2011 in Review for Fallenpastor.com

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 21,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

1,500 Americans Are Disappearing A Month – Did You Notice?

There is a tragedy that has been taking place for a long time around us. According to one statistic, 1,500 pastors a month leave the ministry due to conflict, burnout, or moral failure. 1,500. If you like annual statistics, that’s 18,000 a year.

I remember on the first day of seminary orientation, the leader told us that only half of us in that room would graduate. Of that half, only half would make it two years.

The ministry is a difficult thing. It is hard on the pastor, his family and his emotions. Unless you’ve been “behind the curtain”, it’s hard to know exactly what a pastor goes through. There are high expectations (which should be there), unrealistic expectations (which should not be there), feelings of isolation, a distancing between himself and his spouse and the daily grind of ministry. Behind all of this, the pastor forges ahead, seeking to do what he feels is right, chasing after the ministry. In the end, many leave disillusioned with bitterness, sin and a wounded church left in the wake.

In my upcoming book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” I deal primarily with those pastors who leave the ministry after committing adultery. In most cases, they leave in shame, without counseling and are thrown on the trash heap of Christendom. But there are more casualties than that. There are those who leave the ministry because of too much stress, pressure and an easier life. Even they are scorned to some degree.

In the end, it is easier for those in the churches to disperse blame upon the pastor for leaving. In the case of the adulterer, it was most certainly his decision. He sinned and he is to be held accountable. Those who leave because they “just couldn’t take it anymore” are often viewed as weak and abandoning their call. To view it in this way, from one set of circumstances, will simply cause the American church to continue in a crisis that it has been engaged in for a long time and may not have realized it.

There is a culture in our churches today that together with the heart of the minister, weakens those in ministry. Statistics bear it out. Over 60% of pastors are battling depression. In one report, close to a majority of them felt the ministry was destroying their marriage. This isn’t to blame the modern church. It is however, a way to say that something is wrong. It cannot always be the fault of the ministers who seem to be abandoning ship at such a high rate.

What if we were able to step back from the problem? What if we could see that there is a severe culture issue at hand that needs to be addressed? One that needs to be addressed in the heart of the minister as well as the way we run our churches? I believe there is.

In my book, I interviewed several experts and fallen pastors and came to a startling conclusion. Many pastors are not chasing after the things they need to chase after – they are chasing after the ideal of ministry. In turn, many churches are placing their pastors on a pedestal that is unrealistic. Together, this causes the minister to chase after ministry instead of Christ. His attention turns to something other than what he was originally called to do. In turn, the relationship he has with his wife suffers. His feelings about ministry suffer. He begins to seek after affirmation instead of the comfort of Christ.

There is no blame to be cast here. What needs to happen is an awareness of the culture we have cultivated. Pastors are not honest about their weaknesses. Churches are puffing their leaders up very highly. Pastors become isolated and disengaged. Eventually, many find a way out. Adultery, quitting, or leaving after a conflict. Are they the right responses? Sin is never the right response.

Prevention is the best approach. Deal with the culture that is in play. How many of us know churches that run through a pastor in about three years and cast him aside? How many of us know pastors who are at their wits end and are struggling to find meaning? How many of us know churches that seek definition not in the person of Christ but in their leadership or programs?

I don’t want to see any more pastors fall. I pray that my book will help those who have fallen, those who are on the verge of a fall, the churches who desire to change their culture, and those who desire to restore the fallen.

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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.

Fallen Pastor: The Book, Part 7, The Sinner And The Sermon

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.

 

Fallen Pastor: The Book, Part 6, Engaging The Culture

Two years ago, after I fell from ministry, I began to call other fallen ministers. I did so to try to make some sense of the situation I was in. I knew I had sinned, but I wanted to see where all of this was leading. I wanted to know if reconciliation with my former church was even a possibility. I wondered if I would ever stop feeling shame. I wondered if I could ever show my face in public again.

Then came the chance to write my upcoming book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Reconciliation in a Broken World.” It included the chance to interview many fallen pastors and find out what exactly was going on with all these men.

I wasn’t really interested in the topic of restoration until about three months after my fall. I found a statistic online from Focus on the Family – it said that 1,500 pastors a month leave the ministry due to moral failure, burnout, or conflict. I was stunned. I figured maybe about 20 guys nationwide fell into adultery. But if that number was true, then there were a lot. Each month. And they were being ignored, pushed aside and left to hide in the back pew. And now, I was one of them.

