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I Had the Dumbest Dream: Or Was it a Parable?

I had the dumbest dream last night. When I review it, I think it may have been a parable. I’m a huge fan of dreams. In the Old Testament, God revealed Himself to many in the form of dreams. He revealed His plans and His future for Israel. Today, I think our conscious minds are very busy during...

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5 Tips For Sinners Looking For a Church

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in Christ, church, church face, church members, churches, restoration, worship | Posted on 24-09-2014

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Whether you’re a Christian who was kicked out of church and is looking to return, an unchurched person looking for a signplace to worship, someone who is burned out on church and is looking for a “different kind of place, a fallen church leader, or just a new Christian with a rough past who wants a place of fellowship, I’d like to offer this – a sinner’s guide to finding a church:

Tip One: Don’t Go Out Of Guilt (Or For The Wrong Reasons)

After I fell from ministry, I was in church somewhere the next week. I don’t really know why except that I felt it was the right thing to do. People go to church for a lot of reasons. Unfortunately, a lot of them are the wrong reasons. When we return to church after a long layoff or after repenting, we may be going back for the wrong reason as well. Ask yourself, “What’s my drive? What is my heart’s intent?”

What’s the answer? You might want to go somewhere where your kids will be happy. You might like the music. You might have friends somewhere. None of those is a terrible reason. Hopefully, wherever you go, you’ll be looking to come into contact with the living God.

Tip Two: Don’t Let Anyone Guilt You Into Going

It’s the old preacher standby, quoting Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together” during a sermon to remind everyone that church attendance is so, so necessary.  I did it. We should gather together as a fellowship. It strengthens us. But people shouldn’t be guilting you into going to church. The other extreme of the argument is when people say, “I can worship God in nature/home/my car.” Yeah, you can. But do you? Find a place with others – whether it’s a garage, restaurant, home or wherever, but fellowship with like minded people. It’s good for you.

AA053485Tip Three: Remember God Doesn’t Live There

The path to discovering God doesn’t begin or end at a building. The fellowship of believers there might be key in helping you on that path, but the actual location does not contain the living God. When we’re seeking a church, it’s not the same as seeking Christ. It can be true that worship might be easier for you at some places than others, but don’t mistake that for that church as a location where God lives.

Tip Four: Don’t Always Visit On Sunday Morning

One of the common problems people have when trying to find a church is they feel overwhelmed by people. That, or they perceive that people are being “fake.” That may or may not be true, but I have a way to circumvent that. Don’t visit on Sunday morning. Go at a different service time. This does three things.

First, it will alleviate the mistrust you may have that people are acting fake and putting on false appearances just for the Sunday morning crowd. Second, the people who come on Wednesday night and Sunday night are usually some of the most dedicated. You’ll get to see the heart of the church. Third, you’ll get to hear the pastor’s heart. He gets ready for Sunday morning in a different way than he does for a Sunday night or Wednesday night.

Tip Five: Don’t Forget The Smaller Churches

When looking for a restaurant, we typically think of the popular or chain restaurants. The places where the parking lots are full. But once in a while we hear about the “hole-in-the-wall” place that has the best BBQ in the area.

Many churches are pastored by great pastors who are bi-vocational. They are very gifted, loving and love what they do. They may not have the bells and whistles of the larger churches, but they often have many things you can’t get at the big places. Try a variety of places before you settle down.

Tip Six: Remember, Christ Will Come To You

It’s easy to get frustrated when looking for a church. I know a fallen pastor who took almost ten years to find a place to Woman at wellworship regularly. Sometimes, the pastor didn’t want him there worshiping. Sometimes, he was asked to do more than he was comfortable with. It is easy to get the feeling that there isn’t a church home out there.

Remember that churches are made up of sinning, fallible people like you. They’re all going to have some shortcomings. If you are recently repentant or in need of help, make that clear to the leadership. Let them know you need a place of rest and you plan to take your time. Don’t be in a hurry to join. Just relax.

Above all, remember that Christ comes to us. He went and sought out the disciples while they were fishing. He went to the woman at the well. He found Zaccheus when he was in a tree. He will come to you and help you as you search for a community of faith. Where He leads you may be completely unexpected, but it will always be just what you need.

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Having trouble finding a church after a fall? Try PIR Ministries. They’re there to help.

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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.

WBFFA: “Take Me To Church” Song and Changing Lives

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in Christ, missions, music, WBFFA, youtube | Posted on 16-08-2014

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ffaHere we are. Obviously we have two artists who have been working on a song for over a year in production and release a single with the exact same title – “Take Me To Church.” And it’s really weird and coincidental.

