Featured Post

Words About Forgiveness From A Mormon Friend

I was working a basketball game last night for my sports medicine job. Before the game started, I was reading a book on my iPad with my Kindle app at the scorer’s table. A Mormon friend came and sat s between me and an old friend of mine who knows my story well (she does too). She saw me reading...

Read More

The Joel Osteen Hoax: How Much Do We Hate This Guy?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in anger, bitterness, church, criticize, current events, gossip, hate, hatred, hoax, pastors, preachers | Posted on 11-04-2013

6

You’ve probably heard it by now. But you may be wrong in what you heard.

Joel Osteen, the pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, the man with the smile that never seems to stop, doesn’t osteendrudgebelieve in God anymore. At least that was the “headline” running across the Internet days ago. There was an accompanying video, screenshots of stories from The Drudge Report, CNN and other media outlets. People shared this “story” and said thing like, “I knew he was a fake.”

Turns out, Joel Osteen never said any of those things. It was a hoax perpetrated by a guy who just wanted Joel to get “more real.” Impressively enough, even the one-stop shop for debunking Internet rumors, Snopes.com has a page addressing the issue. (Seriously, please go there if you read something or are forwarded something. Bill Gates does not really want to send you $5,000 for forwarding a text or Facebook message. Seriously.)

What would cause someone to do something like this? Why is Osteen so darn polarizing? Let’s look closer.

For starters, his theology has been tossed around as being weak. Now, I’m not a big Joel Osteen fan. His theology is suspect, to say it kindly. Dr. Albert Mohler, the cultural commentator of our times, keeps a close eye on Osteen and his doings. He’s written about him several times on his blog, here, here, and here for instance. He does a good job keeping things theological and not personal. I’ve heard a lot of people say, “I think if he would just say he was a motivational speaker and not a minister, I’d be more comfortable with him.

Or maybe it’s his smile. It throws a lot of people off. He’s been called a shyster, a liar, a used car salesman. To his credit, he’s run a very clean ministry. He has 7 million people who follow him regularly and you’ve probably met someone who just loves his preaching or books.

osteensmileSo what is it? What is it about him?

I really don’t know. But the hoax that came about did bring a problem to light. A very serious one. One that even hit me.

No, I don’t really care for the man’s theology. I’ve skimmed his work, watched him on television on occasion. I don’t wish ill will upon him and if someone asks me my opinion, they can have it. Personally? I don’t want anything awful to happen to the man. And the hoax that was perpetrated upon him was terrible. It was. No one should have to endure an attack of lies like that.

But here’s what bothered me. Thousands of Christians read the “hoax.” Their immediate response, regardless of how they felt about Osteen was to say, “Of course he did this.” And you know, I suppose if they had stopped there, no damage would really have been done. But they forwarded it to people they knew. It was a lie. Did they know? Nope, but they had a responsibility to check it out. I think we all know what that’s called – gossip.

And even if you don’t like the guy, it’s still wrong to do it. Even if you don’t like his books, his preaching, his theology, it gosssipgives none of the right to engage in character assassination. Even if you believe he’s not saved or he’s preaching the wrong gospel or whatever conclusion you’ve arrived at, it is wrong to perpetrate incorrect information about an individual.

But man, how much do we dislike some people in our world? We dislike them so much that we are ready to believe the first bad thing we hear about them, right? That’s how gossip gets continued. That’s how it continues and grows. This was a perfect example. And a few months down the line, you’ll still hear someone say, “I heard Joel Osteen doesn’t believe in God.

Friends, if you’ve been the victim of gossip, you know how it feels. You should always check facts before you hit “send.” In fact, if we hear something bad about a friend, church member, or relative, our first instinct ought to be compassion and love. To reach out and help, not to further destroy.

On a final note (and reiterating that I am not an Osteen apologist), I’d add that even if you don’t like the guy, he is to be commended for how he has handled this situation. He said in a statement that he wasn’t angry and he didn’t feel like a victim. Great response and very humble. If I had been in the same situation, I can’t say I would have been as gracious.

________________________________________

Ray Carroll is author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Fallen World.” He also writes for Provoketive Magazine. He is available to speak at your event, church or function.

