Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, bitterness, burnout, church, church leadership, church members, churches, fallenness, forgiveness, hurt, pastors, prevention, reconciliation, repentance, restoration, sin | Posted on 16-04-2014
You may not be aware of this, but your church has a plan in place to deal with a church crisis. It does. On this site, I primarily deal with the crisis of a pastor leaving when he’s caught in adultery, so I’m going to deal with that.
Churches today are finding themselves in this situation more and more. The statistic gets thrown around that 1,500 pastors a month leave the ministry due to conflict, burnout or moral failure. Think that statistic is shocking? I have a lot more on this blog and more in my book.
But your church leadership has a plan ready to go whether they realize it or not.
Think of it like this. This morning, you woke up, got out of bed and brushed your teeth (I hope). You did a bunch of other things in order to face the world. You ate breakfast (maybe), got dressed, took a shower, put on some clothes, and got in your vehicle.
Somewhere in your day, you had to adapt to something. Let’s say unexpectedly, on your way to work, a squirrel ran out in front of your car. (What is it with me and squirrels on this blog?) You had a split second decision to make. Do you swerve and possibly hit that mailbox? Do you slam on the brakes and spill your coffee? Do you keep going as the squirrel darts frantically in several directions as it decides which way to go?
You see, suddenly, you realize you have a plan in place, embedded in your mind on how to deal with squirrels that run out in front of your car. It’s instinctual. Most everything we do in life is that way. We just roll along, reacting. When things come at us, we react. What are those reactions based on? Lots of things. They’re based on our worldview, how we’ve seen other people deal with things before, the expectations of others, and how we’ve dealt with them in the past.
What happens when we are in a church and we find out that the pastor has been committing adultery?
From experience, I can tell you that the endgame goes one of four ways.
The pastor is often fired immediately and kicked to the curb. He’s gone. Not much discussion to be had because he’s sinned and he needs to go. Those are the consequences of his actions.
The other thing I’ve seen is that the church leadership finds out and decides not to tell the congregation. They put the pastor on “sabbatical leave“. This means he and his wife go to counseling for a few months and come back and he returns to the pulpit. Honestly, this doesn’t do much to fix the man’s relationship with Christ or his wife.
The next way I’ve seen it play out is that the pastor confesses his sin and is allowed to stay on as pastor. The congregation sees what they see is true repentance and doesn’t see a need for him to go. This keeps a man who is very troubled in the pulpit without considering that he might need to step down for a while to get serious help.
The final way is for the church to recognize he needs help. He cannot remain the pastor, but he is also a member of that local body of believers. They follow the wisdom of Galatians 6:1 and desire to restore him to Christ. He’s given a severance package that includes intensive counseling which hopefully involves going to a place that can help restore him to Christ. The church, made up of godly leadership does all they can do with a pastor who desires repentance from this sin he has committed.
What I’m saying is that we are all wired to react. We all have a plan in our minds of how we would handle this situation. The problem is that most of us don’t have the right and biblical response wired in our minds. Instead, our first instinct is one of immense hurt.
What do we often do when people hurt us? We respond by acting out to hurt them like they’ve hurt us. It’s a very human response. But as hard as it may be, we are to be better than that. If the pastor has any hope of restoration and has any signs whatsoever of repentance, we are to chase him down and get him help. He’s one of us. He is a brother in Christ who needs us. He has fallen far and needs hope.
If we don’t get our hurt in check, it quickly turns into anger. Do you see how the plan that we innately have in place can quickly get out of hand? The passions of our hearts can quickly move away from the biblical response we should be having.
It’s not easy, I know that. Being a strong biblical leader in the midst of horrible news like that requires grace, mercy and patience. It takes every ounce of Christ like love. It takes discernment to know if the pastor is being truly repentant. He may rebuff every effort you make at asking him to repent. If that’s the case, the saddest thing is letting him go his own way.
But if he has any sliver of hope that he wants to repent, we are to treat him like the prodigal son. We are to love him as a wayward brother in Christ and get him the help he needs. Are we to welcome him right back into the pulpit? No. But we are to get him and his family immediate help so that this man will not be destroyed.
There are organizations within denominations that offer help for men who have fallen and want to be restored to Christ. I’m working on finding a way to get a list of them together so that people can find them in an more efficient manner.
If you are one of those organizations and want to be listed here or make yourselves known, please contact me so churches and fallen pastors can find you.
Let’s start looking at our plans before our pastors fall. Better yet, lets prevent these falls before they happen. I can come speak anywhere to talk about the dangers that pastors face. If not me, I know others who would be happy to talk about the pitfalls that pastors face on a daily basis that can weaken them.
It’s time to face these issues before they become a calamity in our local churches. Let’s start working together to make this problem a thing of the past. Let’s take that number of 1,500 a month and get it as close to zero as possible. But it will take local churches, church leaders, associational directors, local bishops, denominational leaders, and the people in the pews to make it happen.
I get an email each day from a fallen pastor, a church that needs help, a woman who is having an affair with a pastor, or a pastor’s wife who has just discovered her husband has been unfaithful. I minister to each of these people regularly and lovingly. It’s what I do. It’s heartbreaking, but I love that God has called me to it.
But I would find so much joy to be able to find a way to prevent it all from happening in the first place.
Want to leave a comment? Click the “keep reading” button and join the conversation.
Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.
If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.
If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.
If you are a church leader and still have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.