:6 repeats the requirement for elders. What does that phrase mean? Many have assumed that it is a blanket prohibition of divorced men serving in church leadership positions. Others have explained it as a condemnation of polygamy. But all would agree that the proper interpretation of this passage is determinative on this issue. Figure out what that passage means and you have answered this question.


A word of warning is appropriate here. To compromise the Word of God is a serious sin. In Revelation 2, Jesus rebuked both the Pergamum and Thyatira churches for tolerating evil and false doctrine. If God’s Word prohibits divorced men from serving as deacons, we should not ignore that prohibition. However, we sometimes forget that there is another side to this warning. In 1 Corinthians 4:6, Paul warned the people not to “go beyond what is written.” In Revelation 22:18-19, John gives this warning about the prophecies he has written. “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.” Note that severe penalties attach to either adding to or taking away from the words of the prophecy. It seems clear that the warning is specific to Revelation, but the principle is instructive for us.


It would be deeply damaging to the Body of Christ to allow divorced men to serve in leadership positions if the Scriptures prohibit it. But it would be just as serious a sin to prevent men from serving without biblical warrant. It is not acceptable to either take away from the teachings of scripture or to add to them.


I would suggest that the burden of proof is on those who would restrict the divorced from serving. If any redeemed person is eliminated from positions of service, it must be on the strongest of biblical evidence. If it cannot be clearly proven that Paul had divorce in mind when he set this standard, then divorced men should not be restricted from service. Advocates of the prohibition must clearly prove their point.


One more thing; it seems that since the same prohibition is directed at deacons and overseers, there should be no distinction between these positions in regards to divorce. If divorced men are allowed to serve as deacons, they are also eligible for the role of elder or pastor. There is no difference, on this point, between the requirements. Either divorced men can serve in all of these roles, or none of them.


There are other issues of scripture that we will deal with, but the crux of the issue is the phrase mentioned above. We will look at that phrase in depth. It is clear that three little words that Paul used make all the difference in this debate.

Husband of One Wife

There have been two majority opinions on the meaning of this verse. First, many commentators, at one time most, saw this as an absolute prohibition of divorced men serving in ministry positions at churches. Since Jesus prohibited divorce and said that remarriage was adultery, it seemed pretty clear. A divorced and remarried man is seen in the eyes of God as an adulterer and has two wives; the one he is currently married to and the one he divorced. If this interpretation is correct, the discussion is over.


There are a couple of major variations within this group. Some prohibit all divorcees from serving. Others only restrict those whose divorce happened after their conversion. How, they would say, can we hold someone accountable for their sins before they met the Savior? If the divorce occurred before salvation, they do not restrict that person from service.


The second major view holds this passage as a condemnation of polygamy, not divorce. This seems likely from the English phrasing. “Husband of one wife” seems to naturally stand in opposition to “husband of more than one wife.” Cased closed, right?


But there are glaring problems with this view. First, it is generally agreed that while polygamy was at times prevalent in Jewish society, it was not commonly practiced in the Roman Empire. If this had been written to Jewish congregations, the argument would hold more weight. But if polygamy was not a huge problem in Roman culture, it seems unlikely that Paul was focusing on it in a letter to establish leadership parameters for a Gentile church.


Polygamy, by definition, means a husband has more than one wife. Polyandry – a woman with multiple husbands – has not been practiced widely in any culture. It was certainly not a practice in either Jewish or Roman cultures. But in 1 Timothy 5:9, Paul reversed the requirement for deacons and elders and applied it to women who were going on the list of widows who were to be supported by the church. (Actually, there are various suggestions about this list, but what the list was for is not germane to the point.) 1 Timothy 5:9 requires that these women have been “the wife of one husband.” The phrase is identical to the ones we are studying except that the genders are reversed. So, in an identical construction to ours, it is absolutely clear that polygamy cannot be in view. If “wife of one husband” does not reference polygamy, then “husband of one wife” probably does not either.

