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I had an interesting conversation today with someone who had visited Angel Falls Baptist Church before once or twice and knows a lot of people there. She also knows Cynthia and I well. We had a great talk about what “could have happened”. It was all hypothetical. By the way, I hate hypothetical....

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Why Didn’t God Stop Me From Committing Adultery?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, Christianity, church, church leadership, restoration | Posted on 20-08-2014

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adulteryIt’s a question that comes to me often. It comes across my blog search engine more than I’d think. “Why didn’t God stop me from committing adultery?

There are two different points of view on this question. Most people are on the outside of this question. Most people reading this blog are probably saying, “What kind of ridiculous question is that? Are you serious? A pastor is asking how God could keep him from committing adultery? What a sick person! He shouldn’t be in the ministry to begin with!

I hear you. I understand your objection. And you’re right. But slow your roll for a second. I’ll get to you. Remember before you get too excited that all of us have been in some situation where our sin has overtaken us and that we will find some excuse for it. All of us have fallen well short of the glory of God. All of us are despicable people. And when we are in our sin, we find a way to justify it. It’s just that when we see a pastor committing the worst sin we can imagine, we are quick to heap on him judgment.

Yes, he is wrong. Let me answer the folly of the question. I was there. I fell from the ministry and committed adultery. I didn’t ask that question, but I asked a lot of questions like that. And when I was asking questions like that, I was doing it to justify my sin.

There is no justification for sin. There is no justification for adultery. God will not stop any sin that He has clearly laid out in Scripture as wrong. He has given us His Word to let us know what is wrong. Stealing? Yeah, He covered that. Coveting? It’s there. Lying? All there. Gossip, drunkenness, slander, hatred, anger, coarse language? Sure. Adultery? It’s overwhelmingly there. There is no reason God would attempt to stop any of us from committing those sins. He has warned us over and over again from the folly of committing those sins. Cover to cover, He has shown us that it is counter to a life that is healthy, spiritual, and amazing.

Why would we even pray a prayer that started, “Lord, if you don’t want me to be an adulterous relationship, then stop it.” Seriously? He’s already given us so many written and revealed passages of why it is dangerous to the life of a believer. It is damaging to the soul. It is counter to His will. When we pray a prayer like that, I’m not even sure that He can even entertain the heart of that prayer.

So, let’s back up for a moment and think about our horrible little hearts. All of us.

If as a church, we think the best medicine for a pastor who has fallen is to throw him as far away from the healing power of Christ, then we should be ashamed.”

In my book, I detail the thought process of the fallen pastor. When he crosses the line into adultery, he starts living a lie. He crosses that line for several reasons. Once again, I must mention that there are circumstances around him that push him into that sin, but he owns that sin. He chooses that sin. He may get pushed to that brink, but that choice is his to make. He may be isolated, the church may be in conflict, he may have gone through horrible personal circumstances, his marriage may be horrible; but adultery is a choice he makes.

The pastor chooses adultery. When he does, he begins to make a framework of lies to cover up his sin. He has to hide from his marriage, his family, his church, his fellow pastors, his congregation, and his God. It may be for weeks, months, or years. He lies to everyone he knows. He does this to seek out a relationship that he feels will give him something he thinks will make him whole. It’s something he think he hasn’t felt in a very long time.

He keeps pursuing it at the risk of everything he has pursued for his entire life. In his hubris, he doesn’t think he will get caught. Some pastors hope they will get caught. They want out of the ministry. They want out of their marriage. But some think they can continue on for their entire lives.

When they do get caught – and they will – they get asked about it. And they will lie to protect their ministry, their livelihood and their reputation. And then the justification will come. And it will come in a series of questions or angry rebuttals.

Why didn’t God stop me?” “Why didn’t my wife love me more?” “Where was the church when I was hurting?

And you know what? I don’t want to dismiss those questions entirely. These men were hurting. They were under extreme amounts of hurt reachingand failure. They needed help at some point and probably felt like no one was reaching out to give them that help. Does that excuse their sin? Nope. But it does mean that they need restoration.

It does mean that the fellowship of Christ shouldn’t kick them to the curb. It does mean that they need restoration back to Christ. I’m not talking about restoration back to the pulpit. But I’m talking about wounded men and their families who need serious help. Men who have been hurt for a very long time who need to be able to put the pieces back together. Men who have been looking for answers and have been wounded by the ministry, by conflict, by isolation and need Christians to walk beside them in their most dire hour of need.

If we look at a fallen pastor and say, “Well, he cheated on his wife and we need to kick him out,” then we have probably violated the spirit of Galatians 6:1. If as a church, we think the best medicine for a pastor who has fallen is to throw him as far away from the healing power of Christ, then we should be ashamed.

There are better ways, friends. That’s why this ministry exists. I have networked with people to help pastors, their families, churches, the women they have committed adultery with and others. There is a better way. Pastors will fall. And we need to take care of all those involved. So let’s start doing it right.

Helpful links:

Restoring the Fallen” by Douglas Weiss

Restoring Fallen Pastors” by Eric Reed

Can restoration occur after a pastor has been caught in a scandal?” from Gotquestions.org

Is Your Church Equipped To Handle Ministry Failure?” Fallen Pastor

3 Things a Church Can Do When a Pastor Falls” Fallen Pastor

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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 Haunting Story of Pastor Suicide

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, book, Christ, church, churches, fallenness, hope, pastoring, pastors, self-harm, suicide | Posted on 15-08-2014

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psuicWhile writing my book, I was interviewing a fallen pastor. He shared this with me:

“I heard about a pastor who committed adultery in August then killed himself in December. I wondered, ‘Did anyone reach out to him? Did anyone love him? Did anyone seek to restore him?’ It brought back so many memories of when I wanted to die.”

That story has haunted me. In fact, it has come to fruition many times since then. Recently, I got an email from a man who told me that a pastor who fell killed himself after committing adultery.

Once again, recent events have brought the suicide question to our thoughts and hearts.

I recall a long time ago a story about a youth pastor who hadn’t committed any kind of sin, but felt all kinds of anxiety and pressure. He was a seminary student. He called his insurance company and asked if his plan covered suicide. They told him it did. The next day, he wrapped himself in carpet in his car and pulled the trigger.

Ministry is very intensive. Extremely intensive. Whether you have committed a huge sin or not. In my book, I list the pressures ministers face.

Here’s what I want to convey to you today: Pastors are under a huge amount of pressure. They may put on a front that their lives are wonderful. I know I did.

