My Own Stupid Self-Righteousness

Sometimes I really think I’ve got it all figured out.

selfrighWhen I look back on my pastoring days before my fall, I realize that I was very judgmental and had a streak of self-righteousness. To be fair, I did have some times when I was very caring and non-judgmental. But there were times when I wandered into the harshness of Pharisee-ism.

The danger of examining self-righteousness in our lives is this – we are never a really good judge at it. We are, at best, a subjective, sinful, measure of ourselves and will typically mark ourselves highly on the “Oh, I don’t judge people/I don’t look at the speck in other’s eyes before getting the plank out of my own eye/I’m not terribly self-righteous” scale.

I preached last Sunday at a local church about self-righteousness. I mentioned to the congregation that the topic was difficult to preach on because we are all guilty of it. There I was, a fallen pastor, sharing with them the dangers of self-righteousness when I had been guilty of it on a grand scale.

As this week has progressed, I’ve had some intimate conversations with God about self-righteousness. I really thought I was okay in that area.

I’ve been doing this ministry for over five years, helping people that others don’t want to help. I don’t judge the people who contact me. I love them through their problems. Where’s the self-righteousness in my life?

It’s right in front of me. God slowly began to show me and expose my tendency toward it.


What allows a fallen, chronically self-righteous pastor to be able to preach and have a ministry? Because I know no matter who I’m talking to – I know that it’s not about me. It’s about Christ and who he is and the sin he came to save us from.


One of the real issues I’ve always had in my ministry is this: I get really upset about pastors who I call “serial adulterers.” What I mean is this – I usually deal with guys who have messed up once. They’ve sinned, cheated and it’s over. They need restoration.

But there’s also pastors out there who cheat and get away with it. They do it again. Then again. They do it without concern for their families, their churches or for God. I rarely get contacted by pastors in this situation. It infuriates me.

Then God just slapped me upside my self-righteous head. I’m not as good as I think. That could be me.

There is nothing good about me or within me to keep me from being the same way. I have the same sinful tendencies as anyone else. I could fall again and be that person that I have such strong feelings against.

When I was in seminary and they were telling us about adultery and selfrigh2protecting ourselves, I’d think, “That’s not going to happen to me.” I even thought that when I pastored. Stuff like that didn’t enter my thinking. But it did happen. And I fell. And I’m stupid to think it couldn’t happen again, just because it happened once and just because I’m helping others.

What’s to keep it from happening again? Prevention. Support from others. A strong marriage. Dedication to Christ. Mentoring and support from other believers.

When the conviction of God hit me this week, this was my thought process, “Ray, you really thought you were so amazing because you had done certain things to stay ‘pure.’ But it’s not about you. If you don’t stay close to Christ and keep vigilant, you could fall again.” (I’m pretty sure no one would read a blog called “The Twice Fallen Pastor.”)

What allows a fallen, chronically self-righteous pastor to be able to preach and have a ministry? Because I am able to point to the Christ who is perfect and was able to proclaim the words about judgment and self-righteousness without sin. Because he was the one who reached down to the pit my sin led me to and he rescued me from it.

Because I know no matter who I’m talking to – fallen pastor, hurt church, fallen pastor’s wife, the other woman, judgmental pastor, angry church member, anonymous commenter – I know that it’s not about me. It’s about Christ and who he is and the sin he came to save us from.

What I’ve learned in five years is pretty simple. It can happen to anyone. That’s what I tell pastors. But what I’ve learned recently is this – even after we fall and are restored back to Christ, we still have a way to go. We still need to be vigilant and focused. None of us are above sin. When we start to feel like we’ve arrived – we need to do some accounting.

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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.

Pastors In Trouble: What Can Be Done?

fallingWe’ve been looking at the current crisis facing the church today – pastors are falling at an alarming rate. Many are feeling tremendous pressure, conflict, and other forces that they are leaving the ministry, committing adultery and some are committing suicide.

In summary, what can be done?

Associations, denominational leaders, bishops, and state leadership groups need to be intentional about the situation. I get the feeling that “at the top,” the feeling is that the local church needs to be handling the situation. That’s true – when a pastor falls, it’s the responsibility of the local church to handle the situation as they see fit.

But there needs to be some type of help from groups higher up the chain. Those groups need to be equipped to provide help if asked for it. It’s important for them to suggest guidelines on how to handle the fallen pastor situation. Even more important is understanding the root problem and helping prevent it.

