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Caught and Expelled for Sexual Sin: Is this What the Church Should Do?

Last Updated: October 28, 2020

Guest Author
Guest Author

Want to write for the Covenant Eyes blog? Share the story of your journey to freedom from pornography. Let us know how you overcame porn or how Covenant Eyes has made a difference in your life or the lives of those you love.

Mark is an incredibly gifted man. So talented, he was once the worship pastor of a large church in the South. Extremely creative and energizing. Living the dream. Reaching his goals. And hiding a massive secret.

Until he got caught.

The church leadership found out of Mark’s secret life of sex addiction. His wife and two kids were horrified. But what hurt the most was when his spiritual leaders told him and his family they were not to return to their church.

70% of Christian, church-going men view Internet porn each week. I wonder how many of the men in Mark’s church saw how he was treated with his sin. I wonder how many of them are now determined that they will never, ever tell anyone in their church their secret, although they know very well they need help desperately.

I’ve talked with church leaders who have been ambushed by the situation of a brother within their congregation who fell morally. It is painful—especially when that brother was one of the leaders. There’s insomnia, lack of appetite, depression, and a strong desire to protect the congregation from feeling what they are feeling. I’ve never been in their shoes, and I hope never to be. It is, indeed, torture, but God has a plan for situations like this.

Unfortunately, the congregation does find out, and the truth is usually twisted and turned and mutilated way beyond what really happened.

This is one reason men keep their secrets. I’ve counseled dozens of men who have told me that they would never tell anyone in their church about their problem with porn addiction, or else they would immediately be ousted for good.

So what should a church do when one is caught in sin? I see an answer in Galatians 6:1-2,

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (NKJV)

“Overtaken” literally means to be caught red-handed. Paul is writing to the church in Galatia, and he tells certain ones what they should do, how they should do it, and why they should do it.

Paul is not writing to just anyone in this verse, but only to those who are spiritual. Those are the ones who are walking by the Spirit (5:16). Though he is not, specifically, writing to church leaders, “those who are spiritual” very well could be.

Then he tells the spiritual ones what they should do: restore. He doesn’t jump to excommunication. He doesn’t tell them to hide anything from the rest of the church. He says to restore, and then he tells them how.

Have you ever broken a bone? I have. The doctor sets the broken bones so gently and precisely. This is the same idea in this word restore. Restoring a sinning brother must be done gently, not arrogantly. Precisely, not carelessly. When it comes to confrontation, counseling, and discipling/mentoring, gentle precision is a must.

What helps a spiritual person restore a sinning brother gently and precisely? A consideration of himself. None of us are immune to any kind of sin. We could all stumble and fall in any point of pride.

And then Paul tells them to bear one another’s burdens. That means to stand up underneath the heavy load of the brother who can’t stand alone. In doing so, the spiritual one is fulfilling the law of Christ. And what is this law? John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another…”

When a man sees his church’s spiritual leaders surround a sinning brother with love, care, and direction, would he not be motivated to seek the same help? When those who are spiritual seek to restore the brother caught in sexual sin, could not a revival break out with others coming forth with the desperate desire to be delivered from the power of their sin?

Many men have told me that they wanted to be caught. They were so tired of hiding and covering and lying and deceiving. The men in your church who are struggling want help. Where should they go?

Your church can be a place of healing and hope for Christians who have fallen into sexual sin. It takes hard work, but God’s plan works. It just works. Follow it, and you will see.

J. Chad Barrett is the author of Journey to Freedom, a book for guys about the beauty of biblical fellowship and its impact on the typical struggles men have. Chad is the Director of Child Evangelism Fellowship of Greater Houston where his team currently reaches 10,000 children each year with the gospel. He lives with his wife Melissa and 4 children in Houston.



  • Comments on: Caught and Expelled for Sexual Sin: Is this What the Church Should Do?
    1. Pete

      The church should be to blame as well, for having internet handy computers without protection. Bad call on the church taking that stand, in my opinion. So much for restoration. I would understand removing him for the position, temporarily or permanent I am not sure. We need to remember, sin is sin. Whether the sin be of this nature or embezzling or gluttony. My .02 worth anyways…….

