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Fallen Pastor: The Book, Part 3 – The Men Who Fall

Before “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World” releases, I’m trying to give my blog readers some extra insight to what went into the writing process and the experience behind it. One of the singular joys I had was interviewing the men for the book. I wasn’t sure...

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Allison, My Wife, My Inspiration

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in affirmation, Allison, blog, marriage | Posted on 29-03-2013

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I was overwhelmed Wednesday by the reception I received from my blog post called, “Gay Marriage, the Church, and Fallen_Pastor_Blog-1024x815the Christ Response.” All the feedback I got was amazing and it was from both sides of the aisle. The post wasn’t really about gay marriage, but about how we should love as Christ loved.

I say that to say this – I wasn’t going to post anything about it, but my lovely wife Allison, had said something to me several times during the evening after I had received a Facebook inbox message asking me my opinion about it. After she had mentioned it, the lights came on about 2:00 in the morning and I started writing.

It ended up being the most viewed blog post I had ever written. I was kinda dumbfounded about the whole thing and I asked her why she thought it had done so well. She said, “You know how people were always trying to trap Jesus and he never answered the way they wanted him to? You answered the question perfectly.”

I don’t think I was worthy of a Jesus comparison, to be sure. But I got what she was saying. More than that, I cannot emphasize how much I love and appreciate my wife. She is my biggest fan. She said, “I just want people to read this post. I want the world to see it.”

She’s always like that. Whether I’m writing, counseling a fallen pastor, working, or whatever, she’s encouraging me.

DSC_0355Lately, I haven’t been living up to my potential, I think. She’s been honest with me about that. She knows that God has something better for me and she’s told me so. I love that about her too.

We always say that when one of us is down, the other one always seems to be up and able to help the other one. We fit so well together and I’m blessed to have her in my life.

I’m at a point where God is using me in a different way and to do a different type of ministry. I’m very thankful that I have a God who doesn’t give up on His people or His pastors when they fall.

I’m also thankful to have Allison at this time. A woman who I could not live without right now. A woman who understands this ministry I am engaged in to help those who fall, who understands my frustrations, my limitations, my pain, my grief and constantly puts up with me in spite of my glaring imperfections.

I’m proud of her for getting her blog up and going again. In her own right, she is ministering to a whole group of people I cannot reach. I know many times she thinks she is incapable or unworthy but she is amazing at what she does. Her heart is amazing and I am very proud of her.

The road that has led us to where we are now has been difficult, but it has also been rewarding. But I am glad I have been blessed by God with Allison.

Pastors Need Comfort To Avoid Disaster

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affirmation, book, church, comfort, encouragement, expectations, pastoring, pastors, pornography, preachers, regret, wife | Posted on 20-07-2012

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(Over the next few posts, I’m going to talk about several reasons why the book “Fallen Pastor” is for anyone concerned about the future of the church. We are in the midst of a crisis and need to understand how to approach it).

I conducted an interview recently with Joy Wilson, author of “Uncensored Prayer.” I asked her a question that has been haunting me. When I wrote, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” I never looked back and thought it was incomplete. But I asked Joy the following question: “In hindsight, is there a message you wish you could have added to the book?”

Since I asked that question, I have been consumed by it. I wish I had added something to my own book. Pastors are very needy people. They need comfort, just like everyone else. If their comforts are not being met, it can become a dangerous place for the enemy to step in.

When I say comfort, I don’t mean that pastors need to be pampered 24/7. I’m not talking about the idea that trouble will come and pastors need to face them. Let me explain.

Tonight, my lovely wife Allison and I went to a local diner after a funeral visitation. Usually, when I go to a small mom and pop diner, I won’t even crack the menu. I will simply ask the server, “What is the best thing you’ve got?“At this restaurant in Crofton, Kentucky, they had three pages of meals that all looked really good to me at the moment. But I knew that there was something there that they did really, really well.

Our waitress paused and said, “The open faced roast beef sandwich. It’s served with a side of mashed potatoes and covered with gravy.”

I said, “l’ll have that.” Know why? Because her recommendation was more than just what they did best. It was something she had eaten. It was comfort food. It was food for the soul. And my goodness, when it came, it fed my soul.

