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Face To Face With My Old Church

It’s been a long 24 hours, friends.   Without going into detail, last night Cynthia got very sick. I was extremely concerned about her. She turned out fine, but there may be health issues ahead for her. For about a three hour stretch in the emergency room, I thought life might change forever....

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When the Pastor Falls 4: What’s Next For the Church?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in advice, anger, church, church leadership, church members, churches, forgiveness, gossip, leadership, ministry, pastors, reconciliation, relationships, restoration, struggles | Posted on 14-04-2014

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If you’ve been reading this series in order, then you’ve arrived at this point where the church leadership has done the zs.worth.0050best they can after they’ve learned that the pastor committed adultery. (Part 1, part 2, part 3) Hopefully, the pastor and his family are receiving prayerful support from the church and are being attended to by a ministry/counseling team that specializes in helping them.

But now here you are, a church leadership team without a pastor. Many churches are equipped with staff who can fill in for the interim, but many are not. In the past four years, I’ve seen how this process should not be done. So, I’d like to give some practical advice on how to proceed for the next few months with some do’s and don’ts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seriously.

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

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

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

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

Other helpful resources for church leaders and churches:

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you are a church leader and still have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

When The Pastor Gets Caught

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, anger, bitterness, church, church leadership, church members, culture, embarrassment, forgiveness, hurt, ministry, repentance, restoration | Posted on 07-02-2014

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The day comes out of nowhere and the news hits everyone hard. Everyone learns that the sadpastor has committed adultery. Or, for that matter, they’ve discovered he’s embezzled or been lying about something horrible.

Everyone has a different reaction. I was a pastor and I fell when I committed adultery. I had kept it secret for a few months, but you can’t sin under wraps forever.

What I knew then about the reactions of people is different from what I know now. I’ve spent the last four years ministering to fallen pastors, the church members and leaders who were hurt, their wives, and even the women they had the affair with.

In this post, I want to share with you the reactions that I’ve heard from people when their pastor falls. Why? Because I’ve learned something very important over the years – one of the most important things anyone can do is listen to what people are saying. When a pastor falls, the most important thing a church can do is listen. If we don’t listen, we can’t communicate. If we aren’t listening to the real hurt and concern of the people around us, we will never get to a place where we understand one another.

baptismEveryone has the right to react and feel hurt. Everyone has the right to feel disappointment in the person they listened to, trusted and loved.

I remember when I was writing my book, I was still having anger toward people who were lashing out at me about what I did. One of the most helpful conversations I had was with Dr. Hershael York who basically told me, “Ray, you don’t get the right to get angry with those people when they lash out in anger. You’re the one who committed adultery. You put them in that position. Even if their anger is unbiblical, which they’ll have to answer for, you need to keep silent. That’s part of being humble.

He was right. Now I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve heard from people over the past few years. I’m writing them so that we can see the larger picture. Once everything comes out, where do we go? Remember that a lot of things said in the first few days of discovery are said in anger or disappointment:

Church member #1: “I can’t believe it. He baptized my kids. I trusted him. How could he do this? I guess it goes to show you that you can’t trust anyone?

Church member #2: “I never trusted him anyway. That’s horrible. His wife should leave him Pastor Holding Bibleright away. He has got to be fired right now. He’s probably been doing this for years.

Church leader #1: “You know, we could just sweep this under the rug. Surely we can do damage control on this. If this gets out, it could hurt the church.

Church leader #2: “He’s done. This is an embarrassment. He needs to type a letter of resignation now and we have got to move on as quickly as possible.

Church leader #3: “He’s in trouble and I don’t like what he did. He can’t stay on here as pastor, but we do have a responsibility to help him and his family. Let’s go talk to him. I’m not sure what we can do, but let’s see if we can get him and his wife some help.

Community pastor#1: “Wow. I never thought he would do that. Goes to show you it can happen to anyone.

Community pastor #2: “What a disappointment. He just makes us all look bad.

Community pastor #3: “I need to call him. I don’t know what I can do, but I can at least reach out.