      • Luke Gilkerson

        @Pete – Right. Removing someone from leadership for specific sins is one thing, removing them from the church is another altogether. When someone is genuinely repentant, the church is called to embrace that person into their fellowship (unless there are specific circumstances that need to be resolved the flow from the consequences of their sin). But the goal is always restoration.

      • Hi Pete,

        Thanks for your comment. I believe it is certainly vital for churches and other businesses to acquire the Covenant Eyes monitoring/filtering for their computers and smart phones. Each of my devices has CE on them.

      • Sarah

        What about Paul’s clear instruction regarding a brother in unrepentant sexual sin in 1 Corinthians 5?

    2. So many times I have heard this story over the years. In my own life, I was caught in sexual sin and my elders and I knew I had to resign. This was back in 2003/2004. I am so thankful, though, that they restored me gently. I was held accountable, and even publicly admitted to adultery from the pulpit. But that day both I and the church received the beginnings of healing and restoration. My wife and I were never asked to leave the church, and we remain there to this day. Over the years, the Lord has allowed me to slowly engage back in ministry within the church again, and now I am on the cusp of becoming an elder. This journey has been a huge part of my adult life as a Christian, and I have seen so much of Christ and His body acting in love and obedience. What a joy it is to serve the Lord of Restoration, Healing and Forgiveness!

      • Luke Gilkerson

        @Chad – Thanks for your comment! I really believe the church is one of the primary “means of grace” God uses to shape our character.

        Have you read our e-book for pastors who are dealing with sexual sin like pornography? You might like it. Go to CovenantEyes.com/pastorhelp.

      • Chad, thanks for your testimony of how following God’s Word works! It just works. May your life continue to shine His glory!

    3. Don

      “70% of Christian, church-going men view Internet porn each week.” That’s the highest number I’ve seen yet. I don’t necessarily doubt it, but could you give some sort of link or source reference so we could look up the context? Thank you.

      • Don,

        In my blog above, it looks as thought I was too specific, but I got that particular stat from a Christianity Today article.

        Hope this helps. Either way, the stats are high and extremely troubling.

        Thanks for your comment.

    4. Hi Don,

      I credit Covenant Eyes for that stat. Luke has answered that question previously. Click here to read his answer.

      • Luke Gilkerson

        I would like to add there are other studies that address specific percentages of men who struggle with pornography. For instance, when we went to Promise Keepers a few years ago, during one of the main sessions the emcee did a text message survey asking the question: “What is the one thing you are battling that you can’t break free from?” On the list were options like alcohol, drugs, workaholism, lying, stealing, unfaithfulness to one’s wife, and pornography. As the emcee continued talking hundreds of men texted their answers, and we all watched as the answers were compiled on the big screen in real time. Nearly 70% of the men had answered “pornography.”

    5. There’s certainly no guarantee that the man struggling with secret sexual sin will come clean when he sees a church practicing gentle restoration. But one thing is for sure…when they see a person disappear who was caught in sin, their belief that they can never tell anyone is driven even more deeply into their hearts. Churches need to remember that their decisions and actions affect many, many more people than those who are directly involved. Thanks Chad for this post…hopefully we’ll all be wildly, scandalously liberal with grace.

      • You’re welcome, Greg! Your words are so true!

    6. Chad,

      I cringe when I hear these stories. My empathy, however, is not directed at the church leader who had a moral fall, but on the remaining staff and congregation who must work through the long – stressful process of healing from their pain.

      We in the recovery – restoration – counseling community spend a lot of time criticizing churches for their lack of sensitivity towards leaders who have a moral fall. When a Pastor or church leader is discovered to be overtaken in sexual sin, he is also guilty of Spiritual abuse. The Pastor, youth leader, elder or SS teacher represents God to many congregants.

      In his book, Restoring the Soul of a Church: Reconciling Congregations Wounded by Clergy Sexual Misconduct, Dr. Mark Laaser says, “When pastors become involved in sexual misconduct they damage the collective soul of their congregations…their needs to be healing strategies in place to restore congregations to healthy communities of faith.”

