Category Archives: adultery

A Blueprint for Pastoral Reconciliation, Pt. 2

A couple of weekends ago, I saw something transformative. It’s something I hope begins to happen in churches across the country whose pastor has previously fallen to adultery or any other sin. You can catch up on the details by reading my last blog – but understand that what I and the other people present at Capshaw Church in Huntsville, Alabama witnessed was a moment of phenomenal brandon02grace.

Brandon Watkins committed adultery over two years ago when he was serving as the worship leader. In those two years, he has been on the path of restoration. He is still on that path and has some way to go. But the pastor, Zach Terry, who is also a long-time friend of Brandon’s, has been involved in his restoration.

Zach felt it was time for Brandon to come back to Capshaw Baptist and be able to apologize and feel reconciliation with those he harmed. Brandon had called me and invited me to go along. I had hoped for a kind, gracious process. What happened was a Christ-centered moment where forgiveness took center stage.

Brandon met with his former worship team on Saturday night and answered a lot of questions. When a pastor falls, people have a lot of unresolved issues. There are a lot of open wounds. It was a time of healing for those involved. On Sunday morning, Zach talked to the congregation about grace. He talked about how he had told the church two years ago they would need to start “storing up grace” for when Brandon returned desiring forgiveness. He told the congregation that now was the time to release that grace.

Zach interviewed Brandon on stage and I can’t do it justice. Here’s the audio link. What I really can’t describe is Zach’s ability to share grace and describe the love of Christ during this process. I can’t convey Brandon’s brokenness and heart to reconcile. I really can’t tell you how it felt to hear Brandon sing when the service was over.

After the service, people came up to Brandon and I got to hear them say gracious things to him and have a chance to have their hearts brandon01healed to one another.

I cannot tell you enough that this is what our churches need across this country. I have been doing this ministry for five years and have heard fallen pastors who have been restored back to Christ say, “I just want to have a chance to tell my former church how sorry I am. I want to be able to stand before them and tell them that.

However, we are guarded. We feel like we are opening an old wound if we do that. But it’s reconciliation. It is part of being the people of God who welcome back the prodigal. Again, I’m not asking churches to bring a pastor back to preach or be in the ministry. I’m asking them to use what Capshaw did as a blueprint to have a time of healing.

Don’t think you can do it? In the next blog post, I have an interview with Zach Terry, pastor of Capshaw Baptist Church. He has some amazing insights on the process that occurred and how it changed him and his church. Soon, I’ll be posting an interview with Brandon about how it effected him.

Churches, pastors, leaders – I cannot tell you enough how the circle of forgiveness needs to be closed by this act of reconciliation. Please consider it. And contact me with any questions.

__________________

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 Blueprint For Pastoral Reconciliation, Pt. 1

Two weekends ago, I had the honor of accompanying my friend, Brandon Watkins, back to capshaw1his home church, Capshaw Church in Huntsville, Alabama.

Several years ago, Brandon committed adultery while he served as the music leader there. I was preaching at Buck Run Baptist Church one Sunday and met Brandon’s mother and sister who told me about Brandon. They told me that he had just fallen from the ministry.

They gave me his address and phone number and begged me to reach out to him. I sent him a copy of my book, which I learned later that he promptly threw into to the trash can. However, I kept emailing Brandon. I texted him once in a while.

I would say, “Hey, Brandon, I want you to know that I don’t judge you. I love you. I’m here for you. I just want to listen. If you ever want to talk, I’ve been through it before.” I kept sending messages like that.

Six months later, he called me. He had fallen and he had fallen far. I won’t recall it all here, but Brandon had been through one of the worst falls I had ever seen. But I treated him like I treat any fallen pastor. I treat them like Jesus would treat them – with patience, love, and kindness. Like a prodigal. Knowing that if they are saved, they will come around and that someday, they will need someone to talk to.

There was a day Brandon needed someone to talk to. We’ve been talking for two years now. He’s been through some tough times. And I love him. I love him warts and all. I have heard his stories, his brokenness, his fallenness, his desperation, his anger, his hurt, his pain, his anger toward God, his relationship problems, his frustrations about life, and his daily life struggles. Know what? That’s the life of a fallen pastor.

I love Brandon with all of my heart. I would take a bullet for him.

brandonI finally got to meet him one day and it was the first time I got to meet someone I was helping. It made my heart soar. He just talked to me like a man who had the same problems I had. And we connected.

We are friends.

When I started this blog five years ago, I did it because there was no real help for fallen pastors. There were a few places pastors could go, but it wasn’t apparent. A publisher contacted me and asked me to write a book and I did. It’s helped a lot of people. I told someone recently, “When my Amazon sales go up, I get a little sad, because that means that a pastor has fallen.”

Most people who contact me I give them help and I never hear from them again. I send them off to another ministry who can help them further or I am able to answer a question. Most of the questions I get are from fallen pastors wives or from the women who pastors cheat with. They need a lot of help and I’m happy to help them. That’s why this ministry exists. To help anyone who needs comfort.

