Are Most Pastors Nerds?

I’ve been thinking about this for a while. I had never considered it before until I was interviewing fallen pastors for my book. I wrote about it, but I hadn’t considered it until now.

Here’s a passage from my book: “For many pastors, the place behind the pulpit is powerful. Before their ministry began, they were not seen as strong or outspoken men. But after being called to preach and receiving a seminary education, they become empowered. Each week, they proclaim the words of God and receive praises and affirmation from the congregation. Without proper reflection dosed with humility, the pastor will find himself in a trap of pride and idolatry.” (p. 134)

If most pastors are nerds, or come from a “nerdy” background, it might have a significant impact on their fragility when they enter the ministry. It’s a lot to process, so hold on for a minute.

The interviewee was Kris (name changed in the book for anonymity sake) and we were talking about his issues with pride. His story is a great read for any pastor who is dealing with pride issues or any fallen pastor who was elevated to a level of greatness in a large church. He knew he had a problem with it, but he kept feeding into it.

As we talked, the interview went somewhere I didn’t expect it to go. He basically said, “In high school, I was a nobody. I was a nerd. But here came the call to ministry. I studied, preached and suddenly I was an expert on the Bible and people were listening to me. The nerd in me was no more. I was powerful because I was in a leadership position. I had never been there before.”

I understood what he was saying. I wasn’t an introvert in high school or college, but I wasn’t the most popular person in school. I was in advanced classes and studied hard. I took college seriously and felt pressure to make good grades. I was a good kid and rarely did anything wrong. Yeah, I had a little nerd in me.

The call to ministry came. I went to seminary and absorbed all kinds of information. Lots of it. In fact, it was overwhelming. Truth be known, it made me a little cocky about what I knew about God. I went from a nerd about a few things to a serious nerd about the Bible.

Think about it. Pastors are people you ask when you really want to know something about the truth of God. They are the repository of knowledge about all things God. Right?

Imagine all the impact these things have on a guy who was a little nerdy growing up and may have been introverted or a little subdued.

First, he now has a large amount of knowledge that a group of people care about. He has Bible knowledge. That is stuff that a congregation cares about. Don’t believe me? Go ask a medium or large sized church what one of their main qualifications for a pastor is - it’s a seminary degree. They want a man with knowledge. And hey, a nerd fits right in. He’s in a position where for years, his nerdiness has been made fun of, laughed at or ridiculed. But suddenly, he’s praised for it.

Secondly, he gets a platform to speak from. For a long time, no one really listened to his thoughts or ideas about his dreams, hopes or visions. Now? He has a Master of Divinity from a respected seminary. He has a captive audience each week. Not only that, but he has been given the keys to the ship. He’s the spiritual leader of a church. No one has ever respected him that much. Honestly. Before, he was seen as someone to get answers from on test day. He was the guy that people wanted to copy his homework. Now? He’s in charge.

There’s a lot of respect that goes along with being a pastor. Bro., Rev., Pastor – all of those names carry respect. Respect that the man may have not gotten before. Every Sunday he gets accolades from people when he preaches and does great things in the church. And it’s an awesome, unexpected thing. It has never been felt before. And it a gateway to pride – if the pastor does not expect it.

Third, this is a thing I have witnessed. When I was in seminary, I struggled a little bit. And I consider myself a smart guy. But there were people there who were a thousand times smarter than me. I was the guy who did the best he could, but was still listening to the NCAA Tournament on headphones during church history class. I made great grades and soaked a lot of it in. But many of the guys around me were just super smart. They went above and beyond what I was doing.

I remember one time right before my church history final (I had a B at the time), I was still having trouble wrapping my head around all the information. I hate history. My brain does not process history. It never has. I was walking through the commons at seminary and I saw a group of students who were always sitting together having theological conversations. They were nerds. I knew most of them from class. I said, “Hey, eggheads, can one of you give me a quick rundown on the Anabaptists?

They did. It was disrespectful of me to call them that. And they knew it. And I was expecting a one minute answer and I got a ten minute convoluted answer. And I think they did it on purpose. But guess what? I was an egghead too.