      In my opinion, I think we are quick to judge and blame churches for not caring for the fallen pastor / leader. The larger response should be to care for the church members who have been blindsided by a liar, pervert, manipulator, narcissistic, controlling sex addict. In case you are wondering, I am guilty of every offense. I have been in recovery for 17 years and I was terminated from a para-church ministry. My pastor and deacons made the decision to keep me in the family of God since I was determined to admit my wrong, get help and make amends. I voluntarily removed myself from every leadership position in my church with my pastor’s blessing. However, I firmly believe that if they wanted to dismiss me, then God would care for me and my dear wife until we found a suitable church home. I would not have blamed the church and I certainly did not blame the employer who terminated me with no warning.

      Now, you may have a lot more information at your disposal and have enough ammunition that the church was in the wrong. However, every situation is different and any discussion of sexual sin can trigger all sorts of pain and emotions. I do not have exact numbers. But, you can assume that well over 50% of church members had a negative “first-time” sexual experience (rape, molestation, first marriage or even a honeymoon).

      Sexual sinners are just that…sinners. A merciful God still hates sin. I am not in favor of casting every sexual sinner out of the church. However, restoration success lands squarely on the shoulders of the guilty man. A humble spirit and a contrite heart is what God is looking for. And if the leader faces the consequence of being asked to leave, then that is his opportunity to take the high road of “so be it”. A sinner’s attitude will determine how quickly he is restored and to what level of responsibility and accountability he can maintain.

      Yes, every church should be in a restoration ministry. But often they cannot deal with every crisis and the congregation’s needs must be met.

      • Thanks for your comments, Jerry! It certainly is quite painful for a church and its leaders when a pastor falls morally. It’s painful when any man or woman in their church falls.

        I interviewed a pastor and elders at one church whose youth pastor fell morally. Their hearts were so broken; their faces worn with grief and weariness; and their earnest desire was to reconcile. Yet the youth pastor fled with his family. Situations are different. And the reconciliation does depend, partly, on the sinner’s confession and desire for restoration.

        My prayer is that the local church would be quick to restore, rather than quick to cast out and shove under the rug.

    7. Liz Bishop

      Amen and amen to Jerry Sinclairs comprehensive grasp of the full matter.I think that it is worth remembering that a GP who has an affair with his patient is struck off until the matter is investigated properly.We would be appalled if these things were not handled fairly and wisely in the public sphere .The protection of church leader and congregation is paramount and a removal from office has to take place so that this protection and care of all parties can take happen.However the aim must always be forgiveness confession restoration and reconciliation on all counts for however long it may take.
      Praise God for his forgiveness and willingness to restore each of us.

      • Thanks, Liz, for your comments! Restoration and forgiveness is a commandment for those who are spiritual with any sinning believer within their church. It is unfortunate, however, that many churches have immediately excommunicated the sinning believer with no action toward restoration or signs of forgiveness.

        Each situation must be dealt with gentleness and care–for the congregation’s sake, for the sinning believer’s sake, and for their own sakes. But we must follow scripture, no matter how difficult it is.

    8. Jay

      Are they really at fault for how they handled the situation when we have a passage such as in 1 Corinthians 5?

      9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges [2] those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

      I’m not sure there’s much wiggle room if the church decides to follow the guidance in these verses. That’s one tough row to hoe. I wonder why Paul took such a hard line on this one? It’s clearly referring to a “brother” and says not to associate or even eat with them.

      • Luke Gilkerson

        @Jay – Great question. For one, I would say the church kicking out his wife and kids as well goes beyond the discipline of 1 Corinthians 5. Second, if Paul is speaking about the same man in 2 Corinthians 2, then the proper response to a repentant sinner should be “to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow” (v.7). I agree wholeheartedly with church discipline, even the very unfortunate examples of excommunication, but always with a goal and desire to restore such people, in the long run, to full fellowship (provided genuine repentance happens).

    9. Roy Yanke

      It is vital to remember that 2 Corinthians follows 1st Corinthians, especially as it has to do with the sinning brother.
      It is unfortunate that local congregations sometimes (?) forget that they are to be fountainheads of grace. Instead, we far too quickly become preservers of the image of sanctification; without the real power thereof. Grace recognizes the reality of sin; so there is no fluffy sidestepping. It also recognizes that everyone is in need of it..always, everyday. Of all that places in the world that should understand the power of sin, and the overwhelming power of grace, the church is far too often “surprised” by it’s appearance.
      I, too, fell…and with that fall came all the damage mentioned above; including the exclusion of my family (who were innocent but presumed complicit) and no strategy for reconciliation and healing for either myself or the church.
      I am wholeheartedly in agreement that most men hide their secret sins precisely because of this typical reaction. One of the greatest lies of the evil one, that fuels the secrecy of addiction is “If they REALLY knew what I was like, they wouldn’t like/care for/be near me.”
      I have found, in the process of my own journey, that there are churches who get it. They understand the seriousness and perniciousness of sin; but also are willing to risk extending grace.
      On the matter of discipline, it must be administered but with the goal of the glory of God; first through restoration and only lastly by excommunication.

