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3 Reasons To Rethink The Pulpit Committee

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in church, church leadership, church members, churches, pastors | Posted on 06-11-2014

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I’ve been out of ministry for over five years now and it had helped give me a refreshing insight to some of the things we do as churches.

I still have a lot of pastor friends out there in the trenches. We have a lot of topics we discuss that seem to be cultural issues within the church committeethat have been problematic for some time.

One of these issues is the hiring process for pastors. Many churches don’t have a hiring process. But churches outside of denominations that have a system of bishops often employ the use of pulpit committees.

I’d like to call into question the typical use of pulpit committees and ask whether they are still effective. In the sense in which I’m asking, I’m talking about churches who have never stopped to question the “why” and “how” of their pulpit committee. Those churches who have no decided strategy on calling a pastor other than looking at his resume and qualifications.

It’s an important question to ask – actually, there are several important to questions to ask:

1. Who should be on the pulpit committee?

Pulpit committees are typically made up of a couple of church leaders, a trustee, a younger person, a member of the church who has been there for a while, and someone the church views as “very spiritual.” Now, I’m speaking in generalities here, because each church employs their own strategy. Some churches might have a staff-oriented view where the church leadership makes the decision. Some might employ a member from each committee from the church. Others might invite people from different age groups to sit in on the committee.

The real question is, “Who is qualified to choose the next pastor?” Many would say, “God should choose our next pastor.” Of course, but who in the church will dedicate themselves to the practice of prayer and discernment in order to reach that goal?

2. What qualifications should matter?

I’ve seen so many different ways for a church to choose a resume to look at. I saw a church receive 500 resumes. They then took a questionnaire about what the church members wanted in a pastor (ie., “What age should he be?” “What should his education be?” “How many children should he have?“) They narrowed down the results to the most popular in each category. They were able to get rid of all but 8 resumes. They were left with eight 50-something year old pastors with at least 15 years experience with at least two children, a seminary degree, who loved to preach, was willing to visit the elderly on a regular basis, and met at least 20 other specific categories.

I’ve also seen churches measure the success of a man by his education. I’ve also seen them decide education interfered terribly with spiritual development.

I’m reminded of God selecting David as King of Israel. David wasn’t even on the radar of men for the choice, but he was God’s choice. I understand that the analogy can break down at points, but there is a kernel of truth for us. If we don’t have spiritual discernment about a pastor and if we aren’t willing to look beyond his resume and look into his journey, we may miss some joy.

3. How are we going to ultimately choose a pastor?

Let me relate two stories to you. I saw a church pick out the perfect pastor for them. His resume was sharp, his interview was great, and his family looked awesome. His sermon in view of a call was outstanding. The pulpit committee had done their research, done several interviews, called his references, and been very thorough. He stayed there for a few years and moved on. Was it successful? I can’t measure that. But that happens all across America in churches every year.

lotsNow let me tell you this story which may unnerve you a bit. I have a friend who goes to a Brethren church. If you aren’t familiar with the Brethren, they have Mennonite beliefs. They don’t practice the outward dressing lifestyle like Mennonites, but they have Reformed theology. They are big into sovereignty.  Every two years, they rotate in their new elders. My friend was up to be considered as an elder.

For the election, they cast lots. Yes. They cast lots. Biblical? Absolutely, look it up. There were four worthy men to take two extra elder positions. They held a solemn ceremony where four Bibles were placed on an altar and in each of them was a piece of paper. On two of them were black dots. Each man was to choose a Bible. If they got the black dot, they were an elder.

When my friend was describing this to me, I said, “Are you serious? How can you leave it up to chance like that?

He said, “We believe God is sovereign. All four men are qualified. If God is in control of all things, the right men will choose the right Bibles.

Now, you’re probably not going to be choosing your pastor that way. But those are two ends of the spectrum. How we decide to choose church leadership is important. And it’s important for us to know why we chose our leadership that way.

Ultimately, the way we choose our leadership needs to be biblical. It needs to be dependent upon God. It needs to factor out our personal feelings about what we think the church needs and what God wants for our fellowship.

