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.

Help With The Crisis of Fallen Pastors

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 are plenty of blog posts here concerning fallen pastors, their wives, how churches can get started after a pastor falls, and many other issues. If you’re looking for help, this is one place to start.

My book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” also gives insight on why pastors fall and how we can understand the process better and prevent it.

I am available to you on the phone or if my schedule allows it, in person. I have a strong network of people I trust who can help in many different situations. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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.

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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.

I Want To Pastor Again

I do. Or, I think I do.

I get a lot of emails from fallen pastors who ask, “Will I ever get to pastor again?” My typical response is this: “Nope. Not unless you have restored with your wife or you are in a Pentecostal or Church of God denomination.”

sinners

Like one man said, Sinners make the best saints.”

Think about all the failures in Scripture. Think about all the men who failed before they became great men of God. I don’t even have to list them here for you.

But some will say, “But you violated the seventh commandment. That puts you right out of pastoring.”

Listen, I’ve blogged about that before. I’m going to tell you that when I’ve preached since my fall from the pastorate, I’ve preached about grace, the love of Christ, my adultery, sin, and mercy. Every time I do, I have an altar call full of people, deacons, elders, and people who respond like I’ve never seen.

Here’s what I know. I have pastors calling me on a regular basis who don’t know how to relate to the current generation. They know that the old church standards are dying. They ask me why.

I say, “Because the old church standards have forgotten how to love like Christ does. Because the old church is so hung up on arguing about what hymnal to use that they have forgotten how to welcome in sinners into the church.”

Honestly, if I was pastoring, I would be happy to let in anyone into the church. That might tick off some people, but so be it. Jesus made a lot of people unhappy when he was ministering. He spoke to the woman at the well, stood between a bunch of stones and the woman in adultery, spoke to Zacheeus, and even played nice with some Roman statesmen.

Here’s the deal. Let them all come in the church. I don’t care if they’re drug dealers,  high on marijuana, people who are cutting themselves, people who are terribly depressed, people with PTSD, those with aclochol problems, with addiction issues, with pornography issues, poverty stricken, sexually Traffic sign for Winners or Losers - business conceptconfused, smelly, ex-convicts, or whatever. Know why? It’s not my job to change them.

Get that?

It’s the pastor’s job to preach the Word in and out of season. There might be some regular church members who might feel a little uncomfortable with that, but there were plenty of people who felt that way in Jesus’ time as well.

You know who does the remarkable changing in people’s lives? God. He does the transformation in people’s hearts. Through His Word. We just let them in. And unfortunately, we aren’t letting a lot of different people in to our churches who don’t look like us, act like us or talk like us.

I have a new heart these days. If I was pastoring, I’d dig having anyone come into my church. Having anyone who was weary, poor of heart, sad, depressed, and burdened down walk in through those doors. I’d be happy to feed them, love on them, and share the good news with them.

In fact, I would be pleased if they didn’t look like church people. I’d be enthralled. Because I’d know those were the people Jesus wanted to minister to. Those were the people Jesus wanted to speak to directly. The rough crowd. The people hungry for change.

Yeah, I want to pastor. I want to pastor the tough group. People like me. People who are looked down upon. Sinners who people don’t want to associate with. People who have no other place to go.

People who need absolute grace, love, mercy and Christ. That’s where I want to be. I’d be proud to be their servant.

____________________________

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 and Divorce: The Reality

2percentThis isn’t an easy post. Some fallen pastors who have committed adultery end up with the woman they commit adultery with. I was one. How should we approach the issue of fallen pastors and divorce?

Let me share with you a couple of things before I start. The statistic is non-negotiable – 2% of marriages that are built on adultery succeed. You get that? That means if you marry someone that you commit adultery with, you are looking down the barrel of a 98% failure rate.