I was suddenly reminded that pastors need comfort. A lot of people who read this won’t like what I have to say in the next few paragraphs, but it is important if we are going to change this culture. A culture in which I fell. A culture in which 1,500 pastors a month are leaving the ministry, many due to moral failure.

Pastors work in high pressure situations, regardless of the size of their churches. Much is asked of them. Many of these men see the ministry as an extremely high calling, and they should. Unfortunately, many of these men sacrifice time with their families and wives to do the work of ministry because of overly high expectations placed on them by their churches or by themselves.

They have no comfort. Some, over time, seek out comfort through a quick fix of pornography. Some, whose marriages are deteriorating because of ministry, look elsewhere. That may come as a shock to some. The pastor shows up on Sunday with his lovely wife, his beautiful children – some people think, “I wish my family was like that.

But what many people do not realize is that the pastor’s home life is in shambles. His home life and marriage is in awful shape. Why? Because he has laid out everything in pursuit of the ministry.

In his mind, he has justified it all. He thinks he is doing the work of God. He visits the sick, attends deacons meetings, preaches the word, evangelizes the lost. But over in the corner, the relationship with his wife and family is fading and he doesn’t realize it.

He comes home from a bad day and tries to talk to his wife, only to see that she has become alienated from him. It is his fault. It is their fault. There is no comfort. So he seeks comfort elsewhere,wrongfully, sinfully. Through porn. Through lust. And maybe though an inappropriate relationship nearby.

Friends, what I am telling you is that pastors need comfort from home. From their churches. Just like those fried chicken home cooked meals mom used to fix. Pastors cannot be expected to extend themselves out on the church field and forget about the most important mission field – their family.

Comfort, the greatest and best comfort comes from home. Don’t extend your pastor so much that he can’t have the touchstone of relief from his wife and children.

When I was writing my book and interviewing fallen pastors, the most common traits of a fall were so obvious. The expectations were too high, they were isolated from having real relationships, there was too much conflict over silly things and they had lack of intimacy with their spouses.

Each of these things beg for comfort! The pastor needs friends, real friends who will comfort him! He needs a church body and leadership who will be able to discern what is really important – the preaching of the Word, not what color the carpet will be. He needs people in the congregation who understand him as a fallen sinner, like them, who has weaknesses. He needs them to be comfortable with his strengths and weaknesses as a leader.

Finally, he needs time at home to be comfortable with his wife and family. Most pastors get a day off during the week. But when I talk to my current pastor friends, they still get calls from the church on their days off. Pastors need time one on one with their wives. To bond, to heal. The ministry is, unfortunately, a battlefield. It doesn’t just involve the pastor, it involves his whole family. Give him time to nurture his family. To date her. To spend sweet emotional time with her, to forget the travails of the church for a few hours.

It’s funny as I write this, my power is out. I’m writing this on my iPhone as storms are wreaking havoc across the county where I live. Understand this: pastors who do not have adequate support and comfort are absolutely powerless. Yes, they are to look to Christ for all power, but He has given us the church to support one another through all things. None of us is in this alone.

Pastors across America need comfort time. And they need their churches to be proactive in giving it to them. It’s one positive step in ensuring we don’t have more fallen pastors.

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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.

Pastors & Killer Expectations: Where Do They Come From?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in affirmation, church, church members, churches, expectations, pastoring, pastors | Posted on 22-06-2012

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A 2001 Barna study shared the following information: “Church-goers expect their pastor to juggle an average of 16 major tasks. That’s a recipe for failure – nobody can handle the wide range of responsibilities that people expect pastors to master.”

That was one of the most interesting statistics I found while doing research for my book, Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World. That statistic reflects what I believe many pastors feel is the cause of killer expectations – the congregation or a controlling group of church leaders. What I discovered in writing was that blaming one side was incompatible with what was really going on in today’s churches.

Before I wrote my book, I thought I knew a lot about high expectations for pastors. I had practical experience, but it was nothing compared to what I learned after studying statistics and interviewing fallen pastors. If a pastor does not understand expectations rightly, misperceives them, or does not have the right center, he stands the danger of burnout or worse.

It’s important to understand where high expectations come from, where they should come from, how to understand them and how to take it all in. In this post, I’ll address where expectations come from, and at the end I’ll throw in a curveball for those who stick around and read the whole thing.