A while back, I ran into a former church member of mine. Here is how the conversation went:

She said, “I thought your marriage was so wonderful.

I said, “It wasn’t. It hadn’t been for many years.”

She said, “But it looked so good.alonepastor

I said, “Yeah, but it wasn’t. What I’ve learned is that many pastors and their wives have learned to hide their sorrows and pains of their marriages very well.”

She said, “You did a very good job.”

Friends, isn’t about time that in the church, we started being real with each other? Especially in our church leadership? I hid the failures of my own marriage from myself. What if I had gotten help earlier? What if the church leaders, members, and people actually started being real with each other?

When I talked to the fallen pastors in my book, they lamented that they couldn’t be real with the people in their churches. Unfortunately, I see story after story about pastors who commit suicide because they see no end but to kill themselves. They can’t be real with anyone. Is it an excuse? No. But they have no one to reach out to.

Maybe you are the one to reach out the them. Maybe your pastor has fallen. Maybe you are disappointed in them. Maybe you have lost faith in them. But let me tell you this – God has never given up on them. And neither should you. Don’t ever give up on another human being, regardless of how you feel about them.

Pursue them. Love them. Remember the father of the prodigal son. Never let another person feel alone, regardless of their sin. Don’t abandon anyone. Ever.

Providence And DepressionRemember the mission of Christ. He never gave up on any of us. He went to the cross for us. Bleeding, weeping, when all was lost. And he made it count.

Even when your pastor committed adultery, embezzled money, lied to you – you don’t have to agree with his sin. But gracious me. You still have to show compassion. There is still some Christ in you to forgive. To show friendship. To say, “I may not understand why you did what you did – but the Christ in me still loves me for who you are.”

That’s all that is asked of us.

Other helpful articles:

I understand that the people at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline are really awesome to talk to. Feeling like you’re on the edge? Close to it? Call them. Please: 1-800-273-8255 Check it, they have a website too: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

More links:

Why are so many pastors committing suicide?” by Crosswalk.com

Pastors: Mental Illness and Suicide” by Rev. Mark H. Creech

A Pastor’s Suicide: Addressing Mental Health in Black Churches” by Darnell Moore

Suicide: When Pastors’ Silent Suffering Turns Tragic,” by Greg Warner, USA Today

Pastors in Trouble 6: Pastors & Suicide” Fallen Pastor

Do Christians Who Commit Suicide Go To Heaven?” Fallen Pastor

Junior Seau and ‘The Easy Way Out‘” Ray Carroll on Provoketive.com

Whitney Houston and Humanity’s Most Important Question” Ray Carroll on Provoketive.com

Is Your Heart Right & Is Whitney Houston in Heaven?” Fallen Pastor

Robin Williams and Why Funny People Kill Themselves” by David Wong at Cracked.com (Warning: Strong language and images – a very informative and helpful article, however concerning depression, people of humor, and how they mask it)

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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.

3 Things a Church Can Do When a Pastor Falls

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, church, church leadership, church members, fallenness | Posted on 13-08-2014

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Most churches are not equipped to handle the difficult event of a pastor who has fallen due to moral reasons. In the past four years, I’ve seen memberphow this process should not be done. So, I’d like to give some practical advice on how a church can proceed for the next few months with some dos and don’ts.

1. Do acknowledge the hurt and sin that has occurred. Don’t dwell on it negatively from positions of power.

You’re going to have hurt people. In fact, leadership is going to be hurting for a while. Make sure your church has a way to cope with all the different feelings that are going on – hurt, anger, disappointment. And there will be a lot of questions as well. Questions like, “How could he have done this?” and “Why don’t you tell us all the details?

It really is like a grief process. It’s like losing someone unexpectedly. Some members will leave the church. Do your best to check on them. Some may not want to talk. Some may want to talk too much about it. Whatever the case, provide appropriate and biblical ways for people to address their feelings.

facebook3One thing that might need to be addressed (if it gets out of hand) is the use of social media. Remind the church that they are messengers of grace to the community. It is good for them to share forgiveness and okay to express hurt, but gossip is never a good way to heal.

Leadership can lead by example. It may be difficult not to preach on topics that pinpoint the sins of the fallen pastor. It may be difficult not to say angry things in public that do nothing more than make the situation worse. Remember that many in the church will take their cues from you. Leaders are to be Christ-like in their reactions. Do they ignore sin? No. But they also understand that once sin has been committed and handed off to God, it is in His hands.

When the pastor is gone, it’s time to focus on those left behind. Begin the healing process.

2. Don’t allow the lack of a pastor put a stop to true ministry. Do choose to be active in what God is doing around you.

A lot of people, for better or worse, identify the pastor as the head of the church. He’s not. Christ is. But the pastor is the face of the church. He stands in the pulpit each week, he’s the one who carries out much of the visitation, he does the funerals, he shakes people’s hands with a smile, and his name is on the church sign. It’s good to remember the legacy he left. He did do a lot of good things in the name of God. It may take a long time to remember those good things in the wake of his sin – but he did them.

“Most pastor search committees ask really, really bad questions. In fact, many pastor search committees always tell you what the last guy did wrong by the questions they ask you.”

What I’m trying to say is that a lot of people are going to feel a little lost. That doesn’t mean that a member of leadership needs to step in and try to act like the pastor. In fact, I’d call for the opposite. When I wrote my book, I found that the reason a lot of pastors get so weak in the first place is that they spend too much time chasing after the “stuff of ministry” and not chasing after Christ.

Get the leadership together and take some time to look at what is going on in the church. Look around and see what God is doing. Sometimes we are so focused on what we are trying to do and what ministries we are trying to grow that we completely miss out on where God is at work. Sometimes God is working on a few people who are on fire for Him. Losing a leader doesn’t mean the end, sometimes it gives the community of faith a chance to reassess their love for one another and their role in the community.

3. Don’t be afraid to be without a pastor for a while. Do make sure your fellowship is ready for the next pastor God has for you.

I’ve seen churches whose pastor fell put a pulpit committee together the next week. I don’t really think that’s the wisest thing to do. This is a crude analogy, but I think you’ll understand. Have you ever been through a breakup? Relationships are tough, aren’t they? And if you tried started dating someone right away, it just didn’t work. Why? Because you were always comparing that person to the person you were just with. Because you were thinking about them.

