Can People Really Change?

Christians believe that when Christ comes into our lives, we change. Our selfish behavior becomes God-oriented. That which was self-directed now becomes God-directed. That’s the work of God in our lives.

changeI was having an interesting conversation with my 12-year-old daughter Katie a while back about whether we can really, really change.

That probably sounds really cynical, doesn’t it? Now, we weren’t talking about whether people could change bad habits or whether God could transform us at the time of our salvation into new creatures.

What we were talking about was this – does our basic personality ever really change?  We were having a pretty good discussion about it. When we got down to the basic point, we came to the conclusion that we kinda are who God made us.

Biblically speaking, when we look at Peter, he was always kind of impulsive. That never changed. As he grew older and wiser, it did seem to get under control better – like he was turning down the volume. (More about that in a minute).


 “Everyone is like a television. We all have these personalities that won’t change. A person’s channel won’t change, but they can change the volume of their channel.”


For instance, Katie and I have a somewhat dry sense of humor that is an extension of our personality. That personality has been described as sarcasm at times. Now, sarcasm can get out of control and sinful. But there is a place for sarcasm and humor of that kind when it is under the control of the Holy Spirit. 

Will our sarcasm ever completely disappear? I don’t think so. Whether through nature or nurture, we have it ingrained into our minds and hearts. It’s just there. (A behavioral psychologist might disagree, but that’s for a different type of blog).

I said to Katie, “I think everyone has a different personality. They are who they are. For the most part, we’re not going to change. All of us have these beautiful God-given talents and characteristics that we’re supposed to be honing and growing – that’s sanctification. But we also let them get out of control – that’s sin.

For instance, a person might have confidence. There are a lot of people who have confidence in Scripture. Confidence isn’t a bad thing. We should be confident in who we are in Christ. But confidence in ourselves as our own personal Savior can turn into pride and destruction.

volumeThat’s about when Katie jumped on board with the thought of the week. She said, “Everyone is like a television. We all have these personalities that won’t change. A person’s channel won’t change, but they can change the volume of their channel.

Whoa. She’s right. So I might have a humor channel in my life. If I turn it way up, it’s biting, sinful, cynical sarcasm. If it’s down low, it’s humor that keeps Christ in mind and is appropriate. If I have a confidence channel and it’s on low or medium, I’m focused on Christ as the source of my confidence and life. If it’s turned way up, it’s all about me. 

I’m happy to have some smart kids who are figuring their way through life. What do you think? How much can we really change about ourselves? Is it like turning up and down the volume?

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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

 

The High Co$t of Pastoral Adultery

costsFor the past five years, I’ve been telling you the dangers of adultery and why churches, pastors, denominations and others should be concerned with preventing moral failure in their church leaders.

The main reason? We should never give way to sin  – that sin that grieves the heart of God. That sin that will tear apart our families, our churches, and can destroy our lives. I’ve been beating that drum for several years now. Just go back and check the archives here, here, here, here and here.

Understand that you do not want to grieve the heart of God. Adultery is not worth it. It carries with it consequences for a lifetime. I’ve counseled pastors who have lost everything and have been fighting their whole lives to get it back.


 “The financial impact of any sinful decision we make is a secondary consideration, but a consideration nonetheless.”


That being said, there’s another cost that I’ve never examined. There is a financial cost to pastoral adultery.

Now hold up for a second. If you read this post and your conclusion is, “Ray Carroll at Fallen Pastor said the reason we shouldn’t commit adultery is because it isn’t financially wise” – then you’re just not getting the message. Go read the rest of the blog first and I’ll be here when you get back.

I will say this – we need to be vested in preventing moral failure in our church leaders. And there are some people within our church leaders who don’t care too much about morality, pastor burnout or depression,  how expectations are unrealistic, or whatever. All they care about is the bottom line – the business meeting financial report.

Is pointing out the economic loss of pastoral adultery a bad thing? I don’t think so. I think it’s a secondary problem. I don’t think it’s the reason we should stand on the rooftops and tell leaders why they should abstain from sexual sin. However, it is a secondary reason why churches should be concerned about preventing this problem.

Our primary reason for concern is grieving the Spirit of God, the minister’s family, his integrity and holiness, the witness of our church and leaders, the holiness of our fellowship, and our sexual purity.

The financial impact of any sinful decision we make is a secondary consideration, but a consideration nonetheless. I haven’t looked at any numbers and I haven’t done any studies, but I’ve seen the financial impact of fallen leaders on churches and their families.

To name a few: The tearing apart of the financial stability of the family, the need for long-term legal counsel for both sides of a marriage that is not reconciled, the diminishing income of the family when a pastor loses his job and his inability to find another career, the church as it loses members in the short and long-term, the church as it goes through a hiring process, the short and long-term impact of the pastor’s adultery on the reputation of the church and ability to attract new members and more.

