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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.

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.

Gay Marriage, the Church, and the Jesus Response

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in belief, bitterness, boundaries, brokenness, Christ, church, church members, community, compassion, current events, divisiveness, encouragement, gay marriage, grace, hate, hatred, homosexuality, judgment, love, religion, repentance, salvation, scripture, self-righteousness | Posted on 27-03-2013

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I was so thankful yesterday to get a Facebook inbox message from a friend who was concerned about the current argument in America over gay marriage. Like many Christians, she was concerned about the moral failure of the country. She had been watching Facebook and so have I. I too, have seen many comments like, “Why don’t people see what Scripture says?”

I’ll be honest. I don’t watch television news. For a good reason. It’s only purpose seems to be to rile people up over things that are insignificant. You get stressed out. I mentioned in an online magazine recently how watching TV news in a constant flow caused my mother anxiety.

She said she read my blog occasionally and never saw me write anything about the issue. I don’t. My blog is about fallen

Pic courtesy of PBS

Pic courtesy of PBS

pastors, mostly. Then, I write about issues secondary to that. Then, after that, I write about what tickles my fancy. I don’t avoid the big issues. I’ve written about big issues before, but they’re just not on the radar of what I do.

My response to her was probably not what she expected, but I hope it was biblical. (She did thank me for the sermon :)) I want to post it here then add some comments after. Here it is, verbatim:

Here is what I would say. And I pray it’s the biblical thing, because any response of my own would be wrong.

I’d take it back to the apostle Paul who wrote to a church that was probably going through more moral decay than we are, if you can imagine. In his time, it wasn’t just the culture, it was members of the church who were declining in morality. Members of the church were going up to the pagan temple and sleeping with temple prostitutes.

Paul was surrounded by a pagan Roman culture that was filled with violence, sex, child molestation, and hedonism – and all of it was legal. But Paul didn’t write against the evil around him in the world. He wrote about the sin within the church. He says something interesting in 1 Corinthians 5:

Please take time to read more important stuff after the jump:

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 . . .

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…

Taking A Pastor’s Fall Personally

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, anger, bathsheba, bitterness, Christ, church, compassion, criticize, fallenness, gossip, grace, hatred, pastors, preachers, pride, reconciliation, repentance, restoration, sin | Posted on 07-08-2012

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I’m the kind of guy who takes things very personally. Some people are just wired that way. I like to act like things just roll off my back and I really don’t care but I’m pretty sensitive.

For instance, if someone said to me, “You sounded like you didn’t care about Christian issues in your last post about Chick-Fil-A.” I’d probably get a little upset. (But no one did because apparently since my server changed, my comments are disabled – haha!) I’d take it a little personal. One, because that’s not true and I’d assume they read it wrong. And two, because I do care. And under my strained sarcasm I do have a heart.

I’ve gotten better since I started blogging about not taking things personally, which is a good thing for all of us to learn.

I mention it today for a very serious reason. And this is a blog to be read very, very carefully.

Know why? Because I care about everyone on every side of this issue. Fallen pastors, their spouses, those they’ve been involved with, their churches, their families, their fellow pastors, their children – everyone. Know why? Because they are all worthy of the love and care of Christ.

When a pastor commits adultery and falls from the ministry, it hurts many people. Since my fall, I’ve had time to listen to people on every side of the fall. Of course, I was the adulterous pastor. I knew what it was like to be selfish, leave the ministry and not listen to anyone.

I’ve also had time to listen to the wives of fallen pastors. Hear their side of the story. I’ve also heard from the women who committed adultery with the pastor. I’ve talked to church members and friends of the fallen pastor. I’ve seen this issue from all sides and I must say, it has humbled me even greater than before.

After a pastor commits adultery, it breaks hearts. It wounds people. It makes a story for everyone. Sometimes it ends up on the front page of the newspaper if the church is big enough. It always makes the rounds in gossip in the community. Regardless, it is an act that hurts many people. It angers many. It leaves many asking, “Why? How? What are the reasons?”

Read more after the jump…..

Another Fallen Pastor, More Judging.