Now, let me share with you this quote from Dr. Hershael York, preaching professor who I interviewed for my book. He had a great reason why marriages built on affairs don’t really last. It’s because when you’re engaged in an affair, it’s really a fantasy world that you can come and go from. It’s not a true relationship that is founded on the marriage ideal:

Every time you have an affair with anybody, I don’t care who you are, in a sense, you’re having an affair with a fantasy and not a real person. Because the person you’ve got to pay the mortgage with, deal with the kids’ soccer schedule with, the one whose vomit you wipe up when they’re sick, that’s the real person you live with. Twenty minutes in the sack on a Tuesday afternoon is really not love. You’ve got to tell yourself that. You’ve got to awaken yourself to the fact that it’s fantasy. If you end up with the person you had an affair with, I guarantee you once you get married you have to face the same issues and same struggles. You cannot take two totally depraved human beings, stick them in the same house and not have friction.” (Fallen Pastor, p. 172)

He’s right. The thrill of the affair is not the same as a marriage covenant.

I did in fact, marry Allison, who was the woman I met and had an affair with. We are still here after four years. We are not the norm. I do not encourage fallen pastors to run after the women they had an affair with. For some reason, Allison and I have made it work. She is great for me. She loves me for who I am and I love her with all my heart. Does that make our sin right? Nope. But we are here, attempting to move on past what we did and trying to live a life of holiness.

I’ve often said that pastors don’t just wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll commit adultery today.” They don’t. It takes a long time to get to that point. Know this – their sin is their responsibility. There are factors that weaken them and I list them in my book – poor relationship with spouse, overly high expectations, church conflict, isolation and many times a huge trauma.

pastorkidsOne thing that many fallen pastors don’t think about is what the fallout will be. When I was on the road to leaving my wife and the ministry, I just knew I wanted to be with Allison. I knew it would cost me my job and the contact I had with my children.

When I finally got caught, it became more real to me. It was all over. All of it. Especially the contact I would have with my children.

I won’t sit here and tell you that it was an easy thing. It was the most difficult thing. In fact, all of the fallen pastors I talk to tell me that losing full-time contact with their children in cases of divorce is the most devastating thing for them.

There are some statistics that should bother anyone involved in church today. The statistic that a vast majority of ministry couples feel that serving in the church has a detrimental effect upon their marriage. That most ministry couples experience anxiety and depression.

People ask me, “Would you do it again if you had the chance?” I don’t like hypothetical questions. What I do consider is being able to provide for my children, making sure they are happy, and being involved with them and being free to talk with them when they desire.

They are daddy’s girls. I am proud to say they love me. We discuss things that I know they only share with me. They know what I did was a sin, but they love me anyway.

Divorce is a terrible, sinful thing. They know this. But each time I see them, they wrap their arms around me and call me “Daddy.” They love me despite my flaws and care about the ministry I’m involved in now.

What is the point I’m driving at? Well, there are two. First, if you are a pastor who is thinking about adultery, please think about the consequences. If you fall, it will effect everyone around you. Your church, your wife, your kids and people in the community. If there is something there to salvage, work on it.

Secondly, if you have fallen, do what it takes to work things out with your family. Your kids, parents, siblings, trustgrandparents, whomever. Not everyone will be easy to trust or forgive you right away. You need to understand that you are the one who sinned. If you are truly repentant and understand grace, then you will give people time to heal.

Divorce is a serious thing. Fallen pastors, are you ready to go into those proceedings? Many hurt pastor’s wives want to leave you immediately. It’s because they are hurt. They often listen to the counsel of their family or those in the church who are hurt as they are. If you want your wife back, try to get an impartial mediator involved.

If divorce is pursued, seek the heart of Christ. Don’t be an angry person. Always be thinking about your children. Don’t respond with hatred when hatred is thrown back at you. Remember that the reason your spouse is acting as she does is because you did what you did. Show true, repentant humility.

You might not be able to stop a divorce, but beginning with true, Christ-like humility can put you on the right step toward a lifetime journey of repentance and holiness.

Finally, I will tell you this. When a wife has been cheated on, she has the right to be angry. Don’t expect her to forgive you or gain your trust overnight. I’ve seen a lot of fallen pastors say to their wives within months of the act of adultery, “God says you should forgive me.” Wrong approach. When we commit adultery, we have caused depths of hurt that we do not understand.

Step back, repent to God and allow Him to work on the hearts of others. Know that trust takes a long time to be restored. It may never be restored. I’ve seen fallen pastors whose wives never forgive them or always hold their adultery over their head.

