The Ministry Destroyed My Marriage. Twice.

I get emails and phone calls and comments and messages every single day. Mostly from people who just want to share their story with someone. And, since the creation of this site, that someone oftentimes is me.

I love hearing stories. But, truly some of the stories I hear are heartbreaking. Some of which we’ve shared on this site.

Recently, Mark sent me his story:

I am an expastor for the second time. The first time, I stepped away from the church for five years and this time for another two years. I am actually hoping to return, although since I am now in my seventh decade of life it may be unlikely. Nevertheless, I am hopeful. At the same time, I am not holding my breath.

In 1995 I came to realize that it was time to move from the church where I pastored. It was my second church in 11 years. My wife, at that time, said she would not move – so, I moved alone. I remarried two years later to a woman who was from a church that I had previously pastored. Then, two years ago, after more than a decade of pastoring five different churches, I left her. And the church.

The details are many but that is the very short version of my story. I have now married a woman who has been a friend for over 35 years. My issue is not only the difficulty of people in the church but also how it greatly affected my personal life.

It breaks my heart, truly it does, to hear the countless stories of men and women who have been beat up and broken down. Many pastors have been hurt by the church, by the same people they’ve dedicated their lives to helping and serving. Granted, we all make mistakes that send us spiralling down. We’re definitely not perfect. But we’re also not free from hurt.

If you’ve found yourself in a similar situation, please connect with someone. A pastor, a friend. Share your story. Email me. Let’s move toward restoration.

What’s your story?

Photo courtesy: Thomas Leuthard

POSTED ON February 20, 2014
  • Tony Bolen

    Just going by what is written here, you sinned grievously by LEAVING two wives (I’m praying there is more to the story). If this be the case, you have absolutely no business shepherding a flock. (1 Timothy 3)

    • Tony, I’m sure there is more to the story that wasn’t included. Regardless, neither of us can be the judge to whether this man is or was called to the ministry and/or should be pastoring. I think it’s important to note that Paul tells us that no one is righteous. Everyone fails. Calling this man out on sin isn’t the issue here. The issue is that people serving in ministry are broken and hurting and, for some, it’s deeply affected their personal lives, their families, etc. Whatever the case for this guy, we should more apt to come alongside and help instead of making an instant judgment.

      • Tony Bolen

        Bo- nobody is hurting more from the Ministry than my family and I, but it’s hurt inflicted BY the Ministry on myself and my family. I almost feel like the pain of your subject here is self-inflicted, and the Ministry is simply a side-show. If he LEFT two different women, married a third, and is now debating on whether he is suitable for leading another flock, the Scriptural answer would be absolutely “no.” Again, I’m praying there is more to this, but if the man is a serial adulterer, being brought to repentance and protecting another flock from him is EXACTLY the kind of help he needs. Frankly, people who have abused the Office (as I fear this brother has done) have only set the table for the abuse inflicted on so many of us.

        • Andrew

          Tony, you write as though you have knowledge of what adultery is yet your words demonstrate you do not. See that the contradiction is within you.

        • Sonya James

          If we are going to be free; we are going to have to look at one another and say exactly what “Truth” is. If this site is going to help; we’ve got to experience help, whether or not it is like we think. If by being on here I get told in a kind way that what I did was wrong, do I just stop talking? Correct me if I am wrong, but what is this site really for? When are we going to share each other’s burdens for real?

        • toddrvick

          Tony, I see a curious absence of Scripture to back up your tirade. Romans 8 says that our calling is irrevocable. I am going to go out on a limb here and believe that the irrevocability applies to you as well. You have no idea what it’s like to have your wife leave you because of ministry demands. It has happened to me twice. I am married now to the godliest woman I have ever known. I am pastoring again in a church where we are accepted and loved. Don’t assume you are the moral ministry police until you have walked on this path of pain and grace. You are obviously hurting, and should refrain from commenting. Hurt people hurt people. Jesus adores you and your family and His grace is sufficient.

    • Andrew

      Tony, the moment you said someone sinned, you were defeated. The moment you said a person had “no business shepherding a flock” you established yourself as “anti-Christ”. Was that your intention?

  • Andrew

    In reading the bible one often can come across a contradiction. To resolve the contradiction people choose to decide which passage is true and which is false. But the bible does not contradict itself and thus all that has happened is that you chose to accept the truth of spirit. Jesus and Paul laid not one brick in the creation of a church building – and thus even entering the buildings to “worship” contradicts the narrative. Remove the contradictions from yourself.

  • fb

    wow. i really feel for this guy. but just from what’s here, i think if i felt called to move on from a church and my wife wouldn’t move, i’d take that as direction from God that it was time to look for a different kind of work. not sure God would have any of us prioritize the ministry over the marriage. am i wrong here? hope there’s more to this story…

Bo Lane is the founder of ExPastors, a community that strives to offer help, healing, and hope for expastors, pastors, and church leaders, and author of Why Pastors Quit. As a media professional with more than 15 years of experience, he has developed marketing and brand strategies that have revolutionized churches and businesses, both large and small. Bo left full-time ministry after serving more than a decade in churches in Oregon, California, and Iowa. He is also a writer, filmmaker, woodworker, husband and father.