The pastor himself, reaction #1: “I cannot believe this is happening. I don’t know how I got here. I mean, I know how I got here. But, I don’t know what to do now. I’m about to lose everything. It’s all my fault. I need help.

Reconciling With A Fallen Pastor, Part 3: Why Early Contact Is EssentialThe pastor, reaction #2: “I’m done. I’m getting all these angry calls. I’m leaving anyway. I don’t want to have anything to do with church or any of this. My marriage has been awful and I’m leaving. No one can stop me.

The pastor, reaction #3: “I got caught. I know I did something wrong. Maybe I can get a little counseling and get back to ministry soon.”

There are a lot of different reactions. Not everyone is on the same page and every member, leader and pastor has a different set of dynamics. The pastor has sinned and is responsible to face the consequences.

Here at Fallen Pastor, I do two things. First, I listen to people who approach me with questions. If they want advice, I give it. When a fallen pastor contacts me, I help. I’ve heard from all three of those types of pastors I listed above. I listen to them. And I love on them. I let them know that life isn’t over. I want them to be reconciled to Christ. I tell them that I will stand with them and help them get back on their feet.

Sometimes, they don’t listen to what I have to say. Sometimes they just want the answer to one or two questions and I never hear from them again. And that’s okay too.

But what I also do is help churches be aware that the fallen pastor needs help. His family needs help. I know that’s a tall order. I do. He just got caught sinning. He messed up royally. He has brought a dark cloud to rest on the church. People in the community will be gossiping for months about this.

Then we come to Galatians 6:1 where we are told to restore people. Not to the pulpit – but to Reconciling With A Fallen Pastor, Part 2: Stages Of The FallChrist. We are to restore people when they fall. Know what we are to do when someone sins? Help them out of the pit they’ve dug for themselves.

In the beginning, it sure is hard. We are hurt, angry and want to put that person as far away from us as possible.

And the guys who get tossed to the side after they sin – I’ve talked to them too. Years after they fell, they are in a really bad place. Some might say, “Good, they deserve it.” Know what? We all deserve it. And I will never argue that a fallen pastor shouldn’t face up to the consequences he sowed. He will for the rest of his life.

What I am calling for is the Christian community to do what they can to restore people who sin. Restore them to Christ. And if you need help, reach out. We’re here. If you can’t do it yourself, find someone who can.

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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.

Fire and Ice

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in anger, Desire, hate, poetry, youtube | Posted on 15-05-2013

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Was reminded of this little beauty the other day. Wanted to share it. It’s become a favorite of mine in recent years.

Fire and Ice

by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

 

 

 

 

 

Lashing Out After A Pastor Falls: How Bad It Can Get

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, anger, bitterness, blame, church, church members, communication, conflict, counseling, divorce, family, forgiveness, Hershael York, humillity, hurt, marriage, reconciliation, repentance, restoration | Posted on 10-05-2013

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hurtspLately, both Allison and I have been ministering to fallen ministers and their significant others. A recurring theme has arisen in many of these conversations: “How angry is the ex-wife/husband in the relationship allowed to get?”

Obviously, I have experience in this arena. I hurt my ex horribly with my actions. Hurt is the emotion that arises first, then anger. Then, both of those actions work together in an often disastrous mix. I’m happy to say my former wife and I have a good relationship today.

The sin of adultery is one that cuts right to the core of humanity. Have I felt it? No, but I am the one who caused the hurt. Since my fall from ministry, I have talked to those who have been on both sides of the fence. I have heard stories of messy divorces, arguments in public, punches thrown, and angry things said to children. All of these are the consequences of sin.

The hurt doesn’t just extend to spouses. The hurt runs deep in the church as well. Weeks and months after the fall of the minister, church members hurt and anger can extend to gossip in the community, social media such as Facebook or personal altercations.

The fallen pastor may also take place in the lashing out process. He may engage in the same arenas of speaking out, justifying his actions, showing passive aggressive behavior, or getting defensive when approached.

All three of these groups show similar characteristics. All will probably say they are justified in their anger. The church,yelling spouse and family of the spouse will point to the fallen pastor’s actions as the touchstone of their anger. It will continually be the reason for every angry action they take. “He’s the one who sinned. He caused all of this.”