Here’s the bottom line: I hope you’ve read this blog before and wanted to get involved in preventing moral failure in our leaders before. But maybe today after reading this, it triggered something in you that made it more serious for you.

It is serious. Moral failure has had a terrible impact on everyone, from the top to the bottom of the church. If we are going to start making a difference, we need to start in our individual communities of faith with information and support of our leaders.

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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

Guest Blog: What Will It Take To Forgive?

I’d like to welcome Mark and Lisa DeCourcey today for a guest blog. Mark writes today with the heart of a fallen pastor who understands forgiveness and the need for restoration and reconciliation. Please check out their information and their blog info below.

A little over a year ago, I committed adultery. God has done an amazing work of restoration in my family and in my marriage. My wife, Lisa, has been living out forgiveness like I have never seen before. I am blessed and amazed and grateful that ours is a forgiving God.

forgivemeWhile I celebrate the forgiveness of God and Lisa and my family, I realize that there are others who have not forgiven me. Some of these people don’t surprise me, while others do. In a desire to better understand forgiveness, I ponder the question, “Why haven’t you forgiven me?” I don’t wonder out of anger or entitlement. I want to learn. Because you see, at the top of the list people who have struggled to forgive me is me. I can just as easily ask the same question—“What will it take for me to forgive myself?”

As I ponder forgiveness, I realize that there are some barriers I face in forgiving myself that may apply to forgiving others:

I will forgive you when you have shown repentance.

“Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” Luke 17:3

Repentance is absolutely necessary for forgiveness. If he repents, forgive him. What I have learned of repentance over this last year is that it is a lifestyle change. It is a condition of the heart made possible by the power of the Holy Spirit in me. I must continually strive to live out repentance. It begins with the words, “I repent,” but it is proven out over time. At what point is my heart repentant enough? Is evidence of repentance sufficient or do I need proof of repentance?

 I will forgive you when _______ does.

I have hurt many with my sin. As I survey the damage, it becomes evident that I have hurt people at different levels and to different degrees. I am inclined to think, “If that person can forgive me, I can forgive me. If this person can’t forgive me, I could never forgive me.” I am overwhelmed by the gracious forgiveness my wife has extended to me. If she could not forgive me, I am not sure I could ever forgive myself. I am grateful that I don’t have to process through that. I must, however, consider that hard reality.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Jesus has forgiven me. How could I elevate anyone’s forgiveness, even my wife’s, to a higher status? If I think, “Jesus has deemed me worthy of forgiveness but Lisa hasn’t, therefore I am not worthy,” that puts a great deal of pressure on my wife and demotes Jesus from His position as Righteous Judge.

I will forgive you when the punishment has fit the crime.

I tend to be a justice seeker. There is a level of punishment I expect for my sin and until I have reached it, I will not forgive. It is as though I believe God requires a degree of pain from me before He will forgive. In the days immediately after the discovery of my affair, I laid on the floor and begged God to allow me to feel the full weight of my sin. He said to me (not audibly, but emphatically) “No. You don’t get to feel the full weight of your sin because my Son did. I will not minimize what He did for you on the cross just so you can feel like you are contributing to your forgiveness.”

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

The fitting punishment for sin in general, and adultery specifically, is death. In my case, the penalty for my sin was paid about 2,000 years before the crime. If I believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin and to make forgiveness available to me, then I cannot wait for some added level of punishment.

“He said, ‘It is finished…’” John 19:30

I will forgive you when I feel like it.

I have spent a year waiting to wake up in the morning and feel forgiven. At the same time, I have wanted to feel like forgiving myself. I am waiting for some warm, happy feeling to spur my actions. In the words of every pop-psychologist of our day, “I will follow my heart.” The truth is, I need to lead my heart.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

Forgiveness will not simply spring forth from my heart. I have heard Forgiveness: Who's Saying What?, Part 1it preached and I have preached it myself that love is not a feeling that washes over you; rather it is a choice, a commitment, an action. Forgiveness is born out of love and as such carries that same DNA. Forgiveness is a choice, a commitment to do the hard work that is coming. I don’t feel like forgiving myself and that is good. If I forgive because I feel like it, perhaps I have bought into the deceit of my heart. That forgiveness will be as lasting as that warm, fuzzy feeling of “love.”

I will forgive you out of obedience.

Jesus tells the parable of the unforgiving servant to put me in my place. In spite of my countless sin, my acts of direct rebellion against God Almighty, He has forgiven me. Who am I to think for a moment that I should hold my brother or myself to a higher standard than the Master.