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, bitterness, criticize, hate, hypocrisy, judgment, megachurch, pastors | Posted on 17-08-2011

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I just read a story about Zachery Tims, pastor of a megachurch in Orlando, Florida. Never heard of him before tonight. Apparently, he was found dead in New York from a drug overdose. The article I link tells of his roller coaster past.

He had one of the largest churches in central Florida – over 7,000 members.

As a young man, he was in and out of jail.

As a pastor, he had started a youth center  in 2005 in hopes that it would help kids stay out of trouble.

In 2009, he and his wife divorced after he admitted to an affair with a stripper that had lasted over a year.

Funny how a man’s life can be summed up in less than 500 words. However, the public can chime in and say whatever they want these days in the “comment” section. Here’s a sampling that made me weep:

Oh Brother Tim’s we forgive you. That white powder was baby powder you were handing out to un-wed mothers. The hooker you were boffing was just a misunderstanding,you were really administering to her soul. The prison time you spent was just a test of your faith. It’s a shame that the woman you were married to for 15yrs. turned out to be such a bad person. Imagine leaving you after all that time just bcause of an alledged affair, where is that womans faith Rev. Tim’s?

Hypocrites, Most of these right wing church pastors and their flock of sheeple, love money more than God.

RIGHT ON! This guy was up to no good-he probably is warm enough where he resides now. ETERNITY IS FOREVER!

The paper reported that Tims had been in and out of jail as a young man… In 2009, Tims and his wife Riva divorced after he admitted to a year-long affair with a stripper. Sounds qualified to me to tell others how they should live their lives, eh? Petty criminal and a cheat – just what you’d want standing in the pulpit……. Sheesh.

I don’t know this man. I don’t know his theology or his life or his ambitions. However, I do know one thing. It’s not right to throw stones at a dead horse.

None of us knows his heart, the pressure he was under or what changes he had made in his life. All we know about him is what we read in 500 words. It sure is easy to judge a man by a news article.

How would any of us feel if someone were given a brief, 2 minute synopsis of our life then were allowed to judge us quickly based on what they heard? I doubt we would like it. Did this man make grievous errors and sins? Absolutely. He sinned and messed up tremendously. However, it is not for the public to judge. It is not for us to “comment” on. All of us are wretched and if our lives were to be openly displayed online for public comment, we would fare no better than Zachery Tims.

It is very easy to comment anonymously from our computers on the downward path of a fallen pastor who strayed with a stripper and died from a cocaine overdose than to look within our own wretched hearts, isn’t it? Each of us are lawbreakers. If our secret lives were displayed so openly, we would have to run for cover while people bombarded our Facebook and Twitter accounts with harsh, unloving messages for months.

So I might suggest to commenters at large . . . you’re not any different than a fallen pastor. All of us are hypocrites. Just some of us have further to fall.

I Hate Humility, But I Love Transformation

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in apology, bitterness, deacons, dreams, forgiveness, hatred, pastoring, salvation | Posted on 17-11-2010

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So much has happened in the past week. Just when I think my story is over, something else happens. I just can’t believe this is happening to me. But, it is.

I blogged about dreams last time. I haven’t had a good dream in over a year. I had one last night. I’ll get to that some other time.

Cynthia and I have been looking for a church ever since we had a terrible experience at the last one – not Angel Falls.

We have been visiting the church of my friend Brad – Hope Hills Baptist. He’s a sovereigntist like me. He spends his time three ways – knocking on doors in the community trying to save souls, witnessing in downtown Richmond, and spending time with his beautiful family.

You know how I know Brad is serious about the kingdom? Richmond is a far cry from Angel Falls. As a pastor, I wouldn’t have dreamed about going there and witnessing. He uses the Way of the Master witnessing technique like I did. He’s not going to get anyone there to join his church. You know why he goes there? Because he loves sinners. He wants people to see Christ. He’s not pushy. He’s not overbearing. He just loves Christ. He loves people. You may disagree with Brad and think he’s out of line and should leave people alone. Fine. But he’s got a heart for people. He doesn’t judge. If they don’t listen, he leaves them alone. He just loves.