I remember when I pastored, people often said, “You have to remember we’re not as smart as you. You need to find a way to relate to us better.” That was their nice way of saying, “Dumb it down, fool.

Jesus did that. I mean, get this – Jesus learned with the best of them in His day. He was one of the most learned men around. Yet He spoke in parables, agricultural terms, and in ways his audience would understand. When I was a pastor, I would sneak in a big word just to show how smart I was. That’s pride.

And that’s my point. Every pastor has to shake off the pride. We aren’t there to show off what we know. Yeah, we do know more than most church-goers. We’ve been trained in the Bible. We are a little nerdy. We have more book knowledge than people in the pew. But what does that really get us?

So what if we can explain off the cuff what a parable means? So what if we can tell a church member the differences between the minor and major prophets? So what if we can use big words in our sermons and show our awesome education?

If there’s not love and compassion behind our words, we’re nothing but a bunch of crass nerds. Worse, if we continue in that behavior, it turns to pride. We think we are better than the people we serve. And we are not. We are less.

And those of you who know the Scriptures are already thinking about Christ washing the disciple’s feet. No seminary degree, no amount of years behind a pulpit, no amount of Bible knowledge will make you better than anyone else. Trust me. I know.

The second we fool ourselves into thinking that we are better than any single one of our church members, we have fallen into a trap that can quickly lead us into a serious fall.

Hey, it’s okay to still be a nerd. Just be a humble nerd for Christ. Serve those who need to be served. Love those who need to be loved. Show compassion to those who no one else is showing compassion to. Don’t treat God as a thing to be studied, but as one to be worshipped and in awe of. If you do, the people will follow.

_______________________

Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Fallen World.” It is available in Kindle form as well as paperback.

Charlie Brown vs. Everything Else

I’ve got a post up over at Provoketive.com about good ol’ Charlie Brown.

Here’s an excerpt:

It’s the story of a boy who nothing goes right for. A boy who just wants simplicity and joy. Who wants a few friends, a dog and normal relationships. More than that, even when Christmas comes, he doesn’t pick out a giant Christmas tree, he picks out a puny little tree and makes it his own. He’s an underdog.

He’s pure Americana. He represents the underdog of us all. He can’t kick the football because someone keeps pulling it out from us when we try to kick it. He can’t seem to catch the fly ball despite his best efforts. He doesn’t seem to understand the adults in his life because they all seem to say as if through a muffled trombone, “MUUHHH MAHHH MUHHHH MAHHHH MUHHHH MAHHH MUAHHHHH.”

Head on over and check it out if you don’t mind and let me know what you think.

__________________

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.

 

A Parable For My 13-Year-Old Daughter

My oldest daughter, Abigail, has been asking a lot of questions. One of her most persistent questions has been, “So when can I text boys?

I really want to say, “Never, dear.

However, she is very, very persistent about the topic. She’s a sweetie and is obedient, but does know how to push a topic. When we say, “It’s going to be a while, there are certain boundaries in place to protect you for now,” she responds with, “Well, when can I ask again?

This sort of conversation is commonplace and it gets wearisome, so she and I had a long conversation the other night. Parents always want to say, “I know how you feel because I used to be there.” Kids always want to say, “But you don’t understand!” And we always end up with a “Freaky Friday” situation where both desire the other understand them better.

So, out of nowhere came a little parable/analogy I made up for her. I think it helped. It’s about boundaries. The main characters started out being cows, but when she realized that she was the cow, we had to change it to unicorns. Duh.

Anyway, imagine there are three unicorn farmers (I know, I know). The first has his grazing around in a few acres, but doesn’t put up any sort of fence around them. He just lets the little unicorns roam freely.

The next unicorn farmer puts up a forty foot high galvanized steel, electric wall around his unicorns. Nothing can ever get in and they will never get out. In fact, they can’t even see the light of day.

The final farmer surrounds his unicorns with a simple fence. It’s barbed wire to keep out bad animals and to mark the boundary of the land. The unicorns know where the limits are and roam freely on the land that the farmer has for them.