      • Luke Gilkerson

        @Roy – Thanks for sharing some of your story with us. Excommunication, when it is used, should never be the end of the story. There should always be a plan in place for reconciliation.

    10. G

      Our church is strongly considering hiring someone as our worship pastor who lived in sexual addiction for 17-18 years (pornography and adultery). He was caught three years ago. He has been in a restoration program. Those who are close to him and are holding him accountable believe he is ready to return to church leadership. Our pastor brought him before us and they told us his story. About 8 months ago, our former worship pastor was caught in sin (but not anywhere near commiting the act of adultery). I just don’t know if we are ready to take on someone who lived in such a pattern of sin and betrayal for so many years.

    11. Jerome Minor

      I know there’s a lot of viewpoints, angles and people to consider in such a matter as uncovered sexual sin. Its not an easy or simple process to get through, emotionally or psychologically, but spiritually, if the church were in the place of the calling God has placed on us we could handle both the temptation and the healing process of restoration. If we really want to do what Jesus did, say where are thine accusers who are without sin? and when none can condemn let the church say neither do I condemn you , “BUT” go and sin no more. Jesus also told the disciples if thy brother offend thee in a day 7 times 70 forgive him.

      It’s amazing that with all the churches and ministries growing, expanding, buying selling, building, and planting that the area we lack the most, are deficient the most and need the most is in our spiritual growth of truly becoming like Christ.

      If that was what the church body over generations had been building ( preaching Ephe 4:12-13) we would have much less of these struggles, on either side when it comes to dealing with sin. ) Perfecting the saints means, we are born again, believers, children of God who still need to learn to bring our complete being under submission to the will of God especially regarding holiness. The preaching is suppose to bring us to a perfect man unto the full stature of the measure of Jesus Christ. So it’s not a leader’s fault, a member’s fault or a wounded spouse or disappointed congregation. It’s the incomplete gospel that has permeated throughout the whole world. Christians/saints/believers don’t sin! We do, we have and God knows we might again but that’s his will. So our preaching needs to focus on how to stand in the liberty…how to resist the devil…how to overcome evil with good,…how to walk in the spirit and not obey the lust of the flesh….for the most part the church after all these years after penTecost is showing very little spiritual maturity and what if JESUS WERE TO COME BACK TODAY?

      Jesus dealt with sin, the apostles dealt with sin, but the general church today seems to be mystified when it comes to handling sin among the church, we don’t seem to know if they ( offender) are or were ever saved, did they really repent, are they really sorry, they should have never been up in the first place, some want to put them out, others want to leave themselves, not realizing the only true church you can find is the church Christ built upon a rock, no matter where the fellowship meets.

      The bible says the spirit makes intercession for the saints, Jesus makes intecession for them who he can/will save to the uttermost. If the church want to cut off those overtaken in a fault, then we can forget about ever reaching sinners who have never been saved.

      I will close this post sorry for the length.

      I have suffered a strong and lasting battle with pornography and many sexual sins beyond just looking a magazines, videos, internet, 900 phone calls, and video parlors. I have carried out just about everything I ever saw,.. in the flesh.
      I am separated and facing divorce, possibly losing a second newly built home, and one thing I’ve thought was with all these church folks around me, who of them could I have really of gone to. So now God has brought to me people hooked on drugs, labeled alcoholics, sex struggles and the first two things I deal with is you are/were wrong,.. God loves you and has made a way for you to be free.

    12. Jerome Minor

      “Christians/saints/believers don’t sin! We do, we have and God knows we might again but that’s his will.”

      I forgot to put not in there. not his will!!!