I help churches whose pastors have fallen. They contact me and I give them advice because they weren’t equipped to handle a ministry failure. That’s why I’m here.

But Brandon has been with me for two years. And two weekends ago, the church where he fell from did something amazing.

No, I take that back. Amazing isn’t the word. That’s a cheap word. They did something that I have only heard of once.

The pastor of Capshaw Baptist Church, Zach Terry, decided to bring Brandon back to reconcile him before the congregation.

Wrap your mind around that for a moment. Many of you who are reading this have known a pastor who cheated while at your church. What happened? The church kicked him out. That’s what happened to me. But that’s not the biblical standard. The pastor is a member of the body of Christ. Does he deserve to be restored to pastoral ministry? Maybe not. But if he is restored to Christ, then he does deserve to have a day where he can say, “I’m sorry,” before the church where he sinned.

It’s good for that church. It’s good for the congregation. It’s good to heal those open wounds.

This week, I’m going to talk about what happened at Capshaw Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. And why it should be a blueprint for reconciling fallen pastors to the churches where they fell – when they have been restored back to Christ.

It will heal the congregation. It is what is necessary for biblical forgiveness. It will heal a church. It will change lives in your congregation, pastor. Don’t let the sins of the past dwell in the past. Open your heart to the forgiveness that has happened in the life of those who have fallen and who have been restored to Christ.

You will find rest for your congregation. You will find amazing grace. You will find revival.

Helpful articles:

From my old, anonymous blog: “Reconciling With a Fallen Pastor: Before Your Pastor Falls

Reconciling With a Fallen Pastor: Why Reconcile at All?

__________________

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.

Is Your Church Equipped to Handle Ministry Failure?

It is my strong belief that most churches and leaders are not ready to handle the failure of a church leader. But even before that happens, I believe that it can and should be prevented.

This video is an invitation to church leaders, associational missionaries, church members, pastors and anyone who wants to prevent ministry failure in their churches. It is also a call to fallen pastors to heal and be restored back to Christ.

There seems to be a grassroots movement of people who are becoming concerned about this issue. I hope that’s the case. If you’d like to help, please share this short video and/or this website with people and their churches so that we might see ministry failure due to sexual sin stopped before it gets started.

__________________

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.

Too Many Fallen Pastors: A Call For Reformation

Since my own fall from ministry five years ago, I have been ministering to fallen pastors, their churches, their wives, the women they have been involved with, their families, and others. I’m always happy to see people restored back to Christ, yet I am still discouraged by the stories of discernmentinfidelity in the ministry, pastoral suicide and burnout, and divorce in the ministry.

I affirm as always that infidelity is a choice people make. It is also a place no one arrives at in a vacuum. Pastors and ministers are under terrible pressure and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Something needs to change. Reformation needs to occur in many places so these stories will stop. There is an epidemic and all of us can do something to make things change.

Here are some of the issues and some suggestions to get started:

Pastors

Church Leaders

  • Church leaders need to be ready and trained for a church crisis.
  • Church leaders should know the potential areas of weakness in the lives of their pastor.
  • Church leaders should be involved in the mentoring and spiritual well-being of their pastor.
  • When a pastor does fall, while it is difficult, it is on the leaders to remain faithful to the words of Scripture in handling sin and the sinner in the most Christ-like manner, while also ministering to the congregation.
  • Make sure that when a pastor falls, there are many people involved: The pastor’s wife, the woman he was involved with (possibly a church member or staff member), his family, the congregation. Wisdom and discernment are very important.
  • When a pastor falls, understand that the community is watching to see how the church is going to treat a fallen sinner.

Church Members

  • Church members should always be spiritually supportive of their church leaders through prayer.
  • When conflict arises, brothers and sisters in Christ should always approach one another in love and understanding, seeking victory in Christ.
  • When a pastor falls, be ready to wait for the truth and not gossip. Be ready to pray for those involved and forgive.

To this list, I would add two things. First, if you have already fallen or have been hurt, that’s why this ministry exists. To help you. You’re not alone. Life isn’t over.

Secondly, if you are a pastor or church leader who wants to see this stop, this ministry exists for you as well. I’ve linked to several previous blog articles for help and I will also answer direct questions. I’m available to speak to any size group.

What I do know is that this epidemic has to stop. We can each do what it takes to stop it. There is no one person to point the finger at to blame. We all have a role to play in stopping the scourge of ministry failure.

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

____________________________

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.

When a Pastor Falls, 3: What’s the Right Way to Respond?

This series is designed to help church leaders have a broad concept on how to handle the situation when their pastor has been accused of moral failure. Not all situations are the same, but the response should always be one of love, grace and truth. When the pastor falls, there is a difference between a biblical and unethical response.

Take time to catch up on parts one and two before reading today’s post.

