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I got to preach last Sunday. It was pretty sweet. When I preached before, I’ll be honest. I took it for granted. I go months between chances to preach now. Before, it was all about me. Now? It’s a very humbling thing. It covers things like, “When are we supposed to forgive? Who are...

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

Posted by Ray Carroll | 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.

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

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

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

 

Pastors & Killer Expectations, 3: How To Cope

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in anxiety, Christ, church, church members, churches, conflict, expectations, ministry, pastoring, pastors, preachers, stress | Posted on 30-09-2013

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cruiseHow can a pastor cope with killer expectations? He can’t. If you find yourself coping, you’re not doing it right.  Coping is getting by. It’s like using one oar to paddle a cruise liner through the Bermuda Triangle. It’s not going to happen if you just try and “cope.”

You want to know how you need help? If half of your bookshelf is filled with titles like, “How to Manage Conflict in the Church,” or “Burnout in the Life of the Pastor.” You have got to get help. More than that, you’ve got to change your lifestyle and how you communicate with your church.

Let’s go back for a moment though. For my book, “Fallen Pastor,” I did a lot of research. Before my fall from ministry (long before I ever even thought about committing adultery), I lived the life of the stressed out pastor. I knew stressed out pastors. I still do. And after I fell, I talked to a lot of fallen pastors who told me that one of the factors that was part of their lives was high expectations – killer expectations.

So what do we do about killer expectations before they catch up to us? I want to address how it appears that most pastors deal with them – wrongly. I’m a seminary educated guy. I understand the purpose of seminary. It’s a theological education. There were a few practical classes spread out in there for good measure. But for the most part, I didn’t learn how to manage expectations or people.

I was surprised about how little I really knew about how to deal with people after two years of ministering. During that time, I was talking to a church member about seminary. I was dealing with some conflict in the church and she asked, “Didn’t they teach you how to deal with that in seminary?” Not really. I didn’t even learn how to curse in Greek effectively so they couldn’t understand what I was saying to them when I got mad.complaints

Where does a pastor go after he has a bad Sunday? You know, after the church gossip tells him that she heard from her aunt’s friend that he hadn’t visited Miss Suzie in three months when he had actually just seen her last week. When two deacons approach him separately about some problems with the music leader. When a trustee wants to meet with him on Tuesday about a “budget problem.” When two ladies want to talk about VBS issues at the same time. When four Sunday School teachers tell him they’re all going on vacation – next week – and can he please find a replacement? When three new families visit for the third time that day and he hasn’t gotten around to visiting them yet for very good reasons. When during the invitation time, he thought he had prepared a good sermon, but felt he had just been flat.

Where does he go? Who does he talk to? How does he manage all these killer expectations?

Most pastors are taught to not form close relationships within their church. I don’t know where this comes from, but ask any pastor (if they’re willing to be candid with you) and they’ll tell you it’s true. I wrote about it pretty extensively in the book, so I won’t discuss it heavily here. I think it comes from the idea that if a pastor makes close friends with someone in the church, they might turn on you. It can happen. Some people can turn on you and some pastors learn this the hard way. It’s also true that solid friendships can be made within the church. In my experience, though, most pastors don’t form strong relationships with families in the church.

How about staff members? For pastors who are blessed to have staff members, some can have a close relationship with their fellow pastors on staff. Again, I’ve heard the same thing. Some keep them at arms length while others nurture a close relationship. I’ve talked to guys who are pastors at large churches and many of them are content to be a CEO type and run it like an organization. They have great prayer time at their weekly meeting and let everyone attend to their own projects each week. It’s difficult for anyone on staff to meet the expectations they have and nurture any kind of relationship.

What about fellow pastors? In a lot of communities, there are meetings among the local pastors. Some of these are fruitful and interesting. Sometimes, these meetings turn into internal contests of envy. Some guys love to compare congregation size or budget allocation. A lot of guys don’t. For some pastors, they brood internally, looking at what front doorother men have instead of dwelling on what God has trusted them with. On the other hand, I’ve seen some pastors have a great relationship of accountability and trust that extends all the way back to seminary.

So who is left? I get the feeling that a lot of pastors (for the first few years) go home and complain to their spouse. It’s like many occupations. Who else gets to hear what went wrong that day but your other half?

When the pastor comes home the question, “How was your day?” is not met with, “Oh, it was a blessing from God! It was an amazing pouring out of His Spirit!” Nope. Instead, the wife gets to hear after a Sunday service, “What a horrible day. You’re not going to believe what that busybody Helen said to me. Those deacons were meeting over in the corner. Who knows what they were talking about!