Gay Marriage, the Church, and the Jesus Response

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in belief, bitterness, boundaries, brokenness, Christ, church, church members, community, compassion, current events, divisiveness, encouragement, gay marriage, grace, hate, hatred, homosexuality, judgment, love, religion, repentance, salvation, scripture, self-righteousness | Posted on 27-03-2013

6

I was so thankful yesterday to get a Facebook inbox message from a friend who was concerned about the current argument in America over gay marriage. Like many Christians, she was concerned about the moral failure of the country. She had been watching Facebook and so have I. I too, have seen many comments like, “Why don’t people see what Scripture says?”

I’ll be honest. I don’t watch television news. For a good reason. It’s only purpose seems to be to rile people up over things that are insignificant. You get stressed out. I mentioned in an online magazine recently how watching TV news in a constant flow caused my mother anxiety.

She said she read my blog occasionally and never saw me write anything about the issue. I don’t. My blog is about fallen

Pic courtesy of PBS

Pic courtesy of PBS

pastors, mostly. Then, I write about issues secondary to that. Then, after that, I write about what tickles my fancy. I don’t avoid the big issues. I’ve written about big issues before, but they’re just not on the radar of what I do.

My response to her was probably not what she expected, but I hope it was biblical. (She did thank me for the sermon :)) I want to post it here then add some comments after. Here it is, verbatim:

Here is what I would say. And I pray it’s the biblical thing, because any response of my own would be wrong.

I’d take it back to the apostle Paul who wrote to a church that was probably going through more moral decay than we are, if you can imagine. In his time, it wasn’t just the culture, it was members of the church who were declining in morality. Members of the church were going up to the pagan temple and sleeping with temple prostitutes.

Paul was surrounded by a pagan Roman culture that was filled with violence, sex, child molestation, and hedonism – and all of it was legal. But Paul didn’t write against the evil around him in the world. He wrote about the sin within the church. He says something interesting in 1 Corinthians 5:

Please take time to read more important stuff after the jump:

Is Anyone Qualified To Pastor? The Forest of 1 Timothy 3:1-7

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in Christianity, church, churches, expectations, fallenness, holiness, judgment, leadership, ministry, pastoring, pastors, restoration, theology | Posted on 22-03-2013

5

I’ve written about whether fallen pastors should be allowed to return to the pulpit. Some fallen pastors reconcile with pulpit2their wives, some are unable to. I’ve seen men go through a process of repentance and return to a lifestyle of holiness and return to ministry.

Each time I blog about it, I mention the verses in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Paul’s qualification for an overseer in the church. Among the qualifications, an overseer must be “above reproach, husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent, not quarrelsome, manage his household well, keep his children submissive, not be a recent convert, and be thought of well by outsiders.”

Tough list. But I think when we approach this passage, we’re missing the forest for the trees. It gets broken down into each individual characteristic. And that’s important. But we forget that basically, this is a letter from Paul to Timothy. And what is Paul doing? Answering a question on how the church should be organized and how leaders should be selected. More on that later.

I hear one comment a lot, “Well, by that list, no one could ever be a church leader. None of us is perfect.” The logic often follows that since no one could keep any of those things, the list isn’t a hard and fast list of rules. They aren’t suggestions, but a lifestyle to be maintained over the course of one’s ministry.

I suppose that there are two extremes to this. The first extreme is that no one should pastor. No one is perfect. A lot of pastors attempt to keep a perfect image, but we are all sinners. The other extreme is that anyone can pastor, regardless of sin, ongoing or repentant.

One of my guilty little pleasures is to visit my blog stats every day and find out how people found my site. It’s interesting to look at some of the search terms. Recently I saw someone searched, “My pastor is texting my wife late at night.” Another, “Can a convicted felon be a pastor?” Those are some intriguing situations.

One of the statistics I quote in my book is that in a survey of conservative ministers. 30% of them said they had either mancomputbeen in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner. And it hadn’t been reported or caught. Add on top of that what seems to be a rampant amount of pornography use by ministers and there is a serious problem lurking in the hearts of ministers today.

