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WBFFA: “The Ceiling Can’t Hold Us.” Then Your House

Time for another Weekend Blog Free For All, and once again I get to turn my attention to the music world. I love good songs with good metaphors. However, I’ve heard another song with terrible simile usage. Macklemore, who gave us the cool song, “Thrift Shop,” has given us the party...

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They Don’t Make Cars Like They Used To (Thank Goodness)

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in cars, Interesting | Posted on 31-05-2012

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I’ve gotten hooked on a podcast recently, “Why You’re Wrong.” I listened to episode 25 entitled, “The Good Old’ Days.” They were making several points about how things are actually better now than they were back in the days of our youth. One of the things they discussed was cars.

I’m not a car nut, but have long heard about how much safer cars were back then because they were heavier and made of steel. The pod casters made points about why cars today have different materials to protect us and quoted statistics to show the sharp decrease in vehicular deaths.

They made great points, but they also posted this video made by Chevrolet comparing a crash between a ’59 BelAir and an ’09 Malibu. Great job. (make sure you watch to the end for the results)

No offense to my car buddies in Greenville. Those old cars look sharp, but my modern car just makes me feel a little safer now.

“Hey Wait! I’m the Samaritan!”

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in fallenness, Provoketive Magazine | Posted on 30-05-2012

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I’ve got a new post up over at Provoketive Magazine. I think it’s a fair rendering of the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Please take time to read it. Here’s an excerpt:

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.”

Is Repentance Possible For A Fallen Pastor?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, God, regret | Posted on 25-05-2012

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This is a tough issue to approach, because a lot of people are going to disagree with it. So, let me start with the easy stuff.

When a pastor falls from the ministry, due to adultery, embezzlement, alcoholism, or whatever, the immediate desired response is that he repent on the spot. Repentance, as we know it, is a turning away from his sin and moving back toward God. If he has left his wife or committed adultery, he needs to cut off all contact with the woman he is with and try to reconcile with his wife and family.

To do this, he needs the help of his church, counselors, and spiritual people who are willing to walk with him in restoration for a long time. It will be a difficult process. It will be a long process. In the beginning, he may not want to come back, but if he shows repentance, along with the support of the church, he may come back.

Even if he does, he will always have the albatross of sin tied around his neck for the rest of his life. I do know of many pastors who restored with their wives who reentered into ministry under the care of gracious churches.

That’s the easy one. Then we have the pastors, who I have written about extensively in my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” who for whatever reason, decided not to turn from their sin. In my book, I talk about the stages the pastor goes through in the early days of his fall. He is angry over a lot of things, he feels rejected, he knows he has sinned, yet he is looking to justify his sin.

Few reach out to him and often, the only friend he has is the woman he has chosen to be with. These aren’t excuses for an unrepentant attitude, they are the reality in which he lives.

Which brings me to a most important point – his issues didn’t start overnight. He didn’t wake up one day and decide to commit adultery. His temptation was preceded by years of issues, conflict, marriage issues and ultimately, temptation. The confusion he now finds himself in are a result of his own sin and he has to face the consequences.

He may reach out to his wife at some point to discuss reconciliation to find it isn’t possible. He may not wait long enough for the anger to reside. He may just be stagnant in his sin and keep pushing on. He may just want to be with this new woman. Regardless, he has made his choice, leaving many people behind hurt and disillusioned.

Someday, though, the light goes on. It probably goes on after he’s remarried or after reconciliation with his wife has long passed. His heart begins to turn to God and He realizes he has sinned greatly, but there is little he can do about his sin.

He knows he can write letters of apology, call the church deacons, apologize to his former wife, family, but he cannot undo the past. He turns to God for forgiveness and God forgives. He always does.

King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, then to hide his sin, he had her husband murdered. There’s no reconciliation to be had there with anyone. But after his sin was discovered, he poured out his heart to God for forgiveness. But where’s the repentance? He can’t undo the adultery and murder. God wanted a repentant heart in David. And David was broken when he wrote Psalm 56 and I believe he turned his heart to God.

