When I started working with Jonathan Brink, my editor at Civitas Press, about writing a book about fallen ministers, I had the idea to write about my experience and discuss how to prevent other ministers from making the same mistake. He said, “A book just about you won’t work. It will sound like you’re trying to justify yourself. It has to have stories of other ministers.”
He was right. Jonathan is a very smart guy. In fact, he had the idea to interview many fallen pastors, look for the common reasons behind pastoral failure and examine them. I’m glad I did.
I remember that it felt like the world was spinning for the next few months. One of the fallen pastors I interviewed said the few months after his fall were like his own personal “9/11.” I’m a fact finder. I try to make sense of things. I want to know the “why” of life.
Yeah, I knew it was my fault. I knew it was my sin. I was also busy blaming the stress of the job, church conflict, etc. Within the two previous years, both parents had died in separate accidents and I hadn’t really grieved properly. There were a lot of variables. I didn’t just wake up one day and say, “I think I’m going to break the seventh commandment!” It wasn’t that simple. I wanted everything to make sense.
I did two things. First, I started to blog anonymously. That was an interesting experience. Some of you followed my blog back then. I was blogging under the name “Arthur Dimmesdale”. I changed all my information and enough details to become obscure. I was doing it to clear my head out and to try to make sense of it all. I had a lot of interesting things happen to me while I was blogging my story.
First, I had a lot of fallen pastors and pastors who were about to fall contact me. They wanted to email, dialogue and ask for advice. I wanted advice too. It was exciting to try to help people, but I needed help too. I made some good friends in those days.
Secondly, I got really tickled at one point when a message board found me and started following my story. Most of them didn’t believe me. Message boards can be a vile place. They were pretty ugly about my situation, but I took it all in stride. One of them said, “This has to be made up – the story is just unbelievable.” Tell me about it. I was living it.
Third, I had a television show contact me. They wanted to do a reality episode about my affair. It was a no go, obviously. I’m telling you, some weird things happen to me, but that was one of the strangest.
Finally, that was where Jonathan Brink first contacted me about writing. I’m thankful for that. My mother wrote eight Christian books and she sent out letter after letter to publishers. I was fortunate to be found by writing a blog.
The other thing I did to try and make sense of everything was to call fallen pastors across the country. I started calling pastor friends and asking them if they knew pastors who had fallen and I got phone numbers. Most of these men had been out of the ministry for several years but they were all willing to talk to me. I wanted to know what to expect, what they felt and if they were ever able to reconcile with their former church. These men were so kind and gracious to share their stories with me. I ended up using several of their stories for my upcoming book.
Those two things – blogging and talking to fallen pastors – set up a good framework for understanding the culture in which pastor’s fall. It helped me understand that I was responsible for my sin, but there was a subtle trap that exists for all pastors that they need to be aware of that can bring about their downfall if they aren’t careful.
That’s what Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World seeks to do. It uncovers the dangerous culture that exists in some churches that we might not be aware of. Hopefully by examining the issues within the church and the heart of the pastor, future ministry failure can be prevented.
Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World is available for preorder at Civitas Press. It will be available soon at Amazon.com and will also be available for the Kindle.