Exegesis

It is my contention that neither divorce nor polygamy is the primary focus of this passage. I believe that Paul is requiring that a man must demonstrate himself as a faithful and devoted husband before he is ready to lead God’s church.


The translation “husband of one wife” may not be the best translation of the passage. The Greek phrase in 1 Timothy 3:2, μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα (mias gunaikos andra), could be literally translated “one-woman man” or “a man of one woman.” The last word, man, appears in a slightly different form in each of the three passages, but the meaning is the same. An overseer or elder, and a deacon, are to demonstrate themselves to the church as a “one-woman man.”


That accurate translation seems to almost explain itself. What is in view here is the man’s heart. It involves much more than just being sexually faithful to his wife. A one-woman man is faithful in body, yes, but also in soul and spirit. He is devoted to his wife. His relationship with his wife demonstrates that he knows how to be a servant leader. If he is not faithful and devoted to his wife, it is unlikely he will be faithful and devoted to his church duties.


This is a much higher burden than some other interpretations require. Since we do not have polygamy (at least officially) in our nation, it would be an empty requirement if that meaning is accepted. If the command is simply a prohibition that a man never has been divorced, all that is required is that a man has avoided divorce. But this command is more significant than that. I have known men who have never been divorced and have never cheated on their wives, but show little devotion to their wives. They may be technically “the husband of one wife” but cannot by any means be called a “one-woman man.”


It is my belief that this kind of character is what is in view in this command. If Paul had wanted to say that a man who had ever been divorced was not qualified to serve as an elder or deacon, there are ways he could have said that in Greek. Paul spoke clearly and it is clear what he meant in this passage. He was saying that men who lead the church should be men who have demonstrated their abilities to lead their homes and demonstrate faithful servant leadership to their wives.

Conclusion

The meaning of Paul’s phrase here will always be open to discussion and interpretation. It seems highly likely he was not speaking of polygamy. Since polygamy was not a common practice in Roman culture, and since the same construction is reversed as a requirement for a woman, polygamy is almost certainly not the primary focus. Certainly, polygamy would be inappropriate for church leaders, but it is not the chief intent of this verse.
In reality, those who use this as a prohibition of divorce are also assuming the passage refers to a form of polygamy. They believe that the first marriage was not ended and so, by the second marriage, the man has become a kind of polygamist, married in God’s eyes to both his former wife and his current one.


My quarrel with this view is two-fold. First of all, I think it makes a blanket generalization about the teachings of Jesus on divorce that is, in many cases, not warranted. A man who is divorced on biblical grounds is freed from his marriage covenant and is free to remarry. When he remarries, he is the husband of one wife and one wife only – his new wife. The former marriage is over. We will examine this in more detail later.


My second problem with this view is that if Paul was intending to prohibit divorced men from serving as deacons or elders, there are ways he could have stated that more plainly. “An overseer must never have divorced a wife and remarried.” He could have given words that would clearly and unequivocally say what he meant. Paul was never one for veiling his words. He said what he meant. If he had meant divorce here, he would have said it.


The obvious meaning of the phrase is a reference to fidelity and commitment. A husband must demonstrate to all that he knows what it is to be a servant leader by being a good husband who loves his wife and devotes himself to her. Context, linguistics and logic all seem to support this viewpoint.


It is an unwarranted stretch to use this phrase as a blanket condemnation of divorced men as serving as deacons, elders, pastors, or in other leadership positions. There is no biblical grounds on which to deny all divorced people from serving. To do so, in my mind, is to violate the clear teachings of Scriptures.

Divorce and Remarriage



God’s intent was that a marriage would last until one of the parties died. Sin’s effect on human behavior and relationships shattered the ideal. Permanent and fulfilling marriage is still possible if a couple is well-matched and if they rely on the power of God to see them through. But a marriage depends on both parties fulfilling their vows, and that sometimes does not happen. And so, divorce has become an unfortunate reality in this world. Jesus told his disciples that God permitted it because of the sin, the “hardness” of human hearts.