There are many that believe that a fallen pastor who did not reconcile with his wife can never be truly repentant. They make a good point. Their point is that unless you go back to your wife and family, you are not repentant. You are still a sinner and out of the will of God.

I’ve posed this question to a lot of counselors and seminary professors and people with a much higher pay grade than me. Why? Not so I could justify myself. But because I want to be right with God. After my divorce, reconciliation was not to be had, I remarried and went on. I spent a  lot of time in anger and bitterness.

Then, I had my moment with God. My moment where I asked if I could be truly repentant. I was reminded of the woman caught in adultery. He told her to “Go and sin no more.” I was reminded of the tax collectors who came to Christ and the result of their life was to stop living in a way that was dishonoring to God. The thief on the cross was granted entrance into heaven based on his belief. Paul, on the road to Damascus, was transformed by Christ and his life took a turn completely God-ward.

None of these people could do anything about their past at that point. It was what it was. The tax collector refunded the people’s money. Some could go and apologize to those they had harmed. But Christ desired a heart change. He wanted them to “go and sin no more.” He wanted the sin they had committed that led them there to stop.

Quote me how divorce is adultery and remarriage is adultery. I understand. I understand the sins committed in those days were done out of my own selfishness, due to the circumstances around me, due to my own desire to sin. All my sin. But I also know I was forgiven.

And if I quote Hershael York once, I’ll quote him a thousand times. He said to me, “You have to make your repentance more notorious than your sin.” He wasn’t excusing what I had done, but recognizing that I had sinned. But now that I had, I had to live a life of holiness, a life pleasing to God.

Unfortunately, for the fallen pastor, for many, he will always be seen as the man with the Scarlet Letter emblazoned upon him. Not worthy of forgiveness or trust. Hated by many, scorned by his former pastor friends, and not worthy of any service to God. I know better. There is hope. God is never done with His servants who turn their hearts toward Him. God has forgotten your sin if you repent and turn away from former things. Even if others bring it up, God has cast it as far as the east is from the west.

If you’re a fallen pastor and are reading this, regardless of what stage you are in, there is hope for repentance. Deep down, you know what to do. Turn to God, seek Him and He will answer.

SBCVoices and the Calvinist/Arminian Debate

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in calvin, southern baptist, theology | Posted on 24-05-2012

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My blog is linked to SBC Voices. I love that site. My blog gets a lot of hits from there and I appreciate it.

I also must let you know that there is a terrible wallowing of opinion between Calvinist vs. Arminian voices over there. It’s kind of noisy. When I was in seminary at the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention, that stuff really meant a lot to me. I was a T-Shirt wearing, dyed in the wool Calvinist.

But I wasn’t when I got there. I had a friend talk me into it. His ideas and persuasions were on point. So were my professors.

Since then, I’ve committed adultery and fallen from ministry. I’ve had the time to read message board after message board of angry Calvinists and Arminians. People telling me why I or someone else was wrong. Oh my, it gets really weird. After my fall from ministry, I just don’t care about which theologian’s side I’m on anymore. (I can hear you: Yes, but if we don’t have theology, we won’t know what we believe! I’m not talking about doing away with theology, I’m talking about thumping our chests in the online world over who our theological heroes are and why we’re right.)

I remember in my days as a hard core Calvinist, I went to stay with my brother in law who was a so-so Arminian. He had a tote bag that had on the side, “Whosoever will may come.” It ticked me off. Because I was convinced whoever designed it and had underlined the word “whosoever” was anti-Calvin. I wanted to secretly take it away and burn it.

Now, I know, that’s just plain Scripture. Whosoever will may come. I’m still a sovereigntist. I can’t explain to you why I committed adultery except I’m a sinner. I can’t explain why David committed adultery. He was a sinner. We call Jesus the Son of David. That’s crazy.