One is by Hozier and one is by Sinead O’Connor. They are two different songs. Both have two different meanings and I would like to talk about both of them and compare what they are saying.

The whole point of my Weekly Blog Free For All is that I get a chance to talk about things that are unrelated to my ministry. It’s a chance for me to break free and speak freely of religion, fallen pastors, and ministry. However, there have been commenters this week who have felt that my blogs on my Wagon Wheel post who thought I was being overly religious in my thoughts that a wagon wheel should not rock and should roll forward. Whatever.

My WBFFA is a chance for me to separate my religious feelings from my other thoughts. It’s kinda nice, really.

When I saw Hozier’s song, “Take Me To Church,” I was enthralled by the lyrics from a secular standpoint. But the video took a whole other viewpoint, I must say. I don’t know if that was the band’s direction, but here it is:

The lyrics seem to say that one is worshiping his lover:

“I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life”

Now, I can see that. I’ve been at that point in my life. Where I am at the mercy of my lover. Where I love my lover makes more sense than anyone else. Where the church has nothing to offer me and that it has abandoned me, left me for nothing, and that my lover gives me complete resolve. I also know, from another angle, that there is much good in loving your partner in such a way, but not at the expense of forfeiting your love for Christ. That leads to much danger.

Then we have Sinead O’Connor’s Take Me To Church“:

She seems to be singing from a different angle. She is a Catholic who has been through a lot. And she has a heart that is crying out for something more:

What have I been writing love songs for?
I don’t wanna write them anymore
I don’t wanna sing from where I sang before
I don’t wanna sing that way no more
What have I been singing love songs for?
I don’t wanna sing them anymore
I don’t wanna be that girl no more
I don’t wanna cry no more
I don’t wanna die no more
So, cut me down from this here tree
Cut the ropes from off of me
Sit me on the floor
“I AM”; the only one I should adore

Did you see that? She wants something. Do you hear that modern church? Do you hear that contemporary church? She wants to belong somewhere. It’s the voice of someone who wants to belong to people who are hurting. Do we have that in our churches? Do we have something for her? Would we allow Sinead O’Connor in our churches?

She wants the “I AM.” Do we want that? She is a woman who is desiring and struggling for that. But I often doubt that many of our churches are struggling for that.

Then she says:

Oh, take me to church
I’ve done so many bad things it hurts
Yeah, get me to church
But not the ones that hurt
‘Cause that ain’t the truth
And that’s not what it’s for

Do you know what she sounds like? She sounds like the kind of person Christ would take in willingly in a second. But many of our churches would reject her for her looks, her sound, her past, or her strengths. I can’t think of a Southern Baptist church who would welcome her in. What is wrong with us? She is seeking the living Christ. She is seeking the truth of God and is doing it through her artistic nature.

And you know what? So is Hozier to some degree. They are finding religion in their communication in other people.

Honestly, there are people in this world looking for a connection to God. They want a relationship to some sort of community of schoolprayerfaith. They aren’t finding it in organized religion. They are finding it elsewhere. Maybe it’s possible we have outdated ourselves. Our organs, our set in stone outreach programs aren’t doing it. We think that people are going to come to us.

Jesus had it right. He went to the people. He went to the people around them and connected with them. He touched them and found them where they were hurting. He went to a woman at the well in the middle of the day – when no one else would talk to her – and he connected to her. He didn’t expect her to show up at his church. He found her.

Take me to church.” There is a strong sentiment when the culture has made two songs about this. They want us to reach them. They know that there is a strong need to connect. So where are we? Are we going to continue to sit on our butts in the pews? Are we going to think that our Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon Donations are going to reach people? No. We have to intentionally love people that we see every day.

We have to bring them to Christ. To show them love. To be a neighbor. To be Christ in the world. Our donations in the offering plate is great. But it’s not going to change the world. Our love to the people – as Christ did – is what is going to change the world. It is what is going to change hearts.

Other helpful articles:

The Main Reason People Leave a Church” by Thom Rainer

John MacArthur on Outreach

Nine Ways a Pastor Can Lead a Church to Become More Evangelistic” by Thom Rainer

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

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

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

 

A Haunting Story of Pastor Suicide

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, book, Christ, church, churches, fallenness, hope, pastoring, pastors, self-harm, suicide | Posted on 15-08-2014

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psuicWhile writing my book, I was interviewing a fallen pastor. He shared this with me:

“I heard about a pastor who committed adultery in August then killed himself in December. I wondered, ‘Did anyone reach out to him? Did anyone love him? Did anyone seek to restore him?’ It brought back so many memories of when I wanted to die.”

That story has haunted me. In fact, it has come to fruition many times since then. Recently, I got an email from a man who told me that a pastor who fell killed himself after committing adultery.