The pastor’s wife might have just had a wonderful worship experience and not have even noticed anything was awry. So for the first few years of pastoral experience, she may be in shock when her husband complains. When I interviewed these men, the pattern was unmistakable. They said after a few years, their wives just stopped listening. Either that, or they told them to stop telling them about what was going on at church. Honestly, I can’t blame them.

Most people don’t see church from the pastor’s high stress viewpoint. When he hits the door, he has to know that his wife may not see it that way either.

That’s one of the reasons the pastor has to learn how to do more than just cope. Coping isn’t going to work in the long run. It won’t cut stress, it won’t help him manage his life and it won’t make him an effective leader.

If there are killer expectations, the pastor has to go to the root of it and find out where they are coming from. Are they originating from a misunderstanding between him and the church? Are they there because he is placing too much stress pastphon himself? Is there sin in his own life? Does the church have unrealistic expectations of him? A lot can be solved with communication. That communication may not be easy at first, but it may save a serious problem in the long run.

Don’t cope. Thrive. Excel. Know that Christ didn’t put his leaders in a position to fail miserably and lead miserably. He has placed them there to lean on Him and glorify Him in all things. He didn’t put them there to go home every night and complain loudly in front of their spouses or kick the cat. He has many plans for his leaders. Success everyday? No. But he has promised us peace amidst the storm.

__________________

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, 2: Can They Be Juggled?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in brokenness, church, church members, churches, conflict, expectations, pastoring, pastors | Posted on 28-09-2013

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dayoffYou’re a pastor. It’s finally your ‘day off.’ (Some of you are laughing already). Another week of preaching, sermon prep, visitation, phone calls, crisis management, complaints wrapped in sugar coating, leadership meetings, and time of prayer behind you. A day to yourself. Maybe you’ll start by spending time with your family (after you make a few phone calls to church members who are recovering or ill) or maybe you’ll finally finish that book you started six months ago.

Then it happens. Your cell phone rings. It’s ‘you-know-who.’ Yeah. That church member. The one who never gets off the phone in under 30 minutes. But if you don’t answer it, you’ll hear about it later. Or you’ll get six more phone calls the rest of the day until you do answer. Your heart pounds. Maybe they’re calling for a real good reason this time. Maybe there’s been a death. Maybe there’s a real crisis.

But it’s my day OFF!

You answer the phone, muttering to yourself, “Pastors don’t get a day off…”

Pastors face a lot of tasks. Can they all be juggled? Easy answer. Absolutely not.

The last time I saw someone juggling was a dude who had eight flaming chainsaws. And he was a professional. Even then, I wouldn’t recommend it. It took an amazing amount of concentration and he got at least four days off a week. No joke. Can a pastor live, thrive, and lead the flock whilst “juggling” tasks that are primary to the health of his own spiritual life and the church? No.

If the pastor is going to merely survive for a while, then come crashing down to the earth and burnout, then absolutely. Feel free to juggle. That’s what juggling is. Having at least ten things in your hands, but only having each of them come into contact with your attention for mere seconds. Can it be done and mastered over time? Sure. But I don’t recommend it. It can lead to failure as I chronicled in my book about fallen pastors.

Pastoral tasks need to be managed wisely. I’m not here to tell you how to manage your time better. There are better men jugglingthan me who can tell you how to do that. But I can tell you this – if you are a pastor and don’t know what your church expects out of you, then don’t get upset when you’re juggling those 16 tasks later that you’ve put on your own plate. If you’re a church leader and you haven’t given your pastor a good job description, then don’t get upset when he doesn’t do more than preach, teach or basic visitation.

Expectations much be shared mutually between pastors and churches. The church needs to outline their basic understanding of what they expect the pastor to do. You know what is just as important? The church leadership telling the rest of the church what the pastor is expected to do.

I have a friend who was given an excellent job description by his church leadership. Unfortunately, there were a lot of people who thought he was supposed to be in charge of an outreach program when the leadership made it clear to him that the Sunday School superintendent was in charge of it. After about six weeks of infighting, a lot of unnecessary emails and backbiting, they finally got it figured out.

The pastor needs to do two things. First, if he feels he has failings or weaknesses in any area, he needs to be upfront. Not very good at visitation? Fine. Then get help, find someone to go with you or let the church get him some training. But don’t hold back that information. Don’t let the weakness become a point of contention that people can pick at when things begin to go wrong, friend.

expectationSecondly, I think it’s fair for the pastor to let the church know that much is expected of them. Share with them what Christ’s expectations of the church are. Keep it biblical and sound. It never hurts to have a series on roles in the church. What is required of elders, deacons, and members of the body of Christ?

And that’s ultimately it, isn’t it? We are the body of Christ. Any time we have overly high expectations of any human being, we really need to check ourselves. We are all members of the same body, all with different functions, but all with an important task.