He has a passion that 99% of pastors don’t have. I didn’t have it. He preaches with a fire that men like Spurgeon and Whitfield had. Lord, is that even a fair comparison? No. I hate it when people do that. If someone could make a list of pastors throughout the ages of passion, some guy from North Dakota who pastored a church who no one ever heard of would top the list, not Charles Spurgeon. It’s not right of me to compare Brad to Spurgeon or Whitfield. If he knew I was making up a pseudonym for him and doing it, he would be embarrassed. He would say, “I’m just a preacher trying to glorify Christ.” But I’ll tell you. In this ragged county dearth of preaching, he’s like Spurgeon. And those of you who are hurting for good preaching, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Is he seminary educated? Nope. And it’s probably to his advantage. He just loves people.

He told me last week that he had a wife and husband in his office at midnight. The husband was drunk off his butt. He was a gulf war veteran and was screaming at his wife. She was crying. He told me, “I felt like I was in over my head.” But he stayed in there and presented the gospel. The couple left. The man came back three days later and was begging to be saved.

Friends, in the past year, I’ve lost touch with Christ. I have hated church, I’ve hated religion, and I sure as hell hated to see anything associated with the Southern Baptist Convention. But seeing Brad and his passion has reminded me what it’s all about. It’s about Christ. It’s not about me. It’s not about parking lots or buildings or the weekly offering. And I’m downright ashamed of the pastor I used to be. In fact, I want to strip myself of that.

Cynthia and I met with him and told him we wanted to join the church. We told him we didn’t see any other way for us to join but to tell the church what we had done. He agreed. It’s going to be embarrassing this Sunday when he tells them. Cynthia and I had a heart to heart about that last night.

I told her, “Sweetie, in Nathaniel Hawhorne’s classic, ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ Hester Prynne is commanded to wear her ‘A’ on her chest. But the first time she shows up in public, she has embroidered it herself. It’s not a plain ‘A’. It’s adorned with gold and it’s absolutely beautiful. The people are stunned and are awed with her workmanship. She’s taken ownership of her sin. On Sunday, that’s what we need to do. We’ve been forgiven. In that congregation, there will be people there who are/have been/who will be committing adultery. We need to take ownership of what we’ve done. We aren’t proud of it, but God has set us free from it by the grace of Christ. And we can be an example to someone and maybe, just maybe someone can be helped by our story.”

There’s more, dear reader . . .

I told you in the last blog that I called Phillip Townsend. He was the deacon who called the shots after I committed adultery. When he found out what I did, he told me he “ought to beat the sh-t out” of me. We had a rocky past. I blamed him for a lot of my current problems.

Today, friends, I went to him with all humility and grace. I laid myself at his feet. I apologized to him and told him I was terribly sorry for all the pain I had caused him and the church.

As a sidenote, I have talked to many fallen pastors across the county in the past year. 95% of them tell me that for the most part, reconciliation with the church that was sinned against is IMPOSSIBLE. You know what? I’m a hard headed jerk. Today, I proved that percentage wrong.

Humility goes a long, long way.

The only issue I left with is this – Phillip told me he forgave me a long time ago. Friends, if you forgive a person, you need to TELL THEM. If you don’t tell them, forgiveness is not complete. But I understand the process. He also told me he had no intention of contacting me. He said he was going to wait for me to initiate contact. I said, “I get it. I’m a jerk. I would’ve just responded like a jerk, right?” He had a point. There’s a time for reconciliation and a right time to talk to people.

I left Phillip’s home with a good feeling. Does he feel the same as he did when I was pastor? No. Do I think he’s flawed and should have handled it different? Yeah. But you know what? I love him. And one day in glory, we’re gonna have to live next to each other. And today, for an hour and a half, we understood each other. And as a man, I looked him in the eye and I took the initiative to call him and make him meet me.

There’s no reason Christians shouldn’t be getting along in this world. Phillip told me there’s about 30% of that church that will never forgive me. That’s sad. Because if they’re really saved, they won’t like seeing me in heaven.

And when I’m there, I’m gonna rub it in.

I called Brad to tell him that I met with Phillip. He started to cry. I said, “What is it?” He said, “When I met with you and Cynthia last week, I wrote in my prayer journal that I was going to begin praying for you to reconcile with the people at Angel Falls. I just didn’t think that prayer would begin to be answered so quickly.” My faith is beginning to be restored.