Once again, recent events have brought the suicide question to our thoughts and hearts.

I recall a long time ago a story about a youth pastor who hadn’t committed any kind of sin, but felt all kinds of anxiety and pressure. He was a seminary student. He called his insurance company and asked if his plan covered suicide. They told him it did. The next day, he wrapped himself in carpet in his car and pulled the trigger.

Ministry is very intensive. Extremely intensive. Whether you have committed a huge sin or not. In my book, I list the pressures ministers face.

Here’s what I want to convey to you today: Pastors are under a huge amount of pressure. They may put on a front that their lives are wonderful. I know I did.

A while back, I ran into a former church member of mine. Here is how the conversation went:

She said, “I thought your marriage was so wonderful.

I said, “It wasn’t. It hadn’t been for many years.”

She said, “But it looked so good.alonepastor

I said, “Yeah, but it wasn’t. What I’ve learned is that many pastors and their wives have learned to hide their sorrows and pains of their marriages very well.”

She said, “You did a very good job.”

Friends, isn’t about time that in the church, we started being real with each other? Especially in our church leadership? I hid the failures of my own marriage from myself. What if I had gotten help earlier? What if the church leaders, members, and people actually started being real with each other?

When I talked to the fallen pastors in my book, they lamented that they couldn’t be real with the people in their churches. Unfortunately, I see story after story about pastors who commit suicide because they see no end but to kill themselves. They can’t be real with anyone. Is it an excuse? No. But they have no one to reach out to.

Maybe you are the one to reach out the them. Maybe your pastor has fallen. Maybe you are disappointed in them. Maybe you have lost faith in them. But let me tell you this – God has never given up on them. And neither should you. Don’t ever give up on another human being, regardless of how you feel about them.

Pursue them. Love them. Remember the father of the prodigal son. Never let another person feel alone, regardless of their sin. Don’t abandon anyone. Ever.

Providence And DepressionRemember the mission of Christ. He never gave up on any of us. He went to the cross for us. Bleeding, weeping, when all was lost. And he made it count.

Even when your pastor committed adultery, embezzled money, lied to you – you don’t have to agree with his sin. But gracious me. You still have to show compassion. There is still some Christ in you to forgive. To show friendship. To say, “I may not understand why you did what you did – but the Christ in me still loves me for who you are.”

That’s all that is asked of us.

Other helpful articles:

I understand that the people at the National Suicide Prevention Hotline are really awesome to talk to. Feeling like you’re on the edge? Close to it? Call them. Please: 1-800-273-8255 Check it, they have a website too: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

More links:

Why are so many pastors committing suicide?” by Crosswalk.com

Pastors: Mental Illness and Suicide” by Rev. Mark H. Creech

A Pastor’s Suicide: Addressing Mental Health in Black Churches” by Darnell Moore

Suicide: When Pastors’ Silent Suffering Turns Tragic,” by Greg Warner, USA Today

Pastors in Trouble 6: Pastors & Suicide” Fallen Pastor

Do Christians Who Commit Suicide Go To Heaven?” Fallen Pastor

Junior Seau and ‘The Easy Way Out‘” Ray Carroll on Provoketive.com

Whitney Houston and Humanity’s Most Important Question” Ray Carroll on Provoketive.com

Is Your Heart Right & Is Whitney Houston in Heaven?” Fallen Pastor

Robin Williams and Why Funny People Kill Themselves” by David Wong at Cracked.com (Warning: Strong language and images – a very informative and helpful article, however concerning depression, people of humor, and how they mask it)

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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 3: Ministers Are Fragile

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in burdens, burnout, Christ, church, church leadership, churches, conflict, counseling, depression, fallenness, humillity, isolation, pastoring, pastors, prevention, pride, stress, struggles | Posted on 05-03-2014

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handlePastors are in trouble. There seems to be an uptick of pastors leaving the ministry because of adultery, stress, conflict and some are committing suicide. In this series, I’m asking, “Why?” Last time, we looked at the church culture for answers. Now, let’s turn our attention to pastors.

Pastors are weak people. They’re fragile. If you could ship one in a large container via UPS, you’d need to put, “Handle With Care,” on the side.