In all of the discussions on divorce in scripture, there is not a single prohibition against remarriage when a divorce is granted on approved grounds. Deuteronomy prohibited a man from remarrying a woman after he had remarried another wife. But there was no restriction on remarriage in general. Jesus restricted remarriage except when the divorce was because of adultery. But the implication was that when there were biblical grounds, remarriage was not adulterous and was acceptable. Paul set forth a new solution for women whose husbands were cruel or abusive of their authority. They could separate (not divorce) and live single or return to their husbands. The assumption is that remarriage is the intended result of divorce. Paul clarifies in 1 Corinthians 7 that when believers remarry, they should remarry only other believers. Remarriage was assumed, but limited to those who shared faith in Christ.


We previously looked at the certificate of divorce that was historically granted in Hebrew culture. It sent a woman away to remarry whomever she wishes. That concept – that remarriage was assumed when a divorce too place – was never corrected in any of the prophets who called Israel to repentance for sin. Remarriage after divorce was widely practiced and would have certainly been confronted if it was offensive to God.


The necessary conclusion is that if a divorce is granted on approved grounds, the divorcee has the right to remarry. A biblically acceptable divorce ends the marriage just as death does. God’s intent and purpose was to have marriages end one way – death. But He graciously allowed marriages to end by divorce, if the circumstances were right and certain conditions were met.


So, if a man has been divorced on biblical grounds (as I have defined it; adultery by his spouse (as Jesus taught) or abandonment by an unbelieving spouse (as Paul added), he is free to remarry. His first marriage is over in the eyes of God; the marriage covenant having been broken by the sinful actions of another. When he remarries, he is the husband of one wife and one wife only. So, even if the prohibitionist position on the “husband of one wife” phrase is correct, he is still qualified to serve.

New Creatures in Christ?

I have never understood how someone could believe 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come,” and still advocate eliminating people who were divorced prior to salvation from service. Do not misunderstand. I am not accusing my opponents on this issue of willfully denying scripture. I just believe that their position on divorce is in conflict with this verse.


When a man comes to Christ, he becomes a new creature. His sins are washed away and God sets out to conform him to the image of Christ. Yet, some would restrict that man from serving as a church leader because of something that happened before he was saved. How can we hold a man accountable for those things which took place prior to his conversion? A redeemed man held liable for what he did before his redemption? That is inimical to our concept of transformational grace.


There is no other sin we do that with. Should we only allow those who remained virgins until their wedding night to be church leaders? Those few of us who meet that standard might find ourselves worn out with leadership duties. When an ex-con comes to Christ, we rejoice in his growth and have no compunction when he demonstrates transformation to put him in leadership positions. The divorced? That is a different matter. Regardless of the time or circumstances of the divorce, we ask them to sit on the sidelines and stay there.


But even if the divorce happened after salvation, it seems contrary to the ways of Christ to make that a permanent death mark for service. Mark had a gross ministry failure (not moral, but serious nonetheless) that caused Paul not to want to work with him in Acts 15. But later, he lavishes praise on Mark’s service for the gospel. He was restored. David fell and was restored. Peter denied Christ then proclaimed him boldly. God specializes in taking failures and guiding them to success.


Again, why would we distinguish divorce from other sins and declared it unredeemable? In fact, even if someone is divorced on biblical grounds (and is therefore not guilty of sin), we eliminate that person from service? A person who is the victim of another’s sin is held liable for that sin in perpetuity? Can anyone else see the logic in that? I cannot.


It seems to me to be contrary to the whole thrust of the gospel to tell people that a sin that happened in the past will forever eliminate them from service in the church.

What about Our Testimony?

One of the common arguments used to eliminate divorced men from leadership positions is the need to “uphold standards” in the church. We need to uphold the highest standards of godly behavior in the church and our leaders need to serve as examples to others. What kind of example does it set if we allow divorced men to lead? Does not that tacitly endorse divorce?