The Church’s Response to the Pastor’s Sin

ashamedpThis post assumes you’ve sat down with the pastor and you know he has committed a sexual sin. He’s either admitted to adultery or you are convinced he has and you have the evidence. In my last post, I quoted Dr. Hershael York (I strongly encourage you to go back and read that quote) who said that the church’s response should be guided by how the pastor reacts. (Dr. York’s quote and other ways to handle a pastor’s reaction are also found in my book.)

At this moment, the pastor has forfeit his right to shepherd the church. He was appointed to be the pastor of a congregation under the guidelines of 1 Timothy 3 and he has lost the trust of the congregation. I am of the belief that in the overwhelming majority of cases, the church should be informed of the sin.

A couple of important things need to be remembered. First if your pastor shows any sign of repentance he needs to be restored. I’m not talking about being restored to ministry. That’s something that is so far off that it’s not even in the conversation at this point. He needs to be restored to Christ and his family. And as a member of your congregation, it is upon you to find him help. Does he need to remain at your church? Probably not. But he is a member of your local body of believers and I don’t believe it is Scripturally acceptable to kick the man to the curb if he is showing any sign of repentance.

Find a program, counselor, group, or organization that can get him help. There are several out there. Check with your denomination. Check out pirministries.org. Give him severance pay so that he can find a way beyond what has just happened and have hope. Remember that this man has sinned. Has he hurt you? Absolutely. But we are commanded to treat one another with love and restore one another to Christ.

I also remind churches that the world is watching how we will react to a sinner in our midst. This time, the sinner is the pastor. What will we do with a man who just got caught and is asking for forgiveness and is showing some level of repentance? The unbelieving world is watching how we treat those in our midst and how we treat one another.

How NOT to Respond to Your Pastor’s Sin

I think the most horrifying decision I see is when churches decide to cover up the sin. I don’t think a lot of the churches think of it that way. What I usually hear from church leaders is, “Are we doing anyone a favor when we throw him out? Isn’t it enough that we know he’s sinned? He’s repented to God and to us. Isn’t that enough?”

No, it’s not enough. I’ve blogged about it here extensively and mentioned it a few paragraphs ago. When a pastor falls, he has hidingsinned against God and he needs to make that right. But he has violated the trust of every church member in his care. He has (at least for a while) forfeit his right to hold the office of overseer.

When a church leadership team along with the pastor decides that the church “doesn’t need to know,” they are making a mistake that has repercussions that are sinful and will come to bear in many ways.

First, their decision often does not take into account the pain that the wife of the pastor is enduring. It is the case that many times the church leadership will tell the pastor, “You’ve sinned, but you can stay. But you and your wife need to take six months off for counseling.” Guess what? Six months doesn’t fix it. In my experience, the wife still has trust issues and after her husband returns to the pulpit, she watches him in that position of authority and asks, “How can he be preaching while our marriage is still in so much trouble?

On top of that, six months really doesn’t fix him either. Restoration takes a very long time to fix a man whose relationship to Christ was so broken that he committed adultery. After that, then he can work on his marriage.

Second, when I talk to churches about their decision to retain the pastor, I will almost always eventually hear, “Well, if he leaves, we’re going to lose a lot of people. He sure brought a lot of people here and they’ll leave if he leaves.” I cannot imagine a more selfish, man-centered response. The leadership is really saying one of two things (if you care to read between the lines): “We can’t do the Scriptural thing because our attendance will decline. Membership numbers are more important than standing by doing what is right.” Or, the more frightening alternative: “We can’t get rid of him, the offering will be lighter.

When I counsel pastors who have committed adultery and haven’t told anyone, they are very worried about losing their jobs. Of course they are. It’s scary. It’s usually the only job we have. It’s what we spent our lives training for. And if we lose it, what are we going to do? But it’s a consequence of our sin. We knew that when we crossed the line.

directionBut there’s always hope. I always tell guys, “You know what? Telling people the truth and being honest is always the right thing to do. It’s not easy, in fact, it hurts. But I can promise you that God always helps and stands by those who make the decision to start walking again in the right direction.

Third, when church leadership decides to hide the truth from the congregation, it doesn’t stay hidden. It will eventually come out. It may come out a year later or I’ve seen it come out 20 years later. But the truth comes out. And the members say, “Why didn’t you tell us? Why would you allow our pastor who committed adultery to keep preaching? Don’t you think we deserved to be informed?”

Still, some of you are unconvinced. The church needs to know. And a wise, loving, caring leadership with a biblically based message can share the truth of what the pastor did in the right way. Moreover, the leadership will have a team of people or experts on hand to help the congregation through it all.

Worse yet, when you hide such a thing from the congregation, you’re keeping a secret from everyone. You’re asking every leaders, the pastor’s spouse, his family, those involved, and anyone else who knows to keep quiet. You’re telling them to keep this horrible secret to themselves and never talk about it to anyone. To push down the hurt, pain and grief over a sin that needs to be dealt with.