I say this with utmost respect and familiarity. I was once a pastor and I fell. I talk regularly to fallen pastors and pastors in crisis. I even talk to pastor friends who are undergoing tremendous problems. In my book, I quote several statistics that back the fact up as well:

  • 30-40% of ministers ultimately drop out of ministry
  • 75% go through a period of stress so great, they consider quitting
  • 90% work more than 46 hours a week
  • 50% felt themselves unable to meet the needs of the job
  • 90% felt inadequately trained to cope with ministry demand
  • 70% say they have a lower self-esteem now compared to when they started in ministry
  • 40% reported serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month

Pastors Should Be Weak

Biblically speaking, all of us are weak. Most of us know the verses. jars

  • But we have this treasure [knowledge of the glory of God] in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7, ESV)
  • But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Corinthians 1:27-29, ESV)

I don’t know any pastors who don’t think this is true. In fact, I know most pastors who speak of ministers of fallen and say, “I am a weak person. I know that could happen to me. I know I have to be careful.”

So, if pastors know they are weak, why are they falling at such a high rate?

For Some Pastors, Their Humility is “False Hustle”

I work in sports medicine and cover a lot of basketball. Long ago, I was talking to a girls basketball coach about a player he had. She was always running around the court, moving as fast as she could, sweating like a dog, but she never seemed to be doing anything that contributed to the team.

The coach said, “She’s got what we call ‘false hustle.’ She moves fast and it looks like she’s doing something. It looks like she’s playing the game, but she’s just running around with no real purpose.

bballI fear that there are a lot of pastors who say the words, “I know I could fall just like anyone else,” but unfortunately, they have pride deep in their hearts. Pride says, “I don’t need help from anyone. I’m the pastor. I’m the one who is supposed to have the answers.” They can fix their own problems. They don’t need close friends, they can run the church. They don’t need anyone’s opinion. I know. I’ve been there.

And ultimately, what they never seem to need is the objective opinion of a counselor, mentor, spouse or pastor telling them that they might be headed down the wrong path.

What they’re engaged in looks like ministry. They’re working hard, visiting, smiling when they need to smile, preaching when they need to preach, but they have neglected their own soul. They haven’t protected themselves from a fall. There is a wall of isolation around them. To be fair, it might be there because they’ve been hurt before – or it might be there because they don’t want to delegate anything. Either way, trouble is brewing.

What Can Be Done?

I’ve covered this and it seems so simple, but it holds great truth. I’m worried that many ministers have forgotten their calling. It didn’t happen intentionally. But pastors, when they started had something very simple, but very powerful – they had their calling from God and faith in Him.

I bet if pastors went back and thought about their first sermons, they’d cringe in terror. Most pastors think their early stuff was pretty awful. And compared to where they are now, it probably sounds that way to them. But that’s not the point.

The point is that in the beginning, we knew that no matter what came, we knew we had the Everything Else Follows PreachingWord of God and faith in Christ and we could get through anything. Somewhere along the way, the extra jobs came. The programs came that were so important. The committee meetings piled up. In time, we forget to rely on God and we start to rely on our “talents” and the programs that are supposed to bring people into the church.

But Christ is really all we need. Allowing Him to take control of His church and do what He will with it. We looked at the clay pot within us and decided it had grown strong because of our experience and position.

But it’s not. We were called because we were fools. Because we are weak. And that’s okay.

The stress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of failure came when as weak fools and clay pots, we decided to place burdens on ourselves that God never designed for us to bear. And so, we break. We fall apart. We shatter.

God has called us and has equipped us. But the entire time, He has chosen us because He will do the work through us and receive the glory for it.

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

Extra Content: Excellent article from lastingleaders.com on Overwhelmed Pastors

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

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

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

Pastors in Trouble 2b: The Community of Faith

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in burdens, Christ, church, church face, church leadership, church members, churches, community, conflict, culture, depression, forgiveness, isolation, leadership, ministry, pastoral care, pastoring, relationships | Posted on 28-02-2014

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Bryan Grant Real Estate PhotographyI’ve been writing about why so many pastors are in trouble. Pastors are leaving the ministry at an alarming rate. Some are committing adultery, some are just quitting, some leave over conflict, and shocking there seems to be a rise in pastor suicide. What’s going on?

This post is the second part of the discussion about one of the issues that needs to be addressed – our churches. Make sure you read the first part before you start here.

What does church look like today? A club. We go to churches that are bigger and have great programs for our kids (that is not a knock on large churches with dynamic youth programs, by the way). A place where we can sit in the back and not be noticed. We don’t want them to know who we really are.

Where did we go wrong? When did we stop being a community of faith and just another club to join?

I’m afraid one of the problems has something to do with the question I asked in the beginning of this series – “Are you loving people the way Christ intended for you to?

If we are, then when people sin in the community of faith, we will act out Galatians 6:1, conflictBrethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.

Or, if we are having a conflict or disagreement with another member of the community of faith, we won’t let it ride or have a grudge with them: Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24

Guess how all of this affects a minister? Not good. One of the leading causes of the downfall of a pastor is isolation. Did you know that 70% of pastors do not have someone they consider a close friend? Pastors won’t find that statistic shocking at all.

