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I cannot write posts like this often enough – if you have committed any kind of sexual sin and have been removed from your church – or even if you haven’t been caught – there is help for you. Let me start with this. I can see how people reach my site by the search engine terms...

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When a Pastor Falls 2: Confronting the Pastor

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, church leadership, churches, deacons, Hershael York, leadership, ministry, pastoring, pastors, reconciliation, repentance, restoration | Posted on 10-04-2014

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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 n0-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.

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, 1: Help For Leaders

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, church, church leadership, church members, churches, conflict, fallenness, gossip, leadership, ministry, pastoring, pastors, preachers, reconciliation | Posted on 08-04-2014

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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.

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.

____________________________

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.

Pastors In Trouble 5: Unrepentant Questions

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, brokenness, church, church leadership, fallenness, humillity, ministry, pastors, repentance, restoration | Posted on 12-03-2014

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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 most common messed up questions I get – 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.

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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.

Four Reasons Ministry Marriages Fail

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, marriage, ministry, prevention, wife | Posted on 19-02-2014

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lovingwifeWhen I tell regular church people that ministry marriages are often stressful and difficult, they find it hard to believe. Their disbelief extends even further when I tell the people in the pews that the most stressful issues between pastors and their wives is the ministry itself, they think I’m crazy.

When I tell the same thing to most active pastors or fallen pastors, they most often say, “You’re right.”

When I wrote my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” I knew there were problems with a lot of ministry marriages, but when I did the statistical research, I was shocked myself. Here are a few stats that I dug up (full citations available in the book):

  • 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses are discouraged and dealing with depression
  • More than 40% of pastors and 47% of their spouses report they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules and unrealistic expectations
  • 77% of pastors said they felt they did not have a good marriage
  • 30% said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner
  • 81% of pastors report insufficient time with their spouse
  • 64% report communication difficulty with their spouse
  • 46% report sexual problems
  • 80% of ministers believed pastoral ministry affected their families negatively
  • 33% believed ministry was a hazard to their family
  • 37% confessed to having been involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church

So what’s happening? Sure, ministry is difficult and it comes at a price. There is persecution and weariness. But should it come at such a great cost to the minister? Is proper ministry supposed to be tearing apart the family?

I don’t believe so. I submit that it’s possible that what many pastors are doing isn’t what God equipped them to do. They’re frankly doing too much under their own power. They’re attempting to do the work of an entire church body when they’re only equipped to affairdo the work of the pastor or head elder.

In turn, the pastor spreads himself too thin, has little time for his family and wife and leaves himself open for marriage, ministry, and other types of failure.

I’d like to add a few more reasons why ministry marriages fail. There are things I’ve witnessed over the years that have happened which could be avoided or prevented.

1. Lots of pastors spend so much time doing the work of ministry that they forget about the why of ministry. They start doing programs and laboring so hard over contacts, visiting, networking and growth that they forget about the Christ who promised to build His church. They forget that in the beginning when they started, all they knew was that Christ called them – an imperfect person – to simply preach the Word. Somewhere along the way, things got added to the workload and they made things too difficult.

2. Lots of guys when they got married weren’t pastors. Therefore, their wives didn’t really marry a pastor. Now, I know what someone will say, “God equips the wife like he equips the man.” Listen, it’s a little harder than that. The stress and difficulty of being a pastor’s wife can be overwhelming. And when a woman marries a guy who one day is an over the road truck driver and the next he’s a preacher? Yeah, it can be a little confusing for his wife.

She’s going to need some help easing into that role with grace. She’s going to find her role that God has designed for her within the ministry – and it may not be the exact same as every other minister’s wife. Unfortunately, if she’s forced into a role unwillingly by a church, it can cause undue stress at church and in the home.

3. Sometimes, a ministry couple gets to a place where they just can’t talk about church anymore. I’ve talked to a lot of pastors whose wives have said, “Stop complaining to me about the people at church! They’re nice to me and all you do is complain!” Why does the pastor complain to his wife about problems at church? Honestly, he often has no one else to talk to or vent his problems to. And his wife does get weary of hearing him complain and puts a stop to it. Unfortunately what her husband hears is, “I don’t care about your problems. Go find someone else to talk to.” It’s never good when the ministry couple stops communicating.

sorrycoup4. Over time, there can become a lack of intimacy in the marriage. There are two types of intimacy that need to be maintained. First, spiritual intimacy. Many pastors can get so worn down spiritually during the week that they just don’t feel like having prayer time or spiritual time with their wife or family. And if spiritual intimacy is lost or they stop communicating, then physical intimacy will also suffer.