But I’ll tell you this, I have extremely high expectations of my Savior. Because He delivers. He has never failed His church. He does expect more out of his leaders, but never more than He has asked of Himself. In fact, what He asks is far less than what He gave to us.

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

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

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

 

The Book, “Fallen Pastor”: Who Is It For?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, book, church, culture, fallenness, forgiveness, hurt, Jonathan Brink, ministry, pastoring, pastors, preachers, reconciliation, repentance | Posted on 25-09-2013

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When I started working with my editor, Jonathan Brink at Civitas Press, on the idea of writing Fallen Pastor: Finding fallen pastorRestoration in a Broken World,” I had a lot of things I thought I wanted to write about. Thankfully, I had a great editor who got me focused and on task.

In the book, you’ll find statistics about the serious trouble our churches and pastors are facing. It’s worse than you think. Just one statistic – one in three pastors (still in the pulpit) has had an encounter with the opposite sex where they “crossed the line.” Yeah, there’s more.

After that, I tell my story and the story of eleven other men who fell from ministry. In doing so, I look for patterns that might help prevent ministry failure. In the second half of the book, I address sin, the church culture, and how to address the issue.

So, who is the book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World” for?

1. Fallen Pastors, of course.

Statistics tell us that each month, 1,500 pastors leave the ministry due to conflict, burnout or moral failure. Where are they going to? Where do they run to? More importantly, these guys didn’t just wake up one day and say, “Hey, I think I’ll commit adultery!”

Truth be known, the life after a fall is very lonely. I’m not asking for sympathy for the fallen pastor, but it is something that needs to be understood. He is suddenly a lonely, rejected figure who now will carry around the Scarlet “A” on his chest for the rest of his life. Depression, anxiety and suicide may cross his mind. He may never find a church to even visit again.

Better yet, if you know a fallen pastor and have a decent relationship with them, buy them the book. Share my email address with them and/or website. Tell them I’m here to talk. That’s part of the package deal with the book. The main reason I wanted to write was because there’s noting out there like this book. Unless you’ve been there, it s difficult to understand. When I talk to newly fallen ministers, they often say, “You’re the only one who understands.” I’m not here to judge, but I won’t condone sin either.

There are a lot of fallen ministers in our midst. There are actually several ministries designed to help them, but they are overloaded and there aren’t enough of them. Worse, many fallen pastors never reach out for the help they need. Why? Well, one reason is the way in which they are cast out. Too often, once a pastor’s sin is discovered, he’s thrown out with the garbage. That leads us to #2 . . .

2. The Church Culture

churchc

When pastors fall, church members always ask, “Why did he do it? How could he do it?” It’s a question I deal with extensively in the book.

After many discussions with my editor, his main concern was that pastors were falling in the first place. “Why are they falling?” he asked me. “There have to be reasons besides their own sin.”

It was a hard thing to tackle. It’s hard to write a book about circumstances around the falls of pastors without sounding like you’re trying to make excuses for your own adultery. But I did the best I could.

So I set out to interview a lot of fallen pastors, counselors, seminary people, and whoever would talk to me. I wanted to know, “Has something been going on in our churches where our knee-jerk reaction is to simply kick out the pastor when we find out he has committed adultery?” And that is the norm. Against everything we find in Galatians 6:1, we just run the minister out of town.

But again, that’s a hard thing to write to people who are angry, hurt and upset over a minister who has stood in the pulpit and preached truth to them for so long. The one thing people have told me – even those who have never experience the failure of a church leader – is that the book taught them a lot about forgiveness.

3. For people whose pastor fell

It hurts. It really hurts when your pastor falls. There are all kinds of feelings that a church goes through. But through reading, I hope a church can do more than just identify with a fallen pastor. I hope they can take the first steps toward forgiveness. The first steps toward reconciliation.

It won’t be easy. It won’t be a short process. It will however, be worth it if it is done right.

4. For pastors who haven’t fallen

Hey, guess what? All of us frail, sinful people are moments away from sliding down that slippery slope. Pastors? None of us are exempt. I used to think I was. I used to be the guy who thought, “That could never happen to me.” Then after conflict, tragedy after tragedy, there I was, faced with it all. And I fell. And I fell hard.

Some people have read my book and didn’t like it. Some have read it and liked it a lot. Some in both groups used a similar word: “Sickening.” When they read of the sins that had been committed by fallen pastors, they were nauseated. That’s how we should feel when we sin against a holy God.

I didn’t go into graphic detail in the book about the affairs, but I let people know that there is sin against God involved.

So who is this book for? Really everyone. It’s even for people who don’t feel holy enough to get into heaven. You’re not. Just read the book and find out that all of us are a bunch of sinners in need of grace. Join the club and know how great and deep the love and grace of Christ is.