It’s just not right. And that’s why church leadership needs to be trained in this before it happens. That’s why they need to know how to handle this situation beforehand. Lovingly, with wisdom. They need to know what resources exist. They need to be able to discuss openly with one another how they would deal with such an ordeal if it ever occurred.

Pray to God it never would. But be prepared if it does. Because if it does, people’s hearts need to be protected. Individuals need to be counseled and healed. A pastor and his family need to be embraced. And the truth of God needs to be uncompromising.

Next time, we will look at the post-pastor fallout and how to deal with the church members.

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

____________________________

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.

When a Pastor Falls, pt. 2: Confronting the Pastor

This series is about how church leadership can effectively handle the fall of their pastor when he has been accused of sexual Three businessmen having meeting in officeimmorality. It is a horrible situation for any church to find themselves in. It is seemingly a no-win situation for anyone. But it is a situation that more and more churches find themselves in. I am a fallen pastor and over the past four years, I have counseled many fallen ministers and hurt churches and I hope to help others find a way through this process that creates healing for all involved. When a pastor falls, what is the best way to confront him?

Please take time to read part one here. Today, we will focus on meeting with the minister after all the facts have been gathered, the pastor’s response, and how to minister to the fallen pastor’s spouse.

Meeting With the Minister

There are two situations you could be facing when you meet with him. You’ll either have evidence of his adultery or you won’t. Either way, what should you do? I suggest you have a straightforward meeting. It’s not the time for any type of mind games. Always remember that God is in control of every situation. If there’s sin involved, God is always at work and will be the one to take care of it.

Before the pastor arrives, make sure the church leadership is on the same page about what you’re going to discuss. If there is any disagreement whatsoever about how to handle the meeting, take care of it before the pastor arrives. The church leadership needs to be of one mind and heart before the meeting takes place.

Agree that this is not an angry confrontation. This is a meeting among brothers in Christ. There are two things to always remember. First, how would you want to be treated if you were the one being confronted about a possible sin in your life? Second, always remember Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

upsetIt’s best if just one leader does most of the talking so you can stay on point. You’ll probably know which of you is best suited for the job. If you don’t think any of you are able to do it, ask an outside mediator to help. A pastor from another church you trust, an associational director, or a strong Christian from the community.

Then, it’s time for the meeting. If you don’t have any physical evidence, share with him what you do have then let him speak. If you have evidence, let it be addressed.

The Pastor’s Reaction

I’ve been blogging here for four years. I’ve been talking to fallen pastors for the same amount of time. There are all kinds of pastors out there. When a pastor falls, it’s always a shock. Sometimes a pastor falls and the church can’t believe such a wonderful man of God could do such a thing, but he’s been committing adultery behind his wife and the church’s back for ten years. I’ve talked to churches whose pastor had kids with other women years ago and no one knew about it.

What I’m saying is that each situation is different. And when you sit down to talk to your pastor about suspected sexual immorality, he may be completely innocent. Then again, the man you are talking to may have been putting on a front for years that you have been fooled by. I got away with it for a few months. Some get away with it for years. In some ways, all of us know how to put up a front and keep people from knowing who we really are.

When you sit down and confront a pastor about his sin, he may break down and confess everything. He may have been wanting to get caught. But some will flat out deny everything. Even if you have the most compelling evidence in the world, they may lie and try to talk their way out of it. They may say, “Well, I was involved emotionally with someone.” Or they might say, “Whoever gave you that information is crazy. How long have you known me?”

That’s why this calls for discernment on the part of church leadership. That’s why you have to have your information together. That’s why when you talk to the minister about this, you have to gauge his reaction carefully. You should be able to tell pretty quickly whether he is involved in sin. It should be apparent to everyone in the room. And whatever response he gives, it needs to be handled with love, grace and compassion.

The Proper Response

I’m going to write more later about how church leadership should handle the pastor when sexual immorality is confirmed, but I defensivewant to share this quote from Dr. Hershael York. He’s the preaching professor at Southern Seminary and runs an excellent site at pastorwell.com. I interviewed him for my book and asked him how a church should respond to a pastor when they find out about his sin. When should they help him recover and get him counseling and when should they just let him go? Here’s what he said:

“A church’s posture has to be guided by whether or not there is repentance, because your posture has to be one thing if a person is living in defiance and embracing their sin. Then you have to confront. 1 Corinthians 5 kicks in and Paul describes as turning them over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. There’s nothing pretty about that. But if a person is broken and repentant over their sin, even if they want to be and they’re not there yet, but they want to be.

“They may say, ‘It’s hard for me to leave this 23 year old girl who thinks I hung the moon and go back to a wife I struggled with for the past 20 years, but I want to do that because it honors the Lord.’ Well, if a guy says that, then by all means, you’ve got to walk that walk with him, or see that someone does. Because sometimes the unity of the church matters too and the leaders in the church have to take care of the church but what they cannot do is just abandon the one in sin and say, ‘Well, you’re on your own.’”