So what can be done? Pastors, if you’re in trouble, you may not even realize it. Too often, we’re trying to fix other people’s problems and we don’t realize that we have serious issues of our own. How is your marriage? Are you communicating with your wife? When was the last time you had a night out? Are you attracted to another woman? Do you treat your wife as well as you treat other women at church?

Has your wife ever warned you about spending too much time at work or shown concern that you might need help? Are you staying extra hours away from home because you dread going there? Are you increasingly angry at your family or find yourself aggravated more?

Friends, don’t let this get out of hand. Talk to a friend. Talk to a fellow pastor or an associational leader. I’m here and I’ll listen to anyone who needs help. If I can’t help I can probably find someone who can. There are others out there to listen. Be honest with your wife. But know that the worst thing you can do is ignore the problems.

*EDIT: I am sorry if you read this when George Washington’s farewell address was somehow posted at the end. Don’t ask me how that happened.

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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 Nauseating Book You’ll Want To Read?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, book, forgiveness, holiness, pastors | Posted on 17-02-2014

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michnaus

This poor guy looks sick and LOST.

I’ve been blessed to be able to minister to all kinds of people for the past four years. After I fell from ministry, I felt pretty worthless. I always knew that God was gracious and could take His people and work things together for good, but I had no idea what He could do with the shattered pieces I had made of my own life.

Here I am, glory be to God, with a ministry that helps fallen pastors and those who are effected by the fall. In the middle of it, I had a book published by Civitas Press – “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” Again, God was the reason for everything.

It’s a book for anyone – people who want to learn how to forgive, fallen pastors, churches, leaders, etc. I’ve had a lot of great feedback about how people have been helped by it and how it made them understand things better. But I’ve also heard something over the past few years from a few people that bothered me at first.

A few said, “I found it sickening. I couldn’t get past the first part. You know, where you’re sharing the stories of other pastors who committed adultery. Sin is so sickening.”

I tell the stories of ten other pastors who besides myself, fell from the ministry. I’ve said it once on this blog and I’ll say it again – their/our sin was inexcusable. There were warning signs and things that led up to the adultery, but there was no excuse. The sin and consequences were all ours to bear.

The book has four sections. In the first section, I outline the problem. In the second, I tell the story that keeps repeating itself in fpour society of the fallen pastor. In the third section, I talk about the four most common issues that surround the pastor before he falls and that can serve as warning signs. Finally, in the fourth section, I ask, “How can this be prevented and how can the fallen pastor be restored?

I remember talking to one pastor who read the book. He was very angry with me. He told me how sickening the stories were, how it seemed like I was justifying sin, and how I never took credit for my sin. I was pretty patient with him for a while before I started reading specific sections to him out of the book where I made it clear I wasn’t trying to justify anything. In fact, chapter 18 is pretty damning on the fallen pastor as the consequences of his sin play out.

Those things aside, it is a true statement that sin is nauseating. It is most nauseating to God. As the holiest being in the universe, He is farthest away from it and cannot gaze upon it. The closer we are to Him, the more awful and disgusting sin will be to us. That is why we strive for sanctification and personal holiness. When we don’t, and when we distance ourselves from God, we cannot smell the stench of sin when we wallow around in it for a while.

I’m thankful for the men who shared their stories. Each of us were pastors who sat in a place where we were to rightly divide the word of truth, not just for a congregation, but for ourselves. But each of us sinned. We fell. We proved that we were no mightier than those who came before us and others will fall after us. Each time a pastor falls, the name of King David is invoked, not for the kingdom he built, or the bravery he showed, but for his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah.

Our stories are published in a book that won’t ever see the top 100 of the New York Times Bestseller List, but they are there. They are common, too common. Like the adultery of David, the disobedience of Moses, the drunkenness of Noah, or any of the sins of God’s people, we stand amongst them in shame. The good we did will never reach the heights of our heroes of old, but our shame will be compared in the same breath.

restorThankfully, there is hope for those of us whose sin is nauseating. It is true that God is totally “other” than sin and separate, but that did not keep Him from sending His Son into this world to save those who are sinners. Who amongst us is a sinner? All of us.

In a moment upon the cross of sin-bearing, in a moment of torture that was most definitely nauseating to the local observer, all that disgusting sin got washed away. Not because we deserved it, but because He graciously desired it.

Yes, there are consequences to sin. Earthly consequences. Church discipline is a reality for leaders, but it should always start with the spirit of Galatians 6:1, “Brothers, restore….” The Spirit of Christ should lead all of us to love as Christ loved the adulterous woman who was accused. His focus was on her, not the angry mob.