“‘And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:33-35

The Master simply says—no, demands—that as we have been forgiven, we forgive. Forgiving is an opportunity for pure obedience. When the Master says to forgive and I am inclined to forgive, that is agreement. When the Master says to forgive and I don’t want to forgive but I do, that is obedience. God’s command is “Forgive.” When I don’t feel like, when I don’t want to, when I’m not ready, when it doesn’t make sense—this is when I have the opportunity to honor the Master with obedience.

 I will forgive you in faith.

I believe my struggle to forgive myself boils down to this: do I believe my sins are forgiven? Do I believe that Jesus’ death on the cross is sufficient? Do I believe that the crucifixion is the culmination of God’s prefect to plan to atone for my sin and restore me to a right relationship with Him? It seems my inability to forgive is connected closely to my inability to be forgiven. This locks me tightly in a catch-22. My faith must be firmly anchored in the God who worked it out, all by Himself, with nothing added by me, before I was born.

“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Are you struggling to forgive yourself? Are you struggling to forgive someone else? I have a long way to go, but here is what has become clear to me: if forgiveness depends more on me and less on God at work in me, I will never truly forgive nor will I truly be forgiven. Like so many of the deep truths of being a Christ-follower, if I need to fully understand it, I will not experience the full blessing of forgiveness.

For more on Mark and Lisa DeCourcey’s story and God’s amazing work of restoration, check out their blog at www.decourcey.net.

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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

Is Repentance Possible From The Fallen Pastor?

repentsWhen a pastor falls from the ministry, due to adultery, embezzlement, alcoholism, or whatever, the immediate desired response is that he repent on the spot. Repentance, as we know it, is a turning away from his sin and moving back toward God. Is repentance possible for the fallen pastor?

If he has left his wife or committed adultery, he needs to cut off all contact with the woman he is with and try to reconcile with his wife and family.

To do this, he needs the help of his church, counselors, and spiritual people who are willing to walk with him in restoration for a long time. It will be a difficult process. It will be a long process. In the beginning, he may not want to come back, but if he shows repentance, along with the support of the church, he may come back.

Even if he does, he will always have the albatross of sin tied around his neck for the rest of his life. I do know of many pastors who restored with their wives who reentered into ministry under the care of gracious churches.

That’s the easy one. Then we have the pastors, who I have written about extensively in my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” who for whatever reason, decided not to turn from their sin. In my book, I talk about the stages the pastor goes through in the early days of his fall. He is angry over a lot of things, he feels rejected, he knows he has sinned, yet he is looking to justify his sin.

Few reach out to him and often, the only friend he has is the woman he has chosen to be with. These aren’t excuses for anconflict unrepentant attitude, they are the reality in which he lives.

Which brings me to a most important point – his issues didn’t start overnight. He didn’t wake up one day and decide to commit adultery. His temptation was preceded by years of issues, conflict, marriage issues and ultimately, temptation. The confusion he now finds himself in are a result of his own sin and he has to face the consequences.

He may reach out to his wife at some point to discuss reconciliation to find it isn’t possible. He may not wait long enough for the anger to reside. He may just be stagnant in his sin and keep pushing on. He may just want to be with this new woman. Regardless, he has made his choice, leaving many people behind hurt and disillusioned.

Someday, though, the light goes on. It probably goes on after he’s remarried or after reconciliation with his wife has long passed. His heart begins to turn to God and He realizes he has sinned greatly, but there is little he can do about his sin.

He knows he can write letters of apology, call the church deacons, apologize to his former wife, family, but he cannot undo the past. He turns to God for forgiveness and God forgives. He always does.

King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, then to hide his sin, he had her husband murdered. There’s no reconciliation to be had there with anyone. But after his sin was discovered, he poured out his heart to God for forgiveness. But where’s the repentance? He can’t undo the adultery and murder. God wanted a repentant heart in David. And David was broken when he wrote Psalm 56 and I believe he turned his heart to God. He couldn’t un-murder Uriah, but he could repent for his actions.

There are many that believe that a fallen pastor who did not reconcile with his wife can never be truly repentant. They make a good point. Their point is that unless you go back to your wife and family, you are not repentant. You are still a sinner and out of the will of God.

I’ve posed this question to a lot of counselors and seminary professors and people with a much higher pay grade than me. Why? Not so I could justify myself. But because I want to be right with God. After my divorce, reconciliation was not to be had, I remarried and went on. I spent a  lot of time in anger and bitterness.

sinnomoreThen, I had my moment with God. My moment where I asked if I could be truly repentant. I was reminded of the woman caught in adultery. He told her to “Go and sin no more.” I was reminded of the tax collectors who came to Christ and the result of their life was to stop living in a way that was dishonoring to God. The thief on the cross was granted entrance into heaven based on his belief. Paul, on the road to Damascus, was transformed by Christ and his life took a turn completely God-ward.

