Good question. Answer it quick. Right now. In your mind.
Yeah, it’s hypothetical. Would you let King David, if he were available right now – to preach one Sunday morning service in your church?
Yes. You would.
If you had hold of a DeLorean equipped with a flux capacitor, you would.
Why? Because he’s King David for crying out loud. Killed Goliath. Fought bears and lions. Was a man after God’s own heart. Heck, he fled when he knew he was the rightful man to be on the throne and was gracious to Saul. He loved his own son Absalom when Absalom wanted him dead. What a guy, right? Out of his lineage came our own Savior, Jesus Christ.
Oh, but wait. David has a mixed history. He had some wives. Some concubines. He committed murder and adultery.
I was talking to someone this week that gave me some great insight on David. He said, “Despite David’s sin, he was always a man after God’s own heart. People would always judge him for his actions, but God always loved him for who he was.”
David had struggle after struggle. Many of those struggles were his own fault. He sinned greatly, like many of the people we cherish in Scripture. Yet God showed them favor. Yet many pastors would allow David behind the pulpit to preach a sermon for one Sunday, wouldn’t we?
I ask that for an important reason. There are a lot of men who have fallen from the ministry. Since I fell three years ago, I have spoken to close to a hundred of them by text, email or phone. I have spoken to their wives, their church members or their families. I have referred them to others for help.
Some of them, like myself, did not reconcile with our first wife for whatever reason. Here’s a question, what wife was David supposed to reconcile with? Don’t hear me making a justification argument for my sin. I sinned. And I’ve made that very clear. Every fallen pastor I’ve dealt with and interviewed in my book takes complete blame for their sin.
But each man either reconciled with their wife or moved on. Even if they didn’t reconcile, they eventually found forgiveness from God and decided to walk a path of holiness from that point forward. The eggs had been broken and scrambled. There was nothing to be done.
Each of these men, like myself, had discovered that God is gracious beyond what we deserve. We don’t deserve to wake up in the morning. We don’t deserve God’s grace. I feel the words of Jonathan Edwards on me every day:
’Tis ascribed to nothing else that you did not go to hell the last night, that you was suffered to awake again in this world after you closed your eyes to sleep—and there is no other reason to be given why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up.
Since my fall and my restoration, I’ve had grace extended to me by several pastors. They have allowed me to preach. I’m not asking to be restored to the pastorate, but I was given grace to speak at their churches. Let me tell you what I discovered.
First, I found that my preaching was filled with more grace and love than I ever had when I was a pastor. Before my fall, I was more judgmental and harsh than I was after. After I fell, I preached from my heart, but still from the word, but with compassion for the hearts of the people.
Second, I found that people connected with someone who had fallen so far. People in the congregation want their pastor to be of high regard and of high moral standards. That’s the way it should be. When I spoke, I told them of the dangers of sin, the dangers of wandering from God, and my own story. I told them of the importance of holiness and how Christ loves us despite our sin.
What I’m saying is that inviting a restored fallen pastor into your pulpit isn’t much of a danger. In fact, it can be helpful to you and your congregation. Talk to him first, face to face. Find out what he has to say. Hear his story and his journey.
The first time I preached after my fall, I wasn’t sure what to think. But I preached on John 8, the woman caught in adultery. I was very clear about what I had done and about how awful sin is. But I also spoke about the compassion and forgiveness of Christ.
That Sunday, three people responded. One was a woman who had been committing adultery with a man for eight years. She broke it off that week and was baptized by the pastor the following week. The next was a visiting church deacon who confessed he had committed adultery. Finally, another deacon who wanted to talk to me about his adultery. I praise God for that. I had little to do with it.
I had someone say to me, “I love our pastor and I hear what he has to say, but your story touched me because you’ve been through it.”
Every time I preach, I have people come up to me and say, “I need help. I’ve been where you were and I want help.”
Friends, I don’t like the fact that I’ve been through it. But I’ve been forgiven. And I guarantee you that there are men around you that have stories to tell that can help those in your congregation.
Do we really believe that God works all things together for those who love Him? Pastors allow all kinds of people to share their testimonies, but it seems the ones we don’t allow are pastors who have committed adultery. The ones we want to kick off into the shadows and forget.
I’ll tell you this – I speak with fallen pastors every day. God has not forgotten them. They have sinned greatly. But God is not done with them. And their voices, once restored, can help many people in a great way.
Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” a book for just about anyone. It is available in paperback and Kindle.