Also, local church leaders, elders, and deacons need to be aware of how fragile their pastor is. Are they aware of the hours he’s working? What is churcholdtheir impression of how stressed he is? When was the last time the pastor had a real vacation? Has he had any recent crisis events? Are the church leaders doing all they can when conflict arises to stand by the pastor and help fix the situation?

Church leaders also need to be aware of how demanding pastoral ministry is. Any pastor can fall. Any minister can be weakened to a place where he will want to quit the church. Unfortunately, many pastors are so good at hiding their stress and frustration that their departure will come as a surprise. There are many good books and resources on helping the pastor and understanding him. But one of the best things to do is just talking to him.

What can the church do? I have argued more than once that today’s church is not what it was designed to be. The modern church looks more like a club where religious people attend on Sunday than a community of faith that can transform lives.

When people can be part of something and be real, open their hearts to one another on daily basis by sharing themselves through prayer and through the Word of God, it will be a community where everyone – including the pastor – can be real. It will be a community not driven by programs, numbers, budget or power groups – but a group of people gathered for the glory of Christ and consumed with loving each other.

What can the pastor do? He can start by remembering where he began. God called him – a foolish, weak man. He didn’t call him to the ministry because he was a good-looking, amazing speaker. He called him because he was a willing vessel. He just wants us. He wants our brokenness.

pastorofficeAt some point, all of us tried doing too much. We thought in our effort, we needed to do something better. And when we did, we let pride in the door.

One day, we found ourselves in an office, surrounded by books, with less time to pray, with too many commitments, with a ton of programs, and less time for Christ.

When I tell people that pastors are in trouble today more than ever before, I don’t mean the guys who have already fallen. I mean the guys who don’t think they’re in trouble. I mean the guys who think they’re okay. The guys who have convinced themselves that even though they’re stressed, burned out, working too hard, whose marriages aren’t as good as they used to be, who are unhappy at the core – those are the guys who are in trouble.

Because on the inside while they are hurting – on the outside they keep telling everyone that “everything is fine.”

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.

The Church and the Kid With the Poopy Pants

My lovely wife, Allison was listening to some syndicated radio show diaper a while back. The hosts were talking about something that happened at church to one of them:

Female host: “I was in church for Easter and a family with a two year old sat next to me. The two year old was very disruptive. He was throwing Legos on my Bible. He was very disruptive. After a while, he pooped his diaper and it was very smelly. I thought about getting up and moving, but then I thought, ‘I wouldn’t want her to think I was moving because of her. That might offend her.’”

Male host: “Yeah, she was rather bothersome. You did have reasons to move, but to get up and move would have been offensive.

Okay. So, my wife and I discussed this for about twenty minutes.

She had a point. Her point was that people who visit church should be able to control their children and take them out if they are disruptive. If they have a poopy diaper, they should take them out and change them.


“Does the mainstream church really want people who aren’t like them? Do they really want the unwashed, poopy-diapered kids in the world?  Or do we want people like us? Do we want people to conform to our ways? “


My point was this – “What if this was the only time this family came to church in three years? What if they are ‘unchurched’? They don’t know how to act in church, they don’t know what to do and they are just there because they just think it’s the right thing to do?

I started thinking. Does the church at large really want the unchurched in the church? Statistics usually show that 80% of the population isn’t in church. Do we really want them? They don’t act always like those in church, they don’t talk like those in church and when they do show up, they bring their kids with poopy diapers.

Does the mainstream church really want people who aren’t like them? Do they really want the unwashed, poopy-diapered kids in the world? Do they really want the below-average, low-income, low-ACT scored people of the world? Or do we want people like us? Do we want people to conform to our ways? People to act like us?

family05I remember when I was pastoring I had a guy who I will call Jim. He showed up every Sunday in flip-flops and shorts. He just loved the preaching. He loved being part of a church. I loved having him there. Several members didn’t care that he didn’t act or conform to Sunday standards. He made some very uncomfortable. It begs the question – do the church people really want the unchurched in church?

When the young couple shows up to church and they have a kid who is disruptive, do we really want them there? What is our reaction? Do they fit the mold of our normative church?

Jesus went out and found the completely strange people of the world. He found the lepers and brought them in. He got the tax collectors, the adulterers. He sought the outright sinners in society. He even went after a Pharisee. What are we seeking after? When we are doing evangelism, are we looking for people like us, or are we seeking after people who are like what Christ sought after?

How would Jesus have reacted to a set of poopy diapers?

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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.

Hey Wait, I’m The Samaritan!