After talking to my publisher, I realized that there was a lot of work to do. Fallen pastors are to blame for their sin. They are the ones who say as David did to God, “against you and you alone have I sinned.”

At the same time, they didn’t just wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll commit adultery today.” Something happened from day one of their ministry to the last day and I wanted to know what. After talking to my editor, I started the interviews. I didn’t just interview fallen pastors, I interviewed counselors, those who walk with fallen pastors and other experts.

By the time I got around to the first day of writing, I had logged days of interview hours. I was already exhausted, but I had a tremendous amount of resources. And all of the information was coming together.

Pastors everywhere are in a very dangerous culture. Many face overly high expectations – expectations that go beyond normal. Expectations that are unrealistic. Many pastors are isolated from others. They are alone. Many pastors have extremely poor relationships with their wives, often due to the years of ministry and chasing after it.

There are other factors that make things worse. Do these things make a pastor commit adultery? No. But they can definitely weaken a man if he is not aware of the warning signs. There is a broken culture within many churches and it can place a pastor in a very dangerous position if he allows it to. He can contribute to it by chasing after the wrong things, neglecting his marriage and ignoring the warning signs.

That’s the heart of Fallen Pastor. A desire to reach out to fallen pastors, current pastors, churches and those who desire to walk with the fallen. Why? To change the culture. To change our hearts so that we might prevent these things in the future.

God doesn’t call us to fall, to fail morally. I pray that together, with the voices of the fallen, those who help the fallen, the experts and the example of Christ, Fallen Pastor will be a challenge to change the culture and ourselves.

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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.

 

Fallen Pastor: The Book, Part 5, A Crazy Little Thing Called Sovereignty

Allison texted me while I was working at my sports medicine job on Tuesday night.

“You’re never going to believe what I’m holding in my hands right now,” the text said.

“What?” I texted back.

“Can you get pics where u r?”

“Y,” I sent back. I figured our cat had come back home after a four week hiatus. But when the picture came, it was the bound gallery proof of my upcoming book. My jaw dropped.

She texted, “I wouldn’t have opened it if I had known that’s what it was.”

I replied, “It belongs to both of us.”

When I got home, she had wrapped it back up into the package so I could recover some of the joy of reopening it. I held it for a moment. Then, like any bibliophile, I smelled it. Nothing like that new book smell.

Then I thought. Talking Heads style – “How did I get here?”

Two years ago, I was hiding in shame. Unrepentant. I was considering starting an anonymous blog to “clear my head.” I was living in Muhlenberg County substitute teaching when I could, going to basketball practice and trying to stay awake. They’re memorable, formative days. But they were tough. I was angry at God, angry at church people, angry at circumstance. But I wasn’t ready to take any blame myself.

Fast forward just a little to a moment when I finally started to get it. When I realized it wasn’t about anyone else, it was about me. I had sinned. I had done something terrible. God had been patiently trying to get my attention. There was a certain day that He set the hook and when He did, my move toward repentance started.

Between that day and today, I received emails, made calls and received them from fallen pastors. We talked about sin and I was asked for advice. Each time the advice was the same – do the right thing. Do what Scripture commands you.

About once a month between my fall and now, I break down. It may be grief, it may be God dealing with me, it may be stress, it may be depression. But each time, God picks me up, sets me on my feet and puts me on my way. Allison is always there to say, “God will make things right.”

Then there are always these mind-numbing moments. When the unexpected happens. When at a completely divine moment, I run into someone I thought hated me – and I am shown love. Or a previously broken relationship is healed by the grace of God. Or a church, like the one we are members of now, continue to love us just for who we are.

Then I held that book in my hand.  There’s never been a book written like this. My editor found me online and I thank him for that. God has bestowed grace on me by being able to interview some amazing experts in this book, interview some greatly humbled fallen pastors, and I have found strength in it all.

Best part? It’s not ultimately about me. The book or the journey. God’s sovereign hand has been over the process the whole time. It’s hard for me to remember that. I like to selfishly read the verse like this – “God works all things together for MY good for MY purposes.” Doesn’t read like that. Because the world doesn’t revolve around me, amazingly enough. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

God has a plan much bigger than me. He didn’t make me sin, but He brought something out of it for His purpose and glory. That’s what I want at the end of the day. And I’m pleased He chose to use me, humbled beyond belief.

(Romans 8:28 ESV)

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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.