If a pastor had premarital sex 25 years ago, and you make him a pastor today, does that promote premarital sex? One of the best deacons I ever had was the town drunk before God got hold of him. Did allowing him to be a deacon mean that we were promoting drunkenness? Does a redeemed drug dealer advocate drug dealing with his service to the church?. The idea that divorced men in leadership positions advocates divorce does not make sense to me. What they do is demonstrate that God can rebuild a broken life. What better testimony is there than that?

If a man in the middle of a divorce were serving, that would be one thing. If we failed to discipline a man who divorced his wife for unbiblical reasons, that would be a bad testimony. But a man who was divorced several years ago, has remarried, and is an exemplary husband and father; there is no shame in that.


What is the church? Is it the society of the spiritually superior? Is it the domain of those who have never failed or done anything wrong? No! The church is the gathering of the redeemed; sinners whose lives were broken by sin and put back together by the grace of God. We are the cleansed, not the unsullied.


What better testimony could there be than a man whose life was shattered by sin, who walked through the brokenness of divorce, and whose life has been redeemed and put back into order by Christ? Does he not tell the sin-broken people who come into a church that there is power in the blood?


Paul told Timothy that he was “the worst of sinners.” But he said that God had granted him grace so that he might display “his unlimited patience” to others. Paul saw himself not as a superior, but as a trophy of God’s grace. At the risk of offending, those who advocate that we must uphold standards by not allowing those divorced in the past to serve are in danger of being more like the Pharisee than the publican whom Jesus approved. We are broken people, rebuilt by Jesus Christ.


So, am I saying that it doesn’t matter how leaders live? To the contrary, I think church leaders should be people of the highest character and spiritual passion. Our lives should be examples of godly behavior. What I am saying is that what matters to God is what we ARE, not what we once were. Leadership is based on character and reputation. God specializes in taking the depraved and infusing his righteousness into them, transforming them to be like Christ. It is maturity in the process of sanctification that matters.


If the church is a “Society of Superior Saints” then by all mean, eliminate from service those who have made mistakes in the past. If the church is a hospital for sinners, where people come to find the redemption and remission of sins and have their lives rebuilt by Christ, then we cannot hold peoples’ pasts against them. We cannot eliminate people from service on the basis of who they were ten or twenty years ago. We promote to leadership in the church on the basis of who we have become – our present character and reputation in the church.


My experience tells me that divorced men and women can become shiny testimonies of the life-changing power of Christ.

Conclusion

Leadership in the church is based on character and Christlikeness. It is incompatible with that to eliminate someone from service because they were divorced in years gone by. If someone is currently going through a divorce, or has been recently divorced, that person should not serve. Even if I am the “innocent” party in a divorce, I must take responsibility for my failings in the marriage that contributed to that divorce. Divorce seldom is totally the fault of one person, even if only one breaks the covenant. I need to time to heal and rebuild my life. But a man who has been divorced and remarried, who has rebuilt a new life and is genuinely the “husband of one wife” and who has demonstrated that over time, is biblically qualified to serve in leadership roles. He is a great testimony of the life-changing power of our Savior.


There is no biblical basis on which a general prohibition against divorce men serving as church leaders can be made. It is, to me, an act of “adding to what is written” to do so. Those who want to follow Christ and His Word, and not cultural traditions would do well to exclude only those the Bible excludes.

16 comments:

David Rogers said...

Dave,

Once again, a great example of insightful, balanced, and grace-filled exegesis.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I think your collected articles would make a great booklet for anyone mulling over these questions.

Melanie W said...

Dave - This has been an issue that has long bothered me and I appreciate your careful attention to it. I have a question for someone out there much smarter than me. I once heard a pastor say that it was likely that Paul was either separated or divorced from his wife. Evidently, according to this pastor, Paul must have been married at some time because marriage was a requirement to be a Sadducee. Yet, we never hear anything about her and Paul tends to talk like a single guy. This guy made the suggestion that maybe Mrs. Saul of Tarsus didn't particurly appreciate her husband's dramatic conversion story and so vamoosed when he became Paul the disciple of Christ. Have you ever heard anything that would support the validity of this?