I can’t tell you how many times over the past five years I’ve seen a church fire a 40-year old pastor to either hire someone just like him or someone his exact opposite. That’s why returning our hearts to God and looking among the luggage is so important when we are looking for a leader. We might just be surprised.

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Other help:

Book: In Search of God’s Man: A Help for Pulpit Committees, by Douglas Devore

Helps for Pulpit Committees, by David Cox

The Top 5 Mistakes of Pulpit Committees, by Baptist Bulletin

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.

 

Too Many Fallen Pastors: A Call For Reformation

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, church, church leadership, church members, churches, fallenness, leadership, ministry, pastoring, pastors, prevention, reconciliation, reformation, repentance, responsibility, restoration | Posted on 31-10-2014

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Since my own fall from ministry five years ago, I have been ministering to fallen pastors, their churches, their wives, the women they have been involved with, their families, and others. I’m always happy to see people restored back to Christ, yet I am still discouraged by the stories of discernmentinfidelity in the ministry, pastoral suicide and burnout, and divorce in the ministry.

I affirm as always that infidelity is a choice people make. It is also a place no one arrives at in a vacuum. Pastors and ministers are under terrible pressure and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Something needs to change. Reformation needs to occur in many places so these stories will stop. There is an epidemic and all of us can do something to make things change.

Here are some of the issues and some suggestions to get started:

Pastors

Church Leaders

  • Church leaders need to be ready and trained for a church crisis.
  • Church leaders should know the potential areas of weakness in the lives of their pastor.
  • Church leaders should be involved in the mentoring and spiritual well-being of their pastor.
  • When a pastor does fall, while it is difficult, it is on the leaders to remain faithful to the words of Scripture in handling sin and the sinner in the most Christ-like manner, while also ministering to the congregation.
  • Make sure that when a pastor falls, there are many people involved: The pastor’s wife, the woman he was involved with (possibly a church member or staff member), his family, the congregation. Wisdom and discernment are very important.
  • When a pastor falls, understand that the community is watching to see how the church is going to treat a fallen sinner.

Church Members

  • Church members should always be spiritually supportive of their church leaders through prayer.
  • When conflict arises, brothers and sisters in Christ should always approach one another in love and understanding, seeking victory in Christ.
  • When a pastor falls, be ready to wait for the truth and not gossip. Be ready to pray for those involved and forgive.

To this list, I would add two things. First, if you have already fallen or have been hurt, that’s why this ministry exists. To help you. You’re not alone. Life isn’t over.

Secondly, if you are a pastor or church leader who wants to see this stop, this ministry exists for you as well. I’ve linked to several previous blog articles for help and I will also answer direct questions. I’m available to speak to any size group.

What I do know is that this epidemic has to stop. We can each do what it takes to stop it. There is no one person to point the finger at to blame. We all have a role to play in stopping the scourge of ministry failure.

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.

When a Pastor Falls, pt. 2: Confronting the Pastor

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, church leadership, church members, churches, community, conflict, forgiveness, humillity, judgmental, pastors, preachers, reconciliation, repentance | Posted on 23-10-2014

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This series is about how church leadership can effectively handle the fall of their pastor when he has been accused of sexual Three businessmen having meeting in officeimmorality. It is a horrible situation for any church to find themselves in. It is seemingly a no-win situation for anyone. But it is a situation that more and more churches find themselves in. I am a fallen pastor and over the past four years, I have counseled many fallen ministers and hurt churches and I hope to help others find a way through this process that creates healing for all involved. When a pastor falls, what is the best way to confront him?

Please take time to read part one here. Today, we will focus on meeting with the minister after all the facts have been gathered, the pastor’s response, and how to minister to the fallen pastor’s spouse.

Meeting With the Minister

There are two situations you could be facing when you meet with him. You’ll either have evidence of his adultery or you won’t. Either way, what should you do? I suggest you have a straightforward meeting. It’s not the time for any type of mind games. Always remember that God is in control of every situation. If there’s sin involved, God is always at work and will be the one to take care of it.