If the list is a hard and fast pattern of rules that once broken, disqualify people for ministry, then a lot of people are disqualified. Right now. Anyone who has lost control, not been hospitable or become violent is out. They can be mixed in with the adulterous, those who can’t keep their children in control and those who are deemed in the category, “husband of one wife.” (And that depends on who you ask. Those can be divorced men before or after becoming Christians, the single, etc.)

If a pastor has a serious, unconfessed sin and is ministering and a church holds fast to the strict interpretation of 1 Timothy 3:1-7, then I would argue that a tremendous amount of our pulpits should be vacant next week. Heck, take a look at the man’s kids. If they aren’t submissive to him, then he should be taking a sabbatical or be dismissed immediately.

Panic yet?

I don’t think those verses are an ultra-strict mandate for ministers. If that’s the case, ministry leaders across the country are in serious trouble. For all of the ministers whose sin is discovered, I’d be daring enough to say that the hidden sin is twofold.

So why this list? Is it merely a suggestion? I don’t think that’s appropriate either. Surely we don’t want rampant sin from our church leaders. We should hold our leaders to a higher moral standard. We should expect them to be hospitable, to not commit adultery, to not be violent. Right?

treesI think we get into trouble when we take these verses and make them into something they were never meant to be. When we emphasize parts of them with great vigor but lessen the overall picture. The church is greatest served when we imagine ourselves sitting across from Paul as he addresses Timothy and Paul answers the question, “So, what kind of church leader should we be looking for?” That way, we can see the forest for the trees.

Can you imagine it for a moment? “Hey, Paul, what kind of leaders should we be getting?” “Well, Timothy, for sure, you need overseers who are husbands of one wife.” “Wait, Paul. Do you mean by that they can’t be previously divorced or single?” “Timothy, listen. What did I say? I’m trying to give you some simple rules for leadership. Look around you. You have some people in churches who are going to the pagan temple and engaging in prostitution. So, I think being the husband of one wife is pretty simple.”

In our time, maybe we don’t allow enough humanity from our leaders. We place them on a higher pedestal than they should be. We don’t see them as completely human. When they err, we are shocked. I’m not talking about major sins, I’m speaking of just daily interaction. Do we place them under too much pressure? The Barna Group suggests that pastors are expected to juggle 16 major tasks at once.

And with this list, I think there’s a reason ministers should be mentored and trained. There’s a reason all of us are living the continued process of sanctification. All of us are growing in holiness. Any pastor worth his salt will admit that he made mistakes early on that he wouldn’t make today due to pride or ignorance. But that’s part of the growing process.

Sin is not to be taken lightly. The men who aspire to it should know that much is expected. But an over-eager application of 1 Timothy 3 isn’t going to help anyone. It will increase judgment and self-righteousness among the believers. What we should be doing is living in grace and an expectation of holiness, mentoring and discipling one another. Knowing that all of our work will be going to serve Christ and glorify what He is doing in the world.

Fallen Pastors Are Like Road Kill

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, church, church members, grace, judgment, pastors | Posted on 01-03-2013

2

I blogged extensively yesterday about what, if anything, the Southern Baptists could or should be doing about its pastors who fall morally. I wanted to take a moment to touch on something important that a lot of people don’t think about when it comes to pastors, their families and even the people they cheat with after a moral failure.

possumThe job that keeps me gainfully employed is sports medicine. I find myself driving home at night most of the time, usually on a long stretch of country road. This means I get to see all kinds of nocturnal wildlife. Sometimes, this wildlife, without warning will jump kamikaze style into the front grill of my Chevy Impala. It’s happened enough that my insurance company is not very happy with me. You know, Mayhem and everything.

Two weeks ago today, I hit a possum (or opossum if you’re from the North) on my way home. It wasn’t my first and it won’t be my last. To be fair, I wasn’t aiming for it. Possums usually get drug off into the woods after they die and eaten by another scavenger or they attract the attention of buzzards. Not this bad boy. He must have been extra stinky. I saw him the next day. He was in full bloom, let me tell you. It was rather odd, but I didn’t give it a second thought.

I did give it another thought the next day when he was still there, intact. And the next day. And the next. Each day, he got a little flatter. But I was amazed that nothing had taken him away. Even tonight on my way home, his carcass lay there making me feel the slightest twinge of guilt that I had hit him/her and ended his little possum life.