I remember the touching story of the “Good” Samaritan growing up in Sunday School. Jesus told it in response to a question asked him – “Who is my neighbor?” Dude gets beat up while traveling home. He’s left for dead by the side of the road. A priest and a Levite both pass him by and ignore the heck out of him.

feltboardThe third man who passes by is a Samaritan. As a child, we learned that we should all be like that Samaritan and help people in need as the teacher pasted the little flannel picture of the Good Samaritan on the board.

Then I went to Seminary. I remember the class well. It was hermenutics taught by Dr. Robert Stein. His first statement was, “Where does the Savior ever call the Samaritan ‘good’?”

Oh, snap. Never noticed that. He then informed us of how the Jewish audience hearing the parable would have been aghast hearing that a Samaritan would have been the one who had stopped to help in the first place. In those days, the Samaritans were viewed as “half-breeds.” They were ascended from the Assyrians and had married Jewish people. Many Jews hated them.

Therefore, for Jesus to put a Samaritan as the hero of the story was a stunner. It offended his largely Jewish audience. Especially when he asked the man who had posed the original question, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” (Luke 10:36 ESV) The man couldn’t even bring himself to say the word “Samaritan.” Instead, he said,“The one who showed him mercy.”

Over the past five years, I’ve been trying to find my place in the world after I fell from ministry. There were days I didn’t want to go into Wal-Mart or Kroger for fear of seeing someone I might know. I would hang my head in shame while in public, hoping no one recognized me. Over time, this feeling went away as I grasped the full forgiveness of God.

I did struggle with how to help other people. I wanted to minister. I always kept the words of Hershael York from my book in the back of my mind“Your repentance has to be more notorious than your sin.” So, for the past five years, I’ve been an ear for fallen pastors, tried to keep my head above water, and tried (sometimes on target) to do the right thing.

Two things happened recently that might sound like a humble brag, but they’re not. They struck a chord in me.

trapA while back, I was driving down a long stretch of interstate and saw a car broken down. Now, my mother, God rest her soul, always told me to never stop in such a situation. I can hear her now, “It’s a trap!” (Or maybe that was Admiral Ackbar.) Anyway, something within me told me to stop for this 1987 Buick Century.

I got out and five people got out. They looked worse for wear. One was on a cell phone. I asked them if a tow was coming. No, apparently, they couldn’t get a tow. The car was overheated. I’ll be honest, they didn’t smell too great. Amazingly, enough, I had a brand new container of coolant in my car and I went to get it. The car still didn’t start. The guy who was there said, “We need some tape to tape up this pipe.” Amazingly, again, I had trainer’s tape (for my job) and got some.

While he was taping, I began talking to a young woman. She said, “Thank you for stopping. We’ve been here for an hour. No one has stopped. Five people have honked. Even a state trooper. I just got out of the hospital after having a miscarriage.”

The guy said, “I’m done, let’s start it up!” It started. Every one in the car hugged me. And I hugged back, choking back tears.

A few days later, I was in the IGA parking lot and I swear it was thecar01 same 1987 Buick Century. It was a young couple and they pulled up next to me. The young woman was in the drivers seat and her husband was leaned back in the passenger seat, seemingly embarrassed. She said, “I wouldn’t normally asked, but we’re on empty. We have no money. If you just have a dollar, please.”

I said, “I’m sorry,” as I opened my wallet. “I don’t carry cash.” I went into the store and couldn’t stop thinking about them. I could almost hear God say, “Get them money.” I got to the checkout and said out loud to the cashier (who must have thought I was nuts) “I can get money off my debit card!” She said (looking at me like I was an idiot), “Yes, you can, sir.”

I ran back out to the parking lot but didn’t see them. But I turned to my right and they were sitting there talking to another woman who was trying to get away from them. I ran over to them and gave them the cash. She said, “Are you serious?” I said, “Yes ma’am! God be with you.” She yelled out the loudest, “Hallelujah!”

I looked over and her husband was smiling and crying.

That’s when it hit me. I was the Samaritan. I was the one Jesus called. The outcast to minister to others. Rejected by many, but still very useful to God. Surrounded by neighbors in need.

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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.

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Where Is Christ When We Fail?

Everyone knows the story of Judas. He was the great betrayer of jesussandChrist. For silver, for mere money, he betrayed the Savior. For him, there was no Disney ending. There was suicide. There was no chance to redeem himself.

Even at one point, he realized his error. In Matthew 27, it says: “Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying,‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ They said, ‘What is that to us? See to it yourself.’ And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. (ESV)

There was not a happy ending for Judas. A man who had walked with Jesus for years and yet let deceit enter his heart. But it didn’t have to end that way.