The pastor who may or may not have asked for forgiveness from God may feel that he has been forgiven. He may say, “God has forgiven me, I’m moving on.”

To be sure, it is a difficult and anxious situation. I know that being in the midst of it is a continually stressful and awful time. For this blog post, I’m going to assume any range of possibilities – that the relationship between pastor and spouse could work out or that it could end in divorce. I pray that any situation be resolved. But I’d like to throw out some suggestions that might help for anyone on either side of the situation. (Also, as a disclaimer, I’m guilty of doing most of these things wrong.)

Christ calls us to be peacemakers. This applies to both sides. Being a peacemaker is not an easy thing. Especially when the other “side” is aggressive and angry. It’s especially difficult when you are also angry and want the other side to understand your position. But when you engage yourself into the position of peacemaker, you are taking upon yourself true humility.

To do so, you have to not allow things to escalate. Regardless of what someone says to you or how they say it, you must stay calm, even and at peace. Realize that peace doesn’t come from circumstances around you, but from Christ within you. Is it difficult? Yes, but it is possible.

Read more after the jump…

The Joel Osteen Hoax: How Much Do We Hate This Guy?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in anger, bitterness, church, criticize, current events, gossip, hate, hatred, hoax, pastors, preachers | Posted on 11-04-2013

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You’ve probably heard it by now. But you may be wrong in what you heard.

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, the man with the smile that never seems to stop, doesn’t osteendrudgebelieve in God anymore. At least that was the “headline” running across the Internet days ago. There was an accompanying video, screenshots of stories from The Drudge Report, CNN and other media outlets. People shared this “story” and said thing like, “I knew he was a fake.”

Turns out, Joel Osteen never said any of those things. It was a hoax perpetrated by a guy who just wanted Joel to get “more real.” Impressively enough, even the one-stop shop for debunking Internet rumors, Snopes.com has a page addressing the issue. (Seriously, please go there if you read something or are forwarded something. Bill Gates does not really want to send you $5,000 for forwarding a text or Facebook message. Seriously.)

What would cause someone to do something like this? Why is Osteen so darn polarizing? Let’s look closer.

For starters, his theology has been tossed around as being weak. Now, I’m not a big Joel Osteen fan. His theology is suspect, to say it kindly. Dr. Albert Mohler, the cultural commentator of our times, keeps a close eye on Osteen and his doings. He’s written about him several times on his blog, here, here, and here for instance. He does a good job keeping things theological and not personal. I’ve heard a lot of people say, “I think if he would just say he was a motivational speaker and not a minister, I’d be more comfortable with him.

Or maybe it’s his smile. It throws a lot of people off. He’s been called a shyster, a liar, a used car salesman. To his credit, he’s run a very clean ministry. He has 7 million people who follow him regularly and you’ve probably met someone who just loves his preaching or books.

osteensmileSo what is it? What is it about him?

I really don’t know. But the hoax that came about did bring a problem to light. A very serious one. One that even hit me.

No, I don’t really care for the man’s theology. I’ve skimmed his work, watched him on television on occasion. I don’t wish ill will upon him and if someone asks me my opinion, they can have it. Personally? I don’t want anything awful to happen to the man. And the hoax that was perpetrated upon him was terrible. It was. No one should have to endure an attack of lies like that.

But here’s what bothered me. Thousands of Christians read the “hoax.” Their immediate response, regardless of how they felt about Osteen was to say, “Of course he did this.” And you know, I suppose if they had stopped there, no damage would really have been done. But they forwarded it to people they knew. It was a lie. Did they know? Nope, but they had a responsibility to check it out. I think we all know what that’s called – gossip.

And even if you don’t like the guy, it’s still wrong to do it. Even if you don’t like his books, his preaching, his theology, it gosssipgives none of the right to engage in character assassination. Even if you believe he’s not saved or he’s preaching the wrong gospel or whatever conclusion you’ve arrived at, it is wrong to perpetrate incorrect information about an individual.