Knowing that, it won’t surprise you that the majority of ministers will never, ever get close to a church member or a church leader. I’ll give you three reasons.

First, the pastor has probably been burned before when he got close to a church member. He told a deacon or elder something that was bothering him or a secret. And that person either betrayed his confidence or used that secret against the pastor.

This awesome Razorback is metaphorically showing us the distance most pastors put between themselves and church members.

This awesome Razorback is metaphorically showing us the distance most pastors put between themselves and church members.

Secondly, the pastor has been taught in seminary or by a mentor to never get close to church members. I was taught in seminary not to confide in church members or get too close. Why? We were told by a professor that if you did, that person might use your secrets or feelings against you.

Third, some pastors don’t want to make friends because they know that their job won’t keep them there long enough to make lasting relationships. (Dr. York had a great blog related to this topic and you should check it out.)

Of course, these reasons are good reasons, but they’re mostly based on mistrust. How can a pastor have a good relationship with his church if he never makes friends there? But I can see the other side. Why would he make friendships if he’s been burned in the past?

Here’s what I’ll say about all of it. We need to reform our churches so that we become communities of faith again. Where we all care about one another – like family. Pastors need to be able to trust their members enough to be friends with them. Yeah, it might not work out. Jesus was betrayed by one of his own. But he still loved.

Local churches need to be fervent about forgiveness. When someone falls in the church, they are your family. If they sin, go after them. Restore them to Christ. Guess what? The pastor is part of your community of faith too. If he does something awful, he needs the love of rescueChrist displayed to him as well. I’m not talking about restoration to the pulpit – I’m talking about restoration to Christ.

When we start acting out the compassion and love of Christ to our fellow believers, we will begin to see changes in ourselves and our fellow Christians. When we begin to bear the emotional weight of one another, all of our burdens become lighter. And when we share our problems, victories, pain, depression, hurt, and joy together – that’s when we truly become a community of faith.

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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 2a: The Community of Faith

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in burnout, Christ, church, church face, church leadership, church members, churches, community, conflict, culture, fallenness, forgiveness, leadership, pastoring, pastors, relationships | Posted on 26-02-2014

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troubleIn my last post I asked two questions – why are so many pastors in trouble? We have pastors committing suicide, depressed, committing adultery, just quitting, and some are leaving because of conflict. Why?

The other question was a personal one. I wanted you to ask yourself whether you were loving people the way Christ intended for you to. Go back and read the post if you haven’t. It’s our beginning point. If, as a Christian community, we are going to fix these problems and take them seriously, we have to start answering some questions.

We have to be shocked that more and more pastors are committing suicide. We have to be shocked over statistics where 80% of pastors say they are suffering from depression. We must have some sort of twinge of pain when we learn that 77% of pastors say they do not have a good marriage.

Some of us think, “Well, it’s not my problem. The pastor knows where to get help. He can fix himself. He’s got the Bible. He knew it was a difficult profession when he got called. I’m sure he’s doing what he needs to take care of himself.”

I have a surprise for you. He’s probably not. Most pastors don’t do what they need to be doing to take care of themselves. I’ve blogged about it before – most ministers think they can fix their own problems.

Let’s look at one of the problems I believe is responsible for so many pastors leaving the ministry. Simply put, instead of living as communities of faith, we are Sunday gatherings of happychurchpeople with bright smiles who have little connection with one another and are engaging in one more weekly activity.

Let me explain what I mean. The church as we find it in Scripture has Christ as its head. We owe all to Him. He is the reason we exist. When we speak of church, we should be speaking of it as all those who have been redeemed by Christ. When we meet locally as a body of believers, that is a local church gathering.

When we find a local church gathering, we ought to be doing it for the right reasons. We ought to be there first because we love Christ and want to join with those of like mind who worship Him in spirit and truth. We also want to go there because we want to be able to follow Scripture and hear the Word preached. We should desire to be there so we can use our spiritual gifts and become people who are mission minded in our community.

Something else should happen to us when we decide where we belong. We become part of that community of faith. And when we do, we aren’t looking at the church and saying, “What can you do for me?” We are humbly approaching Christ and asking, “How can I serve you here?

worshipWhen we enter a community of faith, we are part of that functioning body. And what does a body of believers in love with Jesus Christ do? They act like the believers in the early church did. They love one another. Their fellowship is sweet. It’s not limited to a once a week handshake.

Fellowship means being able to share your heart with one another in an honest way and not fearing that the secrets and pains of your life will be the object of scorn or gossip from those within the community. It should be as Christ told us – treat others as you wish to be treated.