There’s another betrayal of sorts mentioned of a disciple before Jesus dies. It is of one of the three disciples who are closest to Jesus. It is, of course, Peter, who denied Christ three times: “’Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.’” Peter said to him, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.‘” (Luke 22:31-34 ESV)

Peter’s denial wasn’t as strong as Judas’ betrayal. But at that moment, it must have felt like it. Think about it for a moment. Peter had heard all of the teachings of Christ. Even this one: “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”(Matthew 10:32-33 ESV)

After the death of Christ, Peter must have felt the lowest of low. We know that he did. In John 21, we find the disciples out fishing. Peter must have still felt the sting of his betrayal and denial. The disciples went out to fish. They were returning to their pre-Jesus careers.

Suddenly, on the shore, appeared Jesus. He said, “Not catching anything? Try the other side of the boat.” They didn’t recognize him. Surely they were thinking, “What do you think? That we’ve been casting on one side of the boat?” When they did, they caught so many fish they couldn’t hold them.

Suddenly, Peter realized it was Jesus. It was a moment only Scripture could capture. Hold that thought.

I failed Christ almost five years ago when I fell from ministry. I had committed adultery while pastoring a church. A lot of people told me I didn’t deserve the love of God ever again. That God could never use me again. I believed them. There I sat, in a proverbial boat, like Peter. I wondered where God was. Surely He was out there. Surely the Savior who had called me had not given up on me.

I was the one who had denied Him. I was the one who had walked away from Him and His calling. I was the one who had fallen. Had He seen it coming? He had seen Peter’s fall. But what was the purpose? It was still my fault.

When I was called to ministry, the passage that God had laid on my heart was from John 21. Maybe again I would find solace from it. And I did.

In John 21, when Peter realized it was Jesus standing on the shore, he learned to follow again. He didn’t wait for the boat to get to shore.

jumpHe jumped it the water and swam. Peter was like that. Impetuous. Guns blazing. He wanted to be where Christ was. He knew he had messed up, but he knew even more that he wanted to be where His Savior and friend was. So he jumped out of the boat and swam to Him.

Then came the famous restoration of Peter. I won’t go over it again for you here. But when Peter followed boldly by jumping out of the boat, after his miserable failure of denying Christ, Jesus restored Him.

Similarly, when we fail Christ, He’s waiting on us. To swim to Him. To get out of the boat of our regular routine and follow Him anew. That’s where I found Him after I fell. I had to have courage to seek Him out.

But most important I discovered He was already waiting on me. When I finally jumped out of my boat, He restored me. Fully, completely. He forgave me. What else did I expect from the merciful Christ?

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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.

Tough Times? Your Story Isn’t Over

Lots of people contact me who are in desperate circumstances. Theytough_times just fell from the ministry. Their church is falling apart. Their husband just left them. They just found out about a terminal disease. A parent just died.

These are difficult circumstances to be in, for sure. We’ve all been in awful, mind-blowing, “how-will-I-ever-get-out-of-this” times in our lives. Those moments when we can’t see beyond today.

Tough times are tough times – whether you put yourself in the middle of them or whether they just seem to happen.

In those moments, we might even say, “God, you brought me here. How could you let this happen? Why didn’t you stop this horrible thing?We might not say it out loud, but it might be screaming to us from the depths of our hearts.

I’ve been there. And it always reminds me of Acts 16. Paul and Silas had been called by God on a missionary journey. They were traveling through Philippi, preaching. Long story short, they cast a demon out of a woman who was driving them nuts. For their trouble, they were falsely accused, beaten within an inch of their life and chained to the floor of the inner prison for it.

Bad times. Really, really bad times. I mean, here they were. Two guys, called by God to spread the gospel and along the way, they get falsely accused and arrested, beaten and jailed.

The author of Acts tells us what they were doing in that jail at midnight on the floor of that cell.

You know what a lot of us would be doing? Second guessing.God! How could you? You sent me here to spread the gospel and now I’m bloody and beaten and in prison? Thanks. I’m probably going to die now.

But that’s not what Paul and Silas are doing. They’re singing hymns of praise to God. Why? Because their joy isn’t based on circumstance. It’s based on the character and nature of God.

You see, they know that their story isn’t over yet. They don’t know story_endhow it ends, but they know that their bookmark isn’t at the end of their book. They have a way to go yet. They know God isn’t done with them. So, they just praise God for another chapter that He’s writing.

They may not understand why this is happening or for what purpose; but they do understand that God is still God and that He will see them through it all. They know that when it is all over, they will see something wonderful. Something not about them, but about Him.

The point of Paul and Silas’ suffering? They were put in a position to witness to the jailer and his family. God had a reason for it all. There was a purpose to the plot of the story.

