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People discover my site because of all types of searches. But one of the most common search phrases is “Why do pastors commit adultery?” I did. Four years ago. I wasn’t looking to commit adultery – and I don’t believe most pastors who cross the...

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Are We Really Losing 1,500 Pastors A Month?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, book, church, church leadership, compassion, conference, conflict, fallenness, pastors, prevention, struggles, temptation | Posted on 21-11-2013

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pastorquitOne of the statistics that gets thrown around about fallen pastors reads something like this – “1,500 pastors leave the ministry a month due to ministry failure, burnout, or conflict.”

Right after I fell from ministry, I remember the first time I saw that. There was no reference attached to it. It was simply quoted by a pastor of a large church who I had known for a long time. I Googled the statistic. It is quoted very frequently with no reference.

The statistic is alarming. I finally traced it down to a statistic from the Navigators Magazine, part of the Focus on the Family Ministry. The statistic was sound, I had found it, but it was still hard to wrap my mind around.

1,500 pastors a month? I had someone who is well versed in statistics challenge me with the original number. He was right to do so. The original number basically states that the 1,500 is an estimate of what “could be happening.”

Even so, there are other alarming stats.

When I got further into other statistics, I began finding it easier to believe:

  • 30% of pastors said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual a encounter with a parishioner
  • 46% report sexual problems with their spouse
  • 80% believed pastoral ministry affected their families negatively
  • More than 40% of pastors and 47% of their spouses report they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules and unrealistic expectations
  • 30-40% of ministers ultimately drop out of ministry
  • 75% go through a period of stress so great, they consider quitting

(All statistics can be found in “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.”)

Those statistics are pretty objective. Now let me tell you how it looks from where I sit. Over the past four years, the temptanumber of emails I have received from people has increased.

I am writing to all of you at this moment and need your attention because nothing could be more serious. We are losing pastors at an alarming rate. I get an email almost every day from a fallen pastor, a woman having an affair with a pastor, or a church that just found out their pastor committed adultery. All of them want help and advice.

The sad part is all of it was preventable. Scripture clearly tells us that we have an escape from temptation. There is always a way out. But in story after story I hear, pastors are committing adultery and trying to hide it. I committed adultery and got caught. It took a long time for God to get hold of me. I know firsthand what it can do to a church and people involved. That’s why I do what I do to help men, churches, and others involved.

But what really bothers me is that at this moment we are extremely concerned about keeping sexual predators out of our churches – and we should be, definitely – by running background checks on nursery workers, youth ministers, and everyone who works with children. However, our associations, districts, denominations, leadership teams and churches are putting very little into the prevention of the failure of their pastor.

According to the statistics, your pastor has a decent chance of failure if he hasn’t already committed sin and is hiding it. That’s why this is so important.

It may be different for your church. When was the last time you paid to send your pastor to a retreat? Or even send your pastor and his wife to a marriage retreat? Even better, if you have the resources, why not host a pastor conference and include the dangers of ministry failure and prevention?

I used to find the 1,500 number a bit hard to swallow. But more and more, I’m beginning to understand that while it is a helpful estimate for what could be happening, it is only a number. There is real failure occuring. Please, don’t let your pastor become a statistic.

__________________

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.

“Our Pastor Committed Adultery 20 Years Ago”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________

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

The Confused Community: The Wounded Church, 3

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, affair, church, church leadership, church members, churches, fallenness, forgiveness, gossip, pastors, repentance, restoration | Posted on 12-11-2013

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How does a pastor’s fall effect a community? How should local pastors react? What is the church supposed to do when rumorthe pastor commits adultery? Whether you’re a regular attender, member, or visitor, you might be looking for help or a way to cope.

When a pastor falls, a sort of shock wave goes out through the community at large. The church finds out first and word spreads through many different sources. Some of the stories are shared accurately and some of the details become distorted as the tale is passed on.

Let’s look today at how the fall of a pastor effects the different parts of the community and how people can make things better for the church.

1. Those attached to the church

The local church is typically considered to be those who are members and attend with some regularity. Those who are attached might be regular attenders who have never joined, those who are members who consider it their home church, those who live in the community who attend strictly for special services, or those who send their children to the church but do not attend themselves. All of them hold some fondness for the church for a particular reason.

In the years since my fall, I’ve had a chance to talk to some of these folks and how the pastor’s fall had an effect on them. For some, there was great anger toward him and his sin. They were angry that he could commit such a sin and some returned to the church during the turmoil to show support. Some, if they were still members, would willingly show up to vote him out if he had not yet resigned.