Before the pastor arrives, make sure the church leadership is on the same page about what you’re going to discuss. If there is any disagreement whatsoever about how to handle the meeting, take care of it before the pastor arrives. The church leadership needs to be of one mind and heart before the meeting takes place.

Agree that this is not an angry confrontation. This is a meeting among brothers in Christ. There are two things to always remember. First, how would you want to be treated if you were the one being confronted about a possible sin in your life? Second, always remember Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

upsetIt’s best if just one leader does most of the talking so you can stay on point. You’ll probably know which of you is best suited for the job. If you don’t think any of you are able to do it, ask an outside mediator to help. A pastor from another church you trust, an associational director, or a strong Christian from the community.

Then, it’s time for the meeting. If you don’t have any physical evidence, share with him what you do have then let him speak. If you have evidence, let it be addressed.

The Pastor’s Reaction

I’ve been blogging here for four years. I’ve been talking to fallen pastors for the same amount of time. There are all kinds of pastors out there. When a pastor falls, it’s always a shock. Sometimes a pastor falls and the church can’t believe such a wonderful man of God could do such a thing, but he’s been committing adultery behind his wife and the church’s back for ten years. I’ve talked to churches whose pastor had kids with other women years ago and no one knew about it.

What I’m saying is that each situation is different. And when you sit down to talk to your pastor about suspected sexual immorality, he may be completely innocent. Then again, the man you are talking to may have been putting on a front for years that you have been fooled by. I got away with it for a few months. Some get away with it for years. In some ways, all of us know how to put up a front and keep people from knowing who we really are.

When you sit down and confront a pastor about his sin, he may break down and confess everything. He may have been wanting to get caught. But some will flat out deny everything. Even if you have the most compelling evidence in the world, they may lie and try to talk their way out of it. They may say, “Well, I was involved emotionally with someone.” Or they might say, “Whoever gave you that information is crazy. How long have you known me?”

That’s why this calls for discernment on the part of church leadership. That’s why you have to have your information together. That’s why when you talk to the minister about this, you have to gauge his reaction carefully. You should be able to tell pretty quickly whether he is involved in sin. It should be apparent to everyone in the room. And whatever response he gives, it needs to be handled with love, grace and compassion.

The Proper Response

I’m going to write more later about how church leadership should handle the pastor when sexual immorality is confirmed, but I defensivewant to share this quote from Dr. Hershael York. He’s the preaching professor at Southern Seminary and runs an excellent site at pastorwell.com. I interviewed him for my book and asked him how a church should respond to a pastor when they find out about his sin. When should they help him recover and get him counseling and when should they just let him go? Here’s what he said:

“A church’s posture has to be guided by whether or not there is repentance, because your posture has to be one thing if a person is living in defiance and embracing their sin. Then you have to confront. 1 Corinthians 5 kicks in and Paul describes as turning them over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. There’s nothing pretty about that. But if a person is broken and repentant over their sin, even if they want to be and they’re not there yet, but they want to be.

“They may say, ‘It’s hard for me to leave this 23 year old girl who thinks I hung the moon and go back to a wife I struggled with for the past 20 years, but I want to do that because it honors the Lord.’ Well, if a guy says that, then by all means, you’ve got to walk that walk with him, or see that someone does. Because sometimes the unity of the church matters too and the leaders in the church have to take care of the church but what they cannot do is just abandon the one in sin and say, ‘Well, you’re on your own.’”

The Pastor’s Wife

upsetwomanNot to be forgotten about in all of this is the pastor’s wife and his family. When a pastor is caught in adultery, his wife is absolutely devastated. Most often, the pastor cheats on her with a staff member, church support staff, or a family friend. Church leadership needs to be able to be ready to surround the pastor’s spouse with support.

I have seen wives who decide to stay with their husbands and they are shown scorn from people in the church for doing so. I have also seen the opposite – wives who leave their husbands and are shown contempt for doing so. It is a traumatic event for the spouse and what she needs is not to be surrounded by people telling her “you need to divorce that creep” or “you know, the Bible says divorce is a sin.” Advice given may be correct, but what the spouse needs for such an awful moment are people who are willing to simply comfort her, cry with her, and allow her to be herself.