None of these people could do anything about their past at that point. It was what it was. The tax collector refunded the people’s money. Some could go and apologize to those they had harmed. But Christ desired a heart change. He wanted them to “go and sin no more.” He wanted the sin they had committed that led them there to stop.

Quote me how divorce is adultery and remarriage is adultery. I understand. I understand the sins committed in those days were done out of my own selfishness, due to the circumstances around me, due to my own desire to sin. All my sin. But I also know I was forgiven.

And if I quote Hershael York once, I’ll quote him a thousand times. He said to me, “You have to make your repentance more notorious than your sin.” He wasn’t excusing what I had done, but recognizing that I had sinned. But now that I had, I had to live a life of holiness, a life pleasing to God.

Unfortunately, for the fallen pastor, for many, he will always be seen as the man with the Scarlet Letter emblazoned upon him. Not worthy of forgiveness or trust. Hated by many, scorned by his former pastor friends, and not worthy of any service to God. I know better. There is hope. God is never done with His servants who turn their hearts toward Him. God has forgotten your sin if you repent and turn away from former things. Even if others bring it up, God has cast it as far as the east is from the west.

If you’re a fallen pastor and are reading this, regardless of what stage you are in, there is hope for repentance. Deep down, you know what to do. Turn to God, seek Him and He will answer.

(This is a repost from a while back, but I thought it might help those who are new to the site – God bless).

Want to leave a comment? Click the “keep reading” button and join the conversation.

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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

Why Pastors Fall: The Holiday Funk?

Photo by Ilona Wellman, The Stranger
Photo by Ilona Wellman, The Stranger

It’s a time of year where I get an increase in traffic on my site. During the holidays, crises come. I think even seasonal depression can set in and have a tremendous impact on pastors and church members.

The holiday (Thanksgiving, Christmas) season brings change to a lot of people. For many, it’s a time of transition. During this season, tragedy can hit harder for a lot of people as well. It was during this time that my mother was killed in a car accident. That event, added to several other events, began to spiral my unchecked life as a pastor out of control.

During this time of year, people may tend to have seasonal depression. They might start reflecting on their own life and feel lonely, rejected, or useless. Pastors aren’t above those feelings.

I’ve talked to a lot of pastors since my own fall from ministry who were thinking of leaving their wives for another woman. For that matter, I’ve talked to non-pastors as well.

Typically, they sense something has changed in the relationship with their wife. That is the biggest factor. The problems may have begun years ago, but there comes a day where they just sense they want something else. For some men (or women) they find a relationship with someone that is completely different than they had with their spouse.

The new relationship is change. It starts out with conversation, texts, lunch dates and can easily accelerate. The new person offers them what their spouse didn’t give them. Change. Newness.

Now, this may sound ridiculous, but I’m throwing it out there. In my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” I talk about factors that lead a pastor who never would have considered an affair before to the point of failure. I talk about isolation, church conflict, tragedy, and becoming idolized.

Those things do have a tremendous influence in the breaking down drainedof the American pastor. Thom Rainer had a great article about depression and anxiety showing the stress pastors are under.

But there does come a day when the pastor makes his choice. And his choice is all his. Make no mistake, the reason he ultimately cheats is typically a bad relationship with his wife. I don’t write that to put it on his wife. Ministry can have a horrific impact on spouses and they need to work together to stay strong.

The danger is when the pastor begins to blame everything else for his ultimate failure. When he makes that choice, the season may have just changed and Spring or Winter may have just settled. In his mind, he may feel renewed and ready to start a new relationship. Does that sound strange? It shouldn’t. All of us who engage in sin look for justification for our sin.

We may blame our church for treating us so poorly. Yeah, things may have been bad at church, but church doesn’t drive us to commit adultery. We may have walked through grief, and that grief may have been horrific, but grief is not the direct cause of our fall.

Those are all factors that may push us in the direction in which we feel justified to sin. But in the end, we are typically unsatisfied with our spouse and pursuing our own desires.

There are two important things to remember. First, the pastor is human and vulnerable just like the rest of us to faulty thinking, sin, and bad relationships. Second, anyone who falls is worthy of restoration back to Christ. We are to pursue those who fall in love, in person, and encourage their repentance.

If they don’t repent? We don’t cast them into the trash heap of society. We still leave the door open. We still love them. Major sin has a huge effect on people and it may take years before they turn to God and pursue holiness again. Will they look exactly like they did before? No. But we are to forgive as Christ did.