And no, those who sin will not always listen to us at first. Their sin may nauseate us. It may sicken us to the core. But what I’ve learned since my fall is that God poured out all His wrath over my sin upon His Son so that He might look upon me again and love me as His child. Behind all that nauseating sin is a person God is reaching out to and has a future for.

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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.

For All The Sinning Ministers Out There

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, advice, affair, church leadership, compassion, encouragement, pastoring, pastors, sin, temptation | Posted on 27-01-2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you have a pastor friend you know who fell into sin? Reach out to him, regardless of how long ago it might have been. You’d be surprised how much good you can do to just talk. It’s a lonely world for a fallen pastor. Remember that showing love and grace to any sinner is what we are called to do – because, pastor, one day, it could be you.

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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” If you are a fallen pastor, a pastor in trouble, a church whose pastor has fallen, or need someone to talk to your group about preventing ministry failure, please feel free to contact Ray here. All messages will be kept confidential.

The Pastor’s Crisis Moment

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, church, church leadership, church members, churches, fallenness, pastoral care, pastoring, pastors, preachers, reconciliation | Posted on 13-01-2014

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I talk to a lot of fallen pastors and pastors who are in danger of falling. The pastors who are in Reconciling With A Fallen Pastor, Part 2: Stages Of The Falldanger of falling are usually already talking to another woman and they typically describe their relationship with the woman who is not their wife like this: “We haven’t ‘crossed the line physically,’ but we are having an emotional affair.”

If a pastor is having an ‘emotional affair,’ the damage is still done. Is it as bad as adultery as far as trying to come back from it? No, but it’s still a very serious thing.

What I want to discuss today is the crisis moment that I’ve observed in fallen pastors and in those who are about to fall. Here is my definition of the crisis moment: That moment where a man comes to his senses, even for a split second, and begins to understand the situation he is in. For the past few weeks or months, he has been engaged in an affair of some type and has been living in a fantasy world of some sort. At some point, he wakes up to what he is doing and realizes he has a wife, children, a church and a God he is responsible to. He also realizes that by continuing on, he can lose everything.

Let me back up for a moment before I go any further and talk about what has happened before this. Not many people understand what drives a pastor to adultery. I covered it in my book rather extensively and have written about it in this blog many times including here, here, and here.

For a quick review, pastors don’t just wake up one day and decide to commit adultery. Over time, they are weakened by conflict, isolation, poor marriages, and other factors. Are they factors that can be prevented? Absolutely. Is the pastor responsible for his sin? You bet.

Back to the crisis moment.

alonepastorWhen a pastor comes to the crisis moment, there are few people, if any he can talk to. For instance, suppose a pastor has been cheating on his wife or been engaged in an emotional relationship with another woman but hasn’t been caught yet. Believe it or not, for months, he has been justifying his actions. But the guilt does catch up to him.

Who is he going to talk to? You’ll say, “Well, he should confess his sin immediately.” Yeah, that’s right. But like the rest of us, he won’t. When we all look at the deep, dark sin in our own lives, we all know that we don’t always confess our own sins to God or to those we’ve harmed.

So the pastor doesn’t go to anyone. Or, he’ll go to a friend and talk in circles or in generalities about a problem he’s struggling with but will never come right out and say what it is.

Some guys will just run. They start putting out resumes and will relocate to a different church in another state to get away from their sin. I’ve seen this happen before. And it doesn’t end well either. Because guess what? Sin follows you. And eventually, someone at your last church finds out and they will end up calling your new church and it’s all over.

Others in the crisis moment will try to neatly hide the scandal. They’ll keep on doing what they’re doing, feeling that if the church had been taking better care of them or if their wife had been paying more attention to them, they wouldn’t be in this mess to begin with. That doesn’t usually end well either.

I can tell you this about the crisis moment – it comes fast, hard, and heavy. It’s overwhelming, like a huge panic attack. For some guys, it comes after they get caught.

Some pastors, after their sin is exposed, are in a unique position. And a lot of you are about to affairget angry about this. But this is exactly what happens. If you read this blog and want to help fallen pastors, this is the kind of thing you want to know.

When the pastor gets caught, he still has feelings for the woman he had an affair with. And he will for a long time. If his church approaches him about restoration or counseling with his wife, he may reject it immediately. Why? Because he’s a man who is in love with another woman.

You might say, “Hold on there fallen pastor dude. What are you talking about?