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

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

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

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

 

A Pastor’s Story That Has Haunted Me

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, church, forgiveness, grace, pastoring, pastors, reconciliation, regret, suicide | Posted on 23-09-2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

A couple of weeks ago, I ran into a former church member of mine. Here is how the conversation went:

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

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

She said, “But it looked so good.

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

She said, “You did a very good job.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s all that is asked of us.

_______________________

Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” If you are interesting in having him speak, or are a fallen pastor or church in need of guidance, please click here.

Is Repentance Possible For a Fallen Pastor?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, Christ, church, forgiveness, repentance, restoration | Posted on 21-09-2013

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Online Info About Fallen PastorsWhen a pastor falls from the ministry, due to adultery, embezzlement, alcoholism, or whatever, the immediate desired response is that he repent on the spot. Repentance, as we know it, is a turning away from his sin and moving back toward God. If he has left his wife or committed adultery, he needs to cut off all contact with the woman he is with and try to reconcile with his wife and family.

To do this, he needs the help of his church, counselors, and spiritual people who are willing to walk with him in restoration for a long time. It will be a difficult process. It will be a long process. In the beginning, he may not want to come back, but if he shows repentance, along with the support of the church, he may come back.

Even if he does, he will always have the albatross of sin tied around his neck for the rest of his life. I do know of many pastors who restored with their wives who reentered into ministry under the care of gracious churches.

That’s the easy one. Then we have the pastors, who I have written about extensively in my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” who for whatever reason, decided not to turn from their sin. In my book, I talk about the stages the pastor goes through in the early days of his fall. He is angry over a lot of things, he feels rejected, he knows he has sinned, yet he is looking to justify his sin.

Few reach out to him and often, the only friend he has is the woman he has chosen to be with. These aren’t excuses for an unrepentant attitude, they are the reality in which he lives.

Which brings me to a most important point – his issues didn’t start overnight. He didn’t wake up one day and decide to commit adultery. His temptation was preceded by years of issues, conflict, marriage issues and ultimately, temptation. The confusion he now finds himself in are a result of his own sin and he has to face the consequences.

He may reach out to his wife at some point to discuss reconciliation to find it isn’t possible. He may not wait long enough Common Traits Of The Fallen Pastor, Part 3: Being Judgmentalfor the anger to reside. He may just be stagnant in his sin and keep pushing on. He may just want to be with this new woman. Regardless, he has made his choice, leaving many people behind hurt and disillusioned.

Someday, though, the light goes on. It probably goes on after he’s remarried or after reconciliation with his wife has long passed. His heart begins to turn to God and He realizes he has sinned greatly, but there is little he can do about his sin.

He knows he can write letters of apology, call the church deacons, apologize to his former wife, family, but he cannot undo the past. He turns to God for forgiveness and God forgives. He always does.

King David committed adultery with Bathsheba, then to hide his sin, he had her husband murdered. There’s no reconciliation to be had there with anyone. But after his sin was discovered, he poured out his heart to God for forgiveness. But where’s the repentance? He can’t undo the adultery and murder. God wanted a repentant heart in David. And David was broken when he wrote Psalm 56 and I believe he turned his heart to God.

There are many that believe that a fallen pastor who did not reconcile with his wife can never be truly repentant. They make a good point. Their point is that unless you go back to your wife and family, you are not repentant. You are still a sinner and out of the will of God.

I’ve posed this question to a lot of counselors and seminary professors and people with a much higher pay grade than me. Why? Not so I could justify myself. But because I want to be right with God. After my divorce, reconciliation was not to be had, I remarried and went on. I spent a  lot of time in anger and bitterness.

Then, I had my moment with God. My moment where I asked if I could be truly repentant. I was reminded of the woman caught in adultery. He told her to “Go and sin no more.” I was reminded of the tax collectors who came to Christ and the result of their life was to stop living in a way that was dishonoring to God. The thief on the cross was granted entrance into heaven based on his belief. Paul, on the road to Damascus, was transformed by Christ and his life took a turn completely God-ward.

None of these people could do anything about their past at that point. It was what it was. The tax collector refunded the people’s money. Some could go and apologize to those they had harmed. But Christ desired a heart change. He wanted them to “go and sin no more.” He wanted the sin they had committed that led them there to stop.

Forgiveness: Introduction To A Tough TopicQuote me how divorce is adultery and remarriage is adultery. I understand. I understand the sins committed in those days were done out of my own selfishness, due to the circumstances around me, due to my own desire to sin. All my sin. But I also know I was forgiven.

And if I quote Hershael York once (as I do in my book), I’ll quote him a thousand times. He said to me, “You have to make your repentance more notorious than your sin.” He wasn’t excusing what I had done, but recognizing that I had sinned. But now that I had, I had to live a life of holiness, a life pleasing to God.