Helpful article on helping the pastor’s wife during a crisis:

Helping Your Pastor’s Wife After a Church Crisis” by Paraleko

Next time, I want to focus on the church’s public response to the pastor’s adultery.

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.

When a Pastor Falls, pt. 1: What Can Leaders Do?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, affair, church, church leadership, church members, churches, conflict, fallenness, gossip, leadership, ministry, pastoring, pastors, preachers, reconciliation | Posted on 02-10-2014

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I wanted to be able to write something to help churches and leaders have a guide for when their pastor falls. The crisisproblem is that no two situations are quite alike. And yet, all situations are very similar. For the next few posts, I want to give some help that comes from my experience and from the things I’ve read in the past four years.

When a pastor falls, it’s not an easy experience for anyone. The advice I’m giving is general advice for when a church learns that their pastor has fallen morally. He might have committed adultery with another person, he might have been engaged in what he calls an “emotional affair“, or he might have been engaged in a long time addiction to pornography. This post is designed to help the leaders in the church when the find out their pastor has fallen.

I want to start off with a few basic reminders before I start throwing out advice.

1. Remember that each and every decision needs to be bathed in prayer. People will be quick to act, easy to anger, and will be very hurt. Prayer has a way of focusing us in the right way.

2. Remember that decisions based on God’s Word, no matter how difficult they might be, will always be the right ones. A pastor who has committed adultery has forfeited his right to shepherd the flock for a time (that topic to be covered later).

3. But always remember that decisions based on God’s Word are always to be made with grace, love, and humility. If the pastor is removed, it should always be done with the grace of Galatians 6:1.

4. Never forget that there are many people involved in this matter. One man’s sin may be at the forefront, but there are many others who need care and need to see the church act with truth, love, and grace.

5. Keep it confidential until a decision is made. If your church leadership is gathering facts and talking to the pastor, gossip should not be part of anyone’s life. When the facts come in, your pastor may be cleared. If one of the church leaders goes home and tells his spouse all the details of an important meeting and word gets out and severely twisted, the damage may be too great.

6. Finally, never be afraid to ask for outside help. If your church leadership team isn’t sure about what to do, or you feel like you can’t seem to agree, find a mediator. Ask an expert for help. There are a lot of people I know and there are people provided by your denomination or association who can offer wisdom. Never feel like you’re alone or that you’re the first ones to go through this.

truefalseSo let’s get to some first steps in this matter. I don’t want to assume anything – like I said, people tend to find out differently and people tend to react differently.

Get The Facts Straight

Finding out that the pastor has committed some sort of adultery is not easy. The information can come in many different ways:

  • A rumor that has spread in the community
  • A church member might approach the church leadership with a printed out series of emails or Facebook messages that prove the pastor’s infidelity
  • An anonymous letter is sent to the pastor and church leadership from a woman claiming to be his mistress
  • The pastor’s wife might approach a deacon regarding her suspicions about the minister and a church member or staff member
  • A staff member might tell church leadership of an ongoing affair
  • At the end of a service, a church member/staff member might confess that the pastor has been cheating with them
  • The rumor might begin on a social media site (Facebook, Twitter) and get picked up by local media

There are many ways that church leadership can get informed of an issue the minister might be having. I’ve heard of or witnessed all of the scenarios listed above. The easiest thing to do is panic. The knee-jerk reaction is to fire the pastor.

The best thing to do is for the church leadership is to respond in a calm and biblical manner. Most church by-laws require some sort of due process for the minister. It is important to have a meeting with him. Before that meeting takes place, it is a good idea to do fact gathering from people who are knowledgeable about the situation.

The church leadership should take seriously any first-hand evidence that is presented to them. Always be wise with any evidence, discernmentunderstanding the people presenting it. Such a time requires discernment. If a person asks for a meeting with the church leadership and confesses to an affair with the pastor, should their claim be taken seriously? Absolutely. They have a right to be heard. Their claim should not be rejected outright. If they have evidence of communication, it is even more helpful. A problem can arise when someone rejects their claim because this person, “Isn’t the pastor. They aren’t trustworthy.”