By the way, I had a great dream last night. First good dream I’ve had in a while. A very long while. I love airplanes. I was at an airfield with my girls and Cynthia. There was an airshow. And we were free. And we were watching the planes go by. An
d we were happy.

Forgiveness is good. Do you have someone you need to talk to? Humility is so freeing. Is it hard? Sure. But it will free you from a lifetime of anger, hatred, and bitterness. Do it before you waste anymore time.

Even The Agnostic Gets It

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in anger, bitterness, counseling, forgiveness, pastoring | Posted on 10-06-2010

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I’ve been in counseling for about five months. I take that back. I’ve been in counseling since college on and off. But recently, since my fall, I’ve been in counseling for five months. It’s been very productive.

If you’ve read my blog, you can tell I have a bunch of mixed emotions. Anger, unforgiveness, despair, depression, anxiety, and whatever the heck else is swimming around in my mind.

My current counselor, Ivan, has been wonderful. He’s helped me a lot. He told me he was an agnostic, but that hasn’t hindered the counseling process. He has seen a lot of pastors and sympathizes with my plight. We’ve made a lot of headway. Especially yesterday.

I’m still hurt and angry with what happened at Angel Falls Baptist and the way everything turned out. Let me explain. Yeah, I committed adultery. I hurt those people. But some part of me wants them to seek me out – not all of them – but the ones who said they loved me and cared about me. I want them to seek me out and let me know they forgive me.

I sent out a letter to the congregation about two months ago. Only one couple responded. I told the church I was sorry I let them down. I let them know I had no excuse for what I did. I’ve had plenty of people tell me that it takes time for people to forgive.

Angelica has forgiven me. I’ve blogged about people “forgiving in their heart.” I wrote the head deacon a special letter and let him know that he had a particular responsibility to seek me out. No response. I laid all of this at the feet of Ivan yesterday.

I told him that it made me angry and hurt that I spent all those years pouring my life into those people and that they could be so angry at me. I had received angry text messages, emails, and Facebook messages from them. I told him that it really came to a head in the past couple of weeks because Lydia wasn’t invited to attend the AFBC VBS. (She is still related to about half the congregation there). If Cynthia had cheated with a plumber or electrician, the people at AFBC wouldn’t have batted an eye. But since she cheated with me, they were angry and unforgiving.

I told him with great emotion that it was a horrible double standard. That the church shoots their wounded pastors and leaves them for dead.

He looked at me and said, “Did it ever occur to you that you loved them more than they ever loved you?”

I was shocked for a second, then my shock turned to hurt. “I guess that’s possible.” I didn’t want to think about it, but it started to make sense.

Ivan continued, “What do true friends do when their friends make mistakes like you made?”

I said, “They love them and look past their mistakes. Like my friends at my secular work. They didn’t bat an eye. They just loved me regardless. They looked past what I did and moved on. Even the two pastor friends I had and the couple in church who still loves me – they didn’t hesitate.”

He sat in silence for a moment and said, “Is it possible that they never really bonded with you?”

Wow. Then I said, “That makes sense to me. That would explain why in almost a decade of ministry there, I was only invited to eat in someone’s home only twice. I was only asked out to eat after church only twice. They were a tight knit group. I felt like a hired hand most of the time.”

He said, “What does it take to bond or start a friendship with someone?”

I said, “You have to open up and be yourself, you have to let someone in, you have to spend time with that person.”

He said, “Exactly. Did they ever try to reach out to you like that?”

I was getting irritated, “No. But Lord, you would think after a decade of doing their loved one’s funerals, their kid’s weddings, baptizing their grandchildren, going to their bedsides when they were sick, and God knows what that they would love me.”

He said, “No, not necessarily. Like you said, you were a hired hand. They didn’t place the same importance on the relationship that you did.”

I was becoming broken in this conversation and he could see it. Then he asked, “Help me understand something. You have told me before how judgmental you were before your fall. How would you have responded if someone you knew had fallen before this had happened?”

I said, “Harshly. But it depends on who it was. There are some who are close to me that I would have gone to battle for. But most I would have been harsh on. It was all black and white for me.”

He said, “I don’t understand that. Everyone makes mistakes. We’re all human and we have no right to judge another, do we?”