Where do high expectations come from? Whether you’re a pastor, plumber, architect, ambassador to Korea or stay at home mom, you have a set of expectations you deal with. Specific to this post, if you’re a pastor of a congregation of 20, 200 or 2,000, those expectations are very real and if they get out of control, they can become overwhelming.

Expectations come from many places. First, there are congregational expectations. What does the congregation expect out of their pastor? What did the pulpit tell the pastor when he was hired? Have those expectations changed as the church has grown or declined in attendance? Does the church setting make a difference? Is the church’s set of expectations based on Scripture, bylaws or any written standard that can be measured quantitatively? Do church expectations come from a leadership council or the entire congregation?

All of these questions can help sort out where congregational expectations come from. I had a friend in seminary who pastored a rural church that voted on whether to keep him every year. It had been in the bylaws since a pastor had fallen over six decades earlier. I know of churches who pass out pastoral satisfaction surveys on occasion.

Expectations also come from within the pastor. These are typically the strongest expectations pastors wrestle with. Pastors who are perfectionists are rarely satisfied with the job they are doing. These men often work long hours with the idea in mind that they are never quite fulfilling every need in the church. Somewhere in their brain, they perceive unmet needs among the congregation that they could be fixing or making better. They are hard workers, but without a system of checks, these men experience tremendous burnout.

Pastors can experience several things that can warp their view of expectations upon them. One is pastoral competition or self-competition. A lot of guys love to talk about numbers. When pastors meet, they may not say it, but they intrinsically measure success by the number of people in their congregation or total budgets. While many give lip-service to the idea that, “I’d be happy preaching to one person each Sunday,” there seems to be an innate drive to move forward to the next big thing. Even if they aren’t comparing numbers with other pastors, a lot of young pastors are taught a business model of church where moving on to the next big position is just a natural progression.

Of course, this isn’t always true. There are always exceptions and we all know of men who are content with the congregations they serve. The point here is that this drive from without or within can lead to a warped view of success and high expectations.

The final place expectations come is from God. This is where proper expectations should come from. God has a high expectation for those He calls. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 is the most common passage quoted when listing the moral qualifications for an overseer:  “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” (ESV)

There is discussion over some of the specific ideas in this passage, but for the most part, it is agreed that God expects His leaders to have a certain level of morality and moral leadership. Ultimately, God’s standard is the greatest standard. Any idea outside of Scripture attributed to the pastor should be discussed and agreed upon between pastor and church leadership. Any unspoken or assumed expectations can be harmful for both parties.

The warped view of high expectations (whether from congregations, from within, or both) can be seen in one of two examples, although there are surely more.

If congregations or leadership have expectations that are too high, unspoken, or unrealistic for the pastor, he can become frustrated in his duties. Despite his normal duties of teaching and preaching, he can become overwhelmed with a myriad of other tasks. He can become party to this as well if he takes on tasks without asking for help or communicating clearly to his people. Pastors who believe they can or should do everything will experience a large amount of frustration, leading to potential burnout.

Sometimes, churches are unaware they are adding to these high expectations. Many people mean well or are unsure of how to approach the pastor but can say things that come across as hurtful to the pastor: “Our old pastor didn’t do it like that,” “You only work one day a week, surely you can do more,” “Why haven’t you visited more people?” “There sure haven’t been many people here lately.” People often mean well or aren’t thinking when they make statements like this, but need to be aware of the weight their words carry. Most pastors spend all week concentrating on the church and the duties he performs and takes his job very seriously.

Now, for the curveball. I’ve mostly been talking about how pastors get burned out when expectations are too high, but there is another issue at stake. The other problem that can occur is when the pastor perceives high expectations on the other end of the spectrum. The high expectations become adoration as he fulfills them and accolades begin to pour in every Sunday. If his set of expectations are not from God and he fails to be humble, danger can lie ahead.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity to interview several fallen pastors who allowed this to happen. The church appreciated the fact that the pastor was fulfilling the high expectations through long hours and hard work (sometimes at the expense of time at home) and was praising him each week. The pastor begins to compare the high accolades from the people at church to his marriage relationship, which is an unfair comparison. Often, the pastor would say to his wife, “How come you can’t appreciate me like the people at church do?” Much more about this in a later post.