Melanie Warren

Dave Miller said...

I have heard the same hypothesis. I have not researched it. If, in fact, a man had to be married to be a Pharisee, what happened to Saul's wife?

But, hypotheses are are just that.

I do not know:

1) If, in fact, someone had to be married to be a Pharisee.

2) If they ever made exceptions.

3) What happened to Paul's wife, if all that is true.

He states clearly that he was single.

Widower?
Divorced?

We will probably have to wait until heaven for these answers.

Jeremy, Lisa, and Madeleine said...

Thank you so much for your insight into this. I am a man who is divorced. Actually I have been divorced twice. Once after only about 4 months of marriage when I was 19 and the second time 10 years ago after 2 1/2 years of marriage. I am 37 years old now. I have been married to my wife now for 9 years and we are extremely happy and growing in the Lord. I have known/felt for sometime that I was called by God to pastor, but because of the big "D" I just couldnt make myself beleive that was possible. I have struggled with this for years. I know both of my divorces happend before I was truly saved. Oh, I realized they were wrong at the time, but didnt care at all. I was more worried about what I wanted to do than what God's Word said.

Since my wife and I have been married I was truly born again. With that came an undeniable passion and desire to preach God's Word and sheppard a congregation. I now call the divorce exactly what it was, sin. But no more of a sin than gossip, slander, backbiting, gluttony, etc.

I am now a changed man there is no doubt in my life. But I have struggled with this "call" and how I would deal with it. I am a member of a Southern Baptist Church who will not ordain divorced men as deacons, pastors, etc. About a year ago I submitted to God's call on my life and with a big gulp have started walking through doors that are opening in front of me to pursue this. I would NEVER advocate divorce for anyone and have not in the times I have had to counsil someone who is thinking about it. I know the destruction and devestation that comes from that choice all to well.

There are currently two churches looking at me right now for a bi-vocational pastorate job and to my knowledge neither knows of the divorces. If we get to the point of "sit down" talks of course I will be forthright with my past. I have no intention of hiding it from anyone. I just hope I can explain it as well as you have here.

Thank you for posting this. It really helps me in my walk and the direction that I know the Lord is leading me. For so many years I beleived the lie that I am damaged goods and of no use to the Lord, intstead of "I am a new creation". Praise the Lord!

In Christ Alone,
Jeremy

Dave Miller said...

That is the tragedy of the legalistic view of divorce - the way people like you have felt.

I pray God will guide you to your place of service and use you greatly there.

Anonymous said...

I would love clarity on a couple of your statements please, as this is something I am wrestling with.
This is what I am hearing, true or false?
1. A divorced man may become a pastor only if he was divorced pre-conversion.
2. The husband of on wife, is not referring to polygamy.
3. An innocent man (non-adulterer) in a divorce may serve after a period of time.
4. Men who lead their homes and are faithful to their wives are eligible for pastor/elder/deacon roles. If a "saved" man commits adultery and his wife divorces him, he may not serve in this capacity.
5. A man who demonstrates faithful servant ship to his wife would not commit adultery, thus the issue of him not being able to serve would not be raised.
6. People use David as an example of a fallen man who was restored, but was David a priest from the line of Levi (OT)? He was a king. Did he teach in the temple? Whereas Paul, who is also used as and example of a fallen man restored, pastored churches (NT) was restored after re-birth in Christ. David sinned as a Jew against the Law, Paul sinned before becoming a new creation. David was not a priest.

Thank you for your time, I am anxious for your response.

Dave Miller said...

1. A divorced man may become a pastor only if he was divorced pre-conversion.

That is not precisely what I am saying. I do not think it is righteous to prohibit a man from service in the church because of a divorce that happened pre-conversion.

I also do not think that a man should be prohibited from service if he is the innocent party in a divorce, if his wife left him though he did not want the divorce.