But man, how much do we dislike some people in our world? We dislike them so much that we are ready to believe the first bad thing we hear about them, right? That’s how gossip gets continued. That’s how it continues and grows. This was a perfect example. And a few months down the line, you’ll still hear someone say, “I heard Joel Osteen doesn’t believe in God.

Friends, if you’ve been the victim of gossip, you know how it feels. You should always check facts before you hit “send.” In fact, if we hear something bad about a friend, church member, or relative, our first instinct ought to be compassion and love. To reach out and help, not to further destroy.

On a final note (and reiterating that I am not an Osteen apologist), I’d add that even if you don’t like the guy, he is to be commended for how he has handled this situation. He said in a statement that he wasn’t angry and he didn’t feel like a victim. Great response and very humble. If I had been in the same situation, I can’t say I would have been as gracious.

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Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Fallen World.” He also writes for Provoketive Magazine. He is available to speak at your event, church or function.

When “I’m Sorry” Isn’t Enough, Part 1

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in anger, apology, bitterness, compassion, forgiveness, holiness, humillity, hurt, repentance | Posted on 08-03-2013

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sorrywmHave you ever been in a situation where you’ve either directly or indirectly wronged someone and come to the point where you knew it was time to say, “I’m sorry“?

It’s not easy to ask for forgiveness. It is the right thing to do and it takes humility and the right heart.

I deal with fallen pastors a lot. I’m a fallen pastor myself. Those who fall from ministry hurt a lot of people. Usually, our first apologies are insincere and riddled with defensiveness and self-justification. But eventually, we come around when we are humbled by God and do offer a sincere, “I’m sorry.”

But it’s not just fallen pastors who ask for forgiveness. All of us find ourselves in need of forgiveness from someone we know. Whether it was a harsh word we spoke, an action we took, something foolish we said and we didn’t mean to, an act that caused harm, or any number of things – we all will end up saying those two words at some point, and hopefully in the right way.

For the next few blog posts, I’d like to focus on the idea of when “I’m sorry” isn’t enough. The idea that when we approach someone to ask for forgiveness and they withhold it from us.

Today, I’d like to focus on those of us who ask for forgiveness. Let’s look at a few things that might impact us before or during our act of asking someone to forgive us.

1. Our repentance

When we sin, the first place we should go and ask forgiveness is to God. God requires us to be holy before Him. We are to repent and walk in holiness. Am I saying we are to be perfect? Nope. I am saying that whatever stage we are in past our sin, we are willing to toss it aside and cast it before God, asking Him for help.

Read more after the jump below . . .

Rejoice! God Is Not Like Us!

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in anger, commandments, compassion, forgiveness, God, grace, holiness, hope, mercy | Posted on 01-02-2013

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emailangI get some interesting emails from time to time. Most of them are from pastors who need help, others are from people who thank me for things I’ve written.

Then, I’ll get some from people who lash out at me for different reasons. I won’t say that I don’t take it seriously, but I don’t take it personally. What I will say is that most of the time, people write something like, “You are an unrepentant person. God doesn’t forgive people like you. You will spend eternity separated from him and you are living a lie.”

Stuff like that makes me sad. But more than that, it makes me reflect on how weak all of us are. It’s no secret about how judgmental I used to be before I fell from the ministry. When I was a pastor, I was very hard on sin. Yes, we should point out sin from the pulpit, but we shouldn’t be so hard on people that we become the judge. I did that at times.

I used to get to the point where I would take joy in thinking, “That person is going to hell because they aren’t repenting of the sin of living together/alcohol/adultery/not coming to church. Good. Let God judge them.

After my fall, after my descent into the darkest pit I ever found, I learned better. I met a different God. He’s not like that at all. Does God judge sin? Yes. Does He separate Himself from it? Absolutely.

Before my fall, I saw God as somewhat of a vengeful figure, sitting in heaven, waiting to jump on our every sin, finger on angrygodthe button, waiting to nuke us at every wrong move. As an extension of that, I was a pastor and my job was to go after people who were sinning greatly, pointing out their sins, warning them that if they didn’t straighten up, they were in serious, serious trouble.