I’ve also seen the opposite reaction. Some in this group showed the attitude of, “He’s a sinner/human like the rest of us. He should lose his job, but out of place anger isn’t going to help anyone.”

Why the two reactions? The same two reactions can be seen in a cross section of regular membership, but anger typically prevails. Possibly they don’t have as much of an emotional stake. Perhaps they did not know the pastor well. Or maybe it was a response they learned elsewhere. We will address that in a moment.

2. Local pastors

It actually takes a little longer for local pastors to find out that another pastor has sinned in the community. He typically hears from a church member or from another local pastor. Sometimes he will hear it during a weekly pastor’s meeting.

pastorbrAgain, the responses are different. Many local pastors will distance themselves from the fallen pastor. Even if they’ve known the man for years or from seminary, communication will be shut off. Why? We would hope our pastors would be the most compassionate.

After talking to fallen pastors, ministry leaders, associational leaders and others, I think I’ve put together a pretty good list of why local pastors seem to turn their backs on the fallen pastor.

One, they might feel as if they have nothing to say. What could they say to him? What counsel could they offer? It’s difficult even for a pastor to talk to someone who has fallen so far. Two, they might feel that if they talk to him or help him, they might be seen as being guilty by association. Many pastors are image conscious and don’t want to be seen associating with a pastor caught in adultery. Third, deep down, they each know that lurking within them is the same propensity for sin. Within each of them is lust waiting to be drawn out by temptation. A fallen pastor reminds us all of our frailty.

3. The media and the public at large

Thankfully, this is something I really didn’t have to deal with in a big way. I did have to answer people in public when pagethey had questions, but they were rare.

But I’ve talked to many who have had large churches and their adultery was a news story on television or in the newspaper. Living with that is called consequences. And from what I understand, it’s pretty awful. Most people think the guy deserves it.

What Should We Do?

Let’s step back from these three groups and make an assessment. How are we to react? What are we supposed to do?

I’ve found that people are going to respond to the fall of a pastor in one of three ways, typically. One, they will try and sweep it under the rug and pretend it didn’t happen while asking him to resign. Two, they will force him out and kick him to the curb in anger. Third, they will ask he resign, but surround him in love and godly counsel, seeking to restore him to Christ.

The different reactions, I believe, are a mixture of what we’ve witnessed, what we’ve been taught, and our personalities.

So what about those who aren’t in church very often? If your voice is one of compassion, help and restoring the pastor to Christ, than its important. If you’re going back to add more pyres to the wood pile, don’t.

Do I say that because I’ve been there? Yes. And I’ve been on both sides of it – the side that stirs it up and the side that is being condemned. Before ever moving to condemn anyone, always remember, “There, but for the grace of God go I.”

If you can help the pastor, do it. I had two pastors who reached out to me. That was it. But I had several friends who didn’t go to church reach out to me. All of these people loved me for who I was and not in spite of what I did.

Also, don’t believe everything you hear – from the rumor mill OR the freshly fallen pastor. Bottom line: he sinned and needs people to walk with him. To talk with him, not condemning him, but pushing him towards repentance and restoration.

prayforIt’s also important to ask what your role is in the fall of a pastor. Is it your pastor? Is it your church? If not, pray for him. Don’t spread gossip. Support those you know within the church. If you have godly advice for the church that follows Scripture, offer it. But pray for the church’s leadership that they handle things in a godly manner.

If the fallen pastor tells you his story, it will be from his point of view and it may sound like he is justifying it. You will know he is repenting when he begins to understand that he sinned in the face of God.

And when someone calls you to tell you “what they heard”, don’t listen. Just remember there are people involved all the way around who need love, prayer, support and guidance. Remind yourself what it’s like to be gossiped about.

Above all, have the heart of Christ. Have love for the angry church member, the hurt spouse, the fallen pastor, the other woman, the children, and the church. You can’t go wrong by showing love.

__________________

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.

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The Devastated Spouse: The Wounded Church, pt. 2

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, affair, church, church members, counseling, divorce, pastors, reconciliation, relationships, wife | Posted on 11-11-2013

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In this series, I’m trying to address all of the people who are effected by the fall of a pastor. Not only that, I’m asking, upwifewhat can everyone do in the wake of his fall?

I get emails each week from many different people; pastors who just fell, wives whose husbands fell, churches whose pastors fell, etc. – and most are in a state of panic. “What happens now? What am I supposed to do right now?