Tonight as I inadvertently ran over his/her flat little furry body I screamed out loud, “Why won’t someone/something take care of this thing? I’m tired of seeing it!

Then I thought, “Oh yeah, blog post.” I know you’re thrilled to see where I’m going.

I spoke with a fallen pastor tonight who I’ve been in contact with for several months. He’s had the usual ups and downs of most fallen ministers. He is having the same sort of frustration that I had early on – “Why isn’t there anyone out there that will just love me for who I am right now?” He’s doing his best, I can see God working on him, and he’s making progress day by day.

Coming back to some semblance of reality after we sin is a long journey. Very long. It takes years, not weeks or months. And the guy I spoke to tonight basically said, “When I go to church, I feel judged by people there. It’s like some church people don’t want to show compassion, they just want to judge me.

I get it. Dear reader, I understand the lack of compassion in this world for a pastor who committed adultery, left his wiferoadkll for another woman and left his church behind. I have seen the story unfold many times. I saw it firsthand. I have heard it, counseled many on both sides since then. I’m not asking for you to feel sorry or pity for the fallen pastor. But I would like you to follow my weak road kill analogy for a moment.

Fallen pastors often feel like that road kill. We sin and we know we’ve sinned. We often rebel and don’t want people’s help or we run from God. We lay there in the road while people swerve around us holding their noses. We are an abomination to the highway of life. When contact is made, it’s just someone else coming to run us over.

Most of it is fair, too. Someone told me once, “You sinned, you must bear the earthly consequences for the rest of you life.” That’s exactly right. When we mess us, we have to pay for those consequences. I agree 100 percent.

But I also have a heart for the fallen pastor. At some point, he’s going to need a friend. He’s going to need help. He’s going to want someone to listen to him. To pick up his flat, nasty carcass off the road and say, “Brother, I don’t condone your sin, but I will just listen to you and be your friend.

Listening to a fallen minister, loving him, caring about him and showing him the love of Christ does not equal condoning adultery. It does not. Especially if he visits your church and just wants to worship God. Don’t send him away. Don’t give him the evil eye. Don’t look at him like he’s a dead possum in the middle of the road. He’s just human. He is someone who has come into your church looking for God, maybe even looking for someone just to listen. Maybe he just wants to feel normal again. This goes for everyone involved in the moral failure: the pastor, the one he committed adultery with, his family, and loving the church through their hurt.

When it comes right down to it, all of us are fallen people. Many of us have deep dark secrets hidden in our hearts. All of us have sin that have been redeemed by the same Savior. Just because someone has fallen from a great height doesn’t make him any more of a sinner than anyone else. It may just mean he needs more love and understanding.

___________________________

I do want to take a moment and note that there is a ministry that helps fallen pastors get back into churches that have been trained specifically to come to the side of those who have been wounded – PIR Ministries. If you are a pastor who has fallen and is looking to plug back into a church into your area so that you can  heal, worship and be restored, please visit my friends at www.pirministries.org.

What I Would Change About The Way I Pastored

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in church, church members, churches, compassion, jesus, pastoral care, pastoring, pastors | Posted on 25-02-2013

7

psIt’s been over three years since I fell from the ministry. I don’t spend a lot of free time these days thinking about my days as  pastor. I have the occasional conversation with former church members in whom I can confide. When I do, it helps me see things from a different angle.

Surely, the sin I committed, followed by the humbling circumstances and my eventual turning back to Christ made me a different person. If I could go back in time and do it again, there would be a few things that I would change about myself.

1. I would resist the urge to always be right.

I know for a fact that this isn’t just unique to me. It’s good to be right, don’t get me wrong. Pastors preach the Word of God, the truth of Scripture. But I think there may be moments when we preach that we get confused and believe that just because we’re preaching God’s truth, it means that it’s our truth. If I can say it differently, it’s almost like we trap ourselves in a protective bubble where we think that standing behind a pulpit gives us freedom to say what we want and believe we are right. We can win any argument “just because we’re the pastor” or “because I have a seminary degree.” We may not phrase it that way, but that subtle pride does sneak in from time to time and it needs to be beaten down with a big, ugly stick.