That’s what I have to remind myself a lot of days. I’m not at the end of my story yet. The story God is writing for me. No matter where I am, there’s still hope. My bookmark is still somewhere in the middle, maybe a bit past the middle. But God still has purpose for me.

He can see the whole book from beginning to end and as gracious and loving author of it all, I can praise Him – even in the middle of the most dreary chapter.

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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 Forgiveness For The Remarried Wishful Thinking?

There’s a question that keeps bombarding me from time to time. sorrycoupUsually, it’s shrouded in some level of judgmentalism, but sometimes, and surprisingly, it comes with an honest heart that seeks an answer.

How can anyone who has committed adultery and left their spouse to marry another ever be forgiven by God?  The fact that they are now married to another person shows they are unrepentant and due to Christ’s command in the Sermon on the Mount, they are actually living in perpetual adultery.

Is forgiveness for the remarried wishful thinking?

It’s an interesting statement and something I’ve pondered, to be sure. You better believe I’ve thought about it. So have thousands of people who are now living in divorced relationships that didn’t necessarily come as a result of adultery. What is the evangelical answer to more than half of the population? Well, I’m sorry, but you’re living in perpetual adultery. You’re out of luck.

For some, that is the answer. Judging by the occasional angry email I get, that’s the answer for a lot of people.

Let’s face the facts first. Adultery is a sin, horrible in the eyes of God. Divorce is a sin. It is not God’s plan for the married couple. I have no “but” or “however” to place here. Those are the facts of Scripture. I’m not going to make an excuse. That’s just it.

I don’t believe that those sins are unforgivable. Once we’ve trudged on and made our decisions before the face of God and despite His Word, we have a lot to consider. If we’ve remarried and forged ahead, there’s little to be done. Someone will say, “You shouldn’t sin to expect grace to abound.” To be gracious to that statement, I will only answer that there are millions of marriages that fail.

If Christian marriages were as great as they could be, partnered by Spirit filled people who were doing what they should, within a Spirit filled community, I surmise that we would have a lot less problems. But it is futile to throw stones when we don’t have a grasp of the situation.


 What is the evangelical answer to more than half of the population? “Well, I’m sorry, but you’re living in perpetual adultery. You’re out of luck.


We do know that people sin. We do know that we shouldn’t. And we do know that millions and millions of Christian people are divorced and remarried and probably want an answer to this question.

Has Christ really looked at us and said, “Sorry, you’ve locked yourself in this box of sin. There’s nothing I can do for you this time. Unless you’re willing to divorce the person you’re with now and go back to the other person, regardless of how much has happened since then. I just don’t think I can ever forgive you. Ever.

No, you’re not beyond forgiveness. Did you commit adultery before your marriage that led to a divorce? Then repent. Seek out your spouse and reconcile. If it doesn’t happen, don’t keep committing adultery. Stop. Repent. Turn to God.

Did you and your spouse divorce for different reasons and now you’ve remarried? Did someone tell you that you’re an adulterer because you remarried? Well, I’ll tell you what. That may be the letter of the law as some see it, but even if it is the case, it’s a one time sin. Fall upon your face, cry out to Christ and ask for forgiveness.

As one man said, “You can’t unscramble the egg.

eggs4When they cast the adulterous woman at the feet of Christ, He didn’t waste his time with those who judged her. He spent His attention and time on her. When He finally answered them, they were ashamed and went away. Finally He said to her, “Is anyone left to condemn you? Go and sin no more.

The act of adultery, like any other sin, does not have to be a continual act. Regardless of what the world says, when we repent, Christ makes us clean, new, sanctified people. It’s over. Now, the world may have a field day with us, but that’s all garbage. What matters most is what our Savior sees in us. He did atone for all my sins. Even the ones I committed while spitting in His face, God forgive me.

Go, sin no more. Live a life pleasing to Him. He has taken away our guilt.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers . . . will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

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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.

 

What To Do When A Pastor Falls, Pt. 1

I wanted to be able to write something to help churches and leaders have a guide for what to do when a pastor falls. The crisisproblem is that no two situations are quite alike. And yet, all situations are very similar.  For the next few posts, I want to give some help that comes from my experience and from the things I’ve read in the past five years.  (You might want to check out my book or contact me directly for more in depth help on the issue.)

When a pastor falls, it’s not an easy experience for anyone. The advice I’m giving is general advice for when a church learns that their pastor has fallen morally. He might have committed adultery with another person, he might have been engaged in what he calls an “emotional affair“, or he might have been engaged in a long time addiction to pornography. This post is designed to help the leaders in the church when the find out their pastor has fallen.