Any divorce would be evidence of a failure of some sort, so I question whether a man going throug a divorce should continue to serve. However, as time passes and God rebuilds the man's life, I do not think he should be prohibited.

2. The husband of on wife, is not referring to polygamy.

Polygamy was not widely practiced in the Roman world, from what I have seen. So, the primary reference in this passage is probably not toward polygamy.

Polygamy is certainly a violation of the "husband of one wife" passage, but there seems to be more to it than that.

3. An innocent man (non-adulterer) in a divorce may serve after a period of time.

yes. I believe that is the biblical teaching.

4. Men who lead their homes and are faithful to their wives are eligible for pastor/elder/deacon roles. If a "saved" man commits adultery and his wife divorces him, he may not serve in this capacity.

I think that is pretty much true. Is it possible that God would forgive and rebuild a man's life in such a way that he was ready to serve?

It seems that a man who commits adultery and leaves his wife for another would be in an ongoing state of adultery.

I'm still thinking this one through a little.

5. A man who demonstrates faithful servant-ship to his wife would not commit adultery, thus the issue of him not being able to serve would not be raised.

i'm not sure exactly what the question is here, but i think I agree with what you said.

6. People use David as an example of a fallen man who was restored, but was David a priest from the line of Levi (OT)? He was a king. Did he teach in the temple? Whereas Paul, who is also used as and example of a fallen man restored, pastored churches (NT) was restored after re-birth in Christ. David sinned as a Jew against the Law, Paul sinned before becoming a new creation. David was not a priest.

David was not a priest. But, I do not see a correlation between the OT priest and the NT pastor. in the NT, we are ALL priests, "a kingdom of priests."

Unfortunately (or fortunately perhaps) there is no example in the NT of a church leader who has fallen into immorality or divorce, so we build our opinions based on principles.

Feel free to ask any more questions.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for answering and discussing some of my questions!

I believe my biggest questions were answered, however, I still struggle with people using David and Paul in the same sentence when referring to if divorced men may serve as pastor, because in my mind it is two different topics: grace and new creation in Christ.

I totally understand the renewing and re-birth in Christ. I have experienced His grace and love firsthand. I understand David sinned, repented and was forgiven. I totally get Paul's conversion, as mine was similar.

Here is a question for you:
There is a local pastor in our area who has a 23 year old son. He has been married for 21 years. I do believe God is using this man to reach many people, as he is open to using his own life as an example of God's great forgiveness. Do you believe that he should be pastoring a church if he bore his son out of wedlock AFTER he gave his life to Christ? This seems to me to be like our previous discussions of #4 and 5.

I am struggling with this, as I know God is using this man in a great capacity. I just wonder if it is going against the Bible and what Paul demanded. My interpretation is that God wants the most excellent of men to be priests and elders. He wants us to strive for holiness, and as we are to respect those in our authority, those in the position of church leadership are to have very high standards.

I know we are all sinners, and pastors are not exempt. This is another thought... if a man gave his life to Christ as a 19 year old, then at 25 developed an addiction to alcohol and was abusive to his wife, it would be a great sin he needed to struggle through. Lets say he conquered the addiction, then wanted to become a pastor. Would he make a good pastor? Would he always have a weakness in spirit toward alcohol?

In the same area where Paul discusses that an overseerer must be the husband of but one wife, it also says the overseer must not be given to drunkenness. My question is pre or post conversion. I do believe that after conversion that same man would be able to put aside all alcoholic tendencies as he is a new creation. However, if he was an a Christian and fell into that deep sin, then was cured, I guess I do not believe he should consider himself eligible for pastorhood.

So - is the sin of divorce greater than the sin of drunkenness?

Or is it a pre conversion / post conversion explanation?

Thanks so much for your thoughts on this! I offer these qusestions to you respectfully,

-Jill

Dave Miller said...

The situation you described is difficult. I will give you a general guideline of my belief, but it is hard to apply it to specific situations.

I believe that leadership in the church is based on who you are, more specifically, who you have become in Christ. What you were, or what you did in the past is not significant.