I said, “I know that now. I was wrong to do it, but I thought I was right and I did it anyway.”

He looked curious and wanted to know more. “So how is it that the church can treat you like this? It’s supposed to be a place where – if I understand what little I know of Christ’s teachings – where people are supposed to be loved for who they are, right? Weren’t sinners the ones who Christ came after? Weren’t they the ones he would have welcomed?”

Lord, I thought. The agnostic gets it, but the vast freaking majority of Christianity doesn’t get it. The church doesn’t get it.

I said, “You’re exactly right. And I’ll explain it to you. The harsh reality. And it’s horrible. If you are a drunk, an adulterer, a drug abuser or a vile sinner then you get ‘saved’, then the church welcomes you with open arms. They love the fact that you have a testimony. You’re like a trophy in the case.”

I continued. “But if you’re a saved Christian in the pew, already a member, and you sin – you commit adultery, use drugs, get caught with a DUI, sin in any way publicly, then you become an outcast. You’re a shame to the church. And they don’t want you anymore.”

He was leaning on my every word. He was fascinated and shaking his head at this point because he knew it was true.

“And the church doesn’t want you so they kick you out. You know why? Because other churches look at that church and say, ‘Is that man/woman still going there? I can’t believe they tolerate that kind of sin!’ It’s a blight on that church. It becomes a shame on that church. It’s not church discipline. It’s not what Christ wanted and it’s not biblical.”

He responded, “But that goes against what people who preach the Gospel believe, doesn’t it?”

Again, the agnostic gets it. And Christians don’t. We should be ashamed. And he wasn’t taunting. He wasn’t rubbing it
in. We was observing. And he was right.

That’s when he turned it back on me.

“What do you want?” he asked.

“I really want the people at Angel Falls to treat me like they did before . . .” I trailed off. I realized the implications of what I was saying.

Before my fall I had been miserable. I was unhappy in that church. We had crisis after crisis. A lot of the people had been complaining about whatever they could find to complain about. Everyone was nitpicking the current situation. Frowns everywhere. I didn’t really want them to treat me like they did before. They were unhappy before my fall. And I told Ivan that.

He said, “See? They weren’t happy before. They never bonded with you. They weren’t your friends.”

I said, “But they have gossiped so much about what happened after my fall. They have so much misinformation. I want to stand in front of them and tell them the facts.” I paused. “But I know what you’re going to say. Showing them the facts won’t change their mind about how they feel about the situation.”

“Exactly,” he said. “It’s like conspiracy theorists. People who don’t think Obama was born in the United States. You could show them a birth certificate and they would still say, ‘Doesn’t matter, it’s fake.’”

He paused for about twenty seconds then said, “What do you have to do, then in dealing with these people? What have you learned about yourself? Some people are built to carry a heavier load than others, and you are one of them. You are able to forgive now better than others. They are not. You’ve been able to understand things better because of your experience. So what do you need to do?”

I kinda knew what he was looking for, but not really. I said, “Put things behind me? Move toward the future?”

He let me sit in silence for about a minute. A very long minute.

Then he said, “You have to accept them as they are.”

Well, crud. He was right. Then he said, “They can’t carry the same load you can. They don’t have the same life experience you have. They haven’t come to the same point in life and don’t have the same understanding you have. You have to be patient with them. You have to love and accept them as they are.”

I broke down. I said, “You’re right, and that’s biblical. It makes me think of Christ. And don’t hear me comparing myself to Christ, because I’m definitely not.”

He said, “I don’t.”

I said, “But Christ came to save people and they hated him for it. And on the cross, do you know what he said? He said, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’”

He said, “Yes! I do remember that!”

That’s called a breakthrough counseling moment.

I can’t blame my counselor for believing in a God but not knowing who he is exactly. Especially when he can walk into a church and see such hypocrisy. I see the same thing. But I believe in a risen Christ. And some days, that’s all that gets me through. How can we continue in unforgiveness and shunning our own the way we do and claim to love a Christ who loved all repentant sinners? How can we sit on our rear ends and know that there are people who have left our churches when we should be pursuing them as Christ did?

We should be ashamed when an agnostic understands the gospel better than we do.