Unfortunately, for the fallen pastor, for many, he will always be seen as the man with the Scarlet Letter emblazoned upon him. Not worthy of forgiveness or trust. Hated by many, scorned by his former pastor friends, and not worthy of any service to God. I know better. There is hope. God is never done with His servants who turn their hearts toward Him. God has forgotten your sin if you repent and turn away from former things. Even if others bring it up, God has cast it as far as the east is from the west.

If you’re a fallen pastor and are reading this, regardless of what stage you are in, there is hope for repentance. Deep down, you know what to do. Turn to God, seek Him and He will answer.

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Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” a book for fallen pastors, church members, leaders, and anyone who wants to learn more about forgiveness. If you or your church are in need of help, please feel free to contact him.

1,500 Pastors Are Leaving The Ministry A Month – Did You Notice?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, church, churches, conflict, ministry, pastoring, pastors | Posted on 20-09-2013

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missingThere is a tragedy that has been taking place for a long time around us. According to one statistic, 1,500 pastors a month leave the ministry due to conflict, burnout, or moral failure. 1,500. If you prefer annual statistics, that’s 18,000 a year.

I remember on the first day of seminary orientation, the leader told us that only half of us in that room would graduate. Of that half, only half would make it two years.

The ministry is a difficult thing. It is hard on the pastor, his family and his emotions. Unless you’ve been “behind the curtain“, it’s hard to know exactly what a pastor goes through. There are high expectations (which should be there), unrealistic expectations (which should not be there), feelings of isolation, a distancing between himself and his spouse and the daily grind of ministry. Behind all of this, the pastor forges ahead, seeking to do what he feels is right, chasing after the ministry. In the end, many leave disillusioned with bitterness, sin and a wounded church left in the wake.

In my book, Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” I deal primarily with those pastors who leave the ministry after committing adultery. In most cases, they leave in shame, without counseling and are thrown on the trash heap of Christendom. But there are more casualties than that. There are those who leave the ministry because of too much stress, pressure and an easier life. Even they are scorned to some degree.

In the end, it is easier for those in the churches to disperse blame upon the pastor for leaving. In the case of the adulterer, it was most certainly his decision. He sinned and he is to be held accountable. Those who leave because they “just couldn’t take it anymore” are often viewed as weak and abandoning their call. To view it in this way, from one set of circumstances, will simply cause the American church to continue in a crisis that it has been engaged in for a long time and may not have realized it.

There is a culture in our churches today that together with the heart of the minister, weakens those in ministry. Statistics bear it out. Over 60% of pastors are battling depression. In one report, close to a majority of them felt the ministry was destroying their marriage. This isn’t to blame the modern church. It is however, a way to say that something is wrong. It cannot always be the fault of the ministers who seem to be abandoning ship at such a high rate.

What if we were able to step back from the problem? What if we could see that there is a severe culture issue at hand that Fallen_Pastor_Cover_1200wneeds to be addressed? One that needs to be addressed in the heart of the minister as well as the way we run our churches? I believe there is.

In my book, I interviewed several experts and fallen pastors and came to a startling conclusion. Many pastors are not chasing after the things they need to chase after – they are chasing after the ideal of ministry. In turn, many churches are placing their pastors on a pedestal that is unrealistic. Together, this causes the minister to chase after ministry instead of Christ. His attention turns to something other than what he was originally called to do. In turn, the relationship he has with his wife suffers. His feelings about ministry suffer. He begins to seek after affirmation instead of the comfort of Christ.

There is no blame to be cast here. What needs to happen is an awareness of the culture we have cultivated. Pastors are not honest about their weaknesses. Churches are puffing their leaders up very highly. Pastors become isolated and disengaged. Eventually, many find a way out. Adultery, quitting, or leaving after a conflict. Are they the right responses? Sin is never the right response.

Prevention is the best approach. Deal with the culture that is in play. How many of us know churches that run through a pastor in about three years and cast him aside? How many of us know pastors who are at their wits end and are struggling to find meaning? How many of us know churches that seek definition not in the person of Christ but in their leadership or programs?

I don’t want to see any more pastors fall. I pray that my book will help those who have fallen, those who are on the verge of a fall, the churches who desire to change their culture, and those who desire to restore the fallen.

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Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World is available at Amazon.com in paperback or Kindle format.

Leaning In, Not Stepping Back: Sinners As Modern Day Lepers

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in Christ, church, church members, forgiveness, gospel, jesus, sin | Posted on 12-08-2013

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I wrote about this a few weeks ago, but it happened again and I have given it more thought.  I was at a social event and a backwoman walked up to me and told me I looked familiar. She really couldn’t tell who I was and I danced around it a bit until I told her I was former pastor of a church in the area.

