Category Archives: church

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

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.

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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?

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.

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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.

 

Are Many Pastors Former Nerds?

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.

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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, 4: Ready, Set, Humilify!

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

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.

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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, 2: Can They Be Juggled?

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?

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.

____________________________

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

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?

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?

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.