Every person who has a justifiable claim has a right to be heard. Again, the claim may later be rejected as false or partially false, but all evidence needs to be weighed before rejecting any outright.

Gossip, innuendo, and rumor is not typically helpful. Anonymous letters are not the greatest. However, I have known many women who have written such letters and were truthful in what they wrote. Of course, the fact that they did not sign them led many to reject the claim. The church leadership should be careful in approaching such communication.

The pastor’s side of the story should be heard as well. He needs to understand the facts that have been gathered or given to the church leadership. One of the worst things that can happen in a meeting is for things to get personal. Sticking to the facts is very important.  I’ll talk more about meeting with the pastor later. But understand that it is important to always gather as much information as possible.

Don’t Read Into The Situation

If you do hear gossip, receive a letter, or have someone approach your leadership about your pastor’s fidelity, treat it as a serious matter.

One of the worst things we can do when an accusation is made (and no fault has been found in the pastor yet) is to think, “You know he has been acting weird lately,” or “He has always hugged the women in the church too long,” or “I never did feel comfortable around him.” You may feel those statements are true, but those statements may have nothing to do with the matter on the table now.

As church leaders, examine the facts as you have them, pray over them and prepare your heart for what decisions may lie ahead. Next time, we will examine meeting with the pastor, his reaction, and his spouse.

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.

5 Tips For Sinners Looking For a Church

Posted by fallenpastor | 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.

__________________

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.

When Pastoral Adultery is Discovered 20 Years Later

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, church leadership, church members, repentance, restoration, sin | Posted on 17-09-2014

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

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

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

 

The Rejection of the Fallen Pastor’s Wife

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, church, church leadership, church members, churches, repentance, restoration, wife | Posted on 29-08-2014

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Over the past five years as I’ve ministered to fallen pastors, their wives, their churches, and the women caught in adultery, there is one upwifeprofound and disturbing scene that plays over and over again. It is a story that is told in my book by eyewitnesses. It is a story I have heard numerous times over the past few years.

When a pastor or minister falls in adultery, the church is often quick to put him out. There is much anger, frustration, and sometimes hatred.

One of the questions that comes to bear quickly is, “What will his wife do?

This question is asked by her family. I’ve seen the wife’s family most often say, “You need to leave him. He’s cheated on you. Get rid of that man.

The response from the church is often the same: “He cheated on you and has abandoned his calling. Divorce him.

I don’t really know how to reconcile these thoughts. Let me say out front that adultery is awful. It’s terrible. When a man chooses to willingly commit adultery, he has abandoned his family, his marriage, and if he is a pastor, he has chosen to leave his ministry position. It is a terrible, sinful situation.

The feelings that occur when the pastor has been caught are tremendous. People feel betrayed. They are hurt. They have a sense of grief and vengeance at times. When any of us are hurt, we often lash out and want the person who has hurt us to feel the same hurt that we feel.

The cultural and secular response to adultery is to divorce. It is to leave your spouse. It’s the feeling the church has when they find out their pastor has committed adultery. It’s a typical response. It’s the most common response. The church wants to distance themselves from the pastor and they fire him, kick him to the curb, without any further mention of his name or consideration of his future. It is a very human and visceral response.

What I’ve been arguing for in this blog for five years is that the visceral response is not a biblical response. If the pastor shows no signs of repentance at all, it may be best to let him go on his way. But if he is caught and shows any kind of repentance, then Galatians 6:1 kicks into gear and we are to restore him as we are to restore anyone within the community of faith who has fallen into sin. That is what the body of Christ is about. I’m not talking about restoring him to the pulpit. But I’m talking about getting him help so that he can be restored to Christ. Back to his wife and family.

“What is most disturbing to me is the reaction I see when the pastor’s wife wants to restore her marriage to the fallen pastor and she is held in contempt.”