2. I would make sure to mix in more of the compassion and grace of Christ in my preaching.

I preached as an unabashed Calvinist. That doesn’t mean I never preached on the saving grace of Christ. I did. One of my seminary professors said, “If the gospel isn’t present in your sermon each week, you’ve failed.” I took that to heart. But there were times when I was so caught up in the depravity of man and I punched that card so many times, I wonder if I properly balanced it with the Savior. On this side of my life, I’ve seen the compassion and love Christ has for outcasts. He didn’t approach sinners with their depravity, he went to where they were and spoke truth and love to them. There is a time to share sinful nature. But there is always time to let people know how amazing, deep, and fervent the love of Christ really is.

3. I would make time to really, really listen more.

I did visit shut-ins, make hospital visits, phone calls, perform funerals, console the grieving, counsel, etc. Like most memberppastors, those were things that were expected. That’s not what I’m talking about. What about the people we see each Sunday who you ask, “How are you?” And each Sunday they say, “Doing great!” What if they aren’t? What if some of those people, those who are working two jobs to make ends meet and can barely stay awake in church, those youth who look sad on occasion, those older members you see who look lost and sad once in a while – what if we went out of our way to just engage them for a moment. Don’t talk, but just listen. If they don’t want to talk right then, they know you care. And it may open up a chance for them to come to you later.

4. I would spend less time worrying about things that I had no control over.

There are a lot of things pastors can’t control, but we spend a lot of time preaching about them. Gossip, giving, committee meetings, people who don’t like us, etc. We try and pray about it, we put it in God’s hands, but a day later, we’re still worrying about little conflicts here and there. Somewhere in the black and white of Scripture it says, “remember your calling.” Our calling isn’t to get all anxious and worked up about things we can’t control. Jesus told us not to worry or get anxious. Being anxious doesn’t do any good because most of this world is out of our control anyway. The best we can do is gauge our reaction to the events in front of us. It’s a very hard thing to do as a pastor, but I think I’ve learned to do a better job.

5. Demonstrate the love of Christ, not my own bitterness.

loveofxSo many times I would hear of sin in the church. I would get angry and want to do something about it. I’d fret, worry and react. Church discipline has it’s place when it’s done for restoration. But my heart wasn’t balanced right. I was out to remove cancers, not to heal hearts. Christ showed compassion for sinners. When they didn’t have another friend in the world, he chose to stand by them. He chose understanding over judgment. And later, he would give his life so that they might be free from their sin.

Interestingly, I would not even venture to change anything about the church. If change is to happen, it has to start with the man in the pulpit. Christ changed this world. How? Because of who he was. And with Christ in us, we can also make changes. Attempting to change people through guilt, anger, lashing out, or other means is useless. Changing ourselves by allowing Christ to work in us is how the church will be transformed.

I’m thankful for the years I got to spend as a pastor. I do miss preaching to a great degree. I’m told when I preach now that I’m a totally different person, and I choose to take that as a compliment. Falling and failing into a great pit is a great way to be humbled, especially when it’s your own fault. But we can always know that Christ will be there to drag us out of it.

I’m thankful for the man God has made me into today. He’s not done with me and I’m not perfect by a long shot. I just pray that I may be able to help those who were in my situation before they reach a crisis point. I pray that all of us, pastor or church member or nominal Christian would be able to reflect upon ourselves in the light of Christ and follow him and let him show us what he sees in us.

A Sinner’s Guide To Finding A Church

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in Christ, church, church face, church members, churches, worship | Posted on 11-02-2013

0

Whether you’re a Christian who was kicked out of church and is looking to return, an unchurched person looking for a signplace to worship, someone who is burned out on church and is looking for a “different kind of place, a fallen church leader, or just a new Christian with a rough past who wants a place of fellowship, I’d like to offer some suggestions/tips on finding a church.

Tip One: Don’t Go Out Of Guilt (Or For The Wrong Reasons)

After I fell from ministry, I was in church somewhere the next week. I don’t really know why except that I felt it was the right thing to do. People go to church for a lot of reasons. Unfortunately, a lot of them are the wrong reasons. When we return to church after a long layoff or after repenting, we may be going back for the wrong reason as well. Ask yourself, “What’s my drive? What is my heart’s intent?”