We are in the middle of the Christmas season. It’s a time of reflection for a lot of Christians. Maybe good, maybe bad. If you’re vulnerable, find out where. You may be vulnerable and not realize it. Find a friend to talk to. Pour out your frustrations and heart and get an objective view.

Let all your change be positive and pleasing to the Lord.

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Interesting article I found in researching for this blog post: http://www.divorcemed.com/Articles/ArticlesByDiane/Affairs.htm

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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

How Capshaw Church Forgave a Fallen Pastor

In the last two blog posts, I have been recalling one of the most memorable moments of this fledgling ministry – a church that came together to reconcile with one of their former pastors who had committed adultery. (part 1, part 2) Brandon Watkins, a former pastor had committed adultery and had reached out to me through my ministry and asked that I go with him to his former church for a reconciliation service. What we found there, we could not have conceived.

Capshaw Church in Huntsville, Alabama, pastored by Zach Terry, did something that is rare these days, but shouldn’t be.zach

They reached out to their former worship leader, Brandon Watkins, and gave him the chance to say he was sorry and they forgave. It was an amazing moment. I reached out to Bro. Zach Terry and interviewed him about this rare experience and our email exchange follows.

I also want you to know that if you are a church and your former pastor has repented and been on the path of restoration, follow Capshaw Church’s lead and reach out. Allow the circle of grace, forgiveness and reconciliation to be complete.

FP:  Why did you decide to reconcile with Brandon now?

ZT: I believed that there had to be sufficient time to say with confidence that Brandon was, “bearing fruit in keeping with repentance.” While we can never be certain of another person’s heart decisions, his decisions looked more and more like those of a repentant man. This had been the case progressively for several months.

FP: What were some things that were difficult for you and the church in the past few years?

ZT: Some people left the visible church entirely – jaded that a Pastor could have committed such sin.  Some capitalized on Brandon’s sin and used it to leverage control on current staff members under the guise of accountability – this was rare, but it did happen. Beyond that, there was the typical hurt and disappointment that comes when the reality of sin is revealed.

FP: Did Brandon’s return for the reconciliation reopen old wounds? Overall, was it helpful for the church?

ZT: It was one of the most healing things we’ve ever done. It think by the time it was complete everyone experienced healing and grace; there were no older brothers outside the camp.

FP: What was the process you followed in putting this together or was this new to you?

ZT: It was totally new to me. We learned as we went. Basically, it looked something like this:

  • I stayed in contact with Brandon, talking on a monthly basis for over two years.
  • For about six months, Brandon and I talked about the possibility of him returning for such a service.
  • Brandon consulted with all of his counselors and friends to see if they believed he was healthy enough to take this step.
  • I met with the leadership body of my church to get their approval on the service.
  • I met with those who had worked most closely with Brandon to discuss the service.
  • I met with those who raised concerns privately to work through their issues.
  • We planned and promoted the event.

FP: Does reconciliation mean restoration to you?

ZT: I do not believe Brandon would ever be able to return to the office of Worship Pastor at Capshaw. The sins he has committed will haunt him here and the reproach would probably never die. I believe it may be possible for Brandon to lead worship again in a different city, if his spiritual health continues to progress. That would be up to the local congregation to discern in my opinion.


To be frank, grace is awkward. Grace is messy at times; I’m sure we didn’t get it all right and perfectly dot every “i” and cross every “t.” But as dangerous, messy and awkward as grace sometimes is – GRACE IS GOOD.”


FP: As a pastor, what were some important things you stressed to the congregation? What did you want your congregation to learn?

ZT: I stressed the stark reality of grace – on a practical level. I stressed the fact that there are no guarantees given to a congregation when it shows grace. There is no way for me to prove infallibly that Brandon is repentant, therefore there is always a measure of risk involved in grace.

img_3501To be frank, grace is awkward – Brandon’s return made some people uncomfortable. Grace is messy at times; I’m sure we didn’t get it all right and perfectly dot every “i” and cross every “t.” But as dangerous, messy and awkward as grace sometimes is – GRACE IS GOOD.

FP: How would a church know if they are ready to do this sort of thing with a former pastor?

ZT: I think you get to a point that you realize it would be a sin NOT to reconcile. If the former Pastor is repentant and time has seemed to prove that fact – then you will find yourself feeling guilty every time you ask God for grace while simultaneously refusing to extend it. It is then that you know it’s time to officially reconcile.

FP: What surprised you about the reconciliation?

ZT: I was surprised that not everyone was in favor of the decision to reconcile publicly. A few had some strong emotions to work through. Specifically, it was difficult for some to see Brandon publicly sing again. Some wanted Brandon to publicly and verbally repent but thought that he should not be allowed to sing. We had to work through the concept that singing is simply thoughts set to melody. I proposed that if we were to allow Brandon to speak the words, but not sing them, we would be elevating the talent of singing to an unbiblical place.