Can I tell you a little secret that every pastor who has ever been interviewed knows? Most pastor search committees interviewask really, really bad questions. In fact, many pastor search committees always tell you what the last guy did wrong by the questions they ask you. I got into this conversation with some pastor friends of mine once. Here are some of the questions they got asked by search committees: “Do you allow women to pray?” “Do you think it’s important for the youth to sit up front?” “You do think it’s important to go visit the shut-ins, right?” “Your wife doesn’t argue much, does she?

Seriously.

Your church needs time to heal. And that’s a good thing. There are a lot of denominations that offer interim ministers that are trained to help after a pastor falls. There are men like me who are able to come in even for a few months and do training with churches to talk with them and help them with some of the issues they are going through. Make sure the church and the leadership has a healthy heart before you ask a new pastor to come in. Because it won’t be fair to him if you’re suspicious of him for sins the last pastor was guilty of.

Overall, work toward holiness and healthiness as a church body. Is it easy? Not always. Focus on the members who want to make things better. Chase after the members who are confused and frustrated. Don’t give up on anyone. Be ready to partner up stronger Christians with weaker ones. Disciple one another. Love one another. Christ gave us the church for days such as these – so that we might live abundantly and share all things together.

forgivemeOne final thought. And tuck this waaaaaaaay back in your mind. There may come a day a long time in the future when your pastor has gone through his restoration process. And a few of your members want to contact him and say, “I forgive you.” Let them. He will desperately need to hear those words. He really will. And if you’re even braver, five years or so down the road, have the church leadership contact him and ask him how he is. And offer forgiveness to him if he’s repentant. You have no idea what that could mean to him.

I and other fallen pastors still live in a time where we are repentant and living lives in the best way we know how and we would love to reconcile (or hear “I forgive you”) with those we hurt all those years ago. It may never happen on this earth or in this lifetime. But you never know.

Other helpful resources for church leaders and churches:

How can a church survive/recover when a pastor leaves?” from Gotquestions.org

Is Your Church Without a Pastor?” by Dan Reiland, Global Christian Center

Want to leave a comment? Click the “keep reading” button and join the conversation.

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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.

Why Do Pastors Commit Adultery?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, pastors | Posted on 07-08-2014

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My site is discovered because of all types of searches. But one of the most common search phrases is “Why do pastors adulterycommit adultery?”

I did. Four years ago. I wasn’t looking to commit adultery – and I don’t believe most pastors who cross the line are looking for it. I wrote a book about my fall and the stories of eleven other men who fell. I learned a lot about the circumstances that can make a pastor weak. Pastors are responsible for their sin. There are emotional, marriage, church and other issues that I outline in my book that can make the pastor weak.

So how is it that those who are the most respected people in our communities can commit a sin that most everyone finds to be the ultimate example of betrayal? Even in Scripture, God uses the language of adultery to compare Israel to be a people who have abandoned Him spiritually.

Let’s back up for a moment. Without sounding cynical, I have always found it interesting how most people watch television and movie dramas. My favorite example is the movie, “Bridges of Madison County.” If you’re not aware of the plot, after a woman dies in her old age, her children discover she had a brief affair with a photographer a long time ago. The movie basically justifies her adultery by showing how the main character was neglected by her husband and how the photographer filled a void in her life. If you watch the movie, you will probably find yourself justifying her actions. And hey, that’s where the plot leads you. It’s Hollywood.

bridgesBut this is not a one time occurrence. Soap operas, movies, television, reality television (those are all very interesting links, by the way) are all set up to create sexual tension. Not to mention the 50 Shades drama a few years ago. We discovered that one of the main reading audiences was Christian women. We have a sexually charged society. We find ourselves rooting for characters to cheat on their spouses, but it’s okay, because they’re only characters in a fictional story.

But when adultery happens in our social circles or in our family, we find it appalling. And we should. Because it is.

But hold on for a second. When we see sex on the big screen, it is sensationalized and made to look like it has no consequences. Just like most violence. The first movie I can remember that ever showed the consequences of violence was “Unforgiven.” (Lots of Clint Eastwood in this blog.)

So where am I going with all of this?

I’m not justifying pastoral adultery. Don’t hear me saying that culture has made us weak and so any of us are prone to commit sin. No, that’s not it. But we do have an interesting social standard. We often think we are immune from television, the songs we hear, or the movies we watch. But we aren’t. How many of us tell our children, “Garbage in, garbage out“?

In my book, I note several things that lead a pastor to weakness: poor relationship with spouse, isolation, conflict with church, and overly high expectations.

Uncontrolled and not seeking help, any of us can be weakened to a point where we will commit sin. But adultery is one of the sins that most Americans seems to hate the most. Despite the fact that statistics show that 25% of Americans have cheated on their spouse but not been caught. Worse yet, 37% of pastors have crossed the line.

Should pastors or any other person cheat? No. It’s a sin. Are there factors that make people weak? Yes. When we commit sin, it’s ours. We own it. Temptation may lead us to a sin, but we don’t have to commit it.

When someone is caught in an affair, there is obviously something that is fulfilling a desire for them. And it’s happening on several fronts. There may be a need that they feel their spouse isn’t fulfilling. There is an escape from stress or conflict. Guilt? Yes. But the risk is greater affairthan the reward.

But nothing ever lasts like that. Affairs are temporary. Any way it goes, one of the people figures out that it’s a fairy tale or both of them figure out that they really want to be together. Everything falls apart. One of them wants everything or one of them realizes the risks and knows it’s not worth it. Maybe it’s guilt, maybe it’s true repentance. But most of the time the remorse comes after the physical sin has occurred.

I can’t tell you how many pastors have contacted me and said “Well, I’ve cheated, my wife doesn’t know, but I’ve stopped seeing the woman I was with. I’m just going to stop. I think I can go on like I was before.” No, you can’t. Scripture says that our sin will find us out.

One statistic in my book is that 33% of conservative clergy have crossed the line with a woman not heir spouse but have not been caught.

Why do pastors commit adultery? The same reason anyone else does. Because we sin. Because something has broken in our relationship between God. Because something is broken in our relationship with our spouse. Because we allow ourselves to get weak and don’t reach out for help. Because we think we are stronger than we are. But we are not. We all need help. We need a community of faith, mentors, friends, family and a net to fall into.

But we fall when we think we can manage our grief, our pain, our conflict, our pain all on our own. We decide to find comfort elsewhere. We never would have considered it before, but when our souls are in pain, we will be more susceptible than we have ever noexcusebeen. All of us. Not just pastors.