I want to start off with a few basic reminders before I start throwing out advice.

1. Remember that each and every decision needs to be bathed in prayer. People will be quick to act, easy to anger, and will be very hurt. Prayer has a way of focusing us in the right way.

2. Remember that decisions based on God’s Word, no matter how difficult they might be, will always be the right ones. A pastor who has committed adultery has forfeited his right to shepherd the flock for a time (that topic to be covered later).

3. But always remember that decisions based on God’s Word are always to be made with grace, love, and humility. If the pastor is removed, it should always be done with the grace of Galatians 6:1.

4. Never forget that there are many people involved in this matter. One man’s sin may be at the forefront, but there are many others who need care and need to see the church act with truth, love, and grace.

5. Keep it confidential until a decision is made. If your church leadership is gathering facts and talking to the pastor, gossip should not be part of anyone’s life. When the facts come in, your pastor may be cleared. If one of the church leaders goes home and tells his spouse all the details of an important meeting and word gets out and severely twisted, the damage may be too great.

6. Finally, never be afraid to ask for outside help. If your church leadership team isn’t sure about what to do, or you feel like you can’t seem to agree, find a mediator. Ask an expert for help. There are a lot of people I know and there are people provided by your denomination or association who can offer wisdom. Never feel like you’re alone or that you’re the first ones to go through this.

truefalseSo let’s get to some first steps in this matter. I don’t want to assume anything – like I said, people tend to find out differently and people tend to react differently.

Get The Facts Straight

Finding out that the pastor has committed some sort of adultery is not easy. The information can come in many different ways:

  • A rumor that has spread in the community
  • A church member might approach the church leadership with a printed out series of emails or Facebook messages that prove the pastor’s infidelity
  • An anonymous letter is sent to the pastor and church leadership from a woman claiming to be his mistress
  • The pastor’s wife might approach a deacon regarding her suspicions about the minister and a church member or staff member
  • A staff member might tell church leadership of an ongoing affair
  • At the end of a service, a church member/staff member might confess that the pastor has been cheating with them
  • The rumor might begin on a social media site (Facebook, Twitter) and get picked up by local media

There are many ways that church leadership can get informed of an issue the minister might be having. I’ve heard of or witnessed all of the scenarios listed above. The easiest thing to do is panic. The knee-jerk reaction is to fire the pastor without any kind of meeting with him or examination of the evidence.

The best thing to do is for the church leadership is to respond in a calm and biblical manner. Most church by-laws require some sort of due process for the minister. It is important to have a meeting with him. Before that meeting takes place, it is a good idea to do fact gathering from people who are knowledgeable about the situation.

The church leadership should take seriously any first-hand evidence that is presented to them. Always be wise with any evidence, discernmentunderstanding the people presenting it. Such a time requires discernment. If a person asks for a meeting with the church leadership and confesses to an affair with the pastor, should their claim be taken seriously? Absolutely. They have a right to be heard. Their claim should not be rejected outright. If they have evidence of communication, it is even more helpful. A problem can arise when someone rejects their claim because this person, “Isn’t the pastor. They aren’t trustworthy.”

Every person who has a justifiable claim has a right to be heard. Again, the claim may later be rejected as false or partially false, but all evidence needs to be weighed before rejecting any outright.

Gossip, innuendo, and rumor is not typically helpful. Anonymous letters are not the greatest. However, I have known many women who have written such letters and were truthful in what they wrote. Of course, the fact that they did not sign them led many to reject the claim. The church leadership should be careful in approaching such communication.

The pastor’s side of the story should be heard as well. He needs to understand the facts that have been gathered or given to the church leadership. One of the worst things that can happen in a meeting is for things to get personal. Sticking to the facts is very important.  I’ll talk more about meeting with the pastor later. But understand that it is important to always gather as much information as possible.

Don’t Read Into The Situation

If you do hear gossip, receive a letter, or have someone approach your leadership about your pastor’s fidelity, treat it as a serious matter.

One of the worst things we can do when an accusation is made (and no fault has been found in the pastor yet) is to think, “You know he has been acting weird lately,” or “He has always hugged the women in the church too long,” or “I never did feel comfortable around him.” You may feel those statements are true, but those statements may have nothing to do with the matter on the table now.

As church leaders, examine the facts as you have them, pray over them and prepare your heart for what decisions may lie ahead. Next time, I’ll talk about meeting with the pastor and how to understand his reaction.

Click here for part 2 and here for part 3.

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.