That's what happens when you start trying to make strict rules about these things.

Honestly, the child out-of-wedlock is the fruit. The root is the sin of immorality. Do we ask pastors whether they were virgins until marriage? Why treat one man who was immoral before marriage differently than another, just because one had a baby and the other didn't.

That is how difficult these issues become. Really hard.

I believe, in general, that it is who you ARE, not who you WERE that is the key.

On the other hand, someone with a difficult past is always going to have credibility problems on certain issues.

As to Paul and David, it is obvious that they are two different situations. I think they are linked because they are the only leaders of God's people with a difficult past.

Bradley said...

I am in ministry in many area's. My first marriage my wife committed adultery 3 times. My second marriage was a complete mistake. It lasted 4 months. My wife left, and that's it. My life has been a long struggle with many health, and emotional issues. Since my complete surrender to Christ in 2004 God has turned it all into testimony, and many instances to helping people in wrecks,a witness to suicide,many talks with others, much service to communities, and LOTS of writings,devotions and more(all that I do not boast of. It was done by Our Lord that works through me.) After devoting my life to Him I get concrete guidance,and direction from Him. My obsession IS Christ, My Love for serving Him, and my search for the lost will not be stopped. This internal dedication is my main passion on life. He says "follow me" at all costs, Serve me, trust me, and live for me." Using my past mistakes and all I learn NOW to win others for the cause of Christ Jesus is my primary objective.I want to continue my writings. I also feel missionary work in my heart. And as for preaching...I feel a strong possibility. I will do all Our Lord Jesus ask's of me.(or at least try my hardest!) My advice to all questioning these matters... Follow Jesus! HE will lead you to the answer. Serve,Love and Give.If it's from the heart..you will know!Jesus will not ever lead us astray.As for my past.."its dead". As for the God I trust and will follow,serve,preach,cook,clean,write,paint,draw,play drums,guitar or whatever HE asks...He is ALIVE! & I will do my best to please Him at His requests. And if He be for me...than who be against me? My prayer for all questioning these FEW debatable words...Seek Him for the answer. Not ANY publication. If you are wanting or feel the desire to serve by preaching...YOU will know within your heart the true sound of HIS voice and approval. My heart tells me the BIG concern is to FULFILL OUR MINISTRY. Leave the past to satan. and remind him of his future. May peace be with you, and Our Lord Jesus guide you all in this decision. Remember to just lay this at the foot of Christ. He will never lead you in the wrong direction. Trust in Him (not I nor any "blog" ) Love Him, Trust Him, and may He bless you, and answer your question in His will and time.

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arthur said...

I thank God for your article, even though it is over two years old, it speaks to an aching heart.

About fifteen years ago my my first husband and I divorced. Neither of us had a relationship with Christ nor did we desire a relationship. We both came from divorced families, my parents had five divorces between them and his had one.

I say that to say this. I remarried almost 13 years ago. My husband and I are truly devoted to each other and God's grace has seen us through some tough times. God has brought us to a wonderful place and I believe is blessing us for our faithfulness to our vows before God.

The situation that has arisen at our church is this: Our children's minister has resigned and I would love to apply for the position. I believe God has gifted me in this particular area and have more than enough qualifications. Two years ago I was asked by our pastor to submit a resume for the position and did. He led me to believe that I would be a very likely candidate and knew that I had been divorced. Right before going to committee he called and let me know that he would not support my nomination if the board questioned my divorce. I was crushed and withdrew the resume. I did not want to embarrass our church or cause friction, so I pulled back.

Again, I have the opportunity to try. I would love this job, I believe God has still placed it on my heart and I have a passion for sharing Christ with children...well with anyone.
Should I not be allowed to serve in this capacity because I am a divorced woman?

I have read your posts and believe that I am a new creation as well as a fogiven sinner.Am I wrong to want to serve Christ in this manner? I am truly afraid of being told I am a second class christian but feel I should try and see it through this time...I know God can lead his people but am I wrong to ask them to tackle this situation?