Bottom line. There is no excuse. We have sinned. We have fallen short. But pastors need restoration and the help of the church and community of faith. (Galatians 6:1). Any Christian who sins horribly needs the support of those around them. The Christian leaders need to see whether that Christian is going to show signs of repentance – any sign of repentance. If they do, then they need to provide help. Even if they have to go outside the church to provide it.

This ministry. Fallen pastor. That’s what it’s here for. If you don’t know where to go or if you’re confused, contact me. I am here to help.

Other Helpful Articles:

Seven Warning Signs of Affairs of for Pastors and Other Church Staff” by Thom Rainer

Why Affairs Happen,” by Cindy Crosby

How to Have an Affair (and Ruin Everything)” by Kurt Kubna

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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.

“You Can’t Unscramble The Egg”

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, consequences, pastors, prevention | Posted on 16-07-2014

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I just can’t believe one indiscretion has led to all of this. I’m about to lose my wife, my family and my ministry.eggs4

His voice was panicked. I could tell he would give anything to go back and undo his sin, but he couldn’t. I had talked to hundreds of pastors in his situation. He had been caught, his wife knew, the church knew. He had been caught up in a series of emotions and a relationship that had spiraled out of control.

Like most relationships pastors get into outside of their marriage, it starts so small they don’t even see the trouble coming. They don’t see that they are emotionally troubled. Things begin to happen and then they begin with emotional adultery, then they may or may  not cross the physical line.

I remember the first time I heard the line, You can’t unscramble the egg. I was 13. I was hooked on John MacArthur sermons. My parents had a treasure trove of his sermons and I had become part of the cassette tape lending service. It was a sermon on “Divorce and Remarriage.”

MacArthur is one of those guys who is so black and white. And I remember when he got to talking about what people should do when someone is divorced, remarried and there is no chance for reconciliation. That’s when I first heard the term. He wasn’t condoning any sin. He was doing his best to describe the situation when a line has been crossed and you can’t put things back together.

That’s the line that pastors cross when they commit emotional or physical adultery. There’s no going back. That’s why I can’t tell guys enough, “Don’t do it. Once you cross over, there’s no going back and undoing all the damage.

“You can’t unsqueeze the lemon”

I’ll get a call from a pastor once in a while who will ask, “But no one but me knows. No one but me and the woman I was with. It will just hurt my wife if I tell her. It will tear the church apart. Won’t I just be doing worse damage if I let others know about this?

lemonsThere’s dangerous thinking here. The problem with it is that it sounds good on the surface. It sounds noble – like we’re trying to save people from being hurt. See, I’ve been in that situation so I know what’s really going on. What we’re really trying to do is save face. We’ve committed sin and we don’t want to get caught. Why? Because we stand to lose everything. (I have blogged about this before in a couple of different articles that you should read if you haven’t before.)

The other side of it is that we are trying to conceal sin. God doesn’t stand for concealing sin. All sin will be brought to daylight. We can’t hide any of it. Ask King David.

The best thing any of us can do is start telling the truth. But that’s not exactly easy, is it? Because for months, we’ve been practicing lies. We’ve been practicing deceit. We’ve been hiding emails, text messages, secret meetings and doing a pretty good job at it. And when we get caught, our first instinct is to keep lying. But the best thing to do is to start telling the truth. And it’s hard. It’s gut wrenching. But it’s the best policy.

“You can’t unbite the cookie”

The answer to a multitude of deceit is not more deceit. Pastors should know this. When we were pastors and someone came to us and said, “I’ve been lying about something.” What would our counsel be? It would be, “You need to start telling the truth.

See, we know the Scriptures, that’s why it’s so hard to talk to ministers so often. John 8:32 tells us a very serious

Image courtesy of thegunnysack.com

Image courtesy of thegunnysack.com

truth: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.

It’s very difficult when we have dug such a deep hole and find ourselves at the bottom of it. When telling the truth means hurting those we love, losing the job we have fought for, finding disgrace, being embarrassed, and knowing that we have forsaken the calling of God.

But I’m going to shed some light here. God desires repentance. When we walk in sin, He wants us to return. Christ does value us, He loves us greatly and loves us deeply.

Telling the truth will be hard, it will make others hurt, but the lemon has been squeezed, the damage has already been done. It’s now a matter of deciding to repent and trust God in all things. Knowing that when He says He will restore us back to Him, He really means it.

Other helpful articles:

Think Twice Before You Commit Adultery” from The Good News Presbyterian Church

How to Confess Adultery to Your Spouse” by Dr. Don Dunlap, Pastoral Counselor

How Can I Heal My Marriage After Committing Adultery?” by John Piper

What Happens When the Worship Leader Commits Adultery?” by Roger Barrier

*Thanks to thegunnysack.com for the picture – it worked perfectly for the blog picture. The blog is run by Tonia who has all kinds of recipes and other great stuff. I ran across the pic doing an image search for what I needed for this blog post. The recipes there look great. That picture was for Ice Cream Filled Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites.

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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.

5 Things Christians Can Do When A Pastor Falls

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, church members, fallenness, help, pastors | Posted on 09-07-2014

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reachingoutWhat should a church member do when a pastor’s sin is uncovered? The pastor’s sin could be anything ranging from adultery to embezzling. I’ve put together a few quick questions someone should ask in reference to a pastor’s sin and their own struggle with the issues.

1. How will I and my family react long term and short term? When a pastor falls or sins and is dismissed, the church member and each family typically goes through a difficult time that is similar to the grief cycle one encounters after losing a loved one. Each family and church member needs to prepare for this struggle and look for support in Christ, their church family and possibly counseling.

2. How will our church as a whole react? How will our church leadership react? The church as a whole will often follow the reaction of the leadership. Leadership needs input from the congregation, so encourage them to handle the situation in a Scriptural manner. Also, share with them the need to ask for help from other churches or church leaders if they feel they are not able to make a clear decision.

“On top of everything, think of this: ‘One day, I may very well fall. How would I want people to care for me?’”

3. How will we as a church react directly to the pastor? In other words, if his sin warrants that he resign, he is still to be treated as a brother in Christ. Some follow up questions might be, “How will our reaction to him impact our church now and years later? Is how we are treating him on a personal level Scriptural? Will it impact future decisions we make?”

4. Regardless of what the church leadership decides, what will I choose to do in relationship to the pastor? Or, how will I choose to treat the fallen pastor? Many people may choose to judge the pastor or cut ties with him personally. But we are all responsible for how we react. How are we to treat those who sin? Even if they disappoint us greatly? Going along with the crowd mentality is easy, but taking a stand for what is right is always difficult. Take time, pray, and study Scripture to make the right decisions.