High expectations happen to everyone, but understanding their source is of great importance. Pastoral/Church communication about correct expectations can prevent church disappointment, pastoral burnout and can also promote proper church health and focus on Christ’s community and everyone’s role within it.

__________________

Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.

If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.

If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.

God Still Loves The Fallen Pastor

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, affirmation, forgiveness, God, prayer, sin | Posted on 09-05-2012

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You ever have a conversation with God that you just know was real?

I have. But only a few times. My friend, Joy Wilson, writes about this type of prayer in her book, “Uncensored Prayer: The Spiritual Practice of Wrestling with God.” Take time to check out her blog as well. I think if you give her a try you’ll love her stuff.

I was apparently engaged in this process without even knowing it. My mother used to do it as well. She kept detailed prayer journals. She wrote down conversations she had with God. The first time I took a peek at one of them, I was sure she was crazy. But after I kept going back to them, I knew she was conversing with God. I didn’t know how. I knew she was wrestling and hearing from God in her mediation/quiet time.

About a year after my fall from ministry and my marriage to Allison, I had a conversation with God that I will never forget. It wasn’t in audible tones. It was on a heart level. It was while I was on my knees with my Bible in front of me. I had few friends to speak of and little support. All I wanted was love. To be reminded of God’s love. To remember that He was, in fact, there. I’ll do my best to quote it for you. It was at a heart level, not audible, but it was very real.

Ray: “Lord, I’ve hurt so many. I’ve gone through so much because of what I’ve done. I have some opportunities to help people, but I feel inadequate. I just need to hear from you.”

Silence.

Ray: “I’m an inadequate husband, father, Christian, worker, human being, and I fell as a minister. I am a horrible sinner. I’ve asked for forgiveness so many times from you and others. People tell me to repent. I’m married now. I think I’ve turned away from a lifestyle of that one sin of adultery. What do you want??”

Silence.

R: “Please let me know you’re listening. So many times I’ve just wanted to give up. I can’t stand going to church. I can’t stand going anywhere. I’ve drug so many people down. I’ve disappointed so many.”

Silence.

R: “Maybe I should just shut up.”

Silence.

More silence. I’m about to give up again.

God: “Why do you still hang you head down when you go out in public? Why do you stare at the floor when you’re at the grocery or in town?”

Just like God to change the subject.

R: “I’m ashamed. I don’t want to see the faces of those people I’ve disappointed.”

G: “You should fear me more. I’m the one you sinned against.”

R: I’m beating my hands on the bed I’m leaning against at this point. “I know, Lord. It eats me alive. People tell me I haven’t repented, that I’m not apologetic. That I’m not forgiven.”

G: “You are forgiven. You sinned, violated my law, but now, you are clean by my Son. When you bring it up, it’s you bringing it up, not me. A huge mess was made, yes. But it’s over. I will still use you, but you have to seek humility. I no longer see you as a fallen pastor. I see you as my beloved child.”

I paused and wept. God had a better view of me than I did. He had a better view of me than most people and pastors in my community. Was this me talking to myself? It didn’t feel like it. Was I going crazy? Possibly. But it didn’t feel like it.

R: “Are you still there? Can I please ask something even though I don’t deserve it? I just want my kids to be okay.”

G: “Do they seem alright?”

R: “Yes. By your grace.”

G: “Rejoice. Remember what you learned a long time ago. They are only in your hands for a short time, but in my hands forever.”

R: In that moment, I couldn’t remember where I’d heard that before. “What am I supposed to do now?”

G: “Love like you couldn’t love before this. Remember what it was like to feel grace at the lowest point. Share it. Never forget it. Give it to others.”

Like that, it was over. I was worn out from a lot of things. Lack of sleep. Maybe I had too much medication in my system. Maybe I was delirious from stress. Because, I’ll be honest. I’m the last person to believe stuff like this when it happens to others. I had a lady come up to me and tell me that God spoke to her like this regularly once. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Maybe he does. Good for you!

I slept for a long time after that. Immediately after I woke, I remembered, “Remember what you learned a long time ago. They are only in your hands for a short time, but in my hands forever.” That was something my mother used to say to me. She’d tell me that she’d worry about me and fret, but that she knew that God took better care of me than she ever could.