That’s my analogy – the unicorns are our kids, parents are the farmers and the fences or structures (or lack thereof) are the boundaries and rules we set up for them. In this case, I’ve set up two extremes and a middle ground. Of course, there can be any number of boundaries imaginable and I’m sure most parents want to think they’re in the middle. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make here.

So first I asked Abigail, “What are the positives and negatives of each boundary?” We talked about how no boundaries will let in wild animals, the unicorns don’t know where to go, etc. Too many boundaries mean the unicorns can’t see any freedom at all.

I asked her, “Do you ever feel like the adults in your life are being too strict?” She said, “Yes.” I said, “How do you think a unicorn living in a barbed wire fence feels about a unicorn with no boundaries when things are going good?” She said, “They’re probably jealous.

Exactly. But all of us need boundaries. We all need rules of some sort, whether from without or within. We talked about that for a bit.

Then I asked, “Why do you think any of those farmers put up any sort of boundary to begin with?” She said, “To protect the unicorns?” I said, “It’s more than that.” She said, “Because they love them.” I said, “Yeah, and here’s where the analogy breaks down, even though I know people love their animals. Parents put up boundaries because they love and want the best for their kids. Not because they’re trying to fence them in.

Then she asked a really great question. “So my friends who don’t seem like they have any rules – their parents don’t love them?

I said, “No, their parents love them. They are doing what they think is right for them. And each parent will probably be doing something different. That’s why it’s hard to look around and compare your life to your friend’s. It’s going to look different. But more important, it’s better to talk to me about the boundaries than get mad about them.

I think it went well. I hope she understood. Yeah, silly unicorns. I know. But I would rather have a daughter who understood I love her and that she can come talk to me about the rules instead of attempting to break them.

Adultery: Why Do People Hate It So Much?

There are few sins in American culture that people despise as much as adultery. I was reading an interesting article on CNN.com: “Blame Affairs on Evolution of Sex Roles,” by Stephanie Coontz.

In it, she addresses American’s view of adultery over the years and how strict it has become. She references two different surveys that I wish I had known about for my book. The first was a 2006 Pew Research poll where Americans were asked about behaviors that were morally wrong. Adultery was the worst as 88% said it was morally wrong. In comparison, abortion was at 52%, lying at 43% and gambling at 35%.

The other survey was a 2009 Gallup Poll which asked about morally acceptable and morally wrong behaviors. 62% of those polled said divorce was morally acceptable, 57% said medical testing on animals was, abortion was 36% morally acceptable, suicide came in at 15% and cloning humans was at 9%. At the bottom? 7% of those polled said polygamy was morally acceptable. There was only one behavior less acceptable than having more than one wife. You guessed it. Adultery – 6%.

Now don’t get me wrong. If I had been polled, I would definitely say that adultery is morally wrong. It violates God’s plan. It’s a sin.

But what do these polls tell us about ourselves and our moral outcry? Why is adultery hated so much? Why is there so much moral outrage? We see it most in media when someone falls. There is more public outcry when adultery is committed than when another sin is committed, say, theft. Murder and child abuse are probably the only exceptions.

Why is the moral outrage so high toward adultery for most people? I think I might have some insight.

Read more after the jump…

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For The Sinning Pastors Out There

The title of this post is a little misleading. All pastors are sinners. I’m writing this for every pastor, but I’m not. Every pastor should read this, but I’ve got a serious message for a specific group of pastors.

I get at least two emails a week from people whose lives have been changed because a pastor has committed adultery. Sometimes it’s the pastor, sometimes it’s his wife, sometimes a staff member, sometimes it’s a member of the congregation.

There’s one group I’ve never gotten an email from. Not one pastor has ever emailed me and said, “I’m in the middle of adultery. I’m really enjoying it. I’m successfully keeping it from my wife. It’s meeting my needs right now and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to get caught. Please let me know what I should do.