The worst thing we can do is keep arguing in front of people about why we think we’re right. The best thing we can do is go hold high the supremacy of God in the universe and His saving power. Hide behind your internet anonymity if you want and argue the Canons of Dort. If it makes you happy, go for it. But if you haven’t stood in the middle of the mall and asked someone about their salvation, your theology is bleak.

I’ve fallen a long way. A long way. And a lot of people hate me for it. But I can do one thing right. I can cast aside my ultra-superior-arrogant love for a theological system and begin to focus on Christ and those He came to save. I can realize that there are millions out there who he would identify with who would look nothing like me and go tell them about the good news. I can love those who have fallen, those who are different, those who need help and those who are generally ignored by the church.

Every ten minutes I spend writing or reading on a Calvinistic/non-Calvinistic message board is ten minutes I could have told someone about the life changing experience Christ could give them. (By the way, the blog posts are usually great, it’s delving into the board posts that makes you want to put your waders on.) It has nothing to do with Jacob Arminius or John Calvin. It has everything to do with Jesus Christ.

So, I propose leaving the arguments to sweat and cigar smoke filled rooms where people can argue all day without the passing, immature believer can drop by and not quite understand what is going on. Either that or we may have to get Henry Kissinger involved. Worse, we may all have to go out and witness together. That is if we can keep from witnessing to each other…

Pastoral Adultery Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, bathsheba, david, deacons, divorce | Posted on 23-05-2012

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“Our pastor committed adultery! How did this happen?”

If I’ve heard this once since I fell from ministry, I’ve heard it a thousand times. When a pastor falls, it is a shocking thing to the church and community. People’s emotions range from shock then to anger in a matter of days. “How could he?”

After the gossip wagon kicks into full gear and everyone knows who the pastor cheated with, the people begin to make assumptions. “Oh, I always thought I saw him paying her more attention. He always did hug her a little too long.” Those assumptions may be right or wrong, but it’s part of the church’s way of dealing with the betrayal.

Unfortunately, most church members don’t ever see what goes on behind the scenes with their pastor. A pastor is placed in charge of a church to care for his flock, to preach the Word, visit the sick and new members. However, those are not the only duties he has to deal with. His duties also include dealing with conflict between members, conflict at church business meetings, listening to complaints (suggestions) from people who know how to do things better, deacon’s meetings, staff meetings, funerals, weddings, and numerous other tasks that few hear about on Sunday.

It’s almost like going to a stage play. When you go to church, you sit in a pew and watch a performance. You expect the choir to sing, a special music, and the pastor to preach. He looks nice in his suit or khakis (depending on his dress style) and everything looks great to the congregation and visitors.

At a stage play, though, there are a ton of things going on behind the scenes. There are stage hands rearranging for the next act, people giving cues to the actors, people working lights, the director barking directions, costume changes, and a myriad of other tasks.

It’s the same at church. Parishoners see a polished product on stage, but there is a lot that goes into a Sunday service – especially in the life of a pastor. A week filled with prayer, visitation, Bible study, phone calls, dealing with conflict, etc.

Back to the original question, “Our pastor committed adultery! How did this happen?”

It didn’t happen overnight. The process that led to his fall had been building for years. Let me give you an example. About every time I talk to a fallen pastor, I ask him the following questions. “Were you having severe conflict in your church for a while?” “Were you having severe marriage issues?” “Had you had a tragedy in your life in the past two years?” “Did you feel that you were put up on an unrealistic pedestal?” “Did you feel isolated?”

Every time, the person answers yes to almost every question. These things have been going on for years. Like a pastor friend of mine said recently who pastors a very large church, “Ministry is tough. It’s tough on me and it’s tough on my family.”

How does it happen? Because the pastor allows himself to become isolated. Because he isn’t getting help from his church. Because the ministry has a terrible effect on many marriages. All these statistics are backed up in my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.”

The pastor doesn’t wake up one day and say, “This stinks, I think I want out. I’m going to have an affair.”

But it’s close. What I’ve discovered is that after years of depression, anxiety and growing tired of all the conflict, the pastor just wants to be out of the ministry. Some pastors turn to alcohol, gambling, laziness, embezzling, or pornography. These men are most often forgiven and allowed back into the ministry at some point. These men don’t really want out of the ministry, I think.

