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A Simple Prayer for the Fallen Pastor

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in brokenness, encouragement, fallenness, forgiveness, holiness, pastors, prayer | Posted on 16-04-2014

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I hear from fallen pastors on a weekly basis. This ministry is a joy because there’s not much out there like it. When I fell phone4four years ago, I felt useless. Now God has transformed my brokenness and allowed me to be useful once again.

When I talk to them on the phone, it’s almost always the same. I can hear the desperation. They sound like I did right after I got caught in my sin. They don’t know me. They don’t know if they can trust me. Then I start talking to them. We trade stories. I tell them there is hope. That Christ does indeed love them.

That yes, they know they have sinned. But there is forgiveness. Will the journey be long as they repent and move forward? Yes. Will it be difficult? Yes.

They always have so many questions. “What do I do about my wife? She’s so angry. She should be. I’ve never seen her this mad.” “What about my children?” “What about the church?” “What am I supposed to do about work?” “I’ve disappointed my parents and my family, what do I do?” “What was I thinking?” “It’s just so hopeless. What am I supposed to think?

The questions are all to familiar. They bring back to me that day when my sin came to light. The day when my sin was exposed. Everyone knew. I deserved the consequences. And all I wanted to do was hide and let the rocks pummel me to death. And as the days and weeks went on it got worse and worse. I wanted to destroy myself and I hated myself.

hopeSo when I get a fallen pastor to talk to me, I know I can offer him hope. The hope that Christ really does love him. He loves us in spite of our sin. I can offer him the knowledge that I love him. Even though he doesn’t know me and I really don’t know him, I just love him because he needs a friend and because we share a common story. I can give him the hope that God takes care of those who repent and despite their sin, they choose to live the next day in a walk toward brokenness and obedience.

There’s always the question, “What do I do about all this stuff going on around me? How can I fix my marriage, my life, my family . . . everything?

I like to tell them to stop worrying about the things they can’t control at the moment. They’ve sinned. There are going to be consequences for the rest of their life. Those are things that they will have to deal with on a daily basis and it’s going to be difficult for a while. I tell them I have a network of people who can help them with all kinds of things. I tell them they’re going to need to start building a group of men who will be strong with them and help restore them back to Christ.

When I share this prayer, it is after I know they’ve asked God for forgiveness and I know they’ve taken the first few simple steps toward repentance. I tell them that asking for forgiveness from God for their adultery isn’t necessary. He’s forgotten it. In fact, if we bring it up to Him, it’s a one way conversation. We’re the ones introducing into the conversation. He’s not.

But I tell them, “What you need right now is the most simple prayer you’ve ever prayed. You could go to God right now and say, ‘God, help my marriage, help my family, help my church, help my finances, help my relationships.’ And that would be okay. He understands that prayer.

But in those first few weeks, I like to remember what Jesus said during the sermon on the mount. He told his followers that our Heavenly Father already knows what we need. Now, that’s obviously not a command to stop praying.

Instead, I like to encourage these men to make their constant prayer a simple one. God needs one thing from them right now. Theyprayer4 are at a crisis moment. And their ministry, life, and marriage fell apart for a simple reason – they lost fellowship with Christ. So I introduce them to a most simple prayer:

Lord, you know the circumstances in my life. What I would like you to do is show me the man you want me to become in all of this. Break my heart, humble me, and turn me into a man who is pleasing to you.

I believe that if we allow God to change who we are – to fix what was broken in the first place – then the rest will fall into place.

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

____________________________

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

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

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

We Are Here – We Are Not Invisible

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in brokenness, fallenness, restoration, U2 | Posted on 28-03-2014

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Being a fallen person is a difficult thing. If you’re a pastor who committed waterfalladultery, if you were the other woman, if you’re the wife of a fallen pastor – you made a decision to sin and are living through the consequences of that.

Hopefully, you’ve taken the steps toward restoration back to Christ. I don’t necessarily mean restoration back to ministry. I mean humbling yourself and becoming broken. Taking the first steps back toward a right relationship with Christ.

No one believes you at first. Especially if your marriage has ended. Especially when your ministry fell apart. When all those sermons you preached ended up in a hypocritical heap at your feet.

They’re thinking, “You committed adultery, cheated on your wife and now you’re turning back to Christ? Yeah right. It was all a lie before. You’ll always be a cheater.

There are many fallen pastors out there who know what I’m talking about.

I still have pastors who I talked to regularly who look at me in disgust. I see their wives in public and I will say “hello” to them and they just give me that look of “why would I talk to you?

I’ll see people I used to fellowship with and hear them making a joke about me under their breath or they’ll say to someone else, “There goes that pastor we had that committed adultery.

gosssipThat’s all really okay. It is. Dr. Hershael York has become a friend of mine and has let me know that if I want to show true humility, I’ve got to face the consequences of what I did.

When I interviewed him for my book, he told me something that has stayed with me. At the time, I was so irritated with people who were still angry with me for committing adultery. I was thinking, “Why are they acting this way? Why aren’t they more forgiving?” He told me that they wouldn’t be in that position if I hadn’t sinned in the first place. Even if their reaction was sinful, it was a consequence of my sin and I needed to show grace. That’s when he said this:

If a fallen pastor is going to make it in this world, ‘his repentance has to be more notorious than his sin.’”