Are Pastors Too Hard On Themselves?

polevaultI was on the phone recently with a pastor friend of mine from out West. He had overheard someone in his church criticize something he had said and he had taken it personally.

He said something like this – “People don’t understand how much criticism can hurt pastors, especially when we are working so hard all week-long doing ministry for them. I mean, we work so hard to do everything right. What they don’t understand is that no matter what they say or do to criticize, I’m always harder on myself than they could ever be on me.

Those words I just bolded, italicized and underlined are important. They come out of the mouths of about 90% of the pastors I talk to. Heck, I said it about myself when I was pastoring. “I’m harder on myself than anyone else could be. I expect more from myself than anyone else could. I expect my sermons to be just about perfect, my ministry to look excellent, my appearance in public to look great, and everything I do to be a reflection of my church and of Christ.

That’s a pretty good summary of how most pastors feel even if they wouldn’t use those exact words. In my book I talk about some of the things that lead to ministry failure and unrealistic expectations is one of the top things.

Guess where a lot of the unrealistic expectations come from? From the minister himself. Are pastors too hard on themselves?

It’s a good thing to have realistic expectations for yourself. You should have reasonable, biblical standards for yourself. But there is a point where those expectations become unrealistic. When we set the bar even over what Christ has for us.Frustrated office manager overloaded with work.

I think there’s a moment in ministry where the pastor starts micromanaging or taking on too many tasks and he thinks that he is responsible for the reputation of the church. Instead of seeing the church as a body, he really starts to see himself as the one who needs to be involved in every aspect so that he can make everything work.

To be fair, this often happens when members fall to the wayside and fail to perform certain duties. The pastor will start making the bulletin, teaching classes, handling the youth, cleaning the toilets, etc. and he will start piling it on and he thinks he’s doing the work of the kingdom. Unfortunately, what he’s doing is weakening the reason he’s there. He’s there to preach the Word and be a shepherd.

But as time goes by, something else happens. He looks at the success of his peers, other churches in the area and he sees that he’s not keeping up. It’s church envy. Most guys won’t ever admit to this. Even guys who have large, seemingly successful churches. A lot of pastors end up with a lot of pride and just want more. And they take it on themselves to grow the church. And guess what? It’s not their job. Christ said He would add to the church.

After several years of being out, it has been easier to look at what I became in my later years and how I got isolated and frustrated instead of doing what I should have been doing. I heard my friend on the phone as he shared with me some of his problems and I heard some of the things in his voice that I used to hear in mine.

exhaustedThat’s when he said, “It just bothers me that people criticize when they don’t know the whole story. If they knew how hard I am on myself, they’d probably never say anything. Because I’m harder on myself than they’ll ever be.

I could hear it in his voice. I could hear the days he spent in prayer for his people, the hours he spent in sermon prep, the countless times he had answered a late night phone call, the numerous times he had to smile at a church member who he knew really didn’t like him. I could hear in his voice, not anger, not bitterness – but the kind of sadness – not equal to, but similar to – the kind that Jesus had when he looked out on the people he was trying to help who only had scorn for him.

I said, “Why are you being so hard on yourself?

He said, “What?”

I said, “You’re doing the same thing I used to do. You said you’re trying really hard and that you’re being really hard on yourself. Why do you do that?

He said, “I just want it all to be right. I’m trying to do my best.”

I said, “Remember when you got your call to ministry? Remember when you first started pastoring and you preached your first few sermons? I bet if you could go back now and listen to them, you’d think they would sound terrible, wouldn’t you?

He laughed and said, “Yeah, I would.”

I continued, “And I bet you didn’t have a clue about what to do as a pastor. But at that 2cor12moment, you were convinced that all you needed was Christ and His Word and you could make it, right?”

He paused, “You’re right. I hear you.

And I said, “That’s all he wants from you now. Do you think Christ wants you to be this hard on yourself? Yeah, he wants our best. But he doesn’t want you driving yourself mad and into the ground trying to do everything. He doesn’t want his people having unrealistic expectations. You know what he wants. The same thing He wanted when He called you. He just wants you.”

He wants you in your weakness. Because His power is made perfect in our weakness, right?

You’re right. I see what you’re saying,” he said. It was like a realization he hadn’t had in a while. And to be frank, what I had just said had come out of nowhere. It was something I needed to hear too.

It’s one of things that comes to me from the Holy Spirit when I talk to guys. I’m not wise by any means. Sometimes I’m not particularly helpful. But God always knows what to say.

And pastors, if you’re reading this and you are pushing yourself to be perfect, and you have the accelerator mashed to the floor, trying to get everything you can out of yourself, it might be time to remember that Christ doesn’t want you to do that. He just wants you. He wants you to be yourself – weak, vulnerable, gifted and ready to serve.