I do, however, get plenty of emails from men like that after they do get caught. I was one of them. After I got caught, I thought I was alone in the world. After being thrown to the curb like garbage, isolated, and the object of scorn (all well deserved, mind you), I wanted help. But not while I was hiding it. (For information on the people who are hurt, the stages of the fallen pastor, and how to help, check out my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.“)

Why not? Because I was just fine, thank you. I was managing my sin without any help from anyone and I didn’t want an escape. Were there moments where my mind reflected to Scripture and my conscience rattled me? Sure, but I plunged all that down with the certainty that I was doing the right thing. Life had dealt me a raw hand, I thought. I had been through some serious circumstances, conflict, pain and awful times. It was time for me to get what I needed  for a change.

Pastors, I know you’re out there. You’re either in the midst of sin or tottering on the brink of it. You may be texting someone who isn’t your spouse in hopes that it may turn into something else. Deep down you may be thinking, “It’s harmless. All I do is give, give, and give to people. All I want is something for me right now. I’ve finally found someone who understands me.”

You’re not going to email me probably or anyone else for help, so let me give you some advice. Step back, take a deep breath, and get a second opinion. You won’t like it. If you’re getting an objective opinion, at least listen. Be honest. Tell them the core of your sin. Just listen, don’t argue.

But I’ll tell you this – if you’re far out there, you’re in need of intervention. Worst part, if you’re out there, you’re probably very defensive and full of justification. Humility at this point will go a long way. But you have to be willing to take a first step.

If you do reach out to me, I’ll always listen. I won’t excuse sin, but I won’t judge you as a person. I will walk with you even if no one else does.

For the rest of you pastors out there? Maybe you’re doing great. Holiness abounds. Beware, though. Circumstances piled upon conflict, upon anxiety, upon unrealistic expectations can turn your heart away from God.

I urge all of you to pray for those who have fallen into sin. Reach out to them the best you know how. One day, it could be you.

__________________

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.

“Sexting”: Are There Rules?

My last post was intended to be a standalone blog post about “sexting, or when people send messages to one another via messaging tools (text, Facebok, Twitter, etc.) with a sexual nature.

I had a lot of people view that post, but I also had a friend of the site email me with some great questions that I thought I might attempt to answer. Usually, on my site, I’m dealing with issues that effect pastors/fallen pastors and that sort of thing. I’m having to step back and think about a few of these.

First, are there boundaries for single Christians about what they should/shouldn’t text to one another? Yeah, I’d start with a simple guideline. If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t text it. We have a tendency to get very brave behind a keyboard. If you can’t imagine yourself saying it, don’t hit send. On the other hand, if what you’re about to send is about to cross the line and  you would have said it to that person anyway, you need to check where you are.

See, “sexting” is a step toward a dangerous relationship with a person. It used to be talked about with “bases.” You know, “I got to first base.” Now, somewhere in there, sexting is like trotting between first and second. Or, if images are sent, it can be a straight out line drive with runners on base.

Think about Colossians 3:5: Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (ESV) Is there something inside you that wants more because of your lust? Get it under control.

Now, on to married people. Married people who are in different relationships who are texting or messaging someone outside their marriages. There needs to be a foreword to this one. We need to understand the types of people who do this.

Read more after the jump….

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“Sexting”: When It’s Okay

Seriously. This blog is biblically based. But it also has some warnings for everyone.

I’m going to start with my own story. For those of you who don’t know, I fell in the ministry. I was a pastor of a church and I committed adultery. Afterwards, I wrote a book about it and interviewed pastors, experts, counselors, looking for common signs, patterns and help for those who fall. It’s not a book for just pastors, but for church members, leaders and anyone who is tempted.

But what I want to blog about today is our social networking. Texting. Back in the day, men would write letters to their adulterous partners so they wouldn’t be discovered. Today? It’s so much easier. We have Twitter, Facebook, and texting. When a married man is really interested in a woman, all he has to do is have her number and he can text her.

In fact, I know a lot of men (including me), who talked to women they were interested in, saying suggestive things and before they got home to their wives, deleted the whole conversation.

It’s rampant. You don’t think it’s a problem? About a year ago, Rev. Cedric Miller told his congregation not to use Facebook.  Why? Because it was easy to “hook up” with former acquaintances and talk to them in a sinful manner. He’s got a point. Social media allows us to talk to people we don’t know who have all kinds of physical and emotional needs and we are tempted by them.