That’s when it all came together for her. It’s usually the same treatment when they realize I was the pastor who committed adultery. There’s this flash of shock in the eyes followed quickly by a step backwards (or two). Then, there’s an immediate need on their part to exit the conversation. Their speech begins to get quicker, their eyes dart around the room for someone else to connect to, and there is a sudden need to do anything – anything – but talk to you.

Yeah, I get it. I’m the adulterer. I’m the guy who sinned almost four years ago while pastoring a church. Before I did it I would probably act the same way as you.

There are other types as well. They are the people who see you in public and make accidental eye contact with you. They do everything they can do to avoid running into you. I like to wave as big as I can to them across the store. I don’t know what the proper thing to do there is, but I figure if they’re trying to ignore me, they need a big happy smile.

leperThe whole thing makes me think about leprosy. Yeah, that nasty disease referred to in the New Testament. It could have meant any number of skin lesions that people suffered from. They were societal outcasts who had to keep their distance from someone. Ever talk to someone with a skin disease? What’s our first response? We may not mean it in a bad way, but we usually flinch or step backwards.

Same response we give to people we know are sinners. People who were leaders and fell due to great sin. People covered with tattoos (who actually might be a youth leader at a local church). People we find out are in recovery. But we like to flinch. We may say nice little things with our mouths, but our bodies want to run 100 mph in the other direction.

If you’ve never been on the receiving end of a flinch, you have no idea what it’s like or how it feels.

But I know someone who never flinched around a leper or a sinner – Christ. He touched lepers, the weak, needy, poor, adulterers, prostitutes and downtrodden. He went out of his way to interact with them. When no doctor, priest, church leader would have any contact with them, he gave them hope.

He’s our model for sinner interaction. Better yet, he reached out to us in our sin and died for us – the Bible says, “such 1cor6were some of you.” Think about how we looked to God – who cannot look upon sin – covered in sin, far from righteousness – and yet Christ came to us and saved us.

Maybe we should watch our actions around others. Those who offend our delicate senses with their sin. Maybe we should be people of compassion like Christ and start leaning in instead of stepping back.

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Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.”

The Devil Made Me Commit Adultery?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, church, pastoring, pastors, spiritual warfare | Posted on 20-06-2013

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You may not have been reading this blog long enought to know, but I was a Southern Baptist pastor for eight years. I never thought I would, but I committed adultery, and my wife and I divorced. I married the woman I committed adultery with and we are happy now. However, there were times of misery and pain. It took me a long time to repent before God of my sin.

jezebelIn the two years before my sin, my father and mother died in separate accidents. My church was going through conflict. Other factors were affecting me. It was a troubling time. Probably the worst time of my life. I was vulnerable. My marriage of almost 15 years had not been the best. I turned my attention to someone close to me, someone in my church. Someone very close to my wife. I detail all of it in the book I wrote about fallen pastors.

Even though the circumstances leading up to my fall were awful, I own my sin. I did it. The circumstances pushed me to the edge, but I was the one who took the plunge. I am responsible for my sin.

That’s why I was disappointed with an article I read recently, an article I really don’t even want to link to. But others have been critical of it, so I will mention it. The blog post is called, “Why Megachurch Pastors Keep Falling Into Sexual Immorality.”

I was hoping it would be a serious look into the issue. Something helpful to churches, pastors, associational directors, wives of pastors, and anyone who wants to change the state of things. In my book, my idea is that the culture of church needs to be changed. There are things that we all can do to change the state of the American church and stop the fact that 1,500 American pastors a month are leaving the ministry due to conflict, burnout or moral failure.

The author states: “The spirit of Jezebel is often behind this immoral trend, tapping into the lust of the flesh with its seductive agenda.

The basic idea is that spiritual warfare is causing pastors to fall into sin: “Jezebel is essentially a spirit of seduction that woos people into sexual immorality and idolatry. Jezebel comes to kill, steal and destory (sic) by tempting you and then escorting you, willingly, into immorality and idolatry.

The author is concerned because there has been a recent rash of pastor failure in the Orlando area. So, the answer must be that there is a demonic spirit on the loose making pastors weak.

So, pastors are falling because of a mega-demon named Jezebel. This whole article reminded me of the writings of Frank Peretti. A member of the perettiAssembly of God church, he wrote two very gripping novels that dealt with the presence of the demonic in the world – “This Present Darkness” and “Piercing the Darkness.” Published in the late ’80s and early ’90s, these fiction books portrayed a world where Christians needed to pray in order to fight huge demons so that God could be victorious in the world.

The demons were responsible for the sins of unbelievers and the only way people could be victorious over them was to “bind them” with prayer and fasting.