There are no easy answers. There isn’t a handbook that gives a quick answer. I’d love to say the book I wrote has easy, fast answers for everyone to patch up the damage that has just been inflicted. But in the wake of a fall, it takes time, understanding, patience and a willingness to forgive.

Today’s article is  on a very sensitive topic – the devastated spouse. I feel completely unqualified to write this because as the fallen pastor, I hurt my former wife. I’m not going to discuss my previous relationship, instead, I will rely on the interviews I did for my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” and the interactions I’ve had since then.

A lot of dynamics occur with the spouse of the fallen pastor after the fall.  These are the things I’ve seen happen over and over again. At the end of this post, I’ll try and resolve what can be done. I hope. But know this beforehand – I have all the respect in the world for the spouses whose partners fall from ministry. I grieve for them. I get emails from them. I hurt for them. And I want to be able to one day make it possible so that no pastor ever falls from the ministry again. Unrealistic? Maybe. But that’s my hope.

The Horrible Truth About Ministry Marriages

In my book, I quote a lot of statistics. I’m about to repeat some of them here.

– 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses are discouraged and dealing with depression

– More than 40% of pastors and 47% of their spouses report they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules and unrealistic expectations

– 77% of pastors said they did not have a good marriage

Cover2– 30% of pastors said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual a encounter with a parishioner

– 81% of pastors report insufficient time with their spouse

– 64% report communication difficulties with their spouse

– 46% report sexual problems with their spouse

– 80% believed pastoral ministry affected their families negatively

Its easy to see your pastor as a person who has it all together. Perfect home. Perfect family. Perfect life. But statistics show that he is under a great deal of stress. In my last post, I detailed how many pastors chase after the church as his first mistress. In doing so, he loses touch and intimacy with his wife.

Ministry is very hard on a couple. Unless they are strongly grounded in Christ, have friends to mentor them, have the full support of the church, and keep communicating intentionally, they may have a course set for disaster.

Someone to Love, Someone to Hate

A wise friend once told me that after the fall of a pastor, things get really nasty. In fact, a dichotomy takes place. The church has to have someone to love and someone to hate.

My whole reason for writing the book was to show that there is a problem in the church culture. When the pastor sins, we throw him to the curb immediately. Scripture tells us to restore him. But our hurt and eventual anger compels us to jettison him completely.

In turn, the church begins to hate the pastor. We have an enemy. The pastor. Then, we find someone to love. The pastor’s spouse. I’ve seen it over and over. The church lavishes their attention on the pastor’s spouse who has been wronged. And rightly so. She should be helped. She has been abandoned and left alone. Their spouse has committed adultery.

My only concern in this realm is when people come alongside the spouse and say things like, “He was no good anyway. counselYou need to pursue divorce.” What the spouse needs is comfort. The spouse has been betrayed and needs to work through things. Quick advice will not help. Godly advice will. The spouse needs people to walk with her. To listen to her rants, her grief, her pain, and her feelings.

The ultimate goal of the church should be restoration of any sinner to Christ. But the goal of any broken marriage should be the attempt of restoration. That takes time and people who are willing to walk with them. Quick fixes are not available to anyone in this situation.

Encourage wise people to aid the spouse. People who can help her in her hurt, pain, and grief. To walk with her and the children.

The Final Outcome

What happens in the end between the fallen pastor and his spouse is ultimately their business. It is very personal. This is a very touchy issue. If restoration comes between them, then it should be celebrated. If not, then the church should still love both equally.

Right now, you’re thinking, “Heck no! The pastor is the one who cheated! He should be scorned and left to his own devices!

Before I fell, I would agree. But that was before I completely understood the compassion and grace of Christ. Jesus showed us that no one is beyond repair. No one is beyond forgiveness. Everyone is worth pursuing. He pursued us, didn’t He?

As for the pastor’s spouse, they are to be loved, but not pitied. They are to be helped and given grace as the pastor is. They need counsel just as the pastor does. Restoration to one another is best. But if it is not to be had, the church is to rally around reality.

Where do we go from here? We treat them as people. People just like us. Love them. Accept them. Never give up on them. Because Jesus never would.