I interviewed him a while back and we revisited the topic. He added this idea to people forgiving fallen pastors:

“We’re totally comfortable when a dope smoking, meth lab owning guy gets saved and we rejoice in that; but what if a Christian falls into that and returns? Our discomfort sort of negates the book of Galatians. In Galatians, Paul says, ‘What don’t you understand? Now if you began in the Spirit you are not perfected by works!’”

My attention has been turned to the new U2 song – Invisible. It’s not about fallen pastors. But there are a few lines that ring in my ears that remind me of a sinner’s restoration back to Christ. It reminds me of how a Christian can fall so far and be looked down on by other Christians and be “unseen.”

I finally found my real name
I won’t be me when you see me again
No, I won’t be my father’s son

I’m more than you know
I’m more than you see here
More than you let me be
I’m more than you know
A body in a soul
You don’t see me but you will
I am not invisible

When I talk to fallen pastors the first time, they’re often panicked and frantic. They’re about to lose it all – their job, possibly their family. But I can promise them this – that if they are honest, humble, and faithful – God will carry them through. It won’t be easy. People will often shame them, be angry with them, throw them out – but God will help them, love them, forgive them, and get them through it.

Fallen pastors – we are not invisible. Many in the Christian community may choose to ignore us, but we are here and we are real.

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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 In Trouble 5: Unrepentant Questions

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

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I love helping (and am always more than happy to help) anyone who contacts me through this fallingministry, but I am closest to the messed up, confused world of the freshly fallen pastor. And it is a horrible place to be. I tell fallen pastors, “No one really understands fallen ministers like a fellow fallen minister.”

One of the most confusing things for people on the outside looking in is the messed up morality of a fallen pastor. Here’s the deal – when a guy has committed adultery for a while and hasn’t been caught, he’s not thinking clearly or biblically. And when he gets caught, he’s going to try to justify and excuse his behavior any way he can. Often, he will use Scripture to justify his sin. I tried it. It even sounded good to me at the time. But it was wrong.

To everyone else, it sounds rotten. It is rotten. That’s why I always tell people to be kind and patient with a fallen pastor. Don’t let him twist the truth, but do show him compassion. Understand that he is going to come around eventually. He is living the life of the prodigal son – one day he’s going to wake up and smell the pig droppings. And when he does, he’s going to need people who care about him.

I want to answer a couple of the most frequently messed up questions I get from fallen pastors today (I introduced this issue in my last post). The answers will seem pretty obvious. But that’s just it – when you’re waist deep in the crud of sin, the answers aren’t obvious because we aren’t looking for truth.

You know what’s even more troubling? I get these same questions from church leaders who want to ignore the sin of their pastor because they don’t want the church’s reputation to suffer damage. They would rather hide the pastor’s affair (even though his wife knows), tell the woman he had an affair with to move on (because she’s usually a church member or member of the staff) and sweep it under the rug so that the church isn’t traumatized. I’m just gonna tell you that a decision like that always comes back to haunt a church and those involved.

quesr2So here are the most common messed up questions I get – questions I even considered when I wasn’t thinking clearly when I was mired in my sin.

1. “God has forgiven me, so why do I need to tell the church/my wife what I’ve done?”

God is a God of forgiveness. That is clear. He does cast our sin as far as the east is from the west. I am thankful for the amazing grace that God has shown to us by His Son Jesus Christ.

I blogged a little about this question before but want to give the response clearly again. If you are a church leader and you have committed adultery, you should ask God for forgiveness. But you also have a duty to tell your church and leaders.

When you were hired, voted in, appointed by a council – you were given the position of head elder/pastor and expected to fulfill the duties of 1 Timothy 3:1-13. Those people put their trust in you. They expected you to be faithful to your calling and be a person above reproach. When we commit a major sin, we violate their trust. When we violate their trust, we need to let them know and we have come under church discipline.

The same goes for our spouse. We took a vow. And even if we commit “emotional adultery,” there is something wrong in our marriage that needs to be fixed right away. If it doesn’t get fixed, we are going to do it again. Our spouse deserves to know that we violated our vow and that we have become vulnerable to sin.

2. “I committed adultery/had an emotional affair with a woman in the church. sorrycoupIt’s okay if she stays at the same church as I do, right?”

When guys ask me this question, I know a couple of things. First, they are in trouble spiritually and morally. They are not thinking clearly. Why? Because they think they are/or may actually be in love with the woman they are having an affair with. They cannot stand being apart from her. They don’t want to be away from her.

Second, if at this point a pastor has “only” admitted to an “emotional affair” and he asks this question – I can almost bank on the fact that he has crossed the line into the physical but he’s just not being forthcoming about it.

The big problem is this – if a man has been caught and he’s saying all the “right” things like, “I know I’ve sinned and I want to make things right with my wife.” But his actions are saying, “I still want to be around this woman and I’m still texting her and talking to her,” then what he’s saying and what he’s doing are two different things. He’s not repentant. He’s still trapped.

Listen carefully though. I have a tremendous amount of concern for the woman the pastor has been involved with. I think churches should have the same amount of concern, especially if she is a member or a part of the staff.

Back to the issue at hand. Pastor, if you have committed adultery and you want your marriage to work out, you’ve got to distance yourself permanently from the person you were with. End of story. On top of that, you have to be transparent for a long time with your wife about your cell phone, email, Facebook and anything else you have passwords on. Give her access to everything. It’s freedom. It one step back towards trust.

repenta3. “I’ll be okay pretty quick, right? I won’t be out the ministry very long.”

When you get caught, what you need is to be restored to Christ. Something went wrong. Lots of somethings. I write about it on this blog and in my book. Those things need to be fixed before any kind of ministry can ever happen again. A life of brokenness and humility need to occur while God restores you.

