I’ve had a lot of great feedback from people who have read varying drafts of my upcoming book: Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World. (Looking for book reviewers, by the way). One of the most productive comments came from Mark Roberts, an excellent Christian Blogger. He said that there was an issue that I needed to address – the issue of broken trust.
He shared with me that for many people, when the pastor falls, they aren’t as upset about his adultery as they are about his deceit. Many pastors carry on in adulterous relationships for years or months while still maintaining their role as pastor. After their fall, many people find it extremely difficult to ever trust them again.
In the book, I tell the story of megachurch pastor “Kris” who described getting into the pulpit the Sunday after he committed adultery. He said, “I walked up on stage, soaking in sweat, and I said to God, ‘God, just kill me while I’m on stage.”
I remember a day like that for me. Thinking that any moment, God would strike me down in fury. But He didn’t. Not right then. But it became normal to be a hypocrite after a while. Putting on a face in the pulpit while preaching the Word while sinning the rest of the time. It was about a two month period for me while I went from emotional to physical affair, lying to the congregation. I even performed a baptism during that time.
I remember how passionate I was about everything before my fall. I had preached through the ten commandments a year before with extreme conviction. During my sin, I would hardly mention sexual sin from the pulpit.
I remember a conversation I had with a pastor once. I said, “When I was sinning I would hardly mention sexual sin. I guess that’s a way to tell if someone has a problem.”
He said, “Not always. Some guys who have a problem will mention it all the time.”
How did I feel about it looking back? Awful. Did I know it was wrong while I was doing it? Yes. How did I deal with it? I just crammed that little voice down as far as I could. I did what a lot of people do. I put my church face on and acted like I was someone else on Sunday. Frankly, I had been doing that for a long time – but not in the same way. It was wretched.
No doubt people will be disappointed, angry and upset over that kind of sin. They should be. People should expect that their pastor won’t commit adultery.
I still want to remind people that even in the midst of their sin, fallen pastors need compassion. They need to be pursed with love and the hope of repentance, in the spirit of Galatians 6:1.
What about all that time the pastor spent preaching, ministering, teaching, baptizing – while being a complete wretch? A few thoughts.
First, let it be said that nothing can be done to erase that memory. The fallen pastor sinned and surely, the days in which he mixed his transgression with his ministry will not be remembered for any kind of good. It is a difficult time to reflect upon, but always remember to do it with the compassion of Christ.
Secondly, ultimately, the mission and work of the church is not about the pastor. God is always in control of all things. When the Word is preached, even from a sinner (always from a sinner), it will do what He desires for it to do. God’s Word is not held powerless because of the ineptitude, hard heartedness or sin of His people.
A great example is Jonah. That guy didn’t want to go to Ninevah. He hated those people. God made him go. He walked in, said what he had to say and walked out. Then, he retreated to watch the city be destroyed because he was sure that the people wouldn’t repent. Jonah – prophet with a sinful heart. But God got His message across with the messenger He chose and it did what He wanted it to do.
Believing in a sovereign God brings all kinds of peace. Does that mean we should sin so God’s grace can abound? We all know Paul’s answer to that. It does mean that God’s Word and message cannot be thwarted.
Finally, it should be a reminder to all of us to be wary. Guess what? Each Christian is to carry the precious gospel of Christ. Our lives are to be lived out with the compassion, love and actions found within. All hypocrisy should be removed from each dark corner of our lives.