____________________

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

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

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

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

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

yorkWhat can churches and pastors do to prevent ministry failure?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The real problem behind pastor failure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preventing ministry failure through keeping focus

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

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

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

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

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

Finishing up

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

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

___________________________

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fallen Pastors and Repentance

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

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

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

 That turned him to the message of the Gospel:

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. York:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________________________

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

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

Strange Fire?: There Is A Larger Elephant In The Room

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, church, church leadership, church members, churches, conference, current events, deacons, denominations, fallenness, forgiveness, grace, macarthur, ministry, pastoring, pastors, preachers, restoration, sin, temptation | Posted on 23-10-2013

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Seminary, Being Judgmental, Self-Righteousness, and Other Thoughts, Part 2Last week, well known pastor, author and evangelical John MacArthur hosted a conference at his church called “Strange Fire.” The three day event was based upon the idea that the “Charismatic movement is leading people astray and dishonors the Holy Spirit.” At stake is whether certain gifts of the Holy Spirit are still in operation. Popular blogger Tim Challies live blogged the event and did a good job of covering it. For those interested, he had a good post covering the issues.

Like any theological topic, things got heated during the event. People are still discussing it. Why? Because there are people on both sides of the aisle who believe they are right. On one side are those who tend to come from charismatic or Assembly of God backgrounds and the other come from Baptist or other traditional backgrounds.

Now, before you comment, I know there are those who are in denominations who take the other side. Got it. That’s not why I’m writing today.

MacArthur has been writing on this issue for years. I remember reading his book, “Charismatic Chaos” when I was just 14 or 15. The debate has been going on for a long time. One writer said that MacArthur, in his arguments at the conference, was accusing half a billion Christians of blasphemy.

So, this disagreement between denominations and Christians is nothing new.

What concerns me is that there is a huge epidemic occurring that to the best of my knowledge, no major church, mega-church pastor, or denomination (or denominations) has set up a conference for. It is a scourge that is bringing our church leadership down at what appear to be record rates.

I speak of course, of pastors who are leaving the ministry due to moral failure.

There is no Christian denomination that is untouched. I am not picking on any denomination by any means. I plan to getdepressedpastor to them all.

Let me tell you this – my inbox has been filled with questions from charismatic pastors and churches asking, “What is happening to our pastors and leaders?A few months ago, several charismatic pastors in the state of Florida fell. More recently came the tragedy of Ron Carpenter’s wife.

And if you want to look at Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans or Fundamentalists, feel free. They have had their own share of fallen pastors in the past few years.

It is a very serious issue that no one wants to talk about or address at the local, associational, state or denominational level. Think it’s not a problem? In my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” I have a ton of stats that show what lead to a pastor failing morally in the ministry. In the Kindle edition, there are some stats that users highlight that stand out the most to them. Here they are:

  • According to the following statistics, one in three active pastors admits to having an affair, 70% of pastors deal with depression, seven out of ten report having no close friends.
  • 77% of pastors reported they did not have a good marriage.
  • 1,500 pastors a month are leaving due to burnout, conflict or moral failure.

There are a lot more than just that. Meanwhile, the best we seem to be able to do as evangelicals is respond to the situation. Do a Google search and you’ll find such articles like, “Should Fallen Pastors Be Restored?” by John MacArthur (his answer is “not to the ministry”); or an article that interviews evangelicals on whether pastors should be restored after a fall.

fallen pastorFriends, asking whether a pastor should return to the pulpit is a question. But it’s just one. And it’s not even the most important one. I’ve only lightly addressed it on this blog because there are about 100 questions to be asked before you get to that one. Addressing the failure is like creating awareness the disease after it has happened instead of trying to prevent it in the lives of thousands.

It’s easy to get pastors to attend a conference around things that are popular to talk about and that people will defend tooth and nail. But why is it so difficult to gather up leaders who will sponsor a conference/conferences over a topic that is removing ministers from our midst on a daily basis? To organize a conference so that we might learn (or remind ourselves) that ministry failure is absolutely preventable?

What makes matters worse is we are facing a generation of church leaders, members, deacons, elders, associations and denominations who are not equipped with how to handle a fallen pastor. Most don’t know what to do with a fallen pastor. He either gets kicked to the curb or his sin is ignored and he is immediately placed back into the pulpit. Both are wrong responses, but come because people just aren’t prepared. To MacArthur’s credit in his article mentioned above, he said, “The church should do everything possible to minister to those who have sinned and repented.”

I fully agree. On top of that, after four years, I have learned there are at least four distinct causes that lead a pastor to a fall. He is ultimately responsible for his own sin. But if he is not careful, there are factors that will weaken him to a point of no return.