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Here are some excellent articles about dealing with expectations:

How Many Hours Must a Pastor Work to Satisfy the Congregation?” by Thom Rainer

Experts: Pastor burnout results from unrealistic expectations” from Florida-Times Union

Unrealistic Ministry Expectations: What’s a Pastor to Do?” by Paul Tripp

How to Pastor Difficult People” by Richard Dobbins

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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.

What Would Jesus’ Bumper Stickers Say?

Let’s say Jesus was here today. That he started His earthly ministry in 2015. Let’s assume he had to have a car to travel to places. Maybe a Prius. Heck, maybe he’d have a Hummer. Who knows? Maybe an AMC Gremlin. That might be an important topic of debate.

bumperWhat I’m wondering is what would Jesus’ bumper stickers say.

Bumper stickers say a lot about us. What political stance we take. How we feel about the sanctity of life. How the incumbent president doesn’t reflect our current ideals. How we root for one sports team or another. And about how we support or oppose certain social issues. Bumper stickers say a lot about us to the world and the people driving around us.

I understand that in writing this, I’m taking artistic freedom and a lot of liberty. But please humor me for a second.

Let’s look first at the people who claim to follow Christ. We can find all kinds of bumper stickers that proclaim their belief system.

Here’s a few: “Conservative: Because Everyone Can’t Be a Freeloader“; “CoExist? Okay Lefty, You First“; “It’s a Child, Not a Choice“;  “Jesus Was a Conservative“; “Blacks didn’t choose slavery, Jews didn’t choose genocide, Babies don’t choose abortion“; “If we ever forget that we are one nation under God then we will be a nation gone under“; “One man plus one woman equals marriage.


What if Jesus was conducting His earthly ministry and he drove a car? Would he feel the need to put bumper stickers on it? Would he feel the same need that many conservative Christians do today to voice some pretty strong opinions on a ten word flash on their bumper?


That’s a spattering of bumper stickers on the cars of Christian conservatives across the country. I want to make it clear that in this post I’m not arguing for or against the bumper stickers above. And this post isn’t about religous/social issues, per se.

I need to make this very clear – most conservative Christians don’t have bumper stickers proclaiming the message of their morality.

I also don’t want it to come across that I have a problem with free speech through bumper stickers. I do not. If you have convictions about your ideals and you want to advertize them and you feel a good way to do it is through a sticker on your car, go for it. Knock yourself out. More power to you.

My point is today is this – what if Jesus was conducting His earthly ministry and he drove a car? Would he feel the need to put bumper stickers on it? Would he feel the need to voice some pretty strong opinions on a ten word flash on his bumper?

I honestly don’t know. I’d like to hear your opinion.obamajesus

I’d like to think that Jesus would see His car as a necessary means to get from one point to another to share the good news.

I’m not saying Jesus didn’t have strong opinions. He certainly did. He did finally get tired of the Pharisees. In Matthew 23, he pronounced a series of judgments on them, calling them “whitewashed tombs” – they were beautiful on the outside but on the inside, they were just dead man’s bones.

Would Jesus then put a bumper sticker on his AMC Gremlin that said, “Pharisee Conspiracy Around Us“?

Jesus spent most of his time loving and showing grace to those who were neglected in this life. The crippled, lame, mourning, destitute, demon ridden, and outcast. His main objective was to show grace and present the gospel to a world that needed to hear it.

In our day, people like to say Jesus had a  position on gay marriage, the government, interracial marriage, whether we should have certain instruments in church and whether we should be wealthy.

Some want to stick bumper stickers on Jesus’ ride. Whether He wants them there or not.

I’m not saying that other parts of Scripture don’t deal with some of those issues. But I like to think that if Jesus were riding around in His AMC Gremlin, He’d only have one bumper sticker:

“Seek and save those who are lost.”

He might have another:

“Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

weary1In His time, Jesus wasn’t overly concerned about social issues. He was concerned with people and the path they were walking. He wanted them in the kingdom. He looked upon the woman who was washing His feet with expensive perfume as an act of worship and questioned why the disciples weren’t doing the same.

The bumper stickers on Jesus’ car? “Follow me.” Through the worst and the best. It won’t be easy. At times it will be difficult. But I will never leave you or forsake you.

Whatever social issues we might be attached to – they could be important. But do not let them keep you from losing sight of the Savior who made it His point to seek after the lowliest in society to build His kingdom.

I’m still unsettled on this issue, so please comment.

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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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