How does one respond to that? With grace. With the same grace we desire after we committed adultery. We cannot expect to change anyone’s heart but our own. When you sin, turn to God. Allow Him to change in you what it is that went wrong. Even if your marriage ends in divorce, be patient with others. Allow God to make you a new person.

As Dr. York taught me, “Make your repentance more notorious than your sin.”

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.

Affairrecovery.com – Hope For Broken Marriages

affair_recovery_logoHas your spouse cheated on you? Are you cheating on your spouse and want to come clean about it? Maybe you’ve been caught and all you want is for your relationship with your spouse to be restored.

Lots of people don’t know where to start. I ran across a group of people recently who have dedicated their lives to helping people recover from affairs and I want to introduce them to you.

They’re Affair Recovery – (affairrecovery.com) and they have been helping people for a long time and if you give them a chance, they can help you as well.

Here at Fallen Pastor, I act as a temporary gatekeeper for ministers in trouble. I’m not a long term solution. I try to get people help locally so they can get long-term help. I have a lot of resources. That’s why when I heard about affairrecovery.com, I was excited about what they did.

I spoke with Tony Fetchel, one of the specialists at Affair Recovery. He is a fallen minister and deals with heartbreaking stories every day.  He introduced me to the phenomenal things that Affair Recovery has been doing in the lives of people and can do for those who are in need of their help.

When you arrive at their site, you will find an “Affair Analyzer,” which will help you understand where you are and what kind of help you need. The analyzer offers you the chance to be contacted by one of their specialists. They aren’t going to try and sell you anything, they are there to help, first and foremost.

They help all kinds of people – Christians, non-Christians, spouses who weren’t able to reconcile, couples who want to work it out, pastors, executives, etc. If you’re having trouble, they have someone for you to talk to, privately and confidentially.

They offer all kinds of options for healing. They have home study courses, weekend retreats and even more invasive options.

Let me say this – I hear about ministries that can help, but Affair Recovery is one of the most well-organized and caring groups I’ve seen. I highly recommend it to you if you are in crisis mode and need help now.

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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 and the Batman Problem

jokerAs a Batman fan, something struck me the other day while I was watching the new hit TV show, Gotham. In my years of reading Batman and Detective Comics, why didn’t Batman/Bruce Wayne ever build a better prison to lock up the Joker?

The Joker is responsible for a lot of death and destruction and he’s typically housed in Arkham Asylum from which he’s escaped on numerous occasions.

So why didn’t/doesn’t Bruce/Batman spend a little Wayne Foundation money on making sure that the Joker is in an escape-proof, Joker-tight, laser-guarded, seven-miles-below-the-earth, impossible to escape from cell? Everything else is plausible in the comic book world, why not that?

Honestly, for a man who doesn’t seem to want to kill, prevention should be pretty high on his list, right?

Then that got me to thinking about this ministry, pastors and the Batman problem.  Every pastor has the Joker looming around the corner. Most every pastor would admit that he is capable of ministry failure. Whether that’s adultery, sexual sin, burnout, or his marriage falling apart – most pastors know it can happen.

Even more, most pastors give some degree of lip service to it. Some guys protect their hearts and marriages. A lot of guys will say, “Oh yeah, everything is fine in my marriage and ministry,” even though things are falling down around them.

Despite whether we deny the reality of future temptation or not, it exists and can happen. It’s like the Joker. And we can choose to build a prison for the guy and get ready for him, or we can ignore that he’s there and let him wreak havoc whenever he decides to show up.

Pastors aren’t stupid. They know how to protect their hearts. Theycesarjoker know what they should and shouldn’t be looking at. They know that they need accountability and mentoring. It’s just doing it. It’s realizing that all of us need help, regardless of education, age or experience, swallowing our pride and asking for support.

I’m here to help. If you want to know if your church is equipped for ministry failure, I can help. If you want resources, check out my blogroll. If you have a private question, go to my contact page.

But understand that if we don’t take steps to lock up the villains on our own, they will find us and do some serious damage. 

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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.

3 Things To Remember When Forgiving Someone

begPeople want and need to be forgiven. There are those of us walking around with huge burdens that need to be reconciled with groups of people or individuals.