Jeanni Meade

Dave Miller said...

Jeanni,

I don't know the circumstances of your divorce, but if you read my article you know that I believe that a divorce years ago should not eliminate you from service. However, many churches and people do not agree - it will always be a problem.

If you are going to pursue ministry in a church, you need a sense of God's call and a willingness to endure criticism and opposition to continue serving God.

If you believe God has called you, do it and don't withdraw your resignation. On the other hand, if the church does not accept you, keep serving Him with joy. I think hearts are changing on this one.

Thank you for commenting.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave
as i sit here and write this, tears are making it difficlut to read what i am typing. i have been struggling with this since i got divorced over 5 years ago. whose fault was it? the truth would be both parties. i came out of a physically abusive marraige where my wife used to physically assault me regularly, even bursting my eardrum because she hit me so hard. i was attacked with knives, locked in our garage and out of the house many times etc. etc.there was unfaithfullness from both our sides and not for one minute am i excusing my behaviour in any way, i never should've done what i did. maybe i did it to "get back "at her because i could never retaliate physically, being brought up in a home where my mother and i were both physically abused, i vowed i would never do that.we tried everything to stay together but she was eventually diagnosed with a personality disorder and would need to be on medication for the rest of her life. something i struggled to accept and something she never did. i eventually filed for divorce after what i call the "last straw" of physical abuse. we were both very invlolved in leadership in our church which made this all the more difficult. i submitted myself to the leadership of my church and started a 2 year journey of restoration and healing. i made a decision not to date for 2 years after the divorce to make sure that i had dealt with all the issues that needed to be dealt with. she left the church and to this day i still dont know where or if she is still following Christ. at the end of the 2 years, i met an amazing woman in our church who knew about the past but yet accepted me unconditionally. we obviously had to work through some of the challenges of me being married before, but i am so happy to say that we have been blissfully married for over 2 years and are expecting our first child. Praise God. the challenge i find now is that all i have ever wanted to do was to be a pastor serving a church. i went to bible college, got my degree, was a youth pastor and have always been very involved in the life of our local church. during my first marraige and after the divorce though, i disqualified "myself" and due to hurt unforgiveness etc i pushed all those desires away but i am at a place now where i cannot deny what i am feeling inside. i sense God so strongly tugging at my heart again and that desire that i used to have is so strong, it hurts. i will be speaking to our leadership about what i beleive God has called me to and only trust that they would not only be able to apply the truth as you explained it but more importantly, hear what God thinks and what He wants, not add or take away, as you so wisely said.
i actually have no idea why i wrote this post, i have no idea who you are, this is most probably my first post, i just googled divorce and came across many many weird and judgmental sites but yours was the first to be so balanced, grace filled and Word based. thank you for your words, many might not post their responses or feelings but i know many feel the same as i do. thank you for taking the time to read this. regardless of the outcome of my meeting with our leadership, i will still serve God wholeheartedly and in whatever way i can and if or when my desires are fulfilled i know that God's will will.
kind regards
anon.

Dave Miller said...

Dear Anon,

I cannot imagine the pain you have been through. I especially appreciate the fact that you are not excusing your own sin or justifying it, but that you faced up to it.

What grieves me about the response of the church in general to situations like yours is that we seem, so often, to add pain instead of helping those who are hurting.

Thank you for sharing.

Joey Boucher said...

AWSOME AWSOME AWSOME.I agree totally.This is Joey Boucher.Future Disciple maker.I believe strongly on what you have said.In the end,Jesus has redeemed me by His blood.I have never been married and God has called me to the mission field.And if I was married and divorced before conversion or after,If God calls me to a certain position then I will be obidient and go.Of course we are supposed to have a Christlike character at the time of doing what God has called us to be,but if he said I can do something than and puts me in a position at a church,then thats good enough for me.Naturelly some places will have restrictions but God will relocate me to a place of what he has called me to do to carry out his plan.Stay to to scripture let God lead.