The Pastor’s Wife

upsetwomanNot to be forgotten about in all of this is the pastor’s wife and his family. When a pastor is caught in adultery, his wife is absolutely devastated. Most often, the pastor cheats on her with a staff member, church support staff, or a family friend. Church leadership needs to be able to be ready to surround the pastor’s spouse with support.

I have seen wives who decide to stay with their husbands and they are shown scorn from people in the church for doing so. I have also seen the opposite – wives who leave their husbands and are shown contempt for doing so. It is a traumatic event for the spouse and what she needs is not to be surrounded by people telling her “you need to divorce that creep” or “you know, the Bible says divorce is a sin.” Advice given may be correct, but what the spouse needs for such an awful moment are people who are willing to simply comfort her, cry with her, and allow her to be herself.

Helpful article on helping the pastor’s wife during a crisis:

Helping Your Pastor’s Wife After a Church Crisis” by Paraleko

Next time, I want to focus on the church’s public response to the pastor’s adultery.

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

____________________________

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.

When a Pastor Falls, pt. 1: What Can Leaders Do?

I wanted to be able to write something to help churches and leaders have a guide for when their pastor falls. The crisisproblem is that no two situations are quite alike. And yet, all situations are very similar. For the next few posts, I want to give some help that comes from my experience and from the things I’ve read in the past four years.

When a pastor falls, it’s not an easy experience for anyone. The advice I’m giving is general advice for when a church learns that their pastor has fallen morally. He might have committed adultery with another person, he might have been engaged in what he calls an “emotional affair“, or he might have been engaged in a long time addiction to pornography. This post is designed to help the leaders in the church when the find out their pastor has fallen.

I want to start off with a few basic reminders before I start throwing out advice.

1. Remember that each and every decision needs to be bathed in prayer. People will be quick to act, easy to anger, and will be very hurt. Prayer has a way of focusing us in the right way.

2. Remember that decisions based on God’s Word, no matter how difficult they might be, will always be the right ones. A pastor who has committed adultery has forfeited his right to shepherd the flock for a time (that topic to be covered later).

3. But always remember that decisions based on God’s Word are always to be made with grace, love, and humility. If the pastor is removed, it should always be done with the grace of Galatians 6:1.

4. Never forget that there are many people involved in this matter. One man’s sin may be at the forefront, but there are many others who need care and need to see the church act with truth, love, and grace.

5. Keep it confidential until a decision is made. If your church leadership is gathering facts and talking to the pastor, gossip should not be part of anyone’s life. When the facts come in, your pastor may be cleared. If one of the church leaders goes home and tells his spouse all the details of an important meeting and word gets out and severely twisted, the damage may be too great.

6. Finally, never be afraid to ask for outside help. If your church leadership team isn’t sure about what to do, or you feel like you can’t seem to agree, find a mediator. Ask an expert for help. There are a lot of people I know and there are people provided by your denomination or association who can offer wisdom. Never feel like you’re alone or that you’re the first ones to go through this.

truefalseSo let’s get to some first steps in this matter. I don’t want to assume anything – like I said, people tend to find out differently and people tend to react differently.

Get The Facts Straight

Finding out that the pastor has committed some sort of adultery is not easy. The information can come in many different ways:

  • A rumor that has spread in the community
  • A church member might approach the church leadership with a printed out series of emails or Facebook messages that prove the pastor’s infidelity
  • An anonymous letter is sent to the pastor and church leadership from a woman claiming to be his mistress
  • The pastor’s wife might approach a deacon regarding her suspicions about the minister and a church member or staff member
  • A staff member might tell church leadership of an ongoing affair
  • At the end of a service, a church member/staff member might confess that the pastor has been cheating with them
  • The rumor might begin on a social media site (Facebook, Twitter) and get picked up by local media

There are many ways that church leadership can get informed of an issue the minister might be having. I’ve heard of or witnessed all of the scenarios listed above. The easiest thing to do is panic. The knee-jerk reaction is to fire the pastor.

The best thing to do is for the church leadership is to respond in a calm and biblical manner. Most church by-laws require some sort of due process for the minister. It is important to have a meeting with him. Before that meeting takes place, it is a good idea to do fact gathering from people who are knowledgeable about the situation.

The church leadership should take seriously any first-hand evidence that is presented to them. Always be wise with any evidence, discernmentunderstanding the people presenting it. Such a time requires discernment. If a person asks for a meeting with the church leadership and confesses to an affair with the pastor, should their claim be taken seriously? Absolutely. They have a right to be heard. Their claim should not be rejected outright. If they have evidence of communication, it is even more helpful. A problem can arise when someone rejects their claim because this person, “Isn’t the pastor. They aren’t trustworthy.”