What is most disturbing to me is the reaction I see when the pastor’s wife wants to restore her marriage to the fallen pastor and she is held in contempt. This happens when the church has reacted harshly to the minister’s sin and they have no desire to restore him at all. They have decided that the best thing for the minister’s wife is to leave him. But, she has decided that the best thing is to stay with him and restore their relationship.

I have seen it play out over and over where churches see the pastor’s wife reject her as an ally of the fallen pastor. They see her as damaged goods – just as damaged as the fallen pastor.

What they should see is a woman who is deciding to be a restoring, Christ-like agent in the life of her husband. They should draw up beside her and give her and him the support they need to restore their broken marriage. Unfortunately, what happens too often is that the church throws both of them out. They see her as a blind person who can’t see that he is just a terrible, lost sinner who has fallen too far from grace and cannot be saved.

Is this the Christian response? Is this a biblical response?

hurtspI don’t want to be too hard on the church, because I believe in most cases, the church is responding out of anger and hurt. Most churches are ill-equipped to handle the fall of a pastor or minister in this situation. They may not have the ability to walk alongside their pastor and his wife, but they should be able to find people who can.

Friends, there is sin in this world. It happens to our leaders. And when a pastor falls and his wife bravely and Scripturally chooses to stay with him, they should be supported by the local body of believers. They should not be shunned or cast out. If the local church cannot find it within themselves to help, they at least should find someone on the outside who can walk with them.

Abandonment of a hurting ministry couple who are going through the worst time of their lives is not the answer. If we are going to address the serious issue of ministry failure, we have to do better. As church leaders, members, associational directors, denominations, and Christ-followers, we must do better to take care of those who we call brothers and sisters.

Here’s help:

Is Your Church Equipped To Handle Ministry Failure?” Fallen Pastor

Unmasking the Secret Pain of Pastor’s Wives

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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.

Restoring the Adulterous Plumber and Pastor

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, church members, churches, forgiveness, restoration | Posted on 25-08-2014

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Fallen pastors go through a series of stages after their fall from ministry. It’s a topic that consumes a lot of space in my book, “Fallen Pastor.”plumber

Fallen pastors spend a lot of time being angry and justifying their actions. I know I did. Anyone caught in sin, as we all know, have the same reaction. Whether we get caught stealing, lying or breaking any number of God’s laws, each of us has an instinct to further sin and justify our actions. In our self-justification, we often become angry at those whom we have hurt and are angry with us.

Several of the fallen pastors I interviewed for my book (as well as me) had a response like this: “The local plumber, architect, or attorney can commit adultery and no one cares. But if the pastor does it, it’s the worst sin imaginable. He’s thrown out of church, everyone gets angry and forgiveness is never granted to him.

There is a lot of truth in this statement. However, as time has passed and repentance came, I realized that there were better ways of looking at the situation.

First, people do still gossip and talk when others commit adultery. However, when the pastor falls, the volume does get turned up. There is a reason for it. Scripturally, more is expected from church leaders than others. They are to be “above reproach.” When they are found to be otherwise, it can be an awful shock to those who placed their faith in him as well as a chance for an unbelieving world to cast doubt upon the message of Christ.

One of my angry arguments used to be that the church shouldn’t be any more angry at the layperson who committed adultery and was allowed back in the church after forgiveness than they were the fallen pastor. That might be a poor choice of words. But it cannot be denied that pastors are to be expected to be held to a higher standard as overseers of the flock. Does that mean that Bob the plumber doesn’t have to follow the ten commandments? Absolutely not. It does mean that a pastor is called to be a church leader. A shepherd. He is Bob’s leader and has a responsibility to display a life of righteousness inside and outside the church.

“Does that mean that Bob the plumber doesn’t have to follow the ten commandments? Absolutely not. It does mean that a pastor is ordained to be a church leader. A shepherd. He is Bob’s leader and has a responsibility to display a life of righteousness inside and outside the church.”

This doesn’t mean the pastor is “better than” Bob. It just means he has a life that is supposed to display qualities of biblical leadership that people should be encouraged to follow.