This doesn’t happen overnight. It doesn’t happen in a few weeks. If you’re lucky, it might happen in a year. It happens in God’s timing.

But when you’re honest about your sin and how you came to it, God will be longsuffering and will heal your heart. It’s not easy being honest, but it is rewarding. It’s tough, but it is the narrow road for those who want peace.

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

____________________________

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.

Where Can A Fallen Pastor Fit In?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in brokenness, church, church members, churches, humillity, ministry, pastoring, pastors, preachers, preaching, understanding | Posted on 15-01-2014

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When a pastor falls and ends up out of the ministry – whether permanently or temporarily – he Online Info About Fallen Pastorsfinds himself lost. A lot of things are going on in his life – counseling, restoration, working with his wife, working through his sin, trying to make sense of it all, possible court proceedings, etc.

One of the most significant things that the fallen pastor now realizes is that he is without a ministry position for the first time in many years. For a time, this may be a blessing. A lot of fallen pastors at the time of their sin were tired of ministry and were at a crisis point to begin with. They had been at odds with staff, hounded by phone calls, the blessing of ministry had become a job, and it was less than enjoyable.

However, as time rolls on, pastors tend to realize that while they don’t miss the pain of the job, they do miss authentic ministry, preaching, and pastoring. Deep down, they want to be part of ministry again, but they’re not sure if they’re ready or honestly, if anyone will have them.

Most fallen pastors go through this thought process: “I want to be part of a church. But what do I tell a church that I’m visiting? Do I just walk up to a pastor and tell them what I did? Do I wait to tell them before I join? Do I tell them after? Should I just keep it to myself?

oldchurchIt’s a serious thing, especially when you’re just starting the path to restoration and you want to do things right.

Here’s what I’ll say about what to tell churches about your past – they have a right to know the basics. I don’t suggest running into every church and telling them everything the first day you walk in the door. In fact, take time to visit a few places. Enjoy sitting in the back row for a while being anonymous. Like a place? Stick around. Listen to what people are saying. Get a feel for it.

Heck, worship for once.

And if you enjoy it and want to stay, approach the minister. But listen. And I’m serious about this – don’t expect a favorable response. If you tell him what you did, that you committed adultery and are looking for somewhere to rest and restore, you just might get a boot in your rear end. I’ve seen it happen more often than not.

Guess what? If it happens, it’s not about you. It’s about him. And that’s fine. If he can’t be loving and Christ like enough to take time to listen, love and help, you don’t need to waste your time there.

If you do find a place, here’s my advice – don’t rush too fast to accept any kind of ministry, teaching or leadership position. Remember where you just came from? A fallen ministry. Guess what will happen if you don’t get help and find out what went wrong in the first place? It’ll happen again.

You say, “No, I’ve got it this time. I’ve been humbled.” I’ve said it before and will say it again – humbling circumstances do not necessarily humble us.

After you fall, it takes time to be restored to Christ. Well meaning church people will hear about you, love you and will rush you into positions too quickly. And you will want to do them because your pastoral nature won’t want to say no. But guess what? It’s okay to say no.

On the other side of that coin you might find that there are churches that won’t ask you to do anything. It’s not because they don’t like you or trust you – it’s because they just don’t know what to do with you. They’ve never had a healing minister in their presence and they really don’t know how to proceed. Don’t take that personally.

So what can you do?

In fact, I’ve found something that is very, very rewarding that you can do as a freshly fallen pastor that keep you on the path of restoration and keeps you out of leadership roles for the time being. And it’s something that you already know how to do.

Be a mentor and friend to your new pastor. person pew

Remember all those times as a pastor you thought things like, “I sure wish people appreciated me more,” or “I don’t get enough compliments or good critiques on my sermons,” or “I wish I had someone to listen to my problems and take me out to lunch,” or “I really don’t have anyone who understands what it’s like to be a minister that I can talk to.” Remember all that? Now you can be that for someone else.

You can be that joy and help in someone else’s life. You’ll be surprised at how amazing it can be. Don’t be overwhelming. Start small. Don’t talk too much. Just drop by on occasion. Gain his trust. Pray with him. Offer to do things for him. Don’t ask for anything in return.

Be the person for him that you wish you had when you were pastoring. In time, you’ll see two lives transformed and you’ll be doing ministry for someone.

* I do want to recommend to pastors who have left ministry an excellent resource. PIR Ministries has helped train churches across the country to help and minister to “exited” pastors. Please visit their website for more information and to see if they have a trained church near you or to train your church to help an “exited” pastor.

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

Fallen Pastors, Suicide, And Christmas

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, brokenness, Christ, christmas, comfort, depression, fallenness, holiness, hurt, pain, pastoring, pastors | Posted on 18-12-2013

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Christmas is a great time of year for a lot of people. Off the top of my head, I can think of three groups of people who it really stinks xmasdepfor. One, those who have seasonal depression. Next, for those who have lost loved ones recently or around the holidays. Finally, for pastors who have recently fallen from the ministry.

I fall in two of those categories and was in the last group four years ago. So, I have a heart for those who don’t always find the holidays very happy.

I know on one side, people will say, “If that minister cheated on his spouse, he should have a miserable holiday.” I admit that consequences will always be there. And when any of us sin, we will always face the consequences of our sin. Thankfully, when we turn to God, we will always find grace as well.