We should always be looking to mentor and disciple new Christians. We should always be looking to forgive those who sin. If someone is in need, we ought to help them through any situation. The problem often is that we don’t open up with one another enough to know that anyone is having serious problems.

Why is that? Because we’ve become accustomed, for some reason, to put on our church face facesand ride each Sunday out, looking the best we can. The entire time, many of the people in the pew are going through some of the most difficult moments in their lives – financial burdens, health issues, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, problems with family, job issues – but most will leave it tied up tight in their brain where no one can see it.

It is opposite of what a fellowship of believers is supposed to be. We are called brothers and sisters in Christ for a reason. Yet we build all these walls so that the people we should be trusting and talking to the most know the least about us.

Next post, we’ll be looking at today’s church culture and how we can start making a difference.

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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.

How God Uses The Fallen

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, Christ, grace, ministry, repentance, restoration | Posted on 21-02-2014

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Forgiveness: Who's Saying What?, Part 1Four years ago yesterday, I married my best friend. Not too long before that, I had fallen from the ministry because I had committed adultery. It was a sin that hurt many people, my family and others. It took me a long time to see what the fallout and consequences were.

A few months after my fall I started this blog to try to make sense. Throughout my life I’ve written for many reasons. I write when I’m happy, when I’m sad and a lot of times I write when I’m trying to make sense of things. Those days, I was writing to try to make sense of all the competing voices in my head. I had theological voices, voices of my dead parents, selfish voices, voices of guilt, happy voices – and I didn’t know what to do.

So I wrote.

These four years later, I think back to something Allison said to me one time. She says a lot of smart things when I take time to listen to her. She said, “God uses us because of our mistakes.” For a long time, I had been saying, “God uses us in spite of our mistakes.” She was saying something different.

I had made a mess. A big sinful mess. And for a long time I wasn’t sure God loved me, cared about me, or would forgive me. I didn’t think anyone wanted to love me or talk to me ever again. I had alienated my family, the people close to me, a church, and people who cared about me.

Allison and I had made a decision. We were all the other wanted. And there we were. And I had doubts. I didn’t have doubts about me and Allison. I had doubts about whether God would have any use for me.

I started blogging. Now, let’s fast forward to today. I’ve learned a lot since those days. Those confusing days that ran together. I know that God doesn’t want us to sin. He doesn’t want His leaders to commit adultery.

I also know that I get a lot of emails from all kinds of people. Fallen pastors, churches whose pastors have fallen, fallen pastor’s bluewives, etc. It used to be one or two emails a week. Now its more like seven or eight a week. Guess what I tell them? I tell them what’s biblical. I tell them what’s loving. I tell them what I didn’t understand before. The things that are Christ-like and loving and compassionate.

I don’t affirm sin, but I love them. I reach out. I just listen and let God do His thing.

And in all of that, God uses me – uses us – because of our sin. I had a fallen pastor a few weeks ago call me. He started talking to me and my heart broke for him. And he sounded just like I did when I was spilling my guts out to a guy four years ago. Every story sounds almost exactly like every other story except the details change just a little. I stopped him for a moment and told him, “Hey, I understand – and let me ask you – were you feeling . . . ” and I gave him the four things fallen pastors usually feel and experience before they fall.

He stopped. He said, “It’s like you’re in my head.”

That’s right. I was. Because I’ve been there. I don’t like the fact that I’ve been there, but guess what? In some way, I’m glad I have been there. Because I get to minister to people that most pastors, denominations, churches, and leaders throw into the trash. When these guys have been cast aside, I get to talk to them. And know what? Not many people get them. In fact, no one really understands what it’s like to be a fallen pastor except a fallen pastor.

God uses me because of my sin. Broken, fallen, cast aside – He picked me up, looked at me and said, “I still have use for you. Let me put you back together and give you purpose.”

I cannot express to anyone how much I love the depths of the grace of God for that. And how one day I will be happy to simply fall at the feet of Christ and throw all I have – which will be the most stinky, worthless rags in the world – at His feet and thank Him.

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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.

Why Are We So Darn Judgmental?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in Christ, church, church members, churches, community, compassion, evangelism, humillity, judgment | Posted on 04-01-2014

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photo (2)Really? What’s our deal? Why are we so darn judgmental?

Jesus knew we were judgmental people. He even had to make sure it became part of the permanent record: “Judge not, that you not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1, ESV)

Now, before you bring up the difference between discernment and judgment, let me give you my hillbilly definition of judgment vs. discernment.

Let’s say you just heard Billy Bob cheated on his wife. You say, “Oh my.” In your “Oh my,” you’re thinking, “that’s terrible, I feel sorry for his wife and kids. I hope everyone is okay. That’s such a tough sin to get through.