It was very important to me that Brandon be invited to sing at the conclusion of the service. I felt that there was no better way for us to communicate the gravity of grace than to allow him this opportunity. I had not planned to say this, but it occurred to me as I brought Brandon up for the final song that, “Angels can sing the glory of God, but only a repentant man can sing the grace of God.


 I felt like this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to show the world that grace and its effect is just as real as sin. I had often quoted others who said, “your repentance needs to be as broad as your sin.” The only way for that to happen for Brandon was to allow him a very public forum to apologize and seek forgiveness.”


FP: What did you learn about your church?

ZT: I learned that the overwhelming majority of people in my church are HUGE fans of grace. I learned how much love they had for a fallen brother. I learned the power of leading with grace.

FP: What was at the heart of all of this? What I mean is, this doesn’t happen. Why Capshaw? Why even try when you knew people might have old wounds opened? Was there a moment you thought it might be a bad idea?

ZT: In 2012 we saw that sin and its effects are real. I felt like this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to show the world that grace and its effect is just as real as sin. I had often quoted others who said, “your repentance needs to be as broad as your sin.The only way for that to happen for Brandon was to allow him a very public forum to apologize and seek forgiveness.

FP: You and Brandon have been friends for a long time. Did that make it easier or more difficult?

ZT: I’ve always been harder on Brandon because of our friendship. I think our friendship caused me to perhaps go slower. I feel like I know him better than most and I could tell when he wasn’t being legit and when he was.

FP: What parts of your specific experience in reconciling with Brandon would you pass on to churches who want to do this?

ZT: Celebrate like Jesus! Jesus is the shepherd who celebrated over the one recovered sheep more than over the ninety nine who never strayed. Jesus is the prodigal’s father who throws a party at the return of his lost son. Baptize a reconciliation service in the spirit of celebration. If there was ever an occasion for a Baptist buffet – this is it.

Zach Terry is the Senior Pastor of Capshaw Church. He preaches there on a weekly basis as well as speaking at conferences and events. He is the author of, “Our Spiritual Battlefield. ” Zach and his wife Julie have three children – Carly, Cole and Caitlyn. They all live in Athens, Alabama where Zach is finishing up his Master of Divinity with The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary this summer.

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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

A Blueprint for Pastoral Reconciliation, Pt. 2

A couple of weekends ago, I saw something transformative. It’s something I hope begins to happen in churches across the country whose pastor has previously fallen to adultery or any other sin. You can catch up on the details by reading my last blog – but understand that what I and the other people present at Capshaw Church in Huntsville, Alabama witnessed was a moment of phenomenal brandon02grace.

Brandon Watkins committed adultery over two years ago when he was serving as the worship leader. In those two years, he has been on the path of restoration. He is still on that path and has some way to go. But the pastor, Zach Terry, who is also a long-time friend of Brandon’s, has been involved in his restoration.

Zach felt it was time for Brandon to come back to Capshaw Baptist and be able to apologize and feel reconciliation with those he harmed. Brandon had called me and invited me to go along. I had hoped for a kind, gracious process. What happened was a Christ-centered moment where forgiveness took center stage.

Brandon met with his former worship team on Saturday night and answered a lot of questions. When a pastor falls, people have a lot of unresolved issues. There are a lot of open wounds. It was a time of healing for those involved. On Sunday morning, Zach talked to the congregation about grace. He talked about how he had told the church two years ago they would need to start “storing up grace” for when Brandon returned desiring forgiveness. He told the congregation that now was the time to release that grace.

Zach interviewed Brandon on stage and I can’t do it justice. Here’s the audio link. What I really can’t describe is Zach’s ability to share grace and describe the love of Christ during this process. I can’t convey Brandon’s brokenness and heart to reconcile. I really can’t tell you how it felt to hear Brandon sing when the service was over.

After the service, people came up to Brandon and I got to hear them say gracious things to him and have a chance to have their hearts brandon01healed to one another.

I cannot tell you enough that this is what our churches need across this country. I have been doing this ministry for five years and have heard fallen pastors who have been restored back to Christ say, “I just want to have a chance to tell my former church how sorry I am. I want to be able to stand before them and tell them that.

However, we are guarded. We feel like we are opening an old wound if we do that. But it’s reconciliation. It is part of being the people of God who welcome back the prodigal. Again, I’m not asking churches to bring a pastor back to preach or be in the ministry. I’m asking them to use what Capshaw did as a blueprint to have a time of healing.