I’ll tell you exactly what I’m talking about. I always ask fallen pastors what it is that the woman they had an affair with did for them. Well before the pastor and the woman he had an affair with ever decided to cross the line into adultery, something happened. And the majority of the time, you know what it was?

It was that the other woman took time to listen to him. She appreciated him for who he was. She just accepted him for being a man. I’ll also throw this in there – the woman that fallen pastors usually meet up with is usually going through a crisis of their own. Their needs aren’t being met and the pastor is able to meet her emotional needs as well.

Now, does that make adultery right? Nope. I’m just reporting what I hear and see on a weekly basis.

That’s why some men when they reach that crisis point after they’ve been caught, and after they’ve been askefallingd to reconcile with their wives will say, “No.” Why do they say no? They look at this world they’ve lived in for the past few months with another woman. A world where they can come and go as they please. They have no responsibility, no bills to pay, just pure bliss.

And they believe it will endure. Guess what? It doesn’t always stay that way. 2% of marriages that are built on adultery will succeed. You get that? It may start as a fabulous retreat from life, but eventually, it will end up being a marriage.

So what should a pastor do at the crisis point? It depends on which side he’s on. If he’s teetering on the brink and has had an emotional affair and hasn’t been caught, it might be wise to defuse that by confessing to his spouse. What if it has become physical? It’s time to talk to church leadership – carefully.

I could write a whole other book on how churches should treat a pastor who has committed a large sin. How they should love him and get him help, treat him like a member of the body of Christ and see that he is restored to fellowship.

Pastors, if you’re out there, you might have reached your crisis moment. And if you think you don’t have anyone to talk to, think again. I’m here. And my contact info is below. I’ve been able to network with all kinds of people who can help. Just talking helps sometimes. I won’t judge you or call you names or think you’re the worst person in the world. In fact, I love you because Christ loves me.

People of God, if your pastor reaches a crisis moment, know that he needs your help. He doesn’t need gossip or meanness or anger. He needs support and help. If you can’t give him proper help, find someone who can.

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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” If you are a fallen pastor, a pastor in trouble, a church whose pastor has fallen, or need someone to talk to your group about preventing ministry failure, please feel free to contact Ray here. All messages will be kept confidential.

Pastors and Divorce

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, fallenness, forgiveness, Hershael York, marriage, pastors, reconciliation, relationships | Posted on 12-12-2013

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2percentMany pastors who have committed adultery end up with the woman they commit adultery with. I was one.

Let me share with you a couple of things before I start. The statistic is non-negotiable: 2% of marriages that are the result of adultery succeed. You get that? That means if you marry someone who you commit adultery with, you are looking down the barrel of a 98% failure rate.

Now, let me share with you this quote from Dr. Hershael York, preaching professor who I interviewed for my book. He had a great reason why marriages built on affairs don’t really last. It’s because when you’re engaged in an affair, it’s really a fantasy world that you can come and go from:

Every time you have an affair with anybody, I don’t care who you are, in a sense, you’re having an affair with a fantasy and not a real person. Because the person you’ve got to pay the mortgage with, deal with the kids’ soccer schedule with, the one whose vomit you wipe up when they’re sick, that’s the real person you live with. Twenty minutes in the sack on a Tuesday afternoon is really not love. You’ve got to tell yourself that. You’ve got to awaken yourself to the fact that it’s fantasy. If you end up with the person you had an affair with, I guarantee you once you get married you have to face the same issues and same struggles. You cannot take two totally depraved human beings, stick them in the same house and not have friction.” (Fallen Pastor, p. 172)

He’s right. The thrill of the affair is not the same as a marriage covenant.

I did in fact, marry Allison, who was the woman I met and had an affair with. We are still here after four years. We are not the norm. I do not encourage fallen pastors to run after the women they had an affair with. For some reason, Allison and I have made it work. She is great for me. She loves me for who I am and I love her with all my heart. Does that make our sin right? Nope. But we are here, attempting to move on past what we did and trying to live a life of holiness.

I’ve often said that pastors don’t just wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll commit adultery today.” They don’t. It takes a long time to get to that point. Know this – their sin is their responsibility. There are factors that weaken them and I list them in my book – poor relationship with spouse, overly high expectations from the church, church conflict, isolation and many times a huge trauma.

One thing that many fallen pastors don’t think about is what the fallout will be. When I was on the road to leaving my wife and the ministry, I knew I wanted to be with Allison. I knew it would cost me my job and the contact I had with my children.pastorkids

When I finally got caught, it became more real to me. It was all over. All of it. Especially the contact I would have with my children.