But I do want to discuss this very serious issue of fallen pastors and Christmas. It’s a tough time. My email gets a little busier this time of year. Some pastors cheat, leave their ministry and spouse and something about Christmas snaps them back into reality. Whether it’s the feeling of nostalgia, family, memories, or whatever, they get lonely. They start reflecting on what they had and what they lost.

rockwellThis can lead to one of two things. They can start wondering how they can get it back, or it can lead to a hopeless desperation.

Let’s discuss hopeless desperation first. It seems like the news has reported an increase in fallen pastors committing suicide recently. It’s something I discuss very briefly in my book. It’s not surprising. Most pastors start out with a call from God to enter ministry. With great dreams of fulfilling that call. Somewhere along the way, the pastor allows pride to enter his mind. It is not recognized in his own mind as pride, but it’s there. He allows himself to be put upon a pedestal, become isolated and his marriage becomes worse as he chases a dream that is very different from his call.

Then, the fall comes. He falls so far that he cannot see a way out. He looks at himself in the mirror and wonders where it all went wrong. For some men, the distorted answer is to destroy the person they see in the mirror. It’s happening more and more – or at least it’s being reported more and more. And this is a shame.

Life is not over after a fall from ministry. Life may be different. Life may hurt for a while. But Christ loves you just as much as He did before. And there are many out in this world who know exactly what you’re going through and want to love you, be your friend and help you. So let us.

The next group is those who are waking up to the fact that they did something wrong. For a lot of freshly fallen pastors, we spend a lot of time defending and justifying our actions. And we really think we are right in doing it. But there comes a time for many of us where we start to wake up. It’s like the story of the prodigal son where he is lying among the pigs and “comes to his senses.” It’s that moment. We realize we have sinned against God and that we have to make things right. But there’s a problem. Our marriage is over, we’ve made a ton of people mad, we’ve alienated family, fellow pastors, friends, the community – where do we hypervstart?

And when this happens suddenly, it feels like panic. Awful, dreadful, sickening panic.

I know, I’ve been there. You know what to do? Get on your face before God. Get quiet before Him. Often. And reach out to people who’ve been there. I’m here. Contact me. Contact people who have gone down that path. Call a pastor you trust who won’t just give you a bunch of clichés. Talk to someone who will put you on a path to restoration.

And for those of you fallen pastors who have made it this far for a few years, rejoice. God has plans for you. I’m not even sure if this is an appropriate illustration, but I’m going to use it. I was listening to a podcast about how paganism got mixed up with the Christian version of Christmas (I can’t back the veracity of that statement). Apparently, the pagans would have such harsh winters, they would celebrate it by saying, “Nature is trying to kill us by this horrible winter, but it hasn’t, so let’s decorate a tree and gorge ourselves on some food to celebrate that we’re still alive.”

ps116I’m not condoning that part, but for those of you men who have fallen years ago, listen here. You’re still drawing air. You’ve repented and are hopefully walking a path of holiness. The worst is behind you. Celebrate the grace of God – we’re still alive and He’s not done with us yet!

This holiday season doesn’t have to be a time of utter desolation for fallen pastors. It can be a time for a restart – a new life. It can also be a new beginning. If you’re on the brink, my contact info is below. Anything you say to me is confidential. I’m not here to judge you. I’m not here to call you names or tell you what a horrible person you are. I’m here to listen and love you.

Whether you’re a fallen pastor, fallen pastor’s wife, a church that has had a fallen pastor, friend or family member of a fallen pastor, associational leader, or anyone who needs help, please reach out and don’t think you’re alone.

_______________________

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

Hershael York, Pt. 2: Pornography, Ministry Failure & Prevention

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, brokenness, church, circumstance, compassion, fallenness, forgiveness, Hershael York, jesus, ministry, pastoring, pornography, preachers, repentance, restoration, seminary | Posted on 25-10-2013

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This is part two of my interview with Dr. Hershael York concerning fallen pastors, grace, ministry failure, and all kinds of things. If you missed part one, please go there first. If not, here is part two of our conversation. If you are looking for even more Dr. York quotables, he helped me out when I wrote my book.

Dr. York and I had been talking about ministry failure, but then the conversation began to turn to the heart of what makes pastors turn and whether anything can be done about it.

yorkWhat can churches and pastors do to prevent ministry failure?

I told Dr. York that since my fall and the inception of my ministry with fallenpastor.com, I’ve had a lot of Christians become very uncomfortable with my presence. There are times I’ll introduce myself to a pastor, tell him about my ministry then my former sin and he’ll take two steps back like he’s going to “catch adultery.”

Dr. York: “The truth is they’re merely uncomfortable talking to people whose sin has been discovered. That’s your only real difference. There’s not one of us that if you took the darkest secret of our life and past, we would be absolutely humiliated, drummed out of the corps, and be considered useless.”

I asked what he thought we could do about helping churches when their pastors fall and told him it was something that has been running through my mind.

Dr. York: “If a guy is repentant and recognizes that he’s sinned against God and has been broken in his sin, then a church has an incredible opportunity to glorify God. God is glorified by repentance and restoration. I don’t think churches know how to do that well.

“We no longer ask students or missionary candidates, ‘Have you  looked at pornography?’ We now ask, ‘When was the last time you looked at pornography?’”

“Our Baptist polity works against us in this way: We don’t have bishops who have any authority to step in. Few of our Directors of Missions are equipped to do this and a lot of churches are distant from their association to begin with. But it’s not like the DOM is the go-to guy to step in and say, ‘here’s what you do.’ Because we’re all autonomous, there’s no central authority.”