5. Pray for him. After I fell, I heard through the grapevine that one of my former deacons had trouble praying for me. He said it took him a long time before he was able to think positively enough of me to say a prayer for me. That is absolutely understandable. Do your best. On top of everything, think of this: “One day, I may very well fall. How would I want people to care for me?

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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.

4 Factors That Lead To Ministry Failure

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, church, church members, fallenness, pastors | Posted on 07-07-2014

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fallenWhen a pastor falls morally, it is a devastating event. It is an affront to God, it harms many relationships, it violates the marriage vow, and leaves many disillusioned people in its wake. I know, because almost five years ago, I committed adultery while pastoring.

When it happens, people want to know, “Why did he do it? What was he thinking?I want to list 4 factors that lead to ministry failure.

Before I do, I want to make a couple of important remarks. First, the question, “Why did he commit adultery?” is a complex question that requires a complex answer. There’s not going to be an answer that gives anyone complete satisfaction. When I wrote a book where I interviewed other fallen pastors, I was able to identify factors that led to moral failure. But even knowing these things doesn’t bring complete comfort.

It’s also important to know that these points aren’t an excuse or justification for adultery. The ultimate answer for “why do we fall short?” is “because we are sinful people who disobey God.” At some point, when a pastor begins to take his eyes off of God and makes a conscious choice to fall into temptation, the sin is his to own. Sin is behind each of these problems listed below. These are factors that lead up to that point. For more discussions of these points, please search my blog or check out my book.

1. Isolation - Many pastors do not have a strong support system. A lot of pastors don’t even have a close friend. The Fuller Institute reported in a study that 70% of pastors said they did not have someone they considered a close friend. In the ministry, having close friends you can share things with and be accountable to is extremely important. Forming a network of fellow pastors, mentors, and counselors who can help you through tough times is paramount to ministry survival.

It’s also important to know that these points aren’t an excuse or justification for adultery. The ultimate answer for ‘why do we fall short?’ is ‘because we are sinful people who disobey God.’ At some point, when a pastor begins to take his eyes off of God and makes a conscious choice to fall into temptation, the sin is his to own.”

2. Poor Marriage Relationship – I know a lot of pastors who have a wonderful relationship with their spouse and family. I’m also involved in this ministry now to help pastors who are in trouble, fallen pastors, their wives, women who have had affairs with pastors, and church leaders and members. I’ve learned that there are many troubled ministry marriages out there. A Francis Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership study reported that 77% of pastors said they did not have a good marriage. The same report said that 30% of them reported they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishoner. A poor marriage is one of the strongest indicators that ministry failure is imminent.

3. Overly High ExpectationsI recently wrote a blog about high expectations and how they can lead to ministry failure Pastors should have high expectations. They have normal expectations for carrying out their job duties. They should be expected to have high moral character. But there are times when churches can expect too much. The Schaeffer report I quoted said that 71% stated they were burned out and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis. Extreme expectations can come from within or without, but if failure is to be prevented, communication must take place between the pastor and the leadership.

4. Judgmentalism/Pride – A lot of pastors who fall have a big problem with either judgmentalism and/or pride. The problem of judmentalism is not that the pastor understands what sin is and recognizes it. It is when he angrily demands control over every situation in a heavy-handed manner and without grace. Prideful pastors are those who demand their way and will rarely listen to counsel. The pulpit and position of pastor build them up and make them feel important instead of humble.

This ministry exists to help anyone who has experienced ministry and moral failure, or anyone on the brink of it. No matter who you are and how you’ve been affected, we will listen. You may feel broken and alone, but you’re not.

*All statistics can be found in my book.

Other helpful articles:

Why Pastors Fall Into Sin,” by Jack Frost

7 Steps to Avoid Sexual Sin and Stay in Ministry,” by Dustin Neeley

5 Reasons Ministers Are (More) Vulnerable to Sexual Temptation,” by Jeff Fisher

Seven Warning Signs of Affairs for Pastors and Other Church Staff,” by Thom S. Rainer

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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’s Punishment vs. Consequences of Sin

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, consequences, forgiveness, God, guilt, punishment, sin | Posted on 30-06-2014

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This is a heavy post. How do we perceive God’s punishment vs. the consequences of our sin?

Let me start it with an example from the life of a fallen pastor. This is a real question I’ve been asked, and asked myself. godpunishAs a fallen pastor, after I’ve been forgiven of my adultery, will God continue to punish me for the sin I’ve committed? Will He bring horrible calamities my way (cancer, sickness to my children) in the form of punishment as well as me facing the normal consequences of my sin (church people being angry, child support, pastors who ignore me, etc.)?

They are two different things to be considered. God’s punishment for our sin and the consequences for our sin. When I counsel fallen pastors or women who have been with fallen pastors, these are two things that come up in conversation very frequently.

Honestly, it took me a long time to come to a biblical answer on my own, so please bear with me. I will quote Scripture and the work of others in this matter because it is such an important issue.

Consequences

Let’s look at consequences first. When we sin, we own it. It is ours to bear. In Psalm 51, David acknowledged his sin before God after committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband. He asked for repentance and to be clean before God. This is so important for any Christian who has sinned. We must come to a place of repentance before God. Our sin is against God. We must answer to Him for what we have done.

Let’s liken it to a courtroom. Let’s say we have been brought before a judge for the felony of grand theft auto. We might stand before the judge and say, “Judge, I am guilty of this charge. I repent of my actions and I throw myself upon the mercy of the court.” Does that mean we will get off without a penalty?

It reminds me of the scene in “Oh, Brother Where Art Thou” when Delmar had just been baptized and thought that his baptism had cleared him of all civil wrongdoing, including a Piggly Wiggly he had robbed:

Pete: The preacher said he absolved us.

Everett: For him. Not for the law. I’m surprised at you Pete. I gave you credit for more brains than Delmar.

Delmar: But they was witnesses that seen us redeemed.

Everett: That’s not the issue Delmar. Even if it did put you square with the Lord, the state of Mississippi’s a little more hardnosed.

hammersThe problem is that even though a sinner is repentant, washed clean by Christ, we have to face the consequences of our actions. I know that after I committed adultery, there were many consequences to what I had done that I still face today.