Every person who has a justifiable claim has a right to be heard. Again, the claim may later be rejected as false or partially false, but all evidence needs to be weighed before rejecting any outright.

Gossip, innuendo, and rumor is not typically helpful. Anonymous letters are not the greatest. However, I have known many women who have written such letters and were truthful in what they wrote. Of course, the fact that they did not sign them led many to reject the claim. The church leadership should be careful in approaching such communication.

The pastor’s side of the story should be heard as well. He needs to understand the facts that have been gathered or given to the church leadership. One of the worst things that can happen in a meeting is for things to get personal. Sticking to the facts is very important.  I’ll talk more about meeting with the pastor later. But understand that it is important to always gather as much information as possible.

Don’t Read Into The Situation

If you do hear gossip, receive a letter, or have someone approach your leadership about your pastor’s fidelity, treat it as a serious matter.

One of the worst things we can do when an accusation is made (and no fault has been found in the pastor yet) is to think, “You know he has been acting weird lately,” or “He has always hugged the women in the church too long,” or “I never did feel comfortable around him.” You may feel those statements are true, but those statements may have nothing to do with the matter on the table now.

As church leaders, examine the facts as you have them, pray over them and prepare your heart for what decisions may lie ahead. Next time, we will examine meeting with the pastor, his reaction, and his spouse.

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.

When Pastoral Adultery is Discovered 20 Years Later

oldpulpitOver the past five months, I’ve gotten at least four emails that were almost identical, asking the same question. They all came from church leaders and asked this question: “What do we do when we just found out our current pastor committed adultery over 20 years ago? The deacons at that time knew of it, told him not to worry about it, he repented to them, and they went on, business as usual? But now, people are finding out and it is hurting the ministry of our church and the credibility of our pastor.”

In most cases, the pastor’s infidelity led to a long term relationship, sometimes with children. The current leaders are right to ask the question. And the question isn’t so simple. In fact, there are a lot of things to consider.

It’s not too surprising. In my book, I share the statistic that 1 in 3 pastors has crossed the line with another woman sexually, but is still serving as a pastor.

First, if it was properly handled the first time, is it wrong to bring it up again? Won’t it be doing more damage to the pastor, his family and the church? Second, if it wasn’t handled properly, is there a sort of “statute of limitations” on this type of thing? If it happened decades ago and hasn’t been noticed until now, why does it matter? Third, most of these men are late in their lives. If they go out on a scandal now, it will probably ruin their ministry career.

Needless to say, the first time I got one of these emails, it had to be handled prayerfully and with great discernment. I asked for advice and help from some friends and I think there is a solid answer to the situation, so I’m going to try and put it in words as best I can here for people to reference when they find themselves in a similar situation.

Let’s start with something I’ve always said about pastoral infidelity – or, for that matter, any sexual sin. It leads to messy, awful circumstances. Scripture teaches that very clearly. When we sin, there will be consequences. Let me be clear – there is forgiveness available for all sinners. Christ wipes the slate clean for us when we are repentant. However, the consequences of our sin may last a lifetime.

Whether we sinned five minutes ago or thirty years ago, we may have to deal with circumstances that stem from our sin. consequeAnd guess what? That’s expected. That’s part of humility and repentance. A person who is truly humbled by the grace of God and the consequences of their actions will live a life that proves that humility over and over again.

I meet people frequently who aren’t familiar with my story – how I was a Baptist minister and committed adultery – and some will say, “How could you?” My response, if I am humbled by the grace of God, will be, “I sinned, but I have been forgiven. God has been more than gracious to me.

Let’s turn to the charge of whether a pastor who confessed his sin only to his church leadership should have to bring it back up twenty years later. When I thought about this the first time, something bothered me about it. The church leadership either caught the pastor in sin, was informed about it, or the pastor told them. The leadership then decided for whatever reason, to not tell the rest of the church and keep the pastor in his place of ministry.

I believe this to be a huge mistake. And I believe it to be a mistake Scripturally. When a church hires a minister or has one given to them as their leader, they place their trust in him. They look to him as a man qualified per 1 Timothy 3. Are leaders perfect? Absolutely not. I’ve said more than once that leaders are held to unrealistic expectations. However, a pastor has a bond between himself and the leaders as well as the membership. When he violates any sort of trust with them, the membership needs to be made aware.

Let me be careful here – the response to an adulterous pastor is not to throw him into the street or ignore his sin. He should be removed from the pulpit. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times – the pastor needs to be restored to Christ per the standard of Galatians 6:1. He needs counseling, support, and Christian restoration. What he does not need is to be thrust back into a leadership role while the church is unaware that he has committed a major sin.

restoreFurther, in all of the men I have seen who have returned to the pulpit after sexual sin, it takes a very long time to be restored. First, they must be restored to Christ. They have to be restored to their wives. Then and only then can they even begin to think about the ministry. This process doesn’t take a few weeks – it takes months, or even years.