I don’t know where I learned this view of God, but it was wrong. What made it wrong is that it wasn’t tied to the revealed nature of Christ as Savior. It was not coupled with compassion at all. In fact, it wasn’t even paired with what I knew to be true of God’s love, compassion and longsuffering in Scripture. I had a God who was a jerk. My God looked amazingly like me.

At the time, I had a short temper, was very impatient with people and wanted results right then. (Some argue not much has changed). Actually, a lot has changed. After my fall, I learned that God was always right there with me. Was He happy with my sin? No. But He was patient, not desiring that I should perish, but that I should turn to Him.

What if in that pit I was in, what if while I was in that place similar to the prodigal son, God had decided to treat me like I had treated others?

He would have said, “Ray, repent now. I mean now. You’ve sinned. You did something you knew you shouldn’t have done. You’ve got about 24 hours to do it. You have no idea how much my anger burns against you.”

I was so miserable and in so much confusion I wouldn’t have. My 24 hour time limit would have come and gone. Then, if God had been acting like me, He would have come back and said, “Time’s up. You’re done. Grace has been forever removed from you. You’ll never have a chance at repentance, grace or my love again.”

tentheThankfully, God is not like me. Or any of us.

I’m not going to get terribly theological in this post. The old me would have, but the new me is not going to. However, I would like to run something by you. God hands Moses the Ten Commandments. The ten basic guidelines of how to treat God and neighbor.

Fast forward the timeline to King David. David is a man after God’s own heart. He’s a good King, a good dude and God shows favor on him. Problem – David has concubines, wives, commits adultery. He even commits conspiracy for murder to cover up his adultery. Has God suspended His law just for King David? No, absolutely not. Does God allow David to see the consequences for his actions? Yes.

Is God longsuffering in His punishment towards David and gracious at the same time? You bet. Do we find David as an ancestor to Christ? Yes.

What are we to make of this? Is God unjust in not exacting immediate punishment as He did with Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts when they were struck down immediately for their lies? Are Christians today not justified when they want fellow Christians or people struck down for sins immediately when they occur?

On a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, I observe Christian behavior that is very un-God like. And I’m guilty of it. Christians who withhold forgiveness. Say very unChristian things to one another. Refuse to help those in need. Talk poorly about others. Talk down to others. What if God did that to us?

We would be in very serious trouble.

But He does none of those things. And thanks be to God. He lavishes His grace and love upon us even while we are sinners. We deserve none of the love He gives, but He shows it to us. And in the ultimate show of grace, He sacrificed His Son so that we might live.

He is patient while we sin. He waits for us to come back to Him. When we sin, He allows us to suffer the consequences. But He waits on His children. Does that give us license to sin? Absolutely not. But it does let us know that God will not give up on His people.

Better yet, we are not to think that God acts like those who call themselves His followers. He is best known to us by His greasespotSon, Christ. He did come to redeem us, save us and show us how to live. Did Christ call out the hypocrites? Yes, He did.

In the end, I think it’s best to let God be God. It’s His universe. His justice, His grace, His plan. He is perfect in all things. We all deserve to be given the worst punishment for sin, but we are not. I should be a grease spot on the pavement, but I am thankful that I am not. I thank Him that He is longsuffering and patient. I thank Christ that He stood by me as He did the adulterous woman in John 8.

As a final thought, it’s great that God is not like us. We do share some common traits, the theologians say. But be happy that God exerts His love, mercy, judgment, grace and all else perfectly and without sin. And that He does so with perfection and with His perfect plan in mind.

__________________

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.

Doing God’s Job for Him: Getting Vengance on Those Who Sin

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, anger, forgiveness, Hershael York | Posted on 09-01-2013

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Over the past three years, I’ve seen a lot of anger. Some of it has been anger I’ve produced. Sometimes, I’ll be counselinganger a fallen pastor and see others angry at him for the moral failure he committed and lash out at him for months or years.

I have images saved on my computer from Facebook from people who have stated things about me that were hurtful or harsh. They were church members, family, or friends. I was angry about them at the time when they said them. When they said them publicly, I thought, “How could they say such things in public? This is a private matter!

