Don is an internationally known recording artist and one of the pioneers
of contemporary Christian music. He is known for putting music to Bible
stories and revealing the grace and love of God. His ballads have
blessed millions of people worldwide.
Divorce, Grace and Ministry
By Don Francisco
By now, we all know that churches aren't perfect--as long as there are
people in churches, there will be problems and painful situations. I
came back from a service recently where there was heartfelt worship, but
I picked up a copy of the church's articles of belief, and discovered
that I would never be allowed to be in leadership in that group because
I had been through divorce.
They even claimed that their stance is based on Scripture. Now, first,
you need to realize that I had no need, desire, or expectation to be in
leadership in that church, but to find I was a second-class citizen
there, with no hope of ever redeeming that state, did not exactly make
me want to return. It had the opposite effect.
I wonder how many other people have heard and believed this error about
divorce disqualifying them from ministry and "leadership?" How many in
churches around the world have given up on God-given dreams and visions
of ministry because of a scarlet letter branded by man to their
reputation? This damaging error needs to be exposed.
In 1 Timothy 3:2 we find one of the verses used to support this
". . . A bishop, then, must be blameless, the husband of one wife,
temperate, sober . . ." and again in verse 12: "Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife
. . ." and also in Titus 1:5b-6a: "ordain elders in every city as
I commanded you; if a man is blameless, the husband of one wife . . ."
Many churches, and even whole denominations, have interpreted these
scriptures to mean that anyone who has been divorced and/or remarried is
forever ineligible to be in any position of leadership. (I wouldn't be
surprised if there were some church, somewhere, that made all their male
deacons marry the same woman!) If one is to take Paul to mean "one and
only one wife ever," then remarried widowers cannot be in leadership,
nor can single people! (If this is what you believe, read the first few
verses of Romans 7 where Paul says that even under the Law a widower was
free to remarry.) Further, Paul would be contradicting himself because
in 1 Corinthians 7, he counsels those believers whose unregenerate
spouses have left them that they are free.
A better translation of the Greek would be
"a one-woman husband"--
someone who is faithful and not flirtatious. Men who were serving as
elders/pastors/overseers and deacons were not to be polygamous (a common
situation in the Near East, even today) but were to have only one wife. These were Paul's concerns, not barring someone from ministry because of
There are three really disturbing things about the churches that have
this point wrong:
1) The sheer number of church leaders who misunderstand the Gospel so
thoroughly that they can't see what a contradiction it is to all of the
greater principles of the New Covenant to allow any part of a person's
imperfect past to affect their future in Christ. It means they are
missing the most basic concepts of the Cross and of the character and
grace of God.
2) Over half the Christian adult population in this country has been
sidelined and told it is unfit for service! Participation in ministry is
for the whole Body! It is a necessary and wonderful part of the normal
Christian life! One of the most important functions of our gatherings is
to equip members of the Body (all of us) for ministry, and to restore
hurting members to full capacity. That is why doctrines like this are so
cruel. It is all too true that Christianity today (not real
Christianity, obviously) is a religion that shoots its wounded.
3) Has anyone noticed that God Himself has been through divorce? Read
Jeremiah 3:8. It has obviously not occurred to leaders when they decide
that those who have been divorced may not participate in ministry in
their fellowships that they are basically telling God to keep quiet
The devil has had nearly 2,000 years to cloud our vision and twist and
distort our knowledge of Biblical Christianity. Don't let him win in
this area. If you are divorced, no matter who was "at fault," remember
where your righteousness comes from. It's from Jesus, not from man; and
it's a gift you receive by faith, not by works. Nobody can stand before
God in their own righteousness--nobody. But God, through the
Cross of Jesus, has taken all of our imperfections as far away from us as East
is from West . . . ALL of them. God remembers them no more. That is the uncompromised Gospel.