So what holds us back from forming such a conference where we can invite pastors, church leaders, church members, elders, deacons, and anyone who wants to learn how to prevent ministry failure? I believe there are several reasons.

crossing-the-lineFirst, I believe many pastors won’t admit they are capable of such sin. Sure, they may say, “It could happen to anyone, even me. I’m a sinner like anyone else.” But do pastors really believe that? I hope they do. Because it happens all too frequently.

One statistic I share in my book is that at least a third of evangelical pastors (still serving) have had a relationship with a member of the opposite sex where they felt they crossed the line. Heck, this website quotes a study that says 54% of pastors admit to looking at pornography in the past year. If one is not aware of the signs and symptoms and does not take the steps to prevent it, they will be susceptible to a fall.

Secondly, such a conference might not be appealing is because we don’t want to think our pastor or a member of our church leadership could be capable of such a think. We see our church leader on that platform every Sunday preaching or performing the act of worship. We look up to them. We might even hear of another minister falling and think, “Well, my pastor would never do that.” That statement has been said by many unsuspecting church members whose pastor eventually fell.

We don’t want to think our leaders will fall. But it happened to many of our heroes in Scripture. But thanks be to God that He is gracious and loving. But we need to be aware of how we can help our leadership.

Third, pastors place a great amount of pressure upon themselves. They hold onto the need to keep up appearances. I know this because I was a pastor that did that. And I have talked to fallen pastors who did the same. And I have pastor friends now who tell me they do it.

When you create such pressure for yourself and you get invited to a conference on “How to Avoid Ministry Failure” you might feel like it would make you feel weak. Like you can’t handle the job on your own. Like you can’t just tough it out. But that’s not reasonable. Everyone, especially pastors, need support and encouragement.

In closing, I think it is interesting how different denominations handle fallen pastors. In my book and in my counseling, I have spoken with manyGalatians6_1-2 fallen pastors from several denominations. Those who tended to come from a charismatic background were often given counseling or given a chance to return to the pulpit. Those who came from Baptist backgrounds or other evangelical churches were often fired and kicked out with no offer of counseling.

I think the model for restoration lies somewhere in between. Galatians 6:1 should be our guide. If one of us is caught in a sin, the church should seek to restore. Restore to what? Restore such a one to Christ. That process takes a long time. But as I’ve counseled fallen pastors, I’ve found it is worth it.

I pray and hope that one day, we will understand the need to have meetings, conferences, talks, messages at our churches that are designed to let people and pastors know that ministry failure is a huge deal. It is tearing churches apart. We cannot simply continue to ignore it. It must be dealt with through prevention. The church leadership must work together lovingly with the pastor and the pastor must recognize his own limitations.

I pray that soon we will stop ignoring this horrific sin and kill it before it enters into the minds of any more church leaders.

________________________

Are you a fallen pastor, burned out pastor, pastor on the brink or a church that has gone through a tough time? You might start out by reading, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” (Available in paperback or on Amazon Kindle). There are a lot of things in there that will help pastors prevent ministry failure and a lot of things to help pastors after they fall. There are also helps for churches whose pastors have fallen.

Need more help than that? Feel free to contact the author of this blog and the book, Ray Carroll. He’d love to talk to you. Anything you say will be kept confidential.

 

Pastor Ron Carpenter: Can Ministry Failure Be Prevented?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in adultery, church, churches, leadership, marriage, ministry, pastoring, pastors | Posted on 15-10-2013

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ron2by Ray Carroll (please see below for contact info)

Pastor Ron Carpenter of Redemption World Outreach Center reported to his church on Sunday that his wife had been having multiple affairs for the past ten years. There is much to the story and you can read it in many different places. It is a very large ministry and the pastor, after telling the story of his wife, said she had been committed to rehab for a month and that they would not be reconciling. Also, he has planned to stay in the ministry.

There are two things I can guarantee. First, the only people who know anything close to the truth are he and his wife. This whole horrible, messy situation will take years to figure out and the consequences will come to bear for a long time. It is a heart wrenching situation that God can sort out.

Secondly, people on the outside really have no idea what is going on and fruitless discussion is not helpful.  In every article I read, there were hundreds of comments of people discussing, tearing apart and going on about the issue. There was a lot of defending, attacking, and slinging of various Scripture passages, names and profanity.

The one thing that was lacking was any real discussion on the core of this issue. I fell from the ministry four years ago. And since that time I’ve been on this blog ministering to fallen pastors, their churches, wives, and the women they were with.