The real problem behind pastor failure

The conversation took a turn as we started discussing one of the biggest problems for pastors and men in general. The topic came up as he was talking about an idea he was tossing around to embolden and encourage ministers as a ministry at his own church.

Dr. York: “I work at Southern (Seminary) and am associated with the International Mission Board and I can tell you this; We no longer ask students or missionary candidates, ‘Have you looked at pornography?’ We now ask, ‘When was the last time you looked at pornography?’ That’s what we ask.”

chnprnHe said he’s aware of more and more marriage issues arising between seminary students and their wives because of pornography. The problem of pornography has become a serious issue not just for the men of the church, but for the leaders. He continued:

“Our world says, ‘Whatever your tendency, indulge it.’ So if you’re married and you don’t want to have sex, do it. And if you’re unmarried and you want to have sex, do it. Even guys who have really consecrated themselves to the Lord are having problems. And if from the time you were 12 or 13 years old and you’ve seen everything the Internet has to offer, if you give into it as a married person, you’re going to have serious problems.

“It goes from titillation to what I would call preoccupation with beauty to what I would call perversion. You’ve got to go beyond beauty to get that endorphin rush. There are a thousand perversions out there and people feel they have to ramp it up to get a greater thrill. Once you’re dissatisfied, you lose contentment with what God has given you, and that’s what’s really at the heart of all this sin. Here’s the sphere of what God has given me, and the Word says it enough, but I say, ‘God’s been unfair to me and he hasn’t given me what I want so I’m going to reach outside this sphere and take what I want, whether it’s pornography, another woman, another man,’ and whatever it is, you’ve gone beyond God’s provision for you, you’re not contenting yourself.”

Preventing discontentment in ministry – Dr. York’s secret to success

Dr. York shared with me what has worked for him in ministry. He acknowledged that there were plenty of times that he could have sinned, but God has protected him. But there was a specific moment in his life that he can point to that shines out above all the rest that led to his success in ministry:

“There’s a thing that my wife Tanya and I have started saying that’s not very popular for us to say. Tanya and I agree that the most spiritually significant decision we’ve ever made as a couple was the decision that she would not work outside our home. Now, we don’t lay that down as a rule, I’m not saying that’s God’s will for everybody, I’m not saying you’re in sin or wrong if both of you work.

“But here is what I will say with complete confidence and comfort: It’s harder to stay married and it’s successharder to stay in love when both of you have completely separate spheres of life. She develops her friends and you develop yours. She has her work goals and aspirations and you have yours.

“One of the keys to my success as a pastor in all the churches I have served is Tanya. She just adds so much. She’s a gel. She can just smooth everything over. She senses problems before they occur. Tanya could be making $200,000 a year in real estate if she wanted, there’s no doubt in my mind. And by the way, I was making only $11,000 a year and living in a parsonage when we made this decision. So it’s not like we decided this after I was ‘Dr. York,’ and can pull in the money. We didn’t even struggle with the decision. We both made it.

“We look back at it now, 32 years in and say, ‘That was the critical decision. That made the difference.’ What woman in my church could I start getting close to that she wouldn’t know about it? She’s there, she sees it. She’s not worn out from her career to not notice and conversely she’s truly in my ministry, we have the same friends, a shared ministry purpose. We are always like minded.”

Preventing ministry failure through keeping focus

One thing that you can learn from Dr. York is that he has focus. He loves Jesus. He loves his wife. He loves his family. He loves his church. He’s not a man who will talk your ear off about meaningless things, but he will talk to you about things that are always wise and heartfelt.  And it is this type of thing that has kept him focused on what is right and away from ministry failure:

“I had a man who talked to me once who had fallen. Years before he had a woman come to him in counseling and had said, ‘My husband doesn’t pay attention to me,’ and he said, ‘I know exactly how you feel.’ That was the beginning of the end. He lost it all. The guy also said this to me, ‘Women in my church were always coming on to me.’ And I told him, ‘I find that hard to believe. It’s never happened to me.’

fallen“I believe we send out signals. You come into my office and I’ve got pictures of Tanya in my office up and you can’t be around me for five minutes without me talking about her or Jesus. No woman in any church I’ve served has ever said anything inappropriate to me. I just have to believe that it’s not that you’re the hunkiest guy in the world that makes women want to give themselves over to you, but you’re sending out signals. The minute you said to her, ‘I know how you feel’ you’re making it about you.

“I want to walk in such a way that even if someone falsely accused me, people in my church would say, ‘No, there’s no way.’

 “But there’s a false security guys want to feed, ‘Do I still have it.’ That’s another thing I practice and teach – embrace whatever stage of life you’re in.  I think it would look ridiculous for me as a 53 year old man to attempt to look or act like I’m 33. Paul said I have learned at whatsoever state I am I am there with to be content. And if you really believe Jesus is enough, it just gets rid of that stuff.  That’s where I want to live. I really want to live in the absolute belief that Jesus is enough for me, whatever stage of life.”

Finishing up

Many thanks to Dr. York once again for talking to me and imparting wisdom to me. For being a friend when many won’t even consider talking to me. But more importantly, for believing in grace and what it is truly capable of.

“I cannot need grace as desperately as I do and then refuse it to others.” – Dr. Hershael York

___________________________

Dr. Hershael York is the Victor and Louise Professor of Christian Preaching and Associate Dean of Ministry and Proclamation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Senior Pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky. Tanya, his wife of twenty-seven years, is a popular speaker at women’s conferences, and they have two married sons, Michael, 25, and Seth, 23. For a full biography, please click here.