There are other leaders in our society who are held to a higher standard as well. Politicians, for one.  I blogged about Congressman Anthony Weiner and his fall from office after inappropriate Twitter conversations with women other than his wife. It should be noted, I don’t care for politics. But as far as I’m aware, there is no moral rule regarding politicians versus others. There have been immoral politicians since politics began, regardless of party, and each time there are people with demands that they should step down.

My point is this – there is no rule for career politicians to be moral, as far as I am aware. But there is a law for God’s people. All of God’s people. The law is the same but the standard is higher for leaders. “Let it not even be spoken of you.

There is another matter, one of forgiveness. When a Christian violates God’s law and repents, forgiveness is available immediately. Our God is just and loving and will forgive. We may not escape the consequences of our sin on earth, but we may find His peace now.

The sin of a layperson will probably not hurt a church as much as the moral fall of a pastor. When a pastor falls, the repercussions last for many years. The fallen pastors I speak to tell me that decades later, they still have not found reconciliation with their former church.

Regardless of who sins within the church, all members of the community of faith should be approached with the restoration attitude of Galatians 6:1. When one among us sins, we should see them as a fallen brother or sister in Christ, one who needs restoration back to Him.

Restoring the Sinning Brother,” John MacArthur

Restoring the Sinner,” by wordandspirit

Restoring Fallen Brethren,” by Ryan Hicks

Bearing Burdens: How One Sinner Relates to the Sin Of Another,” by Bob Deffinbaugh

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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.

3 Things a Church Can Do When a Pastor Falls

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, church, church leadership, church members, fallenness | Posted on 13-08-2014

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Most churches are not equipped to handle the difficult event of a pastor who has fallen due to moral reasons. In the past four years, I’ve seen memberphow this process should not be done. So, I’d like to give some practical advice on how a church can proceed for the next few months with some dos and don’ts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Most pastor search committees ask really, really bad questions. In fact, many pastor search committees always tell you what the last guy did wrong by the questions they ask you.”

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

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

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

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

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

Seriously.

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

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

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

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

Other helpful resources for church leaders and churches:

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Things Christians Can Do When A Pastor Falls

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, church members, fallenness, help, pastors | Posted on 09-07-2014

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reachingoutWhat should a church member do when a pastor’s sin is uncovered? The pastor’s sin could be anything ranging from adultery to embezzling. I’ve put together a few quick questions someone should ask in reference to a pastor’s sin and their own struggle with the issues.

1. How will I and my family react long term and short term? When a pastor falls or sins and is dismissed, the church member and each family typically goes through a difficult time that is similar to the grief cycle one encounters after losing a loved one. Each family and church member needs to prepare for this struggle and look for support in Christ, their church family and possibly counseling.

2. How will our church as a whole react? How will our church leadership react? The church as a whole will often follow the reaction of the leadership. Leadership needs input from the congregation, so encourage them to handle the situation in a Scriptural manner. Also, share with them the need to ask for help from other churches or church leaders if they feel they are not able to make a clear decision.

“On top of everything, think of this: ‘One day, I may very well fall. How would I want people to care for me?'”

3. How will we as a church react directly to the pastor? In other words, if his sin warrants that he resign, he is still to be treated as a brother in Christ. Some follow up questions might be, “How will our reaction to him impact our church now and years later? Is how we are treating him on a personal level Scriptural? Will it impact future decisions we make?”

4. Regardless of what the church leadership decides, what will I choose to do in relationship to the pastor? Or, how will I choose to treat the fallen pastor? Many people may choose to judge the pastor or cut ties with him personally. But we are all responsible for how we react. How are we to treat those who sin? Even if they disappoint us greatly? Going along with the crowd mentality is easy, but taking a stand for what is right is always difficult. Take time, pray, and study Scripture to make the right decisions.

5. Pray for him. After I fell, I heard through the grapevine that one of my former deacons had trouble praying for me. He said it took him a long time before he was able to think positively enough of me to say a prayer for me. That is absolutely understandable. Do your best. On top of everything, think of this: “One day, I may very well fall. How would I want people to care for me?

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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.