God cares for the fallen pastor. He loves the fallen pastor. Heck, after the fallen pastor repents, he’s not even a fallen pastor anymore. He’s just a renewed Christian with a new mission. God cares about all of His flock. When the one goes astray, He seeks Him out, leaving the 99 behind.

Don’t ever doubt God’s love when you are sinning (and know that He will love you while the consequences and fall out come as well). He will put you back on the path. Even when you scramble it up really badly, He will restore you. He loves you that much.

______________________

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.

 

“Look at me, I’m a gravy boat!”

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in affirmation, book, God, gravy, humillity, sovereignty | Posted on 06-01-2012

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I have somewhat of an ego problem.

Now, if you know me at all, you’ll find yourself tossing your head back, laughing and saying, “Oh, really? Tell me something I didn’t know, Ray.”

This really has something to do with gravy, the world’s greatest food/beverage. I promise. I’ll get there in a minute.

In my book, I interviewed a guy I named Kris. He admitted to having a big problem with his ego. He said that his ego got way too big for him to manage. He said that in his megachurch, he loved to advertise. In fact, he said something along the lines of, “Advertising for me is like crack cocaine.”

I found after my interviews that a lot of pastors who fell fed off of appreciation and affirmation. It was like a drug for them. It was like that for me. I needed constant reassurance. Thankfully, I got a lot of that from my mom who constantly told me how proud she was of me. But one day, she was gone.

Let me tell you how I’ve been operating in the flesh for the past few weeks. I’ve got some nice business cards with my picture on one side and a picture of my book on the back. Snazzy. I’ve got postcards I’m mailing out to advertise my book signing. Lovely. There’s nothing wrong with those things. I’m happy that I’ve got a book out there that has the potential to help a lot of people.

One of my favorite quotes from Sir Conan Arthur Doyle in the Sherlock Holmes series is when Holmes says the following to Watson:

“My dear Watson,” said he, “I cannot agree with those who rank modesty among the virtues. To the logician all things should be seen exactly as they are, and to underestimate one’s self is as much a departure from truth as to exaggerate one’s own powers.”

The only problem is that some of us don’t know how to measure modesty. I get a pat on the back, a few words of encouragement and it goes straight to my head. It empowers my sinful ego. I begin to think, “Yeah, I did that! Look at how far I’ve come!” And next thing you know, I’m Alexander the Great.

To be honest, I’ve been an absolute jerk to live with the past few weeks. Know why? Because I’m the “guy who wrote a book.” Look at me.

I had a wake up call today. God put me in my place. And it wasn’t nice. Remember this verse from 2 Corinthians 4:7?

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.

It came crashing to my mind today along with a mind picture.

I love gravy. It is the greatest thing ever invented. My mom used to make the best brown gravy after she would make fried chicken. I’m really keen on white gravy. It really does count as a beverage. You can pour it on anything. Bacon, fried chicken, meat loaf, pancakes. Anyway, gravy is the bomb.

If you are a gravy connoisseur, you must have a gravy boat. There are some decent gravy boats out there too. You can get them made of glass, silver, stainless steel or ceramic. When that gravy boat comes to the table with piping hot gravy, you may make notice of it for a moment, but you are really craving the gravy. When that gravy comes, you could care less if the gravy is served in a brown paper bag.

When I fell two years ago and God took my horrible mess, redeemed me, saved me, made me whole again, I was nothing. He scraped me up off the dang pavement and put me upright. For some reason, he saw fit to allow me to put a story into words that might help other people out there. I have no idea why He did it, but He did it. It was in His sovereign plan and purpose to do so and He did it.

I had nothing to offer Him but a broken soul and heart. I was a fifty cent gravy boat held together with super glue and duct tape. But He saw fit to put in me a message of importance – His message. The gravy that might help some people and minister to Him. Not my message, His message. Not because Ray Carroll is important, not because I have some great ability, but because He is an awesome God.

I was needfully reminded today that if there is anything good to come out of this book, my life, my ministry, it is all because of Him, not me. I am a broken down gravy boat. Without Him, I have nothing. Without Him, I have no voice. Without Him, I have nothing to offer. I have no tomorrow.

Lord, thank you for reminding me that I am a vessel. The worth I have comes from the treasure of your Son, Jesus Christ that you have filled me with. Do what you will with the treasure you have given to me. May the glory belong to You and You alone.