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

Hershael York Interview, Pt. 1: True Repentance & Brokenness

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in advice, brokenness, church, fallenness, gospel, grace, Hershael York, humillity, pastors, preaching, reconciliation, restoration | Posted on 24-10-2013

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york2Dr. Hershael York is known by many as the preaching professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. By some, he’s known as an outspoken critic for moral and Christian issues. To a few hundred, he’s the pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky, in the midst of paying off their debt and moving to a new facility. By a privileged few, he’s a father, grandfather, husband.

I used to know him as that guy in seminary that “if you take his preaching class, be prepared to have your rear end handed to you.” So I never took his class and I regret it.

After I fell from the ministry, years after my seminary experience, I was encouraged by a friend to call him. I heard that Dr. York was someone who had experience reaching out to fallen pastors with love and compassion. Strangely, that did not mesh with the image I had in my head of him.

I was happy to be proven wrong. When I interviewed him, he was gracious, kind and his wisdom is pasted throughout my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” Better yet, I see him as a spiritual father of sorts now.

“We’re totally comfortable when a dope smoking, meth lab owning guy gets saved and we rejoice in that; but what if a Christian falls into that and returns? Our discomfort sort of negates the book of Galatians. In Galatians, Paul says, ‘What don’t you understand? Now if you began in the Spirit you are not perfected by works!’”

In fact, when my wife and I traveled to Frankfort recently to see and interview him (partly for this blog but mostly because I missed seeing him), the first thing he told me was how proud he was of me. Something I had longed for my own father to say.

Enough of that. I’ve tried to break down the interview the best I can. If you go and talk to Dr. York about anything, you’ll end up with a repository of awesome material that’s hard to replicate on the page. So, I’ve tried to do my best.

Fallen Pastors and Repentance

One of the topics we discussed was fallen pastors and when they repent. A lot of times, the fallen pastor will repent immediately and be restored to Christ, but other times, as in my case, he won’t. Dr. York discussed the issues with a late repenting pastor:

Christians want things to end clean and neat. And they’re uncomfortable when they don’t. What people are uncomfortable with is what everyone wants; we want to see reconciliation with his wife which means they get back together and live repentshappily ever after. But you know what? That’s not always how it works. At the point people wake up and become really broken over their sin – at whatever point that is, then they have to deal with whatever consequences have occurred up to that point.

 “There’s no going back, you can’t roll back time, and so what’s the godly way to deal with this? Have we read our Bible? What about Abraham and Hagar? There were consequences. We can lament what Abraham did all we want, but we have to deal with it. And I think a lot of Christians miss that at some point and we have to answer the question, ‘How do I honor God now?’”

 That turned him to the message of the Gospel:

“If we really believe the gospel – the gospel takes you where you are. We say we believe the gospel isn’t about ‘try harder and do better’ but it’s about resting in God’s grace. And then we act upset when someone actually does something that demands that.

 “We’re totally comfortable when a dope smoking, meth lab owning guy gets saved and we rejoice in that; but what if a Christian falls into that and returns? Our discomfort sort of negates the book of Galatians. In Galatians, Paul says, ‘What don’t you understand? Now if you began in the Spirit you are not perfected by works!’

 “If true holiness is realizing our complete dependence upon God, then sometimes the Lord has to allow the consequences of our own sin to get us to that level of dependence on Him. If anyone else is uncomfortable with it, then so be it, they’re just going to be uncomfortable with it.”

What is true repentance and brokenness? Dr. York shares a personal story:

On to another important topic and a sensitive one that is often challenged. How do we know if a fallen pastor (or for that matter – anyone) is really repentant or broken over their sin? I told Dr. York I had a church contact me once and tell me that they had a candidate apply for a job who had fallen 25 years prior. When asked about it, he became defensive. I said, “If he was truly repentant and broken over his sin, his response would have been, ‘I committed adultery 25 years ago, I was forgiven by God, but I am more than willing to discuss anything with you, even the consequences of my actions.’”

Dr. York:

“You couldn’t have said it better. Years ago, I counseled an associate minister who had an affair with someone else in the church. He and his wife decided to reconcile immediately and he agreed to undergo counseling and follow a path to repentance, but he was asked to leave. He and his wife came here to our church.  

 conseque“The first time I met with them, the man said to me, ‘I just want to get past this.’ And I thought, here comes the speech. You get the speech for that one. I told him, ‘You’re never going to get past this. There is no getting past this. This is going to be whispered about you wherever you go for the rest of your life. You better get used to that. When your children get older, someone is going to tell them and it’s going to crush them.

 “I laid it out clearly and said, ‘This is what your future looks like. Now listen, you’ve only got one hope here. And this is the only way for you to do this – and that is if when somebody does whisper what you’ve done, someone else says, ‘That is just so hard to believe. Because look how he just loves the Lord and follows Jesus in the genuine wholeness of his life.’ To get there requires brokenness and it is a long hard road.

“His wife had a family reunion once a year and when he went, no one would speak to him. The family even called Dr. York and was furious that he was counseling this man. And he said to them, ‘As long as he is acting like he wants restoration, and he definitely does, then it all remains to be seen and proved over the course of time. It’s judgment on my part whether he is or isn’t repentant.