What’s the answer? You might want to go somewhere where your kids will be happy. You might like the music. You might have friends somewhere. None of those is a terrible reason. Hopefully, wherever you go, you’ll be looking to come into contact with the living God.

Tip Two: Don’t Let Anyone Guilt You Into Going

It’s the old preacher standby, quoting Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together“ during a sermon to remind everyone that church attendance is so, so necessary.  I did it. We should gather together as a fellowship. It strengthens us. But people shouldn’t be guilting you into going to church. The other extreme of the argument is when people say, “I can worship God in nature/home/my car.” Yeah, you can. But do you? Find a place with others – whether it’s a garage, restaurant, home or wherever, but fellowship with like minded people. It’s good for you.

AA053485Tip Three: Remember God Doesn’t Live There

The path to discovering God doesn’t begin or end at a building. The fellowship of believers there might be key in helping you on that path, but the actual location does not contain the living God. When we’re seeking a church, it’s not the same as seeking Christ. It can be true that worship might be easier for you at some places than others, but don’t mistake that for that church as a location where God lives.

Tip Four: Don’t Always Visit On Sunday Morning

One of the common problems people have when trying to find a church is they feel overwhelmed by people. That, or they perceive that people are being “fake.” That may or may not be true, but I have a way to circumvent that. Don’t visit on Sunday morning. Go at a different service time. This does three things.

First, it will alleviate the mistrust you may have that people are acting fake and putting on false appearances just for the Sunday morning crowd. Second, the people who come on Wednesday night and Sunday night are usually some of the most dedicated. You’ll get to see the heart of the church. Third, you’ll get to hear the pastor’s heart. He gets ready for Sunday morning in a different way than he does for a Sunday night or Wednesday night.

Tip Five: Don’t Forget The Smaller Churches

When looking for a restaurant, we typically think of the popular or chain restaurants. The places where the parking lots are full. But once in a while we hear about the “hole-in-the-wall” place that has the best BBQ in the area.

Many churches are pastored by great pastors who are bi-vocational. They are very gifted, loving and love what they do. They may not have the bells and whistles of the larger churches, but they often have many things you can’t get at the big places. Try a variety of places before you settle down.

Tip Six: Remember, Christ Will Come To You

It’s easy to get frustrated when looking for a church. I know a fallen pastor who took almost ten years to find a place to Woman at wellworship regularly. Sometimes, the pastor didn’t want him there worshiping. Sometimes, he was asked to do more than he was comfortable with. It is easy to get the feeling that there isn’t a church home out there.

Remember that churches are made up of sinning, fallible people like you. They’re all going to have some shortcomings. If you are recently repentant or in need of help, make that clear to the leadership. Let them know you need a place of rest and you plan to take your time. Don’t be in a hurry to join. Just relax.

Above all, remember that Christ comes to us. He went and sought out the disciples while they were fishing. He went to the woman at the well. He found Zaccheus when he was in a tree. He will come to you and help you as you search for a community of faith. Where He leads you may be completely unexpected, but it will always be just what you need.

__________________________

Having trouble finding a church after a fall? Try PIR Ministries. They’re there to help.

A Pastor’s Story That Has Haunted Me

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, book, Christ, church, churches, fallenness, hope, pastoring, pastors, suicide | Posted on 08-01-2013

1

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 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.”bm

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.”

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 the 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.

fatherPursue 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 contacting him, please click here.

Are Most Pastors Nerds?

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in Christ, church, nerds, pastoring, pastors, pride, seminary | Posted on 30-11-2012

0

I’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 things 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.

Third, 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.

And that’s my point. 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?

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.

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

_______________________

Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Fallen World.” It is available in Kindle form as well as paperback.

Hurting Pastors: I Know You’re Out There

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, book, Christ, church, church members, pastoral care, pastoring, pastors | Posted on 31-10-2012

1

Guys, pastors. I know you’re out there. You’re hurting. I wrote a whole chapter on statistics of how pastors are in pain and need help. You can probably read it for free at Amazon at my book site at Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Fallen World.

