Is it possible to restore a pastor who sinned sexually but who is repentant? Or is such a pastor disqualified because he no longer meets the qualification of being “above reproach”?
I’m afraid if I answer this the way that I should, it will give so much license to restore pastors too quickly. But since I should, I should.
Ultimately, I think the answer is yes. A pastor who has sinned sexually can be a pastor again. And I say that just because of the grace of God and the fact that “above reproach” (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6–7) can be restored, probably.
But here’s the catch. Forgiveness comes quickly, expensively, and immediately, at the point of repentance. But trust isn’t restored in just a moment. It cannot be.
If a pastor has betrayed his people, and it has wounded a church grievously and wounded his wife grievously, he can be forgiven just like that. Sin wiped away. The blood of Jesus covers it. But as far as reestablishing trust, which is essential to a shepherd-sheep and wife-husband relationship, how long does that take? A decade? It takes a long time — a long time — until memories are healed.
And very practically I think this is what I would say: A man who commits adultery, say, in the ministry, should immediately resign and look for other work. And he should make no claim on the church at all. He should get another kind of job and go about his life humbly receiving the discipline and the regular ministries of the church, whether in his former church or in another church.
There are so many who fall who insert themselves quickly in another kind of ministry. And that’s just, I think, an evidence that they don’t fathom what has happened.