“The man came back from the reunion and was angry. He said, ‘They treated me horribly.’ I said, ‘Why did they have the opportunity to treat you like this? Who put them in this position? You have to own the fact that you got the choice and they didn’t, so you can’t judge them for the way they react to your sin’ He said, ‘What do I do?’ I said, ‘Sit there quietly and kindly, don’t force anybody to speak and when it comes time to pick up after a meal, do it and help out. Be a willing servant. Just have the attitude of the prodigal son after he came home and say, ‘Just let me be like one of your hired servants and that will be enough for me.

“And if you have that attitude, eventually, you’re going to win. How long? How many years? I don’t know. But eventually, they’re going to say, ‘His repentance is real, this is for real.’ For now, they might say, ‘This is an act.’ Four or five years down the road, they might not say that anymore. The question is, are you willing to do that? And if you’re genuinely broken over that, you will.’

 “It’s been almost ten years for them now and he called him because a church asked him to take on a leadership role. The man turned that down. He told Dr. York, ‘I knew it had the potential to appeal to my superficial nature which got me in trouble in the first place.’ Dr. York said, “He gets it now.”

Dr. York reflected on the reality that the situation could have ended very differently:

“There were moments where it was touch and go. The wife would call and say, ‘I don’t think this is going to work.’ But reconnow, he’s walked in repentance and the Lord has been good. In their case, their marriage was saved and people look at it differently. But let’s say it had ended. 

“Frankly, his walk of repentance would not be significantly different. His life circumstances would be different, but the repentance would still have to be there. He would have to humble himself in front of his family, his children, and her. Repentance is repentance. The consequences you’ve inherited might be different based on what point it hit you. It’s not the consequences you’re answering for when you stand before the Lord. It’s the sin. And I think Christians misunderstand that.”

Stay tuned for part two of this interview. In it we discuss the true cause of ministry failure, pornography, and preventing a fall.

___________________________

Dr. Hershael York is the Victor and Louise Professor of Christian Preaching and Associate Dean of Ministry and Proclamation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Senior Pastor of Buck Run Baptist Church in Frankfort, Kentucky. Tanya, his wife of twenty-seven years, is a popular speaker at women’s conferences, and they have two married sons, Michael, 25, and Seth, 23. For a full biography, please click here.

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

Pastors & Killer Expectations, 2: Can They Be Juggled?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in brokenness, church, church members, churches, conflict, expectations, pastoring, pastors | Posted on 28-09-2013

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dayoffYou’re a pastor. It’s finally your ‘day off.’ (Some of you are laughing already). Another week of preaching, sermon prep, visitation, phone calls, crisis management, complaints wrapped in sugar coating, leadership meetings, and time of prayer behind you. A day to yourself. Maybe you’ll start by spending time with your family (after you make a few phone calls to church members who are recovering or ill) or maybe you’ll finally finish that book you started six months ago.

Then it happens. Your cell phone rings. It’s ‘you-know-who.’ Yeah. That church member. The one who never gets off the phone in under 30 minutes. But if you don’t answer it, you’ll hear about it later. Or you’ll get six more phone calls the rest of the day until you do answer. Your heart pounds. Maybe they’re calling for a real good reason this time. Maybe there’s been a death. Maybe there’s a real crisis.

But it’s my day OFF!

You answer the phone, muttering to yourself, “Pastors don’t get a day off…”

Pastors face a lot of tasks. Can they all be juggled? Easy answer. Absolutely not.

The last time I saw someone juggling was a dude who had eight flaming chainsaws. And he was a professional. Even then, I wouldn’t recommend it. It took an amazing amount of concentration and he got at least four days off a week. No joke. Can a pastor live, thrive, and lead the flock whilst “juggling” tasks that are primary to the health of his own spiritual life and the church? No.

If the pastor is going to merely survive for a while, then come crashing down to the earth and burnout, then absolutely. Feel free to juggle. That’s what juggling is. Having at least ten things in your hands, but only having each of them come into contact with your attention for mere seconds. Can it be done and mastered over time? Sure. But I don’t recommend it. It can lead to failure as I chronicled in my book about fallen pastors.

Pastoral tasks need to be managed wisely. I’m not here to tell you how to manage your time better. There are better men jugglingthan me who can tell you how to do that. But I can tell you this – if you are a pastor and don’t know what your church expects out of you, then don’t get upset when you’re juggling those 16 tasks later that you’ve put on your own plate. If you’re a church leader and you haven’t given your pastor a good job description, then don’t get upset when he doesn’t do more than preach, teach or basic visitation.

Expectations much be shared mutually between pastors and churches. The church needs to outline their basic understanding of what they expect the pastor to do. You know what is just as important? The church leadership telling the rest of the church what the pastor is expected to do.

I have a friend who was given an excellent job description by his church leadership. Unfortunately, there were a lot of people who thought he was supposed to be in charge of an outreach program when the leadership made it clear to him that the Sunday School superintendent was in charge of it. After about six weeks of infighting, a lot of unnecessary emails and backbiting, they finally got it figured out.

The pastor needs to do two things. First, if he feels he has failings or weaknesses in any area, he needs to be upfront. Not very good at visitation? Fine. Then get help, find someone to go with you or let the church get him some training. But don’t hold back that information. Don’t let the weakness become a point of contention that people can pick at when things begin to go wrong, friend.

expectationSecondly, I think it’s fair for the pastor to let the church know that much is expected of them. Share with them what Christ’s expectations of the church are. Keep it biblical and sound. It never hurts to have a series on roles in the church. What is required of elders, deacons, and members of the body of Christ?