    13. Shimona

      I have been a member of my church for some years and recieved salvation through the church preaching christ to me. The church believes strongly in discipline. I myself was masturbating and taken out of ministry for a number of months for it. U dont really get counselled jus prayed over to get delivered n in a room where others are metres away, but my consciense told me to confess esp when i knew there were parricular standards for ministry. Recently my boyfriend and i messed up and were sexually immoral, although no intercourse took place, we did other things. I knew id have to tell the pastor as there were consequences. We told him the story the next day and he didnt counsel us or anything just said to leave it with him and a few days later took us into the church with another brother present and told us we had to cease all contact with the church and also each other for the next 3 months. Then we left. Discipline is necessary but we repented and felt so bad that we told the pastor. No counselling or restoration, thats for us to figure out but hopefully other churches will help me with the issues. There are people in church doing worse but cause theyre considered newer and not as committted as us and also they wont even tell the pastor anyway, theres no consequence for them in terms of excommunication. Our church preaches sin and repentance, also Gods grace but its biblical except for how the discipline is done. There needs to b more love. And i cant have any contact with my boyfriend but we both decided we gonna honor God, do our time, get married then see how it goes. He will b a pastor one day n can learn from the mistakea of others. God will hold the church accountable for their dealings anyway.

      • Kay Bruner

        Hi Shimona, Thanks for being so honest. I’m so, so sorry that your experience with your church has been so difficult. God will definitely hold them accountable for their choices. I think that many churches have trouble dealing with sexuality in a healthy way, which is so unfortunate. I do hope that you find counsel and help as you walk through this. I hope you have friends and family who are aware of what’s happened, and can support you through it? I would call this spiritual abuse, myself, when a group of spiritual leaders uses their power to shame and harm others, rather than for healing and grace. Jeff VanVonderen has written a wonderful book called The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse that you might find helpful. There definitely needs to be more love! You are so right!

    14. Diane

      I skimmed through the comments and replies and want to know opinions of the churches role in restoration of the sexual immortal brother (pornography, adultery, life-long habit of lying, etc, when the brother is not willing to admit his sin but instead continues to be caught in many lies. Howshould the church leaders respond and what should members be told by leadership? The unrepentant brother can be in ministry or not.

    15. Carlotta

      I have searched and searched for articles, books, and sermons that speaks about the one who discloses the secret sin to the elders in the church. I saw a pattern with the pastor, with myself falling into his pattern, and when I was adamant that I would not live that life of sin, he dumped me very quickly, he had already started talking to another woman. He was a divorced pastor so he was free to date, but not remarry and my dad is also a pastor. I know they are held to a higher standard. We started a Celebrate Recovery ministry together and we were certified in two online courses by Steve arterburn and he shared with me about his 5 year porno addiction, his grandfather a child molester and his father who was also a minister had his own stash of magazines in which the minister I’m sharing about found at age 16. So knowing that counseling for sexual addiction is necessary, I asked him to please get counseling, told him of a pastor in another county who counsels with pastor sleep struggling with sexual integrity and his response was simply “thanks for your concern” and that was that. He managed to manipulate some involved in Celebrate Recovery so that I was cut out of a ministry I loved with a passion and he continues to lead a recovery ministry but chose not to seek help for himself. He had lied to me for months about an affair he had with a young lady in the church. She was half his age with 3 children. She came to the church after developing a friendship with him. He did share the affair with me but said it only happened a few times within a couple of months. Things kept coming up with communication on Facebook between the two and she was still attending the church, And the entire time I thought she had a lot of courage to continue their friendship and continue coming to the church after he ended with her and was in a relationship with me, but she had not ended it, and had been seeing me for 4 months before he told her about being in a relationship with me. So I was able to message with her and she said they had been having an affair for 4 years and very specific. I stayed with him, even after learning of this because we were starting Celebrate Recovery and I thought it was Gods will.
      So after I told him of my concern of him standing in the pulpit Sunday after Sunday and knowing broken women desired his attention and would come to him for counseling AND being the leader of a Recovery ministry for broken people, it seemed a great danger for those who were captivated by his charisma and bight smile and warm welcome. Narcissistic characteristics in some ways.
      So I revealed his secret to the deacons. He did resign but said he had shared some things about his past with me and I betrayed his trust and he didn’t want to hurt the church so he was resigning.
      He hasn’t taken responsibility, but instead is the victim of my behavior.
      So I’m second guessing if I did the right thing. The church is attacking me.

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