  • 80% of pastors and 84% of their spouses are discouraged and are dealing with depression
  • More than 40% of pastors and 47% of their spouses report they are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules and unrealistic expectations
  • Approximately 1,500 pastors leave their assignments each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention within their local congregations
  • 77% said they felt they did not have a good marriage
  • 71% stated they were burned out and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis
  • 30% said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishoner
  • That’s not to mention the statistic that 60-80% of pastors are engaged in online pornography at some point

Where are you, pastor?

I’m a fallen pastor. Three years after a fall. I get emails, two or three a week from men who have fallen or are about to fall. Men who know they are weak or who recognize they have passed the point of no return. Where are you?

Let’s deal with some realities.

First, pastoring is not an easy task. Yes, God has called you to it. It is a gritty, difficult job. People call you all times of the day to minister to them. Some of you have been seminary trained. You have been theologically trained. But when you hit the real world, you  realize you are in a place where you are not practically trained.

You give, give and give to people. You do funerals, marriages, preach three or four times a week, counsel, visit, mediate deacons meetings, sit in committee meetings, listen to praises and complaints. The Barna Group tells us that a pastor is expected to juggle 16 major tasks at once. That does not include his own family.

It is hard work. You are projected upon a pedestal. You are the head of the church. You are the man on the billboard, the man in charge of the ship, the director of all operations. And at times it is overwhelming. It’s hard, isn’t it? Some days, it’s just hard to put your church face on and go to church on Sunday and act nice, isn’t it?

Some pastors will disagree. They will say that everything is fine where they are. They love what they do. It’s a wonderful blast of Christianity. But I’m not talking to them. I’m talking to those of you who understand what I’m getting at.

You who understand me. You who have found yourselves in the midst of confusion and programs, losing intimacy with your wife, not having close friends, having conflict within your church, not having anyone to talk to, going home frustrated each week. Having church members complain more than they compliment. I understand. That is the way it is with many pastors across the country.

So where are you, pastor?

There are several steps before you reach the cliff. I don’t want you to get there.

First, you find yourself putting your energy into programs. Into ministry. There’s nothing wrong with ministry. But when you sacrifice ministry for pursuing Christ, there’s a problem. When we seek to fill pews instead of pursing the heart of Christ, we have a problem.

Secondly, when we find ourselves estranged from our spouses. When we come home complaining to our spouses about the church and they don’t listen, we have a problem. When our spouse isn’t plugged into our ministry, there is a very serious problem. If your spouse isn’t your best friend in the entire world, you need to stop everything you are doing and take a hiatus from everything. Seriously. Because you’re about to have serious problems.

Because if that is happening, there is a great chance you are involved in online pornography or lust of some sort. Get help. XXXchurch.com has some great help for you that is anonymous. Don’t let it get out of hand.

Of all of the men I have counseled, lust is a serious problem. Know why? It’s not because you’re filthy. It’s because the ministry demands so much of you. Because people come at you wanting so much day after day. And at the end of the day, you ask, “What about me?” And that selfish side of you begins to ask, “Yeah, what about me?” And you mind begins to wander. Don’t let it. Get help. Get support.

Find friends, mentors, fellow pastors.

We are told in the ministry to not make friends with those within the church. That’s a lie. Do it. Grow close to those you can trust. Bare your soul before you destroy the gift God has given you.

Trust me.

Finally, what do you do when you’ve crossed the line?

Email me. I’m here. Nothing you have done can possibly shock me. I’ve heard it all. I will promise to listen to you. I will call you and talk to you. If I can’t help you, I will find someone who can.

Listen, I committed adultery, my wife and I divorced and I married another woman. I now run a ministry to help fallen pastors. I am here to help fallen pastors, their wives, the women they left, the churches that are hurt, and anyone else left in the wake. I hurt for all of them. That is the brand God has left on my heart. So be it.

If you want more information, start by reading my book, “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World.” Or just contact me. I’m transparent. Here to help. Read my past blogs. I’m just a guy who sinned and I’m here for you.

 

The Devastated Spouse: The Wounded Church, Part 2

Posted by Ray Carroll | Posted in adultery, affair, church, church members, compassion, counseling, culture, divorce, fallenness, marriage, pastoring, pastors, reconciliation, repentance, restoration, wife | Posted on 17-10-2012

1

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

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

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

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

Read more after the jump.