Even though this pastor’s wife fell, I can almost guarantee that the issues that occur before a pastor commits adultery. The same weaknesses that befall most ministry couples is what brings ruin over and over again. It’s the same pattern that I outline in my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.”

Ministry in today’s world is high pressure and resembles life in a fish bowl for the pastor’s family. With a world of overly high expectations, poor relationship with spouse, church conflict and other predictable problems, many of the failures in ministry can be prevented. Statistics bear out that many of our ministers are in serious peril (these statistics and more are in my book):

80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses are discouraged and dealing with depressionfallen

More than 40% of pastors and 47% of their spouses report they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules and unrealistic expectations

89% of pastors stated they considered leaving the ministry at one time

Pastor Carpenter and his family are in an awful place and need prayer and support. The people who should be at the forefront, ready to help in such a crisis are the members of church leadership.

Unfortunately, many times, church leadership is ill equipped when a pastor falls. What would be even more ideal is to have a godly church leadership who works with the minister to keep him ready and accountable, always aiding the pastor and his family, to prevent such an awful failure.

Most churches, pastors, church leaders, associations, denominations are not set up to prevent such catastrophes. Hardly any are able to deal with the issue when a pastor commits adultery or commits another major sin.

Reconciling With A Fallen Pastor, Part 5: Reconciling An Old WoundThat’s one of the reasons this website is here – to help any who reach out. And hopefully in the coming weeks, with any who are willing and ready, to begin to put together tools/conferences/aids for those who want to stop this horrible epidemic in our nation’s churches.

So what about Pastor Carpenter and his family? What can any of us do? Know that God is in control of all things and that He does respond to repentant people. This situation, whatever is going on, will not be fixed in weeks or months, but years.

Also, if your church is not working to prevent pastoral or leadership failure, start figuring out how to do it. Does your church have a plan in place if your pastor falls? Will you respond with grace and mercy or with shame? This situation should give everyone pause and a moment to think about how close any of us are to sin.

__________________

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.

 

Are Many Pastors Former Nerds?

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in Christ, church, nerds, pastoring, pastors, pride, seminary | Posted on 09-10-2013

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nerddddI’ve been thinking about this for a while. I had never considered it before until I was interviewing fallen pastors for my book. I wrote about it, but I hadn’t considered it until now.

Here’s a passage from my book: “For many pastors, the place behind the pulpit is powerful. Before their ministry began, they were not seen as strong or outspoken men. But after being called to preach and receiving a seminary education, they become empowered. Each week, they proclaim the words of God and receive praises and affirmation from the congregation. Without proper reflection dosed with humility, the pastor will find himself in a trap of pride and idolatry.” (p. 134)

If most pastors are nerds, or come from a “nerdy” background, it might have a significant impact on their fragility when they enter the ministry. It’s a lot to process, so hold on for a minute.

The interviewee was Kris (name changed in the book for anonymity sake) and we were talking about his issues with pride. His story is a great read for any pastor who is dealing with pride issues or any fallen pastor who was elevated to a level of greatness in a large church. He knew he had a problem with it, but he kept feeding into it.

As we talked, the interview went somewhere I didn’t expect it to go. He basically said, “In high school, I was a nobody. I was a nerd. But here came the call to ministry. I studied, preached and suddenly I was an expert on the Bible and people were listening to me. The nerd in me was no more. I was powerful because I was in a leadership position. I had never been there before.”

I understood what he was saying. I wasn’t an introvert in high school or college, but I wasn’t the most popular person in school. I was in advanced classes and studied hard. I took college seriously and felt pressure to make good grades. I was a good kid and rarely did anything wrong. Yeah, I had a little nerd in me.

The call to ministry came. I went to seminary and absorbed all kinds of information. Lots of it. In fact, it was overwhelming. Truth be known, it made me a little cocky about what I knew about God. I went from a nerd about a few seminarythings to a serious nerd about the Bible.

Think about it. Pastors are people you ask when you really want to know something about the truth of God. They are the repository of knowledge about all things God. Right?

Imagine all the impact these things have on a guy who was a little nerdy growing up and may have been introverted or a little subdued.

First, he now has a large amount of knowledge that a group of people care about. He has Bible knowledge. That is stuff that a congregation cares about. Don’t believe me? Go ask a medium or large sized church what one of their main qualifications for a pastor is – it’s a seminary degree. They want a man with knowledge. And hey, a nerd fits right in. He’s in a position where for years, his nerdiness has been made fun of, laughed at or ridiculed. But suddenly, he’s praised for it.