Like most ministers, they pour their hearts out to people every day and are looking (wrongly) to something to fulfill them. They selfishly look to something to make them happy, to make them happy. I think that set of men are looking for help, but think if they get caught they can get the help they need.

The minister who commits adultery is a man who just wants out. He’s done. He’s tired of it all. Everything has come crashing down and he has had enough. Enough of his disturbed marriage, enough of the negative conflicts, enough of being isolated, enough of it all. He’s not looking for someone, but he inadvertently finds someone who meets the needs he hasn’t been getting.

This process takes years.

What’s my point? That intervention right before a man commits adultery is almost useless. It’s like trying to grab for a man right after he’s jumped off the cliff.

Would you like to help your pastor? Get involved in his life. Make sure he’s being mentored. Make sure he and his wife have time set alone just for them. Send them on retreats for spiritual renewal. Make sure church leadership responds correctly to conflict and doesn’t place the load on the pastor.

Approach him honestly about these things. He may not open up to you, but there are people in the church he will open up to. Don’t let him become one of the 1,500 pastors a month who leave the ministry due to church conflict, moral failure, or burnout.

Scripture tells us to all be on guard. Let us all rally around our shepherd before it’s too late.

Junior Seau and “The Easy Way Out”

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in Provoketive Magazine, suicide | Posted on 09-05-2012

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Had an article posted up over at Provoketive Magazine recently. It’s called, “Junior Seau and ‘The Easy Way Out.”

It was about tacky comments I heard made about the recent suicide of former NFL great Junior Seau. It delves deeper into insensitive remarks we tend to have engraved upon our minds about suicide in general.

Hop over there and take a look if you get a chance.

God Still Loves The Fallen Pastor

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, affirmation, forgiveness, God, prayer, sin | Posted on 09-05-2012

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You ever have a conversation with God that you just know was real?

I have. But only a few times. My friend, Joy Wilson, writes about this type of prayer in her book, “Uncensored Prayer: The Spiritual Practice of Wrestling with God.” Take time to check out her blog as well. I think if you give her a try you’ll love her stuff.

I was apparently engaged in this process without even knowing it. My mother used to do it as well. She kept detailed prayer journals. She wrote down conversations she had with God. The first time I took a peek at one of them, I was sure she was crazy. But after I kept going back to them, I knew she was conversing with God. I didn’t know how. I knew she was wrestling and hearing from God in her mediation/quiet time.

About a year after my fall from ministry and my marriage to Allison, I had a conversation with God that I will never forget. It wasn’t in audible tones. It was on a heart level. It was while I was on my knees with my Bible in front of me. I had few friends to speak of and little support. All I wanted was love. To be reminded of God’s love. To remember that He was, in fact, there. I’ll do my best to quote it for you. It was at a heart level, not audible, but it was very real.

Ray: “Lord, I’ve hurt so many. I’ve gone through so much because of what I’ve done. I have some opportunities to help people, but I feel inadequate. I just need to hear from you.”

Silence.

Ray: “I’m an inadequate husband, father, Christian, worker, human being, and I fell as a minister. I am a horrible sinner. I’ve asked for forgiveness so many times from you and others. People tell me to repent. I’m married now. I think I’ve turned away from a lifestyle of that one sin of adultery. What do you want??”

Silence.

R: “Please let me know you’re listening. So many times I’ve just wanted to give up. I can’t stand going to church. I can’t stand going anywhere. I’ve drug so many people down. I’ve disappointed so many.”

Silence.

R: “Maybe I should just shut up.”

Silence.

More silence. I’m about to give up again.

God: “Why do you still hang you head down when you go out in public? Why do you stare at the floor when you’re at the grocery or in town?”

Just like God to change the subject.

R: “I’m ashamed. I don’t want to see the faces of those people I’ve disappointed.”

G: “You should fear me more. I’m the one you sinned against.”