Don’t think you can do it? In the next blog post, I have an interview with Zach Terry, pastor of Capshaw Baptist Church. He has some amazing insights on the process that occurred and how it changed him and his church. Soon, I’ll be posting an interview with Brandon about how it effected him.

Churches, pastors, leaders – I cannot tell you enough how the circle of forgiveness needs to be closed by this act of reconciliation. Please consider it. And contact me with any questions.

__________________

Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

A Blueprint For Pastoral Reconciliation, Pt. 1

Two weekends ago, I had the honor of accompanying my friend, Brandon Watkins, back to capshaw1his home church, Capshaw Church in Huntsville, Alabama.

Several years ago, Brandon committed adultery while he served as the music leader there. I was preaching at Buck Run Baptist Church one Sunday and met Brandon’s mother and sister who told me about Brandon. They told me that he had just fallen from the ministry.

They gave me his address and phone number and begged me to reach out to him. I sent him a copy of my book, which I learned later that he promptly threw into to the trash can. However, I kept emailing Brandon. I texted him once in a while.

I would say, “Hey, Brandon, I want you to know that I don’t judge you. I love you. I’m here for you. I just want to listen. If you ever want to talk, I’ve been through it before.” I kept sending messages like that.

Six months later, he called me. He had fallen and he had fallen far. I won’t recall it all here, but Brandon had been through one of the worst falls I had ever seen. But I treated him like I treat any fallen pastor. I treat them like Jesus would treat them – with patience, love, and kindness. Like a prodigal. Knowing that if they are saved, they will come around and that someday, they will need someone to talk to.

There was a day Brandon needed someone to talk to. We’ve been talking for two years now. He’s been through some tough times. And I love him. I love him warts and all. I have heard his stories, his brokenness, his fallenness, his desperation, his anger, his hurt, his pain, his anger toward God, his relationship problems, his frustrations about life, and his daily life struggles. Know what? That’s the life of a fallen pastor.

I love Brandon with all of my heart. I would take a bullet for him.

brandonI finally got to meet him one day and it was the first time I got to meet someone I was helping. It made my heart soar. He just talked to me like a man who had the same problems I had. And we connected.

We are friends.

When I started this blog five years ago, I did it because there was no real help for fallen pastors. There were a few places pastors could go, but it wasn’t apparent. A publisher contacted me and asked me to write a book and I did. It’s helped a lot of people. I told someone recently, “When my Amazon sales go up, I get a little sad, because that means that a pastor has fallen.”

Most people who contact me I give them help and I never hear from them again. I send them off to another ministry who can help them further or I am able to answer a question. Most of the questions I get are from fallen pastors wives or from the women who pastors cheat with. They need a lot of help and I’m happy to help them. That’s why this ministry exists. To help anyone who needs comfort.

I help churches whose pastors have fallen. They contact me and I give them advice because they weren’t equipped to handle a ministry failure. That’s why I’m here.

But Brandon has been with me for two years. And two weekends ago, the church where he fell from did something amazing.

No, I take that back. Amazing isn’t the word. That’s a cheap word. They did something that I have only heard of once.

The pastor of Capshaw Baptist Church, Zach Terry, decided to bring Brandon back to reconcile him before the congregation.

Wrap your mind around that for a moment. Many of you who are reading this have known a pastor who cheated while at your church. What happened? The church kicked him out. That’s what happened to me. But that’s not the biblical standard. The pastor is a member of the body of Christ. Does he deserve to be restored to pastoral ministry? Maybe not. But if he is restored to Christ, then he does deserve to have a day where he can say, “I’m sorry,” before the church where he sinned.

It’s good for that church. It’s good for the congregation. It’s good to heal those open wounds.

This week, I’m going to talk about what happened at Capshaw Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. And why it should be a blueprint for reconciling fallen pastors to the churches where they fell – when they have been restored back to Christ.

It will heal the congregation. It is what is necessary for biblical forgiveness. It will heal a church. It will change lives in your congregation, pastor. Don’t let the sins of the past dwell in the past. Open your heart to the forgiveness that has happened in the life of those who have fallen and who have been restored to Christ.

You will find rest for your congregation. You will find amazing grace. You will find revival.

Helpful articles:

From my old, anonymous blog: “Reconciling With a Fallen Pastor: Before Your Pastor Falls

Reconciling With a Fallen Pastor: Why Reconcile at All?

__________________

Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

Is Your Church Equipped to Handle Ministry Failure?

It is my strong belief that most churches and leaders are not ready to handle the failure of a church leader. But even before that happens, I believe that it can and should be prevented.

This video is an invitation to church leaders, associational missionaries, church members, pastors and anyone who wants to prevent ministry failure in their churches. It is also a call to fallen pastors to heal and be restored back to Christ.