Even though these books were fiction, they had a huge impact on how millions of Christians viewed the world. The impact of these books and their theology are still strong in many churches today. It’s hard not to see the impact of them in the blog author’s writing.

For arguments sake, whether there is a Jezebel demon or not, the pastor has to repent and face the truth. The church can fight the Peretti war all they want, but ministers will fall. Then what? Jezebel won? Not in my Bible. In Luke 10:18, Jesus said he saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.

Is there evil in this world? Yes. But are we to blame our sin on an unseen force lurking to do us in? No.

Don’t get me wrong. There is an adversary who wants us to fall. But for the believer, we have been shown a way out of temptation. A victory. For those who fall, they choose to fall. But there is also forgiveness for that sin.

But let’s be clear. A pastor does not wake up one morning with the spirit of Jezebel upon him or her and say, “Hey, adultery sounds good.” And that pastor does not commit adultery because another Christian failed to bind the demon of Jezebel. It’s not sound theology.

I have spent the past four years interviewing and counseling fallen pastors to find out what makes them tick. Why do they fall?

One commenter on the article tried to explain the “spirit of Jezebel” and the sin pastors commit: “We are not blaming an evil spirit for the wrongs men do, but the reason they fall into doing them is not because they wanted to, but because they have been seduced and deceived by the Jezebel spirit to do them! Anyone who doesn’t understand this, doesn’t have a clue how powerful that spirit is… Just wait till it happens to you. You won’t be so quick to dismiss it then.”

spirtwarThe commenter said, “Just wait till (sic) it happens to you.” It did happen to me. I have interviewed and counseled at least 50 fallen pastors. And I am dismissing the author’s claim.

The fall is preceded by a myriad of conflict. Marriage failure, unrealistic expectations, isolation, and conflict within the church. Is Jezebel in there to mix it all up? No. How can I say that with certainty? There is no biblical evidence for it. Our sin is enough to rail against us.

These pressures felt by ministers and missionaries across the world are real. They are part of a broken church culture that need to be fixed. They come from ministers who cannot be honest with their spouses, their churches or themselves.

Blaming it on an unseen force that we assign a name to – a name that has no biblical standing – makes it even worse. It gives a reason for some to blame an unknown entity for their sin.

What a convenient excuse! For the adulterous pastor to be able to stand before congregation and family and say, “Friends, family, I did not mean to commit this sin. Jezebel, the spirit of seduction led me to it. Now you can see I am not fully guilty of my adultery!

Further, I don’t think the author has considered Matthew 16:18. We are not called to be on the defense against the adversary. Jesus said to Peter, “On this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Gates signify a defensive position. The church is on the offense. But for some reason, many feel that we are on the defensive against the enemy. What we need to be most concerned about are our own fleshly desires.

People!

Let’s get a hold of reality. We are humans. We love sin. Even Christians are prone to sin in times of weakness. Is it some super demon lurking in the shadows? I have a story to tell..

When I was in college, the Peretti fever was high among certain students. I had been at football practice as a student trainer all afternoon and was tired and headed to the cafeteria. It was 1995.  Peretti fever was in full through. There weren’t any seats available so I found one next to my suitemate Chris and his friends. They were praying. A lot. And not just for their meal.

I said, “What in the world is going on?”

One of them hushed me and said, “We have seen demons coming out of the administration building. We are about to make a stand.”

This was Perettism at it’s best. I wanted to crawl into a corner. Here I was at a conservative Baptist institution and students thought demons were in control after reading some Frank Peretti novels.

Before I could react, the kid sitting next to me stood up to me with a freaking bullhorn and said, “This,campus is under demonic attack. I have seen the spirit of Satan come from the offices of the president. Students, protect yourselves! We are not safe! Satan is here! Pray and fight!”

My head was buried in my mashed potatoes. A cafeteria worker shut him down real quick. I guess she was under demonic control. The friends I usually sat with, who knew scripture said to me, “Awesome, Ray. Guess you are ready for the demonic attack.”

In other words, it never came. God is in control. There is nothin to fear. When God’s people live as they should, we are a stronghold.

We are not resisting a war, we are taking battle to the adversary. And even when a pastor falls, God can make that mess into a message.

Do I believe in spiritual warfare? Absolutely. But the enemy is not on equal ground as our Creator. And I don’t agree with the presuppositions of jesusandpetethe author. We are creatures, who are, even with Christ within us, prone to sin.

Perfect example? Peter. He denied Christ three times. But after the resurrection, he was restored to the ministry to which Jesus had appointed Him.