Secondly, he gets a platform to speak from. For a long time, no one really listened to his thoughts or ideas about his dreams, hopes or visions. Now? He has a Master of Divinity from a respected seminary. He has a captive audience each week. Not only that, but he has been given the keys to the ship. He’s the spiritual leader of a church. No one has ever respected him that much. Honestly. Before, he was seen as someone to get answers from on test day. He was the guy that people wanted to copy his homework. Now? He’s in charge.

There’s a lot of respect that goes along with being a pastor. Bro., Rev., Pastor – all of those names carry respect. Respect that the man may have not gotten before. Every Sunday he gets accolades from people when he preaches and does great things in the church. And it’s an awesome, unexpected thing. It has never been felt before. And it a gateway to pride – if the pastor does not expect it.

eggheadThird, this is a thing I have witnessed. When I was in seminary, I struggled a little bit. And I consider myself a smart guy. But there were people there who were a thousand times smarter than me. I was the guy who did the best he could, but was still listening to the NCAA Tournament on headphones during church history class. I made great grades and soaked a lot of it in. But many of the guys around me were just super smart. They went above and beyond what I was doing.

I remember one time right before my church history final (I had a B at the time), I was still having trouble wrapping my head around all the information. I hate history. My brain does not process history. It never has. I was walking through the commons at seminary and I saw a group of students who were always sitting together having theological conversations. They were nerds. I knew most of them from class. I said, “Hey, eggheads, can one of you give me a quick rundown on the Anabaptists?

They did. It was disrespectful of me to call them that. And they knew it. And I was expecting a one minute answer and I got a ten minute convoluted answer. And I think they did it on purpose. But guess what? I was an egghead too.

I remember when I pastored, people often said, “You have to remember we’re not as smart as you. You need to find a way to relate to us better.” That was their nice way of saying, “Dumb it down, fool.

Jesus did that. I mean, get this – Jesus learned with the best of them in His day. He was one of the most learned men around. Yet He spoke in parables, agricultural terms, and in ways his audience would understand. When I was a pastor, I would sneak in a big word just to show how smart I was. That’s pride.

Here’s the deal – many pastors were nerds growing up. Then they got the call to ministry. They went to seminary and found that people were suddenly listening to them. People were finding Christ while they preached. They went from zero to hero. The guys that were bullying them were now sitting in membership classes under them. Don’t think for a second that pride doesn’t want to inch its way into that door and do some damage to the minister.

Every pastor has to shake off the pride. We aren’t there to show off what we know. Yeah, we do know more than most church-goers. We’ve been trained in the Bible. We are a little nerdy. We have more book knowledge than people in the pew. But what does that really get us?compassion1

So what if we can explain off the cuff what a parable means? So what if we can tell a church member the differences between the minor and major prophets? So what if we can use big words in our sermons and show our awesome education?

If there’s not love and compassion behind our words, we’re nothing but a bunch of crass nerds. Worse, if we continue in that behavior, it turns to pride. We think we are better than the people we serve. And we are not. We are less.

And those of you who know the Scriptures are already thinking about Christ washing the disciple’s feet. No seminary degree, no amount of years behind a pulpit, no amount of Bible knowledge will make you better than anyone else. Trust me. I know.

The second we fool ourselves into thinking that we are better than any single one of our church members, we have fallen into a trap that can quickly lead us into a serious fall. If we treat the ministry as a way to become great over others, there’s a fall waiting for us. And it can be great. Huge. And it will erase all you have done.

Hey, it’s okay to still be a nerd. Just be a humble nerd for Christ. Serve those who need to be served. Love those who need to be loved. Show compassion to those who no one else is showing compassion to. Don’t treat God as a thing to be studied, but as one to be worshipped and in awe of. If you do, the people will follow.

__________________

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

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

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

 

Pastors & Killer Expectations, 4: Ready, Set, Humilify!

Posted by fallenpastor | Posted in Christ, church, church members, churches, communication, expectations, fallenness, humillity, marriage, pastoring, pastors | Posted on 02-10-2013

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humilityMy family went on vacation last summer to St. Louis. During the trip, our youngest, Leslie, made up a word. She didn’t mean to, it just came out. And it was pretty funny – she said something like, “Why is that guy being such a tweezernozzer?” A new word was born. Tweezernozzer can be a verb, noun or adjective. “That guy sure is a tweezernozzer.” “Luke, I am your tweezernozzer.” “I’m going to go out and tweezernozzer after I make about $1,000.”