Hey, guess what? That’s discernment. That’s knowing what is right from wrong.

But the next thing you say is, “Well, I’d never do that. Billy Bob is such a scoundrel. He’s dirtier than dirt. Why he’s lower than the scum on Satan’s boots. I think I’m gonna pick up the phone and tell everyone/Twitter this/post this on Facebook and let everyone know what a jerk he is. Because there is no way I would ever do that.

That’s judgment. Thinking others to be lower than ourselves because of a sin they committed. The same Bible that we find, “You shall not commit adultery” in also contains “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23, ESV)

None of us are any better than anyone else. Some of us have been justified by Christ, but we’re jpastornot better. But man, do we get judgmental. It’s a sin to be judgmental of someone.

When I was a pastor, I had a judgmental streak. I still have an overwhelming sense of justice. That part isn’t so bad, but when it turns to judgmentalism, it’s very bad. If I saw sin, I’d want it gone. Which is good. But I’d go about doing it in a bad way. Not just that, I’d have this self-righteous feeling about myself the entire time. Like I was better than the person sinning.

After I fell, most of that went away. It’s amazing what a great fall can do to you. It’s phenomenal how experiencing the grace of God can transform you into someone who just wants to love sinners more. I get emails from fallen pastors frequently. I just want to help them. Before my fall? I probably would have thought, “That lousy guy couldn’t keep himself straight? Pitiful.

What makes us judgmental? I think several things can. First, if we’ve warmed a pew for any length of time after we have become a Christian, it’s easy to get “insulated” by normative Christianity. Most of our friends become Christians, our Wednesdays and Sundays are filled with Christian talk. Our thought processes are filled with “what should a mainstream American Christian be thinking.”

So when a person in the community or church sin, our first reaction is, “oh my gosh. How awful!” Yeah, sin is awful. It separates us from God. But we ought to hearken back to Christ’s reaction to sin. And I’m not talking about the terrible phrase of “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Because guess what? At that moment, you can’t really separate the two.

zacchI’m talking about how Christ just went to people others wouldn’t approach. He was friend first – as in “Hey, Zacchaeus – come down from that tree, let’s have lunch.” He shocked the modern religious leaders and religious right by approaching and eating with sinners. The exact thing we’re not doing.

When was the last time any of our churches had a potluck for sinners? I know, we’re all sinners, I get that. But when was the last time we honestly made a meal and invited those from the community we consider outcasts? The people who, deep down, we really don’t want joining our church?

I learned a lot about grace after my fall from ministry. God forgave me, loved me and put me on the right path again. And in turn, I try to show that same grace to those who fall. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but one that should be practiced by us all – before we fall too far.

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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.

 

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.

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

“Our Pastor Committed Adultery 20 Years Ago”

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

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oldpulpitOver the past five months, I’ve gotten at least four emails that were almost identical, asking the same question. They all came from church leaders and asked this question: “What do we do when we just found out our current pastor committed adultery over 20 years ago? The deacons at that time knew of it, told him not to worry about it, he repented to them, and they went on, business as usual? But now, people are finding out and it is hurting the ministry of our church and the credibility of our pastor.”

In most cases, the pastor’s infidelity led to a long term relationship, sometimes with children. The current leaders are right to ask the question. And the question isn’t so simple. In fact, there are a lot of things to consider.

It’s not too surprising. In my book, I share the statistic that 1 in 3 pastors has crossed the line with another woman sexually, but is still serving as a pastor.

First, if it was properly handled the first time, is it wrong to bring it up again? Won’t it be doing more damage to the pastor, his family and the church? Second, if it wasn’t handled properly, is there a sort of “statute of limitations” on this type of thing? If it happened decades ago and hasn’t been noticed until now, why does it matter? Third, most of these men are late in their lives. If they go out on a scandal now, it will probably ruin their ministry career.

Needless to say, the first time I got one of these emails, it had to be handled prayerfully and with great discernment. I asked for advice and help from some friends and I think there is a solid answer to the situation, so I’m going to try and put it in words as best I can here for people to reference when they find themselves in a similar situation.

Let’s start with something I’ve always said about pastoral infidelity – or, for that matter, any sexual sin. It leads to messy, awful circumstances. Scripture teaches that very clearly. When we sin, there will be consequences. Let me be clear – there is forgiveness available for all sinners. Christ wipes the slate clean for us when we are repentant. However, the consequences of our sin may last a lifetime.

Whether we sinned five minutes ago or thirty years ago, we may have to deal with circumstances that stem from our sin. consequeAnd guess what? That’s expected. That’s part of humility and repentance. A person who is truly humbled by the grace of God and the consequences of their actions will live a life that proves that humility over and over again.