Are those consequences the same as punishment? Here’s a quote from A. W. Pink, courtesy of Eric T. Young:

But while the believer’s sins cannot be punished, while the Christian cannot be condemned (Rom. 8:3), yet he may be chastised. The Christian occupies an entirely different position from the non-Christian: he is a member of the Family of God. The relationship which now exists between him and God is that of parent and child; and as a son he must be disciplined for wrongdoing. Folly is bound up in the hearts of all God’s children, and the rod is necessary to rebuke, to subdue, to humble.

When we lie, there will be consequences. When we gossip, consequences will come. When we commit any type of sin, there will be God-wrought consequences. They are a form of discipline. They may last long after we repent. We reap what we sow, friends. And when we do, the best thing we can do is to meet those consequences face to face with grace and humility, knowing that we cause the initial calamity, praying that overcoming the consequences will bring about glory to God in our sanctification.

Punishment

What about punishment? Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of fallen people say, “I’ve repented of my sin, but I can’t help but think that my newborn child died because of my adultery,” or “I repented, but my new business/ministry failed because God was judging me because of my past sin. Is He still punishing me?”

I can’t give you a clear answer to every question, but I can turn to the Scriptures and help guide you along.

The best guideline is Romans 8:1-2, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” But we must realize that for this promise is for those who repent. Christians who live in a constant state of disobedience and unrepentance are in a difficult place.

Romans 6 tells us of the life we live free from sin and also the life lived within sin: “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:22-23 ESV)

Unrepentant sin leads to punishment. Scripture is clear on that. It is punishment plus consequences. The beauty of it all is that when we confess our sin and turn from it, God casts that sin as far as the east is from the west and remembers it no eastwestmore (Psalm 103:12). We still have to deal with the earthly consequences of our sin. That is the hole we have dug for ourselves. But we are free from the punishment that sin brings to bear upon us.

What are we to do? If you’re a fallen pastor, or a sinner who is living continually in sin, repent. Cast off that sin by confessing it to God. Find someone close to you with whom you can be accountable to and with whom you can share this with. You will need support and mentoring. Do no do this alone. Do not stand under the punishment of God.

Next, after you have repented, understand that you are free. God has forgiven you. When tragedy strikes, it is not the hand of God reaching down to punish you for your previous sins. He has cast that sin away. There may be consequences for your sin for a long time – people treating you poorly, financial payments, broken relationships – but know that horrible events in your life are not acts of God reaching out to punish you for past sins.

Once you have repented and have been forgiven, you are forgiven. Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together,” says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

To tie it up with a personal example, when I committed adultery as a pastor, I was not repentant. I was therefore, under the divine judgment of God. He was free to punish me – He was my Heavenly Father and I was His follower. I was way out of line and not following His commands. My own actions and behaviors were enough punishment, but He was free to punish me further.

When I repented of my sins (under the divine influence of His Spirit), He forgave me of my sin. At that moment, my sin was forgiven. Were the consequences of my adultery gone? No. I still had many people who were upset with me, many broken relationships, and a long road of restoration ahead. The consequences still surround me today because of the sin I committed. But God is with me as I travel down that road, working all things together for His glory.

You are forgiven when you turn to God and repent. Consequences may follow, but they are not the same as divine punishment. Face the consequences with grace and take each day with a step toward the holiness of God, knowing “after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10.

Other helpful articles:

The Judgments: Past, Present, and Future – J. Hampton Keathley III (while I do not completely agree with his eschatology, his insights to this present topic are astounding)

Punishment vs. Consequence – Tony J. Alicea, Living in the Tension

What’s the Difference Between Punishment, Consequences, Discipline, Training, and Instruction – Brad Hambrick

Does God Punish Us When We Sin? – God Questions.org

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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.

 

Fallen Pastors: 3 Very Common Questions

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, brokenness, church, church leadership, fallenness, humillity, ministry, pastors, repentance, restoration | Posted on 27-06-2014

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I love helping (and am always more than happy to help) anyone who contacts me through this fallingministry, but I am closest to the messed up, confused world of the freshly fallen pastor. And it is a horrible place to be. I tell fallen pastors, “No one really understands fallen ministers like a fellow fallen minister.”

One of the most confusing things for people on the outside looking in is the messed up morality of a fallen pastor. Here’s the deal – when a guy has committed adultery for a while and hasn’t been caught, he’s not thinking clearly or biblically. And when he gets caught, he’s going to try to justify and excuse his behavior any way he can. Often, he will use Scripture to justify his sin. I tried it. It even sounded good to me at the time. But it was wrong.

To everyone else, it sounds rotten. It is rotten. That’s why I always tell people to be kind and patient with a fallen pastor. Don’t let him twist the truth, but do show him compassion. Understand that he is going to come around eventually. He is living the life of the prodigal son – one day he’s going to wake up and smell the pig droppings. And when he does, he’s going to need people who care about him.

I want to answer a couple of the most frequently messed up questions I get from fallen pastors today (I introduced this issue in my last post). The answers will seem pretty obvious. But that’s just it – when you’re waist deep in the crud of sin, the answers aren’t obvious because we aren’t looking for truth.

You know what’s even more troubling? I get these same questions from church leaders who want to ignore the sin of their pastor because they don’t want the church’s reputation to suffer damage. They would rather hide the pastor’s affair (even though his wife knows), tell the woman he had an affair with to move on (because she’s usually a church member or member of the staff) and sweep it under the rug so that the church isn’t traumatized. I’m just gonna tell you that a decision like that always comes back to haunt a church and those involved.

quesr2So here are the three most common messed up questions I get about fallen pastors – questions I even considered when I wasn’t thinking clearly when I was mired in my sin.

1. “God has forgiven me, so why do I need to tell the church/my wife what I’ve done?”

God is a God of forgiveness. That is clear. He does cast our sin as far as the east is from the west. I am thankful for the amazing grace that God has shown to us by His Son Jesus Christ.

I blogged a little about this question before but want to give the response clearly again. If you are a church leader and you have committed adultery, you should ask God for forgiveness. But you also have a duty to tell your church and leaders.

When you were hired, voted in, appointed by a council – you were given the position of head elder/pastor and expected to fulfill the duties of 1 Timothy 3:1-13. Those people put their trust in you. They expected you to be faithful to your calling and be a person above reproach. When we commit a major sin, we violate their trust. When we violate their trust, we need to let them know and we have come under church discipline.