R: I’m beating my hands on the bed I’m leaning against at this point. “I know, Lord. It eats me alive. People tell me I haven’t repented, that I’m not apologetic. That I’m not forgiven.”

G: “You are forgiven. You sinned, violated my law, but now, you are clean by my Son. When you bring it up, it’s you bringing it up, not me. A huge mess was made, yes. But it’s over. I will still use you, but you have to seek humility. I no longer see you as a fallen pastor. I see you as my beloved child.”

I paused and wept. God had a better view of me than I did. He had a better view of me than most people and pastors in my community. Was this me talking to myself? It didn’t feel like it. Was I going crazy? Possibly. But it didn’t feel like it.

R: “Are you still there? Can I please ask something even though I don’t deserve it? I just want my kids to be okay.”

G: “Do they seem alright?”

R: “Yes. By your grace.”

G: “Rejoice. Remember what you learned a long time ago. They are only in your hands for a short time, but in my hands forever.”

R: In that moment, I couldn’t remember where I’d heard that before. “What am I supposed to do now?”

G: “Love like you couldn’t love before this. Remember what it was like to feel grace at the lowest point. Share it. Never forget it. Give it to others.”

Like that, it was over. I was worn out from a lot of things. Lack of sleep. Maybe I had too much medication in my system. Maybe I was delirious from stress. Because, I’ll be honest. I’m the last person to believe stuff like this when it happens to others. I had a lady come up to me and tell me that God spoke to her like this regularly once. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Maybe he does. Good for you!

I slept for a long time after that. Immediately after I woke, I remembered, “Remember what you learned a long time ago. They are only in your hands for a short time, but in my hands forever.” That was something my mother used to say to me. She’d tell me that she’d worry about me and fret, but that she knew that God took better care of me than she ever could.

God cares for the fallen pastor. He loves the fallen pastor. Heck, after the fallen pastor repents, he’s not even a fallen pastor anymore. He’s just a renewed Christian with a new mission. God cares about all of His flock. When the one goes astray, He seeks Him out, leaving the 99 behind.

Don’t ever doubt God’s love when you are sinning (and know that He will love you while the consequences and fall out come as well). He will put you back on the path. Even when you scramble it up really badly, He will restore you. He loves you that much.

______________________

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.

 

God Is At Work Amongst Fallen Pastors: Are You Interested?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in blog, God, pastors | Posted on 03-05-2012

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Over the past month or so, I’ve been contacted by several men who are pastors who fell from ministry. I get contacted a lot, so that’s no surprise. But each of them has had one clear thing in mind – doing something to reach out and help other fallen pastors. To find a way to get them together and help them.

That’s not a coincidence. That is God at work, possibly pushing us to ministry.

I’ve been talking to my friend John Wilbanks about this for a bit, but it seems to be picking up a little speed.

There is a definite need for some type of retreat, seminar, or getaway to help fallen ministers. I don’t know if it would be regional or nationwide. I don’t know how it would be staffed, who would speak or where it could happen. All I know is that God is putting this thing together in His glorious time and in His way. I’m just trying to listen.

People are contacting me because God is moving them to. I’m not a planner, I’m more of a problem solver/facilitator. I’m the guy who puts person A and person B together so they can get stuff figured out.

So what am I blogging on about? I’m asking a simple question – has God been speaking to you about this? Has He specifically given you guidance about this very thing? If He has, let me know. I don’t know how it’s going to work, but if He’s moving, I don’t want to miss it.

All you have to do is send me a comment for this blog post. I won’t publish it, but I’ll respond to you via email. If you’re serious and have some ideas, I’ll probably call you and we’ll see what’s going on. I’m excited. To God be the glory!

Men’s Dreams vs. Women’s Dreams

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 03-05-2012

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Sorry for the slow update, but I had an article published over at Provoketive: “Men’s Dreams vs. Women’s Dreams.” It came about after a conversation Allison and I had.

Supposed to be slightly funny, but decide for yourself.

As always, thanks for reading.