Next, is there a “statute of limitations” on this kind of thing? If it happened twenty years ago and no one noticed, should the church just keep ignoring it? Listen, if you as a church leader know and a couple of other people in the church know, chances are, a lot of people know. In fact, there are people in the community who have probably known for a long time as well. The sin that was committed a long time ago may have been a barrier to many people who might have been otherwise coming to your church. Sin does nothing but fester and grow. Like a disease, it has to be brought to light so it can be dealt with – lovingly and with discernment.

So how in the world is anyone supposed to handle this? I’m not going to tell you that there’s an easy answer. There’s not. A few decades have built up between the pastor’s sin and he’s had time to push it down and explain it away. And in that time, God has blessed the church in spite of his sin – assuming he is unrepentant.

Here’s a good way to tell if your pastor is repentant or unrepentant. Take a couple of the wisest, most discerning leaders to  meet with the pastor who know the facts. Approach him in a gentle manner with what you know. You will typically get one of two responses. The response will tell you whether he is  a man who is repentant over his sin or not. Here are the menmeettwo responses:

Response 1: “Are you kidding? We dealt with this twenty years ago. It was taken care of  and that’s all there is to say about it. All you’re doing is bringing up gossip and trying to run me down.

Response 2: “You’re right, you’re missing some of the details and I will tell you anything you want to know. At the time, we didn’t know how to handle it and when I talked to the leadership, that’s what we decided. Maybe it wasn’t the best thing to do. But I feel like I repented. But I want to do what’s right for the church and move forward. I’m open to working with you and whatever is best for my family, this church, and our ministry.”

Obviously, it won’t sound exactly like that. But you get the point. The pastor will have either lived a life of repentance from the point of his sin, or he will have spent his entire life justifying it.

Friends, it’s messy. It’s awful. And it’s because of sin. If you’re in this situation as a church leader, I’m sorry. But know that handling it with compassion, love, grace and kindness will get you a long way. Using accusative, bitter, angry language will simply shut the door. Threatening to leave or split the church will do nothing.

Offer him help, guidance and counseling. Know that I am here to help and I have other people I can put you in touch with.

guilty2If you’re a pastor who is serving who is in this situation, I urge you to do what is right. Stop living under the shadow of guilt and confess your sin to your church. To the people who trust you. As pastors, when we sin, we owe it to them to tell them that we have violated their trust. It won’t be easy, but it is the right thing to do.

Above all else, Christians, don’t let a situation like this ruin your church. Your community is watching to see how you will treat a sinner in your midst. Church members are watching to see how you will react. Always remember that all of us are sinners, saved by grace, who need correction and restoration. When times get difficult, don’t give up.

I’ll close by giving the advice I gave one church. I said to them, “One day, you’ll have to share with your children what happened to the pastor they knew when they were young. After you tell them, make sure you’re able to say, ‘Even though he couldn’t be our pastor anymore, we still loved him and treated him as Christ would have.'”

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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 I Do This Ministry

Today I had two significant phone calls.

One was to an old friend who told me that my book helped him give him the energy to give him the courage to get back into the ministry again.

The other, I can’t really talk about. I’ve gone a month without an email from anyone. A month without a contact. A month without a person emailing me. No fallen pastors. No fallen pastor’s wives. There was one person in there that who needed help. But it has not been like it has been.

But today…

Please pray for the person who contacted me today. Please. It was the most challenging contact of my ministry since I started five years ago. It was as if God was saying, “I’m giving you a month off, now deal with this, my son.”

I love my Lord. I love this ministry. I do it for free. I expect no donations, no money, no reward. The only reward I get is when the ministers say to me, “I didn’t think anyone understood me. Now I know I’m not alone.” That is what brings tears to my eyes. That is reward enough.

I started watching “The Wire” – the TV show, recently. I couldn’t get through it. Even though people said it was one of the best TV shows ever, I didn’t care for it. Sorry. I loved Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, etc. But there was a moment that stuck out for me. A character said to another, “When they ask you what you don’t want to do, don’t tell them.” In other words, the sergeant was saying that he had done something wrong. His commanding officer was asking, “What don’t you want to do?” And his answer would have been to assign him to do that thing.

When I fell from ministry, I don’t know what I would have said to God, “what I don’t want to do.” But right now, I’m in the midst of helping other fallen pastors. They are in the same shape I was five years ago. I see them struggling. I seem them justifying their sin. I see them trying to make sense of it all.

I see them with so few answers. But I can guide them. But they don’t want the answers. They want justification. They want a way out so often.

I hurt. I am in pain for them.

I want to grab them by the shoulders and say, “Listen to me! I know where you are! I can help you!

But they think they know what is right. But it’s like talking to your kids. They have to figure it out on your own. So be it.

I still love them. I will listen and love. And be there while they mourn and kick and frustrate and cry. That’s what I do. I love fallen pastors. Because I was there. They are my people.