The same goes for our spouse. We took a vow. And even if we commit “emotional adultery,” there is something wrong in our marriage that needs to be fixed right away. If it doesn’t get fixed, we are going to do it again. Our spouse deserves to know that we violated our vow and that we have become vulnerable to sin.

2. “I committed adultery/had an emotional affair with a woman in the church. sorrycoupIt’s okay if she stays at the same church as I do, right?”

When guys ask me this question, I know a couple of things. First, they are in trouble spiritually and morally. They are not thinking clearly. Why? Because they think they are/or may actually be in love with the woman they are having an affair with. They cannot stand being apart from her. They don’t want to be away from her.

Second, if at this point a pastor has “only” admitted to an “emotional affair” and he asks this question – I can almost bank on the fact that he has crossed the line into the physical but he’s just not being forthcoming about it.

The big problem is this – if a man has been caught and he’s saying all the “right” things like, “I know I’ve sinned and I want to make things right with my wife.” But his actions are saying, “I still want to be around this woman and I’m still texting her and talking to her,” then what he’s saying and what he’s doing are two different things. He’s not repentant. He’s still trapped.

Listen carefully though. I have a tremendous amount of concern for the woman the pastor has been involved with. I think churches should have the same amount of concern, especially if she is a member or a part of the staff.

Back to the issue at hand. Pastor, if you have committed adultery and you want your marriage to work out, you’ve got to distance yourself permanently from the person you were with. End of story. On top of that, you have to be transparent for a long time with your wife about your cell phone, email, Facebook and anything else you have passwords on. Give her access to everything. It’s freedom. It one step back towards trust.

repenta3. “I’ll be okay pretty quick, right? I won’t be out the ministry very long.”

When you get caught, what you need is to be restored to Christ. Something went wrong. Lots of somethings. I write about it on this blog and in my book. Those things need to be fixed before any kind of ministry can ever happen again. A life of brokenness and humility need to occur while God restores you.

This doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen in a few weeks. If you’re lucky, it might happen in a year. It happens in God’s timing.

But when you’re honest about your sin and how you came to it, God will be longsuffering and will heal your heart. It’s not easy being honest, but it is rewarding. It’s tough, but it is the narrow road for those who want peace.

Want to leave a comment? Click the “keep reading” button and join the conversation.

Other helpful links:

Sexual Sin in the Ministry” by Harry Schaumburg, Desiring God Ministries

Pastors on Moral Failures in Church Leadership: Don’t Hide It” by Lillian Kwon, Christian Post

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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.

SBC President Fred Luter: Help for Fallen Pastors

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, fallenness, Fred Luter, interview, pastors, southern baptist | Posted on 11-06-2014

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fluter6The Southern Baptist Convention is taking place this week in Baltimore and with it, the final week of Pastor Fred Luter as President. So, I’m reposting the interview I had with him a couple of months ago concerning fallen pastors and ministry failure. I had a great meeting with him and he showed his concern about fallen pastors. This is part two and I encourage you to read both parts. I pray for Pastor Luter as he continues his ministry.

Here’s part two of my interview with Pastor Fred Luter, current president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Make sure you check out part one before you pick up here. We covered all kinds of topics.

In the second half, we talk about what should happen to pastors who commit adultery, whether churches are properly equipped to handle the fall of a pastor, how pastors can be restored, and part of Pastor Luter’s own personal journey.

Fallen Pastors, Restoration, and How the Church Can Manage It

Ray Carroll: I believe there’s a moment when a pastor has forfeit his right to be the shepherd of his congregation.

Fred Luter: I believe that too. I’m not saying he can’t do anything. But he’s not fit to shepherd the people.

RC: Whether it’s an African-American church, or a Caucasian church that kicks a guy to the curb or gets a guy six months of counseling, everyone seems to be handling it differently. Six months of counseling isn’t going to fix what’s wrong with your heart, you know?

FL: That’s right.

RC: I believe when a man falls, it’s because there’s something wrong with your relationship with God and there’s something wrong with your relationship with your wife. And it’s going to take a whole lot longer than six months to fix both of those things.

FL: I agree with that. I’m on the same page as you.

RC: Churches are ill-equipped, rather, they don’t even know where to go where to look when their pastor falls. Whether it’s a Caucasian church or an African-American church, they most often don’t know where to go for help.

FL: I like the statement you made that when a brother falls, he’s not ready to be a senior pastor. See, that’s the problem in many of our African-American churches. Many of our churches, we didn’t have staff members. The pastor was the head honcho. We had associate ministers who were volunteers or bi-vocational. An African-American church, if the pastor isn’t there, it’s going to crumble. It’s going to fall because we depend so much on that person.

I think if there were more opportunities in the African-American church for preachers who fall and they can still be used in other positions other than senior pastor, I don’t think the damage would be as bad.

RC: I agree. I’ve seen guys who say, “I shouldn’t be pastoring right now. I need to be restored.” And when I say restored, I don’t mean to ministry, I mean to Christ. They need to get their life right with Christ before they start thinking about a return to ministry. I think if they do that, there’s a chance for them for a return to some sort of ministry. And whatever form of ministry they return to, that’s not up to me, that’s up to God.

“I’ll never forget when I started running for the position of Southern Baptist president, I started getting calls from all over the country from white media asking, ‘Why in the world does a black man want to be president of the Southern Baptist Convention?‘”

I believe what you’re saying is absolutely right. Galatians 6:1 says to “restore such a one.”

FL: Exactly. And that’s the problem with a lot of our brothers in the body of Christ. They don’t look at that Scripture. It says, “restore,” it doesn’t say “kick them to the curb.” I know you’ve heard the saying that the church are the only ones who shoot our own wounded. I know you’ve seen it personally and seen it other places. Where is the restoration? And it’s a problem.

And your ministry and I appreciate what you’re doing and the ministry Johnny Hunt has for fallen ministers. Johnny has helped a lot of pastors. We can’t just kick these guys to the curb. What if Moses had been kicked to the curb? Or David?

So somewhere, somehow, we’ve got to look at how we deal with a fallen brother or a fallen sister and the ultimate goal is that there needs to be restoration.

RC: We have a battle of extremes in many of our churches when it comes to fallen pastors. We either let him stay where he is without seriously dealing with his sin or we kick him out, which is saying, “If you sin, we’re done with you.” Instead, we should be saying, “When you sin, there is grace and restoration back to Christ for the repentant sinner.” What a model of restoration that is for the body of Christ to witness.