Fallen Pastor: The Book, Part 4, Putting The Fallen Pastor In His Place

I’ve been trying to give you a behind the scenes idea of what went into the writing of my book. This time, I’m directing you to a post I’ve written for Provoketive Magazine where I’m a featured writer.

In this article, “Putting the Fallen Pastor in His Place,” I deal with an issue that I purposely don’t deal with in the book – whether the fallen minister should be allowed back into the pulpit. It’s a very difficult issue to tackle and it wasn’t within the scope of the book to answer it. In fact, single books have been written on this topic alone.

Here’s an excerpt from the article: When I’ve been able to preach at churches about my fall, my adultery, my sin, I’ve been able to reach and minister to people like I never could before. My preaching was overcome with a new level of understanding about grace, empathy, compassion and forgiveness. When I preach now, I can almost guarantee that after I’m done, I’ll be approached by someone who wants to confess their own sin of adultery or moral failure.

Hope you’ll take time to go over and check it out.

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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.

 

The Humanity of Christ Is Not To Be Feared, Part 3

Check out my latest post at Provoketive Magazine – it’s the third part of my series on the humanity of Christ.

Here’s an excerpt:

When I was growing up, a strong emphasis was placed on the divinity of Christ. So much that His humanity was seen as an “added bonus.” It was hard for me when I got to seminary to wrap my mind around his humanity. But, as I’ve discussed in the previous two posts, I struggled through my understanding.

Those in this society who aren’t necessarily conservative and tend to place emphasis on Christ’s humanity, a strange thing often happens. Some of the more conservative bloggers seem to paint them as liberal or even heretical. There has to be a happy medium that is soundly biblical.

Here is part one and part two.

Fallen Pastor Book Updates, Release and Book Signings

Wanted to pass along a few updates about the book and some of the details for those who might have missed them.

First, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World” is set for release from Civitas Press on January 2. It is available for preorder from Civitas’ bookstore right now and will be available from Amazon around the sale date in paperback and for the Kindle. When that happens, I will give you that information ASAP.

Secondly, I’ve had a lot of great endorsements given to me from a lot of gracious people. I’m pleased to announce that Jake Larson, co-founder of Fireproof Ministries and leader of XXXchurch.com has written the foreword for my book.

I have two local book signings set up. One is set in stone and one is tentative. The first is set for January 22 at Salem Baptist Church in Pembroke, Kentucky. Bro. Jimmy Stewart is letting me borrow the pulpit that morning at 11:00 am. There will be a fellowship meal following and I’ll be doing a public book signing from 2-4 pm. If you are able, please preorder a copy at the Civitas Store. I’ll hopefully have a few copies on hand, but can’t guarantee how many will be available.

The second signing is tentative, but I’m working on one for Friday, Feburary 3 at Rockford’s Place in Greenville, Kentucky. It will be sometime that evening during their business hours. As that time gets closer, I’ll provide more details.

Again, thank you all for your support and please pass the word on to anyone you know who might be interested.

 

The Humanity of Christ Is Not To Be Feared, Part 2

Check out part two of my series on the humanity of Christ over at Provoketive Magazine. Here’s an excerpt:

One day, we came to Matthew 24:36. Jesus, speaking of His return said, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”

That’s been a troublesome verse for a lot of people. Our professor discussed the different ideas people have thrown out. He mainly discussed the one that most conservatives use – “Jesus, in his humanity, pushed aside this knowledge while He was on earth.” That’s been a standard response. It gives the Christian the ability to move strongly to the deity of Christ while still acknowledging His humanity in some form.

Our professor, one of my favorites, began walking back to the podium then spun around with his finger in the air. “How about this? What if He just didn’t know?”

While you’re at it, take time to read part one as well. As always, thanks for taking time to read.

 

The Humanity of Christ Is Not To Be Feared, Part 1

I wrote a series of articles for Provoketive Magazine called “The Humanity of Christ Is Not To Be Feared.” Part 1 is up today with the next two articles appearing tomorrow and the next day.

The series deals with my beliefs about Christ’s humanity while growing up – how I was raised neglecting it and overemphasizing His deity. How my conservative seminary education surprisingly readjusted those beliefs and brought me back to a more orthodox and healthy view.

From today’s article:

The professor leaned over the overhead projector. “There’s no biblical evidence. Here’s the issue. Christ came to us as fully human, didn’t He? He had to struggle, live and suffer as one of us if His atonement were to mean anything, right?”

I thought about that for a moment. “I suppose. So when did Jesus know He was the Messiah?”

Head over and check out part 1 today.