Here’s my honesty. Before I committed physical adultery, I was texting my lover. She’s my current wife. You can read all the details in my book. We started harmlessly texting day after day. We got on Yahoo chat and talked. Then, things accelerated.

I know I have a wide audience. Pastors, fallen pastors, wives of fallen pastors, regular people, whomever. Listen, the sin of adultery is right around the corner for everyone. Don’t think you’re immune. Because you’re not.

More after the jump….

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5 Things To Do When You’re Emotionally Weak

I don’t feel like blogging right now. But it’s because I don’t feel like blogging that I am convinced that this topic needs to be covered while I feel like this.

Do you ever feel like you’re on emotional “thin ice”?

Any of us can be susceptible to anxiety, seasonal depression or just depression.

I just have good ol’ regular depression. Medication helps the frequency. Yes, I believe people actually have chemical imbalances and that it can be inherited. Don’t tell that to some pastors. You might get, “You need to pray more. Find your joy in Jesus.

I watched as pastors told that to my manic depressed mother for years. She read, prayed, ran the gambit and finally came to terms with an internal illness. Yeah, she loved Jesus and Jesus loved her, but when you have something that requires medication, take it. Of course, go talk to your doctor.

You might be on emotional thin ice right now. You may find yourself feeling panicked, out of sorts, angry, depressed, upset, tense or without a sense of purpose. More sadmanthan normal.

I mention all of this because when I was a pastor, in the months before I even considered adultery, I was on emotional thin ice. I was in the midst of grief, depression, I felt like I had no sense of purpose, and I had a lot of anxiety. But I didn’t feel like I really wanted any help with it. I just soldiered along and kept moving forward. But when you’re emotionally drained, wounded and in need of help, that’s not going to cut it.

In fact, it makes it hard to fight battles you need to fight when they soon come your way. Imagine being a soldier who has fought in a battle for two weeks straight with hardly any rations or rest. The order comes down that his unit must march forward to make a direct frontal attack on a town. What are the chances of success? Not as good as they would be if he were rested and fed.

But hey, life doesn’t always let us rest. But we can slow things down before we fall. I’m not a licensed anything (except athletic trainer, scuba diver, driver, and CPR giver), but I hope I can share some tips with you on what to do when you’re emotionally drained and on thin ice – whether you’re a pastor, leader, or regular person.

First, slow down and recognize what the symptoms are. Have people been telling you that you’ve been acting angry or down? People close to you will give you subtle hints. Others will give you not so subtle hints. But listen to them when they start piling up. Especially when people say, “You haven’t been yourself lately.” (To which I always answer, “Really? Who have I been?

Realize these people are trying to help. They know you and know something is off.

Secondly, think about what is going on in your life that might be effecting you. Job change? Life change? Problems at home? Problems at work? It could be the smallest thing. If you’re an overly anxious person it could be a very tiny thing that is bothering you but you’re obsessing about.

Third, get help. Go see your doctor. Talk to him/her about it. Talk to friends and family about doctors they trust to handle anxiety or issues of depression. The main complaint I hear is, “I can make it without medication. I don’t need some drug to slow me down or change the way I am.” I hear that. But that’s not always the solution. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s a short term, low dose to take the edge off so you’ll stop wanting to kick the cat.

Fourth, definitely pray. Surround yourself with spiritual help. Understanding spiritual help. When you open up about feeling depressed and anxiety in a transparent manner, you’re probably going to discover that about half of your Sunday School class, church or even your pastor deals with it in some form. Don’t think you’re the only one.

Finally, don’t wait too long. Don’t go through another sleepless night, another panic filled day, or another day of being someone else. Just get help.

__________________

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.

A Site For All Pastors

My friend Roy Yanke, has a lot of resources for pastors.

Check out his latest blog post, “Who is looking for the lost shepherds?” He and I have a common bond and ministry.

He is also part of PIR Ministries which I also encourage you to check out, especially if you are a fallen pastor.

Roy needs your support and prayers. Follow his blog and give him your encouragement and support!