When I was writing my book, Dr. Hershael York, professor of preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was a great help to me. I interviewed him for a take on fallen pastors, but he instead ended up being of great help and guidance to me. He helped heal a lot of wounds I had in my heart and set me straight on some prideful issues I had.

He told me that a fallen pastor has to come to a place of brokenness over his sin. There are ways to know when this has happened and I cover that in my book. I realized when I talked to him that I hadn’t come to that place fully.

Here are a couple of things he said: “If you’re genuinely broken to your sin, you realize the people who are all handling it wrong were put in that position because you sinned; you had the choice, they didn’t.

When I see a guy who is bitter and angry at somebody’s response to his sin, I realize he’s not completely there yet. He has to have a complete accepting of responsibility for his sin. Their sin is their sin. I’m not justifying a bad reaction, that’s sin too.

Dr. York was telling me that when a fallen pastor gets nasty emails, texts or things written about him on Facebook, that’s a consequence of his actions. Deal with it. Those people were put in that place because of his sin. Is their reaction right? No. But the fallen pastor is not allowed to get angry about it. The fallen pastor wants grace and forgiveness so he must extend that same grace and forgiveness towards those who aren’t extending it towards him at the time.

hurtFriends, it’s hard when someone we look up to disappoints us. When they let us down. When they betray us and hurt us. That hurt may last a very long time. It is very easy to depart from the words of Scripture and the loving ways of Christ.

Over the past three years, I’ve had a unique opportunity to counsel and listen to fallen pastors, their wives, their church members, their children, and just about everyone associated with them. It hurts when I talk to them and it brings back my own sin to the forefront. But it also brings to mind the grace God showed me when I sinned.

It reminds me each time how far I fell and how much it grieved God. But it also reminds me how much He loves me and how far he cast my sin from His memory – as far as the east is from the west.

At the same time, it also reminds me how cruel we can be towards those who sin. When the adulteress was caught in John 8, she was surrounded by a judgmental crowd. The only friend she had was Christ. None of us can imagine taking sides against Christ, can we? But there was a whole crowd aligned against Christ that day. Who was standing by His side that day? An adulterous woman.

I used to be very, very judgmental upon those who sinned. I was often there to cast the first stone. It was very easy for me to point out sin instead of showing compassion and grace first.

Unfortunately, I think that our first response when Christians sin and disappoint us greatly is this – “When is God going to judge this person?” As I’ve talked to fallen pastors who have found forgiveness, they still struggle with the pain of those around them who will not forgive them. People who will not let go of their sin. People who remind them of their fall, stare at them in public, hold them in public disdain, gossip about them and never let their sin go. Unfortunately, many of these people are those within the church.

It’s almost as if many around them are asking, “When will God unleash His judgment upon this fallen pastor? When will God punish him for this heinous sin? They don’t deserve to be happy!

Friends, thanks be to God He does not punish us as we deserve every day. God does have the ultimate right to vengeancevengeance. It is not ours to wield. Maybe at times we hold on to anger to punish those we think God should be showing anger towards. But God is merciful – and thanks be to Him for that!

If He was not merciful, we would all be in a terrible, wretched state.

I’m pleading with all of you – if there is someone you are holding on to anger towards, let it go. Give it to God. Even if you are unable to forgive, allow God to take control of your emotions. He is the only just judge. He is the one who can settle all matters wisely as they need to be settled. He will make all things right in the end.

God asks we all cast our cares and burdens upon Him because He cares for us. Even when people let us down, He will take care of it all. Trust in God, know that He will take care of all things.

__________________

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

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

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

5 Things To Do When You’re Emotionally Weak

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in anger, anxiety, counseling, depression, grief, pastoral care | Posted on 07-11-2012

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I don’t feel like blogging right now. But it’s because I don’t feel like blogging that I am convinced that this topic needs to be covered while I feel like this.

Do you ever feel like you’re on emotional “thin ice”?

Any of us can be susceptible to anxiety, seasonal depression or just depression.