There seems to be a grassroots movement of people who are becoming concerned about this issue. I hope that’s the case. If you’d like to help, please share this short video and/or this website with people and their churches so that we might see ministry failure due to sexual sin stopped before it gets started.

__________________

Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

God Still Loves The Fallen Pastor

You ever have a conversation with God that you just know was real?

I have. But only a few times. My friend, Joy Wilson, writes about this type of prayer in her book, “Uncensored Prayer: The Spiritual Practice of Wrestling with God.” Take time to check out her blog as well. I think if you give her a try you’ll love her stuff.

I was apparently engaged in this process without even knowing it. My mother used to do it as well. She kept detailed prayer journals. She wrote down conversations she had with God. The first time I took a peek at one of them, I was sure she was crazy. But after I kept going back to them, I knew she was conversing with God. I didn’t know how. I knew she was wrestling and hearing from God in her mediation/quiet time.

About a year after my fall from ministry and my marriage to Allison, I had a conversation with God that I will never forget. It wasn’t in audible tones. It was on a heart level. It was while I was on my knees with my Bible in front of me. I had few friends to speak of and little support. All I wanted was love. To be reminded of God’s love. To remember that He was, in fact, there. I’ll do my best to quote it for you. It was at a heart level, not audible, but it was very real.

Ray: “Lord, I’ve hurt so many. I’ve gone through so much because of what I’ve done. I have some opportunities to help people, but I feel inadequate. I just need to hear from you.”

Silence.

Ray: “I’m an inadequate husband, father, Christian, worker, human being, and I fell as a minister. I am a horrible sinner. I’ve asked for forgiveness so many times from you and others. People tell me to repent. I’m married now. I think I’ve turned away from a lifestyle of that one sin of adultery. What do you want??”

Silence.

R: “Please let me know you’re listening. So many times I’ve just wanted to give up. I can’t stand going to church. I can’t stand going anywhere. I’ve drug so many people down. I’ve disappointed so many.”

Silence.

R: “Maybe I should just shut up.”

Silence.

More silence. I’m about to give up again.

God: “Why do you still hang you head down when you go out in public? Why do you stare at the floor when you’re at the grocery or in town?”

Just like God to change the subject.

R: “I’m ashamed. I don’t want to see the faces of those people I’ve disappointed.”

G: “You should fear me more. I’m the one you sinned against.”

R: I’m beating my hands on the bed I’m leaning against at this point. “I know, Lord. It eats me alive. People tell me I haven’t repented, that I’m not apologetic. That I’m not forgiven.”

G: “You are forgiven. You sinned, violated my law, but now, you are clean by my Son. When you bring it up, it’s you bringing it up, not me. A huge mess was made, yes. But it’s over. I will still use you, but you have to seek humility. I no longer see you as a fallen pastor. I see you as my beloved child.”

I paused and wept. God had a better view of me than I did. He had a better view of me than most people and pastors in my community. Was this me talking to myself? It didn’t feel like it. Was I going crazy? Possibly. But it didn’t feel like it.

R: “Are you still there? Can I please ask something even though I don’t deserve it? I just want my kids to be okay.”

G: “Do they seem alright?”

R: “Yes. By your grace.”

G: “Rejoice. Remember what you learned a long time ago. They are only in your hands for a short time, but in my hands forever.”

R: In that moment, I couldn’t remember where I’d heard that before. “What am I supposed to do now?”

G: “Love like you couldn’t love before this. Remember what it was like to feel grace at the lowest point. Share it. Never forget it. Give it to others.”

Like that, it was over. I was worn out from a lot of things. Lack of sleep. Maybe I had too much medication in my system. Maybe I was delirious from stress. Because, I’ll be honest. I’m the last person to believe stuff like this when it happens to others. I had a lady come up to me and tell me that God spoke to her like this regularly once. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Maybe he does. Good for you!

I slept for a long time after that. Immediately after I woke, I remembered, “Remember what you learned a long time ago. They are only in your hands for a short time, but in my hands forever.” That was something my mother used to say to me. She’d tell me that she’d worry about me and fret, but that she knew that God took better care of me than she ever could.

God cares for the fallen pastor. He loves the fallen pastor. Heck, after the fallen pastor repents, he’s not even a fallen pastor anymore. He’s just a renewed Christian with a new mission. God cares about all of His flock. When the one goes astray, He seeks Him out, leaving the 99 behind.

Don’t ever doubt God’s love when you are sinning (and know that He will love you while the consequences and fall out come as well). He will put you back on the path. Even when you scramble it up really badly, He will restore you. He loves you that much.

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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

Finding Restoration in a Broken World

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