We’ve tried to ask for forgiveness, asked for it, or are looking for a way to ask for it in a similar way in which we sinned against others.

But for whatever reason, there are those who withhold forgiveness. That explains why my post on “5 Reasons People Won’t Forgive You” is the most read post on my blog. If you are in need of forgiveness and can’t understand why someone won’t forgive you, go read that one.

Here, I want to address how to forgive someone who is asking you for forgiveness. There are a lot of possibilities wrapped up in this, so let’s look at as much as we can.

1. Do your best to take their apology at face value.

This is tough, but use your common sense. If someone borrowed your favorite shirt and got tomato sauce on it, asks for an apology, offers to have it dry cleaned, they’re probably being sincere.

But what about more serious sin? Like adultery? Or someone who lies to you all the time? That’s tough. I deal with this frequently when I’m counseling fallen pastors and their wives. The fallen pastor will cheat with someone and then in a week say to his wife, “I’m so sorry, please forgive me.” Well, guess what, dude? She’s not ready to forgive.

But he’ll make it worse. He will say things like, “The Bible commands you to forgive me. You’re not in the will of God.Don’t do that.

Both people in the transaction of forgiveness have a tremendous responsibility. The person who has sinned has to get their heart right. There has to be repentance (different than remorse or “feeling sorry I got caught“). But as the person who is doing the forgiving, that’s out of your control.


 “Most people who are repentant and asking for your forgiveness have been dwelling on this moment for a long time. They need your forgiveness like a thirsty dog needs a drink of water. They need to hear those three words, ‘I forgive you,’ desperately.”


So what do you do? A couple of things. You can understand that there are people who may feel remorse but don’t understand that their apology is not sincere. You can tell them, “I understand that you’re apologizing to me and I appreciate it. But we are known by our fruits in our life. Please allow me time to heal emotionally and I will allow time for God to work repentance in your life. He will bring both of us to a place where we can finish the transaction of forgiveness on His time. I’m not withholding forgiveness. But I can tell you that I am storing up grace for the day when I can forgive you wholly and completely.” Or something like that.

You can also be honest with the person and tell them that it is difficult for you to process forgiveness because of the hurt. That you are working on it, earnestly and prayerfully. Ask them for patience and encourage them to look up stories of people who have endured the same kind of pain you’re going through. Ask them for empathy.

2. It’s okay to draw boundaries.

If a person has hurt you in the same way before – repeatedly – realize that forgiveness can happen, but you may need to draw a boundary. 

I had a counselor tell me once that boundaries are good because they keep us from slamming the door completely. I was having trouble with a person who I believed I hated. The counselor said, “You know, God draws boundaries. He drew boundaries for the Israelites at Sinai. Some could go to the foot of the mountain. Others could go on the mountain. Moses could go to the top. Jesus had followers who could listen to his teachings. He had twelve disciples who heard more. Then he had an inner three who heard exclusive things.

I said, “Yes, and?boundary

He said, “We need to be careful about shutting anyone out of our lives completely. If you cut this person out of your life completely, you will shut out any chance for the restoration of God in their life or a miracle of reconciliation in your life. So draw a boundary. Tell them that they can be part of your life. But in your life, restrict them to certain areas. Don’t tell them everything. Don’t allow them access to all areas of your heart.

He was right. Never shut the door on someone – always leave it open just a little and allow God to do what He will do.

3. When forgiving, always be gracious.

Sometimes, someone will come up to you and ask for forgiveness for something you didn’t even know they did. Be gracious. Make sure they understand they have your full forgiveness.

Other times, you will know why they are apologizing. You’re ready to forgive and reconcile. (Trust me, it will feel great when you’re done). Guess what? Be gracious. Make sure they understand they have your full forgiveness.

What I’m saying is – most people who are repentant and asking for your forgiveness have been dwelling on this moment for a long time. They need your forgiveness like a thirsty dog needs a drink of water. They need to hear those three words, “I forgive you,” desperately. So make it clear.

Realize that at some point, we will all be standing in the need of someone’s forgiveness. In fact, we have already been there. Christ forgave us a debt we could not possibly repay. That’s why Paul tells us in Colossians 3:13 to forgive as Christ has forgiven us.

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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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