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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 Fallen Pastors Are Like Snakes

snakeyThis blog post title may be a bit misleading since this ministry is dedicated to helping fallen pastors and those hurt by a fall.

But fallen pastors are a lot like snakes. Why? Because you either like them or you don’t. A friend of mine who ministers to the fallen wrote this on Facebook the other day: “Keep us in prayer. As you know, the fallen are not well liked. We are doing all we can to help get them back up.

He’s right. Many people have a dim view of those who fall from ministry. Now, let me illustrate with something very bizarre that happened to me yesterday.

It started when my wife Allison and I were traveling to my work. She said, “Did you not see that huge snake you just ran over?

No, I didn’t. I have a soft spot in my heart for snakes. I like snakes. I’ll pick up the nonpoisonous ones and pet them. I’m pretty good (so far) at telling the nonpoisonous ones from the poisonous ones. When she said I had run over one, my heart sank. I asked her to describe it to me. What she described to be was a copperhead. Lethal. Deadly. An ominous snake. But in its own habitat, it’s fine. I didn’t feel good about running it over.

Later that night, as we often do, we sat on our back porch. Allison screamed. A large spider had made its home on our porch. It was huge. I love spiders. It was harmless. It had just made its way there to feed on the insects that gathered on our porch near our security light. Its abdomen was the size of a silver dollar. It was beautiful. It was building a web that was intricate and lovely. At one point, it got into a fight with an insect and fell four feet to the deck. I helped it back to its web with the aid of a fly swatter. It never knew I had done it. But I admired the spider.

I had left the porch lights on so the spider could feed, but also for another reason. My daughter, Katie, is working on a project to collect

The wasp chasing me around my house was 100 times this big. Really.
The wasp chasing me around my house was 100 times this big. Really.

insects for her biology class. We get a lot of tobacco moths and other interesting insects so I was hoping to get some critters for her.

About midnight, I went outside to see what I could gather. I didn’t see anything, so I came inside. But something followed me in. It buzzed like a horsefly. I chased it around the kitchen for a few minutes. Then I realized it wasn’t a horsefly. It was a yellow jacket.

A yellow jacket. It was pretty big; about an inch and a half long. I chased it around but I had no fear of it (There’s only one thing in nature I’m afraid of – whales. And on some WBFFA Saturday, maybe I’ll explain that.) I took me about five minutes, but I finally trapped it. When I did, it made me a little sad. I wanted my daughter to have it for her collection, but I also wanted to set it free. But a school science report demanded it be pinned to a board (FYI, Katie wasn’t happy about killing insects either.)

Now, most people can’t stand spiders, snakes, and stinging things. I’m drawn to them. I’m fascinated with them.

While Allison and I were on the back porch and she was backing away from the spider and I was inching toward it, I had an idea. I said, “You know, maybe if it weren’t for my love for creatures like this, I wouldn’t have a ministry.”

She said, “That’s a really good point.

I am a fallen pastor. And I’m invested in the lives of fallen pastors. Men, women, fallen pastors and ministers who the world has shunned. Those whom the church see as dangerous. Those whom people see as flying around the house and ready to sting everyone in their path. Those whom people see as setting up webs of destruction. Those whom everyone sees as ready to strike, being serpents, getting ready to devour the next church member in their path.

“Do you want to be defined by one sinful action in your life? Would Christ define you by a single sinful action in your life?”

But that’s just not so. Most fallen ministers have made a one time mistake. They have been caught up in a path of failure. They have messed up royally and need the help and attention and restoration of the church. They have wandered far from their calling and need a Galatians 6:1 restoration response from the community of faith. What they don’t need are people looking at them as if they are snakes, spiders, or yellow jackets, ready to do more damage. They need the people of the community of faith seeing them as believers who made a one time sinful mistake and want to repent of it.

You see, wasps, spiders, and snakes have it in their nature to bite, sting, on a regular basis. That’s not so for the majority of hurt pastors. They have been plagued by circumstances that have been weighing on them for a long time. Did they sin? Absolutely. And that sin is a consequence they have to face. They have to lay claim to it. They have to repent of it. (There are regular offenders out there – pastors who continually commit adultery over and over again. I’m not speaking of these people. I’m talking about the ones who have sinned and need help and restoration.)

But that doesn’t mean that they have become the wasp, the spider, or the snake. The fallen pastor does not need to be defined by one sinful action in their life.

Let me ask you, Christian. Do you want to be defined by one sinful action in your life? Would Christ define you by a single sinful action in your life? I don’t think so. That’s not the way of our Master. Maybe the fallen minister won’t be able to pastor again. That’s fine. But we are not the judge of one man. We are not allowed to define a person by one single action they make. What if God judged us by the standard we judged others?

If He did, we would all be in serious trouble.

Is that what we want for each other? No. Christ calls us to be something different. He calls us to reconcile. To forgive. To love. To see beyond faults. To set boundaries, yet love and help one another be restored back to Christ.

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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.