And that’s ultimately it, isn’t it? We are the body of Christ. Any time we have overly high expectations of any human being, we really need to check ourselves. We are all members of the same body, all with different functions, but all with an important task.

But I’ll tell you this, I have extremely high expectations of my Savior. Because He delivers. He has never failed His church. He does expect more out of his leaders, but never more than He has asked of Himself. In fact, what He asks is far less than what He gave to us.

____________________________

Overly high expectations can lead to ministry failure. So can a lot of other awful things. Ray Carroll addresses the issues inFallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” Are you a fallen pastor or a church affected by a fall? Feel free to contact Ray here.

Men Who Smell Like Pigs: Restoring a Fallen Pastor

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, brokenness, churches, counseling, divorce, fallenness, forgiveness, Hershael York, ministry, pastoring, pastors, repentance, Uncategorized | Posted on 01-07-2013

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repentaI’ve been ministering to fallen pastors for over three years now through my book and this blog. It’s been a unique joy and blessing. Recently, I’ve been taking the stance that all churches, members and leaders need to be more involved with taking care of a pastor when he falls from the ministry due to sexual immorality.

Today, I’m not going to give you reasons why we should because I’ve done that before. I want to share with you one of the most rewarding things that happens when you care for and pursue a fallen, sinful pastor – you get to see and share in his restoration.

And so you’ll know what I mean by restoration – I mean to be restored to Christ. Will a fallen pastor ever be restored to ministry? That’s a different topic. When a man has fallen from the pulpit and sinned, he needs to focus on a right relationship with Christ first. Because his relationship with Christ went wrong way before his marriage or church relationship ever started failing.

There are two types of fallen pastors. Both guys typically get kicked to the curb by their churches. But the first type has a little bit of hope to get some help by his association or his church.

The first type is the pastor who gets caught red-handed. His sin is discovered and his is approached with it by his wife or leaders of the church. His response is an almost immediate desire to do what is right and repent. He may not have a heart full of repentance right away. He may still have lingering, sinful desires – but you have to remember his adultery went on for a while. But if he shows any signs of wanting to break free, he needs your help.

The first type reminds me of Peter when Christ restored him in John 20. Jesus asked him three times if he loved him and jesusandpetePeter answered three times that he did. “Lord, you know I love you.”

The tricky thing about a newly fallen pastor is that he may think he can fix himself. Any pastor who falls needs a group of people around him to help restore him, work through his sin and toward brokenness. I write about brokenness in my book and on this blog. It is essential that any man who has fallen from the pulpit come to a point where they understand the devastation their sin caused and run back to God. Dr. Hershael York helped me understand this point while I was working on my book.

If a man refuses to be guided by a group of other Christians or be accountable, that’s a huge red flag. I’ll be honest – in my experience and after talking to others who deal with fallen pastors across the country – restoration to Christ and true brokenness takes at least a year and possibly up to 18 months. God takes His time in dealing with the hearts of His people and I’m glad He does. He does it lovingly and patiently. But there does come a moment when he breaks us.

Of all the fallen pastors I’ve talked to who have been restored, most of them remember the day God broke them. They can remember the day their sin became real. It was part of a process. Most of those moments are very personal, but God does work on our hearts.

The second type of fallen pastor is the one hardly any church, association, other pastor, family member or denominational leader wants to deal with. It’s the pastor who commits adultery, won’t listen to anyone, gets a divorce from his wife and is gone. Now, there is typically more story in there that no one will ever hear or want to hear, but the bottom line is this – here is a guy who sinned, got kicked out of church and home, and no one wants to deal with him.

I believe we must reach this man too. I was this man. When these men email me, they have my full, undivided attention. Know why? Because I’ve noticed in this group, there is a trending rate toward self-abuse, depression and self-hatred. When is it okay to push a sinning pastor to the side and let him go?

I can’t do it. I don’t ever condone his sin, but I will forever be his friend. Know why? Because I believe that one day, God can and will do something to radically change his heart. And when he does, I don’t want that pastor to say, “No one in the church believes in me. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.”

sonfatherI hate stretching parables out and making more of them than we’re supposed to, but I’m going to.

Imagine the prodigal son, who has wasted his father’s wealth and now finds himself among the pigs. He stinks like a pig. He is helpless and hopeless. The Bible says that the son “came to himself.” That is what happens to many fallen pastors after a period of weeks, months or years. I’ve seen it. They snap out of it.

Anyway, the pig-smelly son decides to go back to his father’s house and attempt to at least get a job there. But we all know what happens. His father runs to meet him, not welcoming him back as a second class citizen, but as his son. See, the father didn’t embrace him and say, “Boy, where have you been for the past twelve weeks? You smell like pig!” Regardless of where the son had been, or where he had been dwelling, or how he smelled, he was still his son.

Cue the rest of the parable (that never gets preached on) and we find the older brother who is angry. He’s angry because he’s always been there for dad. But dad decided to throw a party because they found the pig-smelling son who ran off and spent money. The older son is indignant. The father says, “Son, you should rejoice because what was once lost is now found.” No, the older brother isn’t having that. He’s angry. He’s always been there. His brother ran off like a little jerk. Now he comes back smelling like a pig and he gets a party.

Point? I love all the fallen pastors who come my way, regardless of how they smell. In fact, I don’t even notice the smell. I know eventually, God is going to grab hold of them and take care of them. Restoration to Christ is really God’s job, I just get to help facilitate that. And it’s an overwhelming joy and honor

But it should be happening in the communities where these men live. And I pray someday it will.

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: