Category Archives: church

Are Pastors Too Hard On Themselves?

polevaultI was on the phone recently with a pastor friend of mine from out West. He had overheard someone in his church criticize something he had said and he had taken it personally.

He said something like this – “People don’t understand how much criticism can hurt pastors, especially when we are working so hard all week-long doing ministry for them. I mean, we work so hard to do everything right. What they don’t understand is that no matter what they say or do to criticize, I’m always harder on myself than they could ever be on me.

Those words I just bolded, italicized and underlined are important. They come out of the mouths of about 90% of the pastors I talk to. Heck, I said it about myself when I was pastoring. “I’m harder on myself than anyone else could be. I expect more from myself than anyone else could. I expect my sermons to be just about perfect, my ministry to look excellent, my appearance in public to look great, and everything I do to be a reflection of my church and of Christ.

That’s a pretty good summary of how most pastors feel even if they wouldn’t use those exact words. In my book I talk about some of the things that lead to ministry failure and unrealistic expectations is one of the top things.

Guess where a lot of the unrealistic expectations come from? From the minister himself. Are pastors too hard on themselves?

It’s a good thing to have realistic expectations for yourself. You should have reasonable, biblical standards for yourself. But there is a point where those expectations become unrealistic. When we set the bar even over what Christ has for us.Frustrated office manager overloaded with work.

I think there’s a moment in ministry where the pastor starts micromanaging or taking on too many tasks and he thinks that he is responsible for the reputation of the church. Instead of seeing the church as a body, he really starts to see himself as the one who needs to be involved in every aspect so that he can make everything work.

To be fair, this often happens when members fall to the wayside and fail to perform certain duties. The pastor will start making the bulletin, teaching classes, handling the youth, cleaning the toilets, etc. and he will start piling it on and he thinks he’s doing the work of the kingdom. Unfortunately, what he’s doing is weakening the reason he’s there. He’s there to preach the Word and be a shepherd.

But as time goes by, something else happens. He looks at the success of his peers, other churches in the area and he sees that he’s not keeping up. It’s church envy. Most guys won’t ever admit to this. Even guys who have large, seemingly successful churches. A lot of pastors end up with a lot of pride and just want more. And they take it on themselves to grow the church. And guess what? It’s not their job. Christ said He would add to the church.

After several years of being out, it has been easier to look at what I became in my later years and how I got isolated and frustrated instead of doing what I should have been doing. I heard my friend on the phone as he shared with me some of his problems and I heard some of the things in his voice that I used to hear in mine.

exhaustedThat’s when he said, “It just bothers me that people criticize when they don’t know the whole story. If they knew how hard I am on myself, they’d probably never say anything. Because I’m harder on myself than they’ll ever be.

I could hear it in his voice. I could hear the days he spent in prayer for his people, the hours he spent in sermon prep, the countless times he had answered a late night phone call, the numerous times he had to smile at a church member who he knew really didn’t like him. I could hear in his voice, not anger, not bitterness – but the kind of sadness – not equal to, but similar to – the kind that Jesus had when he looked out on the people he was trying to help who only had scorn for him.

I said, “Why are you being so hard on yourself?

He said, “What?”

I said, “You’re doing the same thing I used to do. You said you’re trying really hard and that you’re being really hard on yourself. Why do you do that?

He said, “I just want it all to be right. I’m trying to do my best.”

I said, “Remember when you got your call to ministry? Remember when you first started pastoring and you preached your first few sermons? I bet if you could go back now and listen to them, you’d think they would sound terrible, wouldn’t you?

He laughed and said, “Yeah, I would.”

I continued, “And I bet you didn’t have a clue about what to do as a pastor. But at that 2cor12moment, you were convinced that all you needed was Christ and His Word and you could make it, right?”

He paused, “You’re right. I hear you.

And I said, “That’s all he wants from you now. Do you think Christ wants you to be this hard on yourself? Yeah, he wants our best. But he doesn’t want you driving yourself mad and into the ground trying to do everything. He doesn’t want his people having unrealistic expectations. You know what he wants. The same thing He wanted when He called you. He just wants you.”

He wants you in your weakness. Because His power is made perfect in our weakness, right?

You’re right. I see what you’re saying,” he said. It was like a realization he hadn’t had in a while. And to be frank, what I had just said had come out of nowhere. It was something I needed to hear too.

It’s one of things that comes to me from the Holy Spirit when I talk to guys. I’m not wise by any means. Sometimes I’m not particularly helpful. But God always knows what to say.

And pastors, if you’re reading this and you are pushing yourself to be perfect, and you have the accelerator mashed to the floor, trying to get everything you can out of yourself, it might be time to remember that Christ doesn’t want you to do that. He just wants you. He wants you to be yourself – weak, vulnerable, gifted and ready to serve.

_______________

Here are some excellent articles about dealing with expectations:

How Many Hours Must a Pastor Work to Satisfy the Congregation?” by Thom Rainer

Experts: Pastor burnout results from unrealistic expectations” from Florida-Times Union

Unrealistic Ministry Expectations: What’s a Pastor to Do?” by Paul Tripp

How to Pastor Difficult People” by Richard Dobbins

_______________

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.

What Would Jesus’ Bumper Stickers Say?

Let’s say Jesus was here today. That he started His earthly ministry in 2015. Let’s assume he had to have a car to travel to places. Maybe a Prius. Heck, maybe he’d have a Hummer. Who knows? Maybe an AMC Gremlin. That might be an important topic of debate.

bumperWhat I’m wondering is what would Jesus’ bumper stickers say.

Bumper stickers say a lot about us. What political stance we take. How we feel about the sanctity of life. How the incumbent president doesn’t reflect our current ideals. How we root for one sports team or another. And about how we support or oppose certain social issues. Bumper stickers say a lot about us to the world and the people driving around us.

I understand that in writing this, I’m taking artistic freedom and a lot of liberty. But please humor me for a second.

Let’s look first at the people who claim to follow Christ. We can find all kinds of bumper stickers that proclaim their belief system.

Here’s a few: “Conservative: Because Everyone Can’t Be a Freeloader“; “CoExist? Okay Lefty, You First“; “It’s a Child, Not a Choice“;  “Jesus Was a Conservative“; “Blacks didn’t choose slavery, Jews didn’t choose genocide, Babies don’t choose abortion“; “If we ever forget that we are one nation under God then we will be a nation gone under“; “One man plus one woman equals marriage.


What if Jesus was conducting His earthly ministry and he drove a car? Would he feel the need to put bumper stickers on it? Would he feel the same need that many conservative Christians do today to voice some pretty strong opinions on a ten word flash on their bumper?


That’s a spattering of bumper stickers on the cars of Christian conservatives across the country. I want to make it clear that in this post I’m not arguing for or against the bumper stickers above. And this post isn’t about religous/social issues, per se.

I need to make this very clear – most conservative Christians don’t have bumper stickers proclaiming the message of their morality.

I also don’t want it to come across that I have a problem with free speech through bumper stickers. I do not. If you have convictions about your ideals and you want to advertize them and you feel a good way to do it is through a sticker on your car, go for it. Knock yourself out. More power to you.

My point is today is this – what if Jesus was conducting His earthly ministry and he drove a car? Would he feel the need to put bumper stickers on it? Would he feel the need to voice some pretty strong opinions on a ten word flash on his bumper?

I honestly don’t know. I’d like to hear your opinion.obamajesus

I’d like to think that Jesus would see His car as a necessary means to get from one point to another to share the good news.

I’m not saying Jesus didn’t have strong opinions. He certainly did. He did finally get tired of the Pharisees. In Matthew 23, he pronounced a series of judgments on them, calling them “whitewashed tombs” – they were beautiful on the outside but on the inside, they were just dead man’s bones.

Would Jesus then put a bumper sticker on his AMC Gremlin that said, “Pharisee Conspiracy Around Us“?

Jesus spent most of his time loving and showing grace to those who were neglected in this life. The crippled, lame, mourning, destitute, demon ridden, and outcast. His main objective was to show grace and present the gospel to a world that needed to hear it.

In our day, people like to say Jesus had a  position on gay marriage, the government, interracial marriage, whether we should have certain instruments in church and whether we should be wealthy.

Some want to stick bumper stickers on Jesus’ ride. Whether He wants them there or not.

I’m not saying that other parts of Scripture don’t deal with some of those issues. But I like to think that if Jesus were riding around in His AMC Gremlin, He’d only have one bumper sticker:

“Seek and save those who are lost.”

He might have another:

“Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

weary1In His time, Jesus wasn’t overly concerned about social issues. He was concerned with people and the path they were walking. He wanted them in the kingdom. He looked upon the woman who was washing His feet with expensive perfume as an act of worship and questioned why the disciples weren’t doing the same.

The bumper stickers on Jesus’ car? “Follow me.” Through the worst and the best. It won’t be easy. At times it will be difficult. But I will never leave you or forsake you.

Whatever social issues we might be attached to – they could be important. But do not let them keep you from losing sight of the Savior who made it His point to seek after the lowliest in society to build His kingdom.

I’m still unsettled on this issue, so please comment.

__________________

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.

Is My Pastor Up To Something Sinful?

computerTurn on the news and what do you see? War. Murder. What does that mean? That you’re probably going to get shot tomorrow and that the end is near.

Of course that’s not what that means.

But we do internalize a lot of the evening news, don’t we? And we internalize a lot of statistics. We get online and type in some symptoms we’re having and WebMD tells us that we have an incurable disease. It can be difficult not to do those things when information is so accessible.

Here at Fallen Pastor I share a lot of statistics. I’ll tell you that a lot of pastors suffer from depression or look at pornography. I tell you that ministry failure is a stark reality and I use statistics to illustrate the point. It’s a real problem.webmd

Once in a while I will write a blog about how people can take care of their “normal” pastor. How pastors can prevent moral failure.

But I want you to know that just because there are tendencies toward sin, just because there are pastors who struggle – that doesn’t mean that your pastor is sitting at his desk with his cell phone, texting his secret lover trying to figure out an out of the way rendezvous, all the while surfing the web for pornography, simultaneously writing his Sunday sermon on how husbands should love their wives.

There are some great pastors out there. A ton of them. Have I ever met a perfect one? Nope. Never met a perfect Christian or church member either. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. All of us undergoing the process of sanctification, working together, walking together in Christ.

I hope you don’t read this blog and think that your pastor is wiling away his hours being sinful. He’s probably not. He does need your support. So does his family. They are under extreme pressure. Let them be human. Let them be part of the community of faith and express their frustrations, prayer requests, and have time off with their family.

Let them worship together as a family on Sunday and make sure they are experiencing God in the church as you are. Don’t treat him as  a hired hand – treat him as a brother in Christ.

Don’t be suspicious of his motives. Instead, if you think he might have a problem, approach him as Matthew 18 asks us to. If you feel he has slighted you or made an error, go to him in love. Treat him as you would want to be treated in the same situation.

Has he made mistakes? Sure. Will he continue to make them? Absolutely. Will you? Sure you will.

Is my pastor up to something sinful? Probably. We all are to some degree. But will we continue to be mistake-making people who constantly look to Christ for help, sanctification and healing as  a community of faith? That’s the real question.

____________________________

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.

Can You Believe That Sinner?

I’ve been writing for a long time. My senior year of high school, I got to help write  a play. I can see the following monologue being acted out by one person for a church drama. But I can also see it happening every week in churches as a reaction to those who sin, unfortunately. These are the whispers that sinners hear – deservedly so – but when do they stop? And when do our hearts change? What should our hearts be speaking toward those who sin? Scripture references are linked:

“Can you believe that sinner? Do you know what he did? He cheated on his wife. Unbelievable. He’s a member of this church.  And he was a Sunday School teacher.

whispering“Oh, when did he do it? About eight months ago. Filthy person. How dare he show up back in our church like this. Seriously. He’s got two kids. They’re not even ten yet. What was he thinking?

“I don’t know how he could even show himself in public. He’s lucky he even has a job still. I can hardly stand looking at him.

“How did he teach Sunday School all those Sundays and carry on with that other woman? What audacity! That has to be blasphemy.

“Do what? Oh, he’s been meeting with the pastor. I have no idea why the pastor would even talk to him. I’m sure he’s blaming his wife or a problem with pornography or a troubled childhood. But to me, there’s no excuse for that kind of sin.

“His wife? Here’s a stunner. She’s trying to work things out with him. whispering2I have no idea why. She should have dumped his sorry rear end right there on the spot when she found those text messages. She could have gone straight to a lawyer and owned everything that little bitty man has.

“I don’t know. I mean I’m not being judgmental. I just don’t like the way he looks around the sanctuary. I don’t like the way he talks or speaks to anyone. He’s not fooling me with that false humility.

I’m telling you, once a cheater, always a cheater.

“Those poor little children of his. Maybe one day they’ll learn what an unholy person their father is. How can he even sing songs of worship?

I just don’t know how someone like that can live with themselves.

____________________________

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 Blueprint For Pastoral Reconciliation, Pt. 1

Two weekends ago, I had the honor of accompanying my friend, Brandon Watkins, back to capshaw1his home church, Capshaw Church in Huntsville, Alabama.

Several years ago, Brandon committed adultery while he served as the music leader there. I was preaching at Buck Run Baptist Church one Sunday and met Brandon’s mother and sister who told me about Brandon. They told me that he had just fallen from the ministry.

They gave me his address and phone number and begged me to reach out to him. I sent him a copy of my book, which I learned later that he promptly threw into to the trash can. However, I kept emailing Brandon. I texted him once in a while.

I would say, “Hey, Brandon, I want you to know that I don’t judge you. I love you. I’m here for you. I just want to listen. If you ever want to talk, I’ve been through it before.” I kept sending messages like that.

Six months later, he called me. He had fallen and he had fallen far. I won’t recall it all here, but Brandon had been through one of the worst falls I had ever seen. But I treated him like I treat any fallen pastor. I treat them like Jesus would treat them – with patience, love, and kindness. Like a prodigal. Knowing that if they are saved, they will come around and that someday, they will need someone to talk to.

There was a day Brandon needed someone to talk to. We’ve been talking for two years now. He’s been through some tough times. And I love him. I love him warts and all. I have heard his stories, his brokenness, his fallenness, his desperation, his anger, his hurt, his pain, his anger toward God, his relationship problems, his frustrations about life, and his daily life struggles. Know what? That’s the life of a fallen pastor.

I love Brandon with all of my heart. I would take a bullet for him.

brandonI finally got to meet him one day and it was the first time I got to meet someone I was helping. It made my heart soar. He just talked to me like a man who had the same problems I had. And we connected.

We are friends.

When I started this blog five years ago, I did it because there was no real help for fallen pastors. There were a few places pastors could go, but it wasn’t apparent. A publisher contacted me and asked me to write a book and I did. It’s helped a lot of people. I told someone recently, “When my Amazon sales go up, I get a little sad, because that means that a pastor has fallen.”

Most people who contact me I give them help and I never hear from them again. I send them off to another ministry who can help them further or I am able to answer a question. Most of the questions I get are from fallen pastors wives or from the women who pastors cheat with. They need a lot of help and I’m happy to help them. That’s why this ministry exists. To help anyone who needs comfort.

I help churches whose pastors have fallen. They contact me and I give them advice because they weren’t equipped to handle a ministry failure. That’s why I’m here.

But Brandon has been with me for two years. And two weekends ago, the church where he fell from did something amazing.

No, I take that back. Amazing isn’t the word. That’s a cheap word. They did something that I have only heard of once.

The pastor of Capshaw Baptist Church, Zach Terry, decided to bring Brandon back to reconcile him before the congregation.

Wrap your mind around that for a moment. Many of you who are reading this have known a pastor who cheated while at your church. What happened? The church kicked him out. That’s what happened to me. But that’s not the biblical standard. The pastor is a member of the body of Christ. Does he deserve to be restored to pastoral ministry? Maybe not. But if he is restored to Christ, then he does deserve to have a day where he can say, “I’m sorry,” before the church where he sinned.

It’s good for that church. It’s good for the congregation. It’s good to heal those open wounds.

This week, I’m going to talk about what happened at Capshaw Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. And why it should be a blueprint for reconciling fallen pastors to the churches where they fell – when they have been restored back to Christ.

It will heal the congregation. It is what is necessary for biblical forgiveness. It will heal a church. It will change lives in your congregation, pastor. Don’t let the sins of the past dwell in the past. Open your heart to the forgiveness that has happened in the life of those who have fallen and who have been restored to Christ.

You will find rest for your congregation. You will find amazing grace. You will find revival.

Helpful articles:

From my old, anonymous blog: “Reconciling With a Fallen Pastor: Before Your Pastor Falls

Reconciling With a Fallen Pastor: Why Reconcile at All?

__________________

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 Reasons To Rethink The Pulpit Committee

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.

_______________________

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

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. 1: What Can Leaders Do?

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

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.

__________________

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

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

____________________________

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.