I meet people frequently who aren’t familiar with my story – how I was a Baptist minister and committed adultery – and some will say, “How could you?” My response, if I am humbled by the grace of God, will be, “I sinned, but I have been forgiven. God has been more than gracious to me.

Let’s turn to the charge of whether a pastor who confessed his sin only to his church leadership should have to bring it back up twenty years later. When I thought about this the first time, something bothered me about it. The church leadership either caught the pastor in sin, was informed about it, or the pastor told them. The leadership then decided for whatever reason, to not tell the rest of the church and keep the pastor in his place of ministry.

I believe this to be a huge mistake. And I believe it to be a mistake Scripturally. When a church hires a minister or has one given to them as their leader, they place their trust in him. They look to him as a man qualified per 1 Timothy 3. Are leaders perfect? Absolutely not. I’ve said more than once that leaders are held to unrealistic expectations. However, a pastor has a bond between himself and the leaders as well as the membership. When he violates any sort of trust with them, the membership needs to be made aware.

Let me be careful here – the response to an adulterous pastor is not to throw him into the street or ignore his sin. He should be removed from the pulpit. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times – the pastor needs to be restored to Christ per the standard of Galatians 6:1. He needs counseling, support, and Christian restoration. What he does not need is to be thrust back into a leadership role while the church is unaware that he has committed a major sin.

restoreFurther, in all of the men I have seen who have returned to the pulpit after sexual sin, it takes a very long time to be restored. First, they must be restored to Christ. They have to be restored to their wives. Then and only then can they even begin to think about the ministry. This process doesn’t take a few weeks – it takes months, or even years.

Next, is there a “statute of limitations” on this kind of thing? If it happened twenty years ago and no one noticed, should the church just keep ignoring it? Listen, if you as a church leader know and a couple of other people in the church know, chances are, a lot of people know. In fact, there are people in the community who have probably known for a long time as well. The sin that was committed a long time ago may have been a barrier to many people who might have been otherwise coming to your church. Sin does nothing but fester and grow. Like a disease, it has to be brought to light so it can be dealt with – lovingly and with discernment.

So how in the world is anyone supposed to handle this? I’m not going to tell you that there’s an easy answer. There’s not. A few decades have built up between the pastor’s sin and he’s had time to push it down and explain it away. And in that time, God has blessed the church in spite of his sin – assuming he is unrepentant.

Here’s a good way to tell if your pastor is repentant or unrepentant. Take a couple of the wisest, most discerning leaders to  meet with the pastor who know the facts. Approach him in a gentle manner with what you know. You will typically get one of two responses. The response will tell you whether he is  a man who is repentant over his sin or not. Here are the menmeettwo responses:

Response 1: “Are you kidding? We dealt with this twenty years ago. It was taken care of  and that’s all there is to say about it. All you’re doing is bringing up gossip and trying to run me down.

Response 2: “You’re right, you’re missing some of the details and I will tell you anything you want to know. At the time, we didn’t know how to handle it and when I talked to the leadership, that’s what we decided. Maybe it wasn’t the best thing to do. But I feel like I repented. But I want to do what’s right for the church and move forward. I’m open to working with you and whatever is best for my family, this church, and our ministry.”

Obviously, it won’t sound exactly like that. But you get the point. The pastor will have either lived a life of repentance from the point of his sin, or he will have spent his entire life justifying it.

Friends, it’s messy. It’s awful. And it’s because of sin. If you’re in this situation as a church leader, I’m sorry. But know that handling it with compassion, love, grace and kindness will get you a long way. Using accusative, bitter, angry language will simply shut the door. Threatening to leave or split the church will do nothing.

Offer him help, guidance and counseling. Know that I am here to help and I have other people I can put you in touch with.

guilty2If you’re a pastor who is serving who is in this situation, I urge you to do what is right. Stop living under the shadow of guilt and confess your sin to your church. To the people who trust you. As pastors, when we sin, we owe it to them to tell them that we have violated their trust. It won’t be easy, but it is the right thing to do.

Above all else, Christians, don’t let a situation like this ruin your church. Your community is watching to see how you will treat a sinner in your midst. Church members are watching to see how you will react. Always remember that all of us are sinners, saved by grace, who need correction and restoration. When times get difficult, don’t give up.

I’ll close by giving the advice I gave one church. I said to them, “One day, you’ll have to share with your children what happened to the pastor they knew when they were young. After you tell them, make sure you’re able to say, ‘Even though he couldn’t be our pastor anymore, we still loved him and treated him as Christ would have.'”

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