I just have good ol’ regular depression. Medication helps the frequency. Yes, I believe people actually have chemical imbalances and that it can be inherited. Don’t tell that to some pastors. You might get, “You need to pray more. Find your joy in Jesus.

I watched as pastors told that to my manic depressed mother for years. She read, prayed, ran the gambit and finally came to terms with an internal illness. Yeah, she loved Jesus and Jesus loved her, but when you have something that requires medication, take it. Of course, go talk to your doctor.

You might be on emotional thin ice right now. You may find yourself feeling panicked, out of sorts, angry, depressed, upset, tense or without a sense of purpose. More sadmanthan normal.

I mention all of this because when I was a pastor, in the months before I even considered adultery, I was on emotional thin ice. I was in the midst of grief, depression, I felt like I had no sense of purpose, and I had a lot of anxiety. But I didn’t feel like I really wanted any help with it. I just soldiered along and kept moving forward. But when you’re emotionally drained, wounded and in need of help, that’s not going to cut it.

In fact, it makes it hard to fight battles you need to fight when they soon come your way. Imagine being a soldier who has fought in a battle for two weeks straight with hardly any rations or rest. The order comes down that his unit must march forward to make a direct frontal attack on a town. What are the chances of success? Not as good as they would be if he were rested and fed.

But hey, life doesn’t always let us rest. But we can slow things down before we fall. I’m not a licensed anything (except athletic trainer, scuba diver, driver, and CPR giver), but I hope I can share some tips with you on what to do when you’re emotionally drained and on thin ice – whether you’re a pastor, leader, or regular person.

First, slow down and recognize what the symptoms are. Have people been telling you that you’ve been acting angry or down? People close to you will give you subtle hints. Others will give you not so subtle hints. But listen to them when they start piling up. Especially when people say, “You haven’t been yourself lately.” (To which I always answer, “Really? Who have I been?

Realize these people are trying to help. They know you and know something is off.

Secondly, think about what is going on in your life that might be effecting you. Job change? Life change? Problems at home? Problems at work? It could be the smallest thing. If you’re an overly anxious person it could be a very tiny thing that is bothering you but you’re obsessing about.

Third, get help. Go see your doctor. Talk to him/her about it. Talk to friends and family about doctors they trust to handle anxiety or issues of depression. The main complaint I hear is, “I can make it without medication. I don’t need some drug to slow me down or change the way I am.” I hear that. But that’s not always the solution. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s a short term, low dose to take the edge off so you’ll stop wanting to kick the cat.

Fourth, definitely pray. Surround yourself with spiritual help. Understanding spiritual help. When you open up about feeling depressed and anxiety in a transparent manner, you’re probably going to discover that about half of your Sunday School class, church or even your pastor deals with it in some form. Don’t think you’re the only one.

Finally, don’t wait too long. Don’t go through another sleepless night, another panic filled day, or another day of being someone else. Just get help.

__________________

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.

The Confused Community: The Wounded Church, Part 3

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, anger, bitterness, Christianity, church members, churches, community, gossip, hurt, reconciliation, relationships, repentance, restoration | Posted on 26-10-2012

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(This is part three of a series of who is effected by the fall of a pastor. It’s been three years since my own fall from ministry and hopefully since writing Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World, talking to people who have hurt and been hurt, I have some hopeful advice.)

When a pastor falls, a sort of shock wave goes out through the community at large. The church finds out first and word spreads through many different sources. Some of the stories are shared accurately and some of the details become distorted as the tale is passed on.

Let’s look today at how the fall of a pastor effects the different parts of the community.

1. Those attached to the church

The local church is typically considered to be those who are members and attend with some regularity. Those who are attached might be regular attenders who have never joined, those who are members who consider it their home church, those who live in the community who attend strictly for special services, or those who send their children to the church but do not attend themselves. All of them hold some fondness for the church for a particular reason.

In the years since my fall, I’ve had a chance to talk to some of these folks and how the pastor’s fall had an effect on them. For some, there was great anger toward him and his sin. They were angry that he could commit such a sin and some returned to the church during the turmoil to show support. Some, if they were still members, would willingly show up to vote him out if he had not yet resigned.

Read more after the jump…