High Expectations for Church Leaders

FL: I think the problem lies in that we tend to feel that because of a pastor’s position that they should know better. But we’re human just like fluter8anyone else. I tell that to people at my church all the time, “I have marital issues just like you do, we have financial issues just like you do, and many nights I’ve slept on the sofa.” I’m very transparent with my congregation.

Yes, I’m in a position of leadership, but I’m a human just like you are. I have the same struggles and issues that you do. That’s why you need to keep me in your prayers. But when I do mess up, don’t say, “Well you should know better, you’re the pastor.” That’s the problem we have in a lot of our churches. We’ve put this guy on some kind of pedestal. And when they do fall how we deal with them is very inappropriate.

RC: That’s one of the factors I found when I interviewed pastors for my book that can weaken men to a dangerous point was overly high expectations. I also found that pastors have more unrealistic expectations for themselves than anyone else places on them.  Many have become consumed with doing ministry and have forgotten about pursuing Christ and letting Him do His work.

FL: And in the beginning we spend so much time in the Word and in prayer because we need help. There’s really only depending on God. But now we’ve got a few sermons under our belt and we look back and do some good things here or there and we don’t depend on God as much.

Recommendations for Fallen African-American Pastors & Churches

RC: So what would you tell me when an African-American brother or sister contacts me and says, “I’ve fallen or my husband has fallen and the church leaders are telling me I’ve got to stay or my husband has to stay and to keep quiet about it.” Generally, what’s your advice?

FL: What I would say is in spite of what the leadership says, you request some time off. Call it a sabbatical, call it a vacation, and just say you need some time. You don’t have to make it a public announcement, but the key leaders will know why. Tell them you need to work on yourself and you need to work on your marriage.

Franklin Avenue is the only church I’ve ever pastored. We started with 50 members. I was a street preacher after I got saved. I was preaching at Greater Liberty Baptist Church and came to Franklin Avenue. Technically, that’s how I became a Southern Baptist. Franklin Avenue was at one time an all-white Baptist Church.

luter5I’ll never forget when I started running for the position of Southern Baptist president, I started getting calls from all over the country from white media asking, “Why in the world does a black man want to be president of the Southern Baptist Convention?” I told them when I became a pastor, this was an all-white church and that’s how I became part of the Southern Baptists.

I never will forget there were times I was burning the candle at both ends, I felt I was the poster child for the Southern Baptists and I was on every news program. And it just got to the point when I used to go continually and I would come home and my kids would say, “Hey Dad, it’s good to see you!” But it got to a point where they would just say, “Hey Dad.”

And I said to myself, “Wow, I’m losing my family.” I’m going all over the country, preaching at all these places to all these people who are having me sign their Bibles, but I’m losing my family. And one Sunday I got before my church and said to them, “Folks, I need to take some time off. I’m going so much that I’m losing my family. And shame on me if I’m going all across the country and trying to save the world and I lose my own family.” I told them it wasn’t scheduled but I need a week off.

And guess what? They stood up and applauded and were very supportive. I will never forget that day as long as I live. My wife and kids had no idea I was going to do that.

People need to be honest with themselves. Like I always say – a drug addict can never be set free until they look at themselves in the mirror and say, “I’ve got a problem.” An alcoholic can never be set free until they look at themselves and say, “I have a problem.”

So the pastor needs to look at himself in the mirror and say, “I’ve got a problem.” Admit to yourself you’ve got a problem and tell your church, “I need to have some time off. I need to regroup. I need to get back to God.” Then pray like David did in Psalm 51, “Have mercy upon me, O God.” Do whatever you need to do to get away with your wife and reconcile. She may not, but you’ve got to work at it.

“And that’s the problem with a lot of our brothers in the body of Christ. They don’t look at that Scripture. It says, ‘restore,’ it doesn’t say ‘kick them to the curb.’ I know you’ve heard the saying that the church are the only ones who shoot our own wounded. I know you’ve seen it personally and seen it other places. Where is the restoration? And it’s a problem.”

I’ve seen us as pastors go an awful long way to work with families and help their kids and others, but we don’t always do the same thing for our own families. And that’s because we assume that our families should understand.

I also recommend to the church to set up some accountability procedures when he comes back. When he goes out on a preaching engagement, assign one of the men of the church to go with him. Have someone go with him, whether it’s a deacon or a trustee, but someone he’s comfortable with. And have the church cover the expense. Because you know how temptation is always there. Even at the church, there should be some accountability there. You shouldn’t be with a female in the office by yourself. Have a window in your office if you’re behind closed doors. Just some things that will protect you.

Because the temptation will always be there. The enemy will always make sure. That’s an area where you will fall. The enemy says, “Oh, that’s what you like? Then I’m going to keep pressing that button.” Satan, he studies us. My weakness may not be yours and yours may not be mine, but we all have one. And the enemy will study it. “Oh, Krispy Kreme donuts is yours? Okay. Alright.

RC: Krispy Kreme is everyone’s weakness.

I get this question a lot and you’ve talked about it some in regards to different situations. I have my own feelings on the issue. If a pastor has krispycommitted adultery, he needs to tell his wife and he needs to tell the church leadership. Does he need to tell the congregation? They don’t need to know the details, but they need to know. I feel that he’s violated the trust of the church and at least for the time, he’s forfeit his right to be the shepherd.

FL: I totally agree. They don’t need to know the details. But call a special meeting, church members only, but that doesn’t always work because you’ll have all kinds of people showing up.

The church needs to know. And that will say to the people, “Wow, he’s human like us.” Because there are a lot of people in the audience who have messed up like him.

RC: I’ll tell you what. Since I’ve been preaching again and sharing my testimony with congregations, many times during the invitation, I will have people come up and confess their adultery to me. And a lot of them are church leaders, Sunday School teachers and deacons. They say to me, “I never thought a leader could mess up like I did.” And they needed to hear that God could forgive them.

FL: I think that needs to happen. And that could be the start of reconciliation. For not only him and his wife and between him and God, but for him and the church. But those wounds need to heal. It’s a wound. And if it’s not dealt with it will just spread.

RC: Anything else you want to add?

FL: As president of this convention, I see a lot of things, I get a lot of letters, and there is just a need for guys who have fallen to be ministered to. We are known for shooting our wounded. But Paul says, “Considering yourself, lest you also be tempted.”

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Pastor Fred Luter, Jr., is the Senior Pastor at Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, Louisiana and the first African American to be elected as President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Read more about him here.

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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.

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Special thanks to Dr. Randy Johnson for his help in making this interview a reality.