Don’t forget about the demonic or the spiritual. But realize that the main battle we fight is within us. I fear that some are too quick to blame Satan for the troubles we face. I often hear, “Satan is right around the corner trying to make us sin.” Well, maybe. But I can promise you that each of us has a battle within us that is raging that we need to take care of first. Seek after Christ, follow His ways and the rest will be alright.

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

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

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

The Lure of the Affair: Why Do Pastors Commit Adultery?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, church, circumstance, hypocrisy, ministry, pastors, preachers, relationships, tv | Posted on 07-06-2013

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My site is discovered because of all types of searches. But one of the most common search phrases is “Why do pastors adulterycommit adultery?”

I did. Four years ago. I wasn’t looking to commit adultery – and I don’t believe most pastors who cross the line are looking for it. I wrote a book about my fall and the stories of eleven other men who fell. I learned a lot about the circumstances that can make a pastor weak. Pastors are responsible for their sin. There are emotional, marriage, church and other issues that I outline in my book that can make the pastor weak.

So how is it that those who are the most respected people in our communities can commit a sin that most everyone finds to be the ultimate example of betrayal? Even in Scripture, God uses the language of adultery to compare Israel to be a people who have abandoned Him spiritually.

Let’s back up for a moment. Without sounding cynical, I have always found it interesting how most people watch television and movie dramas. My favorite example is the movie, “Bridges of Madison County.” If you’re not aware of the plot, after a woman dies in her old age, her children discover she had a brief affair with a photographer a long time ago. The movie basically justifies her adultery by showing how the main character was neglected by her husband and how the photographer filled a void in her life. If you watch the movie, you will probably find yourself justifying her actions.

bridgesBut this is not a one time occurrence. Soap operas, movies, television, reality television (those are all very interesting links, by the way) are all set up to create sexual tension. Not to mention the 50 Shades drama over a year ago. We discovered that one of the main reading audiences was Christian women. We have a sexually charged society. We find ourselves rooting for characters to cheat on their spouses, but it’s okay, because they’re only characters in a fictional story.

But when adultery happens in our social circles or in our family, we find it appalling. And we should. Because it is.

But hold on for a second. When we see sex on the big screen, it is sensationalized and made to look like it has no consequences. Just like most violence. The first movie I can remember that ever showed the consequences of violence was “Unforgiven.” (Lots of Clint Eastwood in this blog.)

So where am I going with all of this?

I’m not justifying pastoral adultery. Don’t hear me saying that culture has made us weak and so any of us are prone to commit sin. No, that’s not it. But we do have an interesting social standard. We often think we are immune from television, the songs we hear, or the movies we watch. But we aren’t. How many of us tell our children, “Garbage in, garbage out“?

In my book, I note several things that lead a pastor to weakness: poor relationship with spouse, isolation, conflict with church, and overly high expectations.

Uncontrolled and not seeking help, any of us can be weakened to a point where we will commit sin. But adultery is one of the sins that most Americans seems to hate the most. Despite the fact that statistics show that 25% of Americans have cheated on their spouse but not been caught.

Should pastors or any other person cheat? No. It’s a sin. Are there factors that make people weak? Yes. When we commit temptationsin, it’s ours. We own it. Temptation may lead us to a sin, but we don’t have to commit it.

When someone is caught in an affair, there is obviously something that is fulfilling a desire for them. And it’s happening on several fronts. There may be a need that they feel their spouse isn’t fulfilling. There is an escape from stress or conflict. Guilt? Yes. But the risk is greater than the reward.

But nothing ever lasts like that. Affairs are temporary. Any way it goes, one of the people figures out that it’s a fairy tale or both of them figure out that they really want to be together. Everything falls apart. One of them wants everything or one of them realizes the risks and knows it’s not worth it. Maybe it’s guilt, maybe it’s true repentance. But most of the time the remorse comes after the physical sin has occurred.

I can’t tell you how many pastors have contacted me and said “Well, I’ve cheated, my wife doesn’t know, but I’ve stopped seeing the woman I was with. I’m just going to stop. I think I can go on like I was before.” No, you can’t. Scripture says that our sin will find us out.

One statistic in my book is that 33% of conservative clergy have crossed the line with a woman not heir spouse but have not been caught.

hereWhy do pastors commit adultery? The same reason anyone else does. Because we sin. Because something has broken in our relationship between God. Because something is broken in our relationship with our spouse. Because we allow ourselves to get weak and don’t reach out for help. Because we think we are stronger than we are. But we are not. We all need help. We need a community of faith, mentors, friends, family and a net to fall into.

But we fall when we think we can manage our grief, our pain, our conflict, our pain all on our own. We decide to find comfort elsewhere. We never would have considered it before, but when our souls are in pain, we will be more susceptible than we have ever been. All of us. Not just pastors.

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

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

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

If you are a church leader and still have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.