The girls wore the word out from Mt. Vernon, Illinois (the place of the word’s creation) to St. Louis.

I mention it because if you’ve been reading the last few posts, you’ll understand that pastors face killer expectations and need to do something about it. Something serious. Killer expectations come from a lot of different places, they can’t be juggled and you can’t simply cope with them. Killer expectations, if they’re not dealt with, are one of the leading causes of pastoral burnout or ministry failure. It’s a topic I deal with extensively in my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.”

So what is a pastor supposed to do with these extremely high expectations that come from without, within and can be as overbearing as a category five hurricane?

A pastor has to learn to learn a new word. Like tweezernozzer. But it’s the word humilify. I’m sure the word exists in someone else’s imagination out there. If I wasn’t too lazy to Google it, I’m sure I could find it on the interwebs. Humility is a state of being. And it’s a great word. But I like humilify better. It came to me while I was thinking about this post. The pastor has to actively appropriate humility to every area of his life. There’s not really a word for that. But there is now.

If the pastor is going to delete killer expectations so he won’t be overcome with stress or defeat, he has got to humilify his entire life. In the last few posts, the point has been made that wrong expectations come from the church’s wrong expectations of the pastor, the pastor’s wrong expectations of himself, or the pastor’s misunderstanding of God’s role for him. Worse, if any mix of these is happening, the pastor can become miserable and begin to carry home his unhappiness and it will begin to erode his marriage.

So what’s a pastor to do with killer expectations? Kick them out the door. I’ve been there and I know it doesn’t sound

Tell those killer expectations to, "Stay out of the Woolworth's!"

Tell those killer expectations to, “Stay out of the Woolworth’s!”

practical at this moment, especially if you are living in a position where you dread going to work each time the church doors open. But I’ve interviewed a lot of guys and I hope the following advice is a little helpful.

1. Realize you are not in the right frame of mind if you are overcome with killer expectations. You could be on one of two ends of the spectrum as a  pastor. You could become idolized and placed on a pedestal. You can also become beat down with expectations. Neither are good places to be in. Know that you do not see yourself objectively. You think you do, but you do not. You may be angry, upset, tired, exhausted, cranky, irritated, or any number of things and not realize it. Go into this situation knowing you need help from your peers. Peers who understand you. Get ready to humilify yourself to someone you can confide in.

2. Get into touch with God, the one who defined you in the first place. If anyone has set up right expectations for you, it’s God. He has placed you where you are and knows you need help if you are in crisis. If you’ve fallen out of fellowship with Him, return to Him. It may not be easy, but do it. Humilify yourself before him. Tell him how weak you are. You might even have to confess that you’ve tried to do more than He called you to do. He will respond and heal you.

3. Communicate with your church leadership. This part may seem like a nightmare to a lot of guys. You don’t have to tell them all at once. There are a few things that may have happened here. The church might not have communicated properly the job expectations to you in the beginning. Church members may have unwritten expectations that are overwhelming you. Or it could be something else. You could be trying to be superpastor. Either way, you’ve got to tell them. Tell them before it burns you out or ruins you. You’re not at that church to ruin yourself or offer yourself and your family as a sacrifice to the gods of overworking. Humilify yourself to your church.

superpast4. Talk to your wife. My mentor used to tell me that a wife has something that men don’t have that is more valuable than gold – intuition. Humilify yourself to your wife and just tell her about how you feel. Tell her about the expectations and what you plan to do about them. Tell her about your plans to communicate with others. You might just discover how smart your wife is.

5. Don’t stop humilifying. When this process is over, it’s going to be easy and fall back into old habits. Don’t do it. You have to remove yourself from it by replacing the old behavior with a new one. Instead of trying to meet old expectations, strive to humilify. Ask yourself, “Why am I desiring to do this new task? Is it for me, for the body of Christ, for my edification, or for someone else’s?

Pastors do a lot of things under the guise of false humility. We will do extracurricular tasks that we know no one else will do and before long, we are over worked and over stressed. The entire time we are doing it and ignoring our families we are telling ourselves, “It’s okay, it will help someone.” Don’t do it anymore. Humilify. Seek God first. Ask Him. If He has a program or activity He really wants done, He’ll find someone to do it, right?

Pastors and churches, we’re here to work together as the body of Christ. Humilifying together. To seek His glory. No one person in the church should ever be overwhelmed with an entire load of work that burns them out so much that they want to pull their hair out. Christ has called us to strive and thrive together.

__________________

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.