I won’t sit here and tell you that it was an easy thing. It was the most difficult thing. In fact, all the fallen pastors I talk to tell me that losing full-time contact with their children in cases of divorce is the most devastating thing for them.

I can read the statistics all I want. That a majority of ministry couples feel that serving in the church has a harmful effect upon their marriage. That most ministry couples experience anxiety and depression.

People ask me, “Would you do it again if you had the chance?” I don’t like hypothetical questions. What I do consider is being able to provide for my children, making sure they are happy, and being involved with them and being free to talk with them when they want.

They are daddy’s girls. I am proud to say they love me. We discuss things that I know they only share with me. They know what I did was a sin, but they love me anyway.

Divorce is a terrible, sinful thing. They know this. But each time I see them, they wrap their arms around me and call me “Daddy.” They love me despite my flaws and care about the ministry I’m involved in now.

What is the point I’m driving at? Well, there are two. First, if you are a pastor who is thinking about adultery, please think about the consequences. If you fall, it will affect everyone around you. Your church, your wife, your kids and people in the community. If there is something there to salvage, work on it.

Secondly, if you have fallen, do what it takes to work things out with your family. Your kids, parents, siblings, grandparents, whomever. Not everyone will be easy to trust or forgive you right away. You need to understand that you are the one who sinned. If you are truly repentant and understand grace, then you will give people time to heal.

Divorce is a serious thing. Fallen pastors, are you ready to go into those proceedings? Many hurt pastor’s wives want to leave you immediately. It’s because they are hurt. They often listen to the counsel of their family or those in the church who are hurt as they are. If you want your wife back, try to get an impartial mediator involved.

trustIf you and your wife are on the path to divorce, seek the heart of Christ. Don’t be an angry person. Always be thinking about your children. Don’t respond with hatred when you receive hatred. Remember that the reason your spouse is acting as she does is because you did what you did. Show true, repentant humility.

You might not be able to stop a divorce, but beginning with true, Christ-like humility can put you on the right step toward a lifetime journey of repentance and holiness.

Finally, I will tell you this. When a man has been unfaithful to his wife, she has the right to be angry. Don’t expect her to forgive you or gain your trust overnight. I’ve seen a lot of fallen pastors say to their wives within months of the act of adultery, “God says you should forgive me.” Wrong approach. When we commit adultery, we have caused depths of hurt that we do not understand.

Step back, repent to God and allow Him to work on the hearts of others. Know that trust takes a long time to be restored. It may never be restored. I’ve seen fallen pastors whose wives never forgive them or always hold their adultery over their head.

How does one respond to that? With grace. With the same grace we desire after we committed adultery. We cannot expect to change anyone’s heart but our own. When you sin, turn to God. Allow Him to change in you what it is that went wrong. Even if your marriage ends in divorce, be patient with others. Allow God to make you a new person.

As Dr. York taught me, “Make your repentance more notorious than your sin.”

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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” If you are a fallen pastor, a pastor in trouble, a church whose pastor has fallen, or need someone to talk to your group about preventing ministry failure, please feel free to contact Ray here. All messages will be kept confidential.

Why Do Pastors Cheat?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, pastoring, pastors, temptation | Posted on 10-12-2013

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People discover my site because of all types of searches. But one of the most common search phrases is “Why do pastors commit adultery?”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 sees as the greatest example of betrayal? Even in Scripture, God uses the language of adultery to describe Israel as 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 bridgesshe had a brief affair with a photographer a long time ago. The movie basically justifies her adultery by showing how much the woman needed attention, 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.

But 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 over two 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 getting 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 that statistics show that 25% of Americans have cheated on their spouse but not been caught.temptation

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 is 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 than 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 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 their spouse but have not been caught.

Why do pastors commit adultery? The same reason anyone else does. Because we sin. 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 been. All of us. Not just pastors.

So pray for your leaders. The stress is great.

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Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” If you are a fallen pastor, a pastor in trouble, a church whose pastor has fallen, or need someone to talk to your group about preventing ministry failure, please feel free to contact Ray here. All messages will be kept confidential.

“Our Pastor Committed Adultery 20 Years Ago”

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, Christ, church, church leadership, church members, compassion, counseling, deacons, fallenness, forgiveness, humillity, pastoring, pastors, preachers, repentance, restoration | Posted on 13-11-2013

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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 author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” If you are a fallen pastor, a pastor in trouble, a church whose pastor has fallen, or need someone to talk to your group about preventing ministry